Guardian Special reports | Why is war-torn Iraq giving $190,000 to Toys R Us?: “Here is a small sample of who has been getting ‘reparation’ awards from Iraq: Halliburton ($18m), Bechtel ($7m), Mobil ($2.3m), Shell ($1.6m), Nestl? ($2.6m), Pepsi ($3.8m), Philip Morris ($1.3m), Sheraton ($11m), Kentucky Fried Chicken ($321,000) and Toys R Us ($189,449).”

Watch The Corporation. This edict is not open to discussion.

Some old mini-news which we never ran in the mag that I just found in an old documents folder. Some good links in there.

Mixmasters

Following in the illustrious, politically aware footsteps, of George Michael, the thin white duke himself (David Bowie you ankle-biters!) has announced that his latest album is available for free download; indeed, he positively wants you to download it, mix it up with your own tunes a la DJ Danger Mouse, and send it back to him. Then a panel (including Bowie) will decide which is best, the winner mixing it up with Bowie on his next album.

http://www.davidbowie.com

Mr Tony Blair

Assaulted on all sides, Mr Tony Blair must be feeling like his world is caving in, and now a new threat waves its order paper from the sidelines. ‘Bluesnarfing’, the act of taking control of a device via Bluetooth, has been spread to the Palace of Westminister by no less illustrious an organisation than The Times. A hack snuck his laptop into the House of Commons and was able to use it to listen into MP’s conversations over their phones, mainly because most Mps have failed to change the default password. Espionage on the cheap anyone?

http://www.bluesnarfing.com/

Kill Chrille

Remember Star Wars Kid, the chubby Canadian lightsabre dancer. Real name Ghyslain Raza who was an internet hit when a home-movie of him dancing with a broom, Darth Maul-stylee was released onto the net? Well, he’s back in a new feature. Well 106 new features. The latest Kill Bill 1&2 spoof is certainly Class A, but Star Wars kid also features in SWK vs South Park, Raiders of the Lost Dork, Lord of the Onion Rings, and, of course, Dine Another Day.

http://www.starwarskid.com/

Old Presents

Sick of passing the same plaid sweaters around the family every Christmas? Well, Orbital Development of Carson City, Nevada (WARNING! Things promised by people from Nevada may well turn out to be false, aliens or indeed weather balloons.) offered people the chance to dump their unwanted gifts on the moon. The auction took place on Ebay, but unfortunately didn’t reach the $6 million reserve price and will go ahead when a buyer is found. It will involve a space vehicle specially built, based on a commercial Russian lander.

http://www.orbdev.com/

British Sports

Sod football, rugby, cricket and curling, such is the decline in sports standards that even fictional British games are now falling to foreign champions. The latest casualty is, alas, not gurning but in fact Pooh Sticks, the creation of A.A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh. This year’s event in Little Wittenham, Oxfordshire was won by the Czech team, with the Brits winning the singles event. PCFormat thinks we should lynch that Henman feller for being a bad influence. Or henman that lynch feller. Dammit Brits, just pull your act together, and get online practice at the link below!

http://www.poohsticks.com/

Platitudes

At the end of the day, like, at this moment in time, with all due respect… that short semi-sentence consists of the four most irritating sayings in common use today, as voted for by members of the Plain English Campaign. Spokesman John Lister said “Using these terms is about as professional as wearing a novelty tie or having a wacky ringtone on your phone.” PCFormat’s quick Hansard search found 151 uses of ‘like’, twenty-one ‘with all due respects’, one ‘at the end of the day’, and not one “at this moment…” And that was just Tony Blair – John Prescott’s stats were 231 ‘likes’, 13 ‘at the end of the day’, and not a jot of ‘respect’

http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/

Parents

German parents are getting the chance to experience life inside the womb, thanks to Sterling efforts of Frankfurt artist Marie Krebs, reports Ananova. Ms Krebs has designed a uterus room for mothers and fathers to crawl into, packed with stratified spongy materials, padded with squashy balloons that yield to every movement of the body, and dimly lit. The sounds of a heartbeat, amniotic and intestinal gurglings, and a distant female voice round off the experience. Oh, and never, ever seach for uterus on the internet, okay?

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_913066.html

Couch Pizzatoes

Tired of having all the way to shops, when there’s a snack machine just round the corner? Then worry no further, as the next vendable item popping up will be the Pizza! The Wonder Pizza company UK is planning to install machines that deliver hot pizza in less than two minutes in railway stations and other public places. For £4 the machine tops, cooks and despatches a 9” pizza; the test one in Bournemouth sold about 200 pizzas in its first four days. PCFormat is thinking about getting one for the office.

http://www.gruppoferap.it/inglese/wonder_pizza.htm

Tabletop Veneer

Sick of your coaster being totally unabsorbent, but too lazy to go and buy coasters instead of using AOL disks? Thank Sony then, whose latest innovation is a new compact disc made mainly from paper (well, 51%). With the development of new Blu-Ray DVD technology last year, these new 12cm discs will be cheaper to produce, safer to dispose of, and have a 25GB capacity. They’ll be produced by the Toppan Publishing company of Japan.

Sony

Martians

“People of Mars, I salute you. Well, I would if I hadn’t done my neck in that quad accident. Have you got any green M&Ms?” Yes, the British public, that undeniable argument for tyranny, have voted Ozzy Osborne as the nation’s favourite ambassador to visiting Martians, with 26% of the vote. Yahoo’s internet poll also rated the weird Siamese coupling of Ant and Dec at 15%, closely followed by Tony Blair at 12%, and Dubya and Jordan drawing at 9%. PCF says: send them all out, and bring on the tripods!

Yahoo

<>I promise to stop it with the Rita stories after this, but her origin sounds like a work of fiction. If you just want to read that skip the next three paragraphs.

I took the train up to Carlisle on the friday, caught the wending country bus to Ecclefechan, and got a lift to Rita’s cottage at the base of Burnswark, the old Roman fort she built her cottage beneath, a great plateau raised above the lowlands of the Borders. Her son Johnny, an Italian with the thickest cross of a mancunian-italian accent a bollixed linguist could imagine, had appeared and collected her ashes from the crematorium. The physical remains of Rita were contained in a cheap plastic urn, like a large cash tube from a deli. When you shook it, it sounded like dice in a well.

<>The following morning I wandered around Ecclefechan, the birthplace of Thomas Caryle. He wrote about and there’s nowhere more in need of his thoughts than Ecclefechan; it’s an empty, lonely town with a huge broad central road leading from nowhere to nowhere, a suburb in search of a city. The kids and teenagers stand around the bus-stop with nothing to do, seeing more than a handful of people on the high street must mean it’s a holiday and most people just drive everywhere. I’m sure its soul is warmer than that really, but to an outsider it feels brawer than a collie’s nose.<>

Anyway, at about 2 O’clock, we all headed up the hill, preceded by the piper blasting away. The farmer brought his quad-bike, with a trailer, and chauffeured the more elderly members up the slope to the stone on the flat top, like Boudiccea in her chariot. The air as we trudged up to the top of the hill was of a ramblers’ outing; we were all glad it was over for her and pleased to see so many people, from such diverse backgrounds, had come a long way to send her off. The wind was rough at the top so we got straight to it. Sir Rupert Buchanan-Jardine (scion of the Opium Warrios) made a little speech, my step-dad Tim read out some poetry he’d heard on Poetry Please, and then Johnny threw what remained of Rita into the wind, where she blew away into the shafts of sunlight over the firth. (apart from the rattley bits that toppled down the hill, where they’ll keep the sheep healthy and confuse future archeologists.

Anyway, Rita’s origins, from what I garnered at the funeral. Turns out I was wrong about her time during the war. Her dad came back to be with her mum as the war broke out, but went off to join the partisans (the anti-Nazi fighters). Her mum’s best friend (as her mum was English and spoke no Italian) was the local dressmaker, the only other Jew in the village. Heavily pregnant, Rita’s mother was walking to the central square where the dressmaker lived, to talk over what they should do as the Germans were coming. Rounding the corner, she sees the dressmaker’s shop has german tanks in front of it, and hears a scream as the dressmaker throws herself out of the first-storey window. Understandably, Rita’s mum faints.

When she comes to, she’s in labour. She crawls off to a relative who looks after her until Rita’s dad and his brothers turn up. They take Rita and her off into the woods, where she tries to give birth. Unfortunately, it’s a breech birth, and the baby dies. Rita’s mother is seriously ill, and bleeding heavily, so Partisan Dad reluctantly takes her to the hospital, sneaking her in and getting a promise from the resident priest not to tell anyone she’s Jewish. The priest, thinking it’s better the Partisans die than innocent villagers are persecuted, shops her to the Germans. (The square where Rita’s mum fainted is now named after that priest, Piazza Luigi Bosco, or so Rita said.) Thankfully, she dies before they get there. Not thankfully, they now know about Rita, who has to go with the partisans to the hills, and hence the cable car and wild child story.<>

Now, after the war, Rita falls for one of the partisans ‘because he looked like Errol Flynn’, though she didn’t really get on with him. Interestingly, this Errol was one of the partisan leaders, well known in the area, so the Nazis had also come for him. When they couldn’t get him, they’d captured his dad, and told him “Get the word out; either your son hands himself over to us, or we hang you in 24 hours.” The son was up in the mountains and didn’t hear until it was too late, and his father was hanging over the town. So Rita fell for this Errol-alike because of his looks, and the shared loss they had over their parents; They didn’t marry, cos he wasn’t the marrying type, but they did have a child, Johnny. Which is enough about Rita I think.

I’ve spent the day in frantic negotiation over a quibble. My boss wants a game to go in the magazine; his boss wants it with an even more frantic desire. I feel that it would be good for the magazine in the short term if it went in, bad in the long term, because the quality of review we’re going to get from a couple of days play for this particular title is likely to be very poor and damage our reputation with people who give one, even a flying one. That said, there’s a certain camaraderie building up between me and the put-upon PR, as we both act as the poultice absorbing the vitriol and tension from the developer and the magazine, and I feel like a soldier crouched in a trench while all sorts of shit flies overhead, who knows that when the war is over he’ll be able to have a pint with his opposite number and slag off the idiots who sent them unprepared into such a fight. Not that I’d use the word idiot with reference to anyone in authority, lawks no. And not that I’m going to tell you what the game is, unless you ask dead nice, like.