Reporters on the Job
• 9/11 CONSPIRACIES: Reporter Nicholas Blanford is in Kuwait interviewing Islamists about their attitudes toward the US troop presence (this page). He was impressed by Salafist leader Hakim Al-Mutayli's familiarity with the book, "The Clash of Civilizations." (Salafism is a puritanical form of Sunni Islam practiced by Osama bin Laden.) Nick was less impressed by the discussion that followed.
"The Middle East is the land of the conspiracy theory, where what the West would consider a half-baked rumor becomes fact in the Arab world through constant retelling," says Nick. "When I finished the interview with Mr. Al-Mutayli, we continued talking into the early hours of the morning, with some of his colleagues asking me questions on US and European policy in the Mideast. One of the Salafists was convinced that the war on terror was spawned by a John Travolta film supposedly made in the early 1990s. In this film, a secret cabal of right-wing extremists decided to concoct an attack on America's economic interests - à la Sept. 11 - so the US could seize control of Mideast oil.
"The film was never released to the public," the Salafist concluded solemnly as his colleagues nodded their heads.
• GET INTO JAIL FREE CARD: Reporter Nicole Itano had been told that getting access to Mozambique's "Trial of the Century" would be difficult (page 7). Security is tight; the temporary courthouse is a big white wedding tent erected in the middle of a prison yard. "I was told that the only office that could grant access was the Mozambique Supreme Court. I spent half a day negotiating with three different officials through an interpreter. Finally, they said I needed a letter of assignment from my front office. The next morning I arrived with the letter. They didn't read it, didn't do anything to confirm my identity. All the bureaucracy needed was a magic letter."