Saturday, July 31, 2004

My accreditation for the Olympics has come through -- and now an assignment that seemed way off in the distance for so long suddenly feels imminent.

A week from now I'll be in Athens, reporting on the Olympic build-up.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Another great Doonesbury strip today which rings true for all of us amps who have had to weigh up between a new prosthesis and a new car (or in the case of the Cambodian deminer I met last year, a herd of cows.)


Tonight's Kerry documentary "A Remarkable Promise", which will be shown prior to his speech to the DNC, will open with narrator Morgan Freeman reaching back to Kerry's birth at Fitzsimmonds Military hospital in December 1943.

“John was a good big brother," his sister Diana will say.

After touching on his early years, the video will reveal that he joined a rock band called the Electras. "You know it was a great way to meet girls. We made a little record," Kerry will say (the record is available here.)

"There's talk of a reunion," he'll quip.

The film will then turn to Kerry military record in Vietnam, with fellow veterans relating their war stories.

"I am alive today through the grace of a higher being," Kerry will say. "Everyday is extra and that reassures you in taking on a risk or standing up for the truth or doing something that is difficult."

The documentary will show an extract from Kerry's appearance in 1971 before the Foreign Relations Committee before moving on to his career as a senator and his family.

"I decided to run for president because I was frustrated," Kerry will say.

"I'm confident I can make America safer and I want it safer for my kids, for the world, for the future."

The film will close with Morgan Freeman saying that "Time and again John Kerry has been there for our nation.

"A soldier who understands the importance of peace, a leader who knows how to listen, a father dedicated to the children of our nation, and a man devoted to our country's remarkable promise."

The John Kerry smear campaign is stepping up a gear with the planned launch of a hatchet job on his military record by right-wing publishing house Regnery -- home of moderate voices of reason such as Ann Coulter, NRA boss Wayne LaPierre and redneck rocker Ted Nugent, author of the best-sellers God, Guns and Rock'n'Roll and Kill It and Grill It: A Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish.

Read more about the Republican connections of the book's author, John E. O'Neill, here, here and here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Despite what he says on his website, I can report that Michael Moore will NOT be attending the showing of Fahrenheit 9/11 in Crawford, Texas.

Moore will put out a statement later, in which he will say that he wants the film, and not himself, to be the media's and the public's focus.

Is there a difference between the two?

I may not be one of the Convention Bloggers, but here's what I'm hearing about Senator John Edwards's preparations for his Big Speech. (By the way, can anyone convince me that the convention bloggers are producing anything of lasting interest?)

Here's the word from Boston:

Senator Edwards is spending the day secluded in his hotel suite at the Park Plaza Hotel. His voice is still a little strained.

Edwards's speech, which he's been working on since the day he was named as Kerry's running mate, is complete. He wrote it himself, then worked with speechwriters to shape it into the final version. It's about 20 minutes in duration -- but will be longer with applause.

Edwards camp sources say the speech won't focus on attacking Bush or what's wrong with his administration. "It will be almost entirely positive," they say. Senator Edwards isn't expected to mention Bush or Cheney by name -- although he may well allude to them.

He will talk, as he did throughout the primaries, of the problems of "two Americas" -- and talk about how to form "one America."
Desperately sad news that Medecins Sans Frontieres is pulling out of Afghanistan after 24 years of working there.

MSF says the Afghan authorities have failed in their responsibilities following the murder of five of its aid workers last month.

MSF, an organisation which has no agenda other than to provide health care to the needy, also has extremely harsh words for the way the US-backed coalition has allegedly tried to use humanitarian organisations as part of the propaganda war:

"MSF denounces the coalition’s attempts to co-opt humanitarian aid and use it to "win hearts and minds." By doing so, providing aid is no longer seen as an impartial and neutral act, endangering the lives of humanitarian volunteers and jeopardizing the aid to people in need.

"Only recently, on May 12, 2004, MSF publicly condemned the distribution of leaflets by the coalition forces in southern Afghanistan in which the population was informed that providing information about the Taliban and al Qaeda was necessary if they wanted the delivery of aid to continue."
An entertaining analysis of the Ann Coulter Vs USA Today spat/debacle over at Salon, in which Eric Boehlert rightly makes the distinction between freedom of speech and badly-written, lazy rantings.

Anyone who has observed the pampered White House press corps at close hand will be baffled by the following paragraph in a review of journalism post-Watergate:

"What effect has Watergate had on journalism since Nixon's resignation?

"Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. says the scandal has led to more aggressive coverage of the White House, where reporters had embarrassed themselves by missing the story of Nixon's culpability."

Aggressive coverage? Like the New York Times's coverage of Iraq, you mean?
Lies, lies, lies -- but hardly surprising.

Last year, an Iranian parliamentary commission concluded that the Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, and other members of the judiciary were directly involved in Zahra Kazemi's death from a blow to the head, having subjected her to violent interrogation at Evin prison.

Now, after clearing intelligence agent and scapegoat defendant Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi in a farcical trial, Iran's hardline judiciary is showing new levels of contempt for justice by claiming Kazemi's death in custody may have been an accident.

Zahra Kazemi continues to be a pawn in the power struggle between Iran's hardliners and reformists.
The potential perfect news storm I touched on recently of the Michael Jackson trial coinciding with the US elections won't now happen because of a delay in the proceedings.


A new report from the Foreign Policy Centre highlights the most tragic irony of last year's Iraq war.

While world leaders focused all their attention on clearing up the post-war mess, a humanitarian catastrophe was looming in Darfur, which subsequently led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

The FPC report says there were indications of an unfolding disaster as early as September 2003 but Iraq-obsessed diplomats and politicians failed to take sufficiently robust action to stop the killing in Sudan.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

I've just been looking over the intelligence assessment for the Olympic Games.

It paints a fairly optimistic picture, forecasting that the chances of a massive terrorist incident taking place during the Games is relatively low.

The main points are:
* The arrest of terrorist suspects in Milan last month raises the possibility of Islamic extremists infiltrating Greece from Italy -- but the chances of such a scenario materialising are low.
* It's unlikely that local radical groups have the capability to conduct mass casualty attacks.
* The most serious concern is over the possible presence in Turkey of Ansar Al Islam. Ansar poses the most credible threat to the security of the Games.

The report suggests that "the media is becoming increasingly harsh" in pointing out the potential disasters associated with preparations for the Games. It goes on to say that "there has been some exaggeration of the negative aspects of the security preparations for the games, though certain aspects of the operation are running to a very tight schedule in order to reach a state of readiness ahead of the starting date for the event."

The upbeat assessment is echoed by Nicholas Gage in the Herald Tribune, who urges the world to "cut Greece a little slack."
Patrick Martin has good advice for any journalist working in Iraq -- Don't get killed for colour.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Respect due to USA Today for spiking the debut column from the DNC by Ann Coulter, a woman who has triumphed over disability by turning her chronic Tourette's Syndrome into a lucrative writing career.

Reading the column, it's easy to see why -- Coulter's rantings have no structure, humour or obvious point.

"USA Today doesn't like my tone, humor, sarcasm," Coulter whinged on hearing of the humiliation.

Or perhaps the editors at USA Today just recognised 1000 words of badly-written shit when they read it.
The DNC is getting underway.
There are bloggers there too.
Many wear glasses.
Big deal.

More than two decades ago, the British government put the fear of God into a generation of children with the "Protect and Survive" series of films and booklets.

It's a classic slice of Cold War paranoia, designed to inform the public on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack.

Most memorable is the public information film "Casualties." Narrator Patrick Allen -- in his best Shakespearean Voice of Doom -- explains how to dispose of a relative who's died of radiation sickness:

"If anyone dies while you are kept in your fallout room move the body to another room in the house.

"Label the body with name and address and cover it as tightly as possible in polyethene, paper, sheets or blankets.

"Tie a second card to the covering. The radio will advise you what to do about taking the body away for burial."

A quarter of a century on, the government is putting the willies into the populace again with a new campaign to help the public prepare for terror attacks.

Little seems to have changed in the intervening period. As in Protect and Survive, the new advice urges homeowners to stockpile tinned food, bottled water and batteries.

It's great news for owners of shares in Duracell, Heinz and Vittel -- who are doubtlessly looking forward to another bonanza of Millennium Meltdown proportions. It's bad news, however, for anyone who wants to keep a sense of perspective about their chances of being wiped out in a catastrophic terrorist incident.

I'm sitting pretty, though.

I still have a full chemical, biological and radiological protection suit in my attic left over from the kit I took to Iraq last year.

Perhaps I should dust it off.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Looking for a career break or something to do during a gap year?

Forget that Himalayan expedition or Indian hippy trail trek.

Why not spend three months clearing landmines in Angola?

The managing director of the firm advertising the positions needs to work on his sales technique. "One girl lost her left leg and an Australian guy lost his legs and lower torso," he says.

Now I know what it must feel like to be the subject of a bio-pic.

Yesterday I went up to Leeds to give a talk on landmines -- and to see a piece of drama based on my story.

The The Armouries Museum has an interpretation team which acts out stories related to the exhibits on display.

One of the interpreters, Anna Ward, contacted me a few months ago and asked if she could take some of the material I've written about my accident and turn it into a short play.

I agreed -- and yesterday I finally got to see the result.

Here's the script (as a Word document.)

Once I'd got used to hearing words I'd written spoken by a woman, I found myself being unexpectedly moved -- and I still can't put my finger on why.

Whatever the reason, Anna did a fantastic job and I'm humbled and honoured that she's chosen to use my story.

The interpretation will be performed regularly at the museum for the rest of the Summer.

There are more pictures of Anna's performance here, here and here.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Not long to go now until the Athens Olympics -- 21 days to be precise.

And 14 days until I fly out to Greece for the Long Hot Olympic Summer.

While putting the final briefing notes together for the team I came across one of those great lists of useless statistics relating to the International Broadcast Centre, where I'll be based for the Games.

In August, the IBC will become the hub of the largest broadcasting operation in the world.

There'll be:

* 3800 hours of live coverage from the venues.
* 12000 accredited broadcasters.
* 1000 live cameras.
* 400 kilometres of cables in use.
* 75000 square kilometres of ductwork to funnel the air con.
* 1 British blogger (that I know of).
I recently voiced concern over my decision to fly with Ryanair.

In the event, the flight was efficient and on time -- and after seeing this story I should consider myself fortunate I was given a seat in the cabin and not in the gents.
To celebrate Peter Mandelson's third political comeback, why not relive one of the most cringe-inducing -- and certainly the campest -- performance in recent political history; Mandelson's vistory speech in the 2001 General Election.

It's number 7 in the list of the ten most embarrassing political moments.
My friend and Cambodia travel companion Sean Sutton has just launched a new exhibition of photos looking at mine clearance in Angola.

Take a look at the photos here.
As forecast on Wednesday.



BBC News: Mandelson due for EU appointment

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Hacks across Europe are performing sharp hand brake turns as we speak as their editors call off their deployment to Turkey, where the Turkish government has just revised its death toll in a trail derailment from 139 to 36.

Some hapless Turkish officials clearly put a "1" in the wrong place -- thereby sending the world's newsrooms into a frantic flurry of activity.

Referring to this posting, Shiring e-mails to ask why "the BBC is creating substitutions for the word "wall". A wall is a wall," she says.

Shirin makes reference to the philosophical principle of Occam's Razor, which basically states that of two equivalent explanations, the simpler one is to be preferred.

So why don't we just call a wall a wall?

Well, because in the case of the West Bank "separation barrier" -- it isn't.

Parts of the barrier are made of 8 metre high concrete slabs and so do constitute what we'd normally think of as a "wall." Other sections, however, are constructed from razor wire and ditches (for more about what the wall is and what it's designed for, try here.)

Not surprisingly it's the concrete rather than the barbed wire sections we always see on the news reports -- but that doesn't tell the whole story. To simply use the word "wall" would be misleading.

It may seem like an arcane semantic debate, but in the Middle East conflict these small distinctions matter.
In preparation for my lecture in Leeds on Saturday I've been re-editing some of the material shot during my visit to Cambodia last November.

It's given me a chance to have a good play with Adobe Premiere (although sadly I'm using old-fashioned v6.0 rather than the spangly Pro 1.5.) It's a great piece of software and is one I'm sure I'll be using a lot more in the future.

Here's a web-friendly version of one of the short films I've cut together for my talk. It's a 1.25Mb .wmv file.

Videoblog: Controlled Explosion

OK, so Alison Bell is freelance and so not strictly a Murdoch newsgirl, but let's not let that stand in the way of a good headline, eh?

Perhaps she needs little Bolivian Marching Powder to get through all those night shifts over at Osterley.

BBC News: Diana ex-lover released on bail
9/11 Report -- First findings:

* Sept 11th attacks should not have surprised US.
* "Failures of imagination, policy, capabilities and management" by the US government.
* Call for the establishment of a "national counter-terrorism center" to unify intelligence and operational planning under a new "national intelligence director."
* "What we can say with confidence is that none of the measures adopted by the US government from 1998 to 2001 disturbed or even delayed the progress of the al-Qaeda plot."

Concerns in the newsroom that the phrase "Security Barrier" has been used in some output to describe the wall dividing the West Bank and Israel (here for example.)

The project is fraught with difficulties for journalists because the language surrounding it is so loaded with meaning on both sides.

So the term of choice is "barrier." Simple, factually correct and -- hopefully -- politically neutral.

If an adjective is needed, the word to use is separation, because that's what the wall/fence/barrier does -- separate communities from one another.
Earlier in my career I spent several years covering the British political conventions.

They're tedious, depressing affairs held in a variety of faded seaside towns -- Bournemouth, Brighton and -- worst of all -- Blackpool.

My abiding memory of that time is spending countless hours in smoke-choked hotel bars trying to persuade pissed delegates to appear on TV or radio the next morning...and then hammering on their doors at dawn because they were hung over and had slept through their alarm call.

No news stories of any significance ever emerge from the conferences -- they're entirely predictable set-pieces.

Try telling that to CNN.

In a breathless press release the network promises "immediate, up-close reporting of the Democratic National Convention" featuring all the latest gimmicks, including:

A "Ringside" set (gasp!)
CNN's Election Express mobile newsroom (wow!)
"BlogWatch" (yawn!)
"Delegate-Cams" (what?)

CNN demonstrates how the way TV covers sport and politics is converging.

I recently read Long Bomb. It's a book about how wrestling boss Vince McMahon and NBC teamed up to create the ill-fated XFL football league and tried to camouflage a mediocre sporting product with the latest technological gizmos. It failed miserably.

The similarities with CNN's convention coverage plans are startling.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I'm hearing that President Bush's re-election campaign will step up half a notch tonight.

With just over 100 days to the election, Bush will begin to set out the broad issues that would underpin a second term in a speech at the President's Dinner at the Washington convention centre.
Fox Doc Rocks Top Spot (can you tell I used to be a sub?)

I can exclusively report that there's likely to be a significant development in the Guantanamo Bay detainees story tomorrow.

Can't give too many details at this stage -- more when it happens.
Just taken a look at the first editions of Wednesday's British papers and by far the most interesting story is the Guardian report on a gloomy assessment of the chances of progress in the Middle East peace process.

"The United States is losing interest in the Middle East peace process with the result that the prospects of creating a viable Palestinian state are gradually disappearing," the Guardian says of the analysis by the Department for International Development.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Legendary war photographer Tim Page talks to ABC Australia about Cambodian landmines.
As Tony Blair prepares to mark a decade as leader of the Labour party, he made clear in the commons this afternoon that reports of his demise are premature.

Today's Guardian poll may have made him pause for thought -- but there was no sign in his Commons performance that he's suffering a crisis of confidence.

After escaping individual criticism in the Butler Report, the Prime Minister was today able to go back on the offensive in a feisty and defiant session at the despatch box.

Mr Blair still has much explaining to do over why the intelligence that led the country to war proved to be so wrong.

But, for the moment at least, he seems to have successfully fought off the questions over his credibility.
Just because you've got a blog, and you've got creds, doesn't make you a journalist says the LA Times.

I couldn't agree more -- as I outlined recently.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Fellow Northern Iraq veteran Charlie Glass of ABC has a new personal website.
Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has one eye on the future when he calls on all French Jews to move to Israel.

It's true -- and a matter of deep concern -- that anti-semitism appears to be on the rise across Europe.

But perhaps Mr Sharon is more concerned over the changing demographics of the State of Israel.

With Arab birth rates far exceeding birth rates among Israeli Jews, it's estimated that Arabs will outnumber Jews in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza by the year 2020.

It's an issue that goes to the very heart of Israel's existence as a Jewish state.

A decade on from the last mass aliyah, of Jews from the former Soviet Union, Mr Sharon's comments could be seen as an attempt to cast a net out to the disapora in an attempt to maintain Israel's fragile demographic balance.
A potentially explosive alignment of the planets is shaping up which could send news networks the world over into even more of a frenzy than usual.

A judge in Santa Barbara County, California has set the tentative start date for the Michael Jackson child molestation case for September 13th.

He has also made clear that he intends to make it as difficult as possible for either side to postpone the trial.

Let's assume the trial lasts at least six weeks....that takes us perilously close to the US election date of November 2nd.

The controversy in 1995 over whether the BBC should have led its bulletins with Tony Blair's speech to the Labour conference or the OJ Simpson verdict will seem trifling in comparison to the troublesome editorial decisions that could lie ahead.

The pundits, meanwhile, are sure to have plenty to say about whether an election overshadowed by a high-profile celebrity trial will benefit Bush or Kerry.
While reading up on the crisis for Arafat in Gaza I came across this fascinating piece in the Jerusalem Report about Patricia Richardson, a Jewish woman who is also a councillor for the far-right (and, many argue, racist and anti-semitic) British National Party.
This appeared in the South Wales Echo while I was away -- thanks, Alex! (2Mb pdf file)
Cablenewser has the complaint against Fox.

It accuses Fox News of "deceptive practices" under the Federal Trade Commission Act over the channel's use of the "fair and balanced" slogan.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

A press conference is due in New York tomorrow to announce that, Common Cause and other organisations are about to follow up their Outfoxed house parties by launching "major legal actions" against Fox News.

Naturally, MoveOn is gearing up for November's presidential election.

But Britain will go to the polls some time next year.

The upswing in the turnout for last month's local elections suggests some British voters are shaking off their apathy and are choosing to exercise their democratic right.

All of which suggests that now would be the perfect time for MoveOn to expand its model for grassroots political participation to this side of the Atlantic.

Nic e-mails with this link to a rather macabre poem about amputation from an 1866 edition of Harper's New Monthly Magazine. It contains the memorable stanza:

"How could the Queen sleep sound at night,
Safe from the scum and dregs,
If English boys refused to fight
For fear of wooden legs?"

Rhyming "dregs" with "wooden legs" -- genius.
Back. Loads of catching up to do. More soon.

Friday, July 16, 2004

A wonderful day's riding through the rice fields and salt water marshes of the Camargue, watching the flamingos and oystercatchers before galloping at full pelt along the beach at Sainte Marie de la Mer.

It would have made for marvelous photos, except that I was too busy hanging on to my horse for grim death.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

To celebrate Bastille Day, the good people of the heavily Spanish-influenced Camargue region like nothing better than a spot of death in the afternoon.

I have no deep-seated ethical objections to bull fighting but after a while it's like watching pornography -- you can guarantee that the bull is going to get fucked.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

My horse laughed all the way to the gates of the glue factory...

Monday, July 12, 2004

Equine greetings from French horse country, where the stallions are strong and so is the GPRS connection.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

I've been meaning to get into talking about Robert Greenwald's new documentary Oufoxed but so far haven't done so.

However, there's a big article about the film in today's New York Times.

Heading to the south of France this morning for a week's horse-riding in the Camargue.

I'll be taking my laptop with me and, if GPRS works, there may be some blogging.

If it doesn't, there won't.

Back next Saturday.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11 has been released here in the UK -- I went to see it this evening.

Technically, it's not a great piece of film-making, in the sense that most of the original material in the movie is poorly and lazily shot. It is, however, a great piece of editing. Moore artfully stitches together some of the most powerful moments from the last four years of American history, ranging from TV footage of Attorney General John Ashcroft singing "Let the Eagle Soar" and President Bush reading "My Pet Goat" while New York burned to American soldiers discussing the heavy metal tracks they enjoy listening to while bombing Iraq to dust.

The result is an infuriating, wholly one-sided, not always convincing but at least thought-provoking film.

Moore's use of bereaved Iraq war mother Lila Lipscomb is the crudest propaganda technique imaginable and is symptomatic of Moore's limited rhetorical range. No one can fail to be moved by the sight of a tearful mother wailing for her dead child, but that doesn't in itself mean the war in Iraq was unjustified.

More contemptible, however, is his failure to acknowledge even in passing the tyranny of Saddam Hussein's regime. Michael Moore's opposition to the Iraq war is all very well, but to depict Saddam's Baghdad as a city of children playing happily while barbers contentedly clip hair is just revisionist history. What about Halaba?

There's little in the film that hasn't be said elsewhere -- often by journalists and writers far superior and more rigorous to Moore. But never before has it been said so accessibly or entertainingly.

Fahrenheit 9/11 deserves neither the praise nor the condemnation it has received. But it does deserve the attention.

Friday, July 09, 2004

And so to more on Macca.

This afternoon I visited Frank Gardner.

Frank's in good spirits and is reading voraciously to overcome the frustrations of his recovery.

It's not often I hold back but on this occasion you'll forgive me, I hope, if I keep details of our meeting private.

However, what I can say is that Frank was delighted to receive a gift I took him courtesy of my New Best Friend.

At my talk on Tuesday, Sir Paul graciously agreed to write a get well message, which I had framed and is now standing above Frank's bedside.

I was far too shy, but my friend and agent Jo had no such scruples about asking the Great Man for his paw print:


I made the questionable decision of booking my flight to the south of France on Sunday with Ryanair -- largely because it was less than half the price of going with BA.

Today I read in the Telegraph (registration required) that Ryanair is not only trimming the frills -- it's doing away with the buttons, stitching and most of the fabric as well.

The Telegraph says that Ryanair is looking to cut airport costs by imposing a £50 surcharge for passengers wanting to check in hold luggage.

Oh, and those cushions on the seats are quite costly as well. In fact -- are seats reallynecessary?
Oops -- a bold experiment in grassroots political journalism goes completely tits up.

This one's got a long way to run.

This story from the New York Times is just glorious, glorious, glorious.

According to the Times, the source for Monday's "Kerry's Choice" exclusive in the New York Post was....proprietor Rupert "two sources not required" Murdoch.

The Times claims that "when The New York Post tore up its front page on Monday night to trumpet an apparent exclusive that Representative Richard A. Gephardt would be Senator John Kerry's running mate, the newspaper based its decision on a very high-ranking source: Rupert Murdoch, the man who controls the company that owns The Post."

Don't give up the day job, Rupert.
I'm hearing that the International Court of Justice will rule that Israel's wall inside the West Bank is illegal and should be removed.

"The construction of the wall and its associated regime are contrary to international law," it will say.

Not that the court's non-binding ruling will make much difference on the ground, in the short term at least.

I wish I'd known about this when I was in Cambodia -- I would have gladly paid the mystic milker 500 riel to lick my stump:
Cambodians lining up for miracle lick



(AFP Photo)

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Christopher Allbritton of Back to Iraq talks to OJR about a subject very close to my heart -- how to reconcile the world of blogging with that of "mainstream" journalism.

Christopher -- who's currently in Iraq for Time and the New York Daily News -- echoes a sad truth I discovered a long time ago.

Unlike crime, blogging doesn't pay.

"You can't as yet make a career out of blogging," he says. "Blogging might have paid the bills for one moment of glory, but it's a lot harder to make it pay for your whole career."

His current employers also seem as relaxed as mine about his blog -- a sign, perhaps, that Big Media is at last developing some understanding of their hacks' pet projects.
Macca fans...there'll be a real treat for you tomorrow evening (hopefully). Details to follow....
I'm clearly not cute enough to make it on to ITV News -- although that's never seemed to be a problem for Julian Manyon.
ITV News: Heather helps Iraqi amputee

I see from the stats that fans of Sir Paul have found the recent pictures through links here and here.

You're all most welcome.

To those discussing the aesthetic virtues of Paul and Heather I say just two words. Adobe Photoshop. That goes for me too.
My friends over at Boing Boing are understandably concerned about Google's top result for the phrase "militant Islamic website."

That orange jump suit matches your eyes, guys.

Nassau....Monte Carlo....St Tropez....Denbighshire?

I understand Harrison Ford tried to book a holiday in Llandudno but all the B&Bs had been booked up by Scousers.

ASSIGNMENT NEWS....It's a long way off but it seems I'll be going to Kenya in November to cover the Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World.

The conference will be the first review of the Ottawa mine ban treaty.

Wonder why they chose me for that job?

I've long hated Formula One racing.

The attraction of watching a trackload of turbo-powered advertising hoardings hurtling past at high speed is a total mystery to me.

But my dislike turned into out and out loathing on Tuesday evening, when the whole of central London was brought to a standstill by one of the most irresponsible events I've ever witnessed.

Up to half a million people turned out to see eight F1 drivers show off on the streets of the capital.

For sour pusses like me who aren't the slightest bit interested in the "sport," it meant Bond Street, Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road tube stations were closed at the busiest time of the day, the city was totally grid-locked and simply crossing the road meant a mile and a half detour -- which is just wonderful for someone with an artificial leg.

I was therefore delighted to read Beverley Turner's F1 hatchet job in the Independent.

Turner, who's just written an insider's book about motor-racing, claims F1 is characterised by rampant sexism and chauvinism.

Plus, it's just plain boring.
I've just learnt that the link on the left of the page to my Amazon wish list was inviting the purchase of "You Are What You Eat" and Harry Potter Lego -- which, unsurprisingly, I don't wish for at all.

It seems the link to the wish list had changed without my knowledge. It's now fixed.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The UN reports on the landmine problem in Northern Iraq -- an issue I know all too well about.
Internet auctioneers are already making a killing from yesterday's now-notorious New York Post.

Not a bad way to make a profit out of 25 cents.
Just when you thought it had gone away, the disability debate returns -- and for once, it's not me that's raising it.

In the interests of accuracy I should make clear that I didn't, as is claimed, write to the Ouch! website after they linked to this blog last year.

I made reference to the link here and expressed my views in a BBC column -- but I've had no correspondence at any time with the folks at Ouch!
Pass the Alka's been a slow start to the day after last night's McCartneyesque revelling.

MAG asked me to give a talk at central London celeb hangout Soho House. Little did I expect that Mr and Mrs McCartney would be in attendance.

It's not often I get star-struck -- but I don't mind admitting I was on this occasion.


Gave a talk this evening at Soho House and in the audience was a certain singer and his wife.

The full story tomorrow...

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


As forecast correctly by Beyond Northern Iraq -- but not by the New York Post.

In a statement just released, the Post's editor-in-chief Col Allan said the paper published the front page because it "received information it believed to be correct" (as if crap journalism were preferable to out and out lying.)

"We unreservedly apologize to our readers for the mistake," Mr Allan said -- but no-one heard him because they were laughing too loudly.

President Bush is 58 today.

What do you buy the president who has everything?

Apparently he asked for Syria, but they couldn't fit it through the mail box.
The latest veep rumours are contradictory and confusing.

Democratic officials are currently indicating that John Kerry could start telephoning the winner and losers early on Tuesday morning before announcing his running mate at an address in Pittsburgh at 0900 Eastern.

He could then appear alongside his running mate at an event later in the day.

The thinking behind this "split" announcement is that it would enable Kerry to make his announcement and then allow the annointed candidate to travel to meet him without arousing yet more press speculation.

This, I stress, is just one possibility currently under discussion.

Monday, July 05, 2004


There's frenzied speculation among my sources in the American TV networks that John Kerry is about to announce his running mate.

The sources say Senator could (repeat could) make his announcement in Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning.

When the announcement is finally made, I expect it to be made known that more candidates were vetted than had been previously thought.

The noises I'm getting are talking increasingly of Senator John Edwards -- but we could all be proved completely wrong.
Reuters reports on how Cambodia has become the latest hot destination for celebs looking to do their bit for charidee.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

I've written before about my tried'n'tested jetlag cure of a couple of rum and cokes and one of the elephant-tranquilizing-strength valiums (or should that be valia?) I bought over the counter for a dollar fifty at a chemist's shop in Phnom Penh.

It seems I'm not alone.

Fox's Steve Harrigan admits that "with the shift in time zones and odd schedules, many journalists rely on pharmaceuticals."

See you in rehab, Steve.
News of a landmine victim and double amputee who's jogging for Jesus.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Spent the day at Warwick University, meeting members of the British Paralympic Squad, ahead of their (and my) trip to the Athens Games in September.

Team GB is fielding a strong squad -- and all the athletes are hoping they can go one better on Sydney four years ago, when Britain came second in the medal table with 41 golds, 43 silvers and 47 bronze medals.

Here's Olympic wheelchair basketball player Ade Adepitan trying on his team uniform:

See Ade in action here.

Friday, July 02, 2004

The latest on Frank Gardner....He's made great progress since he returned to the UK, is sitting up, eating and speaking. He's also been moved out of the High Dependency Unit.

All great news.
So much for Iraqi sovereignty.

AP reports that the only Iraqi reporter present at Saddam Hussein's court hearing was ordered out of the court room by the judge shortly before the session began.

The pictures, when they arrived, were flashed live by almost all networks....except NBC. An unbelievable editorial decision.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

For a paper that prides itself on the speed of its response to breaking news, the London Evening Standard seemed woefully sluggish today.

Perhaps the pictures of Saddam Hussein's court appearance came through just after the paper was put to bed because the Standard's West End Final featured an old library shot of the former Iraqi dictator (or at least the copy I picked up way out in west London did -- perhaps the commuter editions managed to get the historic photos.)

Either that, or the Standard's picture desk needs to work on its videograbbing.

Whatever the reason, it was a poor show by the Standard.
More from the court.


I understand the microphones on the cameras used by the pool TV cameramen at the Saddam Hussein court hearing were disconnected on the order of the US military.

The decision to release the pictures without sound is an interesting one.

I would suggest that the authorities were concerned that the former Iraqi president would challenge the court through vocal outbursts, as Slobodan Milosevic did repeatedly in the Hague.

A thinner, tired looking and silent Saddam Hussein is of greater propaganda value than a strong-voiced and defiant one.

Pictures of Saddam Hussein in court now emerging.
Is this the blogosphere's first?:

The BBC Motion Gallery has gone live. It's a new gateway to BBC and CBS video archive which can be viewed online and licensed to broadcasters and film makers.

Although primarily an industry tool, it's well worth a visit.
Back in January I wrote about the murder of Cambodian trade union activist, Chea Vichea.

His two alleged killers go before a judge today and Human Rights Watch urges the court to carefully consider the evidence, following reports of forced confessions and political interference.

HRW calls the case "a critical test for the Cambodian judiciary."
The story behind the story is at -- thanks, Jon!
Get ready for a new batch of iconic images to be created in the morning when Saddam Hussein appears in court.

I understand the video of the former Iraqi leader before a judge will be available from around 1100-1200GMT on Thursday. It'll be pre-shot and pooled by American and Arabic TV crews and will be embargoed until after the crews have arrived back safely from the secret location where the hearing will take place.

It's going to be quite a day.