Reporters on the Job

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    Stitching up a Welcome: Israeli workers at Jerusalem factory sewed American flags that were to be hung in advance of President Bush's visit. He left for the Middle East on Tuesday.
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Looking Smart, Feeling Smart: Staff writer Robert Marquand, who has taken many a Smart car for a spin down European streets, was a big fan of the midget autos before they became available in the US (see story). "My experience is that after driving it for a while, you forget how small it is until you see people next to you," says Bob. "They're enormously practical."

While some Europeans see the Smart as something of a boutique car with a high-end buyership, owners agree with Bob. Jonathan Alia, a real estate agent who has to drive Paris streets daily to rent out apartments, told him that in the past two years of owning the Smart, "I've always found a parking spot." In areas of Paris like the popular crowded cobblestoned Marais, a resident with a car told Bob that "It's a place for a Smart.... I'm thinking about getting one. Right now I circle around and around the neighborhood, sometimes for 25 minutes, looking for a space with my big car."

Walled In: Reporter Dan Murphy says the simple act of arriving in Gaza, which he did on Monday, is surreal (see story). "In Israel, you arrive at an orderly parking lot, are looked over by Israeli guards, and then you enter a hulking steel building built to handle thousands of daily travelers but that only sees a trickle of foreign journalists, aid workers, and Palestinians with permits," says Dan. After your passport is processed, he says, you move through the empty building to a glass door, which is buzzed open, and then outside to a 6-inch steel door, which slides open, admitting you to a half-mile corridor made by 15-ft.-high walls.

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The corridor is lined with garbage, Dan says. "Finally, you emerge onto a dirt road lined by the ruins of buildings that the Israelis destroyed to create better lines of sight. There's more trash, and stray dogs."

Dan says he was tired and tempted to complain about the experience after a day of traveling. But his translator would hear none of it. "If I wanted to get out of the Gaza Strip, I'd have to swim out," he told Dan.

– Amelia Newcomb

Deputy World editor

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