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Reporters on the Job

January 7, 2009

Epiphany divers: In Sofia, Bulgaria, men retrieve a cross tossed by a priest into a lake. The blessing of the waters ceremony is held on Jan. 6, and marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas.

Stoyan Nenov/Reuters

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Roadside Filing: In order to file his story about the Gaza conflict today, correspondent Joshua Mitnick situated himself at Shmerling's Meat Bar. "It's a roadside rest stop/gas station within view of the outskirts of Gaza," Josh says. "The only thing on the menu seems to be Middle Eastern-style sloppy joes, something the owner, Ofer Shmerling, attributed to 'emergency conditions.' "

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Mr. Shmerling told Josh that he used to work with the top brass in Israel's southern command, which could explain the place's apparent popularity with reserve officers. "They all seem to know him, and he has become a commentator of sorts about what is going on. He speaks to anyone who will listen," Josh says. He can also identify what kind of fire people are hearing, and what aircraft are in the area by their sound, Josh adds, noting that he could see a plume of gray smoke rising from the Palestinian territory when he arrived.

Waiting for a Beat in Afghanistan: Staff writer Mark Sappenfield says that the struggle to find meaningful beats for women police officers in Afghanistan was plainly evident on the two trips that he took to the women's dormitory at the Kabul Police Academy (see story).

"I saw a blackboard in an empty classroom with dozens of English words, such as 'interdiction,' which suggested that English classes were part of the routine. But in general, there was a lot of milling around with no clear purpose," says Mark.

"For a nation at war, in which police are in essence the last line of defense, there was no urgency or tension. The overwhelming impression I got from the setting – and interviews with the women – was that the women were essentially saying: 'OK, we're police officers, now what?' "

David Clark Scott

World editor

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