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Reporters on the Job

December 17, 2008

Sputtering forward: A family of five rides a motorbike Tuesday on a street in Cairo. The economic slowdown, combined with rising food prices, is pinching many Egyptians. Twenty percent of citizens there now live below the poverty line of about $2 per day.

Amr Nabil/AP

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Worse Than a Shoe: President Bush wasn’t the only one who dodged a dangerous moment recently in Iraq. Correspondent Jane Arraf, who has covered conflicts in Iraq since 1991, was riding with soldiers near Mosul Thursday (see story) when she spotted signs of a party: Ribbons and garlands of flowers were draped over vehicles; kids danced and laughed. “There are few things more full of hope than wedding parties in war zones,” she says, adding, “I was thrilled.”

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Seconds later, “a rifle shot hit one of our Humvee antennas,” Jane says, adding that no one was hurt. “It was an abrupt return to the reality of much of the past five years.”

Sentimental Journey: Riding the train is typically a time for staring into the distance or trying to catch a catnap, says staff writer Amelia Newcomb, who recently returned from Japan (see story). "But when a sumo wrestler swanned into my car one day when I was there, it was hard for me not to take a second look," she says.

The train regulars were nonchalant, probably because they knew there's a nearby residence for sumo wrestlers. "But I was impressed by one of those charming moments of tradition-sidles-up-to-21st-century that Japan is so good at serving up."

Sumo wrestlers must observe a dress code while traveling, Amelia says. "His hair was waxed into place, molded into the signature sumo ponytail. His summery robe, cinched by a wide golden sash, floated above a pair of plain sandals."

His presence drove home one way in which Japan has changed since the early 1980s, when Amelia lived there. "Then, it was hard to go unnoticed as a foreigner," she says. "On this particular day, while I took close note of the sumo wrestler, no one took note of me."

For more on Amelia's recent reporting trip to Japan, visit her blog: https://amelianewcomb.wordpress.com/

– James Hagengruber

Europe editor

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