* Posts by P. J. Isserlis

28 publicly visible posts • joined 12 Jun 2007

So what we do when ID Cards 1.0 finally dies?

P. J. Isserlis

And another thing

I live in a country where everyone has got an identity card. Despite my reservations about having to have a card, with the consequent requirement to notify any change of address etc., it has got one great benefit: within Europe (and this country is not actually in the EU) my wife can travel entirely on her ID card. It worked even to enter Turkey. She does not have to carry a passport for most of our foreign travel. If it did include a driving licence (it does not) and stay very simple (no electronics at the moment), I should find it too convenient not to be grateful when I get one.

However, interesting: it has b- all effect on the level of crime, illegal immigration or anything else alleged to be improved/prevented by identity cards, wonderful and highly efficient country as this one is.

One fifth of humanity deprived of Milky Way

P. J. Isserlis

Frightened and incompetent?

Lights all night? Accidents? Never heard of headlights and driving according to the conditions? Simple torch for those dark lanes when walking? Try drinking less so you can see the pavement. I notice that every rabbit warren seems to have big, orange lights all night. Whatever for? Just so we can all pay more taxes to use more electricity ...?

Funnily enough, most crime occurs during daylight hours, including burglary: criminals need to see where they are going and a lot of houses are empty during the day, plus a car speeding along a country lane at night is rather more remarkable than during the rush hour.

Sarah and others, you need to get a broader education: there are reams of papers on the various, mainly harmful effects of shift work, lack of light and too many hours of light. Of course, the serious stuff may require a bit more than wikipedia and some ability and patience to read and understand a scientific paper.

You lot need to get out a bit, find out that you have got surprisingly good night vision. Where lights are useful, why direct so much at the sky rather than where it may be useful. I suppose the trouble is, rather than be responsible for oneself, too many want a nanny state to keep them warm and safe at any price.

And the egotism of those dismissing the "loss" of the night sky: just stay in the centre of some grim metropolis and allow the rest of us to imagine we are not yet just city drones. No doubt when, by accident, you find yourself in the country, you complain about the mess made by falling leaves, the lack of safety rails on steep hills and cliffs, the shocking and unlit state of mountain paths. Ugh.

Apple proves: It pays to be late

P. J. Isserlis
IT Angle

@AC the cheap nokia user

I understand why you stay anonymous: I never said these things are all one wants. I want these things at a minimum. I know a couple of people who have got an iPhone for when they can carry it and want to show off 'photos (down loaded after being taken on a camera) or emptying beer glass pictures. But they keep a Nokia or equivalent for general use: telephone calls, SMS etc. and smaller size, greater robustness all the time.

So, again, I just notice that a lack of comments that the iPhone (note the "phone" in the name) is good or bad at its basic role, making or receiving calls and (basic in a mobile), SMS and MMS handling as good as other models, nor much about the current battery life. This is not to say that it may not be wonderful at all these things; but as they seem to be ignored, I wonder.

Of course, as a gadget, it is great. But beware, the designers may drink American beer and even be American (hence some of the early lacks as USA usage and experience differ from that in Europe, perhaps).

So, again, how good is it as a mobile 'phone, especially for those of us not always wearing jackets, baggy trousers with big pockets or carrying handbags and always near a power socket and carrying a charger, but still want a good 'phone with some smart-phone extras that can withstand the knocks and weather of daily life (and for the price, for a significant time)?

P. J. Isserlis

But I want a mobile phone

Nobody tells me if it is a good 'PHONE what is the reception like? Can one hear clearly? Does it ring/vibrate loudly/hard enough to be heard/felt on a noisy tram? The battery of my simple Nokia (3.2M camera, alarm, calendar, good SMS/MMS) lasts for nearly a week of light, daily use and still for two or three days of really heavy use, including travelling (I notice that travelling by train or car drains the battery, presumably because the 'phone is working hard to keep a signal as it changes cells). It looks decent too and is genuinely small enough not to look like a teaplate against the ear.

In other words: I want a powerful telephone, with good message sending/receiving, decent alarm/calendar, loud ring and, really important, long battery life for those logn weekends away when I really do not want to carry a charger. A decent camera is a definite "nice to have". Oh, it should be small enough not to compete for space with all the other things one has to carry in one's pockets nowadays and robust enough to survive the usual drops, knocks and crushes of real life.

So, much as I like Apple computers (I've got one, Death to all Windows), tell me, can the iPhone compete with a cheap, simple Nokia for that lot? Or is it really only for the man/woman wearing a jacket/handbag and being very careful not to lean against the bar, crushing the device nicely? And if it is running a form of OS X, why can it not do multi-tasking? Has it managed to learn British English or Swiss German or are we still expected to become American? (my biggest gripe against Apple computers).

Indefinite liability for online libel must end

P. J. Isserlis


I feel that your conclusions are nonsense. If an article was libellous when written an published, it remains libellous and can still do unmerited damage to the subject. Freedom of expression does not include unlimited freedom to injure in any sense. In the age of online comment, when carelessly or mailiciously written material can get an ever wider and longer lasting circulation to people with no way of assessing the veracity of the material, protection is even more important. So the writer has to become more thoughtful, truthful and professional. that can only be a good thing. If the publisher or writer is sure of his or her facts, then where is the problem? If not, why is he lying or risking damage to others?

Freedom of expression is not meant to be a Carte Blanche for running amok with one's pen or keyboard, spraying ingorance, half-truth or outright lies just to increase one's readership or satisfy one's ego.

Pensioner gets apology over S&M smut filesharing threat

P. J. Isserlis

Old legal scam

Such tricks are not confined to filesharing: in 1994 a legal firm in Skelmersdale, Lancs., wrote to me alleging that my driver had damaged their client's sports car when unloading pallets in Peterborough (neither place ever visited by me) when I lived in Oxfordshire and, as a one man software company, employed no drivers They ignored all letters; when I reached an oik on the telephone he said, "See you in court". My solicitor wrote a four line letter demanding the names of their witnesses. We instructed a local solicitor to represent me in court in East Anglia: the claimants failed to appear and the case was dismissed with all my costs being charged to the Skelmersdale solicitors.

As you suggest: this is a "legal" scam to frighten people into sending money just to avoid trouble. One would have thought that such fishing activities would be postively illegal and punishable. Trouble is, I suppose, so many in Parliament re "lawyers", so little chance of an unbiased approach.

UK opposes copyright exemptions for mash-ups

P. J. Isserlis
Thumb Down

@Paul Donnelly

But if you were somebody whose living depended upon others paying for your music or literature or clothing design, you may feel differently, whether selling/providing the matter personally or as an employee of EMI needing your salary.

As for who judges value: do you mean the profit after the costs of production or the whole price? If the people can not or will not pay the price and the supplier can not fulfil their expections, then he will stop supplying, go out of business, sack his workers .... It could be that the object is actually valuable and even necessary, that is no guarantee that you or I will pay enough - hence adulterated, even poisonous foodstuffs in some places for example.

Or do you, for instance, maintain your employer's computer systems or write his software for the love and satisfaction of doing it and live from the charity of his grateful clients? Who pays for the computers, pens, paper, light, heat? Or is it all made and given for pure self-satisfaction: could be the answer to consumerism and obesity.

The fact that many of us abuse our limited rights to make copies is no more an exculpation than the claimed poverty or envy of a shop lifter, petty thief or pickpocket, though most of them get away with it and may well view it as harmless.

Copyright and patent are not synonyms for "bad": they mean protection to make it worthwhile to publicise certain things and, until they were formalised, the lack of such was a great hindrance to development.

Texting peer gets prison

P. J. Isserlis
IT Angle

What is a peer

You inverted snobs: a peer today is a generic term for all in the House of Lords as well as those hereditary ones booted out. So most "peers" in the House of Lords are faded potiticians or party funders and hacks promoted beyond their ability to a party-licking sinecure and, judging by most of them, sadly worse than their hereditary predecessors in education, ability or entertainment value. They are simply appointed from the usual list of self-selecting business, lawyer and union types to continue looking after theri own interests - and do not suggest elections as the answer, just to get an even more self-satisfied bunch of never-wozzer rubber stamps.

Anyway, whatever the merits of the dead man, I doubt he is any more dead because he was hit by a life peer than if hit by a poverty-stricken pensioner. The only valid point in all the stuff above is that, almost by definition, the culprit was breaking every law of proper driving (speed, visibility, care, attention) and that dangerous driving is an extremely serious offence as it involves an element of driving "recklessly" (hence the distinction from driving without due care and attention). Rest assured that his motor insuraners will punish him more expensively and for longer!

Sad to me that we are so idiotic that de facto evidence of careless driving such as using a mobile telephone while driving needs a specific prohibition when all ready covered by existing laws.

Why the IWF was right to ban a Wikipedia page

P. J. Isserlis

Wikipedia - encylopaedia?

"...Wikipedia – an encyclopedia, run by a charitable organization, which has been repeatedly gauged as equivalent in quality to conventional encyclopedias"

Really? By whom? Among almost everyone I know and much that I read, Wikipedia is considered a risky source of misinformation because of its lack of professional editing, lack of attribution and general openness to manipulation by anyone who declares himself or herself an expert, despite there being a few really useful and informative pages. "Oh no, not Wikipedia!" is the usual response to those who quote it. They can not even spell Encylopaedia!

BNP leaked list claims first victims

P. J. Isserlis

Bigotry, racism, Christmas ....

It seems to me that the rabid anit-Christmas writers here are, mentally, on a par with the their equally tolerant mates in the BNP and similar parties. The crude language betrays lonely desparation.

I await eagerly the demolition of Moslem festivals and beliefs, Hinduism etc by these same dull, little people. Accept it, for rather a long time now, probably longer than your oh so English families have been in UK, Christmas and Easter have been used as Christian festivals in Europe (including Britain) and, like it or not, believe in it or not, much of the very good side of our culture derives from those beliefs, including the modern tolerance and openness that turns most of us away from extremists of any hue.

And of course, remember, "First they came for the Jews ....". If you are so confident in how right you are and how wrong they are, where is the problem? As someone else said, unless they are organising illegal activities a la IRA, give them some rope and put your efforts into supporting what you believe to be right, in a rather more educated and civilised manner than the BNP whose intolerance and speech some seem so keen to ape (oh dear, is that ape-ist?).

Heaven forefend, some of you sound like that Jackie woman.

Oz sex trade to spank parliamentary prudes

P. J. Isserlis

re Well well well

What on earth are you nattering on about? Can't see the relevance to this story, unless you fear that Australia may catch a dose of UK and European liberalism (one of the few areas not yet as bad in UK as in Australia).

Mobile blocking tech for trains

P. J. Isserlis

Second the anti-not-so-personal music players

Personal musc players: the wretched things seem to be so loud I can only assume the owners have been deafened and so need them ever louder. Used to travel an hour every day each way and was often reduced to changing carriages in the morning to avoid one (middle-aged) regular whose noise could be heard the length of the carriage. And why is it that the culprits seem always to have such abominable taste or lack of it in "music"?

I have another gripe against those who feel they must open their laptops on the train: they grap any availabe table space if there is one and seem to expand sideways to accommodate the computer. In the restaurant carriage they plonk it on the table, taking up my portion too. Can't these nerds prepare for work with some back-ground reading, writing notes on paper or just thinking? Should they be reading confidential spreadsheets and writing work correspondence in public? Or are they all civil servants busy practising open government with my private details?

As for that idiot who can not stay quiet in silent carriages out of spite that the others were full, seems to show nicely just the idiotic thinking and selfishness that necessitates them in the first place. Just give your voice a rest for a while.

Dutch court convicts teens for stealing pixels

P. J. Isserlis


1. the article does not say that the culprits were not also prosecuted for assault and battery (in English law, "assault" is, basically, a threat with the ability to carry it out, the act is "battery", no idea what Dutch law says). I think that carrying a weapon can make it Aggravated Assault. I imagine that they were done for the Dutch equivalent AND for the theft or

2. as in English law, prosecuted for robbery, which is theft accompanied by violence or the threat of violence, in which case I suppose that one would have to prove the theft part as well as the violence.

Theft, by the way, at least from what I remember from some years ago, is basically, the appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it, with exceptions covering such things as a reasonable belief that one has got a right to it, finding it and being unable to trace the owner etc.. So, in English law, it comes down to the defintion of property in this case (leaving aside the assault).

The poster talking about "extortion" needs to get out a bit and realise that not the whole world is under USA law, yet.

Alien crustaceans clash claws in UK waterways

P. J. Isserlis

Serious news

This is actually one of the more serious pieces of news for the long term than most things on this site.

It seems that in the last couple of centuries, despite experience in UK (e.g. red squirrel), Australia, New Zealand and others our happy importers and traders have learnt nothing about the dangers of their activities. And even today, no doubt happy pet suppliers and garden centres are cheerfully and profitably flogging exotic species regardless and ignorant of the risks.

UK launches major road signage review

P. J. Isserlis
Thumb Up

A real improvement would be

to copy the French, who do at least one excellent thing: on traffic lights, add a smaller set at driver's eye-level so that the drivers at the front of the queue are not contorting themselves around the steering wheel to see lights that are so high they are obscured by the car roof.

And just what would be wrong with keeping some conformity with Continental (we are all in Europe, sad news for those UK wanna-be Americans) in view of the vast numbers of British drivers using cars and motorbikes across the Channel, or for that matter the vast number of Continental tourists driving in UK?

Joint Committee gets it (mainly) wrong on human rights

P. J. Isserlis
Thumb Down

Whole emphasis is wrong

I am against a written statement of rights, whatever one calls it: bill, constitution ....

Why? Because any form of list is a limitation. It means that anything not listed is not allowed or guaranteed. It means an aeon of legal argument about what the list means as individuals interpret it and time and fashion pass. Who on earth are you or anyone else to tell me what my rights are? Am I vulnerable to legal sanction if my actions, however innocent, harmless, good even, are not listed as rights that I can exercise?

To me it is blatantly obvious that, whereas it is necessary for society to say what is not allowed in order to live as part of that society (e.g. murder, theft, fraud) or to state specific obligations (e.g. pay taxes), it is very big-brotherish to tell me what I am allowed to do, with the clear implication that nothing else is allowed, whether through oversight, carelessness or malice during the drawing up of the list.

It is clear to me that it is restriction of rights that needs to be debated in depth and that no earthly power can "grant" me rights that all people are born into, with or without a state. Would an ID card be a right or a requirement or a limitation of my freedom? Does a legal requirement for one translate into a right for me to be given one (free of charge if it is both a right and a requirement)? Would I have no "right" to refuse one or do other rights depend upon holding one?

Just what is "reasonable" or "appropriate"? In whose judgement, by what measure? In today's British economy and health service, one may claim that two years on a waiting list for a hip replacement or heart surgery are "reasonable". Luckily, I live in a country where more than a week or two is thought unreasonable.

A final couple of thoughts: how on earth can one guarantee by statute such things as access to a health service, that depend upon the state of the society that must provide it? I sometimes think the US constitution is particularly nonsensical: some things along the lines "right to the pursuit of happiness" as if happiness can be defined in some universal way. And just what may I do in that pursuit? What would a right to adequate housing mean? A three bedroom house in the shires for an average family? A bed in a hostel? Who judges such things?

I gather that the former USSR had an admirable, written constitution, one of the best. Propaganda aside, the USA has some of the worst, most abject poverty, corruption and living conditions (and daily displays terrible abuses of power) as well as some of the best material conditions and examples of freedom.

Doctors: Third babies are the same as patio heaters

P. J. Isserlis

Infinitely growing population - of course it's necessary

Is it not obvvious that UK in particular and Western Europe in general is overpopulated? Just look at the rising cost housing, the spread of concrete, the growth in traffic. Even in the last ten years in Uk it is clearly getting worse ever faster.

What is this false logic of needing ever more people to sustain ever more people? Yes, there may be a a pensioner-boom as population drops, just like the baby-booms of recent decades. I would hope that all our wonderful, technical advances may help to manage this (care, health etc. not euthanasia) until nature works its course and we return to a more sustainable population density that benefits everyone and the environment, both natural and our own. Seems to me blatantly obvious that 60 million and growing in UK is insane. Most of that growth is in the last fifty years.

I should have thought that, whatever one thinks of medics promulgating opinions, the basic idea of 20-30 millions as a proportionate population for the British Isles is reasonable, much more so than the idea that one must have more taxpayers and import or breed more young workers for the old peoples' homes, who in turn grow older, need more tax payers and young carers, more housing, more transport, more food .....

I note that, in the various surveys of highest quality of life etc., it is generally the less densely populated lands and smaller overall populations that seem to come top; politically too, they often seem to suffer less from over-intrusive, unresponsive governments, though in the case of this forum, we computer idiots should be grateful for all the extra work computerising the control mechanisms of the failing democratic systems.

Stunned commuter finds more secret papers on train

P. J. Isserlis

Why taken on a train at all?

Why are any working documents taken out of the office? Why should anyone be allowed to work on official business outside their office unless under an official agreement to work from home, as part of their normal working day? Working outside normal times and place of work is usually a sign of inefficiency, bad planning or gross overwork suggesting that staffing is inadequate, badly managed or the staff themselves are inadequate.

If documents must go from one place to another and are too valuable for normal post or even internal post, then use a courier service with full traceability or even, catching up to the late 20th century, encrypted computer file transfer or encrypted email.

Seems to me that management, human resources and the idiot taking papers, CDs or whatever off site all need a stiff review. Who can not be aware of the possibility of car-breakins, house burglaries, accidents, simple theft or human error?

As for this mania for passing all and sundry to the media, as if every media employee was above suspicion: money- or attention- seeking is the only reason I can imagine, or am I just too aware of my responsibilities as well as my rights? The media! After all the lies, betrayal and distortions spread via that wonderful business in the name of money.

Police: a society gets the police force it deserves, or so they say; government too perhaps.

British workaholics win EU opt out deal

P. J. Isserlis

Odd would-be workaholics

What makes these over 40-hour week workers think they are so effective and productive? I have been there, done that, been admired for it and now realised just how ineffective, dangerous and self-destructive I was. Even now I am stuck on a 42 hour week. I notice that the long-hours types just spend more time "playing" at work: footling, drinking tea/coffee, smoking. Even they need a break.

Odd that France, just to take an example, has a markedly higher productivity per employee than Britain. Even odder that Brits love to spend their holidays there and rather a lot want the lifestyle enough to move there. Anti-EU nuts rave on about UK's wonderful performance: strange that on all the statistical measures Germany, even Italy and France, seem to do so much better (even allowing for the spin at which UK is an expert).

If you need 50 or 60 hours per week to do your job, I would suggest that you need to look at the job, what you are doing so badly and consider the resources really needed. Oh, and pay the extra health and social costs that your lifestyle is likely to cause for you and, if you have still got one, your family.

Should Europeans pay to receive phone calls?

P. J. Isserlis

@Graham Dawson

"Two examples that spring to mind are running lights on cars and high-visibility reflectors on trucks. In the former case, we don't need them - we are not a country with long, dark winter days -"

No idea what country you live in, I would imagine N. Europe, perhaps UK, in which case you have just lost all credibility unless it has moved rather far South since I lived there. I seem to recall December, January being rather dark even in the South, i.e. dark from 15.30-ish to all intents and purposes (especially on dank, overcast days) till 08.30-ish. Bad weather made much of the "daylight" questionable. I assure you, day-running lights are valuable and even in the USA you will see many people using them voluntarily.

I do not know where you think each country's ministers come from: perhaps you have never voted for an MP, written to one or wondered where your own ministers come from. I suggest you learn how to use the voting system.

As for mobile costs: it is nonsensical that one should pay to receive unsolicited calls, whether commercial or from friends, wrong numbers or whoever. It is the case that mobile charges seem to be a licence to make money, especially roaming charges. The EU system is tackling the latter (our responsive, national governments seem not to care). However, common sense suggests that "abolishing termination charges" means no charges to pay by the recipient.

El Reg decimates English language

P. J. Isserlis

MUST change?

What is this assertion based upon? Language MUST change. There is no MUST about it, only a language Nazi would say so to excuse his own ability to use a language.

I hope that all these people who can not cope with the idea of, e.g., "proper" English, are not programmers. Try telling the Java or C compilers that it's not important if one mangles the syntax or abuses a keyword. If one can not even manage one's native language to an educated and attractive level, how can one expect good, logical computer programming or any logical problem solving using any tools: linguistic, mental, technical? Oh, sorry, perhaps you work for Microsoft and share its view of common standards and clarity.

Language is about tools for thought and creativity, for mundane usage and the accurate, intelligible expression of ideas, orders, agreements, social chat. The more nitwits who do not understand their own language try to make it "evolve", the greater the misunderstandings between people. Witness American vs. UK English: if one is inexperienced, one may think every nuance and meaning is the same. With real, prolonged face-to-face experience, one quickly realises that not only is syntax often different; so too are underlying semantics and ideas, often dangerously so.

Of course, language extends to express new ideas and technologies. It does not have to mutate to excuse the less able from using their native language intelligently, attractively, powerfully and correctly. Indeed, the George Bushisms, Tony Blair/Gordon Brown spinnery etc. show the case for proper usage powerfully. Try reading George Orwell's appendix to "1984", for example, as a discussion of how the manipulation and misuse of language is used to manipulate thinking.

Laziness and incompetence are just those, whatever the excuses.

Virgin biofuel jumbo trials won't use algae

P. J. Isserlis

In the interests of accuracy in these debates

1. So many people still natter on about the price of petrol per GALLON, especially in the American context. Why? Perhaps most are unaware that an American gallon is significantly smaller than an Imperial gallon:

1 US gallon = 3.7854118 litres

1 Imperial gallon = 4.54609188 litres

So simplistically saying a price per gallon does not translate so easily.

May I suggest moving forward to the last century and using metric measurements (even I, late fifties, had to use the metric system for most of my school days).

2. A pound/dollar per day. What does that mean? A pound a day in Europe would barely fetch a bar of chocolate. In much of the "third world" it would buy a full evening meal of good quality. What a foolish way to assess poverty or wealth.

How about working time to pay for family meal or something?

Häagen-Dazs battles honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder

P. J. Isserlis
IT Angle

Genetics and pesticides

@Karl Lattimer

An earlier message made at least one connection painfully clear: one of the aims of modifiying crop genetics (as well as improved yields etc.) is to enable crops to withstand more chemical treatments: so herbicides designed to kill weeds can be used more heavily (because the weeds are becoming resistant) for example. There is also the matter of allergies: one theory for the occurrence of modern wheat allergies is that humans have not evolved to handle modern wheat versions, even though they have evolved over thousands of years; there is a real concern that the sudden changes in protein structures of genetically modified plants could be a problem, not just to humans of course. This is not to say this is a cause; but as the cause is unknown and there is some coincidence, one should be a little more circumspect before bellowing out one's ignorance. I seem to recall some research showing real (negative) effects on certain butterfly populations with certain genetically-modified crops, I regret that I have got no details

So, before you get so aggressively rude, please do some research, keep your mind a little more open and your neck a little less red.

There is an IT angle, if not direct: all of the genetic analysis would be impossible without IT. IT provides the capability, the tools to do this work. Perhaps one should have a discussion on IT ethics.

Brown promises simultaneous liberty and security

P. J. Isserlis


Labour politicians could just repeal all of the laws and regulations that they introduced to control and restrict us. But I suppose they enjoy the fun of devising more laws and regulations to worsen and complicate the state that the last lot created.

Terrorism? New? I'm not that old and I remember the IRA, well financed with American money, causing aggravation throughout the UK, Norther Ireland and even in continental Europe . Somehow, the country survived without almost Orwellian measures and the problem seems to be over. So just what is the intent of the current wave of control-freakery and promotion of a climate of fear?

Judge parks 172mph Porsche driver for 10 weeks

P. J. Isserlis

Criminal actually

This character:

1. Drove along a stretch of road that, at least when I lived in Oxon., was notorious for serious accidents, at a speed nearly two and a half times over the maximum allowed, knowlingly, deliberately, recklessly.

2. This criminal committed the offence of "Taking and Driving Away", which is a form of theft (Theft Act), itself imprisonable.

3. By virtue of 1. and 2., this twit drove while uninsured, a virtually criminal offence in itself.

The area is densely populated, despite being "rural" and the road is busy most of the time (I drove there at various times just last week).

How on earth did he get away without a criminal charge for 2. and a charge for 3.? Seems to me the CPS has gone pretty soft.

As for you defenders of very high speed by any driver: please use public transport and stay out of any motorised or even pedal-driven transport. You must be loony and singularly unaware of your own defects and the probable ones in any mechanical device (and I am a too-fast driver at times when in a car, to my shame, though fortunately not insanely so, in my opinion).

Top judge: put everyone in UK on the DNA database

P. J. Isserlis

RE and another thing by matt

As a trainee policeman, one learns rather a lot of legal defintions. If I remember correctly, no. 1 starts aong these lines:

"A Constable is a citizen, locally appointed, having authority under the Crown, for the protection of life and property, the maintenance of order, the prevention and detection of crime and the prosecution of offenders against the peace, the peace being the Queen's peace ....". I believe "the peace" is defined in one of the older laws of England extant, back to the 14th century. The ordering in the defintion is significant i.e. protection of life and property is first.

As for "nothing to hide": tell that to Nazi German citizens, Soviet citizens, Argentinians, other S. Americans, some USA citzens by all accounts, some British, especially Irish origins, Zimbabweans and so many others today. The recent behaviour, ambitions and achievements of UK government, all for your safety and well-being (cameras, heightened police/customs powers, delegated extradition powers, asbos ..., social services powers etc. ) are rather less reassuring than I should like. Thank heavens for two passports and living abroad.

Used to be that British law, basically, said all is legal unless there is a specific law against it, in contrast to countries with written constitutions defining what one is allowed to do.

Government warns parents of food-colouring danger

P. J. Isserlis

Old hat

As said all ready, this is old news. My children are now grown up (or think they are); but this was well known in UK and NZ, in the 1980s and 1990s. I am just amazed that old friends such as Tartrazine are still widely used. After all, theoretically many of the artificial sweeteners have been banned and reduced salt/sugar or whatever in food and drink are all the rage. Do n't modern researchers do any background reading and research or even talk to their own parents before researching and announcing their "discoveries"?

Mind you, I keep reading of all these wonderful computing advances and feeling a bored sense of deja vu, as in, "yes, we tried that donkeys' years ago and abandonded it as useless/used it in xyz". Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, or something like that.

UK foreign language teaching hits all-time low

P. J. Isserlis

Proper language skills are important

I am incredulous: I know the UK government is incompetent and seems to be promoting the creation of a drone class. But really, a proper grasp of other European languages for inhabitants of a European group of islands is absolutely necessary. Naturally, study of French or German or any other language has to include the nuts and bolts of grammar, customs and even literature, if one is to do any more than ask for an ice cream and misunderstand the answer.

I have worked in the Far East, now I work in Switzerland and even in UK I worked with people whose native language is not English. I never considered myself a linguist: just middling O levels in French and Latin, yet I managed to use French properly and have learned Cantonese and German since, not perfectly, but a good working and social grasp; thank God I was pushed through French and Latin at school. Strangely, continental children and adults generally have got little problem with another language. Are the modern British really so dim? Our forefathers assumed some linguistic ability as part of being educated and civilised. We deserve to go ever more downhill. Soon we shall be a mono-linguistic minority: even the USA is expected to be predominantly Spanish speaking within a few years (and many would dispute that they speak English all ready).

The sad bit is that home-based Brits seem to boast of their linguistic incompetence. I hear that maths. is being simplified to functional essentials too. Oh brave new world.