The Null Device
Throughout its existence, the Soviet Union went to great efforts producing extremely accurate maps of the entire world, often containing information omitted from local maps. The information was often gathered by surreptitious means, especially in Western countries. And because the Commies didn't believe in intellectual property and the aggressive monetisation of all possible rights, these maps are now claimed to be in the public domain (though they are currently illegal in the UK, because of alleged copyright violations; the articles linked on the page, however, argue that the maps did not use Ordnance Survey data, though the Ordnance Survey still argues that the maps illegally undermine its monopoly), which could mean that, should digitised versions find their way onto the net, they may prove invaluable to open mapping projects.
And here is a Pravda article mentioning the alarm that occurred in Sweden when they found out that the Russians had better maps of Sweden than they did, and allegations that a lot of the data was gathered by KGB agents posing as the children of Swedish Communists who moved to the USSR in the 1930s and then disappeared in Stalin's purges.
(via bOING bOING)
It has been revealed that, during the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher threatened a nuclear strike on Buenos Aires unless the French handed over the codes for disabling Argentina's (French-made) missiles.
Mr Mitterrand — who once described Mrs Thatcher as "the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe" — went on: "One cannot win against the insular syndrome of an unbridled Englishwoman. Provoke a nuclear war for a few islands inhabited by three sheep as hairy as they are freezing! But it's a good job I gave way. Otherwise, I assure you, the lady's metallic finger would have hit the button."Then again, would Britain have been able to launch a nuclear strike without US approval back then? These days, the British nuclear arsenal is operated under contract by a US defense firm, whose technicians apparently have instructions to require confirmation from the Pentagon before launching missiles. Then again, it is not entirely clear how difficult it would be for a determined Britain to get around these restrictions, or indeed that Reagan (who, famously, once went on air and announced, in jest, that the US was launching a massive nuclear strike against the "Evil Empire") would have vetoed a strike on Argentina.
Meanwhile, Mitterrand got his own back with the Eurotunnel, triumphing where Napoleon had failed, at least in his own mind:
France, he said, would have the last word. "I'll build a tunnel under the Channel. I'll succeed where Napoleon III failed. And do you know why she'll accept my tunnel? I'll flatter her shopkeeper's spirit. I'll tell her it won't cost the Crown a penny."