Reporters on the Job

FENCED IN: The series that starts today on the barrier Israel is constructing throughout the West Bank (page 1), took Monitor correspondent Nicole Gaouette to Qalqilya, a town entirely surrounded by the fence. "It's an incredibly claustrophobic experience," Nicole says. "There's one small entrance. You can't drive in - you can drive up to it, park, and walk in." Those needing to transport goods, she says, can drive them to the entrance, carry them through, and put them in a vehicle that's already inside the wall.

"Qalqilya has the look of a ghost town," Nicole says. "About 600 businesses have closed, and there aren't many cars on the road. There's a profound sense of grief among people. But also, there's very little acknowledgment of what brought them to this situation."

HOT STUFF Britain's uncommon summer sizzle has sparked a kind of madness, reports correspondent Mark Rice-Oxley. (page 12) Cities are vying to become the hottest place in the country, with hopes of reaching "the magic 100" - a Fahrenheit reading never recorded in Britain. Meanwhile, on London's High Street, the chic set is running around "in various undignified undress," including sarongs, flip-flops, and bikinis. And sweltering residents are turning the banks of the Thames into impromptu beaches.

"But there is a serious side to all this," says Mark. "We're a country built for moderation, and whenever anything extreme comes along, we're utterly incapable of dealing with it. When we had snow in January for the first time in 15 years, rail links and roads almost completely broke down." As Britons swarmed toward beaches, the queue of cars to get onto Hayling Island, where Mark and his family cooled off as he wrote yesterday, was three hours long.

WE DON'T STOP FOR TURBANS: During his stay in Tehran (page 7), contributor Nicholas Birch was invited to a farewell party for a young man who'd received a year's grant to study in the States. Unlike the vast majority of Iranians who manage to leave, Nick says, he was adamant he would be back. "God willing, you'll have got rid of the theocrats in time for my return," he told his friends. They all laughed, even one man who was a member of the baseej, a pious semiofficial militia. "We'll do our best," he said. "But not all these ayatollahs are bad." Nick says he should tell that to Tehran taxi drivers: "Almost all of those I met boasted that they no longer stop for anyone wearing the turban and cloak of the country's clerical elite."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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