The news out of Iraq today is messy as a suicide car bomber exploded today among a group of children taking gifts and candy from American soldiers in Baghdad. Of about 39 people killed, at least 25 were children, according to Knight Ridder. I had other conversations with Knight Ridder on the landscape in Iraq to determine if it's any better than what I had been hearing recently. It's not, and that makes covering the story difficult and dangerous. Knight Ridder journalists are reporting that Iraqis currently have electricity for an average of nine hours a day. A year ago, they averaged 10 hours of electricity. Iraq's oil production is still below pre-war levels. The unemployment rate is between 30 and 40 percent. New cases of hepatitis have doubled over the rate of 2002, largely because of problems with getting clean drinking water and disposing of sewage. Knight Ridder's top journalist in Iraq, Hannah Allam, says that any contention that 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are stable is pure fantasy. Hannah is a well-regarded journalist among American military in Iraq. She says every day Knight Ridder's British security consultant receives a province-by-province breakdown of the roadside bombs, ambushes, assassinations and other violence throughout the country. Really the only way for any of us to get first-hand information to satisfy our own questions about Iraq and how stable it is or isn't is to be in the country. No doubt American military are doing heroic work. It appears there is a lot of work ahead to stabilize the country.