Thursday, July 31, 2003

I am Der Kriegsreporter.

At least that's what Christina and the chaps at Weltjournal say I am, and who am I to argue?

I've never been called a Kriegsreporter before, but I kind of like it. It's got a certain ring to it. It certainly beats "tosspot," which is what most people call me.

I haven't seen the Weltjournal report -- which went out on Austrian TV last night -- yet but the e-mails and messages have started arriving, so willkommen to all the new Austrian readers.

One such reader, Andi, writes:

"You are an impressing person!
"I wish there would be millions of Stuarts all over this world. Unfortuantely the reality is different."

Thanks for the sentiment, Andi, but I believe contraception was invented to prevent that very thing from happening.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

ONLY IN WALES, PART 35,357....

BBC News Online: Wife for sale on net

The article contains quote of the week: "I had a man who wanted to swap Mel for a 1000cc Honda VTR SP1 motorbike, and he said he'd throw in the boots, gloves and leathers as part of the deal."

Sounds like Mr Hoyle turned down a top offer. I won't comment on which of the two offered the more comfortable ride as that would just be tasteless.
Jamie in Baghdad also thinks the capture of Saddam could be imminent.

In an e-mail she writes:

There's an incredible sense of anticipation that nabbing the big fella is going to happen sooner rather than later. The overwhelming feeling is that since they got the boys daddy can't be too far away. The net is closing in, the noose is tightening, etc etc etc etc. Who knows if it's true?

I spoke to a senior coalition official the other day who tipped me off hours before it was officially confirmed that Udai and Qusai were killed and he seems to think it was a matter of days. When the reward was announced he thought it would take 30 days. It only took 19 to bust the boys. He's optimistic. We're on constant Saddam alert. My bet is for sure he'll go down with a bang. This guy won't come out with his hands up.
Robert Opp e-mails to highlight an organisation called Oasis of Peace (Neve Shalom in Hebrew, Wahat al-Salam in Arabic). Based between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, it was set up by a Dominican monk, Bruno Hussar, to promote peace and understanding between Jews and Palestinians.

I've not encountered the organisation personally but having spent a lot of time in Israel and the West Bank last year any group that's working for peace in the Middle East is worthy of attention -- plus, I trust Robert's judgement.

Robert urges you to read more about the campaign for Malak Taiser, a five year old girl who suffered severe burns in an accident at her home near Ramallah.
I've dropped the bitrate on Radio BNI down from 56k to 32k to make it easier for non-broadbanders to listen without skipping.

The pro: I can fit more tracks in the playlist and the stream shouldn't skip as much if you're listening on a 56k modem.
The con: The sound quality's not as good.

If you want a separate broadband stream -- or a slower connection for that matter -- let me know and if there's sufficient demand I'll set one up.

This week is turning out to be quite a traumatic one.

I wrote last week's News Online column about seeing a set of photographs taken while I was under the care of US Special Forces in Sulaymaniyah.

I hadn't seen anything yet.

Greg Hamon, the surgeon who looked after me, has sent me the snaps from his album. Maybe I was expecting them to be similar to the last ones because I certainly didn't open them with the same trepidation.

I wish I'd steeled myself because I got quite a shock.

The damage to my foot was far, far more extensive than I remembered (although I made a conscious effort not to look at it because I knew that if I did I'd probably pass out.) How I still had any feeling left in my toes, I just don't know. How I remained conscious after the accident amazes me.

I just sat there, looking at the photos with my hand on my mouth, saying "fuck, fuck, fuck."

By the time I came around from the anaesthetic, my foot was neatly wrapped in clean white bandages, the gore hidden from view. I never saw my right heel again.

Now I understand why they couldn't save my foot, why Dr Hamon said the chances of salvaging it were small from the very start. Now I understand why the surgeons in the UK said they couldn't even attempt reconstructive surgery. For that understanding alone, I'm glad I've seen the photos -- even though it's hard to look at them. And now I feel even luckier than ever that I'm here at all.

And seeing as you've all been with me this far, I guess it's only fair to share the pictures with you. I warn you, though, they're nasty. If you can't sit through an episode of Casualty or ER without closing your eyes, I suggest you give them a miss.

Oh, and if you look at the pictures and think "how terrible" -- don't.

I got first class medical treatment and access to some of the best prosthetists in Britain. Most landmine victims don't. Think instead about what landmines are doing to men, women and children in some of the poorest countries of the world -- then do something about it.


Tuesday, July 29, 2003


Adrian from Vienna e-mails after visiting the webcam. He says:


You have an excellent cam, very good picture quality, and you also are looking very cool, want you show us more of you?

Shall I send you pics?

Well no, Adrian, I'd rather you didn't you sad man.
Came across a great website this morning while searching for pictures of landmines:

Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining

It's full of useful resources and cute pictures of mine detecting dogs.
Especially for Clare H -- and admirers of Fox News everywhere!

A call comes through to race HQ from Phil Holmes, who'll be taking part in the London Triathlon on Sunday to raise money for MAG. Provided he doesn't contract Weil's disease in the Thames, Phil's sure to turn in a fine performance.

Phil is, however, in a state of some confusion. After seeing Saturday's picture of Christina, he wondered whether she was a member of Destiny's Child. An easy mistake to make, Phil, and no one will criticise you for making it.

Monday, July 28, 2003

An emotional afternoon.

Visited Hengameh Golestan, the widow of Kaveh and their only son, Mehrak. She's pictured left here, alongside Kaveh's mother, at his funeral in Iran.

I'd been longing to meet Hengameh ever since the accident, mindful that I was one of the last people to see her husband alive. The love they had for each other during 31 years of marriage shone through and made his death seem all the more senseless.

You'll forgive me, I hope, if I keep the details of our meeting private. It brought home to me that my loss, however bad, is as nothing compared to the loss she and her family are enduring.

Mehrak told me that a website in memory of his father has just been launched. It's an excellent introduction to his outstanding work. An number of annual prizes for photojournalism will also be awarded in his honour. Details here.
Spoke to a BBC colleague newly back from Baghdad this morning and her prediction is that Saddam will be found within a fortnight.

"The net is definitely closing in," she said.

As they say in the world of journalism cliches, only time will tell.

Sunday, July 27, 2003


Think President Bush is as dumb as a rock? Get ready to miss your flight: Grounding the flying nun

Rearming the Iraqis: 13-year old double amputee Ali Abbas is on his way to the prosthetic centre at Roehampton:
Sunday Times: Iraqi orphan to get new limbs

The Sunday Times also reveals details of Uday Hussein's idiosyncratic way of dealing with love rivals...although it's in the ST so it's probably completely made up:
Sunday Times: Saddam’s son fed his love rivals to the lions

Charities prepare to cut back staff in the Diana Shite-Gate scandal:
Guardian: US firm accuses Diana fund of failing to release charities' cash

Handicap International sets to work helping landmine victims in Iraq

The introduction of new features on the blog continues apace.

Today sees the launch of Radio BNI, the audio companion to the site.

At the moment it's still a work in progress -- basically a rolling jukebox of some of my favourite tracks, ranging from Steve Earle to Hearsay. There's some really cheesy tracks in there as well as some classics. I've programmed in whatever takes my fancy and there's no overall theme -- except that I love every single tune.

I'll be building on it over the coming weeks, adding more tracks and including jingles and other bits and pieces to improve the station sound.

I apologise for the ads, which are beyond my control. If it takes off I'll upgrade my account so I can block them.

And yes, ladeeeeez and gennlemun, we do take requests.

The threat of rain abated here in London so I was able to spend the afternoon at Richmond Park -- my first proper chance to enjoy the Great Outdoors since the accident. With the leg now settling down and the walking sticks discarded I was able to wander and cycle around, chase the deer and watch the kite bladers. Now that looks very cool....another home for some of the insurance compensation, perhaps?

Saturday, July 26, 2003

I'm running a day late on this week's Amputee of the Week because of yesterday's journey from Cardiff to London, which saw me popping in for lunch with BBC Jerusalem Correspondent Jeremy Cooke and family (in Monmouthshire, not Israel) before heading to Windsor for a wedding party. There I met up with Christina Rhule (pictured centre), who's been following the blog from the very start. Christina got very excited when I told her I'd put her picture up -- and guys I promise to forward on all fan mail and proposals of marriage.

In fact, for good measure, here's another picture of her shaking her booty on the dancefloor. You go girl!

Excuse me, I'm starting to sound like Nigel Dempster.

So, although he's a day late, the new AOTW is well worth the wait...and I thank Derek for drawing my attention to him.

Here goes....

Dan Sickles commanded III Corps, Army of the Potomac during the Battle of Gettysburg.

During the battle, a shell mangled Sickles' right leg. Sickles was seen smoking a large cigar as he was carried from the field on a stretcher. Thomas Sim, a III Corps surgeon, later amputated the leg just above the knee and, instead of having it buried with the rest of the amputated limbs, wrapped and preserved the leg "for whatever disposition Sickles might later want to make of it."

Sickles had a minature coffin made for his amputated leg, and donated it to the Army Medical Museum. For years afterward he delighted in taking friends there to "visit" his leg. It now resides in the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Sickles was born on 20 October 1819 in New York City. In 1852, against the wishes of both families, he married Teresa Bagioli.

Sometime in 1858, she began having an affair with Philip Barton Key. The day after confronting his wife about the affair and having her attest to it in a written affidavit, Sickles saw Key in front of his house signaling to Teresa in an attempt to arrange another assignation. In a rage, Sickles went upstairs, grabbed his pistols, went out to confront Key, and shot him several times; the last shot in the head at close range. Arrested and tried for murder, Sickles was acquitted, resting his defence on the plea of temporary insanity -- the first time this plea was used.

Sickles is the subject of Thomas Keneally's book American Scoundrel and is far too larger than life to describe in full. You can read and hear more about him here.

However, for the sheer chutzpah of a having a minature coffin made up for his amputated leg alone, Dan Sickles is a classic Amputee of the Week.


....Uday Hussein:

...and Liza Minnelli's soon-to-be ex-husband, David Gest:

Friday, July 25, 2003


Those American morticians really are amazing.

I have nothing but admiration at their ability to turn a face that looked like this:

Into this:

How do they do it?

BBC News Online: US displays bodies of Saddam sons

In May, Tony Blair, the MoD and the Conservatives called on the BBC not to show a short clip, which had been heavily blurred, from Al Jazeera pictures of two dead British soldiers who went missing after an attack near Al Zubayr. The BBC -- rightly in my view given the context in which the clip was shown -- went ahead with the broadcast.

Uday and Qusay Hussein deserve no sympathy. Iraq is better off without their poisonous existence. Even so, why is it acceptable to show the bullet-riddled and bloodied bodies of war casualties -- so long as they're only of the "enemy"?
....and the unlucky recipient of Cosmopolis is....Bruno Tomaz from Lisbon, Portugal.

Congratulations, Bruno, the book will be in the post first thing Monday morning. Don't say you weren't warned.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

The results of my hangover-inspired writing session for BBC News Online have been published here.

An early start this morning, down to Cardiff Bay to begin filming with the crew from the ORF international news programme, Weltjournal.

We're making good progess, although ORF producer Christina Kronaus (pictured right) doesn't think my idea for a new Weltjournal feature called "Amputee Der Woche" will get off the ground.

Oh, and another minor miracle this morning. My bag – lost somewhere between Bologna and Heathrow – has turned up. Obviously the Alitalia baggage staff have tired of my solied Y-fronts and have decided to send them back to whence they came.
Stop Press.

This news just in.

I think I may have a taker for Cosmopolis. Trust me you will be disappointed.

More news when I get it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

My mate Derek's just e-mailed me with most fantastic amputee of the week.

He's a classic of the genre -- but you're going to have to wait until Friday to find out who it is.

And so farewell, Uday and Qusay Hussein.

OK, so Uday may have been a psychopath with a reputation for torture, murder, rape and corruption but the man liked a good cigar.

When US troops entered his palace they found -- along with heroin, pictures of prostitutes downloaded off the internet, and prozac -- boxes containing hundreds of Cuban cigars with his name printed on them (Source: Newsday).

The picture above shows Uday smoking a Cohiba, Cuba's most prestigious cigar. Cohibas were originally rolled especially for VIPs visiting Cuba. I could be wrong but I reckon the former tyrant's puffing on an Esplendido in the picture. A box would set you back 500 quid here in the UK.


Now he's croaked, maybe someone can pass a couple of boxes my way.
Some of you may be having problems with some of the features on the new template -- especially Extreme Tracking.

I'm aware of it but won't be able to fix it until I get back to London at the weekend.
Woke up with the mother of all hangovers after drinking rivers of white wine at the Steam Bar last night before blacking out.

Met up with Christina from Austrian TV, who has come over from Vienna to do a report on the blog and my recovery. We're going to spend all day tomorrow filming. The hangover was kicking in big time but through sheer force of will I managed to avoid throwing up in front of her. I hope she appreciated the gesture.

The hangover has continued into this evening. I'm already a day late on the deadline for my BBC News Online article but somehow I've managed to fight off the nausea for long enough to write 537 words. The way I'm feeling it's a minor miracle I'm able to write at all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

No takers for Cosmopolis, then?

Very sensible.
Throughout my rehab it's been the small -- nay tiny -- things that make the biggest differences.

Today was no exception.

I came home from yesterday's appointment with Ian, my prosthetist, feeling pretty glum. After walking more than a few hundred yards the skin at the back of Mr S starts pulling and moving, making it incredibly painful to get around without sticks. I told Ian this yesterday and he set to work trying to solve it. He tried everything -- a tweak to the leg here, a shave of foam off there. After nearly two hours we knew what the problem was -- but hadn't found a way to solve it.

I thought it'd be something I had to put up with for a while, until the tissue settles down.

Then a call from Ian first thing this morning. He'd been thinking. "Haven't you got anything better to do than think about my stump," I asked him. Apparently not -- but just as well.

When I got down to the hospital he presented me with a special sock made by Otto Bock, which is coated on the inside with a special polymer gel. The idea is that the gel acts like a shock absorber, taking up some of the friction and pressure. It looks, according to my Dad, like a bull's condom.

I put it on. It was incredible. The pain disappeared. I went shopping and was able to walk two lengths of the High Street without sticks -- unthinkable yesterday.

By God, I think we've cracked it.

The NME reports on MAG's involvement in next month's V music festival.

I'm planning on being there with MAG to see Coldplay, the Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chilli Peppers....oh yeah, and I suppose we should do some fund-raising as well.

Meanwhile, pneumatic Tomb Raider star and MAG supporter Angelina Jolie has been doing her bit for the cause in Cambodia.

If she wants to hear a first hand account of what it's like to be injured by a landmine she can summon me to her trailer any time she likes. Angelina -- my e-mail address is at the top of the page.
I wrote recently about Captain Jeff Joyce, the anaesthetist who looked after me along with other members of the USSF 932nd Forward Surgical Team in Sulaymaniyah.

Jeff and I have been exchanging e-mails and he's sent me a few happy snaps for the family album of my operation.

I opened the e-mail reluctantly, wanting to see the photos and yet at the same time not wanting to. Needless to say, the whole experience was the most traumatic few days of my life. I wasn't sure just how traumatic re-living it through photographs would be. I had visions of some kind of delayed post traumatic stress disorder kicking in.

In the end, good old journalistic curiosity got the better of me. I clicked "open" and the pictures popped up on the screen.

A couple of them aren't pretty, although it's difficult to work out exactly what's going on. I found myself squinting and tilting my head, trying to pick out what the surgeons are up to amid the blood and gore. Even so, I feel strangely detached from the photos, as though it's not really me that's being operated on. The whole adventure is such a blur -- it's like it happened to someone else.

If anything, I find the photos comforting. Until now I've been trying to turn the fragmented memories in my head into something approaching a convincing whole. A blood stream full of drugs and adrenaline makes that difficult. The pictures enable me to say "yes -- this really happened. You didn't make it up. It was horrible but it's over -- you survived."

And so, for your viewing pleasure, here they are:

Photo: 932nd Forward Surgical Team
Photo: USSF Operating Theatre
Photo: Operation 1
Photo: Operation 2

I'm going to ponder the pictures a bit longer and write about them for my BBC News Online column this week.
Waiter....I'll have the humble pie please.....

A couple of weeks ago I wrote rather sniffily about a number of national newspapers employing full-time David Beckham Correspondents to follow His Royal Squeakiness around Madrid.

I spoke too soon.

Alex Lemon of the South Wales Echo e-mails to point out with barely disguised glee that the BBC has just done exactly the same:

Ananova: BBC appoints reporter to track Beckham

As if our journalistic credibility wasn't in enough trouble already.

I am told by insiders that Andrew Gilligan did not apply for the post. He is perfectly happy with his current job as the Today programme's Defence Correspondent.

Alex: Can you confirm the rumour that the Echo's taking on a Robert Earnshaw correspondent for the new season?

Monday, July 21, 2003

BBC News Online's Mark Ward considers whether the blogging "phenomenon" is entering the mainstream.

In reply, one reader says that "The bloggers I am already aware of seem to have all the time in the world to sit and write their hubristic and self-opinionated garbage."

Who, me?

The Guardian's Bobbie Johnson asks whether blogs could put politicians in closer touch with their constituents. The Blair Blog -- now that'd be worth a read.

Since my accident I've been reassessing the way I deal with everyday problems -- the things that get me wound up, the things that grate.

The philosophy I've adopted can be summarised, crudely, thus: "Don't sweat the small stuff because tomorrow you could get your other leg blown off by a landmine." OK, so I never claimed to be Plato but it works for me.

My arrival back at my parents house in Cardiff, however, shattered my newly acquired state of Zen calm.

Waiting for me was a letter from the Inland Revenue, informing me that I'd been fined £100 because I hadn't filled in my tax return for the financial year ending April 2003. April, eh.....hang on, Mr Taxman, let me just look back at my diary.....ah yes, seems a long time ago now but I remember now. I'D JUST HAD MY LEG BLOWN OFF YOU BOWLER-HATTED, PEN-PUSHING PRICK. I wouldn't mind but I wrote and told them months ago.

I have said something to this effect in my letter of appeal. I await their reply with some interest.

Off to Cardiff this afternoon for some more leg tweaking and some filming with Austrian television, who are coming over to do a piece on my accident and the blog for one of their news programmes.

Maybe I should tell them I don't speak a word of German.

Unfortunately this means there'll be no webcam action for the rest of the week.
Notice anything different? Damn right. That long awaited and much delayed relaunch has finally taken place.

What do you think? Hopefully it makes the site look a bit fesher and easier to read, with all the features nice and handy on the left hand side.

Claire H deserves major thanks for all her hard work on the new template.

If you've got any suggestions for further improvement, just let me know.
I chose my holiday reading quite well, if I do say so myself.

Bush at War by Bob Woodward was a riveting insight into the Bush administration's response to 9/11. It made me think, terrifyingly, that a war on Iran, Syria or North Korea is by no means inconceivable.

Jon Steele's War Junkie gave a vivid portrait of life on the frontline, although it did feel like being shouted at for 500 pages.

But, but, but.

Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo was without doubt the biggest pile of steaming shite I've read in a long, long time. I found myself getting angry as I sat and read it that anyone could actually try and palm the stuff off as "literature" -- and that's not what you want on a relaxing holiday.

It pains me to say all this.

DeLillo was my idol in university and I devoted an extended essay to him. But Cosmopolis reminded me why I never read fiction any more. The book should be banned; not because it's offensive but because life's too short to waste your time reading it. It's over-written, rambling, show-offy tripe.

I hated it so much I don't even want to look at it on my bookshelf any more. The first person to e-mail me their address gets it free of charge through the post.

Watch out President Bush....the voters are on to you: Bush's approval rating sags

Sunday, July 20, 2003

And so to the David Kelly affair, which took a bleaker and more tragic turn while I was away than anyone could have expected.

Let's do away with the pointless conspiracy theories about how killed him and assume that it was suicide.

Also, I think it's only fair that I declare my interests as a BBC staffer and make clear that by the terms of my contract I'm limited in what I can say about internal BBC matters.

What I will say is this.

Reagrdless of whether the BBC or Downing Street was right about the Iraq dossier, the fact of the matter is that a well-regarded but retiring figure widely viewed as committed and professional felt no option but to take his own life because he became entangled in a monumental power struggle that was not of his making.

Dr David Kelly is, in every sense, another casualty of the War in Iraq.

Another little change -- I've signed up to the Amazon Associates programme.

It means I get a small commission ever time you buy something from Amazon. I plan to use the cash to help offset the costs of running the blog.

If you're buying any items from Amazon, click on the logo at the bottom of the page first and it'll ensure I get my cut -- and it won't cost you a penny more than before!

I thank you.
As you can see, changes are afoot to the homepage and I'm super-grateful to Claire H at the University of North Carolina for giving so freely of her HTML skills.

Further tweaks are likely over the next day or so, ahead of a complete redesign (but how long have I been promising that?)

There's still no sign of my suitcase, so those Alitalia baggage handlers are obviously having a fine old time of it with my dirty Y-fronts. Frankly, they're welcome to them.

Thankfully, though, my camera was in the hand luggage, so I'm able to upload a few pictures from Tuscany.

I'd like to say I spent the week exploring the hidden secrets of the region, meeting the friendly locals and promoting understanding between Brits and Italians. But I'd be lying. I spent the week reading, swimming, smoking Havanas and getting happily sozzled on chianti....and it was bloody marvelous.

I can thoroughly recommend the town of Castellina in Chianti and the Cottage Monterano, where we stayed. It's the perfect place to laze away the days and watch the world go by.

Plus, the leg came through the test of Tuscany's hilly slopes with flying colours.

Photo: Florence Church Candles
Photo: Florence Skyline
Photo: Al Fresco Dining
Photo: The Villa
Photo: Free with Today's Newspaper -- Baby Daniel
I'm back, which is more than can be said for my luggage.

At this very moment a suitcase full of smelly t-shirts and -- much more critically -- my travel humidor is somewhere between Bologna and Heathrow.

If I ever see it again it'll be a miracle.

Much to talk about...not least the tragic twist in the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction story. But all in good time....

Discuss "Beyond Northern Iraq"

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Saturday, July 12, 2003

It's 20 past 4 in the morning. I'm at Heathrow. I feel like death.

Friday, July 11, 2003

This time tomorrow, I'll be here:

I'll be drinking Chianti. The travel humidor's filled with a carefully chosen selection of Havanas. Reading matter: Jon Steele's War Junkie, Bush at War by Bob Woodward and Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo.

I'm back on the 19th and will update in full then. Meantime, I'll have my Palm Pilot poolside and will try to post from there...provided I'm not too pissed.

Be good while I'm away.

Discuss "Beyond Northern Iraq"

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The Franklin Mint's victory in a legal case against the Diana Memorial Fund was a triumph for collectors of cheap tat around the world.

If I want to blow my hard-earned cash on Diana vinyl dolls ($110-$195)and Diana, Queen of Hearts Jewelled Tribute Rings ($195) I don't see why anyone should stop me.

However, the result of the law suit is that women and children are going to have their arms and legs blown off by landmines because the Memorial Fund is now skint:

BBC News: Diana fund faces financial crisis

So...let me get this straight. Mine clearance groups have to look for alternative sources of cash so that people with no taste can carry on buying gaudy shite. That has to be one of the obscene things I've ever heard.

Shame that Marvel is scrapping its plans for a "Diana the Bulimic Mutant Ninja Queen of Hearts" comic book, though.

Discuss "Beyond Northern Iraq"

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Scott Rogers, the AK amputee whose progress along a section of the Appalachian Trail I followed a few weeks ago, makes it into the Knoxville News-Sentinel: Keeping pace to go far

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Thursday, July 10, 2003

A bunch of work colleagues have said they'll join Phil in completing the London Triathlon for MAG.

We all went to Tooting Bec Lido this afternoon to take some photos for the BBC internal magazine.

I reckon they'll all get round the course but I think Anthony's going to need to buy a new bike before race day.

Discuss "Beyond Northern Iraq"
This week's BBC News Online diary has been published here.

Discuss "Beyond Northern Iraq"

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A reminder that I'll be doing an interview this evening at 2315BST with Matthew Bannister on BBC Radio Five Live.

The interview will be streamed live on the Five Live website.

Discuss "Beyond Northern Iraq"

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Remember those Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?

Well, Andrew Marr says Whitehall mandarins believes they won't be found.

But wait a minute, didn't Tony Blair say yesterday that "I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will find evidence of weapons of mass destruction programmes." (Source: BBC News Online)

The Prime Minister may have no doubt -- but it seems the civil servants do...and they can't both be right.

Discuss "Beyond Northern Iraq"

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I've just read that MAG will be raising funds at the V2003 music festival.

Guess who'll be begging for a backstage pass?!

Discuss "Beyond Northern Iraq"

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My new computer arrived today and I've spent much of the evening setting it up.

And with the new computer comes new features on the blog.

The first of them...a webcam, streaming live video from the back bedroom! The camera's perched right above the monitor, looking out over what I laughingly call my "study."

The icon after each posting should indicate whether the camera is online or not and there are also other features such as a chatroom.

I'd welcome any thoughts/criticisms on the message board.

Discuss "Beyond Northern Iraq"

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Wednesday, July 09, 2003

I can confirm that I will not be following Gerhard Schroeder's example by cancelling my holiday in Italy.

The German Chancellor's absence should leave me with a guaranteed sun-lounger by the pool. Thanks Gerhard!

Discuss "Beyond Northern Iraq"
More details of my time under the care of US Special Forces from another of the Forward Surgical Team. Captain Jeff Joyce was the anaesthetist who made sure I was off with the fairies while the surgeon did his work. He and his team did a great job of fixing me up.

Here's Jeff in full combat gear:

And here he is in civvies:

Jeff says:

"We took you back to the operating room a couple of times while waiting to get you out. Your spirits were high and you were an A1 chap.

"I spent a couple of nights with you in the grand recovery room with you. We actually had to change our mission as we don't normally take care of people longer than six hours. We usually ship them out within six hours but we had no transport out for two days.

"We took a pesh bed and brought it in so you wouldn't sleep on an army stretcher for two days. I thought given the circumstances it was best to keep you well anesthetized during your ordeal.

"I remember a funny moment your friend and I were looking for your medication and we came across the big water pipe you had purchased and we both laughed and said he'll have a hell of a time getting that on the special ops helicopter.

"We spent about 30 minutes in the back of the ambulance waiting for your ride, it was cold and I was a little concerned we had you out of it. I kept waking you up to see if you were all right. We wrapped you up in pesh blankets and put some ear plugs in for the ride."

Jeff has recounted the story of his whole time in Northern Iraq here. He talks about my accident on page three.

It's very emotional for me to read the story of what happened in the operating room and to see the pictures but it's cathartic too. It's all part of the process of making sense of and coming to terms with the accident.

Discuss "Beyond Northern Iraq"

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I've made contact with one of the members of the US Special Forces team which looked after me in Sulaymaniyah. Although I remember the accident and the hours immediately after it, my memory goes blurred at the point I was given my first shot of morphine. That's probably just as well but it leaves a big gap in my picture of what happened.

Now that picture's being sketched out.

The nurse writes:

"When you came to us, you had been seen and x-rayed at a civillian hospital.

"While their x-rays helped we repeated them and saw pretty much the same.... Your whole heel was gone. I was shocked that you could move your toes. Also your circulation there was pretty good. That is one thing in your favor even now. I have seen a lot of below the knee amputations that need revised one or two times before they start to heal.

"While you were there we debrided (cleaned dead tissue off of) your foot. Both of these were surgical procedures so you were anesthetized. While we were very concerned about your foot, your vitals remained very stable. The mine cauterized your foot so you never lost lots of blood.

"You were there about two days. Your whole time there, you were very pleasant. The last I saw you, I put you on a helicopter headed out."

I've been promised photos of the operation. Should be something for the family album.

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The Guardian profiles Richard Wild, the 24 year old freelance journalists shot dead in Baghdad on Saturday.

Richard Wild is going to be the subject of my BBC News Online diary this week.

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Check out the new bike!

My thinking was this...After Friday's tweak, I'm bounding around on my leg like a good 'un, often without walking sticks. Even so, I can still only do short distances. Overdo it and Mr Stumpy hurts like hell. Going to the corner shop to pick up a paper in the morning is no problem. Getting to Ealing Broadway and back, though, is more of a challenge.

I could take the car, of course, but it seems a bit excessive -- not to mention environmentally damaging -- to get into the car just to drive a mile or two.

A bike's the answer. It's easier on the injured leg and better for the beer gut.

Because my flat's the size of a postage stamp I've bought a natty mountain bike that folds up in half and packs into a bag. Just the job. The only problems I've had so far is that my artificial foot flies off the pedal from time to time and I can't cycle standing up because I have no right shin or ankle muscles. Apart from that it's exactly the same as before.

I managed to survive an Iraqi landmine but I'll probably now be flattened by a London bus.

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Monday, July 07, 2003

More from Jamie in Baghdad.

Forget Salam Pax, Miss T is the new Aussie Baghdad blogger (well, e-mailer at least.)

Here's a flavour of what she's up to. I've uploaded it as a .txt file so it doesn't take up too much space on the homepage.

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It's been online for two months but I've only just realised....

Audio and video footage of the Warblogging session at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in April -- on which I was a panellist -- can be downloaded here.

It's taken me so long to notice that presumably by now all the technology has emerged and disappeared again.

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Advance warning that I've been booked as a guest on BBC Radio Five Live's Matthew Bannister programme for this Thursday at 2315 BST.

It'll be an update on the interview I did with Matthew a couple of months ago.

Those outside the UK can tune in by following the link above and then clicking "listen."

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Fiona Nibbs draws attention to the death of an Australian soundman, Jeremy Little, a week after he was injured in an RPG attack in Falluja:

AAP: Wounded Australian newsman dies

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Sunday, July 06, 2003

An e-mail arrives from Jamie in Baghdad:


I will write more later.

I suspect you know by now that a British journalist has been shot and killed in Baghdad. Apparently a sniper took a pot shot as this guy was standing outside the museum - where we all were a couple of days ago.

It has significantly dampened the mood, needless to say. It sucks monumentally.

It sure does. Stay safe, Jamie.

Jamie's latest wire story can be found here.

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Went to visit a friend of mine, Trish, in Docklands this afternoon and she's the third person so far to ask me if I've grown.

For some reason I seem to look taller since the accident. Can that be possible?

Maybe the surgeon decided to take the bones left over from my foot and use them to add a couple of inches in height or something.

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The journalist I mentioned yesterday who was killed in Baghdad has been named as Richard Wild, a 24 year old freelancer who'd worked for ITN.

He's not someone I know or have worked with but my thoughts are with his family.

His death brings to 16 the number of media workers killed in the war and its aftermath. Two others are still listed as missing.

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As the festering boil that is the row between Downing Street and the BBC rises to a pus-filled head, Max Hastings in the Sunday Telegraph crystallises the real issue that has been obscured amid all the mud-slinging:

"The BBC and the Government are fighting about marginal aspects of the WMD issue - the notorious claim that they could be deployed in 45 minutes. Yet the important point, surely, is that the Government was undoubtedly informed by the intelligence services that the Iraqis possessed WMDs and would probably unleash them.

"Alastair Campbell has chosen to fight the Corporation on a single very narrow issue, on which he will probably win. Yet this masks a wider and much more serious one, concerning his master rather than himself: was Tony Blair telling the truth about why he proposed to take Britain to war?

"George Bush told the American people that he was invading Iraq because he wanted regime change. Washington treated WMDs as a subordinate matter....Tony Blair, by contrast, told the British people that the issue was WMDs....

"...If, at the end of this story, the Prime Minister finds himself with no WMDs, without Saddam on the game cart, and with Iraq still in an unholy mess, then he will have failed in both his public and his private purposes."


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The Limbless Association asked me to bash out a few hundred words for their magazine. How could I refuse?

Limbless Association: Life After Amputation

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Saturday, July 05, 2003

When Jamie left for Baghdad I talked about my safety concerns.

Here's why:

AP: British Journalist Shot Dead in Baghdad

I'm trying to find out who it is.

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With my Olympics planning now underway I thought I'd choose an Olympian as this week's Amputee of the Week.

In the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, the gold medal for men's waterpolo went to Hungary.

One member of that team was Oliver Hallasy.

It was a second gold medal for Hallasy; he'd also won the top prize for waterpolo four years earlier in Los Angeles.

In the intervening period, however, he'd been amputated below the knee following a streetcar accident.

Have there been any other amputee athletes to have taken part in the "regular" Olympics? I'm not sure -- but I reckon someone will tell me if there have. In the meantime Oliver Hallasy takes the gold medal as Amputee of the Week.

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A story from yesterday about unexploded cluster bomblets in Iraq.

Bear in mind, though, that although there may be 17,000 bomblets littering Iraq there are between 8 and 12 MILLION landmines and other types of unexploded ordnance.

Guardian: Up to 17,000 unexploded bombs left in war zone, MP warns

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Back from my lightning trip to Cardiff.

Although it was a hassle going across, it was definitely worthwhile. It seems I have an Incredible Shrinking Stump. Old Mr S has lost 2cm in circumference in a fortnight.

I only wish I could say the same about my beer gut.

My prosthetist, Ian, bulked up the inside of the socket of the artificial leg with a liner, which has made for a much tighter and snugger fit. Sorted -- for another couple of weeks at least.

As a result, details of the new Amputee of the Week will have to wait until tomorrow.

However, this week's belated BBC diary (hey, don't blame me....I filed it on Wednesday) is now online here -- featuring "war reporter Jamie Tarabay." Yay!

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Friday, July 04, 2003

As if the Downing Street Vs the BBC Celebrity Deathmatch wasn't bloody enough already, it's going to get bloodier still next week when the Foreign Affairs Committee publishes its report.

The Times claims the position of the reporter at the centre of the storm, Andrew Gilligan, is under threat.

Not so, according to Head of News Richard Sambrook in an e-mail which all of us in the department received this afternoon and which The Guardian carries a report on.

What do I think? I couldn't possibly comment.

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I'm faced with a dilemma.

I now have two feet poking out of my trousers, which is great.

But only one of them smells.

Well, actually both of them smell -- but the right foot stinks of PVC.

So what should I do?

Swap my socks around on day two, thus halving my sock-washing burden?

Or throw them both in the wash, even though one of them has just spent the day covering a piece of plastic.

It's a tough call.

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During my visit to the office yesterday I got hold of this great publicity photo for the Iraq: The Cameraman's Story documentary that I talked about a few days ago.

It's of Fred Scott, DC and Fred's baby Chloe, surrounded by their gear.

I think it's just a great photo.

Fred and Darren talk about their film in the BBC's internal magazine for Newsgathering staff. I've scanned the article and posted it below as two JPEGs:

Turning The Camera On Themselves Page 1 (104Kb)
Turning The Camera On Themselves Page 2 (148Kb)

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Thursday, July 03, 2003

I very nearly did a day's work today.

In preparation for my official return to work I went into the office to talk through the plans so far for next year's Olympic Games in Athens, which I'll be helping to plan and oversee the coverage of.

We have 407 days to sort things out, which isn't as long as it sounds given the scale of the operation.

It all seems scarily close.

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Got to drive all the way from London to Cardiff and back tomorrow (a 300 mile round trip) just to get my leg tweaked.

How much of a pain in the arse is that?

The leg's a damn sight more comfortable than it was but it's still not quite that means dashing down the M4 for a quick consultation with my prosthetist, Ian.

I would try and fix it myself but I'd imagine it'd be similar to my attempts at putting up an Ikea wardrobe. I'd end up with a handful of screws and washers left over and it'd fall apart within an hour.

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I don't know why I didn't mention this sooner.

Aileen and I have given up drinking for a fortnight.

We're on the wagon until we go on holiday, at which point we will lie under a vat of chianti with our mouths open until we drown.

Today is our fourth day without liquid sunshine and yet despite all expectations, shares in Majestic are holding steady.

Which is more than can be said for us.

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(Source: The Guardian)

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Wednesday, July 02, 2003

It's three months to the day since the accident.

A quarter of a year with one foot.

Actually, I didn't recognise the significance of the date. It was only when a couple of people mentioned it that I realised.

Forgive me if I don't celebrate the anniversary.

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Stop this Beckham madness!

With TV viewers in Spain being treated to live TV coverage of David Beckham's 90-minute medical yesterday, it can only a matter of time before David Beckham Takes His Morning Dump, Beckham Scratches His Conkers and Posh and Becks Have Sex are shown on pay-per-view.

Apparently, three British newspapers have sent reporters to Madrid on permanent Beckham watch. Now that's real journalism.

It's a nice touch, though, that Beckham has chosen a shirt number to match his IQ.

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I've just been buying travel insurance for my holiday in Tuscany in a couple of weeks' time.

Maybe the events of the past few months have left me warped but the policy states that:
"The Medical Emergency Assistance service MUST be contacted as soon as possible in the event of You dying, incurring medical expenses in excess of £500, being involved in an accident, being admitted to hospital, curtailing your trip due to medical reasons or missing your flight due to medical reasons"

Far be it from me to pass judgment on what the dead are capable or incapable of doing but I think it's fair to say that a corpse would find it tricky to make a telephone call.

- "Hello, is that the insurance company?"
- "Yes."
- "Jolly good. I'm just ringing to let you know that I'm dead."

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Tuesday, July 01, 2003


Northern Iraq a model democracy? Not according to the New York Times:
NYT: Trying to Set Up Democracy in a Divided Kurdish Region

How to wage war on another country without needing a passport:
The Guardian: US-based missiles to have global reach

The latest on landmine clearance efforts in Somalia: Faction Leaders' Cooperation On Landmines Praised

Talk to us......please!
As if the on-going row with Downing Street wasn't enough, Israel has now joined in the BBC Snub-Fest:
Media Guardian: Israel cuts links with BBC
When in doubt, accuse the BBC of peddling Nazi propaganda. Subtle.
We'll see just how long that particular stand-off lasts. Still, the thought of hearing Ranaan Gissin say "no comment" has a certain novelty value about it.

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I owe some of you an apology.

Over the last few days some of you may have been horrified to receive an envelope bearing my ugly mug from MAG.

Inside, is a begging letter asking for a donation -- as if just because I've only got one foot you're supposed to feel sympathy or something.

So not only do you have to put up with me in real life, you now also have to put up with me in your junk mail as well.

I'm sorry, OK? -- But please give generously all the same.

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