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The Village Voice April 07, 2003

Front Lines: Finding War Coverage on the Web

by Brendan I. Koerner

Q: I've been glued to the Web since day one of the war, chasing around tidbits of coverage. Yahoo News and NYTimes.com are starting to seem stale, and that Iraqi dude "Salam Pax" hasn't updated his blog in days. Got any tips on satiating my war jones?

A halfway complete list of must-read cybersources would take up the entire Voice, so consider the following a mere hodgepodge of favorites. If you're in the know about Salam's Baghdad blog (dear_raed.blogspot.com), that may mean you're already turned on to Command-Post.org, the best compendium of as-they-happen events Mr. Roboto's found to date. The trove is updated every 10 minutes, with links ranging from USA Today to the Abilene Reporter-News. Also thrown in are Arab-world headlines and the occasional snippet of Russian scuttlebutt. Visit early and often.

The other generalist gem is WarFilter (warfilter.com), a stepchild of collective-blogging elder MetaFilter. Fewer than 10 posts per day on average, but they're always goodies. Without the site's fine work, Mr. Roboto would never have been aware of the flap over FreePornForOurTroops.com, to say nothing of the (very) darkly humorous Iraq-O-Meter (iraqometer.com). The latter provides frequent updates on the most telling stats-casualties, oil-well fires, and leaflets dropped.

For a more official view, skip the Pentagon's well-spun offerings and head for Britain's Ministry of Defense (operations.mod.uk). Mr. Roboto searched for other governmental links from the "coalition of the willing," but no dice for the most part. There's a nice message of support, however, from King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga at pmo.gov.to.

Now that CNN has ordered crack reporter Kevin Sites to shutter his blog (kevinsites.net), the best on-the-ground Web thoughts are spouted by the BBCers (bbc.co.uk/reporters). The Beeb's man on the northern front, Stuart Hughes, has been filing mind-blowing stuff, too (stuarthughes.blogspot.com).

On the whimsical side is the well-publicized blog of Ohio National Guardsman Optimus Prime, né . . . well, no one's quite a sure. On his 30th birthday, Mr. Prime had his name legally changed to that of the legendary Transformers good guy. The firefighter's psychological deal is hard to figure, but Mr. Roboto approves. Check out Prime's homepage at optimusprime.robobase.com, and his nascent blog from the Middle East at WKYC.com.

Gearheads will want to keep tabs on GlobalSecurity.org, the brainchild of defense guru John Pike. Great backgrounders here on the fedayeen and urban warfare, plus tons and tons of useful maps. Deep-pocketed nerds should visit Keyhole's site (earthviewer.com), which sells software that'll give you the best possible satellite's-eye view of Baghdad.

An off-the-beaten-path mailing list worth your while is InfoSec News (c4i.org). Administrator William Knowles has been doing a bang-up job covering the technological side of Operation Iraqi Freedom, including Web defacements and the targeting of Iraq's Internet access.

While the threat of chemical weapons remains fresh in your mind, try visiting the site for the Chemical Weapons Working Group (cwwg.org). Yeah, we've got nerve gas, too, concocted during the Cold War and rotting in backwater depots. The army wants to burn it, but local townsfolk obviously aren't too jazzed about the incineration plans. Even if you're not downwind of Anniston, Alabama, this is spooky stuff.

As noted up top, this column could fill page upon page, knocking off more entertaining giblets like Tricia Romano's Fly Life. So here's a quick-and-dirty rundown of some "honorable mentions"-DefenseTech.org, the Red Cross's special Iraq section (icrc.org), Iraq Body Count (iraqbodycount.net), Veterans Against the Iraq War (vaiw.org), Phil Carter's sensational blog (philcarter.blogspot.com), and Warblogs.cc.

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Sifting through all the war banter can be pretty taxing, of course, which is why some sassy folks dreamed up the Gulf War II Drinking Game (gulfwardrinkinggame.com). President Bush says, "It's not about religion"? Take a sip. He mentions God in the same speech? Start chugging, lush, and forget about the globe's tenuous state for at least a few hours.


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