Reporters on the Job

His Name Is What? Staff writer Howard LaFranchi says he felt a need to find some way to break the ice when he arrived at Sadrist movement's offices in the Khadimiya neighborhood of Baghdad (see story). There had been some hushed discussion about where to conduct the interview with the office's deputy director and imam of Friday prayers. Was it appropriate to invite a non-Muslim foreigner into the mosque to sit? That would not be a problem, it turned out. But Howard says he still wanted some way to establish a rapport with his host.

"A joke certainly would not have been appropriate, the weather seemed too banal, and my mentioning that I had once heard the movement's leader, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, give the Friday sermon in the holy city of Kufa, did not open up the communication," Howard says. "But then I asked Imam Osama Altimimi if he had children. He told me he had two sons, Moqtada and Mohammed. But what really drew his interest was when I told him my youngest son's name is Gabriel. We talked about how Gabriel (Jibril in the Koran) is an angel or messenger in both the Bible and the Koran. The interview flowed from there."

• 'A Grim Scene: To cover the fighting in Lebanon (see story), correspondent Nick Blanford found a spot on a rooftop next to the Army's positions, about 500 yards from the entrance of Nahr al-Bared, the Palestinian refugee camp where militants are hiding. "There were clashes every five minutes," says Nick. His rootfop "has a very good view overlooking the camp, [where] it really is a grim scene," he says. "From one side to the other there's smoke rising, stricken buildings.... You can't actually see anybody or hear anybody inside the camp, [but] one imagines there must be serious casualty tolls, because nobody is coming in or out."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

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