Reporters on the Job

CHECHEN ZOMBIES? The Kremlin spokesman recently described Chechen women who took on the role of suicide bombers as "zombies" programmed by outside influences (page 1). But that doesn't quite jibe with reporter Fred Weir's concept of Chechen women.

"The women I've met during trips to Chechnya and in refugee camps in neighboring Ingushetia in the past three years are anything but easily modeled clay," he says. "Compared to most Russian women I've interviewed - who are often shy about talking to foreign reporters, the Chechens are independent and outspoken.

"That the women would take on this role - and that the men would accept it - suggests that the heart of Chechen culture has been ripped apart," says Fred.

LIVING LIKE A DISSIDENT IN CUBA: In Havana, the government's portrait of Oswaldo Payá - and other political dissidents - is that of insincere, US-financed malcontents. "The impression is that they are only in it to line their own pockets," says reporter Patrick Rucker. But he didn't find any such evidence of this in his home or his character. Patrick paid several visits to Mr. Payá's apartment in Havana (page 7).

"Even by Cuban standards, he lives modestly. The paint on the walls of his sparsely furnished apartment is chipped and peeling. He rides to work on an old Chinese-made bicycle."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Follow-up on a Monitor story

CIVILIAN DEATHS IN IRAQ: In a month-long national survey of 60 of Iraq's 124 hospitals, the Associated Press found that at least 3,240 civilians died in the Iraq war, including 1,896 in Baghdad. On May 22, the Monitor reported estimates ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 deaths. AP says their count is partial. Some hospitals had incomplete records. Many dead were never taken to hospitals; they were either buried by their families in accordance with Islamic custom, or lost under rubble.

Cultural snapshot
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