Reporters on the Job

Indian Horns: Staff writer Mark Sappenfield says that Indian drivers tend to use their car horns only while they are breathing. "On one trip from Chennai to the Hyundai plant, I counted how long my driver went without using his horn. The highest number I reached was 11 seconds. Indian horns are perhaps the only inanimate objects for which I have ever felt pity," he says.

The frequency of use was confirmed at the plant itself, where Mark learned there is a horn specifically designed for the Indian car market. "It issues short warning blasts as well as an apocalyptic get-out-of-my-way-or-the-world-will-implode fog horn."

Roadblocks to Progress? Staff writer Matthew Clark learned in the course of reporting today's story that many of Liberia's ex-fighters are petty traders, selling trinkets, used shirts, or little bags of water on the street. Some use large hammers to bust rocks they use to fill the huge potholes that clog the streets of Monrovia. They erect roadblocks asking drivers for money for the potholes they've filled.

"I drove through a few of these ad hoc roadblocks manned by small groups of young men, who my driver said he knows were ex-combatants," says Matt. "Most of them let you go through if you give them a few Liberian bills (about 20 cents) for their services, or if your explanation for not having money meets their approval. Most seemed grateful for the small amount of money. A few looked as if they were itching to step up the threats to extort more."

Some Monrovia residents worry that lenience at the roadblocks won't last if job opportunities remain scarce. "After all, it was only a few years ago that some of these same young men erected similar roadblocks to kill, maim, or torture passersby," he notes.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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