• Surprising the Methboubs: Staff writer Scott Peterson wonders about how the Methboub family in Baghdad view this foreigner who, literally appears from nowhere, unannounced, on the doorstep of their apartment.
Scott could call ahead, but prefers not to for security reasons. From visits that stretch back to late 2002, he knows the family's daily habits well enough to know when the neighborhood streets are least crowded with watchful eyes, and when most of the family members are likely to be home.
"Sometimes it is a few months between visits, but the family has only ever been most welcoming," says Scott. "They knew that Jill Carroll wrote for the Monitor, and expressed their concern for her safety during this visit. Later they asked me why I often arrive with a different interpreter. I told them that the last one they had met - Allan Enwiya - had been killed during Jill's abduction."
• Back in the USSR: As he reports on the elections in Belarus, correspondent Fred Weir notes that "it feels like I'm back in the USSR." He has lived in Russia for 19 years.
"The streets of Minsk are quiet and orderly - almost no cars - and little advertising other than patriotic billboards. Few people I talk to will give their last names," he says. "Even most of [President Alexander] Lukashenko's supporters won't give their full names."
He met with an independent sociologist in a cafe Thursday, and the first thing he said to Fred was: "I don't think I was followed."
- David Clark Scott