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Baghdad Diaries, Part 1 of 3

Lebanon on a Knife's Edge

A Little Goes A Long Way

 

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Baghdad Diaries, Part 1 of 3

Graffiti on blast walls

Graffiti on the blast walls inside the Combined Press Information Center reads - I Came, I Saw, I Want to Go Home

From the air, Baghdad twinkles. The city lights spread out in the familiar pattern of any major city. But reality comes in flashes. The navigator sitting next to me points them out as we begin our descent into Baghdad International Airport on a C-130. Bright sparks arching through the air. After an hour spent listening to the six-man crew chit chatting over headsets, I had stopped thinking about where my reporting partner Lucille and I were going. But that's how life seems to happen here. Spells of tranquility interrupted.

Baghdad is just a stop over for us. My partner Lucille Quiambao and I are actually headed much farther north to a small outpost close to Mosul. We're here for the holidays, trying to get a sense of what it's like to spend Christmas and New Year's in Iraq. It's a strange time to be traveling here knowing that a change in policy is due from Bush. But for the time being, all we can do is think about how we're going to get from the airport into the Green Zone.

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Lebanon on a Knife's Edge

Pro-Hezbollah demonstrators on the streets of downtown Beirut.

Tens of thousands of pro-Hezbollah supporters take to the streets of Beirut calling for a change of government.

At a recent concert by Lebanon's beloved diva, Fairuz, well-heeled Lebanese packed a large Beirut hall. They cheered loudly as the diminutive performer, draped in apricot silk, glided on to the stage.

Just blocks away, tens of thousands of protestors were staging a sit-in to bring down Lebanon's pro-Western government. The audience had braved army checkpoints, barricaded roads and threats of clashes to attend the Fairuz concert. When they arrived, they were unusually subdued for a Beirut crowd. Only when the deep voice of Lebanon's national icon filled the auditorium did their faces light up and their worries seem to momentarily fade. Even in the midst of political turmoil, the show goes on in Lebanon, I thought. Escapism at its best.

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A Little Goes A Long Way

Smiling Ugandan Children.

We don't usually comment on our stories, but in the case of "Uganda: A Little Goes a Long Way," we had to make an exception. The story, broadcast on October 31, received such an overwhelming response from FRONTLINE/World viewers that they actually became part of the story, helping change the course of one company's future.

For those of you who missed it (and you can watch the story online on our Web site), "A Little Goes Along Way" reported on Kiva, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that has built an innovative Web site allowing people to make individual loans to small businesses in the developing world. The story focused on businesses in Uganda, where Kiva first began its mircoloan operations. Within seconds of the broadcast on Halloween night, Kiva's servers crashed as FRONTLINE/World viewers tried to log on in their thousands, hoping to make a loan. Kiva staff quickly realized that the floodgates were open and posted a simple homepage explaining the site was overwhelmed and asking for contribution pledges via email.

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