Reporters on the Job

• HALF-HEARTED BOYCOTT: Lebanon has long been known for its preference for all things Western, says reporter Nicholas Blanford, who lives in Beirut. That is one of the difficulties facing activists seeking to boycott American goods (this page). "I was told a story, which I am sure is apocryphal, but sums up the Lebanese attitude toward such boycotts."

"A group of protesters held a noisy but peaceable demonstration outside Starbucks one Saturday morning. The demonstrators waved placards and chanted slogans. A couple of people sipping coffee in the cafe even came out to join the demonstration. When it was over, one protester turned to another and asked, 'How about a cup of coffee?' The other protester replied 'sure.' And they both walked into Starbucks."

• CHARMED IN TUNISIA: Human-rights groups regularly condemn Tunisia for what they say is a horrendous record (page 1).

That is why Philip Smucker felt a little guilty falling in love with the place – at least with everything on the surface. Unlike Cairo, where Phil lives and fights to breathe in the dirty streets, Tunisia's thoroughfares are clean. "The cars actually stay in their lane and don't try to run you over," he laughs.

"Everyone – including the cab drivers – speaks French, and the women dress like they are out for a stroll down the Champs Elysée. Frankly, it is a little more entertaining than the repetitive and conservative fashions of Cairo.

"Maybe it's a small-country phenomenon or the efficiency of the security police, but even the guard outside the justice ministry already knew my name. He practically led me by the hand to my interview with the minister, who said how pleased he was to make my acquaintance and how familiar he already was with my work."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot
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