Russian agents allegedly tried to hack lab associated with Skirpal poisoning investigation

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been elbows-deep in the investigation of the Novichok nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skirpal. As part of their investigation into where the nerve agent may have originated, the OPCW sent samples of the chemical weapon to a number of independent labs.

Using multiple labs provides a fail safe against false positive results and bias – two things you'd want to avoid considering the fact that the results of the tests could trigger a significant international incident. One of the labs that the OPCW may have used (I mean, they're not going to come right out and say that this is where they're sending dangerous shit) was Switzerland's Spiez Laboratory. Since Russia has denied that it had any role in the poisoning of the Skirpals and the other collateral victims of the Novichok attack, it's really really surprising to be surprised by the surprise expulsion of two Russian intelligence agents (surprise!) from The Hague, where OPCW is based. Apparently, they were trying to tinker with Spiez Laboratory's computers.

From NPR:

Swiss and Dutch authorities did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment. Andreas Bucher, a spokesperson for Spiez Laboratory, also declined to comment on the deportations. However, he confirms the laboratory's computer systems have been probed by unknown hackers in recent months.

"We've had indications that we were in the crosshairs," Bucher says. No data has been stolen from the lab, he adds.

Although Spiez Laboratory has not officially acknowledged receiving a sample, it is widely believed to have done so, according to Jean Pascal Zanders, an independent chemical weapons expert based in France.

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Simon Pegg & Nick Frost's Slaughterhouse Rulez looks great

After Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz (a movie that deserves a sequal more than any other film, ever) and The World's End, I'm willing to watch anything Nick Frost and Simon Pegg put in front of my eyeballs a go.

Slaughterhouse Rulez looks like more of the same sort of violent whimsy that I've come to expect from Frost and Pegg. That's just fine by me. Read the rest

Ghost Stories is available to download this week

I saw this trailer for Ghost Stories back in February and it grabbed hold of me immediately. Full of menace, glimpses of gorgeous cinematography and an aura of claustrophobia, it's everything I want in a horror film. I just learned that it'll be available to buy on iTunes, if you're in the United States, on July 17th. I am so stoked. Read the rest

Cat using a door knocker to be let in

Just when you think you've seen everything, a cat in Bootle, England has been captured on camera using a door knocker to be let inside. The 26-year-old man who got the footage, Daniel Richardson, had pulled over to the side of the road when he saw the cat.

He told the Liverpool Echo Saturday:

I was in my car and I caught a glimpse of it happening.

Then I watched and the cat started to climb up the door again so I whipped out my phone to record it.

I looked and wondered if that had just really happened - I was baffled.

It is not something you see everyday.

He added, "It would have only made it better if someone came out to let it in."

(Daily Mail) Read the rest

Friday Tunes: The Imagined Village

The Imagine Village is what you'd call a super group.

Over the years, its lineup has included members of the United Kingdom folk music royalty such as Billy Bragg, Eliza & Martin Carthy, Simon Emmerson, The Trans Global Underground, Chris Wood and dhol drum master Johnny Kalsi. Each of the musicians comes to the collective with decades of musical excellence under their belts and an extensive catalog of tunes of their own. The re-imagination of English folk standards is the Imagined Village's game: they color well-worn chestnuts with musical traditions from around the former British Empire, occasionally updating the lyrics to reflect the current conditions and mood of the United Kingdom's citizens.

If it sounds like a familiar formula, it's because you've maybe seen it done before by the Afro Celtic Soundsystem. Both bands share guitar/cittern player Simon Emmerson as a driving force behind their music. This isn't appropriated music. It's multicultural music that draws together players from a myriad of traditions to honor the music of the past in a manner that's both exciting and new.

While "Cold, Hailey, Rainy Night" comes from a long tradition of "Night Visit" songs – music that features some dude whinging to a young lady that everything is terrible outside so she should let him in to warm up and uh, have sex. You'll hear it being kicked about the folk world, under various regional titles, around the world. This version, recorded in 1971 by by Steeleye Span, is likely one of the most recognized versions of it. Read the rest

Video: How the Red Arrow Aerobatic Team does their thing

I used to go to a lot of air shows when I was a kid growing up in Canada. I used to love seeing the American, British and French air forces show off their aircraft. It was always a thrill to see Canada's Snowbird aerobatic team show up to strut their stuff. Now, thanks to this video, I have a little insight into how they and other elite flying teams do what they do. Read the rest

Britons struggle to walk up icy hill in Swanage

It's a silent video, but for a few chuckles from the camera operator. I recommend Maurice Ravel's Bolero as a soundtrack:

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Englishman takes emu for walk

If you're a fan of emus, or a fan of swearing in a northern English accent, this is the video for you. Read the rest

Ransomware hackers have stolen hospitals and doctors' offices across the UK, using a leaked NSA cyberweapon

25 NHS trusts and multiple doctors' practices in England and Scotland (but so far, not Northern Ireland or Wales) report that they have had to effectively shut down due to a massive Wcry ransomware infection that has stolen whole swathes of the English healthcare system in one go. The infection appears to exploit a bug that the NSA discovered and deliberately kept secret, only to have it revealed by the Shadow Brokers. Read the rest

Own a legit British sign for "Battle Station"

Battle is a town in East Sussex, England. Battle has a railway station. A pilfered road sign directing travelers to Battle Station is currently £23.95 on eBay. "This deserves a good home" writes Ben Goldacre. Read the rest

Shetland pony in a pub

A Shetland pony wandered into a bar in England and had to be coaxed out with snacks after guzzling ale from pints left out on tables. This is completely normal in England, as the legal drinking height for equines was lowered after the passage of the Horses and Ponies in Public Houses Act (2004)

‘He is not a big drinker but he does walk around like he’s a bit drunk but he is very friendly and likes meeting new things and people.’

Pub regulars have a soft spot for 12-year-old Mocha, who has managed to sneak into the pub twice since his owner bought him five years ago.

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England may finally choose its own national anthem

Britain has one—God Save The Queen—as do Scotland and Wales, but England itself has no national anthem. After many years of talking about it, it might finally happen. Jerusalem, a much-loved and rather ambiguous song derived from a William Blake poem, is the popular and perfect choice. Above, Emerson, Lake and Palmer's classic rendition from Brain Salad Surgery.

Other songs with a shot are Land of Hope and Glory and, if they decide to hold a public referendum on it right away, Magic Dance.

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Blackpool's Broadway Hotel fines guests £100 for negative review

The hotel had no running water, miswired electrical outlets, and a contract with fine-print that said that they'd charge your credit card £100 if you posted a negative review on the Web. Read the rest

Half the remains of slain Vikings in England are female

In Warriors and women: the sex ratio of Norse migrants to eastern England up to 900 AD, published in 2011 in Early Medieval Europe 19/3, Medievalists from the University of Western Australia survey the remains of fallen Vikings found in eastern England that had been assumed to be male, partly because some were buried with sword and shield. Read the rest

Full NHS hospital records uploaded to Google servers, "infinitely worse" story to come

PA Consulting, a management consulting firm, obtained the entire English and Welsh hospital episode statistics database and uploaded it to Google's Bigquery service. The stats filled 27 DVDs and took "a couple of weeks" to transfer to Google's service, which is hosted in non-EU data centres. This is spectacularly illegal. The NHS dataset includes each patient's NHS number, post code, address, date of birth and gender, as well as all their inpatient, outpatient and emergency hospital records. Google's Bigquery service allows for full data-set sharing with one click.

The news of the breach comes after the collapse of a scheme under which the NHS would sell patient records to pharma companies, insurers and others (there was no easy way to opt out of the scheme, until members of the public created the independent Fax Your GP service).

According to researcher and epidemiologist Ben Goldacre, this story is just the beginning: there's an "infinitely worse" story that is coming shortly. Read the rest

The bones of Richard III (or, possibly, someone else entirely)

Before you get excited about the bones of Richard III being found under a parking lot, consider this — the announcement included no mention of how common the DNA sequences that ostensibly identified the body as Richard really are. Those sequences might match Richard's descendants, but if the sequences are also really common, well, that's not saying much. Read the rest

Video explains cricket

I've never seen anyone fringe the ring quite like that before. [Jiskefet via Reddit] Read the rest

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