Reporters on the Job

TOO YOUNG FOR THIS WORK: To report on a story about a proposed law to curb street prostitution in Italy (see story), reporter Cheryl Heckler went to the town of Massarella. There, she was struck by the faces of the Nigerian women who wait along the pastoral roadside for business.

"It was obvious that the first woman I saw was practiced at what she was doing - her face was so hardened," Cheryl says. What got to her was the look on the next woman she saw. "She had to be younger than my 16-year-old daughter - and I just choked. She looked like a typical teenager, as if she could have been dropped into any high school in the US."

The young women often acted like teenagers, chatting with each other on cellphones between clients. When a man approached, the conversation partners would quickly hang up. "As soon as the woman came back, the cellphone chatter would start again," Cheryl says.

MULLAH WHO? When Monitor correspondent Scott Baldauf traveled to Afghan villages where support for the Taliban had always been fairly strong (see story), he was struck by how few people were interested in talking about Mullah Omar, the once-powerful Pashtun founder of the Taliban. "People basically ridiculed Omar," Scott says. "They felt he was inept, and that he should have been able to better anticipate - and more forcefully counter - the powerful US response to the terrorist attacks."

Scott says that was not a vote against Omar's goals. "The mood was not supportive of Mullah Omar, but that doesn't mean they have turned on the idea of assertive fundamentalist Islam. Omar just isn't the best leader for them. But mention Osama bin Laden, and they'd say, 'Now that's someone you can admire.'

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

Cultural Snapshot

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