• Women and Islam in Turkey : Correspondent Yigal Schleifer decided to work on today's story about the growing role of women in Turkey's mosques (page 4), because "it's a story that's very reflective of Turkey's larger effort of coming to terms with the role of religion in the public sphere," he says.
At one level, Turkey has geographically and historically been at the outer edge of the more conservative Islamic practices in the Arabian peninsula. Yigal notes that the secular nationalist reforms of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, considered the founding father of modern Turkey, applied to religion. "He made Islam here more individual, and less dependent on a clerical class that tells people how to behave. Even today, that creates more room for change," says Yigal.
At another level, these changes reflect the practices of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). "AKP is trying to professionalize and modernize throughout their government, and its appointments reflect that. The mufti they appointed in Istanbul, for example, is an academic and more progressive."
• Tall Troops : When correspondent Nicholas Blanford attended Tuesday's ceremony marking the final withdrawal of Syrian soldiers from Lebanon after 29 years of occupation (page 1), he was surprised by who turned up. "The Syrian soldiers, who attended the parade in an old airfield built by the French, were supposed to be the last 150 or so soldiers to leave Lebanon. In fact, they were a smartly turned-out elite bunch who had been specially transported from Syria for the event. They were much more impressive (and standing a good foot taller) than the usual Syrian soldiers one would see in Lebanon," says Nick.
David Clark Scott