Friday, 27 June 2008

English Language Found to Lack Adequate Word for Labour Henley Result

On the first anniversary of Gordon Brown’s premiership, the Labour Party was left reeling after achieving its worst ever poll result in the Henley-on-Thames by-election.

To nobody’s great surprise, the traditionally safe Tory seat saw a small dog wearing a blue rosette romp comfortably home. The shock for Labour was the scale of their defeat, as the Liberal Democrats, Greens, BNP, Monster Raving Independence Party, Sinn Fein, Zanu-PF, Shining Path, Al-Qaeda, Tesco, the Scientologists, Count Dracula, the devil incarnate, Davros, the cloned brain of Hitler and a flesh-eating zombie all won more votes than the hapless, deposit-losing Labour candidate.

“I am very disappointed,” said a random backbencher who was pushed out of the door of Labour’s HQ to face reporters. “We did hope to do better than that. It is very difficult to divine a clear message for Gordon Brown.”

The flesh-eating zombie, who beat Labour’s Richard McToken by one vote – I’m sorry – by receiving one vote, celebrated by grasping the unfortunate Mr McToken and devouring his brain, to the jubilant cheers of Henley residents.

Caught Napo-ing

The prison officers’ union, Napo, has claimed that prisoners with a history of domestic violence are still being released from prison up to 18 days early, a year after the problem was first highlighted.

Violent offenders are not eligible for the government’s “end of custody licence” scheme, but Napo claimed that wife-beaters were slipping through, and says that in just four days its members came up with a list of nearly 30 cases.

“The scheme was introduced quickly and is clearly flawed,” said assistant general secretary Harry Fletcher. “These vicious thugs come out of prison, go straight round to the missus and bounce her off the walls with a cricket bat. If only they had spent those last 18 days of their sentence in prison, these horrific incidents would simply not occur.

“Well, not for another 18 days, anyway.”

The Gates of Hell

Multi-squillionaire St Bill Gates is stepping down today from the day-to-day running of Microsoft, the world’s largest software company.

Media organisations around the world united in their hymns of praise to the 52-year-old uber-nerd. As a teenager, St Bill claims, he had a vision of a personal computer on every desk in the home, rather than the usual visions which preoccupy most other teenage boys - which are, ironically, more readily available to them than ever before thanks to St Gates’ computer vision.

St Bill’s business methods have long been a source of inspiration to millions of dullards on the bottom rungs of management. Briefly, the Gates formula for mega-success is this:

1. Ensure that you are born to wealthy parents.

2. Take a good look at someone else’s hard work – for example, an obscure programming language called BASIC that has been around for a few years. Twiddle with it slightly. Persuade a huge corporate giant such as IBM to buy your version. Spend the next quarter of a century encouraging everyone to believe that you created it all yourself.

3. Take a good look at someone else’s hard work – for example, an obscure operating system called QDOS. Using some of the cash generated previously, acquire the company that developed it. Twiddle with it slightly. Change its name. Persuade your IBM chums to buy your version. Spend the next quarter of a century encouraging everyone to believe that you created it all yourself.

St Gates will retain his position as chairman of Microsoft, where he will work on special projects - thought to include building an enormous base inside a remote island volcano, cloning a midget version of himself and acquiring exclusive rights to every language ever spoken. He will also devote more time to charity work, especially whenever the word ‘monopoly’ is mentioned.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Rock of All Ages, Equally Represented

Cabinet minister Harriet Harman has announced new measures to outlaw age discrimination, as part of the forthcoming Equalities Bill.

Age discrimination has been illegal in the workplace since 2006, except for the government-stipulated lower minimum-wage rates for those under the age of 22. However, the new proposals are aimed at more widespread forms of ageism in the provision of goods, facilities and services.

“It is a disgrace, in this day and age, that people born in lower-numbered years are singled out for differential treatment,” said Ms Harman. “We will abolish the self-evidently discriminatory old age pension, thereby freeing those people to apply for Jobseekers’ Allowance instead. The Senior Citizens’ Railcard - which reinforces negative stereotypes - will be abolished, as will the Young Person’s Railcard. Free local transport for senior citizens locks them into a cycle of dependency, which we will break, giving them the freedom to offer financial support to the transport providers of their choice.”

The Equalities Minister went on to say that the term ‘child’ was inherently hierarchical and would be outlawed, along with the restrictions that accompanied it.

“There are plenty of idiots over 16 driving cars,” she said. “Who are we to deny the freedom of the roads to a sensible 12-year-old? Why does Age Concern discriminate against the young and middle-aged? Why are so-called ‘baby buggies’ not built in larger sizes for adults who tire easily? Why do our armed forces disqualify those who fought with such distinction in World War II from offering their experience to their country, in its hour of need? How can we expect children to obey their parents, if the parents do not obey their children? And why should a committed, loving couple be denied the opportunity to raise a family just because some antiquated, nannying law forbids them from marrying at ten?”

At this point, Foreign Secretary David Miliband sneaked up behind Ms Harman and emptied a large syringe into the back of her head.

“I’m very sorry,” said Ms Harman. “Please ignore everything I just said.”

Quaint Old Beliefs of Mexico, Part 1: Police Accountability

Commander Guillermo Zayas, the police chief in charge of a botched nightclub raid in Mexico City which resulted in a deadly stampede, is to be charged with twelve counts of homicide for not ordering his officers to unblock the exits, says the city’s chief prosecutor.

“We are just a poor, simple Latin American country, seƱor,” explained Rodolfo Felix apologetically, from the back of a donkey. ”Would you credit it, some of our people still believe the police are answerable for their actions! Is crazy, no? Nonetheless, that is our custom.”

“You English, you must find our ways very primitive,” he added, before sitting down in the shade of an adobe wall, adjusting his sombrero and taking a siesta.

Berlin Airlift Disrespectful of Soviet Sovereignty, Says Brown

Forty veterans of the Berlin Airlift gathered yesterday at RAF Cosford to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the massive relief operation, in which the British and American air forces flew food and other essential supplies into the city for fourteen months, defying the Soviet blockade and saving tens of thousands of lives.

Gordon Brown was not at the ceremony, which he condemned as a sabre-rattling, neo-colonialist attempt to justify a blatant disregard of the sovereign rights of a dictatorial military government.

“Using air power to deliver help directly to those who are in desperate need is an unacceptable flaunting of military might,” he said. “It would have been far better for the British and American governments to use the debating chambers of the UN to press for increased sanctions against Stalin, such as banning him from international travel, until he relented and let in a couple of aid workers carrying blankets. And the Burmese government is in complete agreement with me on this.”

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Sugar Is Sweeter

Sir Alan Sugar is reported to be under consideration as Labour’s candidate for the 2012 London mayoral elections, according to some newspapers. The Amstrad chairman said the first he knew of it was when he was contacted by one of the papers, but has not ruled out the possibility.

“I believe in sticking to what you know,” he said. “I’m just an abrasive, ignorant bully who never smiles and who treats people with disrespect and contempt. My name is synonymous with taking other people’s ideas and turning out third-rate imitations. Why would the Labour Party see me as a potential leader?”

Mugabe Hit For Six

Zimbabwe’s presidential limpet, Robert Mugabe, is said to be reconsidering his position in the light of the UK government’s threat to bar his country’s cricket team from playing in England next summer.

“I’ve had to endure an awful lot of name-calling lately over my relentless intimidation of the opposition,” said Mr Mugabe, “Not to mention my lamentable mismanagement of the Zimbabwean economy. However, by bravely announcing this ban on our cricketers, Britain has shown real moral backbone. As if it isn’t enough for us to lose our place in the Twenty20 World Cup, other countries might follow their lead and ban us from participating in the World Scrabble Championships and the Lions’ Club International Stamp Collecting Convention. Perhaps this is God’s way of telling me that it’s time to step down. Words cannot properly express my admiration for this British political master-stroke.”

In a further development, the US has said it will not recognise the result of Friday’s presidential election.

“We’ve got a good track record here,” said a federal spokesman. “If we’d recognised our own presidential election results in 2001, Al Gore might be running the country and not just making slideshows about the environment.”

“Never mind, Robert,” executives of mining conglomerate Anglo-American told the beleaguered president, “We still love you. Here’s £200m for a platinum mine.”

Researchers Discover Something Other Than Government Also Causing Interference in Hospitals

Dutch researchers have discovered that radio-frequency devices, which are increasingly being used in British hospitals, could accidentally switch off life-saving systems.

The Radio Frequency Identification Devices, or RFIDs, are used to track patients and locate equipment. For example, some hospitals tag anaesthetised patients with an RFID wristband on their way to the operating theatre, hoping that the surgeon’s PDA will beep before he amputates the wrong patient’s leg.

Some RFIDs are also brought in by patients – such as London Transport’s Oystercard, or tags on freshly-stolen clothing.

However, out of 123 tests conducted at Vrije University, 34 showed the devices having an effect on nearby medical equipment. 24 results were deemed to be “significant” or “hazardous”. In some tests, the electromagnetic interference from RFIDs switched off or altered the settings on ventilators, stopped syringe pumps and dialysis machines and caused malfunctions in external pacemakers.

NHS computer specialists, however, said that RFIDs could eventually make patients safer.

“Then again, the NfIT computer system is massively over-budget, years behind schedule, and still doesn’t work properly,” he added, “So perhaps you shouldn’t set too much store by our expert analysis.”

Glastonbury Looking Shaky

With the news that Shakin’ Stevens will be playing the Glastonbury Festival on Saturday, it was announced that the graveyard of pop has finally given up the last of its dead.

“It’s official,” said Michael Eavis, the festival’s organiser. “Every third-rate novelty act that ever released a single has now been resurrected. These long-forgotten zombies are lurching round the venues and festivals of Britain en masse, terrifying the public with their pitiful moans and decaying faces. Pop really is eating itself. Tickets still available, by the way.”

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The Impossible Dream

As fuel price rises continue to hit American families in the pocket, Republican candidate John McCain has challenged US car manufacturers to develop zero-emission engines, with the lure of a $300m federal prize and tax credits as part of his presidential campaign theme of alternative energy.

“We will meet the goal of a swift conversion of American vehicles away from oil,” said the Arizona senator, calling for the development of “a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.”

“Batteries are a natural, clean source of electricity,” said Senator McCain. “And you don’t have to put petrol in batteries. I’m asking the US automobile industry to come up with ways of planting ordinary 1.5 volt batteries and harvesting them when they reach a power output of 150 kilowatts. This is a difficult task, but we Americans are experts in making the most improbable things happen. After all, President Bush got re-elected - no other country in the world could have done that.”

Democratic rival Barack Obama derided Mr McCain’s plans, pointing out that the Senator had previously voted against tighter fuel efficiency standards and tax credits for green energy.

“What we need is more support for farmers making ethanol fuel out of good old all-American corn,” said the Senator from the corn-growing state of Illinois. “But we must put a stop to the evil of Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane, which is the sole cause of rising food prices and starvation in the poor countries of the world.”

Suggestions from the rest of the world that Americans could try getting out of their oversized, gas-guzzling vehicles and walking somewhere once in a while were met with ridicule, the wrath of God and threats of nuclear strikes.

But Senator McCain said he was confident that US ingenuity would rise to the challenge - like the American philosophers working to develop a special stone that will cancel the $9.5 trillion national debt by turning the Federal Lead Reserve into gold.

Going Dutch - With Morgan Tsvangirai

Following the decision by Morgan Tsvangirai to pull out of the Zimbabwean presidential election run-off, the UN Security Council has unanimously condemned the violence and intimidation against the Movememnt for Democratic Change and declared that a free and fair vote would be “impossible”.

President Robert Mugabe, however, disagreed. “Just watch,” he said. “We’ll have our election on Friday, and everybody will be free to vote for me. What could be fairer than that?”

Mr Mugabe’s government also gave assurances about the safety of Mr Tsvangirai, who has fled to the Dutch embassy claiming asylum.

“Morgan Tsvangirai will be allowed safe passage out of Zimbabwe, if he is in a diplomatic bag,” announced the president. “In fact, as he’s quite a large fellow, I reckon two bags would be the best plan. If he wants to go Dutch, I’d be happy to see him split 50/50.”

Radio Ga Ga

The British government’s Digital Radio Working Group has issued a report proposing that radio broadcasts should switch entirely to DAB by the year 2020.

“DAB is a worldwide standard,” said the group’s chairman, Barry Cox, “Albeit a seriously flawed one with poor error correction, compromised audio quality and limited signal coverage which has only really taken off in Britain and Denmark, where people are notoriously cloth-eared.”

Consumer groups have hesitated to back the group’s call, asking whether Britain really needs a vast mountain of discarded, useless FM radios, closely followed by a mountain of obsolete DAB radios once the improved-but-incompatible DAB+ standard is adopted.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Tsvangirai's Call for Action Not Quite Important Enough To Us

Zimbabwe’s opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, has announced his withdrawal from the controversial run-off presidential election due to be held this Friday, saying that the prevailing conditions of violence and intimidation “do not permit the holding of a credible poll.”

So far, 86 people have been killed and 200,000 displaced from their homes for supporting Mr Tsvangirai.

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party responded by claiming that Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change was responsible for the wave of political violence sweeping the country.

“I wish these people would stop burning their homes, beating themselves to death and raping themselves,” said Mr Mugabe. “They are only doing it for attention. I blame the foreign media, who are working in league with the evil British Empire.”

Mr Tsvangirai is hoping that the outside world will force Mr Mugabe to stand down from the presidency. However, when he rang the world asking for support, he was put on hold and told by a computer that although his call was important, the world was currently fully engaged in watching Euro 2008 and complaining about the rising cost of filling its people-carriers and 4x4s with petrol, and instructed to call back later, if he was still alive.

“In the interests of fairness, we are steadily working our way through the alphabet,” said a spokesman for the United Nations. “And unfortunately for Zimbabwe, we seem to have been stuck on the letter ‘I’ for the last few decades. To be honest, we haven’t even finished with ‘A’ yet.”

Train to Gain

Britain’s railways may see their first major expansion since the 19th century, as Network Rail commissions a strategic review of five mainline routes to see if there is a case for building new lines. Passenger numbers have risen by 40% in the last ten years, with around 22,000 trains running on weekdays.

“By 2025 many lines will be full up, especially those running to and from the north and west of London,” said chief executive Iain Coucher. “The way things are going, we might as well park one enormous, stationary train with its front end in London and its rearmost carriage in Birmingham, book southbound passengers in the front carriage and north-bound passengers at the rear and let them walk along the 165km-long train to their seats. They’d probably get there quicker that way.”

The usual construction companies were rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of huge amounts of taxpayers’ money flowing into their coffers. “Back in the Victorian golden age of rail expansion, the tracks were laid by vast hordes of Irish navvies, whose lives were cheap and expendable,” said an industry spokesman. “Nowadays, with all the health and safety regulations and a shortage of skilled construction workers, the sky’s the limit. Or rather, the ground is.”

Coldplay Topple Tibet and the Olympics from Top of News Charts

The weekend saw the Olympic torch pass through the streets of the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, amid heavy Chinese security and suggestions that the people lining the route were hand-picked by the authorities. The re-released story briefly topped the news charts, before being toppled by the exciting news that Coldplay have their first number one hit with their current single, ‘Viva La Vida’.

TV viewers around the world were puzzled to see Tibet and the Olympic torch back on their screens after a gap of several weeks. BBC switchboards were jammed with calls, with “Is this a repeat?” the most common complaint.

“I thought we’d sorted Tibet out weeks ago,” said one viewer. “Now I’m worrying about the fuel prices. When that blows over, I might bother myself slightly about the A-level results, or get vaguely worked up over the length of the parliamentary recess. But Tibet is old news. Boring.”