• Barack Who? Correspondent Caryle Murphy, who's based in Saudi Arabia, decided to go to a bookstore in Riyadh to try to gauge popular interest in Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (see story). She found his book, "The Audacity of Hope" on the second floor, in the English language section. "When I asked how it was selling, the clerk scrunched up his nose and said, 'not so well,' " she says. At another bookstore, the response was even more tepid.
"People are not talking about him. The energy and excitement generated in the US hasn't caught on here," says Caryle. "When Hillary Clinton was running, she generated more interest, especially among women here. People were keen to see if a woman would be president of the US. Saudis would ask me about Hillary. I don't hear that level of interest about Barack," she says.
• A Safer City: When staff writer Tom A. Peter last visited Iraq in 2006, he didn't feel comfortable traveling in the country outside the confines of a military embed. "As a freelance journalist, I was working on a limited budget. I couldn't afford the necessary security measures to operate safely in the country unless I embedded with US forces," he says. While he had a positive experience working with the troops, he was eager this time to do some reporting on his own.
"When I came back this time, I was amazed at how accessible Baghdad has become for reporters, " he says, noting that he does travel with the Monitor's security team at all times. "As an American in Iraq, I got a few strange looks doing interviews around town about Barack Obama's visit Monday, but nothing menacing. The security climate felt a lot like my first visit to Baghdad in 2004, before kidnapping became a common threat."
– David Clark Scott