Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Report of the investigation into the UK visa breach

The results of the two-month independent investigation into security breaches of the UK visa application process from India, Nigeria and Russia were published towards the end of July.

The full report is available here (currently archived, see Update below). There were also articles by The Register and The Observer in the UK media that covered the publication of this report. In India, there was no media coverage that I am aware of.

The excellent and very comprehensive report speaks for itself, and I would recommend it as good holiday reading if you're a fan of non-fictional tragic comedies spanning multiple continents. Thats probably exactly what the UK Members of Parliament did, taking a copy of the report with them as they broke off for a 11 week summer recess shortly after it was presented in Parliament.

In the limited time provided, I thought that the appointed Independent Investigator prepared quite a detailed and thorough report. The only striking omission I noticed was any plausible explanation as to why this breach wasn't reported by more applicants considering that this website had such fundamental flaws and left vulnerable for such a long duration of time. A little research into the Indian psyche, perhaps by way of interviews with applicants would have shown that no right thinking, progressive, frequent-flying, peace-loving Indian would ever want to bite the hand that stamps their visa.

I even know individuals in India who would consider themselves famous if their personal details were exposed online! Such is the scale of ignorance towards identity abuse here.

Update: The link for the full report isn't available on the FCO website any longer and claims to be moved to the 'National Archive' if you click it. I've still retained the above link though, to show that the National Archive seems to have misplaced its copy of the report too. Hmmm. However, it can still be found here.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Play abandoned

Scene I: A Willow tree on the top of an oval hillock. The world of vertebrate life continued quadrupedal, the seeming deviations therefrom being rather apparent than real. Suddenly a true biped appeared, a highly intellectual animal, an extraordinary deviation from the established course of organic development, instantly freeing up the anterior limbs for tasks other than locomotion.

Ape-man: This piece of wood seems to be shaped in a funny way, the top end thicker than the bottom. Ha Ha. Maybe I can round off the bottom of it a bit so its easier to grip with my non-walking limb.

[starts to violently rub the bottom end of a piece of large fallen branch against a rough stone surface, while a tiny cricket like insect darts away from the remaining foliage. This singular act is known to have sparked off the invention of both the hand held club or baton, and the abrasive filing tool at the same time. By the time he finishes, a glint of moonlight shines upon his bipedal outline and his new carved club]

Other-Ape-man: What good will that dead branch do?

[Ape-man demonstrates]

Other-Ape-man: Ouch, that ****ing hurt!

[Falls to ground clutching lower abdomen, as the stimuli of pain gradually arrives at the brain through newly evolved circuits. Eventually recovers, and gets up]

Cool. Lets go bash someone else!

[Before going off to bash others, Ape-man and Other-Ape-man practice the fine skill of swinging-the-club by devising a highly methodical and coherent set of basic rules:

1. Other-Ape-man hurls fist-size stone at Ape-man from a short distance away.

2. If the Ape-man is able to strike the stone with the wooden club, he is rewarded by gaining the permission to run over to Other-Ape-man and pound the club full-swing into the Other-Ape-man's lower abdomen, and then run back to his original position.

3. If the Ape-man misses hitting the stone, the Other-Ape-man now runs over to the Ape-man with the club, snatches his club, grunts in disgust, and wallops him on the lower abdomen. A role reversal occurs at this point, and Other-Ape-man then awaits Ape-man to recover to the point of being able to hurl stones.


4. If the Ape-man misses hitting the stone and the stone hits him instead, the Other-Ape-man again runs over to the Ape-man with the club, snatches his club, grunts in disgust, and wallops him on the lower abdomen. A role reversal occurs.


5. Since counting to six hadn't been invented, they continue adhering to the above rules until one learns the subtle art of club-swinging and/or the other dies trying.


6. Later on, spectator ape-men were allowed to fetch the stone and return it to the stone thrower, and often rewarded when they could catch it before the stone bounched.


Note: The art of stone throwing or fetching wasn't considered an art form until much later]


[These early creatures gradually migrated to other grasslands as the dense forestation receded, and by the sheer might of their swinging-club, conquered other ape-men and instilled in them the love of club-swinging. Those who didn't succumb, eventually died out of a strange fracture to their pelvic bones, which fossil records from that period strangely don't show]

Scene II: The Oval, on a small wet island. Enter Stone-Thrower, Club-Swinger, Fetchers, Empire, crowds and commentators.

The former colonies that successfully aped the game of ODI Cricket (Oh Dear Its Cricket) have been the masters of the game for some time now, particularly the formal penal colony of Australia. In the middle of the Oval grounds, a rectangular dirt patch has been marked out for performers. The final over is on, and 2 rounded, hard red objects left to throw. The designated Club-Swinger and his team needs seven runnaways to score a victory.

Stone-Thrower: Uhh! [Hurtling red object, after an amusing little run till the Empire dressed in white]

Club-Swinger: Ahh! [Hitting red object high and towards the crowds lining the field boundary, and preparing to stand in a smart posture leaning on his Willow branch before the red object lands]

[Red object lands amongst crowd]

Fetchers: [In unison] ****.

[Swarming crowds cheer, Empire throws up arms, Stone-Thrower grunts in disgust, uncontrollable pride gushes through Club-Swinger and hence raises his Willow branch in acknowledgment, commentators discuss trajectory of red object using sophisticated computing equipment, and feet pre-positioning tactics of Club-Swinger. The media will wallop the Stone-Thrower a little later. Everyone awaits the next and final rounded red object to be thrown. The media will also wallop the Club-Swinger if he misses to hit this]

Scene III : [Deleted due to utter waste of space]
Scene IV: [Deleted due to utter waste of time]

Addendum:
In 1912 a portion of a fossil elephant femur was reportedly discovered at East Sussex, England (Piltdown Man). At a Geological Society of London meeting shortly after, a scientist rose to state that "he could not imagine any use for an implement that looked like part of a cricket bat." He further believed in the possibility "of the bone having been found and whittled in recent times." For over 40 years, scientists preferred to believe that the object was a genuine paleolithic tool, though no one could assign it a plausible function. Today, its known that the Piltdown Man was largely a hoax, one of the grandest in history in fact. More of this here.