Reporters on the Job

• Grateful for a Detour: Dan Murphy went to Najaf on Wednesday to report on the assassinations of senior officials working with the US-led coalition in Iraq (page 1). But on the way, he was reminded how many ordinary Iraqis are also giving their lives during this transition period. The 2-hour drive from Baghdad ordinarily passes through Mahmudiyah, a scruffy market town where desert sands sometimes pile up on the streets.

But on Wednesday, the locals shut the center of town following an early morning attack that had killed 3 local policemen. Dan's resourceful driver found a sandy donkey track around town that added an hour to the trip. Dan grumbled that sealing off the whole town seemed an over-reaction and that the attackers were likely long gone. But today he found out he was wrong. On Wednesday night insurgents attacked a US patrol in the same town, killing one soldier from the 82nd airborne and injuring two. He was glad for the detour.

• French Holiday Sacrificed: The Monitor's Paris-based staff writer Peter Ford says that he is not unduly concerned by the prospect of losing a French public holiday in June to fund programs for the elderly (this page). His time-off schedule depends on the Monitor's publication pattern so he supposed to take US holidays, not local ones.

But his two sons take a very different view. His 12-year old used the long Pentecost weekend in June this year to visit his godfather in Scotland, and he had been hoping to make the same trip again next year. "The look on Simon's face - my 10-year old - when it dawned on him that the government's plans meant he would have to spend an extra day at school would have made Prime Minister Raffarin grateful that 10 year olds can't vote," says Peter.

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural Snapshot
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