NO SECRETS HERE: Some of the local flavor in the story about conflict in southern Lebanon (page 8) was brought to you courtesy of the well-organized Hizbullah public relations team. Reporter Nicholas Blanford and 136 other journalists were invited to a hilltop to speak with Hizbullah fighters. "We were packed into five or six buses and driven from Beirut," says Nick. But this is a militant organization that is accustomed to secrecy. "About 15 minutes from our destination, the buses stopped and we stepped outside while they put black cotton sheets over the windows to keep us from discovering the location of the fighters," he says.
"But when we stepped off the buses a few minutes later, it was obvious to many of us exactly where we were. It's not a big area, and you could see Shebaa Farms and other villages," says Nick. One of the Hizbullah hosts approached him. " 'So, Nick, do you know where we are?' 'Of course,' I replied. And we both laughed.
Then he said, 'Well, Nick, you know we have to maintain a semblance of security. We'll reposition the fighters after you leave.' "
ENOUGH BOOM-BOOM: Earlier this week, Israelis celebrated "Jerusalem Day," a holiday that commemorates the capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The festivities were capped by a display of fireworks, not far from the Monitor's Jerusalem office. In a place where the sounds of explosions are often the real thing - involving shrapnel and loss of life - the Monitor's Cameron Barr was not amused: "I don't want to rain on the Israeli parade, but we get enough boom-boom as it is."
A TIP ABOUT COFFINS: Where do reporters get their ideas? "A photographer friend at an Afrikaan newspaper told me about this inexpensive coffin. I don't read or speak Afrikaans, so I might never have heard about the company. It seemed like an interesting way into a story about how AIDS is changing South African traditions surrounding the burial of their dead (this page)," says reporter Nicole Itano.
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