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Saturday, December 13, 2003

Following on from the Human Rights Watch report on cluster bombs,....USA Today has also been investigating the weapons.

The paper says that "A four-month examination by USA TODAY of how cluster bombs were used in the Iraq war found dozens of deaths that were unintended but predictable."

As I've explained before, cluster bombs are unpleasant weapons but some groups within the humanitarian community -- including MAG -- warn against focusing too much on cluster munitions because they're a small part of a much wider problem. The vast majority of casualties in Iraq and elsewhere, they say, have been caused by landmines and abandoned bomb and ammunition dumps -- not by cluster bombs.

In addition, MAG says that areas that have been cluster bombed can be cleared quickly and relatively easily -- unlike areas where landmines have been laid.

The conclusion -- Cluster bombs are bad, but landmines are much, much worse.

A message to Gunnlaugur from Iceland, who put a pin in the guestmap a few days ago....if you read this can you e-mail me...I've tried e-mailing you but it keeps bouncing. Thanks!

The UN has reported back on its mission to prepare for the establishment of war crimes court to try former leaders of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia:
UN News Centre: UN team says visit to help Cambodia set up war crimes court a success

Friday, December 12, 2003

It's not very often I make the time to enjoy the treats of London on my doorstep -- but today I made the effort and went to see the Lord of the Rings Exhibition at the Science Museum.

I can't get past the first page of the Tolkein books, and loathe the fantasy genre as a whole, but I must confess to a secret liking for the films. Maybe it's just because I've seen the first two while still filled with post-Christmas cheer, or maybe the Guardian's right when it says that we're all nerds now.

I have my limits, though. I won't be rushing out to buy a Glamdring sword with genuine leather-wrapped handgrip, antique silver-finished solid metal guard and pommel engraved with elvish writing.

Then on to see Touching The Void, a documentary based on Joe Simpson's classic mountaineering book which -- for my money -- is one of the greatest stories of human endurance of all time.

The film's a dispassionate recounting of Simpson's unbelievable story of survival and is well-worth seeing -- but the book's better.

Details of the Human Rights Watch report I mentioned yesterday.

The headline: "The use of cluster munitions in populated areas caused more civilian casualties than any other factor in the coalition´s conduct of major military operations in March and April."

HRW: Cluster Munitions, ‘Decapitation’ Attacks Condemned
BBC News Online: Iraqi civilian deaths 'avoidable'

Thursday, December 11, 2003

More on the Cambodian data entry firm mentioned here a few days ago:
BBC News Online: 'Cyber Oscar' for landmine project

The controversy over cluster bombs is set to be ignited again tomorrow with the publication of a Human Rights Watch report which will say that more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians were needlessly killed by the weapons, which were dropped by U.S. and British forces during the war.

It'll say the coalition could have done more to keep civilians from being killed by imprecise air strikes and will criticise British forces for not securing caches of explosives and ammunition abandoned by the Iraqi military.

I'll respect HRW's embargo -- full details of the report will follow tomorrow.

And so farewell Jennicam -- and not before time. She's been boring as shit for ages ( I can talk.)
CNN: Voyeur Web site JenniCam to go dark

Assignment news....Looks like I'm on my way to Washington DC on January 15th to provide back up at the BBC bureau for a busy few weeks that'll include the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primary, “Super Seven” primaries and the State of the Union address. More to follow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

As promised earlier, here's a taste of the Cambodian end of the audioblog posted up earlier, to put some pictures to the sounds.

It's a 2'21" snatch of video filmed by Sean as I did the live radio report you can hear here.

As always with the videoblogs, the resolution is fairly low to keep the file size down (it's 560Kb). If you want to see it at a higher resolution, just drop me an e-mail.

Videoblog: Live on Radio Five From The Minefield (.wmv)

I'd been hoping to be able to post this audioblog up since I got back from Cambodia. Of all the work I did while I was there, this is the piece I was most pleased with. This afternoon I finally managed to track down the archive recording.

While visiting the Auchamlong minefield it occured to me...why don't I broadcast the safe detonation of a landmind live from the minefield? It seemed like a stupid idea but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it. I couldn't imagine there had been many live landmine explosions before in the history of broadcasting. It was a chance to use the satellite technology -- which allows us to broadcast in studio quality from pretty much anywhere in the world -- to its full potential.

So I set up the satellite dish on the bamboo roof of a long-drop toilet, ran a cable to a safe distance from the spot where the explosion would take place, put an effects microphone out as close as I could to catch the full sound of the bang and plonked my ass down on the ground to broadcast.

When I went live I gave a hand signal to the demolition team to begin the countdown to the detonation -- and the rest you can hear for yourself. I heard the full recording for the first time today and I was particularly pleased with the explosion itself, which sounds very dramatic!

The MP3 below is just over 9 minutes long as is a 1.6Mb download. I've dropped the bit rate from the original. It was originally broadcast on BBC Radio Five Live's Up All Night programme. Sean captured some of the broadcast on video and I'll endeavour to post up a little videoblog when I get home later.

Audioblog: Live From The Minefield

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is showing signs of impatience at Cambodia's delay in reaching an agreement on the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to try Khmer Rouge leaders:
Reuters: UN wants Cambodia war crime trials to start soon

Today marks Human Rights Day.

Last year, human rights were abused in more than 150 countries.

As billions of pounds were spent on the "war on terror," millions of people faced a daily battle against corruption, repression, discrimination, extreme poverty and preventable diseases.

Do something about it.

Is it a bird, is it a plane....nope, it's HTML superhero Claire H, who has added permalinks to my template. You should now be able to link directly to the post of your choice.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

A special hello to Gunnlaugur Lárusson, who has fulfilled a long-held ambition of mine by putting a pin in the guest map from my favourite country in the world -- Iceland.

Góðan daginn, Gunnlaugur -- and I can't wait to spend New Year in your beautiful country.

There are still plenty of uncharted territories on the guest map, so stick your pin in here.

A day's filming and editing in Cardiff means I'm able to post up a new videoblog -- the most televisually complex one so far.

I was asked by MAG to give a speech at a conference for schoolchildren in Brussels next month organised by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office, ECHO.

I had to decline as I'm going to be on assignment, either in Switzerland or Washington.

As I can't be there in person, I agreed to make a short film to show at the conference instead.

I did the talking and Tony -- who's masterminding the BBC Wales documentary we're making -- did all the clever stuff, editing the video on Final Cut Pro (which is an absolute dream of an editing package.)

You can get an exclusive preview of the finished product by clicking on the link below. It's six and a half minutes long and is a 1.6Mb download. Apologies for the relatively low quality but it's in order to keep the file size down.

To view:
1) Right click on the link and "Save Target As"
2) Save the file on your hard drive.
3) Right click on the downloaded file.
4) Select "Play"

Videoblog: MAG Brussels Message

....and before you ask, I know the site needs permalinks. I'm working on it.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Thanks to Xeni Jardin and the fine people at Boing Boing for the link regarding my videoblogging efforts.

A link from Boing Boing always sends the traffic off the scale -- so if you're a first time visitor, you're very welcome. Tell your friends, sign the guestmap, and I hope you become a regular.

The Videoblogs have slipped down the homepage, so here they all are again in an easy-to-find form. To view:
1) Right click on the link and "Save Target As"
2) Save the file on your hard drive.
3) Right click on the downloaded file.
4) Select "Play"

Enjoy -- and, as always, all comments/suggestions are welcome:

Videoblog: Controlled Landmine Explosion (.wmv)
Videoblog: Controlled Landmine Explosion (.rm)
Videoblog: Auchamlong Piece to Camera (.wmv)
Videoblog: Auchamlong Piece to Camera (.rm)
Videoblog: MAG Cambodia 1 (.wmv)

As the Boing Boing link has probably attracted lots of new readers, I suppose I should also do my tin-rattling routine. If you were intrigued/moved/inspired by the videoblog and want to find out more about landmines and what's being done to clear them, your first port of call should be the MAG website.

BBC News Online reports on how "disabled" Cambodians are benefitting from the digital economy.

Welcome to Needless Cosmetic Surgery Corner, presented by Leslie Ash.

In today's episode: Cosmetic Podiatry.

Girls, just say no.

I only intended to have the dead skin on the soles of my feet removed -- and look what happened to me.

NY Times: If Shoe Won't Fit, Fix the Foot? Popular Surgery Raises Concern



...and reported:

BBC News: Transvestite potter wins Turner

Alex writes with an extract from an e-mail she received from a friend serving with the armed forces in Iraq (no names or places on request):

He says:
"Delightfully, the former regime loyalists have recently started mounting anti-personnel mines at head height on lamposts and detonate them as patrols go past....which is proving a little depressing at the moment, thankfully no-one has been hurt yet, but again one gets the feeling of inevitability given time..."

MAG have collected together the audio and video material I did in Cambodia and posted them up on their website.

If you're a regular reader you'll have seen them already, but if not click here and then click on "More stories in Multi-Media," under the photo of the women deminers.

Pouting Hollwood sex goddess and Cambodian holiday-home owner Angelina Jolie marked the sixth anniversary of the signing of the Ottawa Treaty by writing (or at least putting her name to) this article in the Bangkok Post.

Apologies for the lack of blogging activity over the last few days. Sad anorak that I am, I spent the weekend installing a new hard drive on my computer to put all the video files I've been playing with on. Then I dashed down to Cardiff (where I still am) for a "diagnostic fitting" for the new leg.

My prosthetist, Ian, has made two clear fibreglass casts, one slightly bigger than the other, which will form the basis of my new leg. This morning I tried them both on, while Ian checked for fit and even pressure distribution. The slightly larger cast felt much more comfortable, not such a tight squeeze, so it's that one he'll use to make the leg socket.

Ian marked out a few spots on the cast where he'll put in pressure pads and cut down excess ridges and he's now taken it away to make up the final leg.

Delivery date is 22nd December -- just in time for Christmas! He's promised to wrap it up for me, although I think the shape will be a dead give away when I put it with the other presents under the tree.

I'm itching to get the leg. The one I'm wearing has given me good service and taken me to Spain, Italy and Cambodia but I now have to wear it with five socks underneath because Mr Stumpy has shrunk so much over the past few months. It's time to retire it gracefully.

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