Reporters on the Job

• IS THE MAYOR IN? If one is working on a story about hundreds of Colombian mayors facing death threats (see story), where does one find the mayors? "Obviously nobody was answering the phones at any of the local town halls and many of the villages were outside cellphone range," says reporter Martin Hodgson. After he knocked (without success) on the door of the town hall in Hobo, Colombia, he visited the regional governor's office in Neiva. It was the right place to look.

"I found several worried mayors outside the office queuing up to hand in their resignation," says Martin. "Listening to them talk, I was reminded of how commonplace violence has become in Colombia. They were discussing personal security measures, weighing up the pros and cons of hiring bodyguards or carrying handguns for self-defense. Then conversation turned to the FARC, with the mayors comparing local rebel commanders the way students might discuss difficult teachers."

• FACE TO FACE: The Monitor's Danna Harman says that the AIDS prevention efforts she writes about today are inspiring (see story). But the number of people dying here on "this adopted continent of mine from AIDS, war, or starvation, is so staggering that statistics don't convey the desperation and depression it brings. Again and again, when I meet people in Africa, I just feel like sitting down and crying. I do not know whence they take strength.

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"I can understand why AIDS may not be the most important matter for everyone on the planet at the moment. Even when you do get close to it – as I must to do my job – it's so painful and so seemingly unsolvable, that, if you have an option, you feel like turning away. It's hard to push yourself to stare at it for long."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot

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