Reporters on the Job

Luis Robayo/AP
A Venezuelan National Guardsman siphons gasoline out of a car at the Colombian border. Venuzuela's president, Hugo Chávez, blames Colombian smugglers for shortages of fuel and food.

Before the Fear Melted: Staff writer Scott Peterson was with US and Iraqi troops when they showed up in the village of Dulim, Iraq, last week. In their hearts, the people of Dulim, Iraq, may have welcomed the effort to set up a local militia to keep out Al Qaeda in Iraq, says Scott. But what he saw in the first days wasn't particularly encouraging (see story). "The village was almost paralyzed with fear. They were uncertain, collectively and individually, about what steps to take. They had been heavily intimidated by Al Qaeda," he says.

Registration for the new militia was set up in a school. The first two nights, almost no one showed up. Villagers were hospitable – some gave food and tea to the troops – but suspicious.

Even the youngest members of the villagers seem to understand the Al Qaeda threat, says Scott. His first night in the village, he looked from the roof of the house where he was staying and saw a neighbor boy, no more than 4 years old. "When he saw me, he stuck out his tongue and then drew his fingers across his throat," he says.

Where's the Buzz? Russia votes for a new president next month (see story). But Moscow correspondent Fred Weir is watching the buzz over the US election with a bit of professional envy. "There's just no interest in this election even though it's barely a month off and campaigning officially kicked off this week. I called up several experts and had great difficulty getting any of them to talk about the campaign. One asked me: 'Why do you want to talk about something that's totally predictable?' "

When Fred asked his 19-year-old daughter whom she plans to vote for, she said: "For what?" He prompted: "The presidential election."

"Oh," she replied, "I guess for Putin's guy. Everybody's going to vote for him."

David Clark Scott

World editor

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