• TRAINING FOR WAR: The dangers of using live ammunition in military training were brought home to reporter Nicholas Blanford last week when he spent four days and nights with members of the US Army's 3rd Infantry Division stationed in Kuwait.
"We had just clambered out of the Bradley fighting vehicles and were waiting to settle down for the night when a 25mm round accidentally exploded inside the gun turret of a neighboring Bradley. We heard cries for a medic and ran over to see what had happened," says Nick.
"A soldier had been attempting to clear a jammed round from his cannon when it exploded. The soldier was seriously injured and another soldier was temporarily blinded but recovered later. A Black Hawk helicopter landed a few minutes later and flew them to a hospital. We were later told that the seriously injured soldier was out of danger and had been flown to a military hospital in Germany, where he is to receive major reconstructive surgery to his face."
• CLOSE TO THE TRAGEDY: The Monitor's Middle East editor, James Norton, had barely arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday when news of the Columbia space shuttle disaster reached Israel. The next morning, he walked through the affluent Yemin Moshe neighborhood - sometimes called "the Beverly Hills of Jerusalem" - to get a sense of what Israelis were saying about Col. Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut. At cafes and the local YMCA, James was struck by how well-attuned to the news Israelis were and the intensity of their feelings about the story. "News here seems more supercharged than in the United States. The country is small and the Israelis that I talked to seemed to have an incredibly personal stake in the story," he says.
David Clark Scott
• JOURNALISTS RELEASED: Marxist Colombian rebels freed British reporter Ruth Morris and US photographer Scott Dalton Saturday after holding them hostage for nearly two weeks. As reported on Jan 28, the two were abducted by the 5,000-member National Liberation Army (ELN) to protest the recent arrival of US troops, who are training Colombian soldiers to protect an oil pipeline.
Ms. Morris told the Reuters news agency that during their captivity, government helicopter overflights forced the ELN to relocate their camp. She says that she spent her free time playing cards with Dalton and forcing herself to eat grim rebel meals of greasy rice and spaghetti.