Reporters on the Job

Russia's Great Communicator: Correspondent Fred Weir watched Russian President Vladimir Putin's entire three-hour talk show Tuesday, and was impressed.

"He spoke exactly to the topics. He never meandered. With the exception of Bill Clinton, I've never seen any politician this good with details and information off the cuff," says Fred. "He's always been clear and concise, and today's performance was the best to date. He was asked a wide variety of questions - which were probably orchestrated in advance - but nobody could memorize a three-hour performance like this."

Fred says that President Putin's public speaking skills are a marked contrast to those of his predecessor Boris Yeltsin. "Russians were embarrassed by Yeltsin's awkward, rambling, blustering speaking style," he says. "Putin's the 'unYeltsin,' and I suspect that's one of the reasons he was chosen to succeed Yeltsin."

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Fred says Putin has a natural talent, but figures that 17 years of gathering, organizing, and synthesizing information for the KGB, the former Russian spy agency, honed his presentation skills.

Learning from the Past: Correspondent Simon Montlake visited the highland region of Aceh, Indonesia, where tensions between the separatist GAM rebels and government soldiers have long run hot. His first stop was the UN peace monitoring headquarters in Takengon. During the last attempted cease-fire in 2002-03, the UN offices were burnt down by angry rebel supporters who felt the UN was not doing enough to investigate their complaints. "I found the new UN office on a main road in a rather large [masonry] house for a modest town. I asked them how they chose the location," says Simon. "They said that they were looking at another house on a nearby hill. But someone noted, 'Well, this one is wooden and might be easier to burn down.' "

David Clark Scott
World editor

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