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May 2nd, 2011
04:42 AM ET

Bin Laden is Dead: What Happens Now?

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For almost a decade, the U.S. has anticipated the moment it could tell the world with confidence: Osama bin Laden is dead.

Sources say that America’s most wanted was tracked down and killed at a mansion just a couple of hours' drive from the Pakistani capital Islamabad. Not in the Tora Bora caves. Not in the remote mountains of Waziristan. Osama bin Laden was – apparently – found in relative comfort.

The man whose image will forever be entwined with the indelible scenes of 9/11 is now a corpse under U.S. ownership. It’s an iconic occasion for President Obama and for the country as a whole. But its significance will only become apparent in time. Does martyrdom await? Will bin Laden’s death serve only to assemble the disparate factions of al Qaeda? FULL POST

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Filed under: General • Personal musings
April 23rd, 2011
04:22 PM ET

The Royal Wedding Guest List – Skepticism Set in Stone

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So – finally Julia Gillard gets to go to something other than a shrimp barbie. 

But of course I jest. The world’s only ginger Welsh antipodean political leader deserves a party after all she’s been through since she took office.

 I am still avoiding my point. 

While I wasn’t waiting with baited breath for my own invitation to the royal nuptials – or indeed rehearsing fake delight ahead of  the distant chance any acquaintance might be among the chosen few – two words are lodged in my craw. Joss Stone. 

I can accept Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. At least she flirts in royal circles and occasionally persuades the world that Duncan from Blue has more to offer us than Eurovision or bisexuality "shockers".

I can even accept Posh ‘n’ Becks. At least they guarantee viewership from the jaded brigade who don’t do royal but refuse to succumb to totally common (yes – you, Katie Price).

But Joss Stone? Really? Not Adele? Not Laura Marling? Not even Amy Winehouse? At least she’d be worth a laugh. A castoff from Jane McDonald’s “Star for a Night” gets to brush past the bouncers at the biggest event of the year?

Fergie might have felt aggrieved if her namesake from the Black Eyed Peas had been asked along. But Joss Stone?! 

Joss, sweetheart...  This turn of events is not super duper and very few people are diggin’ on it.

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Filed under: General • Personal musings
April 22nd, 2011
06:26 PM ET

The 2011 TIME 100: Most Influential and Most Infuriating

 
 
Top 100 lists are curious beasts at the best of times. But compared to the pleasant predictability of People’s "100 Most Beautiful” or Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For”, the “TIME 100” is a particularly baffling blend. Only here do comedians, congressmen and cricketers sit alongside terrorists, tyrants and tiger mothers to comprise the world’s most influential century.

We do get some intuitive topical touches. Among them, Barack Obama on Gabrielle Giffords: “a needed voice that cannot return soon enough”.  We can appreciate the inclusion of revolutionary figures from El Général to Ai Weiwei to Aung San Suu Kyi. Likewise, we should celebrate the ordinary man excelling in extraordinary circumstances – Japanese doctor Takeshi Kanno.

These people deserved to be honored. But – Obama aside – some of the more curious content comes courtesy of those doing the honoring.   FULL POST

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Filed under: General • Personal musings
April 13th, 2011
07:45 AM ET

Yuri Gagarin, SuperTed and the Case against Space

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A lot of people are going to hate this blog post. To all those people, I’d just like to take a quick moment to say: “Suck it up, haters”. 

Here’s the deal. Some people are lost in space. Some, like me, are lost in space-related conversation. I just don’t get it. I don’t want to get it. I will never get it. 

When most of my colleagues watch the Yuri Gagarin video from five decades ago, they gasp in awe. When I watch it, I struggle not to choke on my own vomit. 

FULL POST

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Filed under: General • News Stream ephemera • Personal musings • Space
April 11th, 2011
01:42 PM ET

News Stream Joins Fight to End Modern-Day Slavery

The CNN Freedom Project is a year-long campaign aimed at stamping out modern-day slavery. This is a despicable business worth $32 billion annually, according to UN estimates. But it's also an elusive business. When we report that there could be 10 million or 30 million slaves in the world today, we're conveying not just the scale but the inscrutability of this global scourge.

This week, CNN's News Stream picks up the baton and provides the lead voice in the campaign. Throughout the week beginning Monday 11 April, we'll attempt to shine a light on this darkest of industries. But we'll also put an unmistakably News Stream stamp on our coverage. This means demonstrating how technology is helping to track and tackle slavery right around the world.

FULL POST

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Filed under: General • Social networking • Technology
March 31st, 2011
07:30 PM ET

April Fools’ Day Pranks – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Let me start by clearing a few things up:

  • Scientists have NOT proven the existence of the Loch Ness Monster
  • Abba are NOT reuniting to perform ‘Dancing Queen’ at Kate and William’s reception
  • Snoop Dogg has NOT been neutered
  • Charlie Sheen is NOT a nice person 

At this time of year, news outlets revel in their readerships’ gullibility. But the art of media foolery is so rampant that an increasingly skeptical public is starting to doubt the veracity of stories long before April 1.

Take Rebecca Black for example. We almost needed to believe that ‘Friday’ was a hoax, despite its mid-March emergence. So indescribably offensive was this autotuned iniquity, the conspiracy theorists flooded online forums within hours. Sadly, we’ll have to chalk that down to wishful thinking.

FULL POST

March 22nd, 2011
01:20 PM ET

Rebecca Black: The Future of Music or a Cautionary Tale?

Rebecca Black. Love her or hate her. But if you’re leaning towards the latter, take a moment to put yourself in her shoes. If you were an ambitious, borderline-precocious 13-year-old Californian whose mommy and daddy could pay to make you a star, would you refuse their offer? I very much doubt it.

By all means hate the track with which Black has risen to YouTube infamy. “Friday” is Ke$ha without the booze references, and if you knew the true toxicity of my venom towards Ke$ha, you’d appreciate how much I despise it. The lyrics appear to have been conceived by a bargain basement Taiwanese robot armed only with a calendar and admittedly admirable "copy and paste" skills. The melody has all the merits of a rejected Daphne & Celeste B-side. And that thing they’ve done to her voice? If the producers used a button entitled “Singing under the bathwater with a wired-up TV thrown in for good measure”, I’d have to concede they’ve nailed it. FULL POST

March 21st, 2011
05:40 PM ET

Twitter: Five Years On

To tweet or not to tweet? Well, when you work on a show with the tagline “Where News and Technology Meet”, it seems pretty apt to give it a go. So, Happy Birthday, Twitter. Here's to the next five years!

I ought to confess that I didn’t really “get” Twitter before the launch of News Stream. I didn’t even attempt to.  From a news perspective, a site on which Lady Gaga (self-proclaimed gay – but not gay – icon, purveyor of occasionally catchy music), Justin Bieber (hair icon, purveyor of perpetually dismal music) and Britney Spears (comedy icon, purveyor of largely unintentional entertainment) command more followers than the U.S. President, it hardly seemed necessary. FULL POST

March 11th, 2011
02:36 PM ET

Earthquake and Tsunami Hit Japan: Watching the Disaster Unfold

There are some days in a TV newsroom you’ll never forget. Here in Hong Kong, I’d had an eye across the morning’s events as I sat at home, fully expecting further dramatic developments in Libya. Only upon my arrival in the office did I hear of the Japanese quake. 

Certain news stories are best told with astonishing pictures and minimal words. As we started to see ground-level shots of cars and boats being swept by a torrent of water, we sensed this was one such occasion. But when aerial footage from Miyagi Prefecture began to stream live, the entire newsroom was left in unusual conflict: trying to put this event across to millions of viewers, while unable to tear our eyes away from what we were watching. 

As the pictures kept coming (homes being ripped from their foundations, cars attempting in vain to evade the rushing wave, an oil refinery enveloped in smoke and fire), the realization dawned on us that it could take weeks before we knew the extent of the damage, both human and physical.

And then there was the other development: tsunami waves heading out into the ocean, with the entire Pacific Rim apparently at risk. How powerful would the waves be when they hit distant shores? Were we watching a premature echo of events in 2004? 

As we went to air, Hawaii was braced for a tsunami. Of several individuals we spoke to in the archipelago, one stood out. Ryan McGinnis told us he was just meters from the shore, as waves clearly began to build – and water lapped onto the streets. As we left him at the end of the hour, we could only wonder if we were watching the next chapter of a devastating story being written. 

And as we return to our desks (some of us over the weekend, some on Monday), we will truly begin to reflect on the scale of what could become the story of the year.

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Filed under: General
March 9th, 2011
08:06 AM ET

Australia: Looking Beyond the Floods, Fires and Financial Fears

Had I purely followed the coverage of CNN (and other international news networks) in the run-up to my maiden voyage to Australia a couple of weeks ago, I'd have learned three things:

  • A lot of it has been flooded. Actually, that’s an understatement.  More than a lot of it. Areas reportedly the size of sizeable countries have been submerged. Many are inaccessible, and some require months – if not years – of recovery time;
  • A  few areas have remained dry, but that’s only made them susceptible to that other great Australian blight: bushfires, ripping through the countryside at a terrifying speed,  and taking homes and businesses with them;
  • Floods and fires cost people a lot of money. Thousands of Australians have been financially crippled by natural disasters in the past couple of months. But it gets worse. Tourists already put off by all the negative headlines out of Australia will feel financially crippled if they fight their fears and make the trip. The Aussie dollar is strong as an ox, and visitors from the UK, for example, can expect to get about half the value they received a few short years ago.

Now, I haven’t been sponsored by Tourism Australia to write this blog. If I had been, I’m pretty confident that everything written above would have been aggressively edited at best. But I’m going to say this: Australia, as you may be aware, is a big place. It’s also a diverse place. It’s a big, diverse place with a $34 billion tourism industry that deserves a little bit of support in the current meteorological and financial climate.

FULL POST

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Filed under: General • Personal musings
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