After being criticised for several days over the failure of the US armed forces to respond to the New Orleans disaster, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced today that three army battalions, along with two logistical support groups from the navy, had been deployed to the stricken city. Said Rumsfeld: "Our commanders on the ground tell us that the situation is largely under control, and conditions are rapidly improving. Pockets of irregular survivalists seeking to leave approved structures and illegally obtain food or medical resources have been successfully contained, or deterred by the army patrols." Praising the resolve and patriotism of the US soldiers on the ground, Rumsfeld continued "Our troops are faced with elderly people dying in front of them from lack of basic medical supplies, or parents holding their dehydrated children as they attempt to defy them and loot grocery stores for water - but our troops do not waver for they are determined to defend our way of life." Asked whether the air force was considering air strikes against survivalist hold-outs Rumsfeld commented "We're not ruling it out, but there are no definite plans at this stage".
British government to issue Free Speech licenses
The Home Office announced yesterday its long-awaited scheme to grant Free Speech Licenses to key media organisations, communications providers, educational institutions and ethnic communities. The licenses, to be effective from 1st February 2006, will be released for bidding after the public consultation period ends on 15 September. The government expects to grant four Tier 1 licenses, with the likely bidders News Corp, BT, and Vodafone each estimated to bid in the region of £3bn, and a fourth license being granted to the BBC for a "nominal sum". Tier 2 licenses will be available at a range of prices between £200m and £500,000 depending on the size of the licensee and the type of Free Speech desired. Telecoms retailers such as ISPs and phone companies are expected to offer Free Speech packages to consumers in the range £30-£150 a month, subject to an Acceptable Speech Code being drafted by government and industry representatives.
Potent symbol of nation's virility nearly ready for action
The United States' most potent symbol of virility, the great shuttle Discovery, is nearly ready for action, NASA officials revealed Tuesday. After rising vigourously into the sky on July 26, the strong but fragile shuttle suffered a minor setback when a blemish was detected in its smooth black tiled skin. The bruised shuttle lay in its hangar in Kennedy Space Center for the past month as technicians worked tirelessly to restore its integrity and pride. All that stroking and polishing is now complete, the NASA press release announces, and the mighty craft is once again ready to perform its duties for a longing and weary nation. NASA hopes that the shuttle will see some action in three weeks' time, on the evening of Saturday 24 September.
Google to aggregate all web information
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin announced a bold drive to aggregate all web information by 2017, a feat expected to cost "Oooh, about $1414213562373" according to Page. Google is confident it can raise the unprecedented sum, starting with the modest $4bn raised last month. Speaking to an audience of Silicon Valley investors, Google CEO Eric Schmidt outlined the phases of the plan to "purchase every worthwhile, rare, or interesting piece of information known", staring with reference, scientific, and geographical data, continuing through public records and local information of the world's 192 countries, and moving on to rival information providers, news media, blogs, wikis, and personal web pages. Schmidt paused to regard the transfixed audience, saying "They said that this could not be done, that nothing could safely contain this much information - well they didn't count on this!" and pulled aside the multicoloured curtain behind the stage to reveal GooglePlex II, a glowing pulsating array of supercomputers housed in a giant vat with 1m thick blast-proof glass walls. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates immediately announced his company "has for a time been planning" a similar vault, WinPlex, scheduled to be completed in 2026.