• Into West Darfur: When journalists travel to remote corners of the globe, they're never quite sure if they've prepared properly (page 1). Staff writer Danna Harman arrived in Genina, Sudan, last week with a backpack stuffed with energy bars. "It was the only thing I could think of as I ran to catch my plane in D.C.," she explains. Communication, thanks to a generous aid group, was better than expected - at first. "No cellphones, and the telephone land lines were washed out by the rains. But I borrowed a high-speed Internet line," she says. Unfortunately, either because of the rain - or because the aid group used it to download music for a dance party Friday night - the satellite phone stopped functioning.
"The international aid community's presence is growing every day. On the other hand, there are only a few journalists around, so we have not outworn our welcome among aid agencies, as we usually do in these situations," says Danna.
From the TV images and reading she'd done prior to her trip, Danna had expected more evidence of ongoing attacks on civilians. "Although I have traveled around the region - some eight hours a day in a jeep - I have not seen any fighting, or any smoldering villages. But below the surface, I find that the crisis is at a new stage, and is indeed grave, but in a different way. The main fighting and mass suffering might be over, but there remains great fear, mistrust, and fury between the two ethnic groups. That is something which might take longer to fix."
And those energy bars? "Mostly uneaten," says Danna. "I'm on a steady diet of beans, falafel, fresh tomatoes and onions, thanks to the aid agency's cook."
• Bikes and Booby Traps: On Friday, after the siege in Najaf was over (this page), Scott Baldauf was walking through the streets, interviewing residents. "An old man pointed out to me three artillery shells wired together into a booby trap. A pair of wires lead away to a building where presumably the Mahdi Army would have triggered it if US troops had come by. Just then a guy on a bike rode up and was about to roll over the wires. The old man and I both shouted, "No, no! Abwa (bomb)! Abwa!" It's one of the few Arabic words I know. The cyclist stopped. It probably wouldn't have gone off, but we didn't want to chance it. The Mahdi Army left many booby traps and mines in the streets. It will take some time to clear them," says Scott.
David Clark Scott