Reporters on the Job

WHEAT FIELDS AND MINE FIELDS: While reporting today's story about the opium ban (page 1), the Monitor's Scott Baldauf found that 12 years after Soviet troops left, their legacy is still evident in Afghanistan. Around Jalalabad, he spotted a Soviet-built irrigation canal and a village leveled by Soviet artillery fire. Then there's the plethora of minefields, and the thousands of Afghan amputees who hobble around on crutches or with the help of prosthetic limbs. "Walking out into farmland, we were always careful to walk in well-trodden paths," says Scott. "But our Taliban translator, a University of Nebraska graduate and former mujahideen fighter, was unconcerned. Pointing to a marked minefield he said, 'To the left of the signs are mines and to the right are mines, but on the road it's fine. Don't worry.'

Yeah, right."

CRAVING PICKLED ONIONS: Marks & Spencer's announcement that it is closing its French stores (page 7) is a blow to Paris correspondent Peter Ford, an Englishman. "Normally I am only too happy to live on French food," he says. "But every now and again, Marks & Sparks is a lifesaver." The other day, for example, serving roast lamb to French friends, he popped in to M&S for a bottle of mint sauce. "And where am I going to find pickled onions in Paris when Marks & Spencer is closed?" he worries.

BIKER SERENDIPITY: It's a question journalists often get: Where do you get your story ideas? "One of the good things about just walking around a place where you're reporting a story is that you never know what other good story you'll bump into," says the Monitor's Howard LaFranchi. In Mexicali, Mexico, Howard says he ran into the "Renegado Moto Club" as the members were about to set off on a Sunday ride (page 7). "As I talked to the bikers, I realized I had before me a really involved service club - just not your Dad's Rotary or Kiwanis Club."

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