Sunday, October 31, 2004

Washington DC is the best city in the world to cycle in.

Light traffic, wide sidewalks, short distances between the main sites and plenty of green open spaces make it a joy to get around the nation's capital on two wheels.

I've rented a bone-shaker from Better Bikes. I can't exactly recommend the company -- my bike arrived dirty and I could probably have bought the thing twice over for less than I'm paying in rental, but even so, on a glorious bright early Autumn day like today I was glad to have it.

I can't gain access until the morning to begin rigging for election night so I spent the day cheering on some friends who were competing in the Marine Corps Marathon.

First stop was the 14 mile mark near Capitol Hill before heading over to the finish line in Arlington.

So, congratulations to:
Craig Summers: 04:32:09
Zach Hudson: 05:37:27
Lynn Bradach: 05:49:44

and the entire Adopt-A-Minefield Minesweepers team.

Sometimes it helps to be part of the Coalition of the Willing.

Every major broadcaster in the world is vying for a little bit of prime real estate 3 feet wide and 8 feet deep. There are 62 of these plots of land -- and everybody wants one. Because on election night they'll be the live positions overlooking the podium at the Washington convention centre where George W.Bush will make his victory or concession speech. They'll be banked up on a scaffolding tower four stories high.

If you're French or from Al Jazeera you can forget about getting a place on the riser. But thanks to Tony Blair and his special relationship with the Commander in Chief the Brits are looked on kindly by the Republican National Committee -- and our chances of getting a space are good.

Meanwhile, the BBC Washington bureau is being transformed.

Offices are being turned into broadcast control rooms, lengths of cable snake up the walls like ivy and TV monitors are sprouting like weeds.

On election night the bureau will be packed tighter than a barn full of battery chickens.

I wish I could claim some secret intelligence over the way the election will go but we're reading the tea leaves and trying to second guess the electorate in exactly the same way as everyone else.

My gut is still predicting a Bush victory -- especially following the airing yesterday of the Osama Bin Laden video -- but in truth no-one can really say for sure.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

"Princess Alice: Send Us Your Tributes."

What do you mean you couldn't give a flying fuck?

Friday, October 29, 2004

Heading to Washington this morning to begin presidential election coverage.

More from there.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

I can't vouch for the veracity of this posting -- but it's extremely worrying if true.

(Thanks Lynn)

With the presidential race so tight, I was pondering whether the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series would act as a late boost for John Kerry.

Seems I'm not the only one to be wondering the same thing.

Expect to see Kerry riding on the coat-tails of the Red Sox victory in the next news cycle.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


The row over the choice of Rocco Buttiglione as a European Commissioner is an interesting one.

Mr Buttiglione's views on homosexuality and marriage may be odious to forward-thinking liberals, but to many Europeans they wouldn't be regarded as extreme.

Indeed, they're broadly in line with the teachings of Catholicism -- a religion practised by millions of people across Europe.

As the Economist has asked, if Rocco Buttiglione's beliefs lie within Catholic orthodoxy, does this mean that Catholic orthodoxy lies outside the mainstream of European beliefs?

Yet at the same time that Mr Buttiglione is coming under fire, some EU states are using the European Union’s common Christian heritage as an argument to try to exclude Turkey from joining their club.

They can't have it both ways.
John C. Dvorak says podcasting "isn't ready for prime time" -- and then launches into a pedantic ramble to explain why not (link hat-tip to Doc Searls.)

For me, Dvorak misses the point completely. It's not about format -- it's about content.

If Podcasting isn't ready for the big time, it's mainly because most of the Podcasts on offer are pretty damned dull.

I currently grab radio programmes onto my PC via the WinTV digital terrestrial box and then drop them onto my iPod.

It's a laborious process -- but it means I'm able to catch up with hours of fantastic radio while cycling to work or doing the grocery shopping that I'd otherwise miss.

If that sort of content was available to download as a podcast, then we'd be talking great technology.
Less than a week to go until America decides and my itinerary for election night is becoming clearer.

I'll be at a conference centre in central Washington, where George W. Bush will hold an election night event for around 4,000 invited guests (and a similar number of journalists, no doubt).

Once campaigning is over, Bush is expected to vote in Texas before heading back to Washington. He'll speak at the Washington rally when (or perhaps if) the result becomes clear.

It's going to be a late night.

In 2000, NBC was the first network to predict the result -- calling Florida for Al Gore at 1949EST. The other nets soon followed suit, only to retract the prediction some hours later.

With Bush and Kerry still running neck-and-neck, the chances of a re-run of the 2000 debacle are increasing.

At least a dozen law suits pertaining to election procedure have already been filed in battleground states, and thousands of lawyers are preparing to fan out across the country, ready to pounce at the first sign of trouble.

See you in court (again).
Watch out Vick -- you might be next.

BBC News: Blogger grounded by her airline

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

75 years on the clock + "gallstones" + fasting during ramadan + 2 years locked in the Muqata = Arafat Death Watch.

Haaretz: Arafat said to be stable after minor exploratory surgery
The White House press corps has a language all of its own.

As well as formal press conferences, the journalists talk to the President's spokesman in a daily "gaggle."

When they want to know the chronology of an event, they ask for the "tick tock."

When Bush or Kerry leaves a location, they don't just take off -- they go "wheels up."

It's English -- but not as we know it.
JOHN PEEL. 1939-2004.


Overwhelming evidence that Rupert Murdoch doesn't watch his own news channel.

Media Guardian: Murdoch - Fox News does not favour Bush

We get some pretty weird literature coming through the post in the office but Pave-It, the official organ of the Precast Concrete Paving and Kerb Association, takes some beating.

The October issue of this fine journal contains agenda-setting articles on such burning topics as "mechanised installation techniques for concrete paving blocks" and "the popularity of concrete block permeable pavements."

But I was particularly annoyed that I'd manage to miss a crucial story while covering the Athens Olympics -- namely the impact of concrete block paving on the Games.

I'm going to keep my copy close at hand at all times.

Whenever I get frustrated with my job I can take it out and gain comfort from the fact that no matter how bad things are, at least I don't write for Pave-It.

Haven't I read this story before somewhere before?

Ah yes -- it was here.

As usual, the report fails to mention the fact that, unlike ITV and Sky, the BBC operates a multitude of international, national and regional TV and radio channels -- as well as one of the best news websites in the world -- all of which need to be serviced.

But don't get me started.
Political scientist Elizabeth Wishnick says the "war on terror" is obscuring a greater security problem in Central Asia -- that of landmines.

A spate of unexplained violence in Tashkent and Bukhara in March-April 2004 made headlines, while land mines along Uzbekistan’s borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and within that state regularly cost lives and damage property without attracting significant international attention," she says.

"International assistance continues to target anti-terrorism efforts, leaving demining programs underfunded.

Monday, October 25, 2004


CNN's Candy Crowley complains of the rigours of life on the campaign trail:

"It's very physically demanding. I come home, I'm covered with bruises from hitting plane seats and computers crashing up against you -- because you're on the plane, you're off the plane, you're in the bus, you're off the bus, you're in the hotel room, you're in the baggage room."

Crowley is a good political journalist but her first name is an apt one.

She's not the most svelte member of the White House press corps -- which is a great asset in a full-blown media scrum, but not so beneficial in confined spaces.

I've just finished reading -- or rather, listening to "Naked in Baghdad," an account of last year's Iraq war by NPR foreign correspondent Anne Garrels.

Even though I also covered the war, mainly for BBC radio, I found the book surprisingly unsatisfying.

Garrels' job is almost identical to mine and so tales of flak jackets, satellite phones held together with duct tape, meagre booze rations and endless working days in less-than-salubrious conditions have long since lost their sheen of glamour and danger. Such assignments are usually just plain shitty -- as you'll know if you've followed this blog from the early days.

More than anything else, though, what spolit the book for me were the toe-curlingly mawkish circular e-mails sent to friends by Garrels' husband, Vint Lawrence -- which are republished in full. Each so-called "Brenda Bulletin" (named after the comic-strip reporter Brenda Starr) caused me to cringe with embarrassment.

Nevertheless, given Garrels' profession as a radio reporter, "Naked In Baghdad" is the perfect book to be adapted into an audio version.

Garrels is a captivating narrator and a fine journalist, with a rare ability to draw poignant stories out of ordinary people. Her observations during the breakdown of law in order in the days immediately following the fall of Saddam Hussein are also remarkably prophetic.

Just skip the Brenda Bulletins.

Back to the topic of gadgets...and the widget which has just made the biggest difference to my life is the simplest and cheapest.

As an amputee, the biggest problem I have when cycling my bike to work is that my artificial leg has a nasty habit of slipping of the pedals at inopportune moments because I can't bend my leg at the ankle to give myself more grip.

Today I fitted a pair of toe clips and bingo! -- problem solved.

Not only can I pedal without fear that my leg will fly into the path of an oncoming car but -- for the first time since my amputation -- I can also cycle in a standing position.

Vicky told me months ago I should invest in toe clips. I should have listened.
A week ago I was coming down from a cloud after a star-studded weekend in LA.

This morning I'm waiting in for Dynarod to come round with their long brushes to get rid of the half a tonne of stinking human shit I've just discovered back up behind a blocked drain at the bottom of my garden -- an unwanted (bowel) moving gift from the previous owners, I suspect.

Coping with a huge bucketload of shit. The perfect preparation for covering the US presidential election next week.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

I Don't Do Fiction.

I can't remember the last novel I read. I just don't have the time or the patience anymore. Plus, there's so much great non-fiction I want to read that I never seem to get as far as that Great Undiscovered Novelist from Azerbaijan that everyone's raving about.

Sadly, three years of studying English and American Literature sucked the joy out of reading anything non-factual. I'd rather climb Mount Kilimanjaro with a hangover than tackle a 800 page tome.

So I have nothing but pity for the Economist's literary editor Fiammetta Rocco. She's just surfaced, blinking like a mole, after wading through 50,000 pages of fiction in her role as a Booker Prize judge.

Rocco got through 132 books in 147 days -- an experience she likens to "taking a course in kick-boxing."

She's got some stamina.

I love my gadgets.

If you can upload it, Firewire it or Bluetooth it, the chances are I'll want it.

I'm a sucker for Stuff Magazine and Gizmodo.

However, even I am bemused by the latest offering from sportswear company O'Neill.

In a world where millions are dying from AIDS and children are starving, O'Neill is making the world a better place with The Worlds First Mobile Communications and Entertainment Jacket.

Why wear a coat that just protects you from the elements when you can have one with a built in MP3 player you can control from your left arm and a mobile phone headset wired into the collar.

Almost as useful as USB sushi.

This week I ordered some prints taken in LA from Photobox.

I couldn't fault the company -- their website's easy to use and the photos arrived less than 24 hours after I placed the order.

Except they weren't my photos.

Instead of a shot of me waving my leg at the Beverly Hill glitterati, I got this delightful snap of....well, who knows who they are?

Anyone recognise them?

Most members of the armed forces go into battle hoping they've got God on their side.

Not Chris Cranmer, a naval technician serving on the Type 22 frigate Cumberland.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Cranmer has become the first registered Satanist in the British Armed Forces.

Pity the fellow sailors who'll have to put up with Cranmer listening to his Slayer CDs morning, noon and night.

Friday, October 22, 2004

I've already mentioned Lynn Bradach from Portland, Oregon.

Lynn lost her son Travis in Karbala last year and has since become a fellow anti-landmine campaigner. She, like me, received an Adopt-A-Minefield award last Friday.

Lynn's running the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington on October 31st -- and as I'll be in town for the election I'll be there to cheer her on.

She was the subject of a sequence on Radio 4's The World Tonight programme this week, which I've just managed to get hold of.

It's a moving interview which is well, well worth listening to. It's just over 9 minutes long and is a 1.57Mb MP3 download.

Audioblog: Lynn Bradach on The World Tonight

Some time ago I contributed an interview to Blogumentary, a doc being made by Minneapolis-based film-maker Chuck Olsen.

It was a great example of how digital video is revolutionising film-making. Chuck e-mailed me a list of questions and I set up my PD-150 and answered them as though he was sitting there opposite me -- when in fact I was talking to a blank wall and Chuck was the other side of the Atlantic. Then I digitised the interview, burned it onto disc, sent it to the USA, and Chuck dropped the sections he wanted to use into the movie.

On November the 5th, Blogumentary will get its world premiere at the City Pages Get Real Documentary Film Festival in Minneapolis.

Chuck writes:

"Blogs, and the entire mediascape, have changed quite a bit since I started making this film two years ago. BLOGUMENTARY takes you on a tour through the history of blogs and media, all the way up to blogs’ role in the downfall of Trent Lott, the rise of Howard Dean, and Dan Rather’s forged memo debacle.

"Along the way you’ll meet some interesting people who’ve used blogs to connect to others and even save lives. All of this and more, with me as your wacky tour guide.

"For those not in Minnesota, I'm submitting the film to festivals around the globe starting next month. Hopefully, the citizen media revolution will hit a big screen near you during the next year!"

Thursday, October 21, 2004


John Kerry gave ammunition to the "Wildfowl for Bush" campaign this morning when he and his hunting buddies blasted lead through the wings of four Republican-leaning Canadian Geese in Poland, Ohio.

In a clear indication of the level of the political debate surrounding the presidential campaign, Bush-Cheney spokesman Steve Schmidt reloaded and shot back, saying "John Kerry has received an F grade from both the NRA and the Gun Owners Association. He can put on an orange vest, but he can't change who he is."

I wish I could say I made the whole thing up, but sadly it's all true.
In a telling quote, NBC's Tom Brokaw looks forward to the US presidential election by saying:

"Four years ago, Tim (Russert) said it was 'Florida, Florida, Florida.' This year, it will be journalism, journalism, journalism."

So Brokaw is trumpeting the fact that on election night NBC is going to be concentrating to get things right.

What a novel concept for a news network.

My criticisms of the United States over its failure to sign the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty are well-known.

Even so, it's a fact that the US has committed almost $600 million to mine action initiatives over the past decade and that a lot of lives and limbs have been saved as a result.

I'm currently building my contacts within the State Department as just because I don't agree with all aspects of US policy on the landmine issue doesn't mean I can't have a dialogue with them.

America's latest update on its mine clearance efforts worldwide has just been published and is well worth a look. The accompanying press release is here.
I was specifically asked not to post up an article written by Frank Gardner for our internal News department magazine -- but that hasn't stopped someone from leaking it to the Daily Mirror, which has quoted verbatim from Frank's article and passed it off as an "exclusive."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

It won't surprise you to learn that I don't dash round the corner every morning to pick up the Daily Mail -- mainly because it's a spiteful and bigoted rag.

Therefore it wasn't until today that I was alerted to this typically non-partisan piece of bile from yesterday's edition:

BBC invades US: From Daily Mail - 19/10/2004

AS BBC Director-General, Mark Thompson has promised to be careful with the Corporation's public money - he has ordered its news division to slash 20 per cent off its budget this year. So no doubt he will be thrilled that to meet his strictures, the BBC are sending a mere 200 staff to cover the presidential election in America next month.

'I mean it's not as though there is a need to be all over the country - there are only two candidates, for Heaven's sake,' says one insider at Television Centre. 'Our main gripe is the number of programme editors who seem to find it necessary to be there.

'It's outrageous. None of them has got any particular American expertise and it could be argued that editorial decisions would be better made in London.

'There is a general feeling that this is completely over the top.

'I hope HM Customs swoop on them when they return to Britain like they did with Wayne Rooney's girlfriend, because half of them will have only gone to the States to do their Christmas shopping!' Among those executives scheduled to make the trip are Mark Popescu, the head of News 24, and Kevin Bakhurst, editor of the Ten O'clock News.

The BBC tell me that the number of people going to America is 'under 200'.

A spokesman says: 'It's a crucial international news event and we believe we have the right number of people in place to provide the authoritative, comprehensive coverage our audiences have come to expect across BBC TV radio and online.'

In case you weren't aware, the Daily Mail's parent company, Daily Mail and General Trust plc, also owns a 20% stake in rival news broadcaster ITN -- home of the laughably amateurish ITV News Channel.

I'd also point you to the ITV Network Statement of Programme Policy 2003-2004 which tells you everything you need to know about ITN's commitment to in-depth foreign news coverage in these changing times:

"All major international stories will be covered with reports sourced from specialist correspondents and dedicated foreign bureaux in the key newscentres of the world: Washington, Jerusalem and Brussels.

There are currently also news bureaux in Moscow, Johannesburg and Bangkok. It may be necessary to review the bureaux ITV News maintains abroad, adapting resources to meet changing editorial requirements."

So...ITN operates a grand total of six foreign bureaux -- and even these are facing the axe.

The BBC operates...44.

And while I'm on the subject of the Daily Mail, it's ironic to note that the paper's former star columnist Lynda Lee-Potter's death from a brain tumour is being treated with more reverence than she herself lavished on a fellow tumour sufferer, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam.

When Dr Mowlam gained weight as a result of the same condition that killed the so-called "First Lady of Fleet Street," Lee-Potter described her as resembling "an only slightly effeminate Geordie trucker".

Rest in peace, Lynda.
Fellow Adopt-a-Minefield honouree (or should that be honoree?) Lynn Bradach gets a write-up in The Oregonian.

Photographer Bill Bernstein has just sent across some photos from last Friday (thanks Bill!)

In return, I'm happy to plug Bill's new book "Each One Believing" and the accompanying exhibition, which opens in London next month.

Photo 2
Photo 3
Thank God for Google if I ever get lifted.

BBC News: Google 'saved' Australian hostage

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I'm behind the curve as usual but for once I have an excuse; I was kind of busy on Friday when the sublime Jon Stewart appeared on CNN's Crossfire and made utter asses of Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala (and by the way when oh when is the Daily Show going to be picked up by a British channel?)

Stewart unzipped his fly and unleashed a torrential golden shower over the entire self-inflated cable punditocracy. His performance could turn out to be a seminal moment in the history of Talk TV.

Watch the whole exchange here.

What's more, Cory Bergman of Lost Remote notes that close to twice as many (probably more than twice as many by the time I write this) viewers have downloaded Jon Stewart's performance from the internet as watched the original show on CNN.

Who needs cable when you've got file sharing?
I probably shouldn't be asking but if anyone knows a source, official or otherwise, for a recording of Friday's Paul McCartney set -- please give me a shout.
Just working my way through the deck of business cards I brought back with me from LA and adding them to my contacts book.

Some new and notable landmine links:

US State Dept Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement
Canadian Landmine Foundation
Clear Path International

Monday, October 18, 2004

Back in London. Brain addled.

There's a selection of Red Carpet photos from Friday's gala here.

Still waiting for the ones of my speech to come through.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

I’m a humanitarian. It says so on my award – so it must be true.

Last night was one to remember. Pamela Anderson, Orlando Bloom, Catherine Zeta Jones, Michael Douglas, Jay Leno and Steve Buscemi mingled with lots of people I didn’t recognise, but who definitely had much more money than taste. Plenty of great photo opportunities for the family album but unfortunately cameras were banned so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous until I walked into the ballroom and saw just how big the event was, with around 1400 guests. Then I crapped myself.

Snub of the evening came soon after I’d taken my seat at the dinner table when the waiter refused to serve me wine because I didn’t have ID. Ah, the good old USA. I can get my leg blown off by a landmine but I can’t get a drink in California without showing my passport. Thankfully, actor William H Macy vouched that I was over 21 and thus entitled to a glass of the demon drink.

Then the back-slapping began, with everyone saying how wonderful everyone else was in between vegetarian dinner courses.

I managed to stay sober until after dinner when I was called up to collect my award and give my acceptance speech….and yes, of course I did my ever-popular “take your leg off and wave it in the air” party piece. It never fails.

Here's the addition to the mantlepiece.

Here’s the speech:

It’s a huge privilege – not to say a little overwhelming -- to be here this evening to accept this award. I’d like to thank Paul and Heather and Adopt-A-Minefield for this recognition and the amazing people who work for the Mines Advisory Group – some of whom are here this evening -- for giving me a cause and a purpose when I needed it most.

On April 2nd 2003 I smelled explosives and burnt meat and I knew that my life would never be the same again.

I had been working in Northern Iraq for two months, covering the war against Saddam Hussein as it unfolded.

While reporting from Kifri, a town about 80 miles north of Baghdad, I stepped on an unmarked anti-personnel landmine left behind by retreating Iraqi forces, which blew my right heel wide open.

Thinking we were coming under mortar attack, my cameraman, Kaveh Golestan, instinctively tried to run for safety.

But in doing so he stepped on one mine and was thrown forward onto a second.

He was killed instantly.

Surgeons did their best, but five days after stepping on that landmine, my leg was amputated below the knee.

In these grand surroundings, it’s easy to lose sight of why we’re here.

We’re here because people in more than 80 countries are forced to risk their lives every day because landmines contaminate their villages and their fields.

We’re here because, every year, thousands of people are killed and injured by weapons that don’t discriminate between soldier or civilian, between man, woman and child.

And by being here every one of you is making a difference.

Because the money raised here this evening will go directly towards mine clearance and survivor assistance and will bring the day when the world is finally freed of the scourge of landmines that little bit closer.

And here's what Reuters had to say about the evening.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Just got a sneak peek of this evening's event.

I went down to the Los Angeles Ballroom to run through my bit with the organisers.

Paul McCartney was running through his sound check when I arrived and I stood by the side of the stage and gawped. One of the greatest names in the history of music was standing there jamming out "A Hard Day's Night" to an audience of about 20 technicians and road crew, like a garage band playing on the stage of an empty bar on a Monday evening.

Except this was no ordinary bar.

Tonight the ballroom will host more than a thousand of the great and the good of LA society -- oh, and me and Aileen as well, of course.

The paparazzi are already gathering outside next to the red carpet, ready to snap the celebs as the sashay in.

What the hell am I doing here?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Here's the press release for tonight's event.

Greetings from LA!

My patented long-haul cocktail of rum and cokes chased down with a sleeping tablet has helped ensure that I've hit the Californian ground running without the slightest whiff of jetlag.

I'm staying at the Century Plaza Hotel in Beverly Hills, where tonight's gala is taking place, and most agreeable it is to -- although the Always On LA Attitude is a little in-your-face for my shy and retiring British sensibilities.

I'm off to explore Rodeo Drive before getting ready for tonight's festivities.

I fear, however, that photos of the event may be limited. I've been told that cameras are strictly forbidden in order that shots of pissed up A-List celebrities flashing their knickers don't make it into the papers.

I'll do what I can.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The suit is dry cleaned, the speech is written, the bags are packed, and tomorrow morning I head to Los Angeles to pick up my award at the Adopt-A-Minefield Benefit Gala hosted by Paul McCartney.

Should be one hell of an evening.
Reuters previews the Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World in November and December -- which I'll be attending.

A review carried out for the government says the daily news programme on digital channel BBC Three should be scrapped because it "achieves nothing and attracts tiny audiences."

How unfortunate that the report should be published just as the BBC is recruiting for an editor of BBC Three News -- someone who can "deliver an evening news programme for BBC3 which reflects the audience of the Channel."

Don't all rush at once.

Nelson Mandela is 85.

Although it's a taboo subject for many, it's a fact of life that even a Living Legend isn't going to carry on forever.

In the World News planning department we have to prepare for the inevitable, so that when the dreaded AP News Alert drops on the wires we're ready.

When it happens, the death of Nelson Mandela will be one of the biggest international news stories of the decade. As with a military campaign, plans for the coverage of such a major event can't be put together overnight.

Reading about our plans was one of those moments when reality seems to momentarily slip away.

With just one phone call, it's possible to charter an entire Boeing 757 which will prepared, fuelled and sitting on the tarmac ready to fly cargo and crew from London to Johannesburg within six hours.

Make sure you haven't maxed out your credit card, though, because it'll cost you £190,000.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Expect a big story to drop from Iraq tomorrow morning.

I understand it'll emerge that the remains of around 300 people are being exhumed near Mosul.

More tomorrow....

When I was at the Paralympics I marvelled at Marlon Shirley's prosthesis -- the state of the art, carbon fibre Cheetah.

Now, following today's visit to the hospital, I'm going to have one of my own.

In order for me to get a feeling for what it was like, prosthetic technician and amputee distance runner Andrew Palmer took his personal Cheetah and attached it to a bespoke socket he'd made up using my measurements.

This afternoon he let me try it out.

It was unbelievable.

It wasn't as good as running with a real foot -- I'd almost go so far as to say it was better!

For the first time in more than a year I was able to sprint.

In fact, the foot was so responsive and returned so much energy that the main problem I encountered was trying to stop. I bounded effortlessly along the corridors of the hospital, the foot propelling me forward like nothing I'd ever felt before.

I, quite literally, had a spring in my step -- and the sight of a slightly out of shape amputee hurtling around the hospital screaming "It's brilliant! It's brilliant!" soon drew a crowd of prosthetists wanting to know what all the fuss was about.

As you might expect, technology like the Cheetah doesn't come cheap -- and my prosthetist, Ian, wasn't about to supply me with one only for it to gather dust in a cupboard.

We talked through how I might use one and agreed to aim for a goal, such as a 10K race, to ensure the leg gets used to its full potential.

The little beauty's now on order -- so expect to see me pounding the streets of west London some time soon.

Monday, October 11, 2004

To Cardiff for a 10,000 mile service on my leg.

Back tomorrow.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

MSNBC previews next Friday's Adopt-a-Minefield benefit gala hosted by Paul McCartney in Los Angeles -- which I'll be attending!

Friday, October 08, 2004

Sources tell BNI that the video released by Muslim militants, apparently confirming the murder of Ken Bigley, dressed in an orange jump suit, pleading for his life, saying he is too old to die.

A masked militant reads a statement claiming Tony Blair has failed to meet a demand for the release of women prisoners from American jails in Iraq.

A flag from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group hangs in the background.

A man grabs Bigley's head and cuts it off with a knife, then holds it up to a group of six masked men.
Lu e-mails to tell me that if you miss out an "s" in my URL you get taken to a "mega-site of Bible, Christian and religious information & studies."

Nothing to do with me, it won't surprise you to hear.
A few weeks I appealed for help in raising money for Andrew Palmer, an amputee runner from my home town of Cardiff who's hoping to make his mark on the international Paralympics circuit by competing in a half marathon in San Diego, California, next month.

Alex followed up with a story in the local paper -- and it certainly got him noticed.

A number of readers came forward with offers of donations and someone has pledged to pay for Andrew's flights and accommodation.

Andrew has e-mailed me to say he's now raised enough money to take part in the race.

He ran a half marathon in Cardiff last weekend in a time of 1:28:47, beating his personal best by 02:01. With two more half marathons to run over the next few weeks, Andrew's confident he'll be in prime shape to challenge the course record in California.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Here's why I've chosen not to do a tour of duty in Baghdad recently -- right now, the story just ain't worth the risks.

As P.Mitchell Prothero explains:
"The US-led coalition is largely indifferent to journalist safety, and, worse, Iraqi authorities are openly hostile.

"And with US government contractors moving almost exclusively within heavily guarded compounds, journalists have become primary Western targets."

Remember this article the next time someone from the Bush administration claims journalists are "too afraid" to travel outside Baghdad.

(Link via Romenesko, who also highlights this interesting piece about the propaganda war.)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


Chief Iraqi weapons inspector Charles Duelfer will present the findings of the Iraq Survey Group later to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He's expected to say that the ISG has found no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Iraq.

On the surface, Duelfer's conclusion would seem to undermine a central rationale of Washington and London's strategy to remove Saddam Hussein: that Saddam's Iraqi government had weapons of mass destruction (indeed, that's the top line that the AP is going with.)

However, the White House and Downing Street will spin the ISG report into a clear justification for invading Iraq by focusing on a number of findings:

1) That Saddam had never abandoned his intention to acquire chemical weapons.
2) That he was in multiple breach of UN resolutions.
3) That he had an aggressive strategy to subvert the UN's oil-for-food programme.

I understand that the ISG report will suggest that Saddam planned to resume his WMD programme once international sanctions were lifted.

It will point to evidence of deception by the Iraqi regime.

It will suggest that Saddam retained an ability to develop chemical weapons and long-range missile systems.

Once the ISG report is published, Washington and London's defence of the Iraq War will focus squarely on capability and intent.

British and American administration officials will say that although no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons were found Iraq, the ISG has found overwhelming evidence that, left unchecked, Saddam Hussein would have attempted to obtain them.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


The US Presidential election is less than a month away -- but the Bush camp still hasn't made up its mind over where to base itself...or if it has, it's not telling the media.

I'm supposed to be spending election night at Bush HQ, which we assumed would be somewhere in Texas.

But now we're hearing suggestions that Bush could make his victory/concession speech at the Bush-Cheney campaign offices in Arlington, VA.

There's just the small matter of 1200 miles between the two locations -- which makes trying to plan a full outside broadcast with all the associated hotels, car hire, satellite trucks and logistics well nigh impossible.

There have been dark mutterings from some broadcasters that the Bush campaign is playing a smart tactical game.

By keeping us in the dark until the last minute, some have suggested, the media will be so preoccupied with the logistics that it'll take its eyes off the ball with regard to the editorial side.

Surely this is just a wild conspiracy theory....isn't it?
The latest update on Frank Gardner's condition.

Doctors at the hospital where Frank is being treated have decided that he's now strong enough to come off all nutritional support.

There are some new signs of muscle recovery in his damaged legs, which are still partially paralysed.

His doctors are now preparing to send him away for intensive rehabilitation, which will take some months.

Frank remains in good spirits and is looking forward to returning to work next year.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Spent the afternoon writing an article about my experience of the Paralympics for one of the News Division's corporate magazines.

It's meant for internal consumption but it may be of interest.

Challenging the Cult of Tanni (Word document)

UPDATE...and as a RTF document for the Mac users.
Details of the Benefit Gala I'll receive an award at in Los Angeles next week have been released -- and it looks like quite a night.

Tickets for the event are currently being auctioned for a cool five thousand dollars.

I'm open to offers.

Sunday, October 03, 2004


Lost Remote has pulled together a collection of Mount St. Helens Volcano links -- including webcams and live streams.

Apologies etc for the lack of blogging the last few days -- I've been enjoying some post-Paralympics down time, during which I bought a new bike (although it's been too wet to actually ride the thing yet), finished a few books and caught up with a stack of DVDs.

Best of the bunch by far was Supersize Me.

Never has cholesterol been so much fun.

It's a witty, compelling and well-made documentary. What's most telling is that when Morgan Spurlock made the film McDonalds stonewalled him, refusing him an interview. Now, though, the company has a whole website devoted to the film.

Committed film-maker 1. Megacorporation 0.

My other tip of the week is This American Life. I was introduced to the programme by my friend Jen some years ago, so I was delighted to see that it was available as part of my subscription from Audible.

Great stories, beautifully told. It's magical radio.