YOUR MONEY OR ...? On their way out of Ramallah on Saturday, the Monitor's Cameron Barr and a British colleague got into a dispute with their cab driver over the fare. The tone was unusually harsh. "Normally, these discussions are done in a friendly manner. Everyone knows it's a haggle and eventually you get to a fair price. This guy didn't budge from his exorbitant demand $80 for two hours' work," says Cameron.
As they stood in the sun arguing over the price, the driver was joined by a friend. Suddenly, Cameron's colleague pulled out his wallet, and gave the driver the full amount. As they walked off, the colleague explained his action: He had seen the friend slip the driver a knife. The irony was hard to miss. The cabby had just driven the journalists to and from the home of the incoming chief of the Palestinian Authority's West Bank Preventive Security force (page 1).
OLD FARMHAND: In writing about a pioneering private farmer in Russia (page 1), Fred Weir recalled his own experience with farming. "I lived two years on a kibbutz in Israel back in the 1970s," Fred says. "And it was a really good collective farm tremendously productive, democratically run, and profitable. Later, when I came to visit Soviet collective farms, I realized that it isn't the form of ownership that's important; it's whether people have been free to choose whether or not they want to be there."
In Soviet Russia, collective-farm workers were forced through an elaborate residency registration system to stay put. The system has been abolished, but most workers too poor to leave. "There is no economic formula that is a panacea; the only thing that works is human freedom and choice," says Fred.
A FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE: Last month, on her first day in Monrovia, the Monitor's Danna Harman met Hassan Bility, who is now in jail (page 7). His paper, The Analyst, had recently been closed by the government and he offered to help Danna. "He was eager to get stories about Liberia out. He helped me with phone numbers, bargained with taxi drivers, and introduced me to Taiwan Gongloe, the human rights lawyer who had been tortured in jail just weeks earlier, and Reginald Goodridge, the minister of information.
"We went for lunch together almost every day, usually at Mama Sheriff's Potato Leaf restaurant. We went to football matches, too. When the government decided he could reopen his paper, he was so happy. And when the first paper came out, he came by early in the morning to give me a copy."
David Clark Scott