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Friday, July 02, 2004

Boys on Film 

Two conundrums, courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.:

1) Who in the U.S. government ordered the footage of Saddam Hussein's historic hearing in Iraqi court censored -- and why did the media play along? From Variety (subscription-only):
U.S. news networks agreed to let the American military censor out certain images of Saddam Hussein's court hearing Thursday in Baghdad, one in a bizarre series of events surrounding coverage of the session.

American and Iraqi officials did not want any footage shown of Iraqi guards or court personnel, and they asked broadcast and cable news nets to honor this request.

But the situation took an unexpected turn even before the hearing began, when U.S. officials ordered CNN and Al-Jazeera, the pool camera crews, to disconnect their audio equipment. Officials said it was the wish of the Iraqi judge . . . .

As the silent footage of Hussein began to air on U.S. networks around 8:30 a.m. ET, CBS News anchor Dan Rather explained that the tapes had been "taken to another location, edited, and what you're seeing is in effect a censored version" of what happened in court earlier today.

"And whether you will hear what happened in court is yet to be determined. We know that Saddam Hussein challenged the whole legitimacy of the court," Rather said . . . .

Some news editors spent hours scouring the portion of the tape with audio for harsh words leveled at President Bush by Saddam, but could not find the quote reported by New York Times reporter John Burns, who was the pool print reporter in the courtroom and accompanied by a translator. Burns reported that Saddam said, "Everyone knows that this is a theatrical comedy by Bush, the criminal, in an attempt to win the election" . . . .

Except for NBC, all the U.S. broadcast news divisions and cable news nets broke into normal programming to air the footage of Saddam. NBC News' "Today" did not air the footage, a decision it later reversed for the West Coast feed. Instead, the East Coast edition of "Today" stuck to an interview with Robert Redford and, later, a shot of co-host Katie Couric playing badminton on Rockefeller Plaza.
2) The deeper mystery of the two: who in the U.S. government forgot to censor Colin Powell's historic dance number? From the AP wire:
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell donned a hard hat and tucked a hammer in his belt Friday to perform a version of the Village People's hit "YMCA" at the conclusion of Asia's largest security meeting - which tradition says ends with a night of skit and song.

Powell danced alongside five other U.S. officials dressed in fancy dress and blasted out a version of the 1970s disco classic to the delight of foreign ministers from across the Asia-Pacific and Europe.

"President Bush, he said to me, Colin I need you to run the department of state. We are between a rock and a hard place," Powell and his colleagues sang to the tune of the disco classic.

The after-dinner show is an annual highlight of the ASEAN Regional Forum, a time for ministers to loosen up after discussing security issues. Footage of the closed-door event was obtained by Associated Press Television News.

The Russian delegation, headed by that country's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, sang a version of the Beatles "Yellow Submarine" as a women waving a Russian flag ran around the dinner tables.

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