EXPLOSIVE EXPIATION: Reporter Arie Farnam had heard that the inventer of Semtex, a plastic explosive, was antagonistic toward journalists. But she'd once lived in his home town in the Czech Republic, and decided to ask for an interview (page 7).
"After some nervous negotiations, in which he at several points almost decided he would rather not speak to me, he agreed to meet me in a cafe on the town square," she says. For two hours, he read a lecture to Arie about the chemical ingredients and specifics of his plastic explosive, pouring out the entire recipe and the history of plastic explosives back to 1876. "It was as if it were a confession, and he simply ignored any questions I put to him. He confided that the American military already knows the recipe from Czech émigrés and still can't reproduce Semtex.
"Then, all of the sudden he finished. His hands stopped twitching, he beamed at me, and let me ask all of my questions. Just like any other grandfather, he spoke fondly of his four grandchildren, and mused over fond memories of pranks played while he was in the Army."
SUNBATHERS AND BARGAINERS: Nicole Itano found the clash of cultures interesting when reporting on the Inter-Congolese Dialogue in Sun City, South Africa (page 7). "It's a casino town with a water park, and you have warring factions from the Congo mingling with holidaymakers in bikinis. It is very, very odd." Out on the street she saw a police officer trying to explain to a tourist what was going on. "I don't even think the police officer knew where the Congo was. I don't think it's in his job description to have to explain complex international relations to vacationers. It's a very surreal place to have something like this."
METRO MUGGINGS: In reporting today's story about crime in France (this page), Nanette van der Laan says she was not surprised by the statistics. Theft on Paris's famed Metro system alone has soared by 33 percent - something she unfortunately witnesses on a regular basis.
"The Metro line that I use almost daily is the No. 1 Line - it crosses through the heart of the city, connecting the Louvre Museum, Pompidou Center, and other famous tourist destinations. It is also the line that the city's pickpockets use the most often. I've lost count of how many times I've seen a tourist get mugged, usually by a gang of youths, some as young as 8 years old. I warn the tourists, but the kids are incredibly fast. I warned a foreign friend who was visiting last week, but her computer bag was stolen nonetheless."
David Clark Scott