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Reporters on the Job

February 8, 2008

In a wind tunnel at the University of Tokyo, scientists tested paper airplane designs at speeds reaching Mach 7. Japanese scientist plan to launch the planes (treated with silicone to keep from burning) from the International Space Station to see if they make it to Earth.

Kiyoshi Ota

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Kindness of Colleagues: Staff writer Mark Sappenfield needed an Urdu interpreter to report today's story about how rising prices are undermining President Pervez Musharraf's support. A friend suggested an acquaintance, a journalist in Lahore, Pakistan.

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"His job was to cover the courts for his newspaper, but he agreed to help me," says Mark. "He called colleagues, found the Utility Stores [where staples are sold at government subsidized prices], and collected a list of a half-dozen experts and officials to talk to on the subject. The next day we met for the first time, and he accompanied me around Lahore for three to four hours, skipping lunch, as we hopped from store to store.

"At the end of the day, he had done a fantastic job, but when the talk turned to a well-deserved payment, he adamantly refused, saying it was his pleasure and I was a guest in Pakistan," says Mark.

"This attitude is not unusual in Pakistan. It is difficult not to become friends in an afternoon. At least he has agreed to let me to take him to dinner when I return."

Mexican Friend or Foe? Sometimes context is everything. When staff writer Sara Miller Llana went to the Mexican state of Tabasco three months ago, it was during a flood. "At the airport, I stood out as a foreigner. People saw me as someone there to help or bring attention to the problem and expressed their appreciation," says Sara.

But this week, three months after the floods, Sara was at the airport in the middle of a US-Mexico soccer match that was on all of the TV sets. "The difference was palpable. I was noticed, but no one went out of their way to welcome me."

Mexico and the US played to a 2-2 tie Wednesday night.

David Clark Scott

World editor

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