Hard News by Russell Brown

Behind the lines

Al-Jazeera has launched an English-language website - but heavy traffic and a denial-of-service attack launched from the US have made it hard to reach so far.

The site is simple but the stories are notably crisp. One illustrated story, headed 'US remembers Geneva Convention' notes that "Images of surrendering Iraqi soldiers being forced to kneel down and body-searched by US-troops stirred few emotions in the Western world."

The rather poor climate for free speech in the US has hit the Qatar-based news channel in other ways this week. The New York Stock Exchange has "indefinitely" banned al-Jazeera reporters from its trading floor, explaining that it is restricting access to "responsible" networks.

Only hours after Tony Blair refused to promise a group of his own MPs that cluster bombs would not be used in Iraqi cities, it became clear that cluster bombs are already in use in civilian areas of Basra and Nassiriya. The Guardian has an interesting report from the Nassiriya hospital, among other places. Ironically, Human Rights Watch yesterday released a new briefing paper, warning against the use of cluster bombs in Iraq. Amnesty International also strongly opposes the use of these weapons, in part because they tend to hang around and kill and maim long after military action is over.

The coalition forces will presumably feel they have no choice to pull out the nasty weapons after taking casualties in the cities. The nice war may be over, which is not good news for the people the coalition has gone in to save.

Michael Wolff has a fascinating feature column about the media, war and the aftermath in New York Metro.