• Running on Empty: A regular feature of post-Saddam life in Iraq are the massive queues of cars waiting to fill up at the gasoline stations. Iraqis have to wait literally hours to purchase a tank of fuel. Wednesday, Nick Blanford almost had his first close encounter with one of these queues when the needle in his car began to nudge "E" on his return from Hawijah (this page). It's a three-and-a- half-hour drive to Baghdad, and Nick's deadline was approaching. "None of the stations we stopped at had any gas at all," he says.
"Then we found a pickup truck with an enterprising individual selling gas - at a premium - from several barrels in the back. A large crowd gathered around him, including my driver, as they argued as to who would get the gas first - all the while my patience was rapidly becoming exhausted. The cost was US$7 for 35 liters - less than $1 per gallon but 10 times the official price. Still, we were able to buy enough to get us back to Baghdad and I was able to file my story (just) in time."
• A World of Orphans: Staffer Abraham McLaughlin enjoyed reporting Thursday's story about the rise in US couples adopting African orphans (page 1). "The road to the foster home outside Addis Ababa [Ethiopia], was so bouncy that we were dancing in our car seats. A gate opened to reveal about 30 kids - ages 6 months to 9 years - most of whom were slated to be adopted by Americans.
"Few of them know English. But most would respond to my, 'Hi. How are you?' with a practiced and formal, 'I'm fine, thank you. And how are you?'
"At one point," says Abe, "I got totally distracted from reporting when one - and then two, and then three - boys wanted to play catch with me. Soon all three were tossing balls at me. I barely kept up, and they would have gone on all day. It was hard to stop. These were very cute kids craving attention."
• Stalin's return: Despite the distance he had to travel, the Monitor's Scott Peterson wasn't disappointed when he arrived at a Siberian village that's so nostalgic, they've resurrected a statue of Stalin (page 7). To get there, Scott flew 1,100 miles from Moscow to Tyumen, then hopped an overnight train to Ishim, near border with Kazakhstan.
"We got in at about 4 a.m., and photographed the statue in the early morning light," says Scott. "Just as we were leaving, a dog came by and lifted a leg. My interpreter and taxi driver couldn't contain their laughter over the pooch's irreverence."
David Clark Scott