Talk about Newsnight

A blog and forum.

Thursday, 31 August, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 31 Aug 06, 03:59 PM

reid1_203.jpgJohn Reid gave himself 100 days to sort out the Home Office – has he succeeded? Is it time to allow people to buy a kidney if they need it? And a look at Qatar’s schools – who has the best education service in the world? Comment on Thursday’s programme below.


  • Newsnight
  • 31 Aug 06, 03:34 PM

The Human Tissue Act which comes into force overnight means for the first time it will be legal for living individuals to donate organs to complete strangers out of purely altruistic motives. However, they won't be allowed to do it for hard cash.

Given the scale of organ shortages in the UK – the waiting list for kidneys alone stands at over 5,000 - and the flourishing black market in transplants overseas, isn't it time we sanctioned cash-for-kidneys?

Wednesday, 30 August, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 30 Aug 06, 05:13 PM

How worried should we be about Iran’s nuclear programme? What difference has our stem cells investigation made to people who were planning to travel abroad for treatment? Is the super casino at the Dome a done deal? And when will we get mobile phones that are able to do everything? Discuss Wednesday’s edition of Newsnight here.

When Am I Going To Get a Mobile That Does Everything

  • Paul Mason
  • 30 Aug 06, 11:33 AM

This question has been bugging me ever since so much paint came off my SonyEricsson P900 that I decided to upgrade this year to the new model. I have blagged a P990 (which is launched in the UK 1 September) and been trying it out. The problem is, though it's got Wifi and a better camera, it's clear we are years away from a smart mobile device that can replace wallet, keys, ID card, credit card etc. But, as my research has shown me, only a few years. Here's why:

Continue reading "When Am I Going To Get a Mobile That Does Everything"

Newsnight's GorDaq-free website

  • Newsnight
  • 30 Aug 06, 10:20 AM

What do you think of the redesigned and pruned website? Thanks for all the comments and suggestions you've sent in. Many raised similar themes and we've tried to incorporate or reflect most of them. The result is, we hope, less cluttered, clearer and much easier to navigate. And, as many of you requested, we've killed the GorDaq.

It's no breeze

  • Justin Rowlatt -
  • 29 Aug 06, 06:59 PM

I’ve been trying to get a wind turbine ever since I first had the title Ethical Man foisted on me by the Newsnight editor six months ago. Wind turbines are this year’s must have eco-accessory and I was keen to bolt my new credentials firmly to the roof of my terraced house.

I live in a borough that boasts about how green it is but getting the planning permission I need has not been easy. My application didn’t get any formal complaints from neighbours but Camden still wanted me to undertake an expensive acoustic survey.

Meanwhile I’ve had to watch as ethical fellow travellers David Cameron, the Tory leader, and Malcolm Wicks, the Energy Minister, have been granted permission for their turbines despite local opposition.

Then today my wait came to an end. On Friday Camden council decided that I could install my environmental virility symbol on my home, though my permit only allows for a temporary erection – six months only.

As an ethical man, I wish Messrs Cameron and Wicks all the best with their turbines, but I thank Camden that at last I am back in the race.

Tuesday, 29 August, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Aug 06, 06:24 PM

stemcell_spl203100.jpgThe sale of false stem cell treatments; Uganda's ceasefire; and an interview with Michael Brown, the federal emergency chief who became the fall guy for Washington's inept handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Tell us what you think of Tuesday's programme here.

Faith in faith schools

  • Newsnight
  • 24 Aug 06, 04:39 PM

What this country needs most is a new initiative. Ok, no one has quite said that. But once again this government's wracking its brain to figure out what to do to bring communities together to wipe out extremism.

That will not include examining whether faith schools are a good thing or not. Indeed more are planned by the government. Church of England Schools are the most diverse in the country, according to Education Secretary Ruth Kelly. And as it’s all about giving parents choice, Muslim parents should have the same opportunities offered to Christian and Jewish parents, she says.

Critics claim faith schools increase segregation on religious grounds and opening more at a time when religious understanding and tolerance are particularly fragile is a mistake. Ms Kelly’s answer is for faith schools to play each other at football, cricket and the like.

So can faith schools have a part to play in this debate, given that none of the suicide bombers we know of even attended one? Is the blame too often laid unfairly at their door? Or should we be looking to end segregation right where it begins, in the infant school playground?

Flying whilst Asian

  • Newsnight
  • 23 Aug 06, 05:03 PM

Tonight we interview the two Muslim men who were kicked off a charter flight home from Malaga - not as a result of intensive security checks but of suspicions voiced by fellow passengers.

They appear to have taken the experience rather well - and admit they "collapsed laughing" when they realised what had happened. So was this a case of what one senior met officer called "the new crime of flying whilst Muslim" - a phrase he coined on the programme just a week earlier? Or was their behaviour sinister enough - as fellow passengers still insist - to justify the actions taken?

Has passenger profiling has already begun - "vigilante style" and is this type of incident only likely to increase if the public take to their heart the oft-heard call to be "the eyes and ears in the war against terror"?

Going for gold

  • Justin Rowlatt -
  • 23 Aug 06, 03:03 PM

london2012_203.jpg“You can taste blood in your mouth, your lungs are burning, your legs are screaming at you. If you don’t believe in yourself you are not going to get there”.

Sounds like fun doesn’t it? It’s what one of Britain’s most promising young rowers, eighteen year old Mohamed Sbihi, says it takes to win a world class race.

He’s not someone who’d ever considered rowing until a team from GB Rowing turned up at his urban comprehensive armed with measuring tapes and strength testing machines. To Mo’s surprise they told him he was one of the estimated one in 10,000 of us who have what it takes to make it to the very top of world sport.

We feature Mo and his partner Charles Cousins in a report on tonight’s programme about how UK Sport is searching for the next generation of sporting superstars to compete at the run up to London 2012. The body has been given almost £600 million in total to develop top talent, now it needs to find the athletes to spend it on….and UK Sport has asked Newsnight to help.

Continue reading "Going for gold"

Immigration questions

  • Peter Barron
  • 22 Aug 06, 02:41 PM

arrivals_luton203.jpgWe'll be going big on immigration tonight, as new Government figures (download the pdf document here) confirm that the number of migrants who've come from East European EU states since their accession has been around 600,000 - many times higher than they predicted. What should be done now?

•a. Nothing - the more the merrier, our economy needs more migrants

•b. impose quotas on immigrants from existing EU countries

•c. take urgent action to prevent another wave of immigrants coming from Romania and Bulgaria

And would your answer stay the same if Britain's economy starts to slow down? Let us know.

Laffing all the way to the bank?

  • Paul Mason
  • 21 Aug 06, 02:49 PM

byers203.jpgSummer would not be summer without members of the Labour hierarchy knocking lumps out of each other with handbags marked "policy renewal". Stephen Byers' gambit yesterday - to scrap inheritance tax because it is a "tax on hard work" - seems to be more than just the traditional phenomenon of Labour rightwingers getting very sentimental about money in old age: it contains a genuine philosophical challenge to Labour tax policy...

Continue reading "Laffing all the way to the bank?"

Another BBC Turkey

  • Justin Rowlatt -
  • 18 Aug 06, 07:44 PM

turkey203a.jpgMeet the Newsnight turkey. Not some duff story that will make the editor cringe when he sees it, but the bright eyed bird that will grace the table of Ethical Man and his family this Christmas.

I know some in the Ethical Man audience will not be pleased to see Ned – as the farmer has called him. Some of Ethical Man’s most consistent correspondents are vegans arguing that the only ethical diet is one that is free of all animal products.

Continue reading "Another BBC Turkey"

On internet conspiracy theories

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Aug 06, 04:30 PM

roswell203152.jpgMost journalists use the phrase 'conspiracy theory' as an insult. Not because they're arch-rationalists who never entertain such notions in private but because if they publish something controversial and can't back it up, big trouble follows. You lot can say what you like about Diana and flying saucers and JFK, but hacks stick to the evidence, at least until they get down the pub.

But as the internet takes over the media mainstream, conspiracy theory (CT) journalism is getting a much wider airing than it ever used to, whereas the official version (OV) is no longer shifting copy like it did. So we present our net veteran Adam Livingstone's personal rule-of-thumb guide to believing CTs and OVs:

Continue reading "On internet conspiracy theories"

Off message

  • Justin Rowlatt -
  • 17 Aug 06, 06:22 PM

blogcomment203.jpgI am still very new to the world of blogging but already I am beginning to understand why so many people – including a number of my colleagues here at Newsnight – have become obsessed by it.

Journalists just love to talk about what people think about what they do. But our audience hasn’t always entered into the discussion. The audience figures show that about a million people watch Newsnight each night yet sometimes we get no virtually feedback whatsoever.

I say “virtually no feedback” because we do get at least two calls every night. These are made regardless of who is presenting the programme. One says that Jeremy is rude to guests. The other says that Newsnight is not worth watching without Jeremy presenting.

Continue reading "Off message"

Baby boomers and the Huffington effect

  • Newsnight
  • 17 Aug 06, 12:46 PM

huffington203.jpgAll week the BBC has been looking at the impact of the baby boomer generation in the run-up to the 60th birthday spectacular of the archetypal boomer Bill Clinton on Saturday.

The political, cultural, industrial and academic worlds on both sides of the Atlantic are currently dominated by baby boomers. This post-war generation has changed our world and are still in charge of it. But have they changed it for the better or worse? When we come to take stock, when the next generation take power, what will the legacy of the baby boomers be?

Are you a baby boomer, or someone who resents their domination of Western politics and culture?

Tonight we’ll be discussing baby boomer's impact with – amongst others - one of its most vocal members, Arianna Huffington. What do you want us to ask her and the others?

Is David Cameron 'Built to Last'?

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Aug 06, 06:30 PM

cameron203.jpgOr is he destined to fail like Michael Howard, Iain Duncan Smith and William Hague before him?

On the day Dave unveiled the final version of his 'Built to Last' document outlining his vision for the future of the Conservative Party, Newsnight will be examining the Cameron revolution. Is DC laying the foundations of a bright Conservative future? Or is he just a wolf in sheep's clothing, all spin and no substance? Can a party of the right really prioritise the environment and the health of public services above tax cuts?

What do you think?

You can watch the report and debate - with Shadow Education Secretary David Willets - here.

Matches, vaseline and a note about Al Qaeda?!

  • Paul Mason
  • 16 Aug 06, 04:52 PM

Here in the newsroom we are watching live pictures of Boston airport baggage handlers roughly throwing a bunch of Brit passengers' luggage on the tarmac for a dog to sniff. According to wire reports the London-Washington flight was diverted because of a "confrontation" after a female passenger acting suspiciously was found to be in possession of matches, vaseline, a screwdriver and a note referring to Al Qaeda. Now who would get on a jet carrying this in current circumstances? Instant profiling by cynical members of the Newsnight team suggest a) a terrorist b) a tabloid journalist. As the old joke goes: Q. What's the difference? A. At least terrorists have supporters. Its all happening right now and we'll have the definitive take by 10.30GMT.

Weaning the States off cars

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Aug 06, 09:45 PM

In the land where car is king Portland Oregon is something of an anomaly. The city has developed its infrastructure with a series of public/private finance schemes coupled with targeted urban regeneration.

The local transport department even sought to prove how robust the city's transport is by challenging a group of residents to ditch their SUVs and station wagons and get on their bikes, city buses, trains and trams.

Sayeeda Warsi, vice chair of the Conservative Party and our reporter tonight, believes that the city’s integrated transport scheme is way ahead of anything the UK has to offer in terms of urban living, public health and limiting environmental impact. Read her piece here - and watch the film here.

We went there as part of our search for the best public services in the world, and Portland’s transport scheme seemed to fit that bill. Sayeeda Warsi, a self-confessed petrolhead, was convinced. Are you? Do you know of somewhere with a better approach?

Which side are you on?

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Aug 06, 04:10 PM

Can you be neutral in the so-called war on terror?

Tonight we'll be exploring the arguments for and against the proposition that the time is coming when everyone will have to decide which side they're on.

A majority of the British public opposed the Iraq war and Tony Blair's position on the war in Lebanon, yet the vast majority also abhor Islamic terrorism in the UK. Are those positions compatible? Bush and Blair seem to think not.

But what of the other argument, that these events can't be lumped together, that problems with the Islamic world could be resolved by a change in foreign policy, and the West's current approach is only making matters worse?

What do you think?

A hybrid world

  • Justin Rowlatt -
  • 14 Aug 06, 02:40 PM

ethicalfamilycar203.jpgWell my colleague Paul Mason couldn't have been more frank about the difference between a blog and a diary. He says it is that "people who think you are an a*****e can say so immediately and have it hosted by the BBC!". Quite an opportunity, I'd have thought.

So I was pretty pleased with my first haul. Most of my correspondents seemed to look fairly favourably on my ethical endeavours. Even my very first respondee, Kate, who wrote to tell me "this "ethical man" crap has to be one of the worst ideas newsnight (sic) has ever had" - rather paradoxically concluded her message by wishing me good luck with the blog.

So here's another one of my ethical confessions...

Continue reading "A hybrid world"

Passenger profiling - right or wrong?

  • Peter Barron
  • 14 Aug 06, 02:09 PM

air_wire203_152.jpgIn the 1980s, when the IRA was active and I was a scruffy youth with a Northern Ireland accent, I always used to get properly turned over at the airport flying to and from Belfast. Now, in a different era with a different threat, and a slightly neater haircut, I don't tend to. Fair enough, or not?

Continue reading "Passenger profiling - right or wrong?"

A wave of cynicism hits the blog

  • Paul Mason
  • 11 Aug 06, 01:16 PM

It turns out yesterday was a good day to open up the Newsnight blog: 150+ people have weighed into the debate on yesterday's alleged terror plot. As you saw on Newsnight last night, and as the BBC's Asian Network found on its phone-in this morning, there is a wave of cynicism and mistrust about what the government is telling us in the wake of the attacks. It is not confined to Muslims; also it is completely absent from American viewers/'readers. But it breaks down into three positions:
1) Some people believe that yesterday's alleged plot was staged by the British state - they also believe that 9/11 and 7/7 were carried out by the security services of the west, or Israel.
2) Others, remembering Forest Gate and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, doubt the ability of the Metropolitan Police to get the right people; fear that innocent people may have been caught up in yesterday's arrests. A variant of this view is that it is "all too convenient" that John Reid makes a speech on terror one day and the next day a major terror plot is discovered, right in the middle of a politically damaging war in Lebanon....

Continue reading "A wave of cynicism hits the blog"

Terror questions - do you have answers?

  • Daniel Pearl
  • 10 Aug 06, 12:24 PM

We awake to news that a major terror plot has been thwarted. Security sources claim that the group, who have been under surveillance for months, wanted to explode as many as 10 planes, probably somewhere over the Atlantic. Thousands of travellers are stranded, planes have been cancelled and the country's security threat has been raised to its highest level. There are a lot of questions we'll be trying to answer during the course of the day, for example:

1. how close were we to "mass murder on an unimaginable scale"?
2. have the security services found any explosives?
3. why did the police decide to swoop today?
4. were they members of a foreign terror cell or were they British-born?
5. how will this change the way we fly? Will we have to get used to flying without any hand luggage?

There are plenty more - let us know what questions you'd like answered, or if you can answer any of these.

Heard the news in China? No they haven't

  • Paul Mason
  • 10 Aug 06, 11:00 AM

Microsoft, Google, Skype and Yahoo were slammed today in a 149 page report from Human Rights Watch over their assistance to the Chinese authorities in censoring the Internet. It says:

"The above companies are complicit in the Chinese government’s censorship of political and religious information and/or the monitoring of peaceful speech in various ways—and, it is important to note, to widely varying degrees. They have all accepted at least some Chinese government demands without mounting any meaningful challenge to them."...

Continue reading "Heard the news in China? No they haven't"

Digital Dorothy

  • Martha Kearney
  • 9 Aug 06, 05:34 PM

fionabruce203.jpgWe are all getting a lot more letters and emails than normal because of the Middle East crisis; clearly an issue on which people do have strong feelings.

I perhaps should make it clear that generally we aren't getting secret instructions either from the Israeli government or Hezbollah as some correspondents have suggested.

In fact the only words in my earpiece come from Digital Dorothy. We no longer have a human PA in the gallery to give us timings because it's been automated.

Let me tell you a trade secret. Digital Dorothy who murmurs "two minutes to end of item" is, in fact, Fiona Bruce. We do obey.

An ethical blog...

  • Justin Rowlatt -
  • 9 Aug 06, 03:41 PM

ethicaldiary_203_120.jpgWelcome to my new "ethical" blog. Now I'm not the most computer literate of people so I don't really understand the difference between this, an ethical blog, and my previous ethical diary.

Ian - one of our online overlords - tells me that the important thing is that it will be easier for people to respond to the articles I post. Sounds like a bit of a mixed blessing to me but here goes…

My latest Newsnight ethical film is on how lobsters can help save the world. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Newsnight's Justin Rowlatt has agreed to take part in an experiment for the programme - to live as ethical a lifestyle as possible for a whole year...

Your mortgage rate is going's "odds on"

  • Paul Mason
  • 9 Aug 06, 02:21 PM

I've just been to the Quarterly Inflation Report press conference at the Bank of England. Last week they surprised the markets and raised interest rates to 4.75%. Today they gave a detailed account of the reasons and it brings no joy to mortgage payers but, maybe some to housebuyers. The bank's boss Mervyn King never gives "steers" about what future interest rates might do. But asked whether he might breach the 3% inflation benchmark, upon which he has to "write a letter" to Gordon Brown, he said it was 50/50 that it would happen in the next six months and odds on to happen over the next two years...

Continue reading "Your mortgage rate is going's "odds on""

I get demoted to a category

  • Paul Mason
  • 8 Aug 06, 04:09 PM

The blog looks wierd today because it is being changed into a generic Newsnight Reporters' blog. I will still be writing for it but I have managed to, in theory, persuade my fellow correspondents and presenters - and even some of those shadowy characters who really run Newsnight, The Producers, to write for it. Like the old blog it's an experiment - largely driven by the success of Idle Scrawl and the need for Newsnight to stop using analog technology (aka Stuart and Ian the web team) to organise online feedback. We will probably experiment again in 6 months time, and as a regular Typepad user I am already having a go at Vox. I am told the blog will sort itself out and my fantastically sarky picture will be back for those who are already missing it.

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