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Reporters on the Job

• TOUR DE FROZEN FISH? Peter Ford was interviewing the mayor of Régnié-Durette, France, (this page) when word came of another last-minute hitch in preparations for hosting the Tour de France: the village would not be able to stuff its give-away goodies into the bags it had planned to use because they were decorated with the names of the 10 best wines in Beaujolais. French law forbids alcohol advertising at sporting events. A frozen-foods firm offered its own bags, but Peter agreed with the mayor that frozen fish fingers did not match the classy image that the village was trying to present. The hunt was on for several thousand standard, undecorated plastic bags.

• LAYERS OF HISTORY: Kaliningrad is a living example of what the art world calls pentimento – where the lines of the artists original sketches show through an oil painting as it ages. "The Russians assiduously tried to erase the city's German past (this page), but when you turn any given corner, you're struck by the outlines of German structures," says reporter Fred Weir. "On one concrete wall, I spotted the faded outlines of a Soviet slogan in Russian: 'Glory to the Communist Party and the Soviet Union.' And there were the faint Latin letters of an old German slogan. It's a place where one reality is painted over another. In a few years, that wall could display a European Union slogan."

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• NORTH KOREAN INTERVIEWS: North Korean refugees have been fleeing to South Korea at the rate of three or so a day. But the Monitor's Robert Marquand says that doesn't mean they're easy to find. Many are unwilling to talk. "We'd meet at a subway stop or a coffee shop, and several were worried about saying either the wrong thing or something that could endanger their families. It is quite moving to hear in matter-of-fact tones the kinds of Orwellian experiences that most people would find unconscionably brutal. They didn't always look like it, but these were tough people (page 1)."

Cultural snapshot

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