Reporters on the Job

Do As I Say: Young people in Japan have mixed views of the country's pension system (page 7), says correspondent Bennett Richardson.

For salaried employees, regular contributions to the system are simply deducted from their paychecks. But self-employed workers must police themselves - and a tough job market has swelled the ranks of nonpayers.

"Many don't have much money to begin with, so they skip payments. Some of my friends say too they are worried they won't get their money back when it comes time to claim their pensions - they expect the system to go bellyup long before they turn 65."

Recently the government introduced an expensive taxpayer-funded ad campaign to encourage such young people to make payments. But the ad was quickly canceled when it was revealed that the actress, Makiko Esumi, who appeared in the ad exhorting everyone to pay, wasn't doing so herself. "She said she thought she had been paying and later paid in full," Bennett says. "She also apparently promised to pay back the salary she got for the job."

Who Needs Martha Stewart? Scott Peterson found plenty of shadows of the old Hussein-era army in the new, US-created Iraqi army in Fallujah (page 1). One of the quaintest was the Iraqi habit of dressing up - no matter how modestly - the offices of the top brass.

When Iraqi forces joined US Marines at the Fallujah train station, it wasn't long before such improvements were made. Never mind the broken glass and dust all over the floor. Marine officers visiting Iraqi Maj. Ahmed Hamadi Khalaf were ushered into a perfectly chilled air-conditioned office, with the broad commander's desk of yesteryear front and center. Small vases of colorful fake flowers added a prettifying touch.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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