• Trendsetter:: Every move in Russian politics is precedent setting, says correspondent Fred Weir, who covered Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's three-hour television appearance Thursday. Mr. Putin began doing these lengthy broadcasts early in his eight-year presidency, separating himself from Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, who rarely appeared in public. In doing so, Putin started a tradition. "It was amazing how he could rattle off statistics and remember various aspects of the law. He's really an impressive public figure that way," says Fred. Now Putin's setting the same standard for prime minister and continues to reign supreme over Russia's political theater.
• Can You Spot a Spy? To get a sense of the perception of rising tensions between Pakistan and India, correspondent Huma Yusuf stopped at a tea stall in Karachi, Pakistan, frequented by truck drivers. As she began chatting with the men, one asked if she was a spy with India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). "I laughingly denied the connection, explained my press affiliations, and assured them that I was a born-and-bred Karachiite," she says.
Although the drivers were convinced that she was reporting, they couldn't help but wonder if they'd recognize a RAW agent, Huma says. "They were conferring among themselves asking if RAW has female agents or if an agent would know where to get a great cup of tea in Karachi." But the men soon returned to their tea, agreeing that spies would be snooping around politicians, not truck drivers.
• Earrings Withdrawn: Correspondent Jane Arraf says Christie's has withdrawn a pair of neo-Assyrian earrings, claimed by Iraq, from an upcoming auction. She reported on the earring dispute in the Dec. 4 edition.
– Michael B. Farrell
Middle East editor