• LAND OF RUMORS: Today the Monitor's Cameron Barr was interviewing Kurdish families fleeing Kirkuk for the relative safety of northern Iraq (page 7). And while he was there he heard about two Iraqi soldiers trying to defect.
"I was standing at the Kurdish checkpoint in Chamchamal, which is below a ridge line dotted with Iraqi Army emplacements," says Cameron. "A Kurdish soldier at the checkpoint told me that yesterday two Iraqi soldiers had run down the hill from one Army emplacement toward the Kurdish lines. But they were shot at and captured by their comrades. Then, shepherds in the area saw or heard - the Kurdish soldier wasn't sure which - the two men being executed. No one I could find had actually seen the any of this transpire.
"That's just one example of what I call the land of the unconfirmable - interesting anecdotes, but impossible to verify. In an area on the eve of war, they are everywhere.
• THE MAZE OF BAGHDAD: The Monitor's Scott Peterson first met the Iraqi family he writes about today (page 1) last December. At the time, they were selling their furniture to pay the school fees for the children. But there was another problem then: the family had been living for years in a breeze-block house/garage and it had recently been sold by the proprietors. The mother was distraught, since she had not been able to find anything in the neighborhood in their price range.
When Scott went looking for them yesterday, "they had moved," says Scott, making it more difficult to track them down, An American peace activist who knows the family was more than helpful - but had a poor sense of direction in Baghdad's maze of streets. Eventually they arrived, and Scott was greeted with smiles, sweet tea, and Iraqi chit-chat.
David Clark Scott