• Unexpected Help: Normally the last people staff writer Peter Ford wants to come across when he is reporting from China's countryside are the plainclothes police. Last week, strangely, it was a secret policeman who helped him see all kinds of officials who don't usually talk to foreign journalists (see story).
"I wanted to talk to the Communist Party secretary of the village where residents had tried to impeach their council," says Peter, "but he said he couldn't talk to me without permission from the district propaganda office, whose telephone number he, ahem, did not know."
Just then a plainclothes cop showed up and took over. At first, he quizzed Peter about how he had heard of the village dispute. But then he got the local propaganda boss to OK an interview with the party secretary. "Later I even got to see the town's chief of police – and it was me asking the questions….."
But Peter does not think this is any kind of post-Olympics openness: "As soon as I left town, the police started pulling villagers in for questioning about which of them had talked to me," he says.
– David Clark Scott
Survey Says ...
• Ukrainians Try to Stay Neutral: Many Ukrainians would rather not support either side in Russia's conflict with Georgia over the breakaway Georgian regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Reuters reports.
A poll, conducted by the state-run Institute for Strategic Studies, showed that 48.5 percent of those questioned thought a similar conflict could take place in Ukraine and 40.4 percent thought not. Almost 42 percent said Ukraine should not take sides and the rest were split as to whom to support diplomatically – 20.2 percent said Georgia, 18.3 percent said Russia. Four percent would help Georgia militarily, 2.9 percent would back Russia. Ukraine, an ex-Soviet state bordering Russia, has a 17 percent Russian minority. Russia's Black Sea fleet rents a base at Sevastopol port.