• Piggyback Meetings: Filipina Amina Rasul, head of the Council for Islam & Democracy, has become a good source for correspondent Simon Montlake on the security situation in the Philippines (see story). But his first contact with her was serendipitous. When Simon showed up for an interview with an American researcher, Amina was just finishing up a meeting with that researcher, who introduced the two.
When Simon arrived at a Starbucks in an upscale Manila district to meet Amina for this story on the US military presence in the Philippines, he noticed a letter on the table.
"So, being a nosy reporter, I said, 'Oh, what's that?' " Simon recalls.
Turns out it was a letter Amina had written to Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes, who had visited in January. She urged Ms. Hughes to keep the US engaged, but to shift away from military support toward helping local democratic institutions, including the police, judiciary, and local government.
"I don't think she's gotten a reply yet," says Simon.
• Hopeful Orphans: In almost every African community she's visited, correspondent Stephanie Hanes has met orphans like Jose (see story).
For Stephanie, their stories – often very similar – are the hardest to tell.
"Emotionally, it's difficult to stay open to so many individual cases of sadness. Professionally, it's a challenge to make these stories something more than clichés of African woe," she explains.
But no matter how woeful their lives, she often finds the individuals have a sense of hope. For example, while an outsider might find Jose's story tragic, he doesn't see it that way. Today, he helps find homes for other orphans and is studying to be a lawyer. "I am happy," he told her. "We have a good future."
– Christa Case
Europe desk editor