Reporters on the Job

• HELPING A FRIEND: Peter Ford was writing his article about Europe's current immigration frenzy (this page), when he got a surprise call from an old Chechen friend who had arrived in Paris, and who wanted Peter's assistance in lodging an application for political asylum. "I had to tell him that the political atmosphere here is not very favorable for asylum seekers," Peter says. "But since he faithfully kept me safe from thieves, kidnappers, and other dangers whenever I went to Chechnya, the least I can do now is to see how I might help him."

• IRANIAN QUID PRO QUO: Scott Peterson flew to Iran recently on a plane carrying several Russian nuclear engineers (page 1). The engineers were welcomed, and swept through customs without a hitch, Scott says. But he, with an American passport, was taken aside and – for the first time in more than 15 visits to Tehran – fingerprinted by uniformed Iranian officials.

"I knew it was a tit-for-tat response to the US policy of fingerprinting all Iranian arrivals in the US," Scott says, but it was humiliating to dip his hand in the thick black ink spread across a glass tabletop.

• CULTURE CLASH: Reporter Philip Smucker says he's noticed a disturbing clash of values recently. Kabul's security situation has improved so much that Western aid workers and embassy officials have begun to throw lavish parties that include lots of alcohol. At the same time, Afghan citizens have become increasingly critical of the Westerners and their "decadent" ways.

A Taliban-era judge told him this week that he is worried that Afghanistan is entering a new era of moral decay. "We think it is hypocritical that the US forces and the UN are banning the production of opium in Afghanistan while at the same time overseeing the importation of vodka and wine in large trucks."

Philip says that this view is a little skewed. "In fact, US troops are on a 'dry mission' here in Afghanistan."

Cultural snapshot
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