Reporters on the Job

African Efficiency: Staff writer Abraham McLaughlin had heard that Rwanda was a well-organized nation. It's one of the countries in Africa most effective at collecting taxes, he notes. But he had first-hand experience with this culture of order as he set out to find a gacaca - a traditional community court (this page).

"You can go to the national gacaca office and they will hand you an Excel spreadsheet with every one of 900 cases under way, giving date, time and place," says Abe.

"Supposedly, when the first German colonists arrived, they reported back home that 'We've finally found a people as organized as we are.' "

Compassion a Casualty: As the din of gunfire grows, the sense of fear in Baghdad is growing more palpable, damaging trust and compassion, says staff writer Dan Murphy. "Out on the highway today, I saw small packs of pedestrians straggling toward the Shiite shrine city of Karbala for the major religious festival of Arbain, to be held over the weekend. They seemed unconcerned with the turmoil engulfing much of Karbala," says Dan.

As Dan's driver turned for home along a major divided highway, he saw two injured pilgrims lying by the side of the road, clearly the victims of a hit-and-run driver. Dan watched in frustration as Iraqi cars and trucks and US military patrols zoomed past ignoring the men. Finally, some five minutes later, reaching a point in the road where a U-turn was possible, Dan asked the driver to go back. "Are you crazy," said the driver, refusing. "We could get killed."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot

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