• A Taste of Military Juice: Getting around Afghanistan when embedded with US or NATO forces depends on the weather and the officers ordering up the transportation. Staff writer Scott Peterson's story about "Operation Khyber" is a case in point. Arriving at the US Camp Salerno in Khost, he and two colleagues were told there was at least a one-week waiting list for helicopter flights out. Once they got out in the field, they were dependent on the battle conditions. "Sometimes an overnight stay would suddenly turn into 'We're leaving now!' rush to the landing pad," says Scott.
They understand the military well enough to know that the "juice" of top commanders can come in handy. At one base, they were turned down by a major who said their travel plans were "not possible."
But a phone call from "a very savvy full-bird colonel" opened up seats. Later, Scott was trying to get back to Kabul after the jirga (meeting). A colleague noticed the name of a US general on the invitation list who was going in the same direction. "We found a major who was more than happy to help," says Scott.
• Dodging the Cops: Staff writer Peter Ford says that the petitioners' settlement in south Beijing is under heavy surveillance by plainclothes Chinese cops, who are there to stop demonstrations, catch individual petitioners and escort them to their hometowns, and keep journalists away (see story). He notes that several of his colleagues have been detained in the area. Getting in and getting out with a story isn't easy. "My Chinese assistant went into the settlement first, while I hung back. She fetched me when she had identified some people ready to talk to me. I went straight to somebody's room, shut the door, and hoped my presence had gone unnoticed. It had – by the police. But when Peter emerged from the room, he found a crowd of other petitioners outside, desperate to tell their stories.
– David Clark Scott