Reporters on the Job

More Oprah in Africa: The US military is ramping up its engagement in Africa (this page), but the continent is still new and unfamiliar territory for some, says staff writer Abraham McLaughlin. "I was told that when this group of marines in Chad got their orders, the directive said they were to deploy to 'Chad and Nigeria.' Like many Americans, the Pentagon mixed up Niger and Nigeria - two quite-different African countries," says Abe.

"The marines I met were really proud of their work, but a little bewildered at being in this remote spot. One burly lieutenant observed that there was only one English-language station on the hotel TV. For some reason it played the Oprah show several times a night. 'I've seen a bit more of Oprah while I've been here,' he said wryly."

Love Knows No Boundries: Baghdad is abuzz over the reported betrothal of President Ghazi al-Yawer to Public Works Minister Nesreen Mustafa Berwari, says staff writer Howard LaFranchi. "No one is sure if the couple are married or simply engaged. But more interesting to Baghdadis than the fact that the President already has two wives in Saudi Arabia is that Ms. Berwari is a Kurd, hailing from one of the Kurdish north's two dominant political parties, the Kurdish Democratic Party or PDK," says Howard.

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"Some seem to suspect the kind of power marriage that once typified European royalty by trying to expand influence and territory," he says. With the minority Kurds and Sunnis (Mr. Yawer's faith) both planning for elections that are expected to favor the majority Shiites, some people here see the marriage as sensible alliance building." Yawer is a scion of the leader of Iraq's powerful Shamar tribe, which populates land from Syrian to Kuwait. Some Iraqis say it's not the time for a president to be marrying, with bombs going off and Iraqis dying. But one Iraqi woman told me maybe it has nothing to do with politics. 'Maybe they just fell in love despite themselves,' she said. 'Why not?' "

David Clark Scott
World editor

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