• THE MORE THINGS CHANGE...: A journalists' tour of Chechnya last week, which was guided by the military, reminded reporter Fred Weir of the Soviet Union (page 6). "The group was tightly controlled, prevented from meeting ordinary Chechens, and at one point locked in our bus to block contact with women protesting about disappeared relatives," Fred says.
In case any journalists tried to give their guides the slip, several plainclothes agents tagged along, even attempting to tape conversations the journalists had with people they were permitted to meet.
"One must accept the military's claim that some security precautions were necessary," says Fred. "But many of these measures had the distinct effect of undermining the main claim the Kremlin wanted to make by bringing us to Grozny in the first place: that the war is over and life is returning to normal in Chechnya."
• STAY AWHILE: Monitor correspondent Robert Marquand has been in crowds before, but none that prepared him for the huge rally Saturday in downtown Seoul to protest the deaths of two Korean girls in a US military accident (page 1). "I've never been in a crowd of 50,000 people who are shouting 'Yankee, go home!' and holding anti-US signs," Bob says.
Other aspects of the demonstration were jarring for other reasons. "Christmas decorations were everywhere - trees, Santas, and so forth. At one point, the loudspeakers of the protesters were competing with evangelical carolers."
Bob found protesters to be polite and generous, offering him warm drinks that helped him endure 11 hours in the freezing cold. "I was in the midst of a thronging crowd and deep lines of riot police. The crowd was so thick that you were just stuck - and you might as well plan on staying."
• OPENING DOORS: Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, was arguably the most sought-after interview for the hundreds of journalists covering the Iraqi opposition meeting in London last weekend (page 1). The Monitor's Cameron Barr owes his interview with Mr. Chalabi to Monitor colleagues of yore. Cameron was in a restaurant when Chalabi and his entourage swanned in. Also in the restaurant was Trudy Rubin, a former Monitor correspondent who is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She has known "Ahmed," as she calls him, for many years, and he had agreed to see her after lunch. She graciously allowed Cameron to sit in. Upon meeting Cameron, Chalabi praised the work of the late Geoffrey Godsell, another former Monitor Middle East correspondent. Cameron says, "Thank you, Trudy and Geoffrey."
Deputy World editor