Reporters on the Job

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    No, these aren't treasure hunters but Chinese soldiers sweeping the grounds for bombs near the National Stadium, known as the "Bird's Nest," in preparation for the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
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Surprised in Nepal: Correspondent Bikash Sangraula says that the overwhelming victory by Maoist parties in Nepal's parliamentary elections fooled everyone; "the experts, the Maoists, and the journalists, including me." (See story)

He's not sure exactly why. Perhaps, it's because it's been nine years since the last election. "There's were no private polls before the vote. In the run-up to the election, the media was relying on what the 'political experts' said. The media was quoting research groups, like the International Crisis Group, that said Nepal could face post-election problems owing to unwillingness by the Maoists to accept election results," he says. "There was basically a vicious cycle of wrong information and analysis."

Back in Baghdad: Returning to Baghdad after a year's absence – a year in which violence levels fell from their highs – staff writer Howard LaFranchi says he immediately encountered cause for hope – and for despair.

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"You notice the little things right away. The planters at Baghdad International airport that since 2003 had only served as trash receptacles, are now filled with rich loamy soil and graced with greenery. It seemed a good sign that some official somewhere could stop thinking about security long enough to turn to such amenities," he says.

"The Monitor's security team seemed less on edge when they picked me up at the airport security checkpoint; no furtive looks around this time as they lowered my head suspect-style and shoved me into the back seat of the car," Howard says.

Driving into town, the streets seemed eerily quiet – none of the lines of honking cars at checkpoints. "I initially took this as a good sign – until our interpreter explained that people were staying home because of the situation in Sadr City and the possibility that the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr might call an end to his militia's cease-fire," he says.

David Clark Scott

World editor

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