Reporters on the Job

• DANCING IN KHOST: While reporting today's story about a standoff between Afghan warlords (page 7), Philip Smucker witnessed what was probably the first public dancing in Khost in six years. Pashtun tribesmen broke into a spontaneous dance as they entered the town center, a dusty soccer field. "Three drummers and several royal flag wavers lead this circle of male dancers. They skipped, hopped, and spun. It looked - to my eyes - like they were performing a ceremonial Native American dance," says Phil. "The crowd became so excited that they drew closer and began to collapse the circle. Some gunmen stepped up to keep the onlookers back. A few of the disciplinarians - with leather whips - were rather harsh with the youngsters. It made me wonder if they had practiced under the Taliban."

• RUNNING THE GANTLET: Security is extremely tight at the Srinagar airport in Kashmir. But the Monitor's Robert Marquand says that Kashmir's measures are minor compared with the cordon at the site where a Muslim mosque was torn down by Hindu demonstrators 10 years ago in Ayodhya, India (pages 10). The site is guarded now by several hundred police and military forces. At the first checkpoint, Bob refused to hand over his passport, and spent half an hour arguing with authorities before they allowed him to pass.

"They took my camera, my cell phone, my backpack, and my shoes before I was allowed to enter a 200-yard-long metal cage leading to the site. Every 50 feet, I was searched. There's an equally long cage for the return trip. As I was being frisked for the third or fourth time, I asked one of the police officers if he thought this was really necessary. He rolled his eyes and muttered, 'politics.' " The site itself, says Bob, was rather anticlimatic. "There was a statuette on a small mound of dirt, and a Hindu holy man giving out blessings."

- David Clark Scott

World editor

Cultural snapshot

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