Reporters on the Job

Personal Showing: Correspondent Simon Montlake asked Roby Alampay, director of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, a watchdog group based in Bangkok, Thailand, what he thought about the Thai government's move to ban a CNN interview with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (see story). "He told me that when he heard the hue and cry about the censorship, he didn't understand at first," Simon recounts.

As it turned out, Mr. Alampay was at a hotel in northern Thailand, and, knowing of the interview, tuned it at the proper hour. He watched and went to dinner. The next morning, he awoke to an e-mail inbox full of outraged messages.

"After going to the CNN website and realizing that the show had been blocked, he realized that most of Thailand hadn't seen the program," Simon says. "But somehow, his hotel got the feed – allowing him to watch it in full."

Which Is the Friendship Store? Peter Ford says that the quiet atmosphere and comfortable armchairs that Starbucks offers make their outlets good places to meet sources (see story). One branch in particular, among the 50 or so in the Chinese capital, offers a reminder of how Beijing has changed in 10 years. It occupies one end of the "Friendship Store," a relic that used to be the only place to buy imported goods using coupons. "Its sullen staff are still there, selling unimaginatively chosen goods at inflated prices as if they were doing you a favor," says Peter. "Next door, Starbucks' prices are high, too, but at least you feel welcome, and the muffins are delicious."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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