• Taking Time to Dance in Baghdad: One sign of improving security in Baghdad is the recent lifting of an 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. curfew (with the exception of east-west travel on city bridges) on Fridays. It was put in place to ensure that the traditional weekly Friday prayers were, well, tranquil enough for prayer.
Last Friday offered correspondent Sam Dagher an opportunity for another taste of normal life. He attended a mass wedding of religiously and ethnically mixed couples sponsored by a Kurdish businessman (see story). "For a few hours, it was a chance to join Baghdadis in moments of pure joy, dancing, clapping, and music," says Sam. "The attitude among many people I spoke to was: "We want to live today as if it was the last day of our life."
That bittersweet comment came to mind Wednesday. A bombing in Baghdad killed five people, including the sister of a Monitor Iraqi driver. She had just returned from Syria, expecting that it was safe enough now to live in Iraq's capital.
• Life After a Bombing: Reporter Nick Blanford has covered all nine of the high-profile assassinations in Lebanon during the past three years. But he, like many in Beirut, was surprised by the one that killed a Lebanese general Wednesday (see story).
"There was a feeling that these assassinations had stopped because things were moving on the political front. The Syrians attended the peace talks in Annapolis last month. The Americans seem more open to dialogue with players in the region," he says. "People here look at the Army with pride. It's the guarantor of national unity. So it was an unexpected blow."
But for Nick, like many residents of Beirut, targeted assassinations don't sow much fear. "Random attacks are worrying. But in this case, life goes on," he says. He was out grocery shopping shortly after filing his story.
– David Clark Scott