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CHASING DOWN THE TRUTH: Extracting that elusive thing called "truth" has always been difficult in Iraq, and Monitor correspondent Scott Peterson says that remarkably little has changed since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Rumors make the situation worse. There's the persistent belief that US forces wear sunglasses that enable them to see beneath the clothes of Iraqi women. And there's the one making the rounds that the US-led occupation authority here is trying to punish Iraqis for their resistance by depriving them of electricity. One "eyewitness" swears he spotted a tank with the words "no peace, no electricity" scrawled on it.

While reporting Thursday's story about health concerns after the looting of an Iraqi nuclear facility, an apparently sincere doctor sent Scott and his driver and interpreter on a wild-goose chase across the blistering hot countryside to talk to a "radiation victim."

The running joke, composed by his Iraqi colleagues on the drive back to Baghdad: "What would 20 Iraqis say if they saw a man shooting a basketball into a hoop?

"He didn't shoot!"

"He dribbled and missed, too bad!"

"What basketball? He was carrying a gun.

"That was no ordinary gun!"

David Clark Scott
World editor

Follow-up on a Monitor Story

FREED IN LAOS: Laos released Wednesday two European journalists and an American pastor in a case that raised an international outcry. As reported on June 26, the three were arrested along with three Laotians last month after witnessing the killing of a villager in a firefight between ethnic Hmong rebels and the Laotian Army. All six were charged with involvement in the man's death. Before release, the three each paid a fine of $1,000 and a combined $8,000 in compensation to the family of the dead man.

Cultural snapshot

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