"When we were driving through a deep gorge, the car would occasionally pass over rough patches of pavement like toll-booth rumble strips. These pieces of the road were always freshly – but roughly – repaved and surrounded by charred rock. They were places where Taliban fighters had blown up coalition fuel trucks with rocket-propelled grenades. They were so obvious that you could count them like mile-markers," says Mark.
"By the time I was there, the Afghan Army had sent more troops to the gorge to secure the supply route. You could see them sitting on rocks with guns and grenade launchers of their own," he says. "It seems to have worked. Attacks in the gorge are way down, perhaps offering hope that the Pakistan side of the border can be brought under control, too."
• Executioner's Music: Staff writer Sara Miller llana spent the Wednesday with Mexican crime reporters in Ciudad Juárez and got a taste of the climate of fear (see story). She visited two homicide scenes, the first was a women who'd been left with a chilling warning message to others who "walk around alone, or sexy." At the second, two policemen had been gunned down.
"One of the reporters has a police radio in his car. I overheard him tell his editor, 'they've started playing narcocorridos again.' Those are basically country songs that glorify drug traffickers," says Sara. "I asked him, 'what does that mean?' He told me that when they are about to execute someone, or right after they've done so, the drug traffickers play narcocorridos across the police radio frequency.
• The Hierarchy of Foreigners: Foreigners in China, whether they be businessmen, scholars, diplomats or journalists, are all aware of a subtle and unspoken hierarchy amongst them based mainly on how long they have lived there, or at least on the date of their first visit (see story). "After only two and a half years here, I am at the bottom of the pile" says staff writer Peter Ford. "Carl Crook is a member of the (foreign) aristocracy. Not only was he born in China, but his parents lived here all their adult lives and his grandmother was born in China too, to missionary parents."
And rather like old European aristocrats, Mr. Crook has married into his caste: his wife is the niece of two famed American leftists who came here in the 1950s and she paid her first visit to Beijing in 1971. "Some of the older foreign residents are nostalgic for Mao," says Peter. "Carl and his wife have moved on with the times."
– David Clark Scott