Police in Columbia are training rats to sniff out landmines.
Lola the rat has a ninety percent success rate in locating explosive material in her training maze. Soon she will be working out in the field (literally).
Police say rats are much smarter than dogs and can be trained in half the time (three months instead of six). Rats are light enough to stand on a landmine without setting it off, unlike dogs and people.
The original news story is no longer available at Reuters. But another account can found at The Telegraph and this also describes how rats are being used to detect tuberculosis in human saliva samples.
How serious is the BBC about public participation and user-generated content? Not very serious, I would say…
The BBC has always looked on the public as material to be used in its programmes and now it looks on photographs and videos that come from that public as material to be used in its programmes. So not much change…
The old joke is that the official BBC tie has small checks (cheques). But, for many people these days, the BBC means no cheques…
My experience, as a former magazine writer/photographer and now web developer, is that the Corporation is always on the look out for free content. I’m tired of producers and researchers asking to use my photographs for free. There’s never any money. With a remit to encourage creativity and promote culture in Britain, the BBC is the last organisation that should be doing this.
Then there’s the raw deal that independent TV production companies have experienced over the years… If this is the BBC’s attitude to fellow professionals, then pardon me for being just a little bit cynical about the Beeb’s enthusiasm for material from the public.
READ THE SMALL PRINT
Before you supply any photos or videos, as a member of the public, read the terms. You’re giving the BBC:
‘a royalty-free, non-exclusive licence to publish and otherwise use the material in any way that we want, and in any media worldwide. This may include the transmission of the material by our overseas partners’
In the case of video, it says they may not even be able to credit you. Wonderful — no payment and not even a name-check either. Isn’t there some European law that entitles everyone to be identified as the author of his or her work?
I hope the public will wake up to this soon. I believe that the companies that deal unfairly now will pay later once people get over the novelty of seeing their video on screen and realise that they have been ‘used’.
It really pays to keep people happy these days. The video blogger or photographer who has a good experience of providing footage to a company, may continue to do so for years to come. But leave someone with a bad taste in their mouth and there will be no more material from that source in the future.
Guess which of these is the best business model?
UPDATE: LoadedPun has the story of a video blogger who helped CNN make a report for TV but then was told he would have to pay $1000 if he wanted to include the final video on his blog. In fact, so far, he hasn’t even been able to see the report!
Maybe this guy will think twice before getting involved with CNN again? Piss off enough videobloggers, who then tell everyone else, and soon no one will want to work with CNN. It seems that yet another big media company hasn’t quite woken up to the way things are changing?
UPDATE (October 2008): this video has ‘retired’ into the archives. I’ve left the production notes below.
It was Marie Antoinette who supposedly said ‘let them eat cake.’ We found that Sainsburys in Manchester takes a different line…
Bargain Hunters is our reality shopping programme. Can we get some good last-minute deals at the local grocery stores? It’s a race against the clock!
Amusing to see the two signs as Chris walks into the second shop: ‘hello’ and ‘play here’. I think you’ll get me when you watch the video… We were both suffering when we made this one. I had a cold and could hardly speak and Chris had just given up smoking.
ABOUT THE SHOW
Chris and I have been going shopping together for a long time now. It’s always a laugh and, recently, we decided to see if the fun would come across on video. Making the videos has added a whole new aspect to it for us.
We’re very genuine and honest about the whole experience, though we wouldn’t want anyone to think we take it too seriously. Being alpha-males, I guess we both enjoy the thrill of the chase ;-D
Oh and Chris doesn’t want you to think he is a cheapskate who lives entirely on 50p bargains!
I’ve known Chris since 2001, when he was 18 and moved in next door to me. We’ve been friends ever since, though he no longer lives next door. Yes I’m old enough to be his dad — and I’m sure we’re both glad I’m not!
He keeps me up-to-date with the things that twenty-somethings are interested in and sometimes I can help him because I’ve had a bit more experience of life. Plus we have some cross-over in interests.
It can be tough being young and gay and I believe that older men have a responsibility to help the younger ones stay out of trouble. And, for the cynical people out there, often there is no sexual side to these friendships.
When I was with my partner of almost nine years, and both aged in our 20’s, one of our friends, Richard, was in his 60’s. We used to visit him every Sunday. We valued his friendship and I’m sure he felt the same. He had some marvellous stories to tell, like the one about him being allowed to take home a German prisoner of war for Christmas!
Down the years there were probably always these old ‘aunties’ who took younger men under their wing. I hope it continues today, though I’m not confident it does so much. I see a lot of ageism now: guys who won’t talk to any gay man who is over 30. They are missing out…
Maybe this is another sign of the breakdown of the gay community, which seems to have happened over the last 15 years. I’ll be returning to this subject soon…
It was a tradition for these old aunties to give you a ‘camp’ name. Which was a hark-back to the days when gay men referred to each other using female names. Like Polari, the ‘gay language’ of the 1950’s and 1960’s, camp names allowed gay men to talk about each other openly in public without raising suspicion: ‘did you hear what happened to Myrtle? She was seeing this guy…’ etc.
This was not connected with how effeminate the men were. Often, even the roughest, toughest gay man would have a camp name and probably would answer to it! Which all added to the fun, as you would see some tattooed ex-convict called Terence, with a face like a pitt-bull, answering to the name ‘Tess’. As Oscar Wilde said: ‘the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’…
My camp name was Linda and my partner’s was Angie. I was named after Linda Lewis — a woman journalist on BBC North-West Tonight — and my partner after Angie Watts from Eastenders!
Camp names are a part of British gay culture that appears to have been throttled by the political-correctness of the 1980’s and ’90’s…
Actually, Chris has a camp name: Marigold, which came about because he helped someone clean his house and he wore rubber gloves to do it: ‘Marigold’ brand.
I could hardly walk last Thursday. I’d done my back in somehow. Can’t think how (and certainly not due to anything pleasurable!).
Luckily this only happens about once every five years. The silliest thing can cause it. The last major incident was during a photoshoot in 1994 when I stretched across a background to pick up a small teapot and ended up crawling around the house for two days.
This time I was just incredibly stiff, with a few twinges. I hate pills but an anti-inflammatory at bedtime seemed to ease things. A nasty side effect of the pills is that they seem to make me depressed. Which is unusual, because I’m naturally a happy bunny. Or maybe it’s just the nagging back pain that gets me down? Hard to tell…
I always wonder what would it be like if it didn’t get better. It is so disabling. Glad to say I’m now well on the road to recovery.
On BBC News 24 tonight, Janet Daly (a contributor to the Daily Telegraph) referred to research which she says has been carried out by the Conservative Party. It found that voters have a strong dislike of married Members of Parliament who have affairs and they don’t really mind MPs who are gay.
She said this showed that the Conservative Party got it wrong in the past because it was homophobic and many Tory MPs were adulterers.
I would say that ignores the fact that it’s only in very recent years that we’ve seen a big change in public attitudes towards gay men and women. Unfortunately, the Tories probably were fairly in tune with what many people thought up until 5-10 years ago.
Which reminds me of an occasion back in the early 1980’s during an election. A car drove past our house in Victoria Park. It was promoting the local Conservative candidate. ‘Public money given to gays and lesbians — we’ll show them,’ shouted a voice through a megaphone. A reference to the labour-controlled city council’s support for us back in those days.
I was so incensed that I telephoned the local Conservative party headquarters. I told the rather-startled woman who answered (who had probably never talked to anyone gay before — shock/horror!) that this sort of campaigning just whipped up hatred towards gay men and women. I also pointed out that my boyfriend was a Conservative voter and that quite a lot of gay men were. So the Tories were shooting themselves in the foot with this hate-campaigning.
Unfortunately for the Conservatives, they spent almost another 20 years attacking the gay community, single parents, asylum seekers and minorities, before the message finally hit home. They realised that a large number of us in Britain have family or friends who are gay, black, a single parent… And we don’t like those people being victimised.
Strangely enough, I submitted these comments as feedback on the party website shortly before Theresa May made her famous comment at the 2002 conference about the Conservatives being perceived as the ‘nasty party‘. Goodness — did I help to rehabilitate the Tory party?
Now I think it’s rather wonderful that all our main political parties accept us and recognise gay rights. Especially when I look at the way the gay community is struggling in other countries such as the United States. Now I can even consider voting Conservative (though don’t get your hopes up David Cameron).
Anyway, to get back to the original subject, it’s easy to see why the public dislikes adultery. As it involves dishonesty and a partner being hurt.
“The Iraq war has already cost the United States $320bn (£180bn), according to an authoritative new report, and even if a troop withdrawal begins this year, the conflict is set to be more expensive in real terms than the Vietnam War, a generation ago…
Iraq will have consumed $101bn in fiscal 2006 alone, almost double the $51bn of 2003…
Even if everything goes relatively smoothly, costs until a phase-out is complete could top $370bn.”
Yes, 320 thousand million Dollars so far… Slightly more than one thousand Dollars for every person in the USA.
All for what exactly?
And even more staggering…
‘According to the Treasury Department, the forty-two presidents who held office between 1789 and 2000 borrowed a combined total of $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions. But between 2001 and 2005 alone, the Bush White House borrowed $1.05 trillion, more than all of the previous presidencies combined.’