Reporters on the Job

Oasis in Baghdad: With security considerations added to the normal frustrations of bureaucracy, traffic jams, and language, reporting in Baghdad can be a bit harried (this page). But every once in a while a reporter comes upon an oasis of sorts - and the frustrations fall away.

After spending a fitful hour in traffic to get to an interview, staff writer Howard LaFranchi was told the government official would be an hour late. What to do?

"We did a couple of street interviews, but then I asked my Iraqi interpreter if we could go someplace and get a cold drink," says Howard. Two blocks later, down a dusty road beyond a police checkpoint, they reached a watering hole in the Baghdad desert: the Hewar Art Gallery and cafe.

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"Behind nondescript walls a cool garden and two-room art space greeted us. At the garden cafe, a dozen men - mostly writers and painters, with an environmentalist thrown in - made small talk around plastic tables," says Howard.

The gallery shows some of Iraq's best contemporary artists. Qasim Alsabti was eager to share with Howard his latest work - painted on the backs of books that were looted and thrown to the streets outside Iraq's National Library in the days of bedlam after the war.

"I'm trying to show what we lost, but also to create new life out of the destruction" Mr. Alsabti told Howard. "I want to give these lost books a new voice."

Voting From Afar: Staff writer Peter Ford, who's spent nearly 20 years as a foreign correspondent, has never seen this much interest among Americans overseas in an election. In his story today (see story), he finds Democrats and Republicans registering voters at a brisk pace. "The Internet is the biggest change," he says. "It's so much easier to get the absentee ballots. You used to have to go to an Embassy or consulate. Now you can just download it. That's especially appealing to young people."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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