• A Maidless Saudi: Reporter Rasheed Abou-Alsamh admits that he doesn't see Asian maids the way most Saudis do.
"As a Saudi-American who did not grow up with maids, I've always viewed them as approachable and treated them as I would any other human being. This has gotten me into trouble, most notably with one of my aunts who did not like me chatting with her Indonesian maid," he says.
"'You shouldn't be too friendly with them,' she reprimanded me. 'They'll just take advantage of that and work less.'"
Rasheed ignored her advice, but her attitude, he says, is representative of that of many Saudis who keep an army of maids and drivers in their employ. "Some Saudis are so attached, or should I say dependent, on their maids that they often take them on vacation with them to help take care of their children. The sight of a Saudi family in Malaysia with an Indonesian or Filipino maid is therefore not unusual.
"I've had Filipino friends here ask me if I could find jobs for their female relatives to come to Saudi Arabia and work as domestic servants," he says. "I've always declined, saying I wouldn't want to be responsible for anyone who ended up working in near-slavelike conditions (see story)."
• Guarded Optimism: Correspondent Sibylla Brodzinsky has covered eight years of negotiations to free hostages in Colombia. She was present, for example, when a successful exchange of hostages for rebel prisoners took place under the previous president, Andrés Pastrana. "It was very moving to see families reunited. My heart goes out to all the families of kidnap victims," she says. So, she says she is both optimistic about the involvement of Venezuela's president as a mediator (see story), and realistic about the pitfalls so many before him have encountered.
– David Clark Scott