Reporters on the Job

IT'S A BLAST: When it comes to kids and space, the Monitor's Bob Marquand is a bit of an expert, having grown up in Florida as a child of a NASA engineer. So he was interested to see the response of Chinese kids who went to an exhibition on space at Beijing's Military Museum.

The new show included a recovered nose cone of a space capsule and scale models of the Long March rocket series. It also delved into China's long history with gunpowder and rockets - including an artist's rendering of a 13th- or 14th-century fellow poised to light rockets under his chair in an attempt to fly.

"China seems to be picking up on the idea that space can be very exciting for kids," Bob says. Still, there's room for growth. "The part of the exhibit hall that included dinosaurs on surround-sound drew a larger crowd."

SAY IT WITH A SMILE: The Labour Party's annual conference was a neatly staged event, says correspondent Mark Rice-Oxley. "These things are so choreographed that you can't take things at face value," he says. One member of Parliament told Mark that Labour had learned from its raucous days in the 1980s, when delegates hurled abuse at each other and voters could only conclude the bunch weren't fit to govern themselves, let alone the country.

Journalists are another matter. "In the bowels of the building, a scrimmage of 100 hacks were jostling angrily, waiting for the text of Blair's speech. All middle-class pleasantries were forgotten in the scrabble to get a copy, which were farmed out parsimoniously. "They're being stingy on purpose," muttered one scribe. "They're getting back at us."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot
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