• INTO WAZIRISTAN: Reporter Owais Tohid was able to gather the inside information about Al Qaeda in Pakistan (page 1) by connecting with an old friend. "I called up a well-known sociologist and writer who lives in the region. We met at a literary group 20 years ago when I was in college," says Owais. Together, they drove about four hours to the city of Wana where Owais was introduced to the son of a local tribal chief who travels with five Kalashnikov-toting guards and says his income comes from smuggling cars into the region. "He proudly told me that he'd been in prison 12 years for killing two men who were thieves. But once I was his guest, and he assumed the role of host, under tribal custom I was safe. Of course, that same standard is applies to Al Qaeda visitors."
His tribal hosts and their friends knew Owais as the former BBC Urdu-language broadcaster. "Most had heard my reports and treated me with respect. But I was careful never to raise the subject of Al Qaeda before they did," he says.
• Green Light in Gaza: After a long day of reporting in Rafa, at the southern end of the Gaza Strip (page 7), the Monitor's Cameron Barr decided not to sleep there. Instead, he made the drive north to Gaza City. But he wasn't sure that he'd get there.
The Israeli military don't operate the checkpoint on the main road north according to any known schedule; the only way to determine when it closes for the night is to show up.
"It was an odd thing," says Cameron. "My driver and interpreter said the Israelis would operate a traffic light to let us know if we could pass. It didn't seem promising at first. The scene was completely dark; the only light emanated from an Israeli pillbox, where we could see soldiers scrutinizing us. Our driver turned on his car's interior light, so they could see us.
"We waited a few minutes, increasingly certain that the checkpoint was closed. There were no other cars waiting. No one came to speak with us. Not a word was spoken. And then the traffic light came on: green. Off we went to Gaza City," says Cameron.
David Clark Scott