Reporters on the Job

Africa-Paris-Beijing: When the Chinese lay out the red carpet, they lay it long and thick and bright, bright red, observes staff writer Peter Ford.

"You cannot move in Beijing these days without seeing one of the thousands of banners hanging from lamp-posts, extolling the 'Friendship, Peace, Cooperation, Development' summit with 40-plus African leaders this weekend. Trees are festooned with Chinese lanterns, and walls are decorated with enormous photographs of African sights, from the Pyramids to Masai tribesmen."

To keep traffic moving for the visiting delegates, Peter notes, half the government's fleet of vehicles has been banned from the roads, along with 80 percent of Beijing's cars. Schools are letting out at 2 p.m. instead of at 5:30 p.m. All the top hotels in Beijing are chocka-block with Africans, and friends in Paris tell Peter that the five-star hotels there are heavily booked this week, too. The shopping may be cheap in China, but African bigwigs clearly don't like knockoffs and are stopping in France en route to Beijing to stock up.

Don't Quote Me: Gone are the days right after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 when many Iraqis were willing – even demanding – to be quoted by name," says staff writer Scott Peterson.

Today, most Iraqis fear reprisals for them or their families if they are identified. While interviewing ordinary residents for today's story about US efforts to improve conditions in two Baghdad neighborhoods, few wanted to be named. Still, Scott always asks how they would like to be named, as a matter of principle. He says the best response to date, came Thursday.

"You want me to divide my blood three ways?" asked one interviewee, incredulously. "Between the militias, [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki, and the Americans, who should have more?"

David Clark Scott
World editor

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