Reporters on the Job

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    DO-IT-YOURSELF DELIVERY: After purchasing a couch in Beijing, a woman took it home on a tricycle Tuesday.
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No Goatees Allowed: To report today's story about the Taliban taking control of areas just 30 miles outside Afghanistan's capital, correspondent Anand Gopal traveled there with a family from the region.

"During the daytime the villages under Taliban control were mostly quiet, and the Taliban stayed indoors or in the nearby mountains. At dusk, the Taliban started setting up checkpoints on the roads. We didn't stay too long so that we wouldn't be caught in a checkpoint," he says.

After Anand left, the Taliban expanded their checkpoints to daylight hours.

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"This was a brand-new development. Had they decided to do this the week before, we certainly would have been caught. My Afghan friend who took me there was warned by friends in the area to never to bring me back," says Anand.

While he was in Logar Province, Anand learned that the Taliban are easing the restrictions on beards. "In recognition of the US military presence, the rule now is that they may shave their beards. But they either have to have a full beard or no beard. Goatees are considered a mockery of those with a full beard," he says.

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Executions Up in Saudi Arabia: The number of executions – usually carried out by beheading – rose to 158 last year, giving Saudi Arabia one of the highest execution rates in the world, Amnesty International reported Tuesday. The group recorded 39 executions in 2006. The US had 42 in 2007.

Murderers, rapists, and drug traffickers are executed, but judges sometimes give the death sentence to armed robbers and people accused of "sorcery" or desecration of the Koran. The report says poor Asians and Africans account for a disproportionately high percentage of executions. Saudi Arabia's legal system allows victim's families to forgive convicted murderers.

David Clark Scott

World editor

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