Reporters on the Job

PROCEED WITH CAUTION: Monitor correspondent Scott Peterson will never forget the first time he tracked down depleted uranium (DU) (page 1) in the battlefields of southern Iraq in 1998 - and followed Pentagon guidelines for safety in the area.

"I put on the full astronaut suit and gas mask," Scott recalls. Since then, he has worked on DU in Kuwait, among veterans in the US, and in Kosovo. But as the war zones have changed, so have the Pentagon guidelines. Now they suggest only a handkerchief is needed to avoid breathing dust, which many experts say can be harmful if inhaled or ingested.

While in Baghdad this time, Scott took basic precautions, washing his hands and shoes after each site visit. "But I didn't expect to find so much dust, and so many radioactive bullets lying around. If I had known how much I would find, I would definitely have taken more precautions."

UNWILLING VOWS: During a visit to Muzaffarabad, in the portion of Kashmir under Pakistani control, contributor Owais Tohid was chatting with a group of men when the topic of marriage arose (page 1). One man told Owais he had received a proposal from relatives in Britain. They had sent pictures of their daughter, and promised to give the man's family a considerable dowry. A deal was set.

"I thought it was bizarre," Owais says. "He was being selected only because he was related to the family who migrated. He didn't have a job, and made only about 80 rupees [less than $1] a day at a roadside shop. Yet he talked in such an arrogant way about the arrangement."

Later, in Islamabad, Owais talked with Neelum Aziz, the young woman in Thursday's story who escaped a forced marriage. He was struck by the poignancy of her tale. "She told me she prays to God to be able to live her own life. But she added that while she has dreams, she doesn't know what her future will hold as she is fearful of retribution for her actions."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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