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Reporters on the Job

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HURRY UP AND WAIT: Security couldn't have been tighter for journalists trying to cover Monday's meeting of 300 Iraqi delegates in Baghdad to plot the future shape of Iraq's government, says Scott Peterson (page 1). Journalists had to enter a remote palace gate between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., undergo a thorough search, and then wait for buses that would take them to a place a mile away. There they would watch the closing ceremony on closed-circuit TV at 6:30 p.m. Then, the kicker: "access to the participant."

Those were the best-laid plans. "But when I arrived at 5, there were more than 30 cars in a line, three abreast, waiting," Scott says. Scores of other cars had already passed through. Journalists were herded to a waiting area, then taken for the search: Collars were upturned, shoes and boots inspected, cuffs checked, and all equipment checked. Bomb-sniffing dogs did their rounds.

The already slow process bogged down further when something found in a car trunk spurred soldiers to call for explosive-ordnance specialists. Scott could see hundreds of his colleagues wilting on the tarmac near the tent. Finally, he gave up.

Scott got a full report from a colleague when she finally returned - at 10:30 that evening. Eventually, she reported, they been able to talk to delegates. "But it was a high price to pay" in time, she noted.

NO FLIGHT OF FANCY: Farther east, Monitor correspondent Robert Marquand (this page) was also tapping his foot. In his case, he was trying to catch a flight from Beijing to Seoul, South Korea. The planes are typically half full, says Bob. But that was before the SARS virus.

Bob's trip began with a heat detector's 'snapshot' of his temperature. That had to be taken before he could even enter the airport. Then it was on to about a 40-minute wait for customs. Next stop: the lines to get your boarding pass. Those were "fantastically long" with departing Korean students and families. "I've never seen anything like it," Bob reports.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot

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