Talk about Newsnight

A blog and forum.

Evo, Didier, Tony, Lucy and Martin - memories of 2006

  • Paul Mason
  • 31 Dec 06, 10:13 AM

I'll end 2006 with memories of some the extraordinary people I've met this year (plus a couple who I did not meet but made an impression on me):

1) Evo Morales. I got to interview the new president of Bolivia during my trip there in March - it was touch and go because his press operation is not very attuned to outlets by the BBC but one night, after an attack of Boliivan lurgy, my producer dragged me out of bed to go and see a lecture by thevice president, on the pretext that if we met him,we might secure an audience with the main man. In the end, the vp did not show, disappointing an entire hall full of Catholic students, and my heavily perspiring and dizzy self. As we packed our cameras up our fixer took a mobile phone call. "It's on for tomorrow, you have your interview with Evo," she said nonchalantly: "We need to be at the palace by 5.30". Brilliant I said - a whole day to prepare for it. "No," she said, "They mean 5.30am"....

Continue reading "Evo, Didier, Tony, Lucy and Martin - memories of 2006"

Friday, 22 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Dec 06, 09:20 PM

Analysis of today's Russian energy moves; Oh My Newsnight winner announced; and what happened next?

Emily's on at 2230GMT, BBC Two and on the website.

Comment on Friday's programme below.

Happy holidays...

I wish I had killed him

  • Justin Rowlatt -
  • 22 Dec 06, 04:33 PM

justin_turkey_203.jpgLast week I travelled up to Norfolk to meet my Christmas lunch in person for the first and last time.

I have followed Ned the Newsnight turkey’s progress from a lustrous chick into a magnificent one and a half stone stag. Now it was time for me to kill him.

I eat meat almost every day but I have never actually killed an animal. As Ethical Man I reckoned that it was time to take full responsibility for my food. An ethical man should be able to stomach dispatching his own supper or should decline to dine upon it, shouldn’t he?

But having said that, killing Ned wasn’t something I was looking forward to. My mother-in-law’s partner Dave was so upset after he killed two turkeys in a garden shed in York fifteen or so years ago that he’s been a vegetarian ever since.

I was consoled by the fact that Ned has had a good life. In fact he’s about as ethical a bird as you are ever likely to eat. But, when the time came, I couldn’t bring myself to wring his neck.

turkey_farmer_203.jpgWringing a turkey’s neck takes a fair bit of skill. You hang the bird by its feet, take a firm grip on its neck and then twist it slightly while pulling firmly down. Tony, the most experienced turkey slaughterer on the farm, assured me that - when done correctly - the neck is broken in a second.

So why didn’t I do it? I accept that morality shouldn’t be size-based but a living, gobbling turkey is a surprisingly bulky beast and Ned’s size was certainly off-putting. The clincher, though, was that I was worried that, in my inexpert hands, Ned might suffer unnecessarily.

So it was Tony who saw to our Ned. He flapped frantically for a minute or so after Tony had done his work, then twitched his last. It was a distressing sight but Ned did not appear to feel any pain.

As soon as his body was still Tony and I started to pluck him. The feathers come off much more easily in the moments after the bird has been killed. Ned’s body was surprisingly warm.

Then, a couple of days ago Ned turned up on my doorstep. He was in a white cardboard box and looked smaller than I remembered him. He’s in the fridge now.

turkey_meat_203.jpgI am confident that Ned will be delicious on Christmas day. I am looking forward to stuffing him, seasoning him and popping him in the oven. His giblets will make a rich gravy.

And, if you are wondering, I am not upset by having played such an intimate role in his death. If anything, I think I should have mustered the courage to kill him myself. In truth, I bottled out and I shouldn’t have done.

Because, let’s be honest about this: carnivores can’t afford to be squeamish. Turkeys like Ned have to die if we are going to get our Christmas dinners.

Anyway, I’ll have all of January to reflect on the ethics of what I eat because I’m becoming vegan. The idea is to explore how diet affects our impact on the environment.

I’ve been a meat eater all my life and I still think that this will be my toughest ethical challenge to date, even though I now have a good few tempting vegan treats to choose from

One consolation is that, according to a doctor I saw last week, I can expect to come out of the experience healthier. After a thorough check-up he said that cutting out animal fats would be good for me.

We’ll see.

Malawi wins Oh My Newsnight

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Dec 06, 11:54 AM

omn66.jpgCongratulations to Joe Blanks (presenter/producer) and Greg McKinney (editor), winners of the popular vote in our viewers’ film competition Oh My Newsnight.

Joe and Greg’s film highlights the work of the charity Mary’s Meals, which provides school dinners to impoverished and hungry children in many countries, and specifically Malawi - the project featured in the film. Their two-minute wonder will be shown on Newsnight on Friday 22 December at 2230 on BBC Two.

But you can enjoy below in its original format.

MALAWI by Joe Blanks and Greg McKinney

Congratulations also to Matthew Bristow who took the editor’s choice award for his film on the production of cocaine in Colombia.

COLOMBIA by Matthew Bristow

And you can see all of the shortlisted entries again here.

Thursday 21st December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 21 Dec 06, 05:48 PM

haditha203i.jpgHow do you reconcile a hearts and minds campaign in Iraq with the killing of 24 unarmed civilians in the town of Haditha? The case has drawn comparisons with the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war - an atrocity that prompted outrage around the world and lost American support at home. This trial could have similar ramifications for how the troops are received in Iraq - and ultimately whether their numbers are boosted or withdrawn. Also: Ethical Man on domestic wind turbines; Northwick Park drugs trial victim interview; and the British Army aide in Afghanistan accused of spying under the Official Secrets act. Plus an Oh My Newsnight video on the production of cocaine in Colombia.
Comment on Thursday's programme here.

I am not a transvestite, I just want to talk green electricity

  • Justin Rowlatt -
  • 21 Dec 06, 05:05 PM

zola203.jpgTake a look at the picture of my four-year-old, Zola. I defy you to deny that she appears a sweet and gentle child. But beware: Zola also has a wicked sense of humour.

Last week she may have besmirched my reputation with her teachers forever and may also have ruined my chances of the school governorship I had set my sights on.

Her nursery school teacher, Mrs D, was making herself a cup of tea when Zola proffered that her father likes wearing tights.

Now Mrs D is not one to encourage gossiping in children but she couldn’t help but blurt out a shocked “really?”

“Yes,” Zola confirmed. “He put on Mummy’s tights and now Mummy is very angry with him.”

Continue reading "I am not a transvestite, I just want to talk green electricity"

Wednesday, 20th December 2006

  • Stephen Smith
  • 20 Dec 06, 05:18 PM

veil203b.jpgExploring the extraordinary allegation that Britain's most wanted man slipped out of this country using his sister's passport, wearing a niqab. Could it really have happened? And does the government really have a clue who enters and leaves the country? Also: bungs report analysis; and political correctness and Christmas.
Comment on Wednesday's programme here.

Science Student sits his mock

  • Stephen Smith
  • 20 Dec 06, 05:11 PM

stevesmithtree203.jpgHe's making a list, checking it twice. Gonna find out who's naughty and nice. That's right - Fumbi, my Physics teacher, has been marking the mock A-level paper that his students sat the other day.

I went into the exam hall with a new calculator and a stylish wipe-clean wallet of protractors, and most of all with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. You'd never guess it to look at me, but it's been many years since I was last injuncted to write on one side of the paper only, and to answer all the questions.

In case you haven't been following my progress - and we won't hold it against you - I've been studying physics in an effort to find out why so few of our young people are doing the same, notwithstanding our matchless heritage in engineering and technology. We've been looking at dams in Scotland and wrestling with giant magnets and meeting the charming and brilliant Kathy Sykes, of TV science fame.

But all along I knew that there would be a reckoning in December, that the festive season would find me scribbling equations alongside my Christmas cards. Tune in tonight to find out how I got on.

But please I beg of you - don't judge me too harshly, gentle viewer! I haven't actually completed all the course work yet - Young's Modulus, for example, remains a tantalising enigma to me.

If I may, I'd like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the way my colleagues have helped me shoulder the burden, especially Newsnight's exotic and multi-garlanded cameraman Antoine de Joliffe. When a few were quite prepared to mutter behind my back about how few marks I'd score, he bravely went out on a limb and said that I'd get none at all.

Find out tonight if he'll have to eat crow, or at least his favourite Tottenham Hotspur bobblecap.

Can you do my mock exam?

  • Stephen Smith
  • 20 Dec 06, 04:26 PM

stevesmith203.jpgHere are a couple of questions from the paper, set one term into my physics A-level. Good luck!

1. (a) (i) Define the moment of a force.

(ii) State the principle of moments.

(b) The diagram below shows a pillar (lying horizontally) made of two uniform sections X and Y each of cross-sectional area 3.5 x 10-2. m2. The sections are made from two different materials. The weights of X and Y are shown acting through the centre of gravity of each section.


Show that the average density of the pillar is about 1800 kg m-3. .

(c) The pillar in (b) will balance horizontally supported vertically below the point P.

(i) Show, using the principle of moments, that the point P is 1.2m from the end B.

(ii) State the significance of point P.

2. (a) (i) Explain the concept of work and relate it to power.

(ii) Define the joule.

(b) A cable car is used to carry people up a mountain. The mass of the car is 2000 kg and it carries 800 people, of average mass 60 kg. The vertical height travelled is 900 m and the time taken is 5 minutes.

(i) Calculate the gain in gravitational potential energy of the 80 people in the car.

Gravitational potential energy gain = ……….J

(ii) Calculate the minimum power required by a motor to lift the cable car and its passengers to the top of the mountain.

Power =…..… unit………..

The exam questions were taken from an OCR past paper from 2001. If readers want to attempt more exam papers for fun, there are some specimen papers available at the OCR website.

Science student films

  • Stephen Smith
  • 19 Dec 06, 06:31 PM

steve203.jpgApparently there's been a clamour for my science films and complaints they're none to easy to track down. So for the hard of Googling here is the Newsnight Science Student back catalogue so far.

Science Student film one

Science Student film two

A Level coursework

Disappointingly meagre so far, isn't it?

Tuesday, 19 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 19 Dec 06, 05:44 PM

srilanka_203b.jpgWe have an exclusive investigation into how billions of pounds donated to charities for victims of the tsunami has not been spent. Also: "unstable" party funding; Iran student political activity crackdown; and another Oh My Newsnight finalist.
Comment on Tuesday's programme here.

Monday, 18 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Dec 06, 07:37 PM

stephens203.jpgPolice arrest a man in Suffolk; touring the Middle East Tony Blair says the next few weeks are "critical" for the region - we speak to a senior Palestinian politician; speeding policeman follow up; end of year interview with former Iraq hostages Norman Kember and James Loney; and Oh My Newsnight.

Oh My Newsnight - winning list

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Dec 06, 06:05 PM

omn203.jpgTime Magazine's person of the year this year is every one of our Oh My Newsnight winners. In fact it's everyone who entered and everyone who watched them. The magazine's thesis is that the internet means the story of our age is one of global communities, of a greater equivalence.

Tapping into this feeling is of course Oh My Newsnight, our film competition. Thousands voted and below are the five winners. But you will have to watch Newsnight each night this week to find out which are runners up (to be shown Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) which is our editor's choice (to be shown on Thursday) and which is the overall winner (to be broadcast Friday).

But for now you can watch where they originally made their mark - on that great level playing field on which we are all stars by Time Magazine's reckoning, the web.

Continue reading "Oh My Newsnight - winning list"

Newsnight Review, 15 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Dec 06, 06:44 PM

flags203i.jpgGermaine Greer, Johann Hari, Anna Blundy, Paul Morley join Kirsty to discuss Flags of our Fathers, This Life + 10, the Chapman Brothers' Bad Art for our People, and Merry Wives The Musical.

Friday, 15 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Dec 06, 06:01 PM

litvinenko_203i.jpgLitvinenko - what really happened and the clues that point to those who may have carried out the murder.

Serious Fraud Office - exactly what were the reasons for dropping the Saudi arms deal inquiry?

And an exclusive interview with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Join Gavin at 2230 on BBC Two and on the website.

Science Student's car coursework

  • Stephen Smith
  • 15 Dec 06, 12:33 PM

stevecar203.jpgIt isn't often that I get to explore my great passion for health and safety demonstrations. Well, it wouldn't be if I didn't work for the BBC.

But now, thanks in no small measure to the coursework element of the physics A-level I'm nervously grappling with, all that's changed. Here I present, as exclusive bonus web content (that's how good it is), my report on The Physics of car safety that was just this very day delivered in stunned silence to my classmates.

You can watch my A Level-winning (or not) coursework film here

Thursday 14 December

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Dec 06, 05:09 PM

Dear Viewers,

Tony Blair made political history today, and not in the way he would have hoped. There was a knock on the door of Number Ten, and in came police officers for a little chat.

He is the first serving Prime Minister to be interviewed by the police. Will the combination of the cash for honours scandal and the war in Iraq put a lasting blight on Tony Blair's ten years as leader, and the office of Prime Minister?

Also tonight: the real focus of the Ipswich murder investigations; we reveal more about the Litvinenko murder; and singing Ban Ki Moon.
Comment on Thursday's programme here.

Are women funny?

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Dec 06, 11:06 AM

Ruby Wax takes on Christopher HitchensOn Wednesday's programme comedienne Ruby Wax took on writer Christopher Hitchens over his thesis in Vanity Fair that women are not as funny as men.

There are caveats to Hitchens' theory - that larger women, Jewish women and lesbians can be funny - but on the whole he suggests men are naturally more funny as women have the serious business of childbirth and childcare to occupy them, while men use humour to attract them.

You can watch the whole debate here - with Jeremy playing referee - and give your thoughts on the subject below.

Wednesday, 13 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Dec 06, 05:24 PM

As the investigation continues, is it time for a change in prostitution laws? A rare report from inside North Korea; and are women funny?
Comment on Wednesday's programme here.
Join the prostitution debate here.

Prostitution - the oldest dilemma?

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Dec 06, 04:57 PM

prostitute203i.jpgPolice fear a serial killer is operating in Suffolk after the discovery of the bodies of five prostitutes.

Prostitutes are often among the most vulnerable members of society, working to fund drug habits or out of desperate poverty. Their trade is also illegal and operating outside of the law leaves them even more vulnerable.

Illegal and anti-social it may be, but prostitution it is not going to go away - there currently are an estimated 80,000 sex workers in the UK. The question is how does society accommodate it?

How do we protect women working on the streets while separating prostitution from attendant crime - such as drugs and violence - and maintaining safety for the rest of us?

The government is still considering a proposal to allow groups of up to three women to run small brothels, but is it time to just legalise prostitution completely? Or are safe tolerance zones on the streets the answer?

There is opposition to all the above proposed solutions. How many would honestly want prostitutes and their clients operating near where they live - whether in brothels or in safe zones? So what is the answer?

We have pulled together online resources examining the subject here.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 12 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Dec 06, 06:07 PM

Live from Suffolk where more bodies have been found; £100m government cost of translation; and Cameron's 'large mountain to climb'.

Watch Mark Easton's report on the cost of translation services.

Comment on Tuesday's programme here.

Monday, 11 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 11 Dec 06, 06:28 PM

Police search a rive in SuffolkPolice fear a serial killer is at large in Suffolk; we speak to President Putin's spokesman about Litvinenko; Iran holds a 'Holocaust review' conference; and Steve Smith does more science.

Jeremy's on at 2230GMT (BBC Two and the website) - over to you below.

Can you do my homework 2?

  • Stephen Smith
  • 11 Dec 06, 05:25 PM

physics203c.jpgFollowing the huge interest in and bitter disputes over the last lot of homework I posted on this public forum, I present the sequel: Can you do my homework 2?

1. The Earth has a radius of 6,400 km. What is the speed of Edinburgh at a Latitude 56º?

(a) 465 ms-1
(b) 386 ms-1
(c) 260 ms-1

Use the equation for kinetic energy Ek=1/2mv2 and change in gravitational potential energy Ep=mgh for the following questions.

2. A car of mass 850 kg which is moving at a speed of 10 ms-1 is acted upon by a braking force of 1500 N for a distance of 20 m. Calculate the final speed of the car.

(a) 3.81 ms-1
(b) 5.42 ms-1
(c) 7.98 ms-1

3. A 3 kW motor is used to lift a mass of 700 kg a height of 6.5 m. The operation takes 20 seconds. Calculate the efficiency of the motor lift.

(a) 74.3%
(b) 68.2%
(c) 49.9%

Frank Luntz - kingmaker?

  • Newsnight
  • 11 Dec 06, 12:41 PM

cameron203tie.jpgIt was suggested in The Observer this weekened that US pollster Frank Luntz's focus group for Newsnight during the Conservative Party leadership election propelled David Cameron from nowhere to become party leader.

We thought Luntz perspicacious for spotting Cameron's appeal - but Nick Cohen (author of the Observer piece) suggests Luntz was instrumental in creating that appeal and seems to think that but for Newsnight Cameron would not be heading the Conservative party at all. It sparked furious debate on the Observer's website.

You can watch Frank Luntz's piece here (and watch his other Newsnight films here).

So did Frank Luntz really annoint David Cameron or just pick him out of the line-up? What do you think?

When is a sprout not a sprout?

  • Justin Rowlatt -
  • 11 Dec 06, 11:26 AM

sprout203.jpgWhen is a sprout not a sprout? The answer appears to be when it comes in my family’s organic box. Take a look at the picture and then read the blurb that came with this week’s cache of vegetables.

“There is a new vegetable in town: the oh-so-cool sprout top. It’s the brassica du jour, found on the menu of quite a few fashionable eateries in England. It will be gracing some of you with its exclusive presence this week and is quite simply the vegetable to be eating this season!”

The missive from Abel and Cole goes on to distinguish the sprout top - “the sweet and tender tip of the Brussels sprout plant” - from the actual sprouts which apparently come from lower down the stalk of the same plant.

I’m sure that whoever writes the company’s weekly newsletter had their tongue at least partially in their cheek as they wrote this eulogy to the country’s least-loved vegetable. But I am not going to risk a fashion faux pas with the family’s Christmas fare, so Ned, the Newsnight Turkey, will be garnished with only the very finest organic sprout tops.

Yum, yum.

Continue reading "When is a sprout not a sprout?"

Ethical Man - London, Milan, Trento

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Dec 06, 06:55 PM

I seem to have sparked a very healthy debate about turbines and green electricity on the blog. We’ve even had a contribution from Ian Pearson, the Minister for Climate Change, himself.

I have to admit I’ve taken a bit of a back seat. That’s because my wife Bee and I have been on an “ethical excursion”. We’ve been to a conference in the beautiful medieval town of Trento.

Continue reading "Ethical Man - London, Milan, Trento"

Newsnight Review, 8 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Dec 06, 06:40 PM

nativity203c.jpgThe panel discusses: The Nativity Story - a biblical big screen outing based on the gospels of Matthew and Luke; Mark Ravenhill - best known for Shopping and F***ing - changes tack to oversee the Barbican's first pantomime, Dick Whittington & His Cat; Housewife, 49, Victoria Wood's wartime drama; and Patrick Marber's new play
Don Juan in Soho.

Join Martha and co at 2300GMT on BBC Two after Newsnight and watch it again from Saturday on the website.

As ever, your comments are welcome below.

Friday, 8 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Dec 06, 06:28 PM

darfur203.jpgDarfur - we have testimony of the full horrors of the conflict from one woman who survived and fled to the UK.

Plus Tony Blair points the finger in his take on problems with multiculturalism.

Join Kirsty at 2230GMT on BBC Two and on the Newsnight website.

Thursday, 7 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Dec 06, 05:19 PM

blair_bush_ap203i.jpgThe future of Iraq, the Middle East and the credibility of the special relationship; further radiation victims; and why do juries fail to convict in so many rape trials?
Comment on Thursday's programme here.

Oh My Newsnight - the shortlist

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Dec 06, 02:22 PM


vidcam203.jpgBelow are the 13 shortlisted films for Oh My Newsnight (entry is now closed). Watch them, enjoy them, comment on them, then vote for one of them.

Subjects range from being on the dole to Colombian cocaine and there's not a funny animal video among them.

When you have watched the videos vote for your favourite. Instructions are at the bottom of the page.

Continue reading "Oh My Newsnight - the shortlist"

Wednesday, 6 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Dec 06, 05:51 PM

iraq203i.jpgAssessment of the Iraq Study Group; Martin Bell talks to Afgan war children; and how green are Brown's taxes?
Comment on Wednesday's programme

Tuesday, 5 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Dec 06, 05:49 PM

cameron203i.jpgCameron's strategy assessed one year on; Rumsfield's replacement; the psychology behind England's cricketing collapse; and Brown's green budget?

Comment on Tuesday's programme here.

Monday, 4 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Dec 06, 09:10 PM

Young offenderOn Monday's programme: young offenders - as more get locked up more are being put at risk; a new submarine fleet for Trident; former diplomat Carne Ross on Iraq war intelligence; Anglo-Russian tensions rise over Litvinenko; and the ethics of recruiting for the Army.

Join Jeremy at 2230GMT on BBC Two and on the Newsnight website and leave us your comments below.

Newsnight Review, 1 December, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 1 Dec 06, 06:12 PM

Julianna Moore and Bill Nighy in Dave Hare's Vertical HourA special edition from New York. David Hare's new play Vertical Hour opens on Broadway, a new film about Bobby Kennedy, Gordon Ramsay cooks for America, and Television satire Studio 60 gets the Review treatment.

Watch the panel - BBC Two 7 pm Friday 1 December and on the website from Monday lunchtime - then tell us what you think.

Will the Tory leader get it up (his turbine that is)?

  • Newsnight
  • 1 Dec 06, 05:51 PM

David Cameron - does he know his onions when it comes to wind turbines?There’s been an impressive response to my blog on the physics of wind turbines. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that small wind turbines are simply not appropriate for most homes.

If that is correct then domestic turbines, which not so long ago looked like proud environmental virility symbols, might very well end up looking like limp gestures. So are some of the high profile people who signed up to micro-wind power now reconsidering?

The most notable wind enthusiast is, of course, the Tory leader David Cameron. His plans to erect a turbine on his home generated acres of newspaper comment along with the ire of some his neighbours. He was awarded planning permission months ago by his local authority but there is still no sign of a turbine on his West London home.

Continue reading "Will the Tory leader get it up (his turbine that is)?"

AIDS: We expose the "goat cure" salesmen

  • Paul Mason
  • 1 Dec 06, 12:55 PM

CARD logo“The trials have now to this date gone through three phases, all of which have proved totally reliable in the cure of Aids” – that is what it said on the business plan.

If the claim were true it would be headline news for the world. Instead the headline news tonight, on Newsnight, is that we have uncovered a scheme by a British company to test a totally unproven “cure” for AIDS on patients in the African kingdom of Swaziland. The “cure” is based on goat serum.

The scheme was proposed by a British-based company called CARD, run by a man called Michael Hart Jones. He approached film actor Richard E Grant to front the scheme: Richard was born in Swaziland – fortunately he was not born yesterday: he came to us....

Watch the report

Continue reading "AIDS: We expose the "goat cure" salesmen"

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