Now here’s an oddity. According to Reuters,
Reports that U.S. President George W. Bush had his wristwatch stolen while shaking hands with Albanians on his weekend visit are false, Albanian police and the U.S. embassy said on Tuesday.”The story is untrue and the president did not lose his watch,” a spokesman for the embassy in Tirana said.
Some newspapers, television stations and websites carried reports that Bush’s watch vanished on Sunday when he was greeted by ecstatic crowds in Fushe Kruje, outside the capital Tirana.
“It is not true,” said Albania’s police director, Ahmet Prenci.
Photographs showed Bush, surrounded by five bodyguards, putting his hands behind his back so one of the bodyguards could remove his watch.
Well, Boing Boing provides a link to a Dutch TV station whose video certainly appears to show a watch on President Bush’s wrist when his arm disappears into a crowd of Albanian well-wishers and no watch thereon when his arm reappears a few seconds later — take a look at the video here, and see what you think (the article’s in Dutch, but the video speaks for itself).
I can see it’s a bit embarrassing for everyone that his watch was pinched — rather spoils the initial impression given by his rapturous reception, and doesn’t really reflect well on the Albanians, tending, as it does, to confirm various Mail and Express stereotypes.
However, I’m not sure that the alternative explanation — that President Bush took one look at the crowd and hissed to his security men, ‘For God’s sake, take this watch off my wrist or the buggers’ll steal it, as sure as eggs is eggs’ — sounds much better.
Update: This seems to be rather contentious, and the plot appears to be thickening. Bruce Schneier has a link to a clip, shot from a different angle, which appears — though this disputed by several people commenting at Mr Schneier’s blog — to show President Bush removing his watch himself, presumably because people have been trying to steal it from his wrist. But other links in Mr Schneier’s blog have accounts of how the President’s watch apparently fell to the ground and was then retrieved by security staff.
I’d be convinced by the film of the President removing his watch himself if weren’t for the initial stories having him putting his hands behind his back so his bodyguards could remove the watch for him — seems a convoluted way of doing it, and you’d have thought that, ‘No, the President took his own watch off’ would have been a far better thing to have said, particularly if it were true. Unless it’s somehow against professional etiquette for White House Press Officers to tell the whole, unvarnished truth in any circumstances, no matter how trivial, since that could set a dangerous precedent.
Anyway, I’m not up to arguing about such matters, so if anyone does wish to explain what they think happened, please do it at Bruce Schneier’s place rather than here.
Meanwhile, James Higham quite sensible demands to know,
Are we going to stand for this? Are we just going to sit back while thieves and conjurers hijack the airwaves and hold us all to ransome [Arthur]? I say we act:
Second Update: The BBC has an interview (plus video) with a street magician explaining how magicians (and pickpockets) can snaffle your watch without you noticing — keeping it on a vecro strap is apparently a recommended precaution, because of the noise it makes when he tries to undo the strap, though it probably isn’t much use when you’re dealing with an adulatory mob of yelling Albanians, as happens to me all the time.