Reporters on the Job

IMAMS and AMERICAN ICONS: The Monitor's Scott Baldauf couldn't help but be struck by the irony inherent in his reporting for today's story about Pakistan's efforts to rein in Islamic militants (page 7). "I met some of the most feared - or misunderstood - Pakistani religious leaders at that most American of hotels, the Holiday Inn in Islamabad, Pakistan," says Scott. In the lobby, he met with the chief spokesman for Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a group that specializes in suicide bombings against India. Downstairs, he chatted with other Pakistani religiousleaders who were meeting to denouncethe recent UN decision to send monitors to Pakistan to enforce arms sanctions againstAfghanistan's rulingTaliban. "Aside from theoverhead banners that read, in Urdu, 'America is the biggest terrorist,' the meeting looked like any ordinary gathering of Islamic scholars. And after some tough words against the United Nations, the clerics broke for lunch," he says. For the record, adds Scott, "the Holiday Inn makes a fabulousbuffetof curried chicken, mutton pulao, and minced lamb kebabs."

NOT GEORGE PLIMPTON: As reporter Shawn Donnan drove north to Queensland to cover today's story about outback boxing (page 7), he started to wonder: Should I climb into the ring? The combination of testing one's manhood and getting a better story was tempting. "But it took only a few looks at the fighters to realize they were much tougher than me. Still, I did get a promise from the Friendly Mauler that he'd take care of me if I got into the ring with him. But he's fought more than 300 fights in the tent and hasn't lost one. And all of those fights have come against people a lot tougher than me.... Still, I did get him to teach me some of his moves. And that's where the lead of the story was born."

CULTURAL SNAPSHOT

KETCHUP ANYONE?: Some 30,000 revelers flocked to La Tomatina, in Buñol, Spain, yesterday to celebrate in a local festival dating back to the 1940s. The centerpiece of the celebration: 130 tons of ripe tomatoes dumped in the street. The festival was spawned out of a vegetable cart fight during a parade in 1945.

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