Reporters on the Job

Edifice Complex: When correspondent Yigal Schleifer went to cover the demonstrations in Istanbul against Pope Benedict's visit, he was surprised by how many people were talking about the Hagia Sophia. "There were chants about opening up the building to Muslim prayers," says Yigal, "and a banner that read 'Don't worry, your true worshipers will stand by you!' "

The Hagia Sophia is a huge church, built in Byzantine times (about 1,500 years ago), that the Ottomans turned into a mosque (about 500 years ago). In 1935, Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey, had it turned into a museum. "Ataturk was hoping to reduce conflict over the edifice, and take away some of its potency as a symbol for Christians and Muslims," says Yigal.

But the arrival of the pope has brought renewed attention to the building. "Muslim nationalists are concerned that when the pope visits it, he will pray there, and thus reinforce its status as a church. A group of Turkish nationalists ran in there last week and prayed as part of an effort to claim it for Muslims," says Yigal.

Campaign Kiss: Staff writer Sara Miller Llana was covering the presidential campaign of Ecuadorean front-runner Rafael Correa last week, when she suddenly got an unexpected smooch. "He was going by shaking hands with the crowd, and kissed me on the cheek, which in Latin America is not an unusual act," she says. "Up close, he's quite handsome, and I was smitten briefly – but not enough to affect my objectivity or judgment!"

David Clark Scott
World editor

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