Reporters on the Job

• NEW ROLES FOR SAUDIS: Within minutes of arriving in Saudi Arabia for today's story about the Mideast peace initiative (page 1), correspondent Scott Peterson was struck by how the economy has tumbled from the highs of the early 1980s. The average Saudi income is now one-quarter of what it once was. For decades, menial labor or manual tasks in this oil-rich desert kingdom have been performed by millions of Third World "guest" workers, most of them from the Indian subcontinent. Besides seeing Saudis serving as building security guards, some now also drive taxis. Unemployment is very high, despite an official program of "Saudization" of jobs.

"I was surprised when a Saudi man wearing his white robe and red headdress approached me at the airport, asking if I wanted a taxi," Scott says. "I was even more shocked when he haggled very hard for 20 minutes over the price, battling for just a few riyals."

• WALK THIS WAY: Reporter Dan Murphy slipped across the Thai-Burma border in a wobbly dugout to visit a village displaced by Burmese government troops (page 1). His eyes were soon drawn from the mist rising off the river and the surrounding limestone peaks to the charred remains of an older camp on the Burmese side: It had been destroyed in a government attack in November 2001. He asked his local Karen guide if the new camp a short hike away wasn't just as vulnerable. "Maybe,'' he told Dan, "But thank God the Burmese troops know we've planted landmines between us and them." He went on to explain that the Karen see the mines as a necessary evil to deter attack – even though they sometimes step on them themselves. As they stepped from the canoe, Dan says he couldn't help but wonder if his guide knew precisely where to step.

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot

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