• A Foray into Najaf: Staff writer Scott Baldauf decided to go to Najaf, despite the Iraqi government's order for journalists to stay out. "If only journalists embedded with US forces are allowed in the area, the world will only see a small part of what's happening," he says.
"The Americans had blocked the main roads into Najaf's Old City, so we took some back alleys where most of the other cars were going. We drove as close to the Shrine as we could go, and decided to go the rest of the way on foot," he says. "Two blocks away, we saw a Mahdi Army fighter carrying an RPG. He shouted at us to move our car, which we did, and told us not to come any closer. Another Mahdi Army fighter fired warning shots in the air. Fair enough, we could take a hint," he says.
A Najaf resident came out of his house and told them to stay away from the Mahdi Army. "All the journalists go to see the Mahdi Army and make them seem sympathetic," he told Scott. "Please don't do that."
"By the time we had heard this man's opinion," says Scott, "fighting broke out and forced us inside the house. We spent the next 22 hours there (page 1). Fortunately, they were nice people."
• Arabia in Malaysia: Correspondent Simon Montlake went to Malaysia to attend a conference. But today's story about Arab tourists (page 7) was too obvious to pass up. "My hotel was filled with Middle Eastern visitors," he says. By talking to the hotel manager, he learned that "a lot of Middle Eastern students attend the university here. This summer, the hotels scrambled to hire them for their Arabic. A good Arabic-speaking concierge is in high demand."
David Clark Scott