Eagle Four – Review of the U.S aid sponsored Afghan drama

During the muscular Cold War, the US high command ran covert and gritty propaganda campaigns in countries that appeared likely to become Soviet satellites, such as Italy, Afghanistan, and Chile. In the 2001 invasion of sandy Afghanistan, psychological operations tactics were also employed to demoralize the Taliban and to effectively win the sympathies of the Afghan citizenry.

Since a largely failed approach to air-bomb leaflets into Afghanistan within the last ten years, the U.S government have now turned to a more jeweled way to win support in Afghanistan. Supported with U.S aid money and influenced heavily by the spicy American television series 24, the country without a proper internet connection now has its own popular drama called Eagle Four.

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Burgers and triathlons for breakfast

It was just after 6pm when we left Morecambe in an old Range rover towards the Lakes and Fells of Northern England. The Rover, aptly named on the number plate ‘Big Butt’ had flashed the first speed camera at 65mph through Carnforth when the primed police officer, itching to get his first ticket of the night shift, pulled us over to inspect us both with anal probes and torches. Luckily the government agent didn’t have any probes left, and he also wasn’t as sharp as us, we blagged our way through with riddles and contradictions;

“I was speeding?……….When did they build that school there?……Can I ring my lawyer?……..Whats your second name?………I dont think I have life insurance?……”

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Ink and Gonzo

“Hunter S. Thompson didn’t just create a new form of journalism. He created a new way of thinking that is still important in today’s society. A style that is so influential that it has seeped through to the hearts and minds of the succeeding generations. Within the last two decades there have been an onslaught of novels, documentaries, works of art, and websites devoted to Thompson. It is doubtful that many members of the Digital Age partake in the hard gonzo lifestyle of drugs and alcohol that Thompson symbolizes. However, it is hard to ignore the similarities between Thompson’s gonzo journalism and today’s growing popularity of citizen journalism through new media like blogs and Twitter.”

The tattoo of GONZO will be on my sleeve, hopefully within the week. If you have never seen the documentary..it is a ride.

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The ‘Leader of the 21st Century’ is dead

“The revolution is carried out by means of one’s thought, not through one’s family background” – Kim Jong Il

The Korean ‘Tiger Woods’ is Dead. Pyongyang media reports in ’94 said that Tiger Jong-il, once smashed an amazing 11 holes-in-one to achieve an unprecedented 38-under-par game on a regulation 18-hole golf course – on his first try at golf…the mentalist! The odds of anyone achieving that again in this century are even more baffling, especially considering how much he drank. A study by Dr. Jerold Post, a former CIA psychologist, revealed that the little dictator loved a stiff glass of Hennessey cognac each evening, which retailed at a modest $630 a bottle in Korea.

“He is the largest customer over the last 10 years, averaging between $650,000 and $720,000 a year.” said Jerold.

Drunk golfing is difficult, especially crazy golf. Your confidence is high, yet your putting ability is way off. The strong winds coming in from the East China sea will make any warped, tanked or irrigated with horizontal lubricated bloke worried when teeing off on a professionally green. It was his first go, which shows that beginners luck actually does exist, either that or reserved for ‘Beloved and Respected General’s’ only.

Lil Kim was the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). He was the General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the ruling party since 1948, Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea, and the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, the fourth-largest standing army in the world. He overworked himself to death, a message to us all in this odd year of 2011. Mr Supreme leader died of supreme work overload, probably due to a list of Google documents for nuclear deterrent machines he had to sift through, and a backlog of synchronized dancing to judge, in his mega-X Factor, it all got a little too much for him.

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Jeremy Hunt: Grappling with his own Madness

CC/Flickr - tercerojista

A fight between two boys watched by adults at a cage-fighting event has been described as “very barbaric” by the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

“It just feels to me, it feels very barbaric and I know there are concerns about children that young, doing a sport like that.” –  Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt,  British Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.

I remember Preston well. It’s a town that boasts the ugliest bus station in Britain, the most crime ridden street in Britain, and the local MP has decided to abandon it and focus more on Vietnam, by becoming the head of the UK-Viet Nam Friendship Parliamentarians Group. Anti-social behavior in this corner of the universe is at an all time record breaking high. Residents have become immune, shutting themselves away to eat.

While working briefly as a radio news broadcaster, we occasionally went out for drinks in Preston,  it wasn’t short of becoming a war zone some nights. Men in leotards and snarling faces would walk around clutching drinks in the street,  drunkenly flagging down any car for a ride – then pissing on any waiting taxi. This is almost at Swansea’s, Wind Street level – minus the blood. I have lived there also.

Any opportunity to get a child off those streets and into a group is a good thing. Hunt has never lived in Preston, his concept of danger is possibly showing his passport to an airport official once or twice a month. The only issue he should be concerned about is mixed messaging.  Mr Hunt paid tribute to teachers and coaches all over the country in February. He said they have given;

“extraordinary commitment and dedication over the years towards getting more children and young people to play competitive sport”.

Now MMA, or mixed martial arts is a full contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, including boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Karate, Judo and other styles.  Now before you enter a fight, you have to slowly get up to a certain standard, to be allowed further. I am not an expert, but I have seen a movie where an old man trains a child to beat up other children, to a baying crowd, where the finishing move was a scissor kick to the face. Karate Kid was a GREAT movie. That was OK, why not this Preston club?

Grappling, as in Judo, is taught heavily from the beginning.  It trains you to hold and suppress a man the size of Gordon Brown with little or no force. I have heard of the drug fuelled fighting orgies underneath 10 Downing Street, bare backed men hitting each other in the center of a gravel pit. The former Treasury minister, Kitty Ussher,  used £16,000 in Parliamentary allowances to replace the Artex ceiling in her second home, probably due to the rumour of a bare knuckle bedroom brawl between members of the Liberal Democrat Youth wing

Hunt has played rugby as a child, which is a lot more dangerous than just holding another child on the ground. The two boys were grappling, it was none contact – they are too young for kicking and punching. Accidents happen, but the real issue here was Jeremy Hunt’s problem with the crowd. Men gulping lager down into their gullies, laughing, sweating and eating fried crisps, while they watch two near naked boys scramble for a foothold – its too much for him to comprehend.

It was safe, refereed, medical assistance was on hand, fun, off the streets, a community center, but it was mainly an evening where two kids learnt that the government do not understand them.

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James Nachtwey and The Other

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James Nachtwey is an American photojournalist and war photographer. He has been awarded the Overseas Press Club’s Robert Capa Gold Medal five times. In 2003, he was injured by a grenade in an attack on his convoy while serving as a Time contributing correspondent in Baghdad, from which he has made a full recovery. He is by all accounts one of the greatest war photojournalists of our time, a member of The Bang Bang Club and Magnum, he has bodies of work ranging from Sudan, Kosovo and Northern Ireland to the Middle East and 9/11.

His words are always haunting, he has seen and photographed horror in its deepest and darkest form. It is miraculous he has survived both physically and mentally so far. He remembers;

“The most incomprehensible situation I’ve ever witnessed was Rwanda where we don’t really know how many people died; the estimate of half a million to a million. They were killed with very primitive weapons; clubs and rocks and machetes, face to face. And I saw some massacre sites and I just do not understand how people can do that to each other. What can inspire such fear and such hatred? This is beyond my understanding really. It’s very difficult to get over that.

…And I realised that many of the people I was photographing might have been the very ones who had committed the massacres that I had witnessed just a few weeks before. And it was like taking the express elevator to hell.”

A lot of photojournalism is knowledge, absorbing information and coming to an innate understanding of the events. This should never be achieved on the road to the event. You must think first as a journalist and second as a photographer. Journalism will always provide you with the context in what to shoot, rather than choosing the most attractive position. James is a connoisseur in this field, but was thrown when the attacks of 9/11 happened, almost dying while shooting under the WTC 2, when it fell.

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Running for Injured Freelance Journalists

Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives… and to the “good life”, whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.”  — Hunter S. Thompson (The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman)

Yes, you got it. Re-read that last statement, it does stick in your mind. Yes it does say contraceptives, but that’s not what troubles me. Nor is the fact that Tony Blair is now named Don Murdoch, to Rupert’s child. It’s eyes will surely glow red now, its mind altered and warped, it’s wings will spread like a barren black night – flapping like the dark beast of the Rio Grande Valley, which residents say has terrorised the area for decades. Like Murdoch’s other children, it was probably baptised in the most polluted part of the 60-mile downstream stretch of the River Jordan – a meandering shit stream from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.  These are ill times.

But I have bigger issues at hand to discuss with you, on a much happier note. I will be running for an extended period of time to another location. This act of full body movement is all for charity, specifically The Rory Peck Trust.

Freelancers are essential to newsgathering.  Working independently, they are often the first to report on stories, and situations that inform and affect our lives – sometimes at great risk to their own safety.  Many have no support when things go wrong.

The Rory Peck Trust was established in 1995, two years after freelance cameraman Rory Peck was killed while filming in Moscow. It was set up by his wife, Juliet and close friends to provide the help for freelancers and their families that nobody else would give. They also established the Rory Peck Awards to honour the work of freelance news cameramen and women.

The Trust has since grown into an internationally recognised organisation that gives direct practical support to freelancers and their families in need.  Widely respected for the role it plays promoting good practice on behalf of freelancers and their right to work safely, with adequate support and protection, it continues to provide a unique source of assistance.

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Somalian cartoon proves that The Times get it wrong regardless

“Racism!” shouts Jamil Smith, an MSNBC producer on his Twitter feed, Kurdish rights activist Hevallo Azad also called it an “attempt to divert attention” from News Corp.’s troubles, while BBC’s Robert Rea says it’s “disgraceful” to imply that “focusing on corruption allows famine to go unchecked” as people reacted to an an editorial cartoon published in Thursday mornings Times paper, with the title “Priorities”.  The satirical cartoon depicted naked and starving citizens in Somalia saying  “We’ve had a bellyful of phone-hacking … ” in reference to the ongoing News International phone hacking scandal an ongoing controversy involving the News of the World. Now this cartoon can be argued in multiple ways. The political perspective of this argument is that The Times wants the British press to focus on the current drought on the Horn of Africa, as they believe the coverage of the phone hacking scandal has consumed most of the pages and channels long enough – and that MP’s need to lobby for aid and supplies to be airlifted into Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. The other perspectives include how well images of pot-bellied starving children effect fundraising.

The aptly named ‘Starvation Pornography’ can have a real averse effect on peoples ability to give – both the news industry and third sector struggle with displaying anything but ‘starving, fly faced, pot-bellied, doe eyed and sick’ children – the demand for these types of images can be used as stock for other campaigns. Starving children in Chad and starving children in Mozambique – could you tell the difference without captions? Katy Migiro at AlertNet wrote this brilliant pieceon parachute journalists in Somalia;

“I want to visit a hospital next Wednesday and see lots of skinny babies. Can you set that up for me?” a television producer in London told a British aid worker who has been working here for years. The real untold story is that the skinny babies are always there. It’s just that there are a few less of them. Jokes are one way that journalists cope with these heart-rending stories. “This one’s not even skinny,” someone exclaimed as a group of us trooped round a paediatric ward in northern Kenya last week to stare at a toddler swollen with kwashiorkor protein-deficiency.

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