Reporters on the Job

• BIG BROTHER NEEDS A PLUMBER: For his story on the feeling of Arab states preceding a possible US war with Iraq (page 7), reporter Philip Smucker says that the mood around the Ritz-Carlton in Qatar this week has been a bit Orwellian.

Phil says that journalists were barred from a top-secret "environmental security" conference that was attended by the US military's top brass, including Central Command chief Gen. Tommy Franks. And participants from the Gulf states were told to keep quiet about what was spoken behind closed doors.

But as is typical with these kind of things, there were a few leaks over dinner and drinks, Phil says.

"The US denied the event had anything to do with preparations for a war with Iraq," says Phil, "but some participants admitted to me that the meetings did broach the subject of 'manmade disasters, as well as the threat of Saddam unleashing certain unspecified weapons of mass destruction." Big Brother can only keep so much information from getting out, says Phil.

– David S. Hauck
Africa/Americas editor

Best of the rest

• GRAINY GRETA: Flying over northern Sweden, travelers can now catch a glimpse of reclusive Swedish movie legend Greta Garbo.

Six young artists from the town of Umeaa have honored the Hollywood star with a giant portrait – using sand and dirt from a nearby pit to replicate a digital photo of her. Each of 3,300 pixels in the image corresponds to a parcel of dirt in the 60-foot-wide portrait.

It took a week to complete, and Fredrik Jonsson, one of the artists, told the Associated Press that weather will determine how long it lasts. "It has already rained on it," he said. "But she still looks to be in good spirits."

Cultural snapshot

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