Reporters on the Job

I Like Hotels, Myself: Monitor correspondent Mark Rice-Oxley says he has had a "somewhat unfortunate" caravaning career. The reason: His days on the road as a youngster spanned some of southern England's wettest summers.

"In a way, it was wonderfully primitive," says Mark, "but you needed plenty of imagination and patience for those rainy days, not to mention duct tape for the leaky bits. The toilets were a shed, and the caravan's most sophisticated feature was a pullout table that emerged from the double bunk."

One year, his family tried a new tack. "We took the weary old war horse across the channel one year," he says. "But the poor beast was quickly caught up in an auto accident, and then blew a tire on the way home. It was pensioned off."

Mark now tends to look away when he sees caravans. And he books a hotel.

Point of View: One thing is clear when it comes to the question of Chechnya, says the Monitor's Scott Peterson: All sides are fed up. But that doesn't mean people see their way to a clear solution - or even agreement about what lies at the root of the conflict.

"As Chechnya has become more chaotic in the past few years, even descriptions of what the situation is like, what the solutions are, are tailored to fit a certain world view," Scott says. "People who were involved in meetings in 2001 and 2002 to talk about resolutions have different recollections of what transpired. And there's an incredible amount of spin: One observer says there will never be talks because of the increased brutality, but then another disagrees. It is like the Balkans, where the Serbs and the Muslims had such different takes on the history of the conflict."

Yet at some points, clarity prevails. Scott notes that Frederick Starr, who was a mediator at the meetings a few years ago, told him that both sides were the picture of reason. "He said they had a lot to talk about, and were capable of civil and rational discourse."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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