Reporters on the Job

Central Asia's New Great Game:Correspondent Fred Weir has been traveling to Central Asia for the past 20 years. But until recently, he says, the only soldiers he would see in the street were Soviet or Russian.

"Today, you see soldiers from half a dozen different nations. That's an amazing geopolitical shift," he says. "I was sitting in an Indian restaurant in Dushanbe [Tajikistan] the other night when several Indian military officers sat down at another table."

Fred also saw many Chinese businessmen. "There's lots more economic activity with China. It's now easier to drive across the border and buy a car in China – or other goods – and bring it back to sell it here."

Many nations sent troops into the region after 9/11 for the war in Afghanistan. "But I think the energy sweepstakes (see story) will keep them here," he says.

Do-It-Yourself – Sometimes: Correspondent Mark Rice-Oxley certainly empathizes with Paul Wootton, the man he interviewed from Brighton who struggles with handyman jobs (see story).

"I try," Mark says, "but I often end up making it worse. I find it difficult to drill holes in walls, for example. I get the right tool, but I always seem to make a large crater."

Still, his wife's comments tweak his pride. "She says, 'We are bad at DIY.' Well, I've got a set of spanners and a hammer somewhere, if I look hard enough."

But he admits that he's learned his limits. "We've bought a new sink, and I could install it. But if I do it, you will be able to tell, and it's likely to start leaking in two weeks. If a plumber does it, it will look perfect and last for 10 years," he says.

Mark has called a plumber.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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