Reporters on the Job

Flickering Lights: Right on cue. Thursday, when editors called correspondent Jill Carroll in Baghdad about a Reuters report of electricity shortages, the power went out. "It stays on for about an hour and a half and then goes out for a few hours. Back in October, we would get three or four hours at a time," says Jill.

Baghdad is getting about six hours of electricity a day, down from 11 hours in October, and attacks on Iraqis working on US-backed reconstruction projects are at a record high, the US military said Wednesday. December was the worst month for such attacks, said Brig. Gen. William McCoy, head of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

While Jill's hotel has a backup generator that kicks in almost immediately, most Iraqis do not. The other energy concern, says Jill, is the shortage of gasoline. "Prices have doubled and the gas lines are three hours long."

Her driver spends most afternoons waiting in line now to get enough gas for the next morning's round of interviews.

The gas hikes and the decline in hours of electricity for Baghdad residents, who are one-quarter of the Iraqi population, come right after the elections. "Iraqis in the street are saying that the Shiite-dominated government planned it that way," says Jill. "The elections gave people hope for an improved life, but immediately after the vote, the quality of life declined."

Iraqis are still waiting for the final election results and the results of negotiations between parties over who will hold which posts in the new government. But already, Jill says, "Iraqis are saying that 'The purple finger isn't paying off,' in reference to the indelible ink left on a voter's finger."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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