• JOLTING REMINDER: With three years of experience reporting in South Asia, the Monitor's Scott Baldauf finds it hard to be shocked. In fact, in reporting Friday's story on boy soldiers in the war-torn area of Kashmir, it took a comment from his editor to jolt him a bit.
"It only occurred to me halfway through reporting this story that the phenomenon of child soldiers itself is shocking," Scott says. "Being here as long as I have has chipped away at my ability to be shocked. On the streets of Delhi and Bombay, children sell magazines and flowers. In Pakistan, children weave carpets in refugee camps. Even child warriors have become a common sight in Afghanistan and Nepal. And really, the economic situation of many of these countries is so desperate that it's hard to imagine how poorer families make ends meet unless their children work."
• ALCOHOL SIGHTINGS: One unexpected effect of the US invasion of Iraq has been an increase in the amount of forbidden alcohol that has been finding its way into Iran, says correspondent Scott Peterson. In the past during the Hussein era, the border was always far too tightly controlled to permit such leakage. "There always was a small amount of homemade moonshine in Tehran, but these days, liquor sellers - with bottles of the latest flavors of vodka - apparently ply their trade from the trunks of their cars," says Scott. In recent years, one almost never saw bottles of alcohol left visible, even in private homes. But now, there seems to be a new influx of booze coming from Iraq, which seems to be coinciding with a subtle relaxation of this prohibition by hard-liners in Iran. "The relaxation even seems to apply to pharmacies," Scott says, "where they are now legally able to sell a wheat-based ethyl alcohol, which some creative Iranians use to spice up their drinks."
Deputy world editor
• MIDDLE EAST INSIGHTS: Our veteran Middle East correspondents, Cameron Barr and Nicole Gaouette, will speak Tuesday, Oct. 7, at the Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity. If you can't make the event in Boston, don't worry: You can join Cameron and Nicole on the Web at 6:45 p.m. EDT Tuesday as they discuss prospects for peace and democracy in their turbulent region of the world.