Reporters on the Job

Meeting the Methboubs: Staff writer Scott Peterson has reported many grim stories from Iraq since 1991, but it is the rare inspirational ones that keep him returning. Top of the list is the saga of the Methboub family (see story), whom he met in 2002.

"During Saddam's time, it was virtually impossible for Western journalists to have access to ordinary Iraqis," says Scott. Almost the only foreigners who did were antisanctions activists. Scott asked one – an American – if she knew a family he could meet. The activist had chanced upon the Methboubs in 1998, when she saw a small boy standing on the roof of a shack.

It was Mahmoud, the youngest of the Methboub siblings. The activist ran to make sure the boy made it down safely. Then, during four days of US bombing that year, the activist slept on the floor with them. Four years later, she brought them together. "This family's resilience never ceases to inspire me," says Scott. "But the journey this time was sweeter than most, because the lives of Karima and her children have finally begun to improve."

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Recruiters, Go Home: Correspondent Stephanie Hanes says that what she noticed most talking to southern African experts about private security companies recruiting in the region was their anger (see story). "When I talked to human rights activist Phil ya Nangolo in his office near Windhoek, Namibia's capital, he all but pounded the desk as he described a recent case where an American firm had tried to recruit former combatants for work in Iraq and Afghanistan. 'Would this company go to Norway and recruit there?' he asked, incensed. 'No. It is because we're poor.' "

Later, Stephanie drove through remote northern Namibia, where residents still remember the brutal guerrilla wars between Namibian freedom fighters and apartheid South African forces. "I also drove through Windhoek's squatter camps, where, despite widespread poverty, people keep their plots clean and orderly. I realized that part of Mr. Nangolo's anger was a wish that Americans would focus on this region even when it didn't seem "useful."

– Amelia Newcomb

Deputy World editor

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