Reporters on the Job

THIS IS ONLY A TEST: If Monitor contributor Nicholas Blanford needed a reminder of increasing tension in Kuwait as US troops pour into the country and war looms large (this page), he got it at noon yesterday. That's when air-raid sirens sounded in Kuwait City, followed five minutes later by an "all clear."

It was just a drill - as are the increasingly frequent mock evacuations of buildings. But it sent a message. "It was quite a chilling sound," Nick comments. "No one paused on the streets, but I am sure there are plenty of people hoping they won't hear that sound in earnest."

Nick says the strains of war preparation - and fear of Iraqi retaliation - are palpable. "People are anxious about the general situation. They've been watching the war talk and buildup for months, and they're getting impatient. They want the Americans to get on with it, the sooner the better, so that life can get back to normal."

THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS: Monitor contributor Dan Murphy arrived in Tenggulun, Indonesia, the home village of three alleged participants in the Bali terror attack (page 1), a few days after the first wave of journalists had washed over the shocked town. The village of farmers and small traders is a long way from the trunk road linking the villages of East Java to the main city of Surabaya, and no one there could remember seeing so many foreigners - outside television, anyway.

Perhaps understandably, the town fathers were annoyed that their 15 minutes of fame were linking them to terrorism. So a number of locals hit upon a simple way to avoid giving any more interviews.

"I spoke to about 10 people in a row who said they were from out of town, and 'just visiting,' " says Dan. "Then the 11th started to laugh when I pointed to a group of men who had just turned me away. He said one of them was his son-in-law. He took pity on me and talked."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

Cultural snapshot
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