Reporters on the Job

In the Streets of Damascus: When correspondent Rhonda Roumani went out to see the anti-US demonstrations in Damascus that were sparked by the UN resolution calling for Syria to hand over information about the assassination of Rafik Hariri, she was surprised by the low turnout.

"Back in the spring, there were at least a hundred thousand people at the demonstration over the US push to get Syria out of Lebanon. But last week, at the Seven Lakes fountain in Damascus, there were maybe 2,000 anti-US protesters. And today, in front of the US Embassy, only a couple of hundred showed up," she says.

In her interviews with protesters, there was no animosity directed toward her. Instead, "there was a lot of defensiveness. The attitude was that this is Syria's business and we're going to take care of it. There was also a tendency to blame Israel. Even among those I interviewed elsewhere who were critical of the Syrian government's handling of this affair, they also said that the US was acting on behalf of Israel to weaken Syria.

Famous Russians: Correspondent Fred Weir says that Russian President Putin has certainly tapped the country's A-list of celebrities for his new advisory panel. "Most of the 42 members are really well known and well respected. These are big names. It would be as if President Bush created a council that included Robert Redford, Britney Spears, and say, Michael Jordan."

Fred says, based on interviews with three of the new council members, no one is sure that they will make a difference in the Kremlin's policies. "But many Russians say the country is headed toward something between a total reversion to a Soviet-style dictatorship and a full democracy. And they are willing to risk their reputations to try to push it in the direction of a democracy."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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