Reporters on the Job

Out of sight: Talking with Islamic radicals suspected of terrorist links in London is growing increasingly difficult, says Peter Ford. More and more of them are now behind bars, accessible only to their lawyers, and most of those who are still at large are keeping their heads down, fearful of being deported.

Peter called one Saudi dissident he has interviewed before - on his home number - and recognized his voice when he answered. But the voice insisted that he was not the person Peter knew him to be, and hung up quickly.

Yasir al-Sirri, who agreed to meet Peter in an anonymous office off the Edgeware Road - a district of London popular with Middle Eastern immigrants - was less secretive.

"He seemed to be working on the hope that the more open he is, the less anyone will think he has to hide," says Peter. "When I asked for his lawyer's phone number, in case anything happened to him, he laughed, and wondered if I knew something he didn't."

Blinking lights: After writing her piece on the arrival of Times-Square-style video screens in Tbilisi, Georgia, contributor Daria Vaisman went out to photograph them. But, "I had to go back several times," she says. "Once, both screens in both squares were off. Then one had been dismantled and remains out. Finally, I went back at night and one was on. The image was really striking."

Daria says the screens are supposed to be symbols of revitalization of private business. "But they seemed also to be symbols of the technical difficulties Georgia faces as it tries to boost its commercial sector," she says.

Handover definitions: What fascinated staff writer Ilene Prusher in her coverage of the Gaza handover was the divergence in how Palestinians viewed what alternatively might be called looting, scrap-picking, scavenging, reclaiming, or bargain-hunting. "As I and some of my colleagues were waiting in traffic along Gaza's beach road - packed bumper-to-bumper all day as Palestinians tried to stream by the settlements - we discussed what would be the appropriate word to use," Ilene says. "Looting, by definition, should only refer to stealing, but Israelis, presumably, had already removed nearly all of what they considered valuable enough to remove - so you wouldn't exactly call it theft."

Some people, Ilene says, piled trucks, donkey-drawn carts, and wheelbarrows high with pickings from the ruins - mostly pipes, wires and other forms of scrap metal. In their hands, boys juggled mangoes, left in settlement orchards, the way they once juggled rocks. "On the way to the Erez checkpoint to leave Gaza, we were waylayed by an ersatz scrap metal market that had sprung up along the road.

"Some Palestinians felt that this was the natural course of events, given the state of economic deprivation here. One man driving a donkey cart full of metal and wire, told me that 'they were on our land, so everything on it is now is ours.' "

Other Palestinians, however, were dismayed at the disorderly state of the takeover and the masses of people "shopping" in the free-for-all amid the settlements' ruins. "It was supposed to be a beautiful day," one man told Ilene, "and instead people are making it look like Baghdad."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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