QUARTER OF LAND MAMM
ALS AND A THIRD OF T
HOSE AT SEA ARE AT R
06 October, 2008
early a quarter of the world's land mammal species are at risk of extinction, and many
others may vanish before they are even known to science, according to an
survey of global wildlife. At least 1,141 of the 5,487 known species of mammal are
threatened, with 188 listed in the "critically endangered" category. One in three marine
mammals are also threatened, according to the five
ment, conducted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
(IUCN) Red list, involved more than 1,700 experts in 130 countries, and confirms the
devastating impact of forest clearing, hunting, fisheries, pollution and climate change on
pulations and ranges of the world's most studied class of animals.
Jan Schipper, director of the global mammals assessment, a partnership between
Conservation International and the IUCN, called for countries to be held responsible for
the fate of fauna wi
thin their borders and an international coalition to save species that
cross national boundaries.
"We're looking at a 25% decline over the long term, yet for mammals there is no bail
plan. There is no long
term conservation strategy that is going to pr
extinction in the future," he said. "As human beings, we should be ensuring that we don't
cause other species to go extinct."
COLDPLAY AND DUFFY A
RE Q MUSIC AWARD WIN
07 October, 2008
n an uncharacteristic bout of chest
beating, Coldplay's frontman, Chris Martin, declared
his band "the best in the world" while picking up the two main prizes at yesterday's Q
But after winning the best act and best album awards, Martin reverted to the modesty that
inspires devotion from fans but mockery from some critics, speculating that they only won
because U2 and Radiohead were "on holiday".
Viva La Vida or Death and All
His Friends was billed as a more experimental album on its
release in June but still contained enough anthems to take it to number one in 36
countries and help boost the troubled record label EMI.
Alex Turner, the Arctic Monkeys frontman, who has come hom
e triumphant from virtually
every awards ceremony he has attended for the past two years, continued his winning
streak. The Last Shadow Puppets, his side project with Rascals singer Miles Kane, was
voted best new act.
Duffy, the Welsh singer whose album o
tinged pop has become the biggest
selling of the year, beat Adele to the breakthrough artist prize and Keane won the award
for best track for their single Spiralling.
GOOGLE EARTH TAKES A
DIVE UNDER THE OCEAN
08 October, 2008
eb users will be able to "virtually" visit the world's protected underwater landscapes
with a new Google Earth tool being launched today.
A new downloadable "layer" will enabl
e users to see video, pictures
and articles when they hover over marine protected areas on the
world map provided by Google Earth outreach, an initiative
launched last year.
The programme allows environmental groups to harness Google's
popular mapping too
ls to illustrate their projects and has so far been used in work with an
Amazonian tribal chief to monitor the impact of illegal logging and mining on his 600,000
Content for the new marine reserves site will be uploaded from project partne
the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the UN Foundation, National
Geographic and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The tool was
launched today at the IUCN world conservation congress in Barcelona.
UK, the government's conservation agency, Natural England, has contributed
information on 43 marine sites around the coast of England that offer protection to
species such as the basking shark, as well as seahorses, corals and algae.
VODAFONE AIMS TO TAK
E CHRISTMAS MARKET B
odafone will today put pressure on Apple's iPhone with news that it has clinched
exclusive deal to offer the first touchscreen phone made by mobile email specialist
BlackBerry in time for Christmas.
The BlackBerry Storm, which has a revolutionary "clickable" touchscreen
that prevents a user accidentally sending an email or making a
be free for anyone willing to sign up to a £35 a month contract with
Vodafone . A pre
pay version is also being planned.
The device is aimed at the consumer market rather than the corporate
world, which is already dominated by existing BlackBe
rry devices with
their trademark tiny keypads. It faces serious competition in the festive
market from the Apple phone and two other recently announced touchscreen devices: the
G1, which has Google's Android software and is exclusive to T
Mobile, and the 5
XpressMusic from Nokia, which Orange confirmed yesterday it will be offering, although it
is unclear if it will be out by Christmas.
WAVE HERO PORTUGUESE
ARCHITECT WINS UK'S
10 October, 2008
lvaro Siza, the Portuguese architect and hero of a new wave of British design talent,
was yesterday awarded the Royal Gold Medal, British architecture's most prestigious
ze. The 78
old is regarded by some as the greatest architect Portugal has ever
produced, although his only British building to date has been a temporary pavilion for the
Serpentine Gallery in London in 2006.
His influence on British architects throu
gh buildings in Portugal such
as the Adega Mayor winery, above, and the Evora housing
development, built after the end of the Portuguese dictatorship in
1977, has been far greater.
His style blends modernism's free organisation of spaces with
rchitecture, so he might use whitewashed stone in
Portugal or brick in the Netherlands. That approach has been embraced by a generation
of architects including Caruso St John and Tony Fretton, who have rejected the hi
movement pioneered by Lord Rogers
and Lord Foster and their tendency to use similar
components wherever they build in the world.
Siza (below) qualified in 1955 and his architecture matured under the dictatorship in
Portugal, which allowed him little exposure to the international modernis
t style that was
emerging across Europe
led in particular by the Swiss architect, Le Corbusier
was to form the basis of the hi
Siza follows Frank Gehry, Herzog & de Meuron and Frei Otto as recent foreign winners of
the prize, which
is personally approved by the Queen.
FROM £200 WINE JUG T
O £3M MASTERPIECE
11 October, 2008
medieval ewer valued at £200 after being
mistaken for a French claret jug fetched
more than £3m yesterday after it was identified as a rare Islamic work.
old crystal ewer from the Fatimid royal treasury in Egypt,
decorated with cheetahs and link chains, is one of only seven such
vessels known to have survived. Dating back to the late 10th or early
11th centuries, it was carved from flawless rock crystal, which is as hard
as toughened steel.
Christie's, the auctioneers, described it as "one of the rarest and most
desirable works o
f art from the Islamic world".
The ewer first resurfaced at Lawrences auctioneers in Crewkerne, Somerset, in January,
under the catalogue description "A French claret jug ... £100
200". After dealers realised
its potential worth, the artefact sold for £22
0,000. But the bid was annulled by "private
agreement", prompting rumours that the vendor had agreed to sell the item along with the
Christie's was contacted in June, and it invited several of the Islamic art world's most
affluent buyers to view th
e item. The auction house bustled with Arab art enthusiasts and
historians yesterday, with one describing the ewer as a "holy grail" of the Islamic world.
Leading Islamic art collections, including the Aga Khan Museum in Canada and the
Museum of Islamic a
rt in Doha, Qatar, were believed to have placed bids, although the
winning buyer is not known.
SOLVED: MYSTERY OF T
HE UGLY DUCHESS
AND THE DA VINCI CON
he is one of the most popular paintings in the National Gallery, whose rather
unfortunate looks inspired illustrations for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland. But one question has always puzzled: did the poor lady re
ally look like this?
Today the Guardian can reveal that she did and was suffering from
an exceptionally rare form of Paget's disease
an abnormality of the
metabolism that enlarges and deforms the bones.
The portrait, An Old Woman, painted by the Flemis
h artist Quinten
Massys in 1513, is popularly known as The Ugly Duchess and will
be part of the National Gallery's eagerly awaited exhibition Renaissance Faces: Van
Eyck to Titian, which opens next Wednesday.
Curators are particularly excited about this p
ainting because two important discoveries
have been made in recent research: firstly, the portrait is truthful and she almost certainly
looked like that, and secondly, a long held historical theory that the painter was copying
Leonardo da Vinci is wrong.
he medical research shows that she was suffering from an advanced form of Paget's
which enlarged her jaw bones, extended her upper lip and
pushed up her nose. It also affected her hands, eye sockets, forehead, chin and
"This woman must have been very, very unfortunate," said Michael Baum, emeritus
professor of surgery at University College London who, with his student Christopher Cook,
investigated the portrait.
GOVERNMENT URGED TO
HELP HOMES GO GREEN
he government must urgently begin improvements to make Britain's 25m homes more
energy efficient if it is to reduce the UK's carbon footprint
by 80% by 2050, a report says
The report, by the Green Building Council (GBC), says some homes are so
environmentally harmful that they may have to be demolished. It also wants the
government to introduce a system of "green mortgages" to pay for im
provements such as
new windows and boilers.
All new homes must be zero
carbon from 2016, but campaigners say that older houses
must be a priority, as they account for around a quarter of the total carbon emissions.
One of the report's key ideas is a "pay
as you save" system, where the homeowner or
landlord borrows the costs of improvements such as new windows and insulation from a
bank or local authority, and then pays the money back over a number of years, with the
costs more than covered by lower energy
"Government intervention is needed to create a market for low
carbon homes and
industry is crying out for that certainty," said Paul King, head of the GBC. "This needs a
fundamentally new way of financing energy efficiency in the years to come tha
front costs to the consumer.
"We've been throwing our money out of the window. Spiralling fuel costs and concern
about climate change now call for a revolution in attitude and approach."
The report says that the improvements are
"absolutely doable," and could unlock tens of
thousands of "green
collar" refurbishment jobs in a market worth £5bn.
L THE TURING THOUGHT
nyone who has ever felt that their computer has a mind of its own will sympathise with
the experience of attempting to get some sense out of a piece of software. But what if
your laptop really could strike up a c
onversation unaided? Experts at the University of
Reading yesterday claimed to have put that possibility to the test, with a supposedly
scientific investigation of whether computers can indeed think for themselves.
The Turing test is inspired by the Britis
h mathematician Alan Turing, best known for his
breaking work at Bletchley Park, who wrote in 1950 that "if, during text
conversation, a machine is indistinguishable from a human, then it could be said to be
'thinking', and therefore could be at
tributed with intelligence".
Kevin Warwick, Reading's controversial professor of cybernetics,
who oversaw yesterday's experiment, claimed in the mid
by 2045 computers would have taken over the world and enslaved
humanity. The experiment, he hop
ed, would demonstrate that day
But if computers are indeed to take over the world in a little over
three decades, they are unlikely, on yesterday's evidence at least, to do so by winning
people over with their engaging dinner
party chat. A smal
l group of volunteers took turns
minute bursts to conduct simultaneous typed conversations with two unseen
one a human sitting in a next
door room, the other a piece of computer
software. If 30% of the volunteers could be fooled, by T
uring's own measure the test
would be said to have been passed.
Five teams of programmers were competing for the annual Loebner prize, awarded to the
software that comes closest to mimicking a human.
The event's credibility was hardly aided by the insisten
ce of Hugh Loebner, the prize's
American sponsor, that he had no interest in the result and had only set up the
competition 18 years ago to promote his firm's roll
up plastic lighted portable disco dance
The winning software, designed by an America
n and called Elbot, fooled 25% of
respondents. "We really, really have come very close," said Warwick. His sample size, in
a field made up largely of computer experts and journalists: 12.
Warwick insists that Turing's test will be passed within two to thre
e years, leading to
innovations ranging from improved automated call
centre technology to increasingly
interactive home appliances. All the same, it's hardly Blade Runner, is it? "Maybe instead
of 35 years [until we are enslaved by computers] we've got 40
years. "It could be a little
bit slower, that's all."
SCIENTISTS UNCOVER N
EW GENE LINK TO MALE
cientists have discovered a genetic link to baldness that helps
explain why some men may inherit their shiny pates from their
Tests on more than 1,000 bald men revealed two gene regions that, active together,
make a man seven times more lik
ely to lose his hair. Around 14% of men are thought to
carry both gene variants.
The findings give scientists a much clearer picture of the genetic causes of male pattern
baldness, which affects roughly a third of men by the age of 45. Genetic factors are
thought to account for at least 80% of the condition.
In the long term, the latest work is expected to pave the way for genetic treatments for
hair loss, but more quickly it could be used to identify men who are likely to lose their hair
se men may benefit by beginning baldness treatments before they start
showing signs of hair loss, the researchers said.
The search for baldness treatments has already seen the rise of a multi
industry in Britain alone, where an estimated 8 mi
llion men are affected.
ESTELLE AND LEONA DO
16 October, 2008
Pop stars Estelle and Leona Lewis have each won two prizes at
the Music of Black Origin
(Mobo) Awards in London.
stelle picked up best UK female and best song, for her hit American
Boy. Lewis won best album for Spirit and best video for Bleeding Love.
But she was absent, as was rapper Dizzee Rascal, who was named be
"It's a shame that their schedules and their touring didn't allow for them
to be here," Mobo organiser Kanya King said. "Hey, there's always next year."
The Mobos is the biggest award ceremony in British urban music, attracting names from
hop and beyond.
In the past it has been criticised for struggling to attract US superstars, but this year it
was missing two of
the three main British winners.
Estelle was the biggest victor present
at Wembley Arena on Wednesday.
"The Mobo is a gre
at award, recognised by the kids and the people who understand my
music, and who get the music that we do," she told BBC News. British black music was
"on the up", she added. "If I'm anything to go by, it's definitely on the up."
Estelle performed with US
soul star John Legend, who revived her career by signing her
to his record label. But she had little time to celebrate her awards, with a flight at 0600 the
next morning to perform in Anaheim, California.
LONELY PLANET GUIDE
RATES GLASGOW AS ONE
OF THE WORLD'S TOP 1
17 October, 2008
nce notorious for its slums, gangs and industrial dereliction, Glasgow's resurrection as
one of the country's trendiest and li
veliest cities has been confirmed.
The travel guide Lonely Planet has confounded the sceptics who disparage the city for its
drinking, violent reputation by claiming it is one of the world's top 10 cities for visitors
on a par with Chicago, Lisbon
and Mexico City. Glasgow, which is hosting the
Commonwealth games in 2014, now boasts alumni such as the actor James McAvoy,
fried scallops caught off the nearby coast, and "defining experiences" such as
cruising down the Clyde by powerboat and "adding
your voice to the Hampden roar" at
the city's international football stadium.
"Forget about castles, kilts, bagpipes and tartan," the travel firm's Best in Travel 2009
"You come for the cocktails, cuisine and designer chic (plus the legenda
ry native wit) ...
Scotland's biggest city has shaken off its shroud of industrial soot and shimmied into a
sparkling new designer gown." Glasgow is the only British city included in the top 10, an
accolade embraced by Steven Purcell, leader of the city co
uncil. He yesterday helped to
unveil plans by the Dubai
based Jumeirah hotel group to build a so
luxury hotel in the city
storey tower which will boast 160 guest rooms and suites
and 85 serviced apartments.
The top 10 cities were:
CHILD OBESITY: COUNC
IL TO BAN TAKEAWAYS
20 October, 2008
council plans to ban new takeaways opening within 400 metres of schools, youth
centres and parks to help combat child obesity and promote healthy eating.
Waltham Forest council, east London, also wants to bring in new planning ru
les to limit
the number of fast food outlets in shopping parades and restrict their opening hours.
The council is one of the first local authorities in Britain to propose such restrictions,
which were suggested in the government's obesity strategy. Knowsl
ey council, Liverpool,
has also asked planning officers to consider restricting fast food outlets.
Waltham Forest said child obesity is higher there than the national average
of children obese, compared with 15% across England. Another 11.5%
of children in the
borough are overweight.
The school restrictions are partly a response to concerns that children put off by school
dinners being made healthier after Jamie Oliver's campaign may leave the premises at
lunchtime to buy fastfood.
ncil is trying to reform takeaway food. Environmental health officers in
Barking and Dagenham are planning to work with local restaurants and takeaways to try
to change the food options they offer.
MUSICAL IS BIGGEST G
ROSSING UK FILM
amma Mia! The Musical hit back at its mockers by becoming a
licence to print money with productions all over the world. Now
Mamma Mia! The
Movie has done the same, named yesterday as
the biggest grossing British film of all time.
The film has made £66,995,224 in the UK, knocking Harry Potter
and the Sorcerer's Stone off its perch as the most financially successful British film.
moves down a place to number three and the top 10 is completed by the
other Harry Potter films, The Full Monty, Bridget Jones' Diary and Love Actually. Only the
film Titanic has made more in Britain
a figure that Mamma Mia could still pass
how widely screened it still is. Worldwide, the film is already one of the most
profitable movies ever and recently crossed the $500m box office mark.
Its popularity flies in the face of the film's critical reception. The Guardian's Peter
ed that no film had ever had a more irrelevant story, adding: "The
characters are forever dancing and smiling and bursting into Abba songs like Stepford
cyborgs when you flip the secret panel behind their heads and press the Life
MORE STUDENTS SHOULD
STUDY ABROAD, SAYS L
28 October, 2008
ore must be done to encourage England's university students to s
pend time studying
abroad, the higher education minister said today.
David Lammy said he wanted it to become common for students to
spend time in other European countries rather than unusual and
make it easier for them to do so.
Speaking at a conference o
n the Bologna process organised by the
UK Higher Education Europe Unit to link up universities in Europe
and make qualifications comparable, Lammy said: "The key to the Bologna process is
"We want to get to the point where it is as common for our
students to study abroad as it
is for them to move around the UK."
On the progress of plans to create a European higher education area that staff and
students can move around easily by 2010, Lammy said there was more to do.
RED CROSS USES ONLIN
E GAMES TO ENTICE SU
29 October, 2008
icious war in Northern Uganda has destroyed Joseph's home and to
rn his family apart.
He has one goal, to find out from the Red Cross if his mother is alive. He needs you to be
his guide and time is running out. Can you help him?
This is the task facing players of an online game the Red Cross has created to introduce
ung people to its work and, hopefully, encourage them to become volunteers.
Traces of Hope, one of the first charity 'alternate reality' games, is a realistic simulation of
humanitarian relief work and has so far attracted 7,500 registered users.
ity has also teamed up with Dutch company Spil Games to produce a game to
commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Dutch Red Cross. The Red Cross Game:
Emergency Response Unit can be played online for free with a full version on sale for
$19.95. Some of th
e proceeds will be donated to the charity.
Peter Driessen, the chief executive of Spil Games, said: "It not only gives people a
chance to learn about the heroic work done by Red Cross workers but also directly
supports this valiant organisation."
FIVE OF THE BEST IN
LINE FOR THE GUARDIA
N FIRST BOOK AWARD
30 October, 2008
n "ambitious, varied and incredibly
individual" shortlist for the Guardian first book award
is announced today.
The five works include a history of 20th
century classical music, a
novelistic memoir of a Soviet
era romance and a dark Yorkshire
story of obsession and violence. There is
also a subversive
set political novel, and a cantering, carnivalesque
"These are sophisticated books that require a big investment from
an investment for which they are richly rewarded," said Guardian literary
Claire Armitstead, the chairwoman of the judges. She also paid tribute to the
books' "generic inventiveness" and "defiance of easy marketing packagability".
The £10,000 prize
which covers fiction, non
fiction and poetry published in the UK
t only in its recognition of debut authors, but also through the extent to which it
involves readers' groups in the judging process.
This year, Waterstone's readers' groups from Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Bath, Oxford
and London, plus one based online, hel
ped narrow down the 10
strong longlist to five
books. Their combined voting power was greater than that of the panel of four judges.
PUPILS EARN JUST REW
ARD FOR HEALTHY EATI
31 October, 2008
Scottish council which pioneered locally sourced and organic school meals is to offer
all its 16,500 pupils the chance to earn "ethical" reward points for overseas aid by eati
healthy school dinners.
From today, schoolchildren in East Ayrshire will earn points to help buy farm animals,
food supplies and medical supplies and equip classrooms for projects run by
development charity Save the Children.
The project is believed t
o be the first of its kind in the UK, and is seen as a more "holistic"
strategy for encouraging healthy eating than schemes that reward children with iPods,
concert tickets and book tokens for eating school dinners.
East Ayrshire is one of many councils tr
ying to combat unhealthy eating and increase the
numbers eating school meals. Scots have among the worst diets in Europe, but new
legislation to improve school catering in 2006, partly influenced by Jamie Oliver's
campaigning, led to a fall in pupils takin
g school meals.
The project is expected to earn at least £3,250 towards Save the Children gifts over the
next six months. To reach that target, pupils must eat 650,000 school dinners. Every 10
meals earns one point, with the points pooled into a fund.
ildren at the 44 primary schools and nine secondaries will then vote on how to spend
their points, choosing items from Save the Children's online donations catalogue. Current
gifts range from 40 chickens, at a cost of 15 points, to a bicycle for 780 points
classrooms for 12,500.