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Reporters on the Job

• COMPASSION ON THE JOB: The Monitor's Danna Harman couldn't help getting close to the Liberian women in today's story about a school that teaches them ways to make a legitimate living (page 7). "I spent an afternoon talking to Thelma as she made mango jam," says Danna. "She began to tell me about her father's death, and her rape, and how much she missed her mother, and began crying. Then I started crying, too. I honestly cannot imagine the kind of strength it takes for these women to keep going. Although these particular women are getting technical training skills, none of them are getting any emotional counseling. I think they were relieved to be able to tell their stories. I wished I had had some training in how to respond to them."

But Danna did respond in other ways. Later in the week, she helped arrange for the women to cater a small gathering of British nationals in Monrovia. "The women spent the whole day cooking and then, for the event, they all wore the most amazing homemade traditional African dresses and head scarves. Afterwards we all sat around chatting. It was the first time some of them had ever attended a 'nice party.' "

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• JUDGING BY APPEARANCES: Reporter Philip Smucker had heard that some of the alleged thieves punished by the Taliban in 1997 were from the town of Midan, Afghanistan. But while working on today's story about Islamic justice (page 1) he had a hard time finding people whose hands had been cut off for stealing. "They had all fled 35 miles down the road to Kabul, where many of them have become beggars," he says.

In most Islamic countries, having no left hand is a source of shame. This is the hand that sharia (Islamic law) requires be amputated for thievery. But, says Phil, "In Afghanistan it is much less of a stigma because so many men, women, and children have lost limbs in the war and to land mines, that it is hard to know who's a thief and who's a war victim."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot

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