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Reporters on the Job

CULTURAL SNAPSHOT

• URBAN SCARECROWS: While reporting on the environmental challenges facing Albania's leaders (page 8), reporter Colin Woodard passed through a ghost town of unfinished homes on the outskirts of Saranda, in southern Albania. Dozens of half-completed concrete homes stood on the hillsides. And each had a scarecrow hanging from the roof, often from a hangman's noose.

The homes will take years to complete; owners are building them, bit by bit, whenever they have money saved up, typically earned working as migrant laborers in nearby Greece. According to local custom, scarecrows ward off evil spirits intent on destroying unoccupied houses. "The effect is macabre," recalls Woodard, who says it felt like "an urban version of the Blair Witch Project."

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• HIJACKER HISTORY: Before boarding his flight to Srinagar, Kashmir, for today's story on former Kashmiri militants (page 7), the Monitor's Scott Baldauf stopped off to meet a former Kashmiri militant named Hashim Qureshi.

Mr. Qureshi's claim to fame is having hijacked an Indian Airlines plane to Karachi, Pakistan, in 1971, and then, after releasing the passengers, burning it on the tarmac. No longer a militant, Qureshi can't put his past behind him. He remains trusted by neither India nor Pakistan: both have arrested him as being an agent of the other country. Now, neighbors taunt his child as "that son of a hijacker."

"Charmed as I was by Qureshi, as I boarded my plane, I hoped that Indian airport security measures had improved since Hashim Qureshi boarded that plane in 1971," says Scott.

David Clark Scott
World editor


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