Sky News

Sky News has announced that it’s free iPhone and iPod touch app has now been downloaded by more than 500,000 people.

The app, which was only launched in May this year, delivers breaking news by text, images and video and features seven different categories for users to choose from: top stories, UK news, sport, business, world news and showbiz news. It passed the landmark figure at the beginning of August and is showing no signs of slowing down in its popularity, consistently appearing in the top three free download chart from Apple’s UK and Ireland App store. .

James Weeks, Executive Producer, New Media for Sky News said: “We are delighted at just how well the app has done. We knew it would be popular with regular Sky News viewers, but the stats for the first three months are really staggering and the feedback on the App store site has been very positive as well. It shows that we are delivering news in more ways than ever to people who want to consume it through many different platforms – and new media is a huge part of that.

“We have also had lots of good suggestions of ways in which we could improve even further on the app and will be taking those into account with any future versions that we develop.”

David Gibbs, General Manager, Mobile for BSkyB said: “We are delighted

with the success of this application, and it’s a credit to the strength of our

mobile product and in-house development team”

Sky also  announced that it is currently working on being able to offer the Sky News app on Apple websites outside of its current availability on the UK and Ireland App store, and is developing these as paid for downloads in international markets.

At the time of launch of the app, Sky News was the first of the UK news broadcasters to launch an application where users could send Sky News their own stories and pictures directly through the application. And a second unique tool available to anyone using the application, allows users, with one easy click, to sign up for breaking news alerts, delivered straight to their iPhone by text.

The application for iPhone™ and iPod® touch is available through the UK and Ireland Apple App Store, on iPhone and iPod touch or at www.itunes.com/appstore/. For more information and a Q&A visit: www.skynews.com/iphone/support .

Sky’s Asia Correspondent Alex Crawford has obtained an exclusive interview with one of Afghanistan’s most powerful warlords, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a Mujahideen leader who was once the Afghan prime minister, and now leads the Hezb-e-Islami political party.

In his first interview to a British journalist in nearly a decade, he told Sky News: “The important issue for us is to end the occupation, re-establishing the country’s sovereignty.

“We never want to take part in a puppet Government under foreign dictators.

“The Kabul Government is made up of looters and corrupt criminals. We don’t want to enter this dirty swamp.”

He goes on to describe his group’s links with Al Qaeda and says that he believes Osama Bin Laden is still alive.

As part of Sky’s Afghanistan: The Future programming, Alex Crawford has gained unprecedented access and spent several days with the group in four different provinces of Afghanistan including in the capital Kabul. She was shown scores of weapons, taken to fields where ammunition and bombs were buried and was privy to their plans to attack foreign forces.

The interview with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar can be seen on skynews.com and throughout the day on Sky News.

Full translated transcript:

Alex Crawford: Are there any circumstances in which you would work with Hamid Karzai or his administration?

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: The important issue for us is to end occupation, re-establishing the country’s sovereignty, transferring the political power to an interim non-reconcile government and establishing an Islamic government in a free Afghanistan via a free election to correspond with the will of the people.

We never want to take part in a puppet government under foreign dictators, Kabul’s government consists of looters, corrupt men and criminals. We don’t want to enter this dirty swamp.

AC: Has anyone from the Karzai administration approached you about taking part in the political process?

GH: Yes, we have been constantly contacted, but you know that the Kabul government doesn’t have power or will, they have not been given power to make any decisions on any main causes relevant to the crisis.

The foreign powers do not even accept the government’s requests not to bombard civilians, to share information about where they will hold operations and to not search houses or terrorise the people.

They have nothing to say and can’t do a thing with regard to ending the war and make foreign forces leave, we sent them our view and conditions in regards to ending the crisis.

AC: If you decide against taking part in the political process at this time, how will it be possible to bring about peace in Afghanistan?

GH: We are not against political solution, the occupiers does not want a political solution, they are insisting on prolonging occupation and they want Afghan people to accept their imposed government and puppet regime forever.

AC: Do you think the Taliban are good for the Afghan people and the rest of the world? Why?

GH: Poor people were very pro-Taliban when they were fighting Hezb-e Islami, they were praising them as peace doves and were asking some Islamic countries to practically help the Taliban.

But now when they are fighting against the occupiers they have been named terrorists, we are respecting the Taliban that are fighting for their country’s freedom we consider every mujahid as a brother.

AC: How has your party managed to fight for so long? Where do you get funding or support from?

GH: For the fight we chose a way that we would be able to continue having our native resources and to not need foreign aids, the Americans know that it costs less than a 100 dollars for a Mujahidin to make a roadside bomb.

Everyone knows that no country is helping the Mujahadin, all our neighbours, including Iran, are helping America.

Iran and Pakistan arrest hundreds of Mujahidin and turn them over to America. Iran wanted to turn me over to the Americans.

My brother was detained for six months, and now they have arrested another of my relatives named Haji dost Mohamed.

If any country, for example Iran or Russia, helped the terrorists then you would witness the worst day for Nato in Afghanistan, but Russia and Iran consider the ongoing war to be beneficial to their countries.

The main expenditure and casualties of the war are American but they are benefiting from it.

In the end Americans will be forced to leave Afghanistan and that will be the day celebrated as Afghanistan freedom, as it was celebrated as a freedom day in Iraq’s cities when American forces exited, and this was done with Maliki in charge, although Americans consider him as their agent.

AC: What do you see as the future for Afghanistan?

GH: I am looking with hope to the future, the occupiers will be defiantly leaving our country and God will they will leave in the near future, their puppet government will end.

Afghans will build a sovereign and free Afghanistan with their own chosen Islamic government.

AC: Do you have any contacts with Osama Bin Laden? Is he still alive? What do you know of his health?

GH: I have not seen Osama for a few years, from his interviews it seems that he is well and alive.

AC: What links do you have with Al Qaeda?

GH: We don’t have structured relations with al Qaeda. Al Qaeda continue to help the Taliban.

AC: What links do you have with the Taliban militant groups?

GH: With the Taliban we also have no organised relations and we have no agreement, with regards to delegations, there were several contacts but we have not reached any agreements yet, we keep trying.

AC: There are reports that the British Government has made contact with you through back channels – asking you to withdraw from fighting in hope of bringing peace. There is even talk of you being given asylum in Saudi Arabia. Is any of this true? Has anyone from the UK Government approached you?

GH: Both reports are untrue, the British government hasn’t contacted me and nor I have an intention to leave my country and ask for asylum from other country. My life and death will be in Afghanistan.

AC: What would you think if they DID? Are you open to any approach from them?

GH: We are ready to negotiate with friends and enemies, with Afghans and non-Afghans. We will not close the door to negotiations, unless we believe that the opposite side is not sincere and has nothing to negotiate.

AC: What is your current view on foreign troops in Afghanistan?

GH: The foreign troops are the cause for the prolonging of the war, their presence means the war will be not ended and no security can be established.

AC: What is your relationship with the Pakistan Government and the ISI?

GH: We don’t have any relations with Pakistan. After the Russians exited, until now, Pakistan has always backed our rivals on American orders.

The Pakistani people and military, including ISI, have always backed Americans. If their was no Pakistani help, Americans could not occupy and could not last here any longer.

AC: What is your view about the ongoing war in Pakistan’s tribal areas?

GH: This war has been ignited by Americans, they want to do the same that they did with Iraq and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s military has been engaged in a war that promises to be a very bad outcome.

AC: You believe in democracy and elections … but the Taliban do not. Does this mean there is very little chance of you working together in the future?

GH: We are ready to negotiate with all Afghan groups including the Taliban. We want to end the Afghan crisis with the reconciliation of Afghans themselves.

Then the war will be ended forever. The Islamic government will be established and no foreign force will ever try to rule Afghans with power of money, and force of weapons.

AC: What is your relationship with Jallauddin Haqqani and his fighters?

GH: Jalalludin Haqqani is with the Taliban, his part in Jihad is considerable of praising.

AC: Can you ever see yourself and your party working with the Taliban given the fundamental differences between the two?

GH: From our side there are no obstacles for us to work together and form a united front, but it seems that among the Taliban there are still those who does not want to see Mujahidin gather in an assured united front and have a say on Afghanistan future.

AC: Is the growth of the Taliban in Afghanistan a direct threat to you, your party and its existence?

GH: We don’t consider Taliban as a threat to Hezb-e Islami or other Afghan groups, we believe that the large majority of Afghans support Hizb-e Islami.

We ask all other groups to consider and respect the people’s vote and allow the nation to decide on their own and humbly agree to any post or position that the nation chooses.

AC: How much contact do you have with the Iranian Government at the moment?

GH: We don’t have any contact or relations with the Iranian government. Iran still supports the Northern alliance and tells pro-Iranian groups to fight and eliminate their counterparts.

AC: Are your fighters involved in fighting/attacking the British forces in Helmand?

GH: Our party has a substantial influence in Helmand, you know that after Najib government fell, the province completely fell to Hizb-e Islami, our Mujahidin, in some places secretly, some places openly, some places independently and in some places with others were taking part in Jihad.

As Afghanistan prepares for its presidential election this Thursday (20 August 2009) Sky News presents a week of special programming and reports from the region examining what the future might hold for the troubled country and the British troops fighting there.

To mark the beginning of Afghanistan: The Future, a YouGov poll commissioned by Sky News reveals that only 13% of people are very clear why British troops are in Afghanistan.

Of the people questioned, over half believe that British troops should not be fighting in Afghanistan, with women most concerned about the troops ‘ involvement and consistently more anti the war in Afghanistan than men. Faced with the reality of troop involvement, both men and women from across the country (82%) believe that the British Government should be providing better support for the British troops , with only 12% believing the Government is already doing enough.

199 British soldiers have now died since the war in Afghanistan began, will their sacrifice be worthwhile? As part of Afghanistan: The Future, Sky News will examine if this is a war Britain and the West can win.

Jeremy Thompson will present live from the Afghan capital of Kabul to provide coverage of the elections, including a one hour special featuring politicians and top opinion formers from the region on the eve of the election (TX: 20.00 Wednesday 19 August on Sky News)

Sky News’ Asia Correspondent Alex Crawford will report from around the country and will be speaking to ordinary people to gauge their opinions eight years on from the invasion. She will also gain exclusive access to the militant groups fighting coalition and British troops.

Sky News’ Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay will be embedded with US and British forces in Helmand Province where the fighting against Taliban forces is at its fiercest. Meanwhile, Sky News Presenter Anna Botting will be live with British troops in the UK.

A breakdown of the survey results follows:

NATIONAL

Do you think it is clear WHY British troops are fighting a war in Afghanistan?

13% – Yes it is very clear why British troops are in Afghanistan

31% – Yes it is fairly clear why British troops are in Afghanistan

35% – No, it is not very clear why British troops are in Afghanistan

20% – No, it is not at all clear why British troops are in Afghanistan

1% – Don’t know

Do you think British troops should or should not be fighting in Afghanistan?

28% – Should be fighting

57% – Should not be fighting

15% – Don’t know

Given that British troops are in Afghanistan do you think the British Government should be doing more to support them or are they already doing the best they can?

82% – The Government should be doing more to support British troops

12% – The Government are already doing the best they can to support British troops

7% – Don’t know

MALE

Do you think it is clear WHY British troops are fighting a war in Afghanistan?

19% – Yes it is very clear why British troops are in Afghanistan

36% – Yes it is fairly clear why British troops are in Afghanistan

26% – No, it is not very clear why British troops are in Afghanistan

18% – No, it is not at all clear why British troops are in Afghanistan

1% – Don’t know

Do you think British troops should or should not be fighting in Afghanistan?

40% – Should be fighting

50% – Should not be fighting

10% – Don’t know

Given that British troops are in Afghanistan do you think the British Government should be doing more to support them or are they already doing the best they can?

81% – The Government should be doing more to support British troops

14% – The Government are already doing the best they can to support British troops

5% – Don’t know

FEMALE

Do you think it is clear WHY British troops are fighting a war in Afghanistan?

7% – Yes it is very clear why British troops are in Afghanistan

26% – Yes it is fairly clear why British troops are in Afghanistan

42% – No, it is not very clear why British troops are in Afghanistan

22% – No, it is not at all clear why British troops are in Afghanistan

2% – Don’t know

Do you think British troops should or should not be fighting in Afghanistan?

17% – Should be fighting

64% – Should not be fighting

20% – Don’t know

Given that British troops are in Afghanistan do you think the British Government should be doing more to support them or are they already doing the best they can?

82% – The Government should be doing more to support British troops

10% – The Government are already doing the best they can to support British troops

8% – Don’t know

Michelle, who bought her own dog Phoebe from one of the stores supplied by the Welsh puppy farms, Dogs4us which has branches in Manchester and Leeds, comments in a piece which will be seen on Five News tonight. The investigation by the programme lifts the lid on the shocking conditions on some puppy farms operating in the UK.

Five News’ crime and investigations correspondent Jason Farrell uncovered the conditions at puppy farms in Wales where adult dogs are housed in ways many animal-loving Brits are likely to be appalled and shocked at and will find it hard to believe that the practice can legally be going on in the UK today.

When showed the footage, TV favourite Michelle said: “I think it’s really disturbing and appalling that dogs can be kept in so confined spaces really. I think it’s just cruel, it looks like a pig farm more than a kennel and from what I’ve seen there, it looks so different than what the kennels at Dogs4us are like – it’s so different and it’s so misleading.”

Carmarthenshire County Council, which is responsible for licensing the Welsh farms that supply the puppies to stores, turned down the opportunity to be interviewed, but did provide a statement. Head of public protection for the Council, Philip Davies told Five News: ‘The establishments remain licensed as no offences were noted. Independent vets were used to examine animals where necessary. Cleaning and repairs were required as a result of the investigation.

‘Officers will discuss those scenes affecting premises in Carmarthenshire with the persons responsible’.

Jason Farrell also approached Elin Jones, Agriculture Minister for the Welsh Assembly, at the Royal show recently, who said action needs to be taken: “In west Wales we’ve had a pilot project to look at what regulation does need to be introduced to improve on this situation. I’ve seen footage from other places, I’d be happy to look at your footage as well – but I consider that I do need to take action on some of these measures.”

In the first part of the investigation, shown yesterday on Five News, Jason Farrell visited Dogs4us. Here the team saw cute puppies on display, photos of celebrity customers lining the walls and price tags reaching £900 a pup. But the one thing that was missing was any information about the breeders.

After investigating the supply chain themselves, Five News visited three puppy farms, all based in Carmarthenshire, which supply Dogs4us. The first was Maesbryn and footage taken there shows Jason explaining that the only light in the room comes from the door he opens and that the dogs are kept in the dark to save electricity. The dirty pens can be seen with little bedding and nothing to distract the dogs from the concrete walls surrounding them.

Jason goes on to show viewers the conditions he found in the other two farms he visited undercover: “Veindre farm in Carmarthenshire is another supplier we traced to the pet shop” said Jason. “Here we gained footage of a cocker spaniel circling in utter frustration. These lively, intelligent animals need stimulation and exercise – both were clearly lacking on the farm, as was any clean water in their bowls.

“The third farm we visited, Llwynfallen farm, again was home to unhealthy, timid dogs living in squalid conditions with crates for beds and empty water bowls.”

Five News showed the footage to TV vet Mark Abraham. Mark commented that the scenes were: “…the most horrific conditions I’ve ever seen animals kept in, there’s just absolutely no care for these animals whatsoever, apart from to keep them alive just to get more puppies out of them, which is sick.”

The owners of the farm provided the following statement to Five News: ‘We categorically deny that we have neglected any of our animals…or caused them to suffer any distress or ill health. The welfare of all of our animals is of paramount importance to us and all of our animals are regularly inspected to ensure that they are fit and healthy, if any animals require treatment, we ensure they receive the required treatment promptly and without delay.

‘We have been breeding dogs for many years and at no stage have we received any complaints regarding the welfare of our animals. We are registered breeders and take our responsibilities as breeders very seriously.’

In the second of a two part report, Jason presents reactions to the footage including the interview with Keegan.

Five News presenter, and dog owner, Natasha Kaplinsky, said of the investigation: “It’s absolutely shocking that this is going on. These dogs are trapped in an industry that sells adorable loving creatures but hides its ugly side – just a small amount of effort from people not to buy dogs from these breeders could lead to the end of such a cruel life for many many animals.”

After seeing yesterday’s footage Dogs4us offered Five News the following statement: “Further to watching your report on Five News shown on 4th August 2009 Dogs 4 Us would never wish to be associated with any licensed breeders that are seen to be keeping their puppies under any in humane conditions or distress as shown on your TV footage.

“We found it appalling to watch these puppies subject to these conditions and can assure the public that we will not purchase or wish to be associated with breeders who are seen to contravene the terms of their local authority licensing procedures.”

“We do periodic checks of breeding establishments from where we purchase and we are quite happy with the facilities and standards of these breeders. We Reiterate that all our pups are vet checked to ensure they are healthy, we apply stronghold, microchip them before sale and they all come with a six month congenital defect guarantee. We pride ourselves on our good reputation and our premises are open for public inspection 7 days per week.”

Five News will lift the lid on shocking conditions on some puppy farms operating in the UK.

Working undercover, Five News’ crime and investigations correspondent Jason Farrell uncovered shocking findings at puppy farms in Wales where adult dogs are kept in conditions many animal-loving Brits are likely to be appalled and shocked at, and will find it hard to believe that the practice can legally be going on in the UK today. Even more shocking is perhaps the fact that these farms supply many well known pet stores, including the UK’s largest pet superstore – Dogs4us.

In the first of a two part report, the animals Jason filmed are seen caged, kept in darkened, cramped pens, with little bedding, no access to outside runs and in some cases not even fresh water.

Five News presenter, and dog owner, Natasha Kaplinsky who will introduce the report tomorrow, said of the findings: “It’s absolutely shocking that this is going on. These dogs are trapped in an industry that sells adorable loving creatures but hides its ugly side – just a small amount of effort from people not to buy dogs from these breeders could lead to the end of such a cruel life for many many animals.”

Five News visited Dogs4us, which has warehouse shops in Leeds and Manchester. Here the team saw cute puppies on display, photos of celebrity customers lining the walls and price tags reaching £900 a pup. But the one thing that was missing was any information about the breeders.

After investigating the supply chain themselves, Five News visited three puppy farms, all based in Carmarthenshire, which supply Dogs4us. The first was Maesbryn, and footage being aired tomorrow shows Jason Farrell explaining that the only light in the room comes from the door he opens and that the dogs are kept in the dark to save electricity. The pens can be seen with little bedding and nothing to distract the dogs from the concrete walls surrounding them.

Jason goes on to show viewers the conditions he found in the other two farms he visited undercover: “Veindre farm in Carmarthenshire is another supplier we traced to the pet shop” said Jason. “Here we gained footage of a cocker spaniel circling in utter frustration. These lively, intelligent animals need stimulation and exercise – both were clearly lacking on the farm, as was any clean water in their bowls.

“The third farm we visited, Llwynfallen farm, again was home to unhealthy, timid dogs living in squalid conditions with crates for beds and empty water bowls.”

While viewing the animals undercover at this last farm, Jason was offered a dog home to take home – a seven year old female Bichon Frise, who despite being cleaned up by the owners, still obviously had a urine stained coat and rotten teeth. Five News took the dog to TV vet Mark Abraham and also showed Mark the footage they had obtained so far.

Mark commented that the scenes were: “…the most horrific conditions I’ve ever seen animals kept in, there’s just absolutely no care for these animals whatsoever, apart from to keep them alive just to get more puppies out of them, which is sick.”

After examining the dog, Mark noted numerous visible signs of neglect and an infected mammary gland that subsequently needed, and received, urgent medical treatment.

The owners of the farm provided the following statement to Five News: ‘We categorically deny that we have neglected any of our animals…or caused them to suffer any distress or ill health. The welfare of all of our animals is of paramount importance to us and all of our animals are regularly inspected to ensure that they are fit and healthy, if any animals require treatment, we ensure they receive the required treatment promptly and without delay.

‘We have been breeding dogs for many years and at no stage have we received any complaints regarding the welfare of our animals. We are registered breeders and take our responsibilities as breeders very seriously.’

As part of his investigation, Jason also spoke to several families who had bought puppies from Dogs4us. Gaynor Cambridge bought a Yorkie puppy, which she named Bella and which, after a string of complications, had a seizure and died.

Gaynor told Five News: “I think the pet shop should be shut down and then people stop breeding them in farms.”

Another family Five News met had owned a Westie called Jacka, which was bred on a puppy farm in Wales and bought from Dogs4us. She had to be put down just months later.

The vet’s report to the family said she was poorly from birth and told them that Jacka’s mother had been over bred, and that that was the cause of Jacka’s condition. The vet also said Jacka’s brothers and sisters would have the condition as well.

Dogs4us refused an interview but offered Five News the following statement: ‘As you are aware we are a licensed premises with the Local Authority and therefore, subject to announced and unannounced visits by them. We also have announced and unannounced visits from the R.S.P.C.A. of which both bodies are more than happy with our premises and the service we provide.

‘All the puppies we purchase are from registered breeders who are also licensed by the Local Authority who also carry out inspections of their premises. Licensed breeders have an annual inspection to obtain their licence.

‘All our puppies are vet checked on the day of arrival and a (SIC) sold with a 6 month guarantee against any congenital defects no other breeder establishment gives a guarantee. We also give a 7 day guarantee on any puppy which would cover a settling period. This guarantee covers against any dietary problems, etc. Again, this help and advice would not be available from anyone else, so to suggest that we could sell pups that are unwell and to give a guarantee is ludicrous. There is also a vet in daily attendance (again this does not happen anywhere else).

‘We do not have any influence on what happens outside of our 6 month guarantee and we always advise our customers to consider Pet Insurance for their new pet to cover any eventuality that may possibly arise.

‘To conclude we have lots of happy customers that return to us again and again as they are delighted with the service we provide them which is unique. Our premises are open 7 days a week for public inspection, unlike breeders where you have to make an appointment to inspect.’

Five News also showed its footage to Carmarthenshire Council but despite expressing concern, they have allowed all the breeders to keep their licences.

Local mum Theresa Humphries, a community midwife from Erdington in Birmingham, will appear on national TV next week as part of a special series running on Five News about missing people.

Her son Paul Carter, 22, also from Erdington, disappeared on the overnight ferry crossing from Portsmouth to St Malo on 20 April 2007. He was visiting France with a group of friends who were renovating a house together there. They last saw Paul on board the boat trying to find somewhere to sleep. But Paul did not meet his friends the next morning.

Theresa will be seen on Five News on Monday talking about Paul and the family’s desperate search to find him. Her story kicks off the programme’s dedicated ‘Missing’ month – a series of special reports on missing people, the families left behind and the authorities and charity workers trying to find them.

Theresa, who was raised in Erdington as was her son, is speaking out in the hope that it might bring local labourer Paul home, and still believes her son is very much alive. During the early stages of the enquiry, Police said they feared Mr Carter may have fallen overboard on the trip or he could have returned to Portsmouth on the return trip- but they have recently re-opened the case and are looking for new information which might help them find him.

The charity ‘Missing People’ has been helping the police and Paul’s family in the search, by distributing posters around the Portsmouth area, as well as putting out appeals with their media partners. Missing People has also has also been giving the family much needed emotional support to the family who have all been left living in limbo since his disappearance

Theresa describes Paul as a “very family-orientated young man”. She says: “He is very close to his immediate family and spends time helping his granddad to restore classic cars. We all miss Paul dearly and urge him or anyone who knows of his whereabouts to make contact with the family.”

Theresa continued: “The night before Paul actually went to France this time he told me he didn’t want to go, but being the person I am I don’t like people to let people down and I virtually insisted that he didn’t let Mark down, that he actually did go. And I have to live with that every day.”

“He’s lost somewhere – that’s all I keep saying – he’s lost somewhere. But we’ll find him. I’ve had no negative…I’m sure…I believe, I really truly believe that you would get a gut instinct feeling if something is very seriously wrong. And I’ve never gad that, I never have. And I’ll keep going until they prove me otherwise – if they ever prove me otherwise. I shall do what I do every day and that’s to continue to search for him.”

Five News travelled to Portsmouth with Theresa for the first time since her son disappeared: “Feelings are running really high at the moment, it’s the first time I’ve been by the sea, it’s the first time I’ve seen he ferry.”

“We just need him home now. It doesn’t matter what’s happened, what he’s done. The family are desperate for him – he’s just a piece of our family that’s missing and we need something back. We need him back. It’s just not the same without him. There’s no laughter there’s no smiling, we just need him back.“

For its special Missing month, Five News has been working with the charity Missing People and will feature a different pre-recorded package every week of August, highlighting either a specific missing person case or the wider work of the police and the charity in their quest to reconnect families in the UK with their missing relatives.

In addition, each day of the week on Five News’ 5pm and 7pm bulletins a short photo appeal for a different missing person will feature on air at the end of each programme.

Vikki Cook, Deputy Editor of Five News said: “The latest high profile case of missing chef Claudia Lawrence again made us think about how devastating it must be to have a loved one, friend or colleague go missing and not get the answers you are desperate for.

“News can be a powerful medium for distributing information – and at Five News we want to make it a powerful medium for bringing in information as well. Missing People are the key charity working on the issue of missing with great credentials and experience of working with broadcast media partners. We very much hope that Paul’s family has some good news soon.”

“By dedicating August as Missing month, we hope that we can help to bring to the public attention some of the outstanding missing person’s cases and perhaps even help to re-unite some families with their missing relatives.”

Alison Cowan, Director of Fundraising and Marketing at Missing People said, “More than 200,000 incidents of missing people are recorded each year, two thirds of whom are under 19.

“The charity works to support, find and safeguard all those affected by the issue of missing. We are delighted that Five News has thrown their support behind this important issue. Our hope is that the awareness raised by the Missing Month will help us to reunite some of the families who are living in limbo after the disappearance of a loved one, and make the public aware of the charity’s need for funds.“

Supportive activity will include local and regional consumer and a Missing People charity presence on the Five News website.

Sky News has spoken exclusively to nurse Magdalen Makola about her ordeal last December, when illegal immigrant Justice Ngema conned his way into her home, threatened her with a knife and warned: “I’m a professional at this job and I kill people if I like” before dumping his victim into the boot of her own car.

Makola’s hands and legs were bound, tape was stuck over her eyes and mouth and a rope was placed around her neck.  Ngema then drove her car around Scotland as he emptied her bank account.

Justice Ngema, has been sentenced for abduction and assault after Makola was found dehydrated and suffering from hypothermia on Boxing Day last year.

Ngema was given an eight-year jail term by the High Court in Glasgow as well as a lifelong restriction order.

Magdalen has told Sky News, “The most worrying thing was that rope on my neck, I thought the minute he’s finished with my money he’s going to come back at pull it.  So I just started to make friends with death.”

Ngema abandoned the car at Lanarkshire railway station.  From inside the boot Magdalen could hear trains, cars and people passing.

“When I heard footsteps, I started to kick the boot of the car, thinking that people might hear the sound but when I heard them pass I realised they couldn’t hear me and I was losing hope.

“One day I heard no sound and concluded it was Christmas Day.  I decided to curl up and try to relax and enjoy Christmas in the boot.

“I sang and prayed to myself.  I just started giving up on life and I was picturing myself in the coffin.”

Surviving without any food or water Magdalen described to Sky News how she tried to relieve her thirst.

“I tried to squeeze some condensation from the boot interior in the hope it would relieve my thirst but it was no good because of the tape on my mouth.”

On Boxing Day, 10 days after she was abducted, police traced Magdalen’s car.

“I could hear two men talking so I lifted my head to the gap in the boot and shouted ‘Please help me!’

“I heard the footsteps coming towards the car and one of them said ‘we are the police’.  I was like, thank God, I have been rescued.”

The full interview can be seen on Sky News active.

Sky News has launched a visually rich interactive solar system on its website to commemorate the first landing of man on the moon, 40 years ago today. The graphic allows visitors to the site to make their way around our solar system by clicking on the different planets and gaining access to key stats and facts and figures about that planet as well as a ‘did you know’ fact for each one.

The fact file includes statistics such as: ‘year of discovery’, ‘closest distance from earth’ and ‘diameter’.

Interesting planetary facts available through the tool on skynews.com range from Mars: ‘Mars boasts the highest mountain in the solar system, Olympus Mons, which stands at a height of around 16 miles, three times higher than Mount Everest’ through to Saturn: ‘Saturn’s density is so small that the entire planet could float on water.’

An exclusive video is embedded into the site with Anu Ojha, Director of Education and Space Communications, The National Space Centre, who explains why he thinks that another landing on the moon by man is probably about 10 years away – why Mars is 30 years away, and anywhere further is 100 years away. He also explains why man might want to go back to the moon: “Robots are great for starters, but if we really want to get deep understanding, we need to send human’s at some stage in the future.”

The link to the interactive graphic will be prominently featured on skynews.com throughout today, but will remain available to visitors on an ongoing basis after that time: www.skynews.com/solarsystem

The graphic was designed by Skynews’ in house team of developers, and Hugh Westbrook, Interactive Producer for Skynews.com, explained why they worked to bring the tool to web visitors today: “Sky News is known for its innovative approach to news, and our video and picture rich website has been appealing to more and more regular visitors since we re-launched last year.

“We know that visitors to the site want more than just the headlines and by giving them access to additional information, such as what is provided in this latest interactive graphic, it makes their experience richer and all the more informative. It adds another dimension to the site that we believe our visitors enjoy, and indeed have come to expect from Sky News.”

The British backpacker who survived 12 days in the Australian bush says that he feared he’d died a long and painful death. In an exclusive television interview shown on Sky News today Jamie Neale denied rumours that his ordeal had been a hoax.

Jamie said: “I had actually written some goodbye notes and things to family saying what I thought, saying sorry, explaining how I’d got lost and different things like that.  I thought I was going to have a long, painful starvation death where I could just rethink it over, and over and over again.”

The full transcript of Sky’s Ian Woods exclusive from the interview is below:

Jamie Neale: As you can see, it’s very thick undergrowth here, it’s all fresh and a lot harder to break through and you’ve got this vine here which you catch your feet on.

Ian Woods: Retracing his steps deep into a wilderness where he survived against all the odds.  Ever since Jamie Neale emerged from the bush 12 days after getting lost, some have questioned the truth of his story. 

JN: You just wouldn’t hoax something like this, it’s not fair on anyone who has done it and it’s not right to do it, it’s very serious what’s happened. 

IW: But how could a London teenager with no experience of survival techniques have walked out of here alive with just a few scratches?  He showed us the seeds he’d found to eat.

JN: I’ve been later told that the kangaroos eat them and they’re called tongue orchids.  You can see you can taste a bit of moisture inside it.  I wouldn’t say they filled me up but they do help keep you going.  I just took a risk and ate them, some people said how did I know they’re not poisonous but you didn’t but you just took the risk.  The other thing I ate were these green leafy rockety type of thing which I later found out they do actually use in salads up here.  I was actually trying to look for things like worms and under stones and that, but a few times I saw these bright red millipedes but I just thought, no, don’t, bright red, danger. 

IW: The 19 year old had packed hardly any food or water for his walk in the woods, thinking it would only take a few hours.  Foolishly, he left behind his mobile phone. 

JN: Quite annoying that l left it on charge in the hostel, but it’s quite good because it’s good sat nav, GPS, internet, everything on it.

IW: That mistake was to prove crucial because within a few hours after passing this rocky outcrop, he took the wrong path. 

JN: The first day I didn’t really think it was in that much trouble, even when I was off the path I thought well, I’m only slightly off, I thought I was to the right, if I carry on going left, keep on walking I’ll get back onto the path.  I started circling around and it’s when I saw that you had castle ruin and Mount Solitary on my left and I thought, that’s when I really struck me that I’m in the wrong side of the valley and that I’ve been walking for a day and a half in the wrong direction and that.  That’s when I started to think I’m in trouble.  I’d fallen in water, I’d got soaked and been jammed and haven’t been able to get out and that, and at that point, that’s when the panic started to set in because I knew I couldn’t climb up and down these hills, it’s too tough and I couldn’t get out. 

IW: And that meant using whatever he could find to shelter him from the plunging winter temperature. 

JN: For the first two nights I pretty much laid down on the floor, bundled up into a ball and camped out, just stuck it out.  But when I realised that I was a bit lost and I was waiting for rescue, I actually did build a shelter to hunker down in.  And then I pretty much got big branches of wood and broken dead bits of tree and had built up a basic frame, and then I there was a lot of big bark and a lot of dry but you had these big chunks of bark that have gone across and I used them to fill up most of the gaps to make it pretty much thick across there.

IW: But not all his efforts at wilderness survival worked.

JN: One of the days I did try to build a fire not so much to keep warm but to try and signal.  I sharpened wood into spikes on rocks and put them on to try and create a fire, but you see these things on TV, these survival shows and that, it’s a lot harder than people think you should go out, rub two sticks together and you create a fire. 

IW: While rescuers tried in vain to find him, Jamie was well aware of the efforts being made to locate him.  He could hear helicopters circling above him but he couldn’t make himself seen in the dense overgrowth. 

JN: I had a bright blue shirt which I’d tied and I was trying to wave and I was shouting out trying to get their attention.  The first time the chopper had gone across I thought well, it’s gone over once, it will go over again.  But when it starts happening more and more it was just such frustration and anger and you’re like, can you not see me. 

IW: What he didn’t know was that his father Richard was in one of the helicopters, having travelled from England to join the search. 

JN: I’m not a particularly religious person but I started thinking about God and I was praying saying that surely you can move a helicopter an inch and find me. 

IW: As his ordeal entered a second week, he began to despair.

JN: I was thinking I might die on that mountain and in the notebook I had, which I later lost, I had actually written some goodbye notes and things to family saying what I thought, saying sorry, explaining how I’d got lost and different things like that.  I thought I was going to have a long, painful starvation death where I could just rethink it over, and over and over again.

IW: But after 12 days, he finally stumbled along yet another path and caught a glimpse of a tent through the trees. 

JN: At that point I just started walking towards it and I started screaming hello and then I saw the bloke walk out and started screaming and starting running but almost lost energy.  I just collapsed into their camp and found them and knew I’d been saved.

IW: The experienced bush walkers escorted him on a three hour trek to safety and captured the moment they rendezvoused with the police on their mobile phone.  Doctors who examined say he’s not yet well enough to fly home to England.  He was later reunited with some of those who’d helped look for him.  Even though who know the mountains well are impressed at how he coped.  He and his father will always be grateful to those who brought him back from the dead.  A couple of days earlier his father had given up hope and had carved his name on  rock and laid an English rose in his memory.  But Jamie Neale lived to tell his tale and he wants it to be a warning to other hikers to be better prepared when facing the dangers of the bush. 

For the first time, a British news crew has been allowed to film in a University of Pittsburgh lab, where scientists believe they are close to helping paralysed patients move again.

Trials with monkeys have been taking place at the university, who have learnt to use a complex robotic arm simply using the power of thought.

Sky News cameras went behind the scenes at the lab and witnessed how a monkey reaches out and turns a handle with a robotic arm. The movements are not controlled by its hands however, but directly by its brain.

Sky’s Health Correspondent Thomas Moore was present to watch the incredible dexterity that the monkeys have developed after just a short amount of time using the equipment. The mind control works through a device, for which each wire is finer than a human hair, implanted directly into the motor cortex of the monkey’s brain. The motor cortex is the part of the brain which controls voluntary movement and electrodes then pick up the tiny electronic pulses between the neurones and send them to a computer, which in turn deciphers the pattern and strength of the signals to move the robotic arm.

The arm is more advanced than previous prototypes used and has wrist movement as well as three ‘fingers’ which the monkeys can operate to increase the range of control they have over their actions.

Thomas Moore, who visited the facility in LA earlier this month, said: “With the power of thought the monkey can alter the speed and direction of the arm, twisting the joints to home in on its target. Thankfully, it shows no signs of distress from the wires leading from the electrodes in its brain to the computer.

Professor Andrew Schwartz, from the University of Pittsburgh, who is leading the team of scientists developing the device said: “The monkeys pick this task up and using the prosthetic setting, very rapidly. Just a few days and they have a pretty good performance with this tool. It’s pretty amazing because monkeys aren’t used to using tools – we use them all the time though. Imagine you’re moving your arm to get that piece of food – conveying that to a monkey is pretty difficult yet the monkey learns it fairly rapidly and is comfortable. As the days go by you see the monkeys start using it as if the device has been embodied so they think of it as a part of their own body.”

As part of its investigation, Sky News has also been shown the latest developments on a similar set of trials at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island – this time with human patients. ‘Braingate’ allows tetra-pelagic patients to control a computer cursor by simply thinking about moving their paralysed hand. Doctors have just begun recruiting patients for a full clinical trial, after initial tests in a handful of patients showed remarkable results.

Footage of a previous patient, Matthew Nagel, who took part in a first set of tests at the University, show him moving the computer cursor around the screen, opening files and emails, turning lights on and off, and changing channels on his television, all through the power of thought. Before Matthew sadly died of an unrelated infection, he described how the Braingate device gave him back some freedom: “Changing the television, opening my shades, turning on lights, which nurses have to do. It will give me a sense of independence…wonderful!”

Prof. John Donoghue, from the University told Sky News: “Our goal with Braingate is eventually to have a physical replacement for a broken biological nervous system. So you have wires replacing biological nerves, the real cells that worked in the first place. So we’d like to have a physical system that senses what’s going on in the brain, takes those signals inside your body and routes them off to the muscles. So when you think you move, that’s just what you or I do, so one day you could be sitting here with a person you wouldn’t know if they had the system or not.”

Thomas Moore added: “It’s a long way from the mind control of monkeys to the man-machine hybrid. But the more scientists learn about the brain, the greater the freedom they can give paralysed patients. The cyborg of science fiction may one day be reality.”

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