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Reporters on the Job

March 9, 2005



Comparing Rallies in Beirut : Contributor Frances Brown has been attending the anti-Syrian rallies in Beirut and talking with the students in the tent city. Tuesday's pro-Syrian rally marked a dramatic change both in scale and socioeconomic range. "This is a mass of humanity - stunning in its size - and it mirrors the face of southern Lebanon: conservative, poor, and Shiite," she says. "In Martyrs' Square, the anti-Syrian crowd spoke French and English and was fairly Westernized. At the pro-Syrian rally, I stick out like a sore thumb. Many of the women are conservatively dressed and covered. The crowd, though, is just as warm. No tension, anger, or threats," says Frances.

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But men and women treated her differently. "The women are very warm, reaching out their hands to touch me. The men are not as responsive. I'm here with a male colleague. One Lebanese protester I tried to speak with wouldn't look at me and would address only my male friend - even though he speaks English only and I speak Arabic."

Frances was also struck by the "absolute adoration for Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. When he started speaking, the crowd went wild and pushed forward. It was as if Elvis had arrived."

Logging in Indonesia : Simon Montlake reported from Indonesia for three years before moving to Bangkok in 2002, so he's familiar with the environmental challenges there. "Once on the ground, I quickly realized that the building boom had begun and asked about the origin of the logs. Several UN and aid officials told me that they were opposed to using illegally cut logs. But in Calang, where I was reporting (page 1), I met laborers using wood they said came from the nearby forests. Of course, when someone survives a tsunami and wants to rebuild their home, it's hard to tell them to spare the trees!"

David Clark Scott
World editor

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