Reporters on the Job

GUN PLAY AT THE PALESTINE: Iraq's volatile gun culture (page 1) was underscored to reporter Dan Murphy by an incident he witnessed Saturday night just outside the Palestine Hotel, home to many coalition officials and high-profile news teams and perhaps the best-guarded hotel in the city.

"There's an enormous perimeter around the hotel, so you have to leave your car about one-quarter mile away. At the checkpoint, as I was being patted down, I heard someone screaming," says Dan.

A group of men were in an altercation about 50 yards beyond the hotel barricades. A few were carrying the AK-47s with the stocks removed that are de rigueur for the city's gunslingers.

"One man was being hit and dragged by his hair along the ground by another man with a rifle dangling from his finger. A group of 10 or so others were shouting and pushing when a police car arrived," says Dan. "One cop went across the street with his rifle, and fired a series of bursts into the air, the muzzle flash briefly lighting up the night. Others fired in response, but then everyone seemed to sober up and disperse. No one was hit, and the US soldiers guarding the hotel watched, but did not intervene. I certainly had no interest in getting any closer to see how it was going to play out."

WHAT WORLD SERIES? Call them citizens of the world or call them brainwashed, but Peter Ford's two (Anglo-French) sons don't think much of French television's content rules which oblige the French MTV channel to play a good number of French songs each hour. "Eighty per cent of the best songs are American or English," reckons Simon (10 years old and a Marilyn Manson fan). After writing today's story about a new global treaty to protect local cultures from the US pop invasion (page 1), the Monitor's Paris correspondent took a survey in his home.

Peter's sons' favorite cable TV channels are Fox Kids and Disney Channel, which serve up a surfeit of American series (dubbed into French), and only the new Chinese movie "Hero" has distracted them from their generally American film diet. Cultural diversity gets a look-in only when it comes to sports: Even though they learned how to play baseball on a recent trip to America (and even attended a Marlins game in Miami), the World Series cannot hold a candle to the rugby World Cup, currently being played in Australia, and - unlike the World Series - being broadcast on French television.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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