• Neighborhood Watch: Correspondent Fred Weir returned to Tajikistan for the first time in 19 years and observed that the country hadn't changed much. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, Tajikistan descended into civil war.
But Fred noted one major change. "The biggest fear, and it's palpable, is that the international mission in neighboring Afghanistan will fail," he says.
In the civil war, Tajikistan was nearly overthrown by an Islamic opposition that was trained and armed in Afghanistan. Fred notes that the Tajiks in northern Afghanistan have embraced fundamentalist Islam. "But after 70 years of Soviet rule, whatever you may think of it, the Tajiks here were secularized and to some extent modernized."
"If things don't go well in Afghanistan, it's not necessarily true that Americans will suffer. But the Tajiks, they are really afraid," says Fred (see story).
• Serendipity in the Side Pocket: Staff writer Mark Sappenfield didn't set out to do a story on the Kandahar equivalent of Starbucks (see story). He was in the governor's office when his Afghan interpreter introduced him to the owner of the only local newspaper. They agreed to meet at the coffee shop for an interview. It turns out the coffee shop was another of the newspaper owner's businesses. "I thought the place was interesting, so I did a little extra reporting."
Did Mark and staff photographer Andy Nelson play snooker at the cafe? "No. The tables were full. Besides, I don't know how to play snooker," says Mark.
Snooker is similar to pool, but the table is larger and all the balls, except the cue ball, are red. To most Americans, he says, it's the equivalent of watching cricket. "I couldn't tell who was winning or losing."
David Clark Scott