• SAFER IN BAGHDAD: In anticipation of war, the geography of Baghdad is changing for journalists, says the Monitor's Scott Peterson. The well-worn press center is undergoing renovations, with brick walls, and newer, better-protected office space going up. Glass walls facing the street have been replaced by small barred apertures. "We will certainly feel better protected," Scott says. "But there is also a cloying sense of being locked in."
An entire new building has been erected next door to the press center to accommodate the scores of reporters, though office space there is already oversubscribed. Scott has negotiated for space in one of the new reinforced cubicles. He'll need the spot, since the satellite-facing rooms (for satellite phones) of the Rashid Hotel are overbooked, too.
• PARISIAN PERSPECTIVE : French President Jacques Chirac goes to great lengths to disabuse people of their impression that he is anti-American (page 1). In his youth he worked as a soda jerk at a Howard Johnson's, drove a forklift truck at Anheuser-Busch, hitchhiked across America, went to summer school at Harvard University, and still prefers beer to wine. But his personal sympathy for American culture has not had much influence on the French elite. The Monitor's Peter Ford heard a film critic on the radio in Paris the other day reviewing Steven Soderbergh's new film 'Solaris,' which opened in Paris Wednesday. It arrived in France, she said, "having been paid the highest compliment: It bombed in America."
David Clark Scott
• DEATH PENALTY, SI: More than 82 percent of the voters in the central state of Mexico approved a nonbinding referendum in favor of capital punishment. As reported on Feb. 7, Mexico is fighting in the World Court to stop the execution of 51 death-row inmates in the US. But support for tougher measures is growing at home.