• Rafting on the Nile: Some reporting assignments are so onerous, you just have to tough it out. Others are not. "As part of today's story about Africa's efforts to 'rebrand' and attract more tourists, I figured I'd get the full experience by going white-water rafting on the Nile," says staff writer Abraham McLaughlin.
He signed up for a half-day excursion. Abe and a bunch of other mazoongos - white people - arrived at Jinja, Uganda, which is just downstream from the source of the Nile.
"The guides gave us quick safety tips - and exhorted us to put on more sunscreen. And we were off. On the third rapid I was thrown from the raft and into the warm water. Grasping my glasses, I bounced and twisted in the churn - and came out smiling. That was about as dangerous as it got, there in the heart of Africa."
• Nuances of Meaning: Staff writer Dan Murphy was reminded that a little Arabic can be a dangerous thing. While visiting with a Sunni family in Baghdad, one family member said he'd chosen to be kicked out of school rather than join the Baath Party. Hoping to get him to explain what was so objectionable about the party, Dan said that many Iraqis joined the party against their conscience, and tried to say in Arabic that under Saddam many Iraqis were "munafiqeen," or hypocrites. The Mahdi Army member in attendance leapt to his feet, and started shouting that he "strongly rejected my claim that Iraqis are munafiqeen."
But the family understood Dan's intent, and quieted him down. Dan later learned that the word can mean any sort of hypocrite, but it's usually used to mean "hypocritical or false believers in Islam," something the prophet considered one of the worst forms of apostasy. Oops.
David Clark Scott