Talk about Newsnight

Book club

Torture Team by Philippe Sands

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Apr 08, 12:13 PM

book_club.jpgOn 2 December 2002 Donald Rumsfeld signed a memorandum authorising 18 techniques of interrogation not previously allowed by the United States.

In Torture Team leading QC Philippe Sands traces the life of the memorandum and examines the use of torture at Guantanamo and the US airbase at Bagram.

He also and explores issues of individual responsibility.

Extract from:
Torture Team

Deception, Cruelty and the
Compromise of Law

Published by Penguin Books

Only a few pieces of paper can change the course of history. On
Tuesday, 2 December 2002 Donald Rumsfeld signed one that did.

It was an ordinary day. The Secretary of Defense wasn't travelling.
No immediate decisions were needed on Iraq and Washington
awaited Saddam's declaration on weapons of mass destruction.

The only notable public event in the Secretary's diary for that day was the President's visit to the Pentagon to sign a Bill to put the Pentagon in funds for the next year. Signings are big, symbolic public events.

They offer an opportunity to lavish praise and on this occasion neither man showed restraint. The Secretary of Defense introduced President Bush effusively as our 'leader in the global war on terrorism'. The President thanked Mr Rumsfeld warmly, for his
candour, and for doing such a fabulous job for the American people.
gunatamono_bay203.jpgThe United States faced unprecedented challenges, Bush told a large and enthusiastic audience, and terror was one of them. The United States would respond to these challenges, and it would do so in
the 'finest traditions of valour'. And then he signed a large increase in the Defense budget.

That same day, elsewhere in the Pentagon, a less public event took place for which there was no comment, no publicity, no fanfare. With a signature and a few scrawled words Donald Rumsfeld cast aside America's international obligations and reneged on the tradition of valour to which President Bush had referred. Principles for the conduct of interrogation, dating back more than a century to President Lincoln's famous instruction of 1863 that 'military necessity does not admit of cruelty', were discarded. His approval of new and aggressive interrogation techniques would produce devastating consequences.

Blogging - a new era

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Apr 08, 05:49 PM

blog203.jpgAs many of you who've used the BBC's blogs will know, it has for some months been a deeply frustrating experience, not just for you but for us too.

The point of blogging about our programmes is to have a swift and informal conversation with our viewers. That's impossible if it takes hours to get your comment or our response through.

I'm relieved to say that as of yesterday we have a new system which should be much more robust and which I hope will usher in a new era of blogging for Newsnight.

One change is that in order to comment you'll need to register by filling in a simple form.
Once signed up, you'll be able to comment on any BBC blog using the same login.

Many of you have already commented on how it's working and one or two have suggested it's designed to introduce more censorship.

That's certainly not our intention. The aim is to encourage much more open discussion about the programme and much more interaction with the programme-makers. I'm sure it isn't perfect and that you'll let us know how it could be improved.

Thanks very much to all those contributors - the Bob Goodalls, Barrie Singletons, Mistress76UKs and many others - who have persevered through all the blog problems. Apologies for all the Error 502s, and welcome to the new era.

Blog fix imminent

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Apr 08, 04:32 PM

Blog closed temporarilyFrom 1800 this evening (UK time), we'll be doing some essential maintenance to the blog. As a result of this, you won't be able to leave any comments on our blog posts from that time until Thursday morning and the comments function on all old posts will close. We apologise for any inconvenience.

The work will fix the very frustrating problems we've encountered for some time now with the whole comments system.

From Thursday a new system will be in place - this will mean you will need to complete a simple registration form in order to post a comment on the blog. Once signed up, you will be able to comment on all BBC blogs using the same login. There will be more details in the morning. In the meantime - if you wish to comment on the programme you can email us via

Blog problems - a solution is nigh

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Apr 08, 11:40 AM

blog502error.jpgAnyone who regularly reads the Newsnight blog will know that we have suffered from a series of technical problems for some time now. Comments disappear, the dreaded 502 'not available' message appears, and multiple copies of comments get submitted in error. (More on the problems here.)

Well, to much relief (not least here at Newsnight), a solution is about to be unveiled.

In the very near future the comments system that causes all the problems is being replaced by a BBC-wide system.

Under the new system, anyone wishing to leave a comment will need to sign in - a relatively swift and painless affair that comes with the added bonus of enabling you to leave your thoughts on blogs and message boards across all BBC websites.

Finally, we hope to revamp and relaunch the whole Newsnight blog shortly, with more bloggers, more variety, and the odd bit of video thrown in. But one step at a time...

We'll update you on the changes next week.

The Three Trillion Dollar War by Stiglitz and Bilmes

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Feb 08, 03:32 PM

The Three Trillion Dollar WarThe Three Trillion Dollar War by Nobel award-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes of Harvard University is an attempt to put a price on how much was spent invading Iraq.

Stiglitz and Bilmes try to put numerical values not only on the damage to the world's economy but also on the more personal costs of the war. The book counts direct spending by the US and UK before going on to cost everything from lives lost and damage done in the Middle East to replacing military hardware and caring for veterans in the West.

The extract below is from the preface.

Continue reading "The Three Trillion Dollar War by Stiglitz and Bilmes"

The New Cold War by Edward Lucas

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Feb 08, 01:34 PM

new_cold_war203x152.jpgJournalist Edward Lucas claims that Russia has started a new Cold War - and the West is losing it because it is unwilling to confront the new threat.

Edward Lucas speaks to Jeremy Paxman on 12 February.

Extract from:

The New Cold War
How the Kremlin Menaces both Russia and the West
by Edward Lucas
Published by Bloomsbury at £18.99

Vladimir Putin wants to build up the Kremlin’s influence not only on the West, but also in the West. The growing business lobby tied to Russia represents a powerful fifth column of a kind unseen during the last Cold War. Once it was communist trade unions that undermined the West at the Kremlin’s behest. Now it is pro-Kremlin bankers and politicians who betray their countries for thirty silver roubles.

Continue reading "The New Cold War by Edward Lucas"

Newsnight book club: Broken by Shy Keenan

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Feb 08, 05:18 PM

Broken by Shy KeenanShy Keenan was systematically raped by her stepfather Stanley Claridge throughout her childhood. When she was just ten she was almost killed by a group of abusers he had sold her to. In a Newsnight special investigation in 2000, she secretly recorded Stanley Claridge admitting the abuse – an admission that led to him and his accomplices being arrested and brought to trial. Shy Keenan’s testimony ensured he and two other men were imprisoned.

Founder - with Sara Payne – of Phoenix Survivors, Shy Keenan now campaigns for justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse. Her book Broken is her story - of how she survived being abused and fought to bring those responsible to justice. The following extract is from chapter 30, Why Me?, which details the trial.

BROKEN by Shy Keenan is published by Hodder & Stoughton in hardcover (£12.99) on 7 February

Continue reading "Newsnight book club: Broken by Shy Keenan"

In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Jan 08, 01:40 PM

food203x300.jpgIn the latest entry into the Newsnight bookclub, journalist Michael Pollan argues that our idea of what food is and what we should be eating has been completely distorted by the food industry and nutritionists. He believes that people are now so confused about their diet that they have no idea what real food actually is any more.

Watch the Newsnight debate here and read an extract and join in below.

Continue reading "In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan"

The Second Bounce of the Ball by Ronald Cohen

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Nov 07, 12:52 PM

In the latest entry into the Newsnight bookclub, businessman Sir Ronald Cohen offers budding entrepreneurs guidance on how to approach the challenges and opportunities ahead of them.

Sir Ronald Cohen speaks to Newsnight on Wednesday, 7 November.

secondbouncecover_203.jpgExtract from The Second Bounce of the Ball: Turning Risk into Opportunity by Ronald Cohen published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson at £20.00.

There is a cliché that entrepreneurs are born, not made. If I think back on my experience, I know this is not entirely true. Yes, all entrepreneurs share certain personality traits: a high level of confidence and high levels of optimism, energy and determination. But the people who become entrepreneurs come in all ages, shapes and sizes, and their entrepreneurial skills vary considerably.

There has been a significant increase in the number of entrepreneurs during the three decades in which I have been a professional investor. This speaks not so much for a sudden growth in the gene pool of ‘born’ entrepreneurs, as for the opportunities that have opened up for all kinds of people to use their entrepreneurial ability.

Continue reading "The Second Bounce of the Ball by Ronald Cohen"

Newsnight Book Club - Fair Game by Valerie Plame Wilson

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Oct 07, 04:01 PM

plame203book.jpgThe latest entry into the Newsnight Book Club is Valerie Plame's Fair Game.

Valerie Plame Wilson is the woman at the centre of the scandal that, ultimately, led to the downfall, prosecution and conviction of the former White House chief of staff, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, for revealing her identity as a CIA spy.

In Fair Game, Valerie Plame Wilson tells her side of the story, and details her life as a spy. The following extract covers the moment her identity was revealed.

Watch Newsnight’s 2005 interview with Joseph Wilson

Fair Game is published by Simon & Schuster.

Sections of Fair Game have been blacked out. Ellipses within the following text – denoted by [------------] – indicate the places where the CIA has ordered cuts.

From Chapter 9 - Exposed

Our bedroom was just beginning to show the first hints of morning light on July 14 when Joe marched in, dropped the newspaper on the bed, and said in a tight voice, “Well, the SOB did it.” He set a steaming mug of coffee on my bedside table and left the room. What? I struggled to wake up. I sat up, switched on the lamp, and opened the Washington Post to the op-ed page; I didn’t know what I would find, but I knew it wouldn’t be good. Robert Novak had written in his column that “Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.” The words were right there on the page, in black and white, but I could not take them in. I felt like I had been sucker-punched, hard, in the gut. Although we had known for several days that he had my name and knew where I worked, we never believed for a moment he would actually print it or that the Agency would allow it. It was surreal.

Continue reading "Newsnight Book Club - Fair Game by Valerie Plame Wilson"

Microtrends by Mark J Penn

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Oct 07, 02:51 PM

The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes
By Mark J Penn with E Kinney Zalesne

microtrends1_203.jpgIn Microtrends, Mark Penn explores the trends in American society today. He suggests that the ideas shaping our world are relatively unseen – under-the-radar forces that can involve as little as one per cent of the population, yet their impact on society is huge.

Mark Penn is Hillary Clinton's chief strategist. An interview with the author will be shown on Newsnight on Thursday 4 October.

From the introduction

In 1960, Volkswagen shook up the car world with a full-page ad that had just two words on it: Think Small. It was a revolutionary idea—a call for the shrinking of perspective, ambition, and scale in an era when success was all about accumulation and territorial gain, even when you were just driving down the street.

At the same time that America was becoming the world’s superpower, growing the dominant economy and setting the pace for global markets, the Beetle took off as a counterculture phenomenon—representing individuality in reaction to the conformity of the 1950s.

America never quite got used to small when it came to cars. But ask two-thirds of America, and they will tell you they work for a small business. Americans are willing to make big changes only when they first see the small, concrete steps that will lead to those changes. And they yearn for the lifestyles
of small-town America. Many of the biggest movements in America today are small—generally hidden from all but the most careful observer.

Continue reading "Microtrends by Mark J Penn"

Soldier - General Sir Mike Jackson

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Sep 07, 01:03 PM

General Sir Mike Jackson's autobiography Soldier details key events during his 45 years of service in the British Army. From early cadet days, through service in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles, to commanding troops in Kosovo and overseeing deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, the book examines the changing face of British soldiering and warfare.

Since standing down as Chief of Staff in 2006, he has been outspoken on many issues surrounding the military, most recently criticising US post-Iraq invasion plans.

The following extract is from the opening chapter of the book, Schoolboy.

From Chapter 1 - Schoolboy

I am a soldier. I have held every rank in the British Army from officer cadet to four-star general. I am now retired, but my almost forty-five years of service ensure that I remain a soldier at heart. My father was a soldier, my elder son has been a soldier and my younger son is thinking about becoming a soldier. My father-in-law, my brothers-in-law and my son-in-law have all been soldiers – so the Army is something of a family tradition. But my father didn’t push me in that direction, and what I have said to my sons is that it is your life, and therefore your call, and you must decide what you want to do with it. I am pleased that both of them have decided to follow the path I took, but I would have been entirely content had they chosen otherwise.

Continue reading "Soldier - General Sir Mike Jackson"

Wikinomics - Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Sep 07, 04:37 PM

WikinomicsWikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams looks at how companies are beginning to use mass collaboration of knowledge to gain success.

Citing many examples of successful and surprising projects, the authors explain how big businesses could harness external expertise by engaging directly with and rewarding participation from their customers, users and a wide pool of informed contributors - a method of epitomised by the online encyclopaedia 'Wikipedia', where entries are written and edited by users. 'Crowdsourcing' rather than 'outsourcing' as they put it.

Far from being sceptical about the power of mass collaboration - see Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur, another Newsnight Book Club entry - Tapscott and Williams claim Wikinomics could provide the basis for huge economic and intellectual growth.

In line with their own thesis, the last chapter of the book will be written by readers and is already open for contributions here.

Watch Paul Mason's report on Wikinomics and an interview with Don Tapscott.

Read the book's introduction below, and leave your thoughts and comments at the end.

From the introduction
Throughout history corporations have organized themselves according to strict hierarchical lines of authority. Everyone was a subordinate to someone else—employees versus managers, marketers versus customers, producers versus supply chain subcontractors, companies versus the community. There was always someone or some company in charge, controlling things, at the “top” of the food chain. While hierarchies are not vanishing, profound changes in the nature of technology, demographics, and the global economy are giving rise to powerful new models of production based on community, collaboration, and self-organization rather than on hierarchy and control.

Continue reading "Wikinomics - Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams"

The Political Brain by Drew Westen

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Aug 07, 05:19 PM

The Political Brain by Drew WestenIn The Political Brain Drew Westen, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University, examines the role of emotion in determining national politics. Westen looks at how politicians capture the hearts and minds of the electorate and suggests ways in which they might better appeal to voters' brains.

Read the excerpt from the book below, watch the report and interview with Drew Westen on Newsnight, Wednesday 15 August and let us know your thoughts. And don't forget there's plenty of other titles in the Newsnight Book Club.

Continue reading "The Political Brain by Drew Westen"

The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Jun 07, 02:07 PM

The Cult of the Amateur
How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy
by Andrew Keen

amateur_203.jpg“If we are all amateurs, there are no experts.”

Watch the Newsnight discussion here.

Andrew Keen’s new book, The Cult of the Amateur is the latest addition to the Newsnight book club. In it, the author expresses his concern for the profligacy of online amateurism, spawned by the digital revolution. This, he feels, has had a destructive impact on our culture, economy and values.

He says, “[They] can use their networked computers to publish everything from uninformed political commentary, to unseemly home videos, to embarrassingly amateurish music, to unreadable poems, reviews, essays, and novels”.

He complains that blogs are “collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture”.

He claims that Wikipedia perpetuates a cycle of misinformation and ignorance, and labels YouTube inane and absurd, “showing poor fools dancing, singing, eating, washing, shopping, driving, cleaning, sleeping, or just staring at their computers.”

He warns that old media is facing extinction – “say goodbye to experts and cultural gatekeepers – our reporters, news anchors, editors, music companies, and Hollywood movie studios.”

What do you think? We’ve published two extracts from Andrew Keen’s book below. Have a read and share your thoughts – is he being alarmist about the effects of the Web 2.0 revolution, or raising genuine concerns? Are we at the mercy of the amateur? Can kids tell the difference between credible news sources and the amateur’s blog? What, in any case, can be done?

Continue reading "The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen"

Washington's War by Gen Sir Michael Rose

  • Newsnight
  • 2 May 07, 04:58 PM

Washington's WarThere has been much criticism of the US-led coalition's post war strategy in Iraq. As the insurgency has grown and sectarian violence taken hold, US forces have increasingly had to adapt their tactics - most recently boosting troop numbers in the so-called "surge" strategy.

General Sir Michael Rose's book - the latest Newsnight Book Club entry - argues the insurgents' tactics have been seen before - ironically when George Washington's forces succeeded in defeating the British Army to win independence for the US in 1776. Having served with the SAS and commanded the UN Protection Force in Bosnia, his analysis raises profound questions about tactics and leadership in the campaign in Iraq.

Read an extract here and leave your reviews and comments below.

Not One Of Us by Ali Dizaei

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Mar 07, 01:58 PM

alidizaei203.jpgWith his outspoken campaigning on race relations and reputation for day-to-day crime-fighting, Superintendent Ali Dizaei had been tipped to be Britain's first Asian chief constable.

But the Iranian-born officer was secretly suspected of a series of crimes and in 2000 became the subject of what was to become the most expensive inquiry ever into a single officer.

Three years later he was cleared of perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office and making false expense claims - leading to renewed claims that the Metropolitan Police had failed to stamp out racism.

Not One of Us outlines how he set about clearing his name.

Read an extract here and leave your comments and reviews below.

The Chilling Stars by Calder and Svensmark

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Feb 07, 04:54 PM

chillingstars203.jpgThe Chilling Stars by science writer Nigel Calder and climate physicist Henrik Svensmark outlines a controversial new theory on the origins of global warming.

The book sets out to prove that a combination of clouds, the Sun and cosmic rays - sub-atomic particles from exploding stars - have altered our climate far more than human carbon emissions.

Svensmark's research at the Danish National Space Center suggests cosmic rays play a role in making clouds in our atmosphere. A reduction in cosmic rays in the last 100 years - due to the activity of our Sun - has meant fewer clouds and a warmer Earth.

Read an extract here and leave your comments and reviews below.

The Writing on the Wall - Will Hutton

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Jan 07, 04:49 PM

hutton203bookclub.jpgIn The Writing on the Wall, Will Hutton looks at the uneasy relationship between China and the West in light of the former's phenomenal economic growth - seen by many Western analysts as a threat.

Hutton argues that the West should embrace China and seek to promote better governance within the country by adhering to fundamental principles such as the rule of law as an example of progress.

Read extracts here and leave your comments below.

Inside the Global Jihad by Omar Nasiri

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Nov 06, 10:05 PM

Omar Nasiri (not his real name) worked for European security agencies during the 1990s and infiltrated al Qaeda both in the camps of Afghanistan and in terror cells in London.

His story reveals the extent of al-Qaeda's preparations - years before 9/11- and the British authorities' lack of awareness of the growing threat of Islamic terrorism.

Read extracts here and leave your comments below.

Ghost Plane by Stephen Grey

  • Newsnight
  • 26 Oct 06, 11:51 AM

ghostplane203logo.jpgBritish journalist Stephen Grey's Ghost Plane documents his investigation into the secret CIA practice of transporting terror suspects to third countries - known as "extraordinary rendition".

The book claims many of those prisoners subsequently suffered torture at the hands of regimes such as Syria - publicly pilloried by the Bush administration but, it says, privately colluded with the name of defending the US.

Read an extract here and post your comments and reviews below.

The Goldilocks Enigma by Paul Davies

  • Newsnight
  • 9 Oct 06, 05:58 PM

goldilocks203logo.jpgProfessor Paul Davies' The Goldilocks Enigma tackles fundamental questions about the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it. Scientific breakthroughs, he argues, have brought us to the brink of comprehending the underlying structure of nature or "a final 'theory of everything'" to replace all previous models - both theological and scientific. Central to finding this solution, he says, is answering the Goldilocks Enigma - why is it that "the universe seems 'just right' for life"?

Read extracts from The Goldilocks Enigma and leave your comments and reviews below.

The J Curve - by Ian Bremmer

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Oct 06, 06:37 PM

jcurve_203.jpgThe J Curve is an attempt to sum up in one simple graph what is arguably the world's most pressing geopolitical challenge: how to turn authoritarian regimes into stable, open democracies.

In Thursday’s programme Paul Mason tests out the curve and we talk to the book’s author Ian Bremmer.

Read extracts from The J Curve here and post your comments and reviews below.

In the Line of Fire - Pervez Musharraf

  • Newsnight
  • 27 Sep 06, 05:02 PM

musharraf203.jpgHeads of state usually hold off publishing memoirs until they have left office behind and are unfettered by diplomatic niceties. But Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has chosen to publish an account of his experiences as premier - including details of events surrounding the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington - while still in office. His claim that one US official used threats to secure Pakistan's cooperation in the so-called war on terror has caused much controversy.

On Wednesday's programme we speak to President Musharraf about his book, the war on terror and much else besides.

Watch Newsnight's report and interview here.

Read an extract from In the Line of Fire here and leave your comments and reviews below.

The God Delusion

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Sep 06, 07:36 PM

thegoddelusion.jpgJeremy Paxman talks to Richard Dawkins in Friday's programme. Read extracts from Dawkins' book The God Delusion by clicking here, then post your responses below.

Faith and Freedom

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Sep 06, 05:44 PM

cartercover.jpgFormer American President Jimmy Carter, who appears on Newsnight on Thursday, argues how Christian values can inform and animate progressive politics in his book Faith and Freedom.

You can read an extract from his book by clicking here – then add your comments and reviews below.

The Great Immigration Scandal

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Sep 06, 12:00 PM

moxon203_logo.jpgWhen Home Office immigration caseworker Steve Moxon was sacked for blowing the whistle on what he said was widespread abuse of the government's managed migration policy, he was denounced by many as being a xenophobic agitator. Now his ideas about immigration are beginning to be accepted by many. Read an excerpt of his book here, then leave your comments and reviews below.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Sep 06, 05:28 PM

didioncover_logo2.jpgIconic US author and journalist Joan Didion's latest book, The Year of Magical Thinking, is a study of the grief she experienced following the death of her husband and illness and subsequent death of her daughter.

You can read an extract from the book here and leave your comments and reviews below.

You can also watch Steve Smith's interview with Joan Didion here

"Eating" by Peter Singer and Jim Mason

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Sep 06, 04:22 PM

On Monday's programme Newsnight speaks to controversial author Peter Singer. You can read extracts from his new book, Eating, by clicking here.

Leave your comments about the interview, the book and the subjects it raises below.

You can also watch Newsnight's interview with Peter Singer here

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