• Knock, Knock: Although the southern Iraqi city of Basra is relatively free of attacks by insurgents, the British troops based there appear to take no chances (page 7), says correspondent Nicholas Blanford. "I was in my hotel room one evening at 10 p.m., about to go to bed, when there was a loud and persistent knocking on the door. Wondering what could be so important at that time of the evening, I opened the door to find two armed British soldiers accompanied by an apologetic translator and a nervous hotel manager. The soldiers asked if they could check my room and I said, 'No problem.' I am not sure who was more surprised - me at having two soldiers come in and search my room or the soldiers at seeing a fellow Brit.
"However, the occupants of the neighboring room did not appear quite as content to allow foreign soldiers to enter their room, judging from the heated argument."
• It's all Downhill from Here: In Bosnia, even something as simple as going skiing has a political component, as correspondent Colin Woodard learned on his most recent trip to Sarajevo (page 1). That's because the two major downhill facilities in the area - both built for the 1984 Winter Olympics - are each located in a different political entity. Jahorina, site of the women's downhill events 20 years ago, was in Bosnian Serb hands throughout the war and is in Republika Sprska, the Bosnian Serb part of the country. While conceding that Jahorina had better slopes, Colin's Bosniak skiing companion preferred the men's downhill run at Bjelasnica, because it is part of the Muslim-majority Bosniak-Croat Federation.
"Bosniaks say it is safe for them to ski at Jahorina, but most prefer not to spend their money there for political reasons," says Colin. But even getting there is a political journey. "It's a 20-minute drive from downtown Sarajevo to Bjelasnica, but the express public bus from Sarajevo takes more than twice that long. The bus takes the long way around because the direct route takes you through Bosnian Serb turf."
What about the cross-country skiing? "A bad idea for all ethnic groups. The the old Olympic courses are reportedly mined," says Colin.
David Clark Scott