Reporters on the Job

POSH POST: Thursday's story on drug trafficking in Afghanistan took the Monitor's Scott Baldauf to the home of Hazrat Ali, the military chief for the First Corps of Eastern Afghanistan. Scott remembered the famed commander - who was the first commander to move into Jalalabad after the Taliban fell - from the days before the battle at Tora Bora. "He had been sleeping in caves while fighting the Taliban. About the only clean thing he owned was the hat on his head."

But with a little victory has come a big change in lifestyle. Now a military commander who works with US forces, he met with Scott and his interpreter in his guest house - one of a few homes he is reported to own. "He has come into money: The house had satin curtains, plush furniture, and Persian carpets on the floor," says Scott. "My translator pointed to the chandelier and said it would cost thousands in Kabul."

That was not the only change Scott noticed. "He used to come and knock on reporters' doors and tell them stories. Now we had to set up appointments, and he wasn't friendly. He no longer views the press as a friend as he has been linked in some reports to drug money. He also has a track record as a military commander, so of course not everyone likes him."

WHERE'S MY STETSON? Andrew Downie isn't a big country-music fan - nor has he done much riding. But by the end of his visit to Brazil's rodeo festival, he was the proud owner of a Johnny Cash album - and had even viewed the world from atop a bull (see photo below).

At the huge event, Andrew did everything from watching how the cowboys warm up before they ride the bulls - they dance around as if they were on a bull - to listening to more than a little country fare. "The decibel levels are off the chart," he says. As for the Brazilian version? "Well, imagine Dolly Parton in Portuguese - it's just not the same."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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