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Remember when world leaders made the size of nuclear-weapons stockpiles headline news? As the cold war recedes into history, so it seems does the public interest in disarmament. But Russia and the US still have about 6,000 nuclear warheads each. Russia's President Putin is sending a message to whoever becomes the next US president that he's ready and eager to cut his stockpile to 1,500 and, perhaps, further (page 1). For Russia, it's simple economics. But there's a safety-of-planet element to this initiative that provides Putin with some moral high ground.

David Clark Scott World editor

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REPORTERS ON THE JOB..

JOURNALIST DE JOUR: As part of his story about sharks in Australia, reporter Shawn Donnan interviewed a spokesman (who asked not to be named) at the New South Wales department of fisheries. The department hires contractors to maintain the shark nets designed to keep the creatures out of Sydney harbor and away from the beaches. "I asked if I might go out to sea with one of the repair crews," says Shawn. Not a chance, he was told. "Our liability policy only covers the workers on the boat and not passengers."

"Oh," joked Shawn. "You don't like the idea of having a journalist get mauled by a shark." The somewhat taciturn spokesman paused and obviously considered this for a moment. "Actually we wouldn't want you putting anyone else's life at risk by getting in the way."

Trouble Detector: Getting close to Albania's smugglers was risky and required a lot of patience, says reporter Mario Kaiser. He often would sit for hours in one place observing them. He spent a whole night at the beach in Vlore (rhymes with Lora), strewn with litter and groups of refugees watching the smugglers as they prepared their speedboats. Anastas Goga, the supervisor of Vlore's harbor, became concerned about Mario's safety. Goga became a constant presence at Mario's side, serving as sort of a "trouble detector." "I would look at his face and know instantly if we were in danger," says Mario.

The most tense moment came in Radhima, the hideout where the smugglers maintain their boats. Dushan, the smuggler, and Anastas accompanied Mario there. Dushan introduced him as a traveling American. There were a lot of Kalashnikovs and a lot of empty beer bottles around. "One of the smugglers became suspicious because he thought I asked too many questions about the boats," Mario says. "He stared me down and said, 'You look Italian' - not exactly a compliment in this part of Albania.

"I looked at Anastas's face and knew that it was time to leave," Mario says.

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