Reporters on the Job

KABUL OR BUST: The Northern Alliance promised to "stop at the gates of Kabul," and it did - briefly. But the Monitor's Scott Peterson also found himself stopped at the gates of Kabul, much to his consternation (page 1). "There aren't really gates, of course. But there is a mountain pass where you can see the city. And the alliance parked three armored personnel carriers across the road. The soldiers told us: No journalists allowed," says Scott. But he had no intention of missing the taking of Kabul.

Scott and his colleagues got back into their car and drove around the roadblock. Moments later, they were stopped again by alliance soldiers. "It was chaos, there were people flowing past the vehicles, taxis honking, and people giving the soldiers flowers. We kept edging forward," he says. An armed soldier stood in front of the car, palms on the windows, and demanded that they get out.

"We grabbed our gear and jumped into a taxi. We inched forward about 10 feet, when another soldier stopped us. We got out." Now on foot, they kept walking forward, eyes down. A soldier ran up behind a CNN TV cameraman and grabbed the tripod resting on his shoulder. "He broke free, and we just started running down the road to get away from the soldiers. We spotted a taxi, jumped in and said, '$100 if you get us to Kabul.' "

Scott filed today's story from the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel, looking over the city. "There's no water. Electricity is spotty. But I'm sitting in a chair, and will sleep in a bed, for the first time in a month and a half."

ALTOIDS ALERT: Freelancer Michael J. Jordan discovered just how tense the atmosphere was at the United Nations this weekend during President Bush's first visit. Dump trucks weighted down with sand blocked off nearby New York City streets, surrounded by a gamut of unusually tight security. Michael says he'd packed light, hoping to expedite the process. When he reached the UN checkpoint, a black-gloved police officer pulled the items out of Michael's work bag, one by one. Cellphone, check. Palm Pilot, check. Binoculars (opera-variety, not military-grade), check.

But then the officer spied an odd-looking tin. He popped it open, releasing a plume of fine, white powder into his face. He snapped his head back, prompting his colleague to rush over.

What was it?

"Altoids," they determined. "Well," said Michael, somewhat embarrassed, "at least, you'll smell minty fresh."

David Clark Scott

World editor

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