• Patterns in the Patter: During a week spent with US troops in northern Iraq, Dan Murphy found that while troop morale is generally good, there is also plenty of grumbling and superstition. Dan's greeting of "Good morning," was often met with "No such thing as a good morning in Iraq, sir."
With the 101st Airborne's departure imminent (page 1) - helicopters were being flown south to Kuwait to be shrinkwrapped in plastic for shipping home, and there was a frenzy of cleaning, packing, and maintenance - Dan would typically congratulate soldiers on being in the home stretch of their long deployment. "Wouldn't know about that sir, maybe we're going. Maybe not," was the frequent reply. Then they'd give Dan a significant look. "I started to feel like I'd just pointed out to the team's ace that he was pitching a perfect game,'' says Dan.
• By the Numbers? Reporter Ben Lynfield says that one of the challenges of covering the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is that tallies sometimes don't tell the story. One human rights group he contacted while reporting Wednesday's story about a Jewish rabbi on trial (this page) says that 1,200 Palestinian homes have been destroyed since the start of the intifada. "The human tragedy involved gets reduced to meaningless digits," he says. Similarly, at a press conference Ben attended this week, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon aides said that 904 Israelis had died (before Wednesday's bombing, page 7), and 6,063 had been injured in the intifada. To infuse this with some meaning, it was noted that if Israel was the US, then as a proportion of the population, the figure would be 50,262 killed. No proportional figures for Palestinians killed were given.
David Clark Scott
• SNIP RED TAPE: Thirty-four heads of state pledged to renew efforts to "reduce the time and cost of establishing businesses" at the close of the Summit of the Americas in Mexico. As reported on Jan. 6, "How to be your own boss - in 215 highly regulated days," a World Bank study shows that poverty and corruption are lower in countries with fewer barriers for start-up companies.