Reporters on the job

CAFFEINE AND CANNABIS: Drug use in Holland is completely out in the open, and quite businesslike. That's what struck Peter Ford most forcibly about the Dutch coffee shops where customers may buy and smoke marijuana (page 1).

"The last time I was in Amsterdam, in the mid-70s, drug deals were furtive and uncertain affairs in alleys and doorways," he says. But at the coffee shop he visited last week, the barman used a digital scale to weigh every box from his stash of hashish and marijuana, down to the last fraction of a gram. Then, he entered the figures onto a computer disk. Before the barman finished his shift, he tallied up the computerized cash register, and handed the disk over to his replacement. "Just like any other business, they need to keep accurate records. Especially when the merchandise is literally worth its weight in gold," says Peter.

AN ACCESSORY TO POLICE: While reporting today's story (page 7) about the conflict in Kashmir, India, and the story that appeared on Friday, the Monitor's Scott Baldauf spoke with the police in Srinagar. "After an interview, police commander Jagtar Singh asked me if I wanted to see how his men 'dominated' an area. It sounded interesting. I imagined riding along in a police car as the Special Operations Group broke into a notorious militant hideout," Scott says.

Instead, Commander Singh and about 20 of his Special Operations Group simply walked out onto the highway in front of the police station and with araised hand, stopped traffic. First, they pulled over a motorcycle. "OK, I thought,I get the picture. Then they pulled over a bus, and forced a line of men traveling to Srinagar to stand single file, under the watch of machine-gun-toting guards, and show their ID cards. Unwittingly, I had just become an accessory to what many Kashmiris regard as the state's often unnecessary use of power," says Scott.


JUMPING THE GUN: Two-year-old Brianna Nester watches an early St. Patrick's Day parade held yesterday in Sydney, Australia. It's normally celebrated on March 17.

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