Monday, May 31, 2004

Today has been a blog-free zone because I've spent much of it on my hands and knees staining, oiling and then waxing the oak floor in my dining room. It was looking as tired and ragged as I feel after spending a day renovating it.

Still, now it's as brown and lustrous as the Brazilian Olympic women's beach volleyball team.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Only on Planet Tabloid can a person go from total obscurity to front page news over the course of a weekend.

Less than 72 hours ago, the Great British Public was blissfully oblivious to the existence of 26-year old Vanessa Nimmo.

Today, she graced the coffee tables of millions of newspaper readers.

News of the World readers learned that the "Big Brother babe" had a "wild fling" with Manchester United striker, Alan Smith. "Using expert ball control the South African stunner, who managed to slip out of her thong without removing her own shorts on the show, got the star to come running whenever she called," reveals the Screws.

Hacks at the Sunday People, meanwhile, have clearly been waving their chequebooks in the direction of Vanessa's ex-husband Phil Shackles. In a People exclusive, Shackles brands her "an evil two-timer who destroyed their marriage."

However, the laws of gravity apply -- even on Planet Tabloid. Having been catapaulted from nowhere to the front pages of two national newspapers in roughly the same time as it takes to boil an egg, Vanessa Nimmo's career trajectory can now head in only one direction.
My friend and colleague Kevin Bishop gives a behind the scenes account of the BBC's coverage of the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
Photo of the day from Mychele Daniau of AFP -- a sand sculpture of the D-Day landings at Omaha beach in Normandy.

James Moore lays into the New York Times over its Iraq coverage apology -- and in particular reporter Judith Miller for her unquestioning reliance on Ahmad Chalabi as a source for her stories:

"When the full history of the Iraq war is written, the most scandalous chapter may be about how American journalists, in particular those at the New York Times, allowed themselves to be so easily manipulated by both Ahmad Chalabi, an Iraqi exile with his own virulently pro-war agenda, and the Bush White House...

"...He would not have survived a background check for a job at Slim's Used Cars, and was viewed with deep suspicion by the CIA and the state department; but he was good enough as a source for the New York Times, the Washington Post and other news outlets, all of whom burned their reputations on Chalabi's pyre of lies."

Which begs the question -- why has there not been a Gilligan-esque outcry in the US over the mistakes of Miller and others...and why did the NYT's apology come so soon after the Americans had so publicly dumped Chalabi and not before?

Saturday, May 29, 2004

That semi-disposable Swedish furniture went up a treat -- and will no doubt collapse just as quickly.

A new generation of tabloid fodder has been born with the launch of Big Brother 5.

Last night saw the 12 desperate wannabes trooping into the BB House, safe in the knowledge that when they emerge again they can look forward to a career consisting of supermarket openings, compering at nightclub student nights and -- if they're very, very lucky -- a slot on daytime TV.

Runaway leader in the self-obsessed-attention-seeking-desperate-to-be-controversial housemate stakes is Kitten, a toe-curlingly annoying vegetarian/radical feminist/animal rights activist/lesbian who has about as much chance of winning as I have of becoming Pope.

Still, South African stunna Vanessa and dippy sloane Shell have upped the eye candy quotient significantly on previous years.

Friday, May 28, 2004

No blogging today because I took an extra-long Bank Holiday weekend to go furniture shopping for the new house, trying to get into the shops before the weekend rush.

After stocking up with semi-disposable Swedish furniture I headed over to Richmond Park and hacked out for a couple of hours to get some practice in for the riding holiday in the Camargue I've booked for next month.

It sure beats working.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

It's a huge shame that two of the year's most intelligent and thought-provoking pieces of television came to be scheduled at the same time this evening.

Like buses, there's bugger all on the box for weeks...and then two come at once.

BBC Two, as I've already mentioned several times, showed One Day of War.

Over on Channel 4, meanwhile, was a feature-length dramatisation of the Omagh Bombing in 1998.

Made by Bloody Sunday director Paul Greengrass, Omagh was an raw, understated examination of the bombing and the unstinting efforts of ordinary people to achieve justice for their dead loved ones.

Underlying the film is the tension between the desire for the killers to be punished and the need to move on after a period of grief. In a telling scene, the mother of one dead Omagh victim cries "What happened? Someone killed Aidan -- that's what happened. I don't care why. All I want to know is that he's at peace."

Both landmark programmes of only concern was that a film about a bomb made from fertilizer was interspersed (unintentionally, I'm sure) with an advert for a chemical that makes your lawn grow.
The write-up from our in-house newspaper of the seminar I mentioned earlier (as a Word doc).

Abu Hamza looks like the Islamic Terrorist from Central Casting and he's perfect War on Terror propaganda.

His critics will say he's a shameless publicity seeker rather than a criminal mastermind.

But even so, the former Soho nightclub bouncer turned Islamist firebrand clearly has a case to answer and so plans to extradite him to the United States to faces terrorism charges are completely understandable and a long time coming.

Hamza claimed 9/11 was a Jewish plot. In February he said the space shuttle Columbia was destroyed by God because it was carrying an Israeli Jew, American Christians and an Indian-born Hindu.

He's been accused of recruiting jihadis and his Finsbury Park Mosque has been linked to a number of people connected to al-Qaeda – including shoe bomber Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui – the so-called "20th hijacker."

Abu Hamza has been linked to the Islamic Army of Aden - the organization that claimed responsibility for the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. The prosecution in the Yemeni court trying 8 British nationals, allegedly connected to the IAA, for planning attacks against Western targets said that Abu Hamza had masterminded the operation. The British men were arrested in December 1998 and in response the IAA took 16 tourists hostage, calling for the release of the men. A botched rescue operation resulted in the death of four of the hostages. Abu Hamza has admitted that IAA leader Abu Hassan phoned him during the hostage crisis. (Source: Background from BBC Research -- not available online.)

Hamza is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. Unlike other terrorist suspects he will have a chance to put his case in court.

If he's cleared, it'll be a massive publicity coup for him. If he's convicted he faces the death penalty or life in prison (although before anyone carps about the British authorities sending him off to his death, bear in mind that British extradition procedures make clear that the Home Secretary must not order extradition in a case where the offence is punishable by death unless he receives written assurances that such a sentence would not be carried out.)
Just back from a lunchtime seminar featuring senior BBC correspondents John Simpson and Jeremy Bowen on the topic: "Is BBC journalism still brave, surprising and distinctive?"

The conclusions -- Hutton shook us to the foundations and we can't ever stop improving what we do but even so the BBC is still producing hundreds of hours of news and current affairs on radio and TV and millions of words of text that is world-beating.

Lest you think it was a BBC love-in, there were plenty of criticisms and admissions that we've made -- and will continue to make -- mistakes.

The seminar was timed to coincide with the broadcast tonight of One Day of War (BBC Two, 2100 BST).

If you miss it -- or can't get BBC Two -- drop me an e-mail and I'll see about burning you a DVD.
Back-tracking slightly, here's Slate's explanation of the events that led to the New York Times apology -- and here's the post-game analysis.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


There's an astonishing piece of self-flagellation in the New York Times, which will be picked over for days to come.

The New York Times take a long hard look at itself over its coverage of the Iraq War -- and believes it came up short.

The mistakes identified by the paper raise fundamental questions -- particularly about the often too-cosy relationship between journalists (particularly in the US) and the governing administration.

The Times admits that:
* In a number of instances its coverage was not as rigorous as it should have been.
* In some cases, the information being passed to Times reporters was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged.
* Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more scepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper.
* The Times fell for misinformation from unreliable Iraqi exiles and defectors bent on regime change.
* On the issue of Iraqi WMDs, "it looks as if we, along with the administration, were taken in."

All credit to the NYT for throwing its hands up and admitting its shortcomings but it raises the question -- WHY? How did this happen?

Why did one of America's most prestigious publications not check its information as rigorously as it should? Why didn't editors challenge their reporters? Why did the Times fall for unreliable information? Why was it "taken in"?

It's going to be fascinating to watch this story being dissected and chewed over.

Meanwhile, CNN's Chris Cramer attacks some sections of the media for failing to take the issue of safety in hostile environments seriously enough.

If some of Britain's most notable (and valuable) works of art have gone up in smoke, does that mean the remnants left behind are still artworks (with some residual value) -- or just worthless piles of ashes?


Tuesday, May 25, 2004


The film that cameraman James Miller was working on when he was shot dead by an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip last year gets its UK TV premiere this evening.

Death in Gaza is on Channel 4 at 10.40pm.

"My fellow Americans, we will not fail. We will persevere, and defeat this enemy, and hold this hard-won ground for the realm of liberty." -- President Bush, United States Army War College, 24th May

The International Institute for Strategic Studies publishes its annual survey today and concludes that if the War on Terror were a school pupil it'd be sent to the back of the class, given extra lessons and forced to re-sit the year.

The main findings:
* Al-Qaeda has fully reconstituted and set its sights firmly on the US and its closest western allies in Europe.
* Al-Qaeda must be expected tto keep trying to develop more promising plans for terrorist operations in North America and Europe, potentially involving weapons of mass destruction.
* There appears to be little chance in the immediate future that the security vacuum that has dominated Iraq since liberation can be filled.
* The war against terror and the Iraq conflict has led to diplomatic underinvestment in the Middle East peace process.
In a piece clearly designed to inspire warm feelings towards Our Boys (while cocking an almighty snook at those beastly anti-war pinko liars at the Mirror) The Sun's John Kay -- convicted wife-killer (the full story is in this book) and self-styled "Forces' Favourite Reporter" -- has an exclusive on "Captain Courage" (please) Jim Bonney....the "first operational one-legged Commando in the illustrious 340-year history of the Royal Marines."

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest the photos of the courageous captain were taken at a Territorial Army base in Lancashire.
Note to President's Abu in Betty Grable.

The Guardian, meanwhile, goes big on the murky connections between Iran, Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraq War. In the most notable quote Larry Johnson, a former senior counter-terrorist official at the state department, says: "When the story ultimately comes out we'll see that Iran has run one of the most masterful intelligence operations in history. They persuaded the US and Britain to dispose of its greatest enemy."

Monday, May 24, 2004

I picked up a copy of The Ecologist that was lying around the office, unloved and unread, and have been dipping my toes into its organic, bio-friendly contents this evening.

It makes a change from Time and The Economist but I've found it by turns inspiring and hugely frustrating.

Inspiring in the sense that it has pricked my conscience and reminded me that small changes to my lifestyle (switching off the TV at the set to save elecricity, looking out for fair trade products) can make a real difference.

Frustrating in the sense that I'm still left with so many things (mobile phones, investments in suspect companies, Cuban cigars, a loathing for public transport) that fall foul of the eco-warriors.

The most startling discovery I made in the magazine was the work of Richard Box.

In February, Box -- the Artist in Residence at Bristol University's Physics Department -- created an installation in which he powered 1301 fluorescent light tubes just from the electromagnetic field emitted from overhead power lines.

If the power lines can do that to fluorescent tubes then just what are they doing to peoples' brains?
Reopening this posting, expelled Guardian Tehran correspondent Dan De Luce tells his side of the story.

Dan's argument -- Don't hold your breath for the next Iranian revolution because it ain't coming any time soon:

"Contrary to the fantasies of neo-conservatives, Iran is not on the verge of revolution and, if it was, the US wouldn't be able to orchestrate it.

"There is no coherent political opposition or leader able to harness public discontent. A significant number of Iranians are profiting from an economic boom and are not ready to risk their livelihood for democracy protests."

Sunday, May 23, 2004

A little bit of Iran came to west London last night as Tehran cameraman Kami and producer Negar popped over for dinner.

They're both eager to drink, club and make merry in London while they can before returning to Tehran next week.
I have mixed feelings about Michael Moore.

While I broadly share his political outlook, I find some of his work clumsy and weak. "Dude, Where's My Country?" for example was a terrible book that seemed like it'd been written in a hurry without sufficient thought, reflection or research.

Even so, it's fantastic news that Moore has scooped the Palme D'Or at Cannes for Fahrenheit 9/11.

The movie will put much-needed pressure on President Bush during his re-election campaign and as he tries to salvage his Iraq policy -- and that can only be a good thing.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Just as Greg Dyke gave his first interview after being made Director General of the BBC to commercial rival GMTV, so the news of Mark Thompson's appointment as his successor was broken by...The Guardian.

Another triumph for the BBC press office....but you heard it here first, anyway.
The announcement of the new BBC Director General could be imminent and my snouts in the Ivory Tower tell me it'll be Channel 4 chief executive, Mark Thompson.
On my way back from Turkey to London I stopped off in Istanbul to carry out a quick recce for next month's NATO summit.

Some of the most powerful leaders in the world -- Bush, Blair, Chirac, Norwegian bloke Kjell Magne Bondevik -- will be there. My main aim was to get a sense of the security operation that's being planned. Needless to say, with up to 30,000 police and security officers on duty and snipers on every rooftop Istanbul is going to be a fortress -- especially since a group allegedly linked to al-Qaeda was arrested for plotting to blow up the summit.

The biggest unknown is how big the demonstrations by anarchists, left-wing groups and anti-globalization protestors will be -- and how the Turkish authorities will respond. Activists are planning to turn out to show their opposition to the summit. They can expect and swift and robust response from the security forces.

As is so often the case in this job, I'm trying to predict the unpredictable and plan for the unknown.

While working through the list of who'll be attending the summit, the winner of the Best Looking International Statesperson Contest became clear. Step forward Kristiina Ojuland, Estonian Foreign Minister, Euro-Diplo-Babe and founding member of the Kaberneeme Club for the promotion of country life. Meanwhile, the Great Face for Radio award goes to the Prime Minister Of The Slovak Republic and Swiss Toni lookalike, Mikuláš Dzurinda. You know, running Slovakia is like making love to a beautiful woman....


CBS is reporting tonight that Ahmed Chalabi is accused of passing highly-classified US intelligence to Iran. Newsweek has already reported as much.

If the information Chalabi gave Tehran is on a par with the "intelligence" he fed to the Pentagon, the US has nothing to worry about.

John Dizard's recent article provides essential background on this story, tracing the links between Chalabi and the Washington neoconservatives.

Dizard believes Chalabi spotted the ignorance of the neo-cons in Middle Eastern affairs -- and sold them a pup:

"Chalabi appears to have recognized that the neocons, while ruthless, realistic and effective in bureaucratic politics, were remarkably ignorant about the situation in Iraq, and willing to buy a fantasy of how the country's politics worked. So he sold it to them."

Much more on the successful Everest expedition by BK amputee Nawang Sherpa here.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Andy e-mails with a link to Right Wing Stuff, a one-stop shop for all your liberal-baiting, muslim-hating merchandising needs.

Available now are T-shirts, mugs and caps with such hilarious slogans as "My SUV Loves Iraqi Oil," "Peace Through Superior Firepower" and the side-splitting "Islam is a Blast" (accompanied by a picture of a bomb.)

Oh, how we laughed as we wondered why the Arab world hates the west so much.
Advance notice that the major BBC documentary One Day of War will be shown on BBC Two on Thursday 27 May at 21:00BST.

There's an extensive website to accompany the programme, which follows fighters in 16 conflicts over the same 24 hour period.

The list of cameramen who filmed the doc reads like a who's-who of some of the bravest, most experienced and most respected guys in the business -- so One Day Of War should be essential viewing.
Well, well.

The home of Ahmed Chalabi, convicted fraudster, peddler of dodgy intelligence, Washington's former best friend in Iraq and the man once touted (by his own supporters) as a future president of the country has been raided.

The authorities are giving little away, but Salon's Andrew Cockburn has an interesting explanation for the raid. He claims Chalabi, maddened by the realization that he was being excluded from the post-June 30 handover arrangements, was putting together a sectarian Shiite faction to destabilize and destroy the new Iraqi government.

Perhaps the Pentagon's crooked and untrustworthy chum is finally getting his come-uppance.

The New York Times reports on the mine-clearing giant pouched rats of Mozambique -- although the article doesn't explain how they make flak jackets and metal detectors that small (Thanks Jane)
When I visited Tehran earlier this year I worked alongside the Guardian's correspondent Dan De Luce, who shares an office with the BBC.

Today I learned that Dan's been expelled from Iran for three months for making an authorised visit to the earthquake-hit city of Bam.

Meanwhile, Reuters is keeping up the pressure on the Pentagon over journalist fatalities in Iraq.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A fundamental security review is sure to ensue after a breath-taking breach which allowed a protestor to throw powder at Tony Blair during Prime Minister's Questions.

Despite the anti-blast blocks and armed police that surround the Palace of Westminster, the attack has highlighted how easily a lone terrorist carrying a vial of anthrax or sarin can get around the most sophisticated security measures and cause havoc and panic -- not just in the House of Commons but in any crowded public place in the world.

It was a bloody good shot, though.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

At Istanbul Airport, heading back to London after Tony Blair's visit to Ankara.

It was, as expected, a hell of a long way to go for a press conference.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

The Boston Globe looks at the CIA's interrogation techniques in connection with Abu Ghraib-- more than a week after they were discussed here.
More on Nawang Sherpa, the amputee who's heading for the summit of Everest.

He's hoping to reach the top tomorrow.
To Ankara in the morning to cover this.

It's a hell of a long way to go for a press conference.
Rightly so...
BBC News: Editor sacked over 'hoax' photos

although it's a shame Morgan was ultimately forced out by the paper's shareholders rather than doing the honorable thing and resigning for making such a catastrophic mistake.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Reuters are predicting an "Olympic sex slave boom" in Athens this summer.

Good job I'll be on expenses.
A must-visit lecture....for which tickets are, understandably, free.
I'll get flamed for it (again) but following on from this posting comes a telling quote about Nick Berg in the Washington Post:

"He was careless," said Abdul-Karim, an Iraqi operations manager for ASCS/GSCS, a construction and services company based in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. "We told him so many times: You should not go anywhere without security. He was not listening to this."

The Philadelphia Inquirer also tries to restore some balance to the avalanche of Nick-Berg-As-Saint coverage.
Nawang Sherpa is a 29 year old trekking guide who lives in the high mountains of the Khumbu region of Nepal.

He lost his left leg below the knee in a traffic accident four years ago. As I write Nawang Sherpa is trudging up Mount Everest, heading for the summit. He's hoping to become the first Sherpa-Amputee to reach the top.

My thoughts are with him.

(Read more about Nawang Sherpa here.)
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: Giving amputees a bad name....

"From Iran Zarqawi traveled to Iraq in May 2002, where his wounded leg was amputated and the limb fitted with a prosthetic device. He spent two months recovering in Baghdad, at which time "nearly two dozen extremists converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there."

(Source: National Review)

Thursday, May 13, 2004


The clearest sign yet that may days of youthful rebellion are well and truly over...this evening I sprayed the roses in my new garden with insecticide to try and kill the aphids (and yes, the insecticide was organic.)
Why is U.S. immigration terrorizing British reporters? asks Slate, which looks at the problems faced by journalists from the UK following a tightening up of US immigration procedures.

It sounds like some hacks have been having a rough time -- even though every journalist I know is well aware of the extra security measures they're likely to face at American airports and make sure they have the necessary paperwork.

When I went through Dulles in January (with a valid I visa in my passport) I was treated courteously and quickly.
Good stuff from Salon about how the recent images from Iraq have shifted the balance of power away from the traditional newsgatherers:

"What's ironic about the pictures we're seeing now is that journalists had nothing to do with them. While the government may still try to keep things away from reporters, what they cannot control are the images that are produced by others, even from the people who work for them."

NEE-NAW, NEE-NAW Lights a-flashing, the cliché police are on the scene -- and they've got a hot one for you.

Officer, arrest Sam Cook of southwest Florida's News-Press for capital crimes against journalism. Exhibit A -- the opening sentence of this column, which is without doubt the most shockingly bad piece of writing about an amputee I've ever seen.
There's a special BNI prize on offer to the first person to find the phrase "gymslip mum" somewhere in the media in relation to this story.

It must be out there somewhere.
The boundaries between conflict, the media and entertainment become ever more blurred.

The Armed Forces Minister, Adam Ingram, is expected to say later that the Daily Mirror's photographs of British troops apparently abusing Iraqi prisoners are fake.

If that's the case -- and the pictures can be proved beyond reasonable doubt to be hoaxes -- the Mirror's editor Piers Morgan should quit.

Of course it's in the government's interests to smear the Daily Mirror, which has been one of Fleet Street's most vocal opponents of the Iraq War. But just as the military must accept full responsibility for genuine incidents of abuse, so the media must take the fall if photos it presents as genuine turn out to have been staged -- even if the story accompanying them was true.

What Roy Greenslade calls "The Gilligan Defence" -- "some of the details were wrong, m'lud, but it was, in essence, true" -- just isn't good enough when a story has such high-stakes consequences, particularly in the Arab World.

It's claimed tonight that the father of Nick Berg was named as "the enemy" on a right-wing website in March for opposing the Iraq War.

If true, the mainstream media are going to be all over this angle like a rash when they learn of it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

USA Today analyses how news editors in American newsrooms dealt with the Nick Berg video, while AP looks at how the tape played out in the Arab world.

But the question remains. Just what was Nick Berg doing in Iraq?
Pvt. Lynndie England gives her side of the story and plays the role of obedient grunt, passing the buck over the Abu Ghraib prison photos to "persons higher in the chain of command."
The fate that befell Nick Berg is utterly shocking, grisly and vile. It cannot possibly be condoned under any circumstances.


- Berg had been warned to leave Iraq but refused.
- His father says he saw his trip to Iraq as "an adventure."
- He went to Iraq to look for work on reconstruction.

(Sources: AP and The Independent.)

If I want adventure I go scuba diving or horse-riding. If I needed work I'd search through the situations vacant ads.

Iraq isn't a place for freelance adrenalin junkies -- as the case of Nick Berg makes gruesomely clear.

We hacks love a crisis and my big Summer assignment -- the Athens Olympics has all the makings of one -- unfinished stadia, half-completed roads and endless setbacks.

But, like the Millennium Bug, the predictions of doom (not by me, I must add -- I've been purposely cautious) could come to nothing.

It's expected that the International Olympic committee will say today that all of the Athens venues will be ready.

Athens 2004 could be a success after all.

The Poynter Institute looks at the row in Poland over the publication on the front page of a tabloid of a graphic photo of correspondent Waldemar Milewicz, who was shot dead in Iraq.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Congratulations to Canadian athlete and LAK amputee Earle Connor who has been named Laureus Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.
Before anyone else e-mails me, the video apparently showing the beheading of an American in Iraq has been picked up by a website with a history of peddling a septic tank of gore and brutality under the flimsy guise of First Amendment rights.

Indeed, a picture of my own accident once featured on the site's forum, much to my disgust. Such is the nature of the digital world, though, that if you publish material out there you've got to expect that someone, somewhere may choose to use it in ways you never intended.

The gruesome video will certainly spark a fundamental shift in the debate over the Abu Ghraib prison abuse pictures, taking some of the pressure off the White House and allowing administration officials to contrast the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners with the infinitely more brutal fate of Nick Berg.


According to the latest Gallup poll, President Bush's job approval rating has dropped by 3 points in a week -- and currently stands at 46%

One for the stats fans -- Gallup's number crunchers point out that all five presidents who successfully sought re-election since 1950 have maintained job approval ratings above 50% beginning in February of the election year.

Gallup's figures also suggest that more Americans than ever are questioning the invasion of Iraq. For the first time a majority say it wasn't worth going to war. 44% now believe the war in Iraq was worthwhile. A year ago it was 73%.

The Boston Globe reports that some bloggers will be given press credentials for this Summer's Democratic National Convention.

At the moment I'm involved in planning the BBC's coverage of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy.

It's a monstrous deployment. Add together the national radio and TV crews, teams from Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the BBC's network of 40-odd local radio stations -- not to mention News Online, World TV, News 24, Newsround, Newsbeat and too many other outlets to remember -- and it feels as if there'll be more BBC foot soldiers invading the beaches of Normandy than there were allied troops in 1944.

My biggest fear is that some poor octogenarian veteran will be trampled to death by BBC journalists fighting to interview him.

Sky, CNN, ITN and all the other major broadcasters will be there as well -- and if you were to add every Tom, Dick and Harry with a blog into the mix it'd be complete pandemonium.

Having said that, some blogs probably have an audience larger than some of the "official" journalists applying for D-Day accreditation, so who's to say who should be eligible and who shouldn't?
A bill authorised by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee provides another $7.8 million for the care of amputees at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre.

While that's good news for the servicemen and women being treated there it's a sad indication of the number of military personnel losing limbs through war.
Assignment Turkey on Sunday where a certain world leader I can't name (because for security reasons no one's supposed to know he's going) is due to meet the Turkish President and Prime Minister.
It seems that someone has hijacked my URL and is using an automated program to spread spam on message boards.

This is absolutely nothing to do with me and is thoroughly annoying.

Apologies if you've been affected -- and if you know of any way to stop it, please let me know.

AP highlights a little known development in Basra -- the involvement of a Welsh Islamist militant group in the anti-coalition insurgency:

"Elsewhere, a previously unknown group warned foreigners...that they will be targeted for kidnapping and assassination. The message - directed at Americans, Britons and Kuwaitis - was made in a videotape from the Al-Taff Martyrs Brigade broadcast by Al-Jazeera television.

Monday, May 10, 2004

One assignment I'm working to bring to fruition is a trip to Zambia and Angola to witness this year's voluntary repatriation of refugees displaced by civil war.

I'm hoping it'll make a half hour radio documentary for the BBC World Service.

One of the main reasons I'm planning on going is because MAG are helping to organise the logistics.

The UN has just published an article on the landmine problem in Angola -- it explains that "Angola's decades-long civil war is over, but the presence of landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) remain a major obstacle to recovery."
Hoder has a new photoblog, entitled "Vagrantly."

Among his early entries is a photo taken at CBC's Toronto studios when we both took part in a discussion on blogging for the BBC World Service.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Winning the battle but losing the war:
WaPo: Dissension Grows In Senior Ranks On War Strategy Dissension Grows In Senior Ranks On War Strategy (Registration Required)

This, coupled with the predicted release of more shocking material from Abu Ghraib -- not to mention the growing media condemnation of his handling of the prison abuse scandal -- surely mean that Donald Rumsefld is now on borrowed time.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Deepening trouble and strife at progressive talk radio network Air America -- chairman Evan Cohen and his deputy Rex Sorensen have resigned and there are staff payroll problems.

It's the second executive shake-up in as many weeks, following the departure of Chief Executive Mark Walsh and programming head Dave Logan.

Will Air America become the XFL of radio?

Chicago Tribune: Chairman, partner leave Air America (Registration Required)

The US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld may still enjoy the support of President Bush despite the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal but The Economist insists he should go.

"Responsibility for what has occurred needs to be taken ? and to be seen to be taken ? at the highest level," it says in a leader column. "It is plain what that means....Rumsfeld should resign. And if he won't resign, Mr Bush should fire him."

The Economist wanted this war -- it should accept the consequences of it.
In a piece of stunningly unoriginal journalism Sky News are going big today with a story about sex tourism in Cambodia.

The headline from the special "Sky News Investigation" are paedophile sex tourists in South East Asia. Astonishing. (Regular readers will know that ever since I visited Cambodia last year I've had a bee in my bonnet about this one.)
Kaveh's name is among those to be added to the Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
Reopening this posting, the New Jersey Star-Ledger asks whether news helicopters are more trouble than they're worth.

The Star-Ledger believes, correctly, that on many stories the choppers are more about showbiz than they are about genuine newsgathering.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Yet more on the Abu Ghraib/Stanford Prison Experiment similarities:
NY Times: Simulated Prison in '71 Showed a Fine Line Between `Normal' and `Monster'

...but Vikram Dodd of the Guardian says the American soldiers in Abu Ghraib were simply using well-established CIA interrogation methods.

Read the CIA manuals concerned for yourself here and here.

Both make fascinating, if at times terrifying, reading.
President Bush has told al-Arabiya that the US will "fully investigate" the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners by military personnel and "justice will be served."

What, like the "full investigations" and subsequent handing down of justice following the deaths of Tariq Ayyub, Taras Protsyuk, José Couso, Mazen Dana, Ali Al-Khatib and Ali Abdel Aziz?

Don't hold your breath.

It's news imitating life imitating news at its most self-referential.

A helicopter owned by New York TV station NewsChannel 4 dramatically spins out of control and crashes onto a rooftop while filming a shooting.

The crash is captured on tape by another news crew (great pictures) -- and so becomes the lead story on NewsChannel 4.

Later, the removal of the helicopter wreckage becomes the follow up story -- filmed by a cameraman on NewsChannel 4 chopper.

Keep this up and rolling news networks won't have to cover any other news at all. They can just report on crashes involving their own newsgathering vehicles and the deaths of their own staff. Journalists will then be able to interview themselves for eyewitness accounts of what happened in a never-ending loop.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

BBC News Online picks up on the similarities between the Iraq prison abuse photos and the Stanford Prison Experiment -- only six days after this posting.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Around 50 retired American diplomats have followed the example of their British counterparts and written to President Bush to complain about America's policy towards the Middle East.

No doubt the US press corps will be scanning the names closely, looking for any similarities to those uncovered by the Sunday Telegraph, which reported on the weekend that several of the key signatories are paid by pro-Arab organisations.

Nothing wrong with that, of course -- but it should have been made clear in the letter.
To be filed in the "stating the bloody obvious" folder, the The Committee to Protect Journalists awards Iraq the unenviable accolade of the World’s Worst Place to Be a Journalist.

The CPJ awards panel obviously haven't visited Television Centre recently.

Meanwhile, Reporters Sans Frontières says the the number of journalists killed in the line of duty rose to its highest level in nearly a decade last year.

Monday, May 03, 2004

The New York Times reports on Media Matters, a new "Web-based, not-for-profit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media."

Looks like one to watch.
Sympathies to the prosthesis-less scuffler from one amputee to another:
NZ Herald: Hastings man has artificial arm pulled off in fight