Thursday, July 31, 2008
Manuel says reading The Bible has encouraged him during his diet
But that is what Manuel Uribe from Monterrey, Northern Mexico, has done.
Now the world's heaviest man is on track to become the planet's most successful slimmer.
Put another way, his weight loss in one year is the equivalent of shedding two fully grown adult males from his body.
Manuel is already in the latest edition of the Guinness World Records as the heaviest living person.
That's because, not long ago he weighed 560kg (88 stones), or half a tonne.
Supersized by nature, he has now downsized through diet and willpower.
A demonstration of how much weight Manuel Uribe lost
And that will put him in the record books again.
"Look at my face," he says. "I have lost a lot."
Manuel puts it all down to something called the Zone Diet.
The diet, supervised by a team of scientists and nutritionists, consists of a strict formula of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
It's about controlling hormone levels in the body, particularly insulin and glucagons.
Those behind the diet say that when these are at the correct levels through the right intake of food, anti inflammatory chemicals are released to keep the body's weight in check.
They say the body then uses its stored fat for energy, thereby causing weight loss.
Manuel cannot leave his reinforced bed"Life is good now because food is medicine," said Manuel. "If you have the right food your body gets what it needs. If I can lose weight, anyone can."
Manuel certainly doesn't starve himself to achieve his weight loss.
He eats roughly five times a day.
His lunch was a plate of chicken cooked in olive oil with broccoli, tomatoes and slices of raw red pepper.
He can eat fish, chicken, some meat, many types of fruit and pretty much any vegetables, but all in strictly controlled portions called 'blocks'.
He is even allowed one fizzy drink a day - sugar-free, of course.
"He likes his food," said his mother, Otilia. "But I am very proud for what he has achieved in the past year."
The Zone Diet is controversial.
Manuel's mother says she is proud of her son's achievement
The American Heart Association doesn't recommend diets high in proteins. It also says there is not enough evidence about the long-term effects of being on the diet.
The Zone Diet's backers say they have a lot of evidence to prove it is safe and that it is not 'high protein', as such.
They say that the amount of protein a person absorbs depends on their height and build. They say that goes for carbohydrate and fat intake as well.
Manuel's weight problems are partly genetic, partly down to overeating.
His scale of morbid obesity puts him in the top half of one percent of overweight people.
Dr Roberto Rumbaut, a surgeon in Mexico who specialises in obesity, puts Manuel's case in perspective.
"Manuel Uribe is an extreme case," he said. "Where the obesity crisis lies is in people who are 13 to 31kg (30 to 70lb) overweight."
Dr Rumbaut said there were 1.6 billion overweight people in the world, of which about 450 million are obese, according to figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Dr Roberto Rumbaut says obesity puts pressure on health services
"It's these people who are putting pressure on health services everywhere," he said.
Dr Rumbaut says it's not just diet that will resolve what has been called the world's "globesity" problem.
"It's the old fashioned stuff like exercise and lifestyle changes," he said.
Back at the house, Manuel sits on the reinforced steel bed that he has not left in six years.
Next to it is a massage machine that he uses to draw the circulation along his limbs. His only movement is to use his hips to swing himself from the lying down position to sitting upright.
It is a dream of his to walk.
It's a dream shared by his new girlfriend, Claudia, who has helped to wash, feed and encourage him through this last year or so of dramatic weight loss.
"We are very happy for the effort he has been making recently," she said.
Manuel's girlfriend, Claudia, has encouraged him
"Sometimes he is sad and cries because he cannot get off his bed. But he is an example for other obese people to move forward. As he says: 'If I can, you can'."
Alongside his copy of the Guinness World Records lies another text, The Bible.
"I have Claudia, my mother and God to thank," said Manuel. "I am happy."
Still larger than life, but now, the incredible, shrinking, Manuel Uribe.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
In February, Pacific leatherbacks started swimming their way from Costa Rica, where they nest, to the waters near Ecuador's Galápagos Islands, where they feed on jellyfish. Eleven of these turtles were wearing satellite harnesses that tracked their location.
By using this satellite tracking data, the Great Turtle Race organizers will show online viewers the turtles' journey, starting on April 16 and running through April 29. The winner will be the turtle that swam the farthest.
Each of the 11 burly competitors will have its own sponsor for the broadcast, including big companies like Microsoft and Travelocity. The Los Altos, California, Bullis Charter School is sponsoring a turtle with help from the San Francisco-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
The school's sixth-grade class traveled to Costa Rica this February to help researchers study the turtles. Back at school, students from all grades are learning about these big oceangoing reptiles as part of a special course. They're also working on a blog to help kids across the country learn about leatherbacks. The students named their turtle Saphira, after the female dragon from the book Eragon.
Leatherbacks are the biggest sea turtles on Earth, with some weighing in at more than 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms). "They can be the size of your kitchen table," says Lisa Bailey of Conservation International. They're also ancient—leatherbacks have lived on Earth for about 100 million years.
But today they're in trouble. At sea, turtles can get tangled in fishing nets or suffocate on drifting plastic bags, which they mistake for jellyfish. On the beach, bright lights from hotels and houses sometimes confuse both adult females coming ashore to lay their eggs and hatchlings trying to find their way to the ocean.
These and other problems have caused Pacific leatherback sea turtle populations to drop by 90 percent over the past 20 years. "If we don't do something, they'll be gone in ten years," said Bullis Charter School student Talliya Smith, 11. Smith helped release hatchlings and excavate leatherback nests with her classmates at Playa Grande in Costa Rica.
The migrating leatherbacks swim more than 750 miles (1,207 kilometers) south to the waters around the Galápagos. Some go even farther south to the colder waters off Chile. Cruising at a rate of more than 43 miles (70 kilometers) per day, they make the trip in about two or three weeks. Once they arrive, the turtles dive to depths of more than 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) in search of jellyfish and other food. In four years, when the turtles are ready to nest again, they'll return to Costa Rica, says sea turtle expert James Spotila.
Saphira, the Bullis Charter School's turtle, is a veteran nester. Since researchers first spotted her nesting at Playa Grande in 1995, Saphira has made 25 nests, averaging 55 eggs in each clutch.
Warren Zhang, 11, and his classmates saw Saphira—who is an amazing 56 inches (143 centimeters) long by 41 inches (103 centimeters) wide—while they were out on turtle night patrol at Playa Grande. "The turtle dug its nest in record time," he said.
The satellite tags that Saphira and her ten turtle competitors carry on their journey will help researchers learn more about where leatherback sea turtles go, even after the online race ends. However, her hatchlings' journeys are more mysterious; researchers think hatchlings drift and feed in offshore ocean currents, but little else is known about what they do until they return to nest for the first time at Playa Grande, which can be ten or more years later.
Check up on the turtles at www.GreatTurtleRace.com, including picking your pre-race favorite beginning April 5.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Tigers don't normally snuggle with orangutans. The big cats are meat-eaters, after all. But when Demis and Manis the tiger cubs were rejected by their mother, zookeepers at Taman Safari Zoo thought they might like the company of two other orphan siblings: Nia and Irma the orangutans.
"The first time I put them together, they just played," says zookeeper Sri Suwarni. The four shared toys, wrestled, and took naps together. Then one morning, Nia and Irma began hugging Demis the tiger, and he lick-kissed them back! "That's when I knew they were true friends," Suwarni says.
As the tigers grew, their natural instincts started showing, so Suwarni moved them into a separate exhibit. Now two other apes Suwarni is raising have also made a new friend—a leopard cub.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
But many may not realise that being very shy can also mean they miss out on learning too.
According to the National Education Trust, some children are not benefitting fully from school because they lack the confidence to put up their hands in class.
It is offering to train schools so they can run their own emotional support programme which helps children develop the resilience and confidence to participate.
Six and seven-year-olds chosen for the scheme are taken out of their class groups for a 45-minute session once a week for six weeks.
Angela Jackson, who trains teaching assistants to run the sessions, says they are not aimed at the child who is already seeing an educational psychologist or the one with a recognised learning difficulty.
There's nothing wrong with being quiet
"Instead, it's designed for the child that is sitting in the classroom and not attracting much attention," she says.
"They may have had something happen outside of school - maybe they have moved home or maybe there is a new baby in the family.
"Or they might just be a bit shy or have difficulty forming relationships."
Mrs Jackson says there is nothing wrong with being quiet, it is just important that children are able to participate.
"They may be a perfectly happy child, but if they do not have the confidence to put their hands up and ask questions they are not going to get the full benefit from all that's going on around them," she adds.
Richard Lee, head teacher of Barford Primary School in Ladywood, Birmingham, said he decided to try the scheme because he had a year group of children with a lot of interesting characters.
"We thought this would be useful for them because it's all about social interaction and how to relate to their peers and adults.
"We chose a selection of children who weren't necessarily the most difficult or challenging but would benefit from raising their self-esteem.
"They might have been classed as your classic wall flowers, or they were stigmatised by a certain type of behaviour.
"They didn't know that they were being treated any different but they were all taken out of class on a regular basis.
"They all thoroughly enjoyed it and we saw quite a change throughout the period that we ran the sessions."
Mr Lee described one child who was very, very shy and had a tendency to clam up.
"He had a lot to say but he just couldn't get it out in an acceptable manner. He would get it all mixed up in his head and stutter a lot.
"By the end of the programme, he was the child who could have a full 10 or 20 minute conversation with the rest of a group."
Another child, Mr Lee recalled, lacked the social skills to interact in class properly.
Fear of ridicule
"He wasn't malicious, he was a bit over-enthusiastic, and didn't take his turn to speak.
"By the end, he could wait and listen and respect other people's points of view."
And it is not just the children's ability to participate and play by the class rules that improved, they have also shown improvements in their ability to organise themselves and learn in a group effectively.
The children are wonderful but they may not necessarily have all the acceptable manners
Head teacher Richard Lee
The 6s and 7s programme is all about helping children with their social and emotional development so they can make friends and participate in class.
And by all accounts it seems to work.
In another school, a year group was assessed for their suitability for the programme against a range of skills and characteristics.
Those with scores in the middle range were picked for the special classes.
By the end of the programme, half of those who had been on it had upped their scores to the maximum scores recorded by the year group as a whole.
Mr Lee concludes: "We are in an inner city school in an area of Birmingham which is pretty deprived.
"The children are wonderful but they may not necessarily have all the acceptable manners.
"I've always said you can have the most wonderful teacher, but if they can't manage the class and there isn't that social relationship between the children, then the children won't learn.
"You have to create a situation where children feel comfortable to speak out and know that they won't be ridiculed by anyone."
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Schools in England are trying to track down national curriculum test papers mislaid by the Sats contractor, ETS.
Some have been sent back to the wrong school, but promises that they will be retrieved have not been kept.
Some schools continue to have pupils marked "absent" in the ETS database even though they took the tests.
Conversely the BBC has heard from one that has been allocated marks for two pupils who genuinely were absent.
• The Priory School in Southsea, Hampshire, was unhappy about the consistency of Key Stage 3 English marking. In preparing papers for appeals, staff realised the list of results for the writing test, published by the National Assessment Agency, included scores for two pupils who had not taken it, and who had been recorded as being absent from the room.
Officials are investigating.
• Rose Green Junior School in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, was trying to locate 30 missing English test scripts when it was contacted by Whiteways Junior School in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, which had been sent them.
The National Assessment Agency was told on 15 July and promised to arrange for them to be picked up the same day. The papers were still in Sheffield on 23 July.
• Some schools are invoicing ETS for the time spent dealing with problems with the tests. The head of a large primary in Manchester has sent a bill for £350 with a letter "setting out the more obvious costs in supply cover and admin time in trying to sort this fiasco out".
• Reports continue to come in of missing scripts and questionable marking.
Ian Kendal, head of St Joseph's Catholic primary in Hertford, Hertfordshire, said: "Our Science scripts have not yet been marked. The National Assessment Agency has informed the school that the scripts are not lost; they just don't know where they are!"
Phil Thomas, head of Wey Valley School and Sports College in Weymouth, Dorset, said: "We received the results in a print out four hours before the end of term. This format meant that staff had to retype the data into computers for us to start the analysis.
"Fortunately, the papers arrived the day before so unusual marks cold be investigated. 39 'borderline' level 5 papers have been returned after pages of answers have received no marks and the standard of marking is extremely variable."
• Schools had complained about the deadline for submitting appeals - that is, requests for marking to be reviewed. It had been extended from 18 July to 10 September, but it was pointed out that this was only two days into the new term in some areas.
So it has been further altered to "10 days after the start of their term, or after receipt of both scripts and results, whichever is the later".
Figures published on Tuesday showed that about one in five primary schools still lacked results and almost a quarter of English results for 14-year-olds were missing.
Margaret Morrissey, spokeswoman for the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said parents felt very let down
"Most feel this has been a total let down. Their kids have been through all this stress, and the parents have been through it too.
"To hear the secretary of state on the radio, when challenged, not going to take responsibility and say it is a matter for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and ETS is not right.
"What's making it even worse is that now all the ministers have gone off on their 11-week summer holidays and parents are at home with children who still haven't got their results."
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
About one in five primary schools lacks results and almost a quarter of English results for 14-year-olds are missing.
There are fears from schools that some test papers have been completely lost.
Mr Balls says that ministerial intervention or "commentary" on the negotiations between the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and the private tests contractor, ETS, "would be totally inappropriate".
Speaking to the House of Commons, Mr Balls repeated that responsibility for the problems lay with the QCA and ETS and declined to apologise.
The schools secretary said that he had been advised that marking quality was as good as in previous years so publication of the results would go ahead.
Mr Balls said the deadline for appeals against marking had been extended to 10 September, or 10 days after the start of the autumn term.
Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove accused Mr Balls of having failed to intervene when there had been warning signs of problems.
"Is it not the case that he failed to make sure contracts had been awarded properly, failed to heed warning signs and failed to act quickly to avert a fiasco which every teacher in the land could see coming?"
The Liberal Democrats' schools spokesman, David Laws, said this year's tests remained a "shambles" - and warned that assurances over the quality of marking were "complacent and premature".
The statement from Mr Balls sets out the latest figures for the return of the delayed test results for 11 and 14-year-olds - which should have been delivered to pupils a fortnight ago.
These show that there has been some catching up on the return of English results to secondary school pupils - with 77% of marks published compared with 71% last week.
For maths tests for 14-year-olds, 94% of results have been published and 93% in science.
However there has been little apparent progress in the return of missing primary school test results - with 98% of all results published, similar to the position at the end of last week.
This means that about one in five primary schools will have ended the school year without a complete set of marks for English, maths and science.
One of the primary schools still waiting for their results is St Augustine's primary school in Weymouth - in the constituency of Schools Minister Jim Knight.
Head teacher Stephen Mason says that since the first missed deadline he has been chasing missing English test results - but on Tuesday, the last day of term and the last chance to give results to the 11-year-olds in person - the results have still not been returned.
Writing to parents and pupils about his "extreme disappointment", Mr Mason said: "I can only apologise on the government's behalf for the way in which all your hard work has been treated.
"I promise to give you the English marks as soon as we receive them.
"I want to thank you for the way in which you approached these tests last May. Your conduct, preparation and hard work made your teacher and I extremely proud."
Mr Mason says that when he contacted the ETS helpline on Tuesday morning he wanted to know if the test papers had been lost.
He says he was told that they were not lost but they might have been "mislaid".
A spokesman for ETS told the BBC most of the work being carried out now for primary school test papers involved putting the marks into its results database, rather than actual marking of test scripts.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Aquatic ecologist Zeb Hogan travels around the world, striving to save critically endangered fish and the livelihood of people who share their habitats. Get to know the man behind the megafishes.
Q: What were you like as a kid?
Hogan: My brothers and I grew up in a city (Tempe, Arizona), but we had a big backyard with lost of trees. We spent our free time climbing trees and catching lizards. We each had our favorite place in the biggest tree and we worked out ways to climb from tree to tree to tree without ever touching the ground. My family went camping in the summer and we'd usually visit zoos and aquariums on our family vacations. My clearest memories as a child all have to do with animals and the outdoors. As I got older, I became fascinated with animal shows on public television and I'd wake up early to watch Wild, Wild World of Animals before the rest of the family got up.
Q: Do you have a hero?
Hogan: I know it'll sound like a cliché, but as a kid I loved hearing about Jacques Cousteau. My mom bought me one of his books and I read it over and over again. I also liked how in his early shows, he focused more on catching (and killing) fish, but as he got older (and other members of his family got involved in his work) they changed from wanting to catch the fish to trying to protect them. Nowadays my heroes are people who are obviously passionate about their work and those who are working, in their own way, to make the world a better place. Personally, I have a special feeling for anyone who loves rivers and aquatic life and I guess one role model is the late Ransom A. Myers, who was a dedicated biologist and conservationist. Honestly though, I am even more impressed by everyday people that I meet who show a love for animals and the environment. It's obvious that biologists will care about living things but what we really need is more non-biologists who take an interest in protecting our natural world. Kids are great in the sense that they have a love and a curiosity about animals and the outdoors that somehow we lose as adults.
Q: What do you daydream about?
Hogan: This summer I have been daydreaming a lot about my garden. I planted it a month ago. It has tomatoes, peppers, chilies, eggplant, herbs, cucumbers, watermelons, and pumpkin. It hasn't started producing vegetables yet. I find myself daydreaming about picking vegetables and also simple things, like which plants need water or which plants are sick. It's an obsession really.
Q: How did you get into your field of work?
Hogan: The simple answer to that question is: I've always done what I love, which led to where I am now. Whenever I've had choices, I've chosen the path that made me excited, that interested me more, or that piqued my curiosity. I'm hesitant to recommend that approach though, because there is hard work involved and not everything that I've ever done has been enjoyable. Plus, I probably would have benefited from a little more hard work in my life, if you know what I mean. (I'm a little lazy.) Still, in a world where it's difficult to know what to do or where life may take you, following your heart isn't a bad approach.
I followed a very typical path for an academic research scientist. I received a Bachelor's degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona, participated in the Fulbright Program as an exchange student to Thailand, studied for a Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis in their Graduate Group in Ecology, and then continued as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. While not all students need to follow this exact path, it is important for all aspiring aquatic ecologists to receive good grades and have a relatively well-articulated idea of their research interests.
Q: What's a normal day like for you?
Hogan: It's hard to describe a typical day because every day is different. When I am in my office at the university, I spend my time reading and responding to emails, making plans, buying equipment, meeting with students, attending seminars, writing reports, submitting grants, and preparing scientific manuscripts.
When I am in the field, I spend almost all of my time on or near the water. In Southeast Asia, most of my field sites are near populated areas and I rely on fishers to help gather the information that I need. In Cambodia, I stay in Phnom Penh and usually go to the river twice a day (once in the morning and once in the evening). We own a small boat and take it along the river to meet with as many fishers as possible. If the fishers catch an endangered fish, we work with them to get the fish tagged and released back into the water. I also interview all the fishers that I meet to ask them about their catches and the abundance of endangered species. By evening, my team and I usually return to a hotel or guesthouse in a town or village on the riverside. In Mongolia, we work with recreational fishers to gather information about the ecology of the world's largest trout. In a typical day, we wake up at 7 a.m., go out on the river about 9 a.m., spend the day tagging and releasing fish, return to camp at 6 p.m., clean up, and eat. At night, we take care of work-related chores (charge batteries, enter data, fix equipment, make calls by satellite phone) and prepare for the next day. Working in Mongolia is especially interesting because we live in Mongolian yurts, eat traditional food, and rely on solar energy to power our equipment. Temperature can drop to zero degrees late in the season, so it is sometimes a challenge just to keep our equipment and ourselves in good condition.
Since the National Geographic Society funds most of my work, I also spend some of my time working with them to produce news stories or shows for television. I enjoy working with National Geographic because it gives me a chance to share my experiences with a large number of people that might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn about threatened fish and their habitats.
Q: What do you do for fun or to be silly?
Hogan: Mostly I do what everyone else does, hang out with their friends, watch movies, read, work in my garden, mountain bike, hike, and swim. I also spend a lot of my free time with activities semi-related to my work—helping other scientists with their projects, visiting aquariums, viewing fish at dams and fish ladders, fishing, watching other people fish, or just sitting by on the river bank and watching the world go by.
Q: If you were a fish, what kind would you want to be?
Hogan: The kind that people don't eat! Fish in most parts of the world have a tough life. Fish like the Mekong giant catfish, the Chinese paddlefish, and the Murray cod are in danger of extinction and have to deal with all kinds of challenges. They have to deal with water pollution, avoid being caught and eaten, navigate around dams and irrigation canals (often impossible), and find a mate. It's nearly impossible for them to survive. So…if I had to be a fish I'd like to be a giant Eurasian trout living in a remote area. The giant Eurasian trout live in the clear waters of northern Mongolia and can live over 50 years. The only downside is that they have to live under ice for half the year when the river is frozen. It would also be fun to be a giant grouper or even a great white shark, as long as there weren't any humans around to catch me.
Q: What's the best place you've ever traveled to?
Hogan: The Okavango Delta in Botswana. But you don't have to travel all the way across the world to see beautiful places. Some of my favorite spots are in the U.S.A.—the slot canyons of northern Arizona and southern Utah, the freshwater springs of central Florida, the Yuba River in California, the swimming holes around Eugene, Oregon, and the Hudson River in New York State are also wonderful.
Q: What's the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you that you can share with others?
Hogan: Terry Goddard, a former mayor of the city of Phoenix once told me, "You aren't pushing yourself hard enough or taking enough risks unless you fail 50 percent of the time." While I don't agree with him 100 percent, I like the saying, because it means it's okay to take risks, it's okay to fail. I think that those have been important lessons for me and remembering his words helps ease the pain that I feel when I'm not successful.
Q: Do you like to swim? What's your favorite swimming stroke?
Hogan: I love swimming! I love any kind of swimming and love to do it anywhere. I like free style swimming, breaststroke, and doggy paddling. I like to see how long I can hold my breath and I love to SCUBA dive. I love the water!
Friday, July 18, 2008
Trading standards officers studying dangerous chargers being imported from China say vast numbers are available on the internet and in shops.
Their tests show one brand can overheat or cause electrocution.
One of the chargers concerned has the code marking DE62347066. Others have no code and are called Travel Charger.
The UK appears to be flooded with them
A specific warning has already been issued about chargers for Nintendo DS and DS Lite machines, but which could also be used to charge Gameboy machines.
Trading standards officers are trying to recall the chargers.
But Chris Holden, senior trading standards officer at Buckinghamshire County Council, told the BBC that investigations were shedding light on a much bigger problem.
Some chargers carry a CE safety mark which officers believe to be fake.
"The UK appears to be flooded with them. It probably runs into hundreds of thousands or even millions," Mr Holden said.
Mr Holden said that the chargers were being sold for about £5 on the internet and about £6 in shops. Safe chargers, which have been checked properly, retail for around £15.
Officers have primarily found unsafe chargers for use with games consoles, although others are available to use with music devices and mobile phones.
Wires become detached after being used for a while leading to a risk of electric shocks. The pins do not fit properly into UK sockets causing overheating.
Numerous suppliers were bringing them into the UK, Mr Holden said.
Concerns were raised about the safety of chargers 18 months ago following the death of British boy Connor Dean O'Keeffe.
The seven-year-old was found dead by his mother on the floor of an apartment in Thailand during a holiday after using his games console charger.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
A Gartner analyst predicts the demise of the computer mouse in the next three to five years.
Taking over will be so called gestural computer mechanisms like touch screens and facial recognition devices.
"The mouse works fine in the desktop environment but for home entertainment or working on a notebook it's over," declared analyst Steve Prentice.
He told BBC News that his prediction is driven by the efforts of consumer electronics firm which are making products with new interactive interfaces inspired by the world of gaming .
Guitar Hero has been praised for its innovative interfaces
"You've got Panasonic showing forward facing video in the home entertainment environment. Instead of using a conventional remote control you hold up your hand and it recognises you have done that," he said.
"It also recognises your face and that you are you and it will display on your TV screen your menu. You can move your hand to move around and select what you want," he added.
"Sony and Canon and other video and photographic manufacturers are using face recognition that recognises your face in real time," he said. "And it recognises even when you smile."
"You even have emotive systems where you can wear a headset and control a computer by simply thinking and that's a device set to hit the market in September."
"This" Mr Prentice said, "is all about using computer power to do things smarter."
Naturally enough those in the business of making mice are not wholly in agreement that the end is nigh.
"The death of the mouse is greatly exaggerated," said Rory Dooley senior vice president and general manager of Logitech's control devices unit.
Microsoft has said touch screens will be all pervasive
Logitech is the world's biggest manufacturer of mice and keyboards and has sold more than 500 million mice over the last 20 years.
"This just proves how important a device the mouse is," said Mr Dooley.
But he also agreed that the number of ways people can interact with a computers were rising and that his own company was manufacturing many of them.
"People have been talking about convergence for years," he said. "Today's TV works as a computer and today's computer works as a TV.
"The devices we use have been modified for our changing lifestyles but it doesn't negate the value of the mouse," Mr Dooley explained.
The mouse was invented by Dr Douglas Engelbart while working for the Stanford Research Institute. He never received any royalties for the invention partly because his patent ran out in 1987 before the PC revolution made the mouse indispensible.
With a 40 year anniversary planned for later in the year, Mr Dooley said Gartner's prediction for the mouse was too gloomy given that the developing world has still to get online.
The Wii has changed ideas about how we interact with computers
"The mouse will be even more popular than it is today as a result," he suggested.
"Bringing technology, education and information to these parts of the world will be done by accessing web browsers and doing that in the ways that we are familiar with today and that is using a mouse.
"There are around one billion people online but the world's population is over five billion," he said.
So just how ready are people to wave their hands in the air or make faces at devices with embedded video readers?
Gartner's Mr Prentice says millions are already doing it thanks to machines like Nintendo's Wii and smartphones like the iPhone.
"With the Wii you point and shake and it vibrates back at you so you have a two-way relationship there.
"The new generation of smart phones like the iPhone all now have tilting mechanisms or you can shake the device to do one or more things.
"Even the multi-touch interface is so much more powerful and flexible than in the past allowing you to zoom in, scroll quickly or contract images."
For those who lament the demise of such tried and tested pieces of hardware, Mr Prentice did concede that the keyboard was here to stay for the foreseeable future.
"For all its faults, the keyboard will remain the primary text input device," he said. "Nothing is easily going to replace it. But the idea of a keyboard with a mouse as a control interface is the paradigm that I am talking about breaking down."
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Lobsters are seven times more abundant within the protected zone than outside.
The eastern coast of Lundy is the UK's only "no-take" zone, where fishing is completely prohibited.
Conservation groups say UK seas need more of them, but the government's recent Marine Bill promises much vaguer "marine conservation zones".
It is not clear what levels of protection these areas would have. The site wasn't only set up to protect lobsters - it's to protect the whole environment
Chris Davis, Natural England
The Lundy zone was set up five years ago by Natural England and the Devon Sea Fisheries Committee, which administers fishing along the county's coasts, in partnership with local fishermen.
Natural England scientists believe the zone should help Devon's lobster-potters by providing a refuge where young lobsters can grow to maturity, then migrate into areas where commercial fishing is permitted.
On the up
"The main result we have seen is an increase in the number of large lobsters in the no-take zone compared to areas where fishing is on-going," said Miles Hoskin, the marine biologist engaged by Natural England to lead the research.
There are more lobsters caught inside the zone, and they are larger
Recent surveys have found that lobsters above the minimum landing size are between six and seven times as abundant within the zone as outside.
"In recent years we've also found an increase in the number of small lobsters within the zone and adjacent to the zone," Dr Hoskin told BBC News.
"In the next year or two they're all going to be lobsters that fishermen can catch."
The team surveys five sites - one in the no-take zone, two commercially fished sites around Lundy, and two comparison sites further afield, one on the north coast of Devon and one in South Wales.
Surveying consists of laying and then retrieving strings of commercial lobster pots, and counting and sexing the animals inside.
The approximate doubling in numbers of young lobsters has not been seen at the two distant sites, suggesting that it is a consequence of the no-take zone.
Scientists are now putting tags on the lobsters they catch. Fishermen are being encouraged to report catches of tagged animals, in order to show how far they are migrating out of the no-take zones.
Fishermen are generally cautious about no-take zones, which is one reason why the government plumped for the much more adaptable "marine conservation zone" concept in the draft Marine Bill.
"It's difficult to to say whether it's helped us - we didn't used to fish in there much anyway, except close to shore, but it was always good for lobsters," said John Barbeary, whose lobster and whelk boat works out of Ilfracombe.
"When we were asked about it we were all for it... (but) we couldn't afford to have the zone made any bigger because it would completely ruin our business, and I think you'd find that with a lot of fishermen around the country - it would make it totally uneconomic."
But Sarah Clark from the Devon Sea Fisheries Committee said she believed the zone was good for the industry.
"Having a larger brood stock especially of females within the no-take zone will obviously produce more juveniles," she said.
"We're tagging them to see if they're moving out - if they are, they'll be moving out of the no-take zone into the area that's being fished, and and that can only help with the fishery, and help fishermen too."
Natural England's root reason for wanting the zone closed was not to help fishermen, but to return a tiny fraction - 0.002% - of the UK's seas to the state they were in before the era of modern fishing.
"The site wasn't only set up to protect lobsters - it's to protect the whole environment," said Chris Davis, the agency's senior specialist in marine policy.
A crayfish is a surprise catch - "the first in five years"
"It's about protecting the fish and the sponges and the coral that's here as well, and it's doing a good job, though it's a bit difficult to say on some of the species because they don't reach maturity for 30 or 40 years."
A by-product of nature protection may be an increase in the tourist trade. A full analysis has yet to be done, but anecdotally the numbers of divers visiting Lundy has risen.
However, the views of fishermen are likely to be highly influential when it comes to deciding how many of the new marine conservation zones - which are several years away from being proposed - acquire full protection.
So will the views of the burgeoning renewables industry, given the potential of UK seas for generating electricity through tidal and wave technologies as well as offshore wind turbines.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Actress Cameron Diaz served as guest editor for NG Kids’ October 2007 Green Issue and donated her sneakers to kick off the campaign. Boxes of shoes poured in, sent by National Geographic Kids readers, families, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, schools, and members of the U.S. women's national soccer team also donated their old sneakers to the project.
Setting the record is just the beginning. In an effort to spread the word about recycling and to help reduce the amount of junk in landfills, all of the sneakers are being sent to Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program. This program recycles sneakers into material that will help build surfaces for basketball courts, soccer fields, and playgrounds.
Monday, July 14, 2008
According to the News of the World, personnel who complete six years' service in the Army, Royal Navy or RAF will qualify for the scheme.
The government will pay tuition fees to study for GCSEs, A-levels, university degrees or other qualifications.
The measure is thought to be in Thursday's Armed Forces Command Paper.
This document will deal with a whole range of welfare issues affecting soldiers, sailors and airmen.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the Service Personnel Command Paper would "set out a range of measures to ensure that our armed forces, their families and veterans receive the best possible support right across government".
He said: "It is the first time there has been a co-ordinated, cross-government strategy for delivering better access to key public services and greater welfare support for our armed forces community.
"The command paper will help secure continuity of public services in areas like education, accommodation and NHS treatment."
Speaking on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the chief of defence staff, said he expected the command paper to provide a "firm commitment to deliver" on "disadvantages" suffered by those within the armed forces on these issues.
He said: "I expect to see a firm plan for dealing with those and I expect to see a firm commitment to deliver. That is what I expect from the command paper and that is what I think we will see.
"That tackles the issues that our own families tell us are the top of their concerns."
Ian Kirby, assistant political editor for the News of the World, said the scheme was a method to help those who left the armed forces get back into civilian life, and could save people up to £9,000.
He told BBC Radio Five Live: "My Ministry of Defence sources say this is a no-strings-attached deal. Basically, the bill for the tuition fees will go straight to the government."
Currently those serving in the armed forces can have tuition fees fully or partially paid for certain courses, but the incentives are based around retaining personnel. This new package can be taken even after they have left the service.
Mr Kirby also said if a service member who qualifies for the scheme is killed, then the credit for having free tuition will pass to their spouse.
A recent Ministry of Defence survey of 9,000 servicemen and women suggested that some 47% of Army and Royal Navy respondents and 44% of those in the RAF regularly felt like quitting.
Among the concerns raised by those surveyed were the frequency of tours, levels of pay and the quality of equipment and housing.
Sir Jock Stirrup said armed forces accommodation was the result of "decades of underinvestment".
He said billions of pounds were being spend in a "long-term endeavour" to improve conditions, adding that it was "a massive problem".
1912: Born Woodrow Wilson Guthrie in the small frontier town of Okemah, Oklahoma, Woody Guthrie led a fast-moving, tumultuous life and wrote some of the most beloved folk songs in America. His homespun wisdom and musical authenticity make songs like "This Land Is Your Land" enduring classics.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Sir Alan Steer suggests that adults need to take responsibility and not provide bad role models with behaviour that is greedy and aggressive.
Sir Alan has been carrying out a review of behaviour in school since 2005.
A survey from the General Teaching Council shows that bad behaviour is the biggest reason for teachers quitting.
Sir Alan, head teacher of Seven Kings High School, Ilford, is due to publish further findings from his government-commissioned report on behaviour.
It comes against a background of growing concern over teenage knife crime - and Sir Alan highlights the responsibility of adults in creating the cultures of good and bad behaviour.
Sir Alan told the Guardian: "It's connected to a violent sub-culture. But we bear some responsibility. Sometimes as adults we don't model the behaviour we would want youngsters to follow. We live in a greedy culture, we are rude to each other in the street. Children follow that."
Last month, Schools Secretary Ed Balls warned that parents had to "play their part" in promoting better behaviour.
"When I talk to heads they say behaviour is one of their main concerns. Some talk of giving detentions to pupils only for the parent to come in and demand their child is let off," Mr Balls told a meeting of school leaders.
"So whilst the vast majority of parents work really well with schools, a small minority are not supporting heads to maintain discipline."
The interim report from Sir Alan, due to be published on Monday, is the latest instalment of his work on improving behaviour.
Sir Alan reported in March that good progress was being made in tackling bad behaviour - and he highlighted a range of important influences on behaviour.
These included the quality of teaching, clear and consistent rules, mutual respect and the support of parents. But he cautioned against assuming there were "simple solutions".
Concern about poor behaviour by pupils has been identified by the General Teaching Council as the reason that teachers are most likely to leave the profession.
The survey found that about four in 10 teachers leave the profession after two years.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
A report for umbrella body Universities UK says unless institutions adapt quickly to the changing demographics, some institutions will become unviable.
The number of 18 to 20-year-olds is set to fall sharply between 2009 and 2027.
This means universities could face a smaller demand for places and hence a drop in public funding, it says.
The Universities UK report looks at three different scenarios predicting what will happen if institutions react in different ways to the changing demographics and a more difficult economic climate. Predicted fall in student numbers between 2006 and 2027
England - minus 4.8%
Wales - minus 8.5%
Scotland - minus 10.9%
Northern Ireland - minus 13.2%
UK - minus 5.9%
In the first scenario, where universities are slow to adapt, student demand for places changes in line with population changes and funding levels fall.
Universities have to compete with each other for students leading to some reducing entry requirements and a loss of reputation for the UK system.
Although there will be an increased number of international students and more part-time and post-graduate students, ultimately some institutions will become unviable, it says.
In the second scenario, non-traditional private providers enter the market pace and "cherry pick" course areas with low entry costs.
A greater increase in e-learning also leads to partnerships with private firms.
But the increased competition leads to a "major reconfiguration" of the university sector with fewer large institutions and larger number of small specialist institutions.
In this scenario, damage to the education system is predicted as private providers gain degree awarding powers and a small number of elite institutions seek to leave the publicly funded sector.
In the third scenario, the university sector becomes more employer-driven and flexible and there is full development of technology-based learning thanks to public and private investment.
Most students end up studying part-time on a virtual basis while they continue to work, but full-time undergraduate study does remain part of the system.
This leads to universities grouping together strategically with employers and establishing themselves as major regional providers along side further education colleges.
Again, private providers cherry-pick vocational provision which will net them substantial profits and they also take over failing institutions.
But it leads to "extreme stratification" of the system and reduced opportunities for many young people.
Professor Rick Trainor, president of Universities UK, said the report was commissioned to help institutions consider the potential impact of longer-term trends and changes in demand.
"It gives institutions advance notice of the challenges that lie ahead so that they are well placed to anticipate these changes.
"Universities will be best placed to meet these challenges if the sector remains lightly regulated and is free to respond flexibly to changing student markets."
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Minister for Students, said: "Never has higher education been more important to the nation’s success, and in the future, it will be even more so. It is vital to maintain the UK’s standing over the next 10 - 15 years, that we create a framework for the expansion and development of our world class higher education sector.
"We welcome this thought provoking report which will form an important part of the debate on the future of higher education. While the scenarios don’t necessarily represent what will actually happen, they do help to identify the sorts of challenges the higher education sector might face over the next 20 years."
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
A government initiative will see schools in England being sent a support package including DVDs of adaptations of his plays in its original language.
Guidance in the form of a booklet called Shakespeare For All Ages and Stages will be sent to all schools.
Schools minister Jim Knight said the Bard's work should be enjoyed as much as possible from a young age.
Getting to grips with Shakespeare's verse is a challenge for teachers and young people alike
The booklet includes tips on bringing the writing of Shakespeare alive for children from the age of five to 16.
And pupils in some secondary schools will get the chance of seeing a live Shakespeare performance.
Mr Knight said Shakespeare was the most famous playwright of all time and his work was studied all over the world.
He said: "It is fitting then that his work is a protected part of the curriculum in the country he came from."
Already all children have to study one complete Shakespeare play in secondary school.
"But I want to go further to ensure that Shakespeare can be enjoyed as much as possible and from a younger age," he said.
Mick Waters of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said: "Teachers can make young people's experience of Shakespeare an inspiring one and nurture a lifelong interest in the playwright.
"But getting to grips with Shakespeare's verse is a challenge for teachers and young people alike.
"'Shakespeare For All Ages and Stages' will help by suggesting a range of innovative and practical ideas to help bring Shakespeare alive in the classroom."
'See it live'
Ian McNeilly from the National Association for the Teaching of English said: "Some of the language in the plays would be beyond pupils under a certain age, but the earlier children are introduced to Shakespeare the better.
"It's all down to the approach. You can bore people of any age with the wrong approach and you can enthuse people of any age with the correct one."
Acting director of education at the Royal Shakespeare Company Jacqui O'Hanlon said many secondaries and primaries were already teaching Shakespeare in an inspirational way.
"In our manifesto for Shakespeare in schools, Stand up for Shakespeare, we call for young people to do Shakespeare on their feet, see it live and start it earlier."
These principles were very clearly in evidence in the new scheme, she said.
Fiona Banks, head of learning at Globe Education at Shakespeare’s Globe, in Southwark, London, said the initiative would help "students engage with Shakespeare's plays - as plays - to be experienced practically and through performance".
Monday, July 7, 2008
Reports into what caused the delay will be presented in the autumn to the secretary of state for schools and to the exams watchdog.
A million children in England are still awaiting the results of tests taken by 11 and 14-year-olds.
Markers had been warning for months that the deadline could be missed.
There have also been persistent concerns from teachers about the quality of this year's marking - but Jim Knight said that the Ofqual exams watchdog had given assurances that "marking is at least as good as in previous years".
'Fair and thorough'
John Bangs of the National Union of Teachers has warned of "enormous" numbers of errors in the system this year.
Since May, markers had forecast delays amid warnings of administrative chaos in the processing of the tests taken by 11 and 14 year olds.
But ETS, the company awarded the £156m five-year contract to mark the tests, and the National Assessment Agency had offered assurances that problems would be resolved.
Last week, it was announced that the deadline would be missed - and pupils, parents and teachers are still waiting to receive the results - with many schools soon approaching the end of term.
Kathleen Tattersall, chair of Ofqual, has appointed Lord Sutherland to lead the investigation into what went wrong and she promises a "fair, thorough and transparent inquiry".
Lord Sutherland - formerly Stewart Sutherland - is a former chief inspector of schools and is currently provost at Gresham College in the City of London and president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
"I will report rigorously on the failure to deliver the results this year and make recommendations to ensure that this situation does not happen again," says Lord Sutherland.
There will be separate reports from Lord Sutherland - to Ofqual on the failure to deliver results on time and to Schools Secretary Ed Balls on the role of the National Assessment Agency and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
In a letter to the chairman of the Commons schools select committee, England's Schools Secretary Ed Balls said the delay was unsatisfactory and "clearly unacceptable".
'All tests affected'
Markers of the tests, usually teachers, who contacted the BBC News website, had warned repeatedly that administrative problems and difficulties in contacting ETS meant that a delay was increasingly likely.
The volume of complaints rose in May, when the training process began, and again when many test papers were delivered to markers' homes late or not at all.
Questions were asked in the House of Commons, with warnings that the tests were turning into a "shambles". But the qualifications authorities said steps had been taken "to get things back on track".
The problems afflict all three test subjects - English, maths and science - but are said to be worst in English.
The online publication of the results of tests taken by 11 year olds has been delayed until 15 July.
Marking of results for 14 year olds will not be complete by then, but available results would be released by the end of that week so as many schools as possible had them before the end of term.
Friday, July 4, 2008
Ms Betancourt, who holds dual Colombian and French citizenship, received a hero's welcome from President Nicolas Sarkozy after landing near Paris.
"I have cried a great deal during this time from pain and indignation, today I am crying because of joy," she said.
Mr Sarkozy said her release had given the world "a message of hope".
She was rescued, along with 14 other captives, in an undercover operation without a shot being fired.
Left-wing rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), were tricked into handing over the hostages.
She had been kidnapped by the group in 2002 while she was campaigning to be president.
Ms Betancourt, who was born in Colombia but spent much of her early life in France, praised Mr Sarkozy as an "extraordinary man".
She said France's influence had helped the rescue operation pass off peacefully, and thanked the French people for their support saying: "I owe everything to France."
Born on 25 December 1961
Grows up in Paris
1989: Returns to Colombia
1994: Elected to lower house
1998: Becomes a senator
2002: Kidnapped by Farc rebels
France's Betancourt infatuation
Betancourt back on political stage
How the hostages were freed
Readers' views: Colombia's future
President Sarkozy was waiting with his wife, Carla Bruni, for Ms Betancourt's arrival at the military airfield near Paris on Friday.
Ms Betancourt and her family then joined the president at his official residence, the Elysee Palace, for an official welcoming ceremony.
Later, she joined hundreds of supporters at Paris's City Hall to tear down a huge poster of her that marked her 2,321 days as a hostage.
Ms Betancourt's arrival in Europe came as the Vatican said in a statement that the Pope had sent a telegram to her expressing his happiness at her rescue.
The Pope will also meet her as soon as it can be arranged, the Vatican statement added.
The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Paris says coverage of her liberation and subsequent movements has been pretty much non-stop on French TV and radio.
Ms Betancourt was campaigning for the presidency against current incumbent Alvaro Uribe when she was kidnapped by Farc guerrillas.
After her release she thanked Mr Uribe and said she still aspired "to serve Colombia as president".
Feb, 2002: Betancourt kidnapped by Farc rebels
Feb, 2003: US defence contractors Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves seized by after their plane goes down in southern Colombia
Jan, 2008: Betancourt aide Clara Rojas and ex-congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez freed by Farc
March, 2008: Colombian forces raid rebel camp in Ecuador and kill Farc commander Raul Reyes
March, 2008: Farc leader Manuel Marulanda dies of reported heart attack
July, 2008: Colombian military frees Ms Betancourt, the three US contractors and 11 other hostages
Mr Uribe was first elected president in 2002. He has pursued a hardline stance against Colombia's left-wing guerrilla groups while making tentative peace overtures.
The Farc, which has been waging a guerrilla war to establish a Marxist government for the past four decades, still holds as many as 700 hostages.
Wednesday's successful rescue by Colombian security forces was launched after a disgruntled Farc member infiltrated the group's leadership on behalf of the government.
He convinced them to move Ms Betancourt and 14 other hostages to a rendezvous point in the jungle.
Waiting there were Colombian soldiers, posing as members of a non-government organisation.
The local commander in charge of the hostages and another rebel were captured. They now face extradition to the US.
Colombian Vice-President Francisco Santos told the BBC that it was the beginning of the end of the Farc.
He said the government was weakening the rebels to a point of no return.
Ms Betancourt later had a tearful reunion with her two children, Melanie and Lorenzo Delloye-Betancourt, who had flown to the Colombian capital Bogota from France.
1776: Americans celebrate their national birthday on July 4th, commemorating their Declaration of Independence from the British in 1776, even though the actual signing of the document didn't happen until about a month later. Most the states’ representatives signed the Declaration on August 2, and several signatures came even later. The state of New York never signed at all.
Happy Fourth of July!!
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages held by rebels in Colombia have been rescued by government troops.
Ms Betancourt had been held for more than six years by the rebel Farc group and was their highest-profile captive.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who had made her rescue a priority, said he was very happy. Her children, who spoke of their joy, are to fly to meet her.
The Farc has been fighting to overthrow the Colombian government for 40 years.
Wearing military fatigues, a pale Ms Betancourt smiled as she emerged with other hostages from a military plane in the Colombian capital Bogota to be greeted by her mother and husband.
"God, this is a miracle... There is no historical precedent for such a perfect operation," she told media at the air base.
Breaking into tears, she appealed to Farc to free the other hostages and make peace.
Mr Sarkozy, who was joined by Ms Betancourt's family at the Elysee Palace in Paris, said: "A nightmare of more than six years has ended."
Ms Betancourt's son, Lorenzo Delloye-Betancourt, told the news conference it was "the best moment of my life". His sister Melanie said it was like "emerging from a bad dream".
The siblings are being flown to Colombia to be reunited with their 46-year-old mother.
Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos said no-one had been hurt in Wednesday's operation in the southern province of Guaviare and that the 15 hostages were in relatively good health.
Mr Santos said some 15 hostages had been rescued in total, among them 11 members of the Colombian security forces who had been captured in various rebel attacks.
Born on 25 December 1961
Grows up in Paris
1989: Returns to Colombia
1994: Elected to lower house
1998: Becomes a senator
2002: Kidnapped by Farc rebels
Profile: Ingrid Betancourt
In pictures: Hostages freed
He said the Farc rebels had been tricked into handing over the hostages by soldiers posing as members of a fictitious non-government organisation that supposedly would fly the hostages to a camp to meet rebel leader Alfonso Cano.
"The helicopters, which in reality were from the army, picked up the hostages in Guaviare and flew them to freedom," Mr Santos said.
The three Americans rescued were defence department contract workers captured after their light aircraft crashed in the Colombian jungle in 2003, the Colombian military said.
Mr Santos said the trio - Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell - had been flown home to the US to be reunited with their families.
World leaders welcomed the news and celebrations erupted on the streets of Colombian cities as crowds hailed the jungle rescue in a country plagued for decades by kidnappings.
The BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Medellin says the successful operation by Colombian security forces is a political and military coup for the country's government.
As such, it will relieve the pressure on President Alvaro Uribe to negotiate with the Farc - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - allowing him to continue with his US-backed military offensive against the group, our correspondent says.
The Farc had hoped to exchange some 60 political hostages for hundreds of rebels held by the Colombian government, he says, but with Ms Betancourt's rescue they have lost a powerful negotiating tool.
The news is yet another blow to the once-mighty Farc, our correspondent adds, following the death of its legendary leader Manuel Marulanda in March, along with two other members of the guerrilla group's seven-man ruling body.
The Farc still holds more than 40 hostages.
Video pictures released last November had shown Ms Betancourt her looking gaunt and frail.
Accounts from freed hostages that she was in danger of dying all heightened the sense of urgency surrounding her fate, our correspondent adds.
Ms Betancourt has dual citizenship as the result of marriage to a French diplomat - since dissolved - which produced two children, who worked hard to keep her captivity in the spotlight.
The Spanish government is "hugely satisfied" with the news of her rescue and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has sent messages of congratulations to Mr Uribe and to the Betancourt family, a spokesman said.
A spokesman for US President George W Bush said he had congratulated Mr Uribe, telling him he was a "strong leader".
The Vatican has also welcomed the release of Ms Betancourt and the other hostages.
Mr Kouchner travelled to Latin America earlier this year to build ties with regional leaders who have been influential in securing hostage releases from Farc in the past.
The politician was kidnapped in February 2002 while campaigning in territory controlled by the Farc. She was believed to suffer from serious liver problems.
Salad Days: The time of youth, innocence, and inexperience, as in Back in our salad days we went anywhere at night, never thinking about whether it was safe or not.
P.S: Thank you Answers [http://www.answers.com/] for the word of the days, your Today's Birthdays, and your "Today In Histories.
Thank you Cosmeo [http://www.cosmeo.com/] for your "Today In Histories".
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Surfing the web unprotected will leave the average web user with 70 spam messages each day, according to an experiment by security firm McAfee.
It invited 50 people from around the world, including five from the UK, to surf without spam filters.
The experiment revealed that UK residents are most likely to be targeted by the infamous Nigerian e-mails and "adult" spam.
One UK participant received 5,414 spam e-mails during the month-long trial.
GLOBAL SPAM LEAGUE
US - 23,233
Brazil - 15,856
Italy - 15,610
Mexico - 12,229
UK - 11,965
Australia - 9,214
The Netherlands - 6,378
Spain - 5,419
France - 2,597
Germany - 2,331
Data supplied by McAfee
But the US still tops the global spam league.
Participants in the US received a total of 23,233 spam e-mails during the course of the experiment compared to 15,856 for the second most spammed country - Brazil.
In the UK, the five participants racked up 11,965 spam messages during the course of the experiment. Germany attracted the least spam, with just 2,331 junk messages.
The results show that spam is showing no signs of slowing down, although the opposite can be said of those receiving messages.
"Many of our participants noticed that their computers were slowing down. This means that while they were surfing, unbeknownst to them, websites were installing malware," said Guy Roberts, director of McAfee's labs in Europe.
Some 8% of the total spam received during the experiment was classified as phishing e-mails - messages that pose as a trustworthy source as a way of getting sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and bank account details.
"Spam is most definitely much more than a nuisance; it's a very real and fast-growing threat," said Mr Roberts.
TOP TEN MOST POPULAR SPAM CATEGORIES
Health and medicine
Data supplied by McAfee
The firm also noticed a shift away from mass spam to more targeted campaigns.
The most popular subject of spam remains financial - pre-approved loans or credit cards
The UK is the most likely country to be targeted by Nigerian spam e-mails, where someone supposedly from Nigeria contacts their target to inform that they are the beneficiary of a will in a bid to extract money from them.
The variety and amount of spam on offer surprised participants according to Dave De Walt, chief executive of McAfee.
"Our participants came from all walks of life, from all over the world and, given their interest to take part in the experiment, they were well aware of the problem. Despite this, they were all shocked by the sheer amount of spam they attracted," he said.
Dealing with it is going to be tricky though, he admitted.
"We can see from the experiment that spam is undeniably linked to cybercrime.
"However, it is such an immense problem and it's never going to go away. It's no longer a question of solving it but one of managing it," said Mr De Walt.