• Footing the Bill: Staff writer Ilene R. Prusher has noticed that with the economic crisis in Gaza. many people are not eating out anymore. "But a meal out in Gaza last week put into perspective how stretched people are," she says. "Three of us - my translator, another journalist, and myself enjoyed a nice lunch of hummus, falafel, pita, and cans of soda last week, all for 20 shekels - or $4.49. It struck me that in many places I've lived - such as New York or Tokyo - it would be hard to find lunch for one person for that price. 'That's expensive!' my translator said, when we wondered at the bill. 'If we hadn't had these,' he said, holding a soda, 'it would have been cheaper.' "
• Thinning Ranks of the Young: Correspondent Fred Weir - who has two children who are Russian citizens - says that he regularly sees the effects of depopulation around Russia, in the form of neglected services and undeveloped infrastructure. "There must be many factors inhibiting growth, such as bureaucracy and culture, but a simple lack of enthusiastic young people is certainly one of them," Fred says.
Fred and his family recently spent time in Italy, which also has a negative birthrate problem, and observed that almost no service people were Italian anymore. "Italy has a fairly open immigration policy. The political resistance to this approach in Russia is formidable."
Deputy world editor