Reporters on the Job

Modeling the Future: Cerro de San Pedro sits in the high desert in the heart of Mexico - the kind of place with lots of road runners and big cacti, says correspondent Monica Campbell (this page). Not much is going on - which is why an open-pit silver and gold mine planned for the area would have a dramatic effect and is being challenged in court by environmentalists.

During Monica's visit, the mining company president showed her models related to the project. "I'd been hearing about how big the mine was, and the models confirmed that," she says. "The 'before' model showed the town with its church and the surrounding hills. In the postproduction model, the area looked like a lunar landscape. It brought home the reality of getting at minerals that have not just decorative value but many industrial uses as well."

Of course, details can be as much a flashpoint as the bigger project. The mountaintop that would be mined is featured in the crest of the state - or so say activists. The company disagrees, saying it's a different mountain. "It's the least of people's worries, but it's been a big point of contention," says Monica.

Let's Talk Democracy: Correspondent Gretchen Peters (page 1) says she finds it interesting that tribal leaders she has talked with in Afghanistan seem to have a grasp on parliamentary democracy. "When I was reporting in the leadup to the presidential elections, many of the leaders weren't interested in talking about those elections but wanted to focus instead on the parliamentary elections next spring," she says. "They understand the important voice that will give the provinces, and the importance of putting forward candidates," she says.

Gretchen says their use of the loya jirga, or tribal council, may be a reason for the leaders' relative ease with the democratic process. "Each person, no matter how small in stature, gets a say. It's a democratic system of sorts, as long as you're a man."

Before the election, Gretchen notes, there was a lot of concern that Afghanistan was being pushed into elections and democracy. "But I was amazed to see the resources the tribal and political leaders from the Pashtun areas were putting into finding and supporting candidates."

President Hamid Karzai's amnesty for Taliban fighters could widen participation in the process, says Gretchen. "It could support active participation in a new democratic government. And of course, getting former battlefield enemies to join in parliamentary debate is much better than what they were doing before."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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