MIAMI -- They're some of the most powerful pictures of war, taken not by professional cameramen, but by soldiers themselves. There's no way to track the number of video and still cameras attached to helmets, rifles, inside Humvees or on Stryker turrets. What is clear: storytelling is no longer just a journalist's domain. Soldiers and Marines are telling their stories to a worldwide audience. Some of the videos on YouTube have been viewed by more than 200,000 people. On Doonesbury's "The Sandbox," a popular blog among members of the military, videos from those fighting in Afghanistan are now drawing an audience.
Some of the pictures are raw, ugly, and hard to stomach. Other videos are silly diversions from war: a look at the comic relief from so much intensity. Interestingly, while there are complaints that the media doesn't tell enough of the "good news" from Iraq, I found few soldiers or marines telling that story themselves. These videos appear to be the ongoing evolution of journalism in the Internet age. Military home videos are a subset of the growing so-called "citizen journalism."A captain I spoke with at U.S. Central Command in Tampa called these "the new social fabric."
VIDEO: Click here or on the image above to watch raw video shot by a U.S. soldier in Iraq.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The City of Palms is electric with talk about the kid from Japan. Twenty-six-year-old Daisuke Matsuzaka, better known as “Dice-K,” is wowing the fans and non-fans alike as the biggest baseball mystery in a decade.
I joined the 150-plus credentialed Japanese reporters to get a glimpse of the $103 million dollar pitcher (that’s what it cost the Red Sox to talk to his team in Japan, and then acquire his services for the Red Sox). The sports world has qualified him as “a phenom.”
ENTERPRISE, Ala. - Mother Nature never ceases to amaze. Often in horrific ways. The tornado that ripped through here was a monster. Today, a team of forensic experts combed through the debris, took calculations and have an early determination: this was an enhanced F3 with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour.
But there's no need to hear that when you're standing in the midst of the rubble. Cars upended and tossed into homes, huge pine trees snapped like toothpicks, and the look on the faces of those who survived the disaster: shock, and now despair. Eight students died in the tornado. It lasted about 15 seconds, but stole futures. Children who had plans, or maybe were too young to even have plans. But each held promise.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- It’s a long way from the comforts of first class, but Nancy Rivard, a veteran flight attendant, found a way to marry her work to her passion: helping the less fortunate.
Rivard, who looks a little bit like the actress who played Wonder Woman, is herself a wonder. I traveled with her to El Salvador where she, and her Airline Ambassadors, are changing lives.
The concept is simple: Use the empty space on planes already scheduled to fly, and deliver aid donated by Americans. I went with her team of a dozen to El Salvador, where she’s quietly been working for a decade. It’s mostly flight attendants, who use their privileges to fly for free, and then, once on the ground, take the aid and give it to those in the most need. Rivard told me “when I started doing one thing a month that was real, I began to get interest first from flight attendants, and then from airlines.”
Editor's note: Correspondent Kerry Sanders will profile National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield on tonight's broadcast. Today is Mayfield's last day on the job after 34 years. We asked Kerry to share a personal story with blog readers.
I've known Max for a long long time. I began covering hurricanes in 1982. While Max was always feeding me information of what would likely happen and how unsafe areas could become, you know how we as reporters tend to head into the thick of the storm. I will remember Hurricane Ivan in Sept. 2004 the most.
I freely admit that I foolishly decided to ride out Ivan in a home built to withstand a hurricane. It was a "dome home," called that because it was shaped like a dome.
Max warned me it was a very dangerous move to ride out a category four on Pensacola Beach. He recently remembered, as we chatted about his retirement, that I had been in the "dome home" and lived to talk about it. Max's advice sticks with me. He said: "Kerry, don't ever do that again."
I can say, after riding out that storm, watching the cars wash away into the bay, that I will never do that again.
I will miss Max, and owe him a personal thank you for guiding me to safe spots to cover all those hurricanes.
DENVER-- Sometimes it is a logistical challenge to cover the news. Just getting here was an adventure.
I left Mount Hood where I was covering the tragic mountain climbing incident, when my bosses asked: "Do you think you can get to Denver?"
I made it on a plane as far as Salt Lake City. That's where the real adventure began. Paul Thiriot, an NBC cameraman, and I drove and drove and drove and drove. Finally, in blinding snow, past Rabbit Ear Pass, we could go no more. The roads were thick with snow, the visibility less than 3 feet, and there was another surprise.
I'm sitting here in Hood River, Ore., a radio scanner picking up occasional conversations, as we wait for news that Brian Hall and Jerry "Nikko" Cooke have been found.
I figured we might get a better idea of who these men were in photos today. They're snapshots of the final days of their lives. The camera, found on Kelly James' body, had a roll of film that has now been developed. Investigators say the photos show the men starting out on their climb, smiling, seemingly upbeat. They also show the gear they had.
From those pictures, the sheriff says he thinks the climbers were supplied for the days they planned to be on the mountain (about six days). It's unlikely that the gear and food they had would sustain them this long (the search began 10 days ago, four days into their climb.)
We joined the leaf peepers on the twisting country roads of New England weekend. This is a redux of a trip to gauge the nation's mood when it comes to gas prices. When we traveled this spring, the average price of a gallon was close to $3. [Ed's note: Click to watch video of Kerry's road trip through the Southeast in April 2006.] On our trip this time, we found it for $2.07/gallon in Salem, Mass. Before we set out, we rigged a convertible with four cameras. Another camera was set up in a chase vehicle. Thankfully, for most of the weekend, we had warm temperatures, so we were able to enjoy the fall foliage with the top down. With producer Joo Lee as navigator, we had a few maps, but no real plan other than to talk to people along the way. We stopped at overlooks, antique stores, pumpkin patches and corn mazes.
Camerman Jim Craven (in driver's seat) and sound engineer Pete Rodriguez rig up Kerry's car for the New England road trip. Photo by Kerry Sanders.
Even the gas stations were quaint. In Arlington, Mass., we met gas station attendant Ed Seaton. His station was the backdrop for a Norman Rockwell painting called "The War Hero." Seaton says when prices were high, customers blamed him. But he says he had nothing to do with the high prices then or the low prices now. Our trip took us through four states.
We're now arriving where we plan to go live this evening. Stay tuned to find out where we wound up.
I received an urgent request from a U.S. Army colonel via e-mail this morning. He said that the surveillance photo I included in my blog post yesterday of Taliban members gathered at a funeral in Afghanistan should not have been released, even though I was told by others in the U.S. Army that it had been properly declassified. The colonel asked me to pull it off the Web site. There was no more explanation than that. As a courtesy, and with an awareness of the danger U.S. forces are in, I had the photo pulled.
We are now returning the picture to this blog after Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters in a briefing today that he is unaware of any official Pentagon or military request to pull the photo off MSNBC.com or not to air the photo. I have also spoken to the military intelligence officers who gave me the photo and they say while there are now some internal debates about the release of the photograph, it's declassified and ours to broadcast and print on the Web.
So here is the photo -- again -- and a link to my original post from yesterday:
Photo courtesy: U.S. Army
Editor's note: This story has evolved since this original posting. Click here for the latest and to see the photo in question.
KABUL, Afghanistan - In this country, just a tad smaller than President Bush’s home state of Texas, Taliban influence is on the rise. The U.S. military admits difficulty tracking their fighters in Afghanistan’s remote mountains. It’s why U.S. intelligence officers are so upset by a recent lost opportunity.
The picture above, declassified at NBC News' request, shows 190 members of the Taliban at a funeral. It’s believed by U.S. Army officers that several of those gathered were top Taliban leaders. But the U.S. was unable to take out the men standing in formation.
Why? Under the rules of engagement, the U.S. cannot bomb a cemetery.
One officer involved says, "We were so excited. I came rushing in with the picture." But in the end, that excitement turned to frustration. The unmanned Predator drone, flying undetected overhead, continued to feed back pictures as the Taliban dispersed, heading off in tiny groups, too small to effectively target.