Reporters on the Job

STREET TALKERS: When the Monitor's Warren Richey arrives in a new country, he makes a habit of going out into the street to talk to a variety of people. For today's story (page 1), he was gauging sentiment in Amman, Jordan, toward the "war on terrorism."

As students emptied out of a university in Amman, he introduced himself. "Excuse me, I'm an American journalist with The Christian Science Monitor. Do you mind if I ask you some questions about what's going on in Afghanistan?"

That's how he met Mahmoud, a young man from Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. "America is wrong to bomb such a poor country.... Many people agree with Osama bin Laden and not just in Saudi Arabia," he said. "It is in all the Arab countries. They are all listening to him."

Apparently they are not the only ones listening. Within a few minutes a carload of Jordanian security police arrived and parked nearby. "One plainclothes cop got out of the car and appeared to be trying to listen to us," Warren says. "If we were talking about anything that would have gotten these kids in trouble, I would have stopped. But I was impressed at how quickly the police showed up."

HEARD IN THE HOTEL: In Shanghai, China, for the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (this page), the Monitor's Robert Marquand also found it tempting to eavesdrop. Riding the elevators at the hotel is an exercise in tantalizing hints - and frustration, particularly for someone who's been reporting from Pakistan for the past two weeks. "The elevators are full of top US military officials and national security advisers quietly talking on cellphones or among themselves about the war in Afghanistan. "I kept hearing snatches of stuff about Mazar-e-Sharif [a strategic city in northern Afghanistan] and 'the Alliance this or the Alliance that,' " says Bob.

A SIGN OF LAW AND ORDER: Afghanistan appears to be a lawless place. There are plenty of folks with guns, but no uniformed policemen to be seen - unless you don't have the right papers.

Yesterday, while traveling in rebel-held territory, the Monitor's Scott Peterson found some police - or they found him - in the town of Charikar. Four traffic cops, their helmets and assault rifles laid out on a table, sat in the middle of the road. One policeman in a faded uniform jumped up and waved a "Stop, Police" sign. Scott's car pulled over. The correct documents permitting a trip to the front line were with the translators in the next car, 10 minutes behind. "I had no choice. I waited, and watched all the other cars waved through in this 'lawless country.' "

- David Clark Scott

World editor

Let us hear from you.

Mail to: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 via e-mail: world@csmonitor.com

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