• Five-Star Prison: The first time staff writer Ilene Prusher visited Jericho was in September 1993. She was there when news of the Oslo Accords broke. "I went to Jericho because it was going to be the first Israeli town from which the Israelis had agreed to withdraw," Ilene remembers. "The streets were like a giant carnival - people hanging out of cars, waving flags, and singing."
On her recent visit, reporting on the 10th anniversary of the Palestinian Authority (page 1), Ilene was amazed how much Jericho felt like a ghost town. "The manager of the Intercontinental Hotel was despondent," Ilene says.
"This is like working in a five-star prison," he told Ilene. "I don't know who to blame, the Palestinian Authority or the Israelis."
• Double Dribble: In the searing Iraqi sun, nothing is more restorative than a small glass of sweet, hot tea, says staff writer Howard LaFranchi. But as Howard learned while on assignment in Baghdad (page 1), there are rules to follow during the Iraqi tea break.
"Tea is served in a small glass cradled in a saucer," Howard explains. "The idea is to pour the tea into the saucer in manageable sips to cool it down. When I started to attempt just that at a government office, the Iraqi interpreter I work with began to snicker. 'You're not going to do any better than yesterday,' she said, instructing me to simply tilt the glass without picking it up from the saucer so the tea runs down the side."
The day before, during an interview with members of the Mahdi Army, Howard made the mistake of lifting the glass - causing tea to dribble onto the hosting sheikh's carpet. That apparently caused clucks of disapproval from the rifle-toting fighters. "I didn't want to embarrass you," the interpreter belatedly told Howard, "but they all said, 'Look, he doesn't know how to do it!'"
David S. Hauck