The Anonymous Widower

Novichok Used In Spy Poisoning, Chemical Weapons Watchdog Confirms

The title of this post is the same as the title of this article in the Guardian.

This is the first three paragraphs.

The international chemical weapons watchdog has backed Britain’s findings on the identity of the chemical used in the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said an analysis of samples taken from the Russian former spy Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia, and Det Sgt Nick Bailey confirmed the UK’s assessment that the three were affected by novichok, a military grade nerve agent developed by Russia.

The executive summary released by the OPCW does not mention novichok by name, but states: “The results of the analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories of environmental and biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team confirms the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury and severely injured three people.”

Let’s hope that the Skripals continue to improve and make a full recovery.

What fairy tale will the Russians invent this time?

April 12, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Could Improved Public Transport Cut Crime?

London is going through a murder epidemic at the moment, mainly with knives and a couple of guns.

I’m not worried about it, as why would anybody bother a seventy-year-old man, who doesn’t have the best dress sense?

But I wasn’t always old and I can remember the 1950s and 1960s, where things weren’t as idyllic, as those who voted Brexit like to think.

A friend of mine was a policeman in the East End in those days and he has some interesting tales.

Return To Dalston

I moved to Dalston in 2010, after the deaths of my wife and our thirty-seven year-old son from cancer, and a serious stroke, which left me with damaged eyesight and unable to drive.

You might ask, why I moved from deepest Suffolk to a slightly run-down area of London? Free public transport was a big draw!

A hundred and thirty years ago, all my grandparents and lots of relatives lived in this area.

My paternal grandmother would shop in the Marks and Spencer and the Woollies at the Angel, as I still do, although the Woollies is now a Waitrose.

This part-Jewish, part-Huguenot, part-Devonian, very stubborn London mongrel has come home!

An Observation

When I moved here, if I walked down Kingsland High Street, at times, the pavements were crowded with youths with nothing better to do. I wasn’t actually threatened, but I would avoid the area.

Now, the street is probably more crowded, but everybody is going about their business or pleasure in a calm manner.

I can only speculate about why the atmosphere has changed, but there has been two major developments.

  • The Overground has arrived to replace the travelling urinals of the North London Line and provide new services to the City and South London.
  • Most of the bus routes now have new buses.

Local people even got excited, that Hackney and Dalston got the first of the New Routemasters on route 38.

Have those young people from Dalston, now found better things by using public transport, such as work or a pleasureable leisure activity?

Research needs to be done, but there’s nothing on the Internet.

The Rise Of Dalston

I truly believe that the rise of Dalston has been created by the better public transport.

Who would have wanted to live in the new flats or the old Victorian houses, if you couldn’t get to work?

We’re now in an upward spiral, as property is improved, businesses are created and restaurants and cafes open.

The Next Experiment

Several major rail projects are underway in North and North East London.

It will be very informative, to see whether crime is lower or higher in a couple of years.

 

Conclusion

Improving public transport is one of these measures, that benefits a wide range of people; the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed and families with children.

It may also encourage those, who might drift into gangs and crime, to do something more worthwhile.

Lots of other places in the UK are getting or need the same treatment as Dalston has received.

  • The West London Orbital Railway could invigorate North West London.
  • Kirkby to Skelmersdale, would connect the latter town to Liverpool.
  • Newcastle is planning to reopen the railways to Ashington and Blyth.
  • Birmingham is expanding passenger railways on reopened and freight lines.

The future could be fascinating.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Is The Pollution Solution A Part-Solution To Terrorism?

Hong Kongers nickname their tramway the Pollution Solution. ut to be fair to one of my favourite cities, the city also has an extensive public transport network of metro lines and buses. Although, I’ve ever used any of the latter.

London and other cities in the UK have a serous air pollution problem and we should solve it for the health of us all, as pollution probably causes more premature deaths than terrorism. Or for that matter street crime like muggings and robberies!

Suppose in London we did the following to cut pollution.

  • Ban polluting vehicles from a wide area of the centre.
  • Impose a high Congestion Charge over a wide area.
  • All shop deliveries must be at night!
  • Cut the number of private hire vehicles.
  • All buses, including tourist buses and coaches, private hire vehicles and black cabs must be electric.
  • Rigorously impose a twenty mile per hour city-wide speed limit.
  • When Crossrail is finished, build the Bakerloo Line Extension and Crossrail 2.
  • Pedestrianise large parts of the City Centre.
  • Improve the cycle network and make sure cyclists use it and not the pavement.

Other cities could also do similar things to suit their circumstances.

A few of our cities like Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Liverpool have pedestrianised substantial parts of their city centres. They haven’t done enough, but it’s a start.

I don’t think trams will be a pollution solution in Central London except perhaps on a specific route to overcome congestion on the Underground.

We are going to have to act very strongly to deal with pollution, but will it have collateral effects?

Some years ago, I did some work with the Police on analysing crime and I remember an analyst, who was also a Police Officer, explaining how he saw links between traffic and crime.

I remember him saying that no self-respecting criminal would go burgling on a bus.

One thing that came out of this work, was that if Police checked a car and found that one of car tax, insurance or MOT was not in order, there was a high chance of a non-motoring offence being committed. As he said, if a criminal is dealing in thousands of pounds-worth of drugs, will he bother to renew his tax and insurance?

I’ve wondered for some time, if this car checking  in Central London, which must be done by the Congestion Charge cameras  has led to the increase in crime in London committed by criminals on motor-bikes, scooters and bikes. London’s congestion could also drive crime this way.

So if we solved the pollution, would this cut the congestion? And how would this effect crime?

I don’t know, but I suspect, we’ll find out in a few years, as the draconian measures we will introduce to cut pollution, will have fundamental effects on the way we live in London.

In the next two or three years, some cross-city and city centre rail lines will will improve drammatically.

However, some cities with bad pollution problems will not being seeing any public transport improvements.

It will be interesting to see the effects on pollution, congestion and crime. And terrorism!

 

 

 

 

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Mobile Signals

When I was on the excursion on Gran Canaria, that I wrote about in A Tour Of Gran Canaria, I was getting an excellent mobile signal all the way, despite at times being amongst mountains that were nearly two thousand metres high.

Yesterday, I was in Victoria station and I was trying to use the Internet to find out, where my train left. The Internet signal was like one of Donald Trump’s speeches – utter tripe!

I think for reasons of safety, that all train stations and bus stops, should have a top-rated mobile signal.

Some years ago, the office at my stud in Newmarket had a dreadful signal.  So I pointed a parabolic aerial at the nearest mast and rebroadcast it in the office.

Problem solved!

If I was an MP, who won the right to put a Private Members Bill through Parliament, I would make it the law, that all bus stops and train stations had a mobile signal, of the same quality, I was receiving high up in the mountains of Gran Canaria.

Or are the Elite waiting until a fourteen-year-old girl is raped and murdered because she couldn’t phone her parents for a lift, after getting lost on her bicycle?

 

November 15, 2016 Posted by | World | , | 2 Comments

The Evil Devices In Our Midst

I recommend that my readers, if there are any out there, read this article on the BBC, which is entitled ‘Smart’ home devices used as weapons in website attack.

It would appear that last Friday, that a company called Dyn suffered a denial of service attack. The attack and its effects is described in on Wikipedia.

The reasons behind the attack are still not clear and it could be in support for Wikileaks or in my mind just to prove it can be done.

But I doubt it will have any repercussions for the average John and Jenny, unless they want to buy something on eBay say!

To me, as someone who believes that in his day, he was a world-class programmer, I think that we haven’t seen anything like the end of evil minds working their wicked spells on the Internet.

Suppose you use an App to access your bank account or pay for your taxi on your phone.

How long before you’re sitting in a coffee shop, library or railway station, happily surfing the Internet and a message comes up on your phone, asking you to download the latest Taxi App say? Except that it won’t be!

You innocently download it and within minutes your bank account has been emptied or your credit card has been maxed out.

For that reason, I and other programmers I’ve spoken to, will never load an App that needs any financial information to my phone.

Any web site with your financial information, should only be accessed from a totally private connection.

We cannot be too careful.

When I started to use my American Express card for contactless payments, I noticed some strange payments without any recognisable name on my statement.

So I challenged them with Amex and they refunded them.

But they kept coming, until I realised that they were for a branch of a well-known store that had setup its tills wrongly.

In all this, Amex had been puzzled too and one of their security experts had talked to me. He told me that the level of fraud on contactless cards was less than they had expected, something which seems to have been confirmed by the lack of hard stories of fraud on contactless cards.

A policeman told me, that the limit of thirty pounds is not enough for the average card criminal, who like to deal in thirty thousand pounds a hit.

He also felt that as many contactless transactions are on CCTV, that intelligent criminals think they could be a Get Into Jail Quickly card.

As other more reliable payment methods like face recognition become more common, I feel that in the future, there will be no need to store any financial details on your phone, that can be hacked.

But until that happens, there will be no obvious financial details on my phone.

Certain details like passport number are hidden in the phone, in case of loss abroard.

 

 

October 23, 2016 Posted by | Computing, Finance | , , | 1 Comment

Are We Doing Enough To Combat The Real Terrorism Problem?

Over the years, I’ve met people in all walks of life that deal with terrorism and crime in general. So I like to think I have a good insight into it.

The United States will claim it hasn’t had any terrorist attacks since 9/11, but isn’t the dreadful attack on the congregation of the church in Charleston headlined in this BBC article as Charleston church shooting: Nine die in South Carolina ‘hate crime’, nothing more than a similar attack to the one on the innocent sunbathers in Tunisia.

The links between the two crimes are the twisted motivations of the perpetrators and the easy availability of guns, that can fire large numbers of bullets.

One of the reasons, we have not had a deadly gun attack in this country, since the Dunblane and Hungerford massacres, is that it is just too difficult to get a deadly weapon like a Kalashnikov in this country. I don’t think we’ve even had an incident in recent years involving such a gun, where perhaps gangs of drug dealers are settling an argument.

But are we doing enough to keep these deadly weapons out of the UK?

As an engineer with extensive knowledge of modern manufacturing techniques, I believe that it is now possible to create a workable machine gun, that was mainly created on one of the new industrial 3-D printers, with perhaps a few small metal parts smuggled through border controls. I should also say that I know of a manufacturer, who posts and receives specialist stainless steel parts through the post from all over the world.

After all, this report on the BBC describes how nutters in Texas have created a gun that fires using a 3-D printer.

I believe it won’t be long before someone creates a set of plastic parts, which when put around the working parts of an assault rifle create a gun that can be fired by any suicidal terrorist.

There is no defence against such a weapon getting onto the streets through this method.

I’m pretty sure that someone is working on doing it. Probably in the United States, where it seems that owning an assault rifle is something that many want to do. But then adding sense to the gun laws of the United States, is as difficult as making a serious alcoholic or heavy smoker see sense.

July 1, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

A Stupid Burglar

This story is so funny, you’d think it was made up by someone like the Monty Python team.

A man who broke into a home in Minnesota last week was identified and arrested after he forgot to log out of his Facebook page on the victim’s computer.

I suppose it also highlights one of the dangers of Facebook.

On the other hand he might have wanted a nice bed in a cosy American prison.

June 26, 2014 Posted by | Computing, World | , | Leave a comment

The Best Diplomatic Illness

It is being reported that because of illness to one of the Court staff, the Pistorius trial will be delayed until next Monday.

Hooray for him or her!

Any TV or radio station, that vowed to be a Pistorius-free zone, would get my eyes or ears!

It is not news, it’s a tragedy for all involved.

March 28, 2014 Posted by | News | , , , | 1 Comment

Now That’s What I Call A Robbery!

I was once called one of the Top Ten programmers in the world and as that was before I wrote Artemis, it is a compliment to the guy who said it, that he spotted my talent early.

I’ve never attempted to steal any money using a computer, but I have certainly had a few ideas, that I’ve kept to myself, or used in the odd unpublished short story.  But this report on the BBC about how a series of cash machines were emptied, is completely unbelievable. Here’s the opening paragraphs.

Researchers have revealed how cyber-thieves sliced into cash machines in order to infect them with malware earlier this year.

The criminals cut the holes in order to plug in USB drives that installed their code onto the ATMs.

Interestingly, the crooks emptied the machines of the higher value notes first, so they could be away quickly.

This illustrates one of the big faults of the euro., compared to the pound.  There are so many large notes in circulation, that the currency is a criminal’s and a money launderer’s dream.  I don’t like large notes anyway!

I suspect it was an inside job, in that someone who worked for either the bank or the cash machine company was the guy behind it all.

But of course, these days, where software is produced under contract by those in far off countries, is it any wonder you get crimes like this?

I wound never put anything more than working petty cash into a bank or building society, as they’re all vulnerable to be taken out by a gang of clever hackers.

And they are a lot less vulnerable if all those in charge of the computer system and those who program it, are actually employed by the company.

Sadly, this is no longer always the case, as various calamities in the banking industry in the last few years has shown.

December 30, 2013 Posted by | Computing, Finance, News | , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Rob Banks, Because They’re Much Better At Robbing You!

This wonderful statement was made this morning by Justin Urquart Stewart on BBC Breakfast this morning, as he commented on a report saying bank robberies in the UK had dropped by 90% in the past decade.

Justin must be the nation’s most recognisable stockbroker. Or is he the only recognisable one?

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Finance, News | , , | 1 Comment