• Unwelcome: Staff Writer Tom Peter hoped to include a section about the increase in passenger ferries arriving at Umm Qasr for today's story, but his reporting was cut short when he was chased out of the passenger terminal.
"I was embedded with the British Army so I was with a British officer and his interpreter. Normally, when you're with the military you have free rein to speak with whomever you like," says Tom. "But the port is officially under Iraqi control, so the British officer tried to be diplomatic about my visit and informed the Iraqi head of security that I was there."
Tom had just started speaking to a passenger when the director of the passenger terminal appeared and snatched his notebook away. Apparently, he hadn't been personally informed about Tom's visit. "It's hard to tell if the guy just wanted to produce some macho show of force because he felt slighted that we didn't talk to him directly or if there was more to it," says Tom.
"Just a few months ago, militias controlled the port, and this guy said he didn't want Americans or British people in his terminal, which sounds a lot like militia speak," he says. "The confrontation ended with the interpreter and terminal director exchanging pretty serious threats. So even though security and commerce are improving in Umm Qasr, weird events like this still raise an eyebrow."
• Fake beards: When correspondent Ginny Hill was reporting her story on the resurgence of Al Qaeda in Yemen, she met several actors in the new film, "The Losing Bet," intended to combat extremism. "Ahmed plays Murad in the film – an unemployed youth turned suicide bomber," explains Ginny. "In real life, Ahmed is clean-shaven, but his character Murad sports the signature bushy beard of a Salafi jihadi."
Ahmed explained to her that the beard he tried growing for the film just wasn't big enough on camera. He opted for a fake one. He told Ginny: "I wasn't the only one. We had to order a bulk batch of fake beards from Syria."
– Michael B. Farrell
Middle East editor