Iraq’s Electricity Ministry Puts Katie Couric on Billboards
With average temperatures hovering around 110 degrees this week, Iraqi officials have decided to try to head off the kind of huge public protests that have arisen in years past over their failure to provide adequate electric service.
But officials are not just trying to upgrade power lines and generators. They are also looking to Katie Couric to help keep people cool.
At more than two dozen locations around this city, officials have posted giant billboards of Ms. Couric, billed as “America’s Sweetheart” during her time as a host of the “Today” show on NBC. From high above the steamy streets, or from the side of blast walls, Ms. Couric beams out at passers-by in an advertisement for a daily news bulletin about electricity that is produced by the government and is shown on 11 satellite television channels.
“It doesn’t give me hope about electricity, but I like to see her beautiful face,” Habib Harbi, who sells watermelon in the summer and sweets in the winter, said as he looked across the street at the billboard from his fruit stand.
People point to many markers here as evidence that life has gotten better since the very dark days after the occupation began. Safety is still a concern, with bombings and shootings taking lives randomly. But it has improved. Yet one of the harshest reminders that Iraq is still a wounded nation is the inability to provide adequate electricity. Soon it will be Ramadan, when the faithful cannot eat or drink during the long daylight hours, a challenge made all the more difficult by the hot, still air. No power — no fan, no air-conditioning.