Twenty years ago, when the first Band Aid single came out, my dad was so overwhelmed by the concept that he bought about 40 copies of the single and gave them to many of the people who'd been working on his TV show. It was one of the earliest memories I have of really being proud of my father.

I doubt he'll feel quite the same way about the new version. It lacks passion. It lacks conviction. And maybe I'm being cynical, maybe we've seen so many African catastrophes over the last two decades, but the plight of the Darfur people just doesn't seem as big as the one which Ethiopia faced in 1984.

Nevertheless, this is quite funny.


A little less than 24 hours ago, Yasser Arafat died. Not meaning to sound callous, it was the most intoxicating time I've had at work in weeks, if not months.

When the story first dropped, we were a little sceptical - after all, it had broken on al-Jazeera, a fine broadcasting institution, but first and wrong too often to be trusted as a sole source.

And coming just one day after AFP had buried the Palestinian leader, we wanted something more credible to work with. Fortunately, the most reliable agencies piped up with confirmation within minutes.

With the office all but empty at four in the morning, there was just myself and a colleague to handle our share of the site's response to the story. And although I say it myself, we played a blinder, giving the day team the best possible platform on which to build. I was so wired on the rush of a breaking story, I couldn't get to sleep for an hour after getting into bed.

So what of the news itself?

It's mixed fortunes for the Palestinians.

Arafat was not a good man - anyone who at least allowed the various bombings, hijackings, assassinations and Munich Olympics massacre to happen, however noble the cause, can not be described as good.

But he had a righteous (and, for my money, correct) belief that he was fighting a great injustice - Israel's suppression of the Palestinian people.

That shouldn't be seen as an excuse of Palestinian terrorism, but it's certainly a valid rationalisation. After all, on the other side Ariel Sharon has so much blood on his hands as to be immeasurable. The two men were as bad as each other - Arafat just didn't enjoy the unquestioning support of the world's most powerful nation.

The death of Abu Ammar, as he was known, undoubtedly provides the opportunity for movement in the Middle East peace process - the deep, personal hatred between Sharon and Arafat was always going to be an insurmountable obstacle - but three things have to happen if there is ever going to be peace in the region:

The new Palestinian leadership must stop the paramilitary factions - an Israel under fire is never going to surrender the gift of a free and autonomous Palestine, and it's no one else's to give;

Israel's leaders must move past the 2,000 years of persecution of Jews, put theological and cultural idealism to one side and be prepared to negotiate with their counterparts in Ramallah - despite what scriptures might teach, all the killers and the victims have got the same basic DNA;

And, perhaps most importantly, the Bush administration has to stop being so biased towards the powers in Tel Aviv. Junior has the power, the influence, and the political capital to stop this - what better legacy could he enjoy than be remembered as the man who brought peace to the Middle East?

Not much to ask, I know, but short of genocide, it's the only way the Holy Land will be anything other than Hell on Earth.


Continuing the fallout from last week's election, Dunc wrote Bush won by convincing Mid-Westerners that if Kerry won they would be forced into gay marriage to terrorists and their offspring butchered by the pro-choicers or the stem cell scientists.

He appealed to those who were least informed but most reactive. We liberals are not so knee-jerk. And while many of the usually apathetic democrats turned out to vote, it was the threat of a gay terror bomb being exploded in Sevenhills, Ohio that took the vote for Bush.

Couldn't have put it better myself, old chum.

Terror was at the heart of the election campaign, just as it had been the focus of Bush's presidency for the preceding three years. Another key theme was freedom. The freedom that generous old America was taking to the rest of the world.

Terror and freedom. Freedom and terror. Lovely.

So it's quite serendipitous that John Ashcroft chose today to step down as Dubya's Attorney General. After all, when it comes to freedom and terror, very few knew more about it than him.

What better way of cutting down on terrorism than limiting personal freedoms?

Just ask New York District Judge Victor Marrero who found Ashcroft's beloved Patriot Act to be a violation of the constitution.

Or Judge Audrey Collins, who found the same Act inhibited freedom of speech.

Or the Supreme Court which rained on Ashcroft's parade when it ruled that terror suspects could use the US judicial system to challenge their incarceration.

Talking of parades, how about the gay staff of the Department of Justice whose pride event was cancelled by Ashcroft last year.

And he'd also be quite keen on limiting the freedom of women to choose whether they could have an abortion.

These freedoms, presumably, are precisely the kind President Bush always wanted to offer to the great unwashed of the Middle East.

Ashcroft signed off by saying he'd secured the safety of Americans from crime and terror. To be fair, bare facts make this difficult to argue with. Not since 9/11 has an American citizen been killed by an act of terror on American soil. And I'm sure the repeal of the ban on public ownership of assault weapons makes everyone feel a whole lot safer as well.

But to borrow a phrase from John Kerry (or possibly Jack Tanner), declaring mission accomplished doesn't make it so. Bush and Ashcroft let their guard down once in the first nine months of the administration. Why do I get the feeling they're doing so again?


A week on from America's bad decision, and I haven't really had chance to write about it. Now I think, why bother, really? Better informed and better motivated people have already said it all.

I will say this, though: the night itself was one of the bleakest experiences I've ever had in a BBC newsroom.

I'd volunteered to work the night shift and contribute to the coverage as the results came in. I was pumped, I was excited. And, perhaps surprisingly, this was the first Presidential election I'd seen run its course.

For someone raised on the grand British General Election, with all its crowded town halls, drunken party supporters, and memorable victory speeches this was going to be a new experience.

Of course, early on I was putting all my hopes in the curse of the Redskins and various other superstitions that were calling the election for Kerry. It had to go our way.

But as the hours ticked by, and the networks called the projected result in each state, we could see that the night was playing out all too similarly to 2000, just with any vote-rigging better hidden. And that could only point in one direction.


By the time California and the Pacific North West pitched in on the side of Good, even the newsroom's resident American had dropped his regular refrain of "It's too early to call".

And the US election - or at least this one - has none of the drama of a British vote. Just a never-ending stream of perma-grinning talking heads, spinning results both good and bad. But no humanity, no money shot, so to speak. Until someone looks like winning the whole deal, it's just all speculation and conjecture played out in television studios. By the time things really started happening, I was at home. Or, more accurately, in the pub. And that made the red tide of George W Bush all the more difficult to cope with.

So yeah, I can retread the stuff about how it's left a divided states of America - but there's really nothing new there. Very little changed hands on election night. Iowa and New Mexico turned to Bush, New Hampshire swapped sides to Kerry - but then it came as a surprise to many that the state wasn't considered a Democratic safe seat. I've probably been watching too much West Wing. So the same states were shouting the same things as always - everyone just shouted a lot louder this time.

Then there's the doom-mongering. Bush winning the popular vote. More Republicans in the House and the Senate. Likely vacancies in the Supreme Court opening the door for evangelical nutters to legislate - bye bye Roe vs Wade and all that.

Add likely chaos in the Democratic party as it picks up the pieces in replacing defeated Senate leader Tom Daschle, and you've got a mouth-watering opportunity to fashion a very conservative US.

Bush may say he's going to reach out to Democrats in a bid to heal America's bitter divisions - but will he? Does he really need to? Has this man ever shown himself to do the right thing? Has he really proven himself to be more than a neo-con puppet? He went against global opinion enough times in his first term to show that he doesn't really care what other people think - with four more years and no case to answer, is he really going to give a damn about opinions on the liberal east and west coasts?

Call me a pessimist, but I'm guessing no.

To be continued...


Oh, really?

News 24 screen grab


Okay America, I'll make this easy: which part of John Kerry didn't you understand?

I shall return to this after some well-earned and much needed sleep.