Nuclear war with Iran called off… unless Trump gets elected

February 1, 2016

Back in 2007 I predicted that France was going to nuke Iran – Bernard Kouchner, who was French Minister of foreign and European affairs during Sarkozy’s presidential reign, all but push the buton himself, he was so pissed off with Iran.  Luckily level heads held sway at UN security council meetings, with fellow permanent members Russia and China tellin him to chill out before they stuffed the diplomatic version of stinky rugby socks in his big, bitey gob.

Now at last Iran has agreed to play by  the rules (even with spitful swine like the USA, the UK and France stacking the deck against them – the British government apparently “regards the deal as a great opening to the Iranians, to include them in the world and make them a good neighbor“, regardless of the Israeli/American distrust that they are still exhibiting even as companies all round the world bid for a role in repairing and reconstructing Iran’s neglected infrastructure.  Iran has been treated as a pariah for 35 years, and was not allowed to sell its considerable oil reserve wealth.  Now it can, and those other pesky permanent UN security council members Russia and China are up for a contract or two.

The mondoweiss.net piece shows how much hypocrisy and spite is involved in UN politics.  Iran was given the cold shoulder because they felt giving internationaql observers unfettered access was a surrender of their sovereign rights.  Now they have done all that was asked of them… and the USA and Israel still don’t want to play fair.  If I was an Iranian politician I would tell the Israelis and Americans to go screw themselves.  There are plenty of companies ready to relieve Iran of its recently-unfrozen assets.  Fair play, Iran!  Now don’t do anything to scare Israel or the USA.  They say you should never corner a vicious wild animal or it’ll have your hand off.  Israel and the USA are the wild animals in this scenario – please don’t poke Iran with a pointy stick “just to see what happens”.  America loves confrontation and war – it wins elections for hawkish presidents – and if Donald Trump’s attack-wig is let off its leash some serious damage might ensue.  Come on, people of America: there’s been a lot of war in that region for far too long.  Don’t dig yourself a bigger hole.  For fuck’s sake!

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The e-cig that tried to kill me! A true story

January 31, 2016

I’d been led to believe that e-cigs were safer than conventional cigarettes. You got your dose of nicotine without all the nasty tar and gunk that comes in smoke. They were electronic gizmos, and we all love our gizmos, right? I was surprised that Apple hadn’t released an i-cigarette. So imagine my surprise when my e-cig came at me with a steak-knife, determined to cut out my lungs and crap on them!

Alas, my story isn’t quite that dramatic. But it could have come to a similar end.

I remember all those stories I’d read and heard, about various electronic devices burning people’s houses down. Xboxes were prone to it at a time – or was it Playstations? One or the other anway – perhaps both! Not satisfied with turning our children into crazed, prostitute-cheating irresponsible drivers through Grand Theft Auto and making old folk think they were super-fit geniuses with Wii-Fit and “brain-training” apps, now they were determined to burn down our houses!

I never thought it would happen to me. I didn’t buy dodgy devices that had “fallen off the back of a lorry”. But it wasn’t as simple as that. At the back of a drawer I found an old e-cig battery. I charged it up, connected it to some tasty blueberry e-liquid and puffed away. The battery went flat: I recharged it, and re-charged it again. I knew I ought to get some fresher batteries, so I ordered some online. But in the meantime, waiting for the new kit to arrive, I kept charging and vaping, charging and vaping…

… And that’s when it happened. I had the charger connected to a usb-plug, that has served me well with my smart-phone. But I could smell burning! Burning plastic! I looked round the room – no flames. But my spidey-sense said the e-cig charger! The e-cig charger! I quickly disconnected it and had a look. And my spidey-sense was right: the charger was hot and misshapen where it was going to melt. I had been maybe seconds away from a devastating electrical fire! Only my nose had stood between me and smoky, flamy, sparky death!

Of course it wasn’t the e-cig’s fault. Just as it isn’t King Kong’s fault when the gunner on a biplane shoots the giant ape and it falls onto your car! And, just as the commuter doesn’t quit driving after being crushed by a 10-ton gorilla, I’m not going to let Sparky the evil old battery put me off e-cigarettes. They are the safer option. And remember, conventional cigarettes have caused thousands of house fires!

I just need to learn the lesson – and you need to learn from my experience. E-cigs are not magic vapour machines powered by fairy-dust and ponies and bunnies. They run on electricity – the same stuff that tries to lightning-zap you in thunder-storms! When your e-cig battery gets old, retire it and buy a shiny new one! That way you won’t burn to death. I mean, what’s the point of trying to avoid lung cancer if you’re going to burst into flames?


The rich will vape, the poor will smoke. And guess who will died first.

January 29, 2016

The EGO-CE4 e-cigarette is cheap and flimsy

The EGO-CE4 e-cigarette and others based on the CE4 battery are inexpensive; which is just as well, as it is of poor quality and easily broken. I have accidentally broken these devices a few times, and only its low price has convinced me to buy more. When first introduced, it was priced similarly to its competitors (around £17), but the manufacturer has clearly realised that the product has a short working life and has reduced the price accordingly so as to stay on the market.

ego-ce4

The EGO CE4.  Cheap, poorly made, and on its way out

The EGO’s problem is its battery. It takes only a relatively short number of recharges before it starts to fail, keeping a working charge for much less time than competitors. And the construction of the battery and the rest of the e-cigarette is poorly designed. If the user drops it a short distance (the kind of fall that a laptop computer, for instance, takes in its stride) the battery can separate from the e-cig’s body easily. The same can happen if, for instance, the user puts the EGO in a trouser pocket and then sits down: stress that should not pose a problem for such a device.

The battery easily detaches from the part of the body that should keep it in place, the mouthpiece and the part of the body that holds the operation button comes apart far too easily. If the battery wires do not disconnect, the e-cigarette can be fixed: a thin, blunt object such as the non-business end of a pencil can push the battery back into the body, and the mouthpiece/button section can be reconnected. But of course such a McGuyver-style repair is not a lasting solution. And if the battery wires become disconnected, that is the end of the e-cigarette’s useful life. The wires are far too thin and weak to attempt soldering, even if such an operation could be deemed safe and satisfactory.

Luckily, the manufacturer has recognised the problem, and has priced the device accordingly. When e-cigarettes first became popular, the cost per unit was about £17. Now, replacement batteries are available via Amazon for as little as £3.50; and the glass “clearomizer” can be found at outlets such as Poundland, costing £1 per unit. Also, it seems manufacturers of the e-liquid are finding the market too saturated: at my local Poundland, 10 ml bottles of 88vape e-liquid in a range of flavours can be bought, again for £1.

vype-epen-kit

The safer, pricier Vype e-pen.  That’s where the smart money’s going.  If you actually have any money, that is.  Twenty Benson & Hedges is so much cheaper… if you don’t mind the hacking cough and cancer…

Of course this situation will not last. Stocks of 88vape will run out, the clearomisers and batteries will not work with the pen-style devices that are now taking over the market, and so the days of cheap EGO-CE4 e-cigarettes are numbered. It is a shame that it costs more than £20 to get a starter kit of the modern pen-like device. Poorer smokers will continue to smoke tobacco, which does not have such a “starter kit” expense. So poorer nicotine addicts will keep using the much more harmful tobacco product, perhaps forming a kind of economic apartheid wherein the less affluent will get higher rates of cancer and pulmonary-cardiac illness. When the cheaper but more electrically dangerous CE4 runs out of stock, less affluent nicotine addicts will be stuch with cigarettes and will most likely live shorter, harsher lives than their richer counterparts. This will remain the case until the pen-like devices are sold for less. And at the moment it doesn’t look like a price drop is likely.


MappFest: A free festival in 2016?

January 28, 2016

“A free festival in England, in 2016?  You lie!”

No, I’m not lying.  Not according to the MappFest 2016 website, anyway.  They say, and I quote:

MappFest 2016

Held on Malvern Link Top Common
Saturday June 18th 12.00-10.00
and Sunday June 19th 12.00-6.00pm 2016

This will be the Seventh annual Music festival bringing back the glory days of the 70’s and 80’s. A true family event we enjoy the best live music from around the area supporting LIVE Music, local small businesses and the community spirit that just oozes from the event.

MappFest is a non-religious, non-political independent music-based festival.  “Music, Sunshine, Bar, Rides and Food what more could you ask for!” as their site puts it.  Everything is sponsored or donated so every penny raised goes to their nominated Charities:

  • Acorns
  • St Richards Hospice
  • Community Action Malvern & District

mappfest-2016

It’s the seventh year in a row of the annual MappFest.  Unlike the free festivals of old, it’s a “family event” which I take to mean no Brew Crew, no petrol bombs, no repetitive beats 24 hours a day for the weekend.  But it’s free, there’s music and entertainment, and any profits go to “good causes”.  So if you’re free Sat 18 June and/or Sun 19 June, why not check it out?  It’ll be on MALVERN LINK TOP COMMON – if you don’t know Malvern, follow the signs to Malvern Link and I expect the festival site will become apparent.

IF YOU’RE A PERFORMER OR BAND MEMBER you have to apply to take part – and applications must be in by 31 JANUARY – that’s in 3 days.  Sorry for the short notice, but I found out about MappFest not long ago.  Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.  If you want to take part go to www.mappfest.co.uk and click on the Apply for MappFest tab.  They’re looking for sponsors, stall-holders and volunteers too, so go check it out.  You might be able to sell some of those friendship bracelets and ethnic art you spend all your time making!

Seriously, if you can, go check it out.  I will – it’s close to where I live and there will be live music – I love live music!  And it’s free.  Free often equates with good (not always, but mostly).  And it’s better than spending the weekend sitting on the sofa moaning that you’ve got nothing to do, right?

Go to www.mappfest.co.uk and have a look.  Or I’ll track you down and flay you.  Yes, I’m looking at you!!

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Too sick to work? Then starve! says DWP

January 26, 2016

That’s the message from Ian Duncan Smith, hater of the poor and vulnerable.  Him and his mates want to stop disabled and sick people from getting Employment Support Allowance.  He wants to put disabled and ill people to sign on and get JSA.  The stress the DWP put on unemployment could lead vulnerable people, like mentally-ill people, do do themselves harm, or even kill themselves!

Iain-Duncan-Smith

There’s less than 24 hours to stop people who are too unwell to work being pushed into poverty. The government wants to cut a financial lifeline for ill and disabled people – called Employment Support Allowance (ESA). [1] Unless we act quickly to stop them, they could push these plans through tomorrow.

Tomorrow, the House of Lords will vote to either rubber stamp these plans, or send the government back to the drawing board.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson will carry an 80,000-strong petition into tomorrow’s vote, with the names of all of us who sign it. Don’t let the title and the double-barrelled name put you off, she’s one of the good guys (at the moment anyway) Please can you sign the petition now to pressure the Lords not to cut help for ill and disabled people?

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/sign-esa-petition

Any one of us or our loved ones could fall seriously ill during our lifetimes. This benefit is there for those of us who are unlucky – it helps pay for a taxi home from chemotherapy, or a childminder during a stay in hospital.

Please stand up for fairness and support for anyone who’s too ill to work. It only takes 2 minutes to sign the petition – please can you add your name now to help carry it over 100,000?

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/sign-esa-petition

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UCL Students on rent strike… so they can eat

January 25, 2016

Students in London are refusing to pay rent in protest against “soaring” accomodation prices, and are demanding a 40% cut in rental.

More than 150 students in two halls of residence at University College London (UCL), are withholding rent amounting to over £250,000. The UCL ­Cut the Rent campaign says they will not pay until the university meets their demand for their rent to be cut by two-fifths.

Angus O’Brien, an accommodation representative and an organiser of the campaign, says: “The cost of rent has gone up dramatically and it’s preventing people from studying at university. This is a massive problem across London and the country. We are showing that something can be done about rising rent prices; our action could be the start of something much wider.”

student-rent-strike

Students on rent strike at University College London. Photo by UCL Cut the Rent, lifted from The Guardian

Nyima Murry, 19, a first-year history of art student and one of the strikers, says: “I’ve struggled massively with the cost of rent. I’m not from a wealthy background, and last term I had to work two jobs, which really affected my studies. I can’t afford to eat if I don’t work. Studying is becoming about your background and how much you’re earning, rather than your ability.
“Many people I know are put off moving to London because they can’t afford to study here. I’m striking so that future students have the opportunity to study at UCL on their academic merit, not because of their financial background.”

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jan/25/london-students-refuse-to-pay-rent-and-demand-40-cut

When I was young, there were no uni fees and you got grants for stuff like rent and food. When I went to uni as a mature student, there were still no tuition fees and I got a combination of maintenance grant and student loan, and it pretty hard going, getting extra cash to keep myself going. Now, students go into higher education and will leave with massive debt for tuition fees. There are paltry loans for day-to-day costs, and for books/materials you need for studies. And you have to take on jobs for money even though you are a full-time student. Some full-time students are also full-time workers, just so they can live.

You’d think at least the unis would offer affordable rent, but no: students have to choose whether to pay rent or buy food. I back their rent strike. But I fear they’ll be evicted and homelessness will kill off their studies. Or maybe the uni will refuse to educate students who don’t pay their rent. Higher ed should not be a privilege just for the rich. But that’s what it has become, under labour and the libdems (in coalition) as well as the tories. Don’t they get it: today’s students are the country’s future. Or maybe they do get it, and only want rich kids to run the country.  Like Cameron and his gang of public school scumbags.

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ibVPN could save you from ID theft, stolen bank details and so much more!

January 14, 2016

Nowadays, there’s a lot going around about online secrecy, security, anonymity, theft of bank details and personal info… and a whole lot more.  For instance, did you know that you could decide to take advantage of McDonald’s free wifi while supping on a coffee… and someone else, with a gizmo like the Hak5 Pineapple, could snaffle all your data right out of the air.  And if you’d engaged in online shopping or banking, or even just putting in a password, your economic and personal freedom could possibly be stolen!

Of course, these “man-in-the-middle” attacks are nothing new.  But as tech like the pineapple gets more sophisticated, and cheaper, there are more and more evil computer-aided villains out there willing to sit near free hotspots waiting for a non-security-minded person to get tangled in their web of deceit.  In fact, these crooks don’t necessarily need a laptop to carry out these attacks – a smart phone will do much of the time.  And think about it, how many bods with smart phones do you see in McDonald’s, Burger King’s, Subway, etc etc?  That’s a lot of potential crime… and as anyone who’s suffered this before will tell you, re-securing your bank and other details is no laughing matter!

One way round these criminals is with the use of a Virtual Private Network (or VPN).  When you’re connected to the wev via a VPN, all your outgoing and incoming data is encrypted, meaning that a potential eacesdropper can’t make heads or tails out of anything you send or receive.  An excellent VPN service provider is ibVPN (invisible browser VPN).  You can get a free trial, it increases your online privacy and securely unblocks geo-restricted websites (eg you can watch BBC iPlayer even when you’re not in Britain, if you use a Brit-based server).  You can choose from +95 VPN servers in 39 countries, 63 locations, including servers set up for p2p (bittorrent etc) traffic.  You can surf the internet completely anonymously – hence the name “invisible browser”.  And their online support is extremely good – they have helped me out in the past, figuring our the most baffling problems.

Despite what you may hear on the news, enccryption and secrecy is not just for perverts, crooks or the paranoid.  In fact, that kind of thinking actually helps the crooks, putting you off using this technology to save you from criminals.

Believe me, sending an unencrypted email is like sening a letter on a postcard – easily read by anyone who can get his or her paws on it.  And with the scanning tech available, just about anyone can get a look.  Yes, you might not mind sending a “wish you were here” postcard to your mates when on holiday… but would you send sensitive info on the back of a postcard?  I know I wouldn’t.

Don’t fall prey to the crooks.  Use a service like a VPN.  And if you choose to use a VPN, ibVPN is a very good option.  They provide a very good service.

Go on, get a free trial from ibVPN.  No commitment necessary, and it could save you from the robbers and scammers!

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