• DANCING WITH REBELS: Holidays often get in the way of reporting. Government officials are with their families, and no one is available for interviews. But they can also be opportunities for building relationships. Take today's story from the Ivory Coast's rebel enclave (page 7). The Monitor's Danna Harman and reporter Lane Hartill arrived just in time for a Muslim holiday, tabaskis. "We went to get our credentials at the rebel headquarters, and they promptly invited us to share some mutton and dance with them later in the day."
For a Muslim festival, Lane was surprised by the character of the celebrations, which included dancing, flirting, and drinking. After much merriment and heaps of food, everyone proceeded to the American Bar where Danna, Lane, and a group of French journalists, danced with the rebels till dawn.
"It was one of the most surreal events I've ever attended," says Danna. "At one point, the rebel leader, Guillaume Soro, asked me if I thought he was too chubby. I said not really, but seeing as he was the head of the rebels he might think about doing some sports. He then asked me if I thought his gray Gap sweatshirt was cool. I'm thinking, 'What kind of rebels are these guys anyway?' "
• COMMITTED TO AFGHANISTAN: While reporting today's story about US commitment to Afghanistan (page 1), the Monitor's Scott Baldauf saw only minor signs that American military support might be shifting. There are fewer helicopters in country, he was told, because they're needed in Iraq. And most of the forward air bases once manned by US Army Special Forces these days are actually members of the US Army Reserves. "But I was assured that this change occurred more than a year ago," Scott says. "As it turns out, active-duty Special Forces are only used at the so-called 'insertion phase,' and are replaced by reservists once a firebase or garrison has been established. As one European peacekeeper told me, 'Sometimes you need a Michael Schumacher and sometimes you need a truck driver,' referring to the famous Formula One race-car driver. 'Personally,' he added, 'I prefer truck drivers.' "
David Clark Scott
• GAZA CONFLICT REIGNITES: An Israeli civilian was seriously wounded Wednesday when three Palestinian rockets hit the town of Sderot. As reported on Feb. 14, "A Gaza conflict threatens to expand," rocket attacks have made this town a flash point. The attack came after an overnight Israeli army incursion into the Gaza strip killed 11 Palestinians.