Reporters on the Job

• NEW CURRICULUM? Reporter Philip Smucker found the mood relaxed and cordial at one of Pakistan's leading madrassahs (this page). It was his second visit to the Islamic school. "Last October, the leader of this school told me that the Taliban regime was falsely maligned, as was the Nazi regime, which he said he admired for its anti-Jewish policies," says Philip.

"While many of the students looked askance at me, a foreign visitor, the chancellor's son invited me for tea and proceeded to praise Osama bin Laden. He said that his school – accused by critics of fueling terrorist activities in the region – is making some advances. He pointed out the new computer equipment which he said would help modernize the school's curriculum."

Philip thought: "That is all we need, new expert hackers to fill the ranks of Al Qaeda." But he held his tongue.

• UNDER THE BIG TOP: In Durban, South Africa, to cover the launch of the African Union today, reporter Nicole Itano says officials weren't exactly press-friendly. When journalists first arrived, they were told that they wouldn't be allowed into the building where the summit was taking place and that they wouldn't be able to mingle with delegates.

"This is supposed to be a launch for the new, democratic South Africa and they were completely shutting the media out," she says. "We protested vigorously and they finally agreed to allow us into the bottom floor of the convention center."

Not much could be done, however, about the press facilities, which are in a tent outside the building. The convention center was double booked with a home and garden show. "I guess the fact that they didn't boot the garden show to make more room for the African Union summit, shows that at least in South Africa, democracy rules."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot
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