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Reporters on the Job

September 30, 2008

How many cups of caffeine?: A German TV show, “The Human Footprint,” placed 77,000 coffee cups at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin Monday to illustrate how much coffee the average German drinks in a lifetime.

Tobias Schwarz

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Someone's Lying: Correspondent Rob Crilly says that getting good information about any band of bandits – in this case it's Somali pirates – is always dicey. But getting to the bottom of the latest hijacking of a Ukrainian ship packed with 33 Russian-made tanks is particularly challenging.

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For example, who was taking delivery of the tanks? The Kenyan government says the tanks are theirs. But Rob says two normally reliable diplomatic sources told him that the tanks were destined for south Sudan. The Kenyan military denies that. Now, a spokesman for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet tells Rob that the cargo was going via Kenya to Sudan.

Similarly, Rob has heard from trusted sources that the pirates are backed by Islamists in Somalia. But one of the key Islamic leaders says that's not true. "With so many different groups with vested interests, it's difficult to pick your way through the conflicting bits of information to get at the truth," he says.

Still Too Dear for a Journalist: House prices have long been the topic of dinner party chit chat in London. That's still true. But now the boom is over – and the recent bank collapses are fresh evidence. Correspondent Mark Rice-Oxley keeps bumping into people whose moving plans are now on hold. "Lots of people are staying put and building extensions instead of moving," he says. "Those who have to sell are doing so with a lump in their throats." For Mark and his growing family, it's probably time to upsize. The perfect house came on the market a while ago. "We went to look at it when it was £1 million, then again when it was £900,000. The price is falling. But it will still have to fall a lot further for us to be able to afford it."

David Clark Scott

World editor

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