Thursday, October 29, 2009


A British man has told how he and his wife were kidnapped by armed pirates while the pair slept aboard their yacht in the Indian Ocean.
Paul Chandler, of Kent, speaking by phone to ITV news, said: "I was asleep and men with guns came aboard."
Mr Chandler, 59, said he and his wife, Rachel, 55, are currently being held hostage on board a container ship.
Their yacht was found during counter-piracy operations after a major multi-national search for the pair began.
Mr Chandler, from Tunbridge Wells, said the raid had come in the early hours.
He said: "I was off watch. I was asleep and men with guns came aboard. It was on Friday last week at 0230."
The kidnapped man's brother-in-law, Stephen Collett, 58, of Ixworth, Suffolk, has confirmed that the voice in the phone call was that of Mr Chandler.
The armed pirates forced the pair to sail towards Somalia after their boat was captured.
Searches for the Chandlers began on Friday after the pair sent a distress signal.

Mr Chandler said the couple were being held hostage on a Singapore-registered container ship called the Kota Wajah. He was speaking from the captain's cabin at 1100 GMT (1400 local time).
He said their captors had not officially asked for a ransom.
"They kept asking for money and took everything of value on the boat," he added.
Mr Chandler said they were being held hostage on the container ship.
He said the vessel was then about a mile off the coast of Somalia, and the nearest town was Ubdu. Correspondents say he may have been referring to Hobyo.
He was asked how they were being treated, but the line was lost before Mr Chandler could answer.
Local fishermen reported seeing the pair being taken to a village in Somalia after the telephone call.
One of the fishermen, Dahir Dabadhahan, said two boats arrived in the village of Ceel Huur, near the pirate stronghold Harardheere, and were met by a convoy of about 30 other pirates in six luxury vehicles.
He said: "The pirates opened fire into the air, waving us to move away."
A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "Hostage taking is never justified.
"Paul and Rachel are blameless tourists and they should be released immediately and unconditionally.

"The families are deeply concerned for the safety of their loved ones.
"Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff are in close contact with them and are offering support."
Whitehall officials said Cobra, the Cabinet Office crisis management team, had met several times over the kidnapping of the Chandlers.
Earlier, the Ministry of Defence said the couple's empty yacht had been found but there was no reason to suspect they had come to harm.
A spokesman said Royal Navy vessels operating with international partners under EU, Nato and combined maritime forces would continue to play a full role in efforts to secure their release.
Relatives of the Chandlers met the Somali premier Omar Sharmarke in London on Wednesday who told them he would do anything to "see a peaceful solution".
The Somali government - which only has nominal authority in large parts of the country - said it was doing everything possible to locate them.
Mr and Mrs Chandler had been sailing from the Seychelles to Tanzania.



Shares in sat-nav device companies have fallen substantially after Google unveiled its free live sat-nav for mobiles on Wednesday.
US firm Garmin fell 18% after details of Google Maps Navigation were revealed. Dutch firm TomTom dropped 13% on when markets opened on Thursday.
The Google application promises free real-time, turn-by-turn directions for people to follow on their phones.
The Motorola Droid will be the first mobile phone equipped with the system.
Google Maps Navigation, revealed on Wednesday, combines services including a search engine to find addresses, Google Street View for photos of locations, and live traffic data.
Other mobile sat-nav applications, such as TomTom's, can cost up to £60 to add.
TomTom's share decline wipes out all of its gains since August. Separately the company warned of lower prices in the coming months.



Tuesday, October 27, 2009


By Phil Mercer - BBC News, Sydney.

One of the world's toughest endurance races for solar and hybrid cars is underway in Australia.
The Global Green Challenge takes competitors over 3,000km (1,864 miles) of the country's harshest terrain from tropical Darwin to southern Adelaide.
The early front-runner after the first day is a team from Japan.
The race aims to highlight advances in hybrid, electric and low emission vehicles as well as those propelled by the sun.
Japan's Tokai University car is powered by some of the world's most innovative solar cells and leads other entrants from the United States, the Netherlands and Britain.

The sort of aerodynamic design and tyres that improve fuel efficiency, which the competition has showcased over the years, have increasingly been adopted by large car makers.
With the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Denmark just a few weeks away, Professor John Storey, an astrophysicist from the University of New South Wales, says the race shows that the motoring industry can adapt to environmental challenges.
"Going into Copenhagen I would see this event as being, if you like, the ray of sunshine on the horizon in the future to say that look if we have to cut our CO2 by 20%, 30%, 50% or more, it's not the end of the world."
This iconic and gruelling transcontinental race is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
It has attracted 35 teams from more than a dozen countries. The first cars are expected to cross the finish line in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, on Wednesday or Thursday.



Monday, October 26, 2009


By Jonathan Fildes - Technology reporter, BBC News.

The internet is on the cusp of the "biggest change" to its working "since it was invented 40 years ago", the net regulator Icann has said.
The body said it that it was finalising plans to introduce web addresses using non-Latin characters.
The proposal - initially approved in 2008 - would allow domain names written in Asian, Arabic or other scripts.
The body said if the final plans were approved on 30 October, it would accept the first applications by 16 November.
The first Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) could be up and running by "mid 2010" said the president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann).
"Of the 1.6 billion internet users today worldwide, more than half use languages that have scripts that are not Latin-based," said Rod Beckstrom at the opening of Icann's conference in Seoul, South Korea.
"So this change is very much necessary for not only half the world's internet users today but more than half, probably, of the future users as the internet continues to spread."
Plans for ILDs were approved at a meeting in June 2008. However, testing of the system has been going on for much longer, said Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of the board in charge of reviewing the change.
"You have to appreciate what a fantastically complicated technical feature this is," he said.
"What we have created is a different translation system."
The changes will be applied to the net's Domain Name System. This acts like a phone book, translating easily understood domain names such as into strings of computer readable numbers known as IP addresses.
The tweaks will allow this system to recognise and translate the non-Latin characters.
"We are confident that it works because we have been testing it for a couple of years," said Mr Dengate Thrush. "We're really ready to start rolling it out."
Some countries, such as China and Thailand, have already introduced workarounds that allow computer users to enter web addresses in their own language. However, these were not internationally approved and do not necessarily work on all computers.
The meeting in South Korea will also discuss its plans to introduce generic Top Level Domains (TLDs), such as .uk or .com.
Last year, the body voted to relax rules on TLDs meaning companies could turn brands into web addresses, while individuals could use their names.
Icann, set up by the US government, was founded in 1998 to oversee the development of the net.
Last month, after years of criticism, the US government eased its control over the non-profit body.
It signed a new agreement that gave Icann autonomy for the first time. The agreement came into effect on 1 October and puts it under the scrutiny of the global "internet community".


Friday, October 23, 2009


10 things we didn't know last week

Snippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Humpback whales' mating rituals can be deadly.
More details

2. Galaxies that are 10.2 billion light-years away can be seen through telescopes.
More details

3. Wine gums have the names of alcoholic drinks on them.
More details (Daily Mail)

4. People spent £37m on cup cakes in the UK last year.
More details

5. The spread of cupcake shops has been used to map urban gentrification in the US.
More details

6. Bagged salad is photographed 4,000 times a second.
More details

7. The most available time of week for a meeting is Tuesday at 3pm.
More details

8. GPS locates the Prime Meridian 100m to the east of Greenwich Observatory.
More details

9. Sales of Asterix books number 325 million.
More details

10. The first watches appeared shortly after 1500 in Germany.
More details


The Northwest Airlines plane involved was an Airbus A320
An inquiry has begun after a US plane heading from San Diego to Minneapolis missed the airport it was meant to land at by 150 miles (240km).
Contact with the Northwest Airlines plane was lost for an hour as it flew at 37,000ft, sparking hijack fears.
The crew said they had been distracted by a "heated discussion" but officials will check if they had fallen asleep.
Flight 188, carrying 147 passengers, landed safely at Minneapolis after contact was resumed.
A statement released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said: "The crew stated they were in a heated discussion over airline policy and lost situational awareness."
Wrong path
Board spokesman Keith Holloway told the Associated Press news agency that reports that the pilots may have fallen asleep were "speculative" but the investigation would look at "fatigue issues".
The plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder have been taken from the plane and are being sent to the board's laboratory in Washington, DC.
Passenger Andrea Allmon: 'The plane was swarmed by police'
Questions have been raised about how the pilots could have missed any warning signals - including city lights and cockpit displays showing that they were no longer on the right path.
The NTSB's former chief investigator into major accidents, Ben Berman said pilots learned to become instinctively aware of when they needed to start landing preparations and it would take a "fairly dramatic event" to distract them, AP reported.
The plane left San Diego at 1500 local time (2200 GMT) for what would normally be a three-hour journey.
Air traffic controllers lost radio contact with the plane approximately an hour before it was due to reach its destination of Minneapolis-St Paul International/Wold-Chamberlain Airport.

The plane missed its intended stop and continued on for a further 16 minutes before the airline managed to speak to the pilots.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contacted the military and two fighter jets were put on alert.
There were initial concerns the plane had been hijacked or had faced other problems and that was why the crew were not responding.
Northwest Airlines merged with Delta Air Lines in 2008.
In a statement, Delta Air Lines said the plane's pilot and co-pilot had been "relieved from active flying".

Oct 09: Police launch an inquiry after reports of Air India pilots and cabin crew coming to blows mid-air over sexual harassment claims
June 08: A Polish Boeing 737 narrowly misses hitting another aircraft over London after the wrong co-ordinates are entered into the flight computer
Feb 08: An internal Go! flight in Hawaii overshoots its landing by 15 miles after the two pilots fall asleep at the cockpit

It said a decision would be made about them once its own internal investigation and one by the FAA and the safety board were over.
Brent Bjorlin, who was on the flight, told the Minnesota Star Tribune newspaper that the passengers had not realised what had happened until they landed and security officials boarded the plane.
Fellow passenger Andrea Allmon said it was "unbelievable" that the pilots had allegedly not been paying attention.
"These guys are supposed to be paying attention to the flight. The safety of the passengers should be first and foremost," she said.
Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers' Association, told the Wall Street Journal controllers at the airport began worrying about terrorism as a factor when they could not reach the crew.
He said when the controllers eventually made contact, to allay their fears the crew had been threatened or overpowered, they made the pilots prove they were still in control of the plane.
Once they were satisfied, the plane made its way back to the airport