Reporters on the Job

• MEAN STREETS: Venezuela's volatile capital is still a difficult place to report from, says Phil Gunson (page 1). "The media are working at half-steam, because journalists are afraid of being attacked in the streets by Chavistas (supporters of President Hugo Chávez).

He says although rumors proliferate – especially of looting and assassinations – it is still too difficult to check them out. "I have never seen the streets so deserted," Phil says. "Newspapers didn't publish on Sunday, and television programming was still altered yesterday – studio guests did not show up, for example."

Moreover, the situation is moving so quickly that it's difficult to be sure who will be in control for how long. "The military was profoundly divided before the coups; it's even more so now. Yesterday, the head of the Army was arrested. And television news showed a team of soldiers in camouflage at Navy headquarters, trying to arrest the two top rear admirals."

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• TALK IN THE STREETS: As most Americans these days, reporter Philip Smucker has been disturbed by the frightening phenomenon of suicide bombing, which he says appears to have become even more popular in the past two weeks in the Arab world (this page).

"I associate the idea – probably falsely – with Islamic extremism, so you can imagine how surprised I was to talk to Christian Copts and Palestinian Catholic women supportive – or at least sympathetic with – the idea of these attacks."

"While many Arab women condemn the idea on the one hand, they praise the heroism on the other. It is something of a contradiction that they explain like this. They say: 'These women are driven by desperation, and they have the courage to stand against the Israeli war machine.'"

The idea that most suicide bombers attack civilian targets appears to have been all but lost in the fog of war, Phil says.

• IT'S NOT ALL WORK: For reporter Tim Vandenack, it wasn't all work to visit Chile's southern region of Aisén to write about Noranda's proposal to build an aluminum plant there (page 7). He also took the opportunity to camp in the isolated zone and visit its rivers, glaciers, and parks. But he hadn't expected the weather. It poured the entire time. "I was soaked almost the entire day walking from interview to interview," Tim says. During one of his more memorable interviews, he sat next to a woman's wood-burning stove to dry off while she fed him her story and leftovers – locally caught salmon.

Faye Bowers
Deputy world editor

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