Reporters on the Job

Since I Am a Rich Man:When correspondent Simon Montlake saw a list of Top 10 taxpayers in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (see story), he asked his assistant – an official minder of sorts – if they could meet tax department folks. Those officials were reluctant to talk. Then Simon tried to contact the companies that employed these luminaries – without success. "Finally, my assistant told me that she knew someone on the list from her work. So we arranged to meet him one morning in a cafe," Simon says. "I asked if he was embarrassed to be on the list. He said people were buzzing about it. That didn't bother him, but he was happy to be No. 5, figuring that to be No. 1 might be more embarrassing."

Fair Finds: Correspondent Mark Rice-Oxley says that he sees fair-trade goods far more these days, including in average supermarkets (see story). "It's played up – marketers offer squibs about the fact that the item's producers get a fair deal," he says. "The organic folks are even more impressive. They have clearly played on fears that grew out of, for example, Britain's experience with mad-cow disease."

Mark says that the growing emphasis on knowing more about what you purchase has changed his family's buying habits. They and other families in their London neighborhood now get organic goods from a farmer in Gloucestershire, who travels the 120 miles regularly to make his deliveries.

Mark thinks the next frontier will be local fair trade. "Right now, it's about downtrodden people in third-world countries. Eventually, I think it'll be about downtrodden British dairy farmers, too."

Of course, some things don't change all that easily. "On the street recently, I heard one kid ask, 'Can I have an apple?' The mum came back with a sharp rejoinder: 'No you can't! Eat your chips!' "

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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