Reporters on the Job

Lament for a Leader: Palestinian officials are very sensitive about discussing the possibility of Yasser Arafat dying, as correspondent Nicholas Blanford was reminded in a recent conversation (see story). Nick has met and spoken to Sultan Abul Aynayn, the head of Arafat's Fatah faction in Lebanon, many times. But when Nick asked him about the prospect of Palestinians launching attacks from Lebanon into Israel if Mr. Arafat dies, he became quite upset.

"He would not accept the idea that Abu Ammar - Arafat's nom de guerre - was going to die," Nick says. "He grew quite upset, asking why the foreign press keeps expecting Arafat to die."

Nick understood his distress, given that Arafat has been the symbol of Palestinian nationalism for 40 years. "I was in a refugee camp last week, and the Palestinians were very sad. One teenager broke down in tears when he spoke of his parents' reaction to Arafat's decline. And several Palestinians who fought with Arafat during the Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982 became nostalgic as they recalled Abu Ammar's optimism in the face of overwhelming odds."

Vying for Slots: Correspondent Sarah Gauch knows how Egyptians value their Ramadan soap operas (see story). Last year, she followed a show as it struggled to get ready in time for the holiday. It was a good one, she says. But hampered by absent actors and incomplete sets, the team didn't make it - and was devastated. But, "I was told that a good production would 'make its own Ramadan,' " says Sarah - and indeed, it got on the air later.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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