Greetings from the U.K.

I’ve been in London since Saturday, unfortunately working pretty steadily. I’ve had a bit of a vacation from the news, so what I know of the last few days is mostly from scanning newspaper headlines and observing what is going on here.
It’s easy to take a holiday from the news, since at the moment the British public is far from preoccupied with Iraq and the other stories that dominate the American press. The dominant story here, by far, is the rumor of homosexual activity that is swirling around Prince Charles. I’ve no idea whether it’s true, or even what the rumor is, exactly–the newspaper accounts seem to assume that everyone already knows. But I saw a headline that said Charles has “gathered his family around him,” which is never a good sign. The other contenders for public attention are the soccer and rugby seasons.
Guy Fawkes day has just passed, and in the evening we’ve been hearing explosions going off periodically; it’s just people shooting off their remaining fireworks, but it creates an odd atmosphere. And Sunday was Remembrance Day, the equivalent of our Memorial Day. I happened to see the Queen return to Buckingham Palace following a Remembrance Day ceremony.
President Bush is coming to England for a three-day visit on the 19th, and the newspapers are predicting large demonstrations. The polling data are pretty grim; in a recent survey 50% of respondents said they thought Tony Blair’s close relationship with the U.S. is bad for Great Britain.
The most interesting item in today’s Daily Telegraph is this: “BBC appoints man to monitor ‘pro-Arab bias’.” The Telegraph reports:
“The BBC has appointed a “Middle East policeman” to oversee its coverage of the region amid mounting allegations of anti-Israeli bias. Malcolm Balen, a former editor of the Nine O’Clock News, has been recruited in an attempt to improve the corporation’s reporting of the Middle East and its relationship with the main political players.
“It is the first time the corporation has made such an appointment. Insiders say it is a signal that senior executives feel that the Middle East is an area over which the BBC needs to take particular care.
“Relations between the corporation and the Israeli government hit a low point this summer when the latter ‘withdrew co-operation’ in protest at a BBC documentary about the country’s weapons of mass destruction. Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, later barred the BBC from his meeting with the British press during a visit to London.
“The BBC has also been the target of Downing Street accusations that it toed a pro-Baghdad line over the Iraq war and that it influenced the Today programme’s handling of the dossier story that is the subject of the Hutton Inquiry.
“An accusation frequently levelled against the corporation is that it reports the Arab-Israeli conflict too much from a Palestinian point of view. Its reluctance to describe suicide bombers as ‘terrorists’ has proved particularly controversial, recently prompting the Simon Wiesenthal Centre to pull out of a BBC series about Nazi genocide.
“The corporation faces increasing scrutiny of all areas of its activities during the run-up to the renewal of its royal charter in 2006.”
So they’re starting to feel the heat.


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