Reporters on the Job

What a Difference a Week Makes: The Monitor's Scott Baldauf was in Sadr City, the sprawling slum near Baghdad that is home to 2.5 million Shiites, just a week ago. So he had a good point of reference for how quickly the outbreak of fighting between the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr and US forces transformed the area. "It was really quiet. For such a large place, it was pretty abandoned," Scott says.

One of the most notable changes was the boom in checkpoints manned by Mahdi Army fighters. The city, a large grid, has to have someone directing traffic where major roads meet, Scott says, and last week, Mahdi Army soldiers and Iraqi policemen were in place, waving people through. But Sunday, the police were nowhere to be seen. In their place were masked fighters, waving traffic through with one hand - and brandishing a Kalashnikov with another. "They've gone from watch committees to much more of an aggressive presence," Scott says.

Changing Places: When it comes to migration, Italy has been a country more familiar with sending people abroad than receiving them to its shores. But over the past 15 to 20 years, the country has experienced a boom in immigration from Africa and the MIddle East, says correspondent Sophie Arie. "When I was first here, coming from England in the late 1980s, I was struck by how white the population was. It was very rare to see a black face," she says.

Italians have been on a high learning curve as more people have moved to the country and stayed, she says. "Two factors are at work. Because of Sept. 11, there's a growing fear of foreigners that produces surprisingly outspoken comments. But there's a hopeful trend. More relationships are being created as children enter classes with immigrants, and neighborhoods become more mixed.

"Still, when I talk to foreigners of color here, they will say they feel very much outside the community," she says.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

cultural snapshot
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