The City Diary: Futurist gadgeteers join the MOD to fight the terrorists of Salisbury Plain

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The Independent Online

The vast chalk expanse of Salisbury Plain is the sight of a futuristic battle worthy of a 'Terminator' movie this weekend, with a range of gadgets built by automotive design firm MIRA and global defence outfit BAE Systems tackling a host of security threats as part of a Ministry of Defence science and technology competition. The MIRA equipment, such as a remote-controlled ground vehicle and an unmanned air vehicle, will be used to track down a sniper, an armed vehicle and a terrorist cell. MIRA and BAE will be pitted against five other teams in the Grand Challenge, and the winner will have a chance to work on further MoD projects. Let's hope it's all above board then.

Insurance against stupidity

Peter Staddon, the head of technical services at the British Insurance Brokers Association, has been caught having a right old rant against the Foreign Office. Incensed that the Government is advising Brits to make sure they have travel insurance because accidents abroad are increasing, Mr Staddon roared at the 'Insurance Times': "The Government thinks it can get the insurance industry to foot the bill for people who drink recklessly abroad and end up arrested, or those who injure themselves when driving a motorcycle in socks and sandals." Sounds fair enough to us.

Unions stand firm against high heels

Oh, the Good old trade unions, standing up for the common man – and woman. The TUC General Secretary has put the boot into City institutions and upmarket fashion outlets that force their female workers to wear high heels. It's a disgrace and "blatantly sexist", cried Brendan Barber. "Heels may look glamorous on the catwalks and on Hollywood stars, but they're not appropriate for day-to-day workwear," Barber railed. He also called for employers to provide puncture and slip resistant soles to avoid mishaps with pins and wet floors. What a helpful lot the TUC are.

Gordon stalks our nightmares

It's official. There is something of the night about our beloved PM Gordon Brown. If it wasn't enough to have to listen to him during the day, being chased by Brown and sidekick Chancellor Alistair Darling is the most common nightmare in the UK, according to a survey from hotel group Travelodge. The poll results were revealed by Leigh McCarron, the group's director of sleep, who should know.

Breaking nuclear news

Tim Stone, the Government's highly regarded nuclear adviser, informs Diary that he broke his foot while on a busman's holiday to the north polar ice cap, travelling on a nuclear-powered ice breaker. Rushing to take snaps in the engine room, "like a kid in a candy store", Dr Stone failed to look where he was going and tripped, causing the injury.

Willie's a web wonder

The internet has gone Willie Walsh-crazy. The British Airways chief executive is the most talked-about FTSE 100 head honcho, be it through blog commentary or news item, according to the good people at Propellor BossBuzz Monitor. Just think, Mr Walsh, were it not for Terminal 5 you may have trailed far behind.

Public workers in stampede for the exit...

This research comes courtesy of recruitment consultant Badenoch & Clark. The company's Happiness at Work survey of 1,000 office-based workers claims that one-in-five public sector employees now put in the equivalent of an extra day a year to keep up with additional work covering for absent colleagues. Apparently, 72 per cent of public sector employees reported increased workloads since the new year. Nearly half the public sector workforce say they intend to change jobs by the end of 2008, but that could be the silver lining for the cash-strapped Government, which no doubt will be glad to be feeding fewer mouths.

...but the private sector has the recipe for calm

Clearly some private-sector workers do not face the same level of pressure as their public-sector peers. – which purports to be a "community recipe website" – has set up social network sites at BT and AXA to encourage staff "to not only talk about their favourite recipes, but to share the stories behind those dishes", a press release practically beams. Carol Savage,'s founder, says that this is "a great way to get people talking" and "brings people together". Apparently the company will also arrange bake-offs and curry competitions. It's like Facebook, only odd.