• I'm Just a Reporter: Staff writer Mark Sappenfield says that he learned an important lesson reporting today's story about an Afghan province that stopped growing opium poppies.
"Generally, Afghans have no idea what a reporter is. They know you are a foreigner and they therefore assume that you are a member of the government. For this reason, interviews are also partly negotiations," says Mark.
For example, in this case the Afghan officials told Mark that they want a dam for better irrigation.
"It takes a fair amount of explanation to make them understand that I can't get it for them. They expect me to be able to do something about it. It is an insight into how tribal politics work (and don't work) – something particularly relevant to this story. In the end, however, they're generally happy to know that their story is being told to an American audience," says Mark.
• A Stroll in Baghdad: Correspondent Jim Hagengruber returned to Iraq for the first time since March (see story). He traveled south to Nasiriyah to report on a safe zone where foreign aid groups are working. He also visited the Baghdad's International Zone (aka the Green Zone), and was initially pleased to learn that the security situation had improved enough that he no longer needed an escort to leave the media center and take a walk.
"When I was here before I couldn't leave the building without an escort. I decided to enjoy this newfound freedom by taking a short stroll to the Al Rasheed Hotel, also inside the International Zone. During the two-block walk I was frisked twice and passed through three different checkpoints.
"This is an improvement?" asks Jim.
– David Clark Scott