Monday, February 28, 2005

I'll reach the grand old age of 33 tomorrow -- but instead of spending my birthday pondering the imminent onset of middle age I'll be covering The London Meeting, which is designed to support the Palestinian Authority.

It'll be baklava instead of birthday cake.

Needless to say the Wish List is open for surprise birthday gifts.
As the Michael Jackson trial gets underway, prepare yourself for some of the most absurd coverage you've ever seen on a television news channel.

Sky News has hired Jacko impersonator Edward Moss (or rather has bought up the E! Entertainment network's coverage) and will show daily re-enactments of the courtroom proceedings.

It's going to be ridiculous.

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Spent the day with the London Wine Academy at the always-wonderful Atlas Pub in Fulham, enjoying the one-day wine tasting workshop Aileen bought me for Christmas.

Tutor Nick Dumergue took us on a whistlestop tour around the world of wine.

The 1999 Burgundy went down a treat, while easy drinking bargain of the day was a 2003 Chilean Merlot.

The 1989 German Riesling, however, went straight into the spitoon.

Still, after 12 glasses in 5 hours I wasn't complaining too much.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Friday, February 25, 2005

I've edited the template to include Blogger's new improved comments system.

Comments will now appear in a pop-up window -- and you don't have to log in to leave one.

Hope you find it easier.
The briefest flurry of snow is, predictably, bringing London to a standstill.

54 flights from Heathrow Airport have been cancelled. It's inexplicable. I live less than 10 miles from Heathrow and managed to cycle to work this morning without so much as an icy skid.

Meanwhile, in my brother's adopted home town it's a frigid -20. I suspect they're coping rather better.
My friends from MAG are auctioning off a range of memorabilia -- including a poster signed by Paul McCartney.

Place your bids here -- just keep your hands off the gold disc signed by John Paul Jones from Led Zep. It's mine.
I was in a deep, drunken slumber when Princess Diana died.

I learned of the news when my editor left a message on my answering machine in the early hours of the morning, asking me to come straight into work.

I was too hungover to pick up the phone, let alone leap into journalistic action.

Instead I just groaned, rolled over in bed and went back to sleep.

With the Pope knock, knock, knocking on Heaven's Door I'm determined not to make the same mistake again.

It's going to be a sober weekend for me....just in case the call comes.
The Guardian publishes an extract from Phil Rees's new book, in which he meets the aging remnants of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge hierarchy.

Him Huy, a former guard at the notorious S-21 prison -- which I visited just over a year ago -- repeats the mantra of accomplices to genocide from Rwanda to Auschwitz..."I was only obeying orders. If I didn't kill, I'd be killed."

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Online Journaism Review looks at how journalists and bloggers in Nepal have used the internet to defy King Gyanendra's media clampdown.
Human Rights Watch has condemned the jailing in Iran of two bloggers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

PM presenter Eddie Mair's latest Guardian column has won himself few friends.

It it, he takes a pop at the "unheralded producers who get a moment or two of fame by appearing on the radio as famous people."

Mair claims his production staff would "crawl over broken glass and throttle any of Tony Blair's children and eat their brains, just for a few seconds of airtime."

Not a particularly flattering way to describe the people who do Mair's research, write his scripts, edit his interviews and keep him on air day in, day out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Just back from a frustrating, if necessary, day in Cardiff.

My new artificial leg with a seal-in liner has been giving me nothing but trouble since I got it a couple of months ago.

In fact, its been unwearable.

The source of the problem has been a bony area on my leg which rubs painfully against the hard socket shell of the prosthesis.

I'd pretty much given up hope on ever being able to use it but today Ian, my prothetist, proposed a solution which I'm fairly confident will work.

He's going to remake the socket, building in a soft rubber pad and extra space to accommodate the troublesome bone.

Fingers crossed.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Lonely Planet has issued a new travel advisory for Nepal.

It's urging people not to go to the Himalayan kingdom until the political crisis eases.

"While the safety of travellers isn't directly under threat, the tense environment could deteriorate rapidly and leave visitors stranded," the guide says.

Tell me about it.

Meanwhile, a delegation from the International Federation of Journalists is visiting Nepal and has issued its preliminary findings on conditions for the media since King Gyanendra dismissed the government.

The IFJ says that threats to journalists' safety, censorship, job cuts and a lack of independent news are having a crippling effect on democracy.
A word of advice to anyone with marauding elephants in their back garden.

Digging up landmines to use as elephant deterrents is not a clever idea.
"...when an anti-tank mine tore off his right foot, the warriors of jihad in Iraq thought they had neutralized one of their most resourceful, determined foes.

"They were wrong.

"Refusing to let his injury stop him, Captain David Rozelle roared back into action, returning to Iraq as commander of an armored cavalry troop. He became the first amputee in recent military history to resume a dangerous command on the same battlefield."

Back In Action, Captain David Rozelle's new book of limbless derring-do, sounds like it might be just my kind of book.

Except that it's published by bonkers right-wing publishing house Regnery, the company that brought you the best-selling John Kerry election year smear job, Unfit for Command.

Back In Action is billed as "an astonishing story of courage, determination, heroism, and bedrock patriotism."

I think I'll give it a miss.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

As the sound of wedding bells ring out in the distance, I've found just the thing for my bride-to-be.

Will they give me a discount if I pay cash?
In the BBC's internal newspaper, reporter Peter Greste has given the first detailed eyewitness account of the incident in Mogadishu in which Kate Peyton was murdered.

He writes:

"Because the hotel compound was full, our driver parked on the street outside.

"You take your cue from the locals, and there was nothing to suggest we were in any danger. People seemed calm and relaxed and, because of the government delegation inside, there were bodyguards everywhere."

Recalling the moment the shot was fired, Greste says:

"Instinctively I took cover and when I stood up I saw Kate slumped on the ground.

"She was conscious and lucid and asked what had happened. I held her and realised she had been shot in the back. She was bleeding but not profusely. The driver and I put her in the car and raced to the hospital. It was only six or seven minutes from the shooting to our arrival at the hospital.

"I spoke to Kate before she went into surgery and conveyed my optimism to her, reminding her that doctors in Somalia are among the most experienced in the world at dealing with gunshot wounds.

"Some years ago, in Afghanistan, I was present when a colleague was badly hit by shrapnel. He survived and I thought Kate would, too.

"The Somalis did their utmost. They could not have done more.

"Perhaps someone wanted to make a point about poor security in Somalia or perhaps the aim was to kill a foreigner as a protest against foreign intervention in the country."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005




Monday, February 14, 2005

The New York Times picks over the Eason Jordan affair.

Jeff Jarvis responds.

The rest of us yawn and move on.

At least 4 journalists from the mainstream media have already died on assignment this year.

Let me know when a blogger puts his or her life in mortal danger to get a story and I'll rethink.

BBC Global News boss Richard Sambrook has posted his thoughts on the affair on his internal BBC blog.

It's not available outside the intranet so I republish it in full.

For once, I find myself agreeing with BBC management.

"I'm shocked by Eason Jordan's resignation at the end of last week following his remarks on a panel at Davos (see earlier post). He was being hounded by the US bloggers - unreasonably. He had clarified his comments and apologised for any misunderstanding. However the bloggers scented blood and continued to pile on the pressure, the story broke into the mainstream and Eason felt he should stand down rather than let CNN be damaged by association. So he has resigned because he was accused of holding views which he repeatedly said he didn't hold...a strange world.

"Eason is a good man. In the last year alone he has made 12 trips to Baghdad to support the CNN team and to try to put in place arrangements to improve their safety. He joined CNN in its earliest days and developed their newsgathering through the eighties and nineties, building for himself a reputation as a fierce and uncompromising competitor.

"The broadcast news industry is the worse for his departure."
Aileen and I are currently looking at possible wedding venues -- and one of the places we're thinking of is called Cripps Barn.

The perfect venue for an amputee to get married, I think you'll agree.
The mystery book buyer has come forward.

It's thank you to Jenny from Hebron, Maine.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


Happy now?

The crowing from some sections of the blogosphere about how the Mainstream Media "missed" the Eason Jordan story and how this is another example of the power of citizen journalism sicken me.

It's an example of how individuals with a political agenda can harness the internet to organise a lynch mob.

Jordan didn't help his case.

He could have saved his job by releasing the video of his appearance at the World Economic Forum, issuing a statement clarifying his comments and thereby shutting down the spiralling affair.

Even so, Jordan is the victim of a tawdry online whispering campaign perpetrated by cranks.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The World Press Photo of the Year has been announced -- this year's winner is Indian photographer Arko Datta from Reuters for his shot of a woman mourning the death of a relative who was killed in the tsunami.

The website features some of the year's most striking images and is well worth a browse.

An amputee swimmer at the Paralympic Games features in the first prize for sports action but my personal favourite is Renée Jones's study of disappointment.
There are obituaries for Kate in today's Independent and Guardian.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Many, many thanks to the anonymous blog reader who sent me a copy of Shopped from my Amazon wish list.

No thanks at all, though, to my fuckwit of a postman who left the package out on my doorstep in the rain stuffed behind my rubbish bin, meaning I only found it by accident while putting out the trash.

Thankfully the book escaped unharmed -- and is next on my reading list.
When someone you know dies, it's the smallest things that seem the most poignant.

This morning I found myself checking through the assignments diary for our Africa bureaux.

It includes details of Kate's last assignment, of stories she never got to file and holiday time she never got to take.

It's such a terrible waste.

AFRICA DIARY – 08/02/2005


KATE PEYTON – Somalia – 16/2, Nairobi – 19/2 (Leave 19/2 – 27/2, 19/3 – 29/3, 2/6 – 3/6)

PETER GRESTE – Somalia 8/2 – 16/2


Peter Greste

Somalia: Government – looking at the physical infrastructure of a state that has been looted and smashed, ahead of the new government’s return. (WTV Commission)

Somalia: Telecoms – looking at how the telecoms industry has become the most developed and efficient in Africa in spite of, or rather because of a lack of government red-tape and regulation. (WTV Commission)

Somalia: Sharia Courts – looking at the role of Islamic justice in Somalia, and how it is in danger of becoming the new radical force. (WTV Commission)

Somalia: Warlord – Profiling a warlord and explaining why it is going to be so difficult for the new government to disarm them. (WTV Commission)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

It's the worst possible news. Our friend and colleague Kate Peyton has died.

Here's the official statement:

"It is with deep sadness and regret that I now have to update you with the news that Kate has died in hospital in Mogadishu after being shot earlier today. She died of internal bleeding following surgery.

"Kate was one of our most experienced and respected Foreign Affairs producers who had worked all over Africa and all over the world. She will be greatly missed, both professionally and personally.

"Our thoughts are with her partner, Roger, his daughter, and Kate’s mother, brother and sister. We are in touch with the family and are doing everything we can to support them at this terrible time."

Helen Boaden, Director BBC News
Blogging has been light today for reasons I can now make public.

We heard about this at lunchtime and have been working frantically to arrange her evacuation out of Somalia.

By Caroline Gammell, PA
A BBC producer was shot and wounded in Somalia today.

Kate Peyton, 39, had just arrived in Mogadishu with BBC reporter Peter Greste when the incident occurred.

It is thought she was hit outside the Sahafi Hotel in the Somalian capital earlier today.

Ms Peyton underwent surgery for a bullet wound and her injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.

Few details were known about the shooting but the producer's relatives have been informed.

Ms Peyton and Mr Greste had travelled to Somalia to make a series of reports on the troubled east African country.

Mr Greste was unharmed, a BBC spokeswoman said.

Ms Peyton, who was brought up in Africa, has worked for the BBC as a producer and reporter since 1993 and is based in Johannesburg.

She also worked as a producer for the South African Broadcasting Corporation in Johannesburg."

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The "Easongate Scandal"?

If the mainstream media aren't chasing this story, it's because there's no story to be chased. It's a deliberately distorted, politically motivated non-story which serves merely to undermine further the credibility of a number of popular blogs.

Unlike most of those who are working themselves into a frenzy over what Eason Jordan may or may not have said in Davos, some of us were actually there in Iraq. Some of us were injured on assignment. Others didn't make it home.

This travesty of a "controversy" doesn't merit any further discussion -- Jordan has no case to answer.

(Full background here.)

The official website of the Palestinian National Authority appears to be living in a bygone era.

According to it, Yasser Arafat is still the president of the PA.

Yet it was only Arafat's death that made today's new opportunity for peace in the Middle East possible.

Of course, the ghosts of many earlier peace initiatives loom large -- the Camp David Accord in 1979, the Oslo Accord of 1993.

The militant groups say they are not bound by the ceasefire -- and the first big test of today's lofty declarations will be how the Palestinian Authority reacts to any violation of the truce.

The Sharm El-Sheikh summit was marked by fine words rather than the resolution of contentious issues. Huge gulfs remain between the two sides on questions such as borders, the status of Jerusalem and the right to return of Palestinian refugees.

So it's far too early to call the ceasefire a new beginning for the Middle East.

Even so, after a four year intifada -- in which some 3,350 Palestinians and 970 Israelis have been killed -- any sign of an end to the bloodshed must be welcomed.
Having trouble finding a new job?

You have my permission to play the amp card.

Just don't forget my commission.
Wales -- where they play with odd shaped balls.

Ellen MacArthur

Wee Jimmie Krankie

There's a good reason why the news networks are getting so overexcited about Ellen MacArthur's return to Falmouth.

It's because her homecoming allows them to play with all their new toys.

Radiocameras, videophones, cameras aboard boats, warships and helicopters -- the internal organs of everyone within a 10 mile radius of Falmouth Harbour must be cooked from all the radio waves bouncing around this morning.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Congratulations to Ellen MacArthur, the world's fastest round-the-world solo sailor -- and one hell of a sportswoman.
The Independent reports that cycling campaigners are calling on the government to invest £70m to kick-start an effective cycling policy in Britain.

The government spends just £1 per person per year on cycling, compared to £5 in Denmark.

As someone who has started taking the 5 mile journey to and from work on two wheels I heartily agree.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Superbowl XXXIX -- the amputee connection.
As Nepal's political crisis continues, the country's censored media debate the importance of Socks In Society.
James Hathaway and the good people at Clear Path International have started a blog.

Go visit!
99% of the time Mr Stumpy behaves himself and I barely notice the fact that I'm wearing an artificial leg. Putting on the leg in the morning has become second nature, like putting on a pair of glasses.

Over the last few days, however, I've been reminded just how inconvenient it can be when things go wrong.

I've been giving my leg quite a hammering recently, what with trekking in Nepal and starting a new training programme in preparation for a few 10k runs and Mr Stumpy decided to take his revenge.

Over the course of last week an area the size of a two pound coin swelled up into an angry red lump which made it incredibly painful to walk. I'd flinch every time I put my weight through the prosthesis. On Friday the pain became so bad that I had to leave the leg off and use crutches. Needless to say, I was also forced to pause the training programme.

Thankfully, a combination of resting the leg and a course of antibiotics seems to be doing the trick. Mr Stumpy has returned to his usual calm state and I'm able to walk again.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Press freedom has been silenced in Nepal.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Human rights groups are expressing concern over the political crisis in Nepal.

Outside looks at the effect on the tourist business.
The Papal crisis appears to be easing....but the bag's packed just in case.
How are you feeling this morning, your Holiness?

Very glad to hear it.

The news channels are going into rolling mode and from some of the early coverage you'd think the old rogue was dead already.

It's going to be a long night.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Better stay sober and keep the phone switched on....the deployment to Rome has begun.

BBC News: Pope John Paul taken to hospital
Sad news that the BBC News Online journalist Ivan Noble has died of a brian tumour at the age of 37.

For more than two years Ivan wrote a brave and frank column about his fight with cancer -- but when I read his last diary entry a few days ago it was clear he didn't have long to go.

He'll be missed by his family, friends, and countless readers who he never met but whose lives he touched through his writing.
"There is a possibility that an eyewitness mistook the defendant adjusting his artificial leg for exposing his genitals," Presiding Judge Toshiyuki Tani said as he cleared the defendant of his charges," (Mainichi Daily News)

Happens to me all the time.
Nepal has been plunged into crisis.

For the second time in three years King Gyanendra has dissolved the government and taken control of the country.

Soldiers have repoertedly surrounded the prime minister's residence and the homes of other government leaders and phone lines in the capital, Kathmandu, have been shut down.

The days ahead are certain to be turbulent for the Himalayan kingdom.

It looks as if I got out at just the right time.