Reporters on the Job

What's Your Role? Correspondent Mariah Blake went to a hotel in Cologne, Germany, to witness a US military recruiting session for Arabs to help train soldiers in Iraqi customs by manning a mock village (see story).

"About 30 people were milling about the lounge, speaking Arabic. Most thought they were going to be cast in a movie. Many were students in hoodies and white tennis shoes and baggy jeans, who contrasted with older men with graying mustaches, who wore pressed suits," she says.

Mariah was struck by two things as she went about her reporting. First was the warmth and even chivalry of her interviewees. "Many were hostile to the US effort in Iraq, but were incredibly generous toward me," she says.

Then came an exchange between two Moroccans. "One was very Germanized, and was planning on participating," she says. Next to him was a newer immigrant, who didn't speak much German. "The first guy asked the newcomer if he planned on doing it, and was shouted at in Arabic by way of response," Mariah says. "I had interviewed the newcomer, and he was polite, though opposed to the idea. It was clearly unacceptable to him that a compatriot might suggest that he participate. He told him that he would not help the Americans hurt his brothers."

Getting the program's backers to speak was another issue. "To me, the US promoting cultural sensitivity was a good thing – but the underlying issues were so emotional that people didn't want to talk about it."

Get Out on the Floor: Staff writer Peter Ford says that he has always had his doubts about stock markets, which can be driven, he notes, by bouts of greed and fear. But he learned of other forces at work while researching his story on the Chinese stock-market plunge (see story). "It beggars belief that Wall Street's finest minds should have placed 'sell' orders on the strength of falling prices in Shanghai," Peter says. "It took me and my Chinese assistant about four phone calls and a two-hour visit to a Beijing share-trading house to understand that Chinese share prices have absolutely nothing to do with economic fundamentals that might affect the share prices of foreign companies doing business with China."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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