Reporters on the Job
• A Taste of Old Beirut : Correspondent Nicoholas Blanford has lived in Beirut for several years but never seen the kind of celebrations of the past couple of days in the Lebanese capital (page 7). "The whole thing is completely unprecedented," he says. "In past years, the anniversary of the start of the civil war has been a very subdued date. Since Israeli army left south Lebanon, there have been small protests calling for withdrawal of Syrian forces and tiny vigils for the 17,000 war-time kidnapping victims still missing."
Nick says that he was chatting with a Lebanese-American who visits once a year. "He can't believe all the changes in his country, particularly the Syrians leaving. There's a strong sense of history in the making with each passing day."
Before the war, downtown Beirut was a great melting pot and gathering place. Bringing that life back was one of the goals of Rafik Hariri, the businessman and former prime minister who was assassinated in February. "A couple nights ago, I had dinner downtown. It was 11:50 at night, and the streets were packed with people strolling around. You got a sense that Hariri's dream might come true," says Nick. "The commemoration events are certainly a step in getting people to come back downtown."
• Ahoy Red Sox Fans : Staff writer Robert Marquand went to the city of Dandong on the Chinese border with North Korea to report today's story (page 1). To get a closer look at North Korea, which rarely grants visas to American journalists, Bob hired a speedboat to take him across the Yalu River.
"I got within 20 feet of North Korea. There were no cars - just Chinese bicycles - on the streets of Sinuiju. We piloted past rusting ships," says Bob. "I wore my Boston Red Sox world champs hat. I figure that even the North Koreans would appreciate the ending of an 86 year drought. I waved at the fisherman on the banks and they waved back."
The contrast between China and North Korea was dramatic at night, he says. "If you look over at Sinuiju - a city with three or for smoke stacks, a paper factory, and perhaps two dozen four-story buildings - it's pitch black. I spotted no more than a dozen light bulbs."
David Clark Scott