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Reporters on the Job

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• SURREALISM IN BALI: "It's not unusual to see acts of kindness in the face of tragedy," says reporter Dan Murphy. "But Bali being Bali, the face of altruism is a little different here."

Take the Hard Rock Hotel in Kuta, where the sound of the Hard Rock Cafe house band accosts guests as they enter the lobby. The hotel has donated an entire wing to a press-coordination center being run pro bono by a Jakarta PR firm; its main office is in the "Neverland" room, named after Michael Jackson's ranch and filled with the gloved one's memorabilia.

Dan walked out of a media briefing on the number of victims (page 8) onto a balcony that overlooks the hotel's fake beach and lagoon-sized pool. "There were tourists in the pool frolicking with a basketball, there was a waiter delivering drinks on a unicycle, and I had just finished getting briefed about identifying body parts," says Dan.

– David Clark Scott

World editor

• BLOWING IN THE WIND : The sandstorm began forming in the steaming Baghdad afternoon, like a yellow mist in the air that just gained weight and depth, and color.

It felt like it would rain but it didn't, and an eerie calm descended upon the city at sunset. The last of the sun's light dispersed and filtered through the ominous cloud, created a primordial glow.

In Arabic, sandstorms like this are called a haboob – when hot winds sweep across the desert, picking up more and more sand, before blasting the city.

I once watched a haboob descend on Khartoum, Sudan. The air pressure changed, and a haboob tumbled across the Sudanese capital one block at a time, like a 10-story-tall tidal wave.

Baghdad has a different breed of haboob. First, the sand permeates, then the wind wreaks its destruction. It is already all around you when it whips itself into its anger: dumping grit out of nowhere into your computer; throwing lawn chairs, branches, and leaves into the hotel pool.

During a phone interview in my second-story hotel room, I was interrupted by what sounded like a car being noisily crushed for about 30 seconds. Whipping open the window, I saw that the thick vines that had once covered the entire side of the hotel wall had been torn away by the wind, and fell in a cascade onto an awning.

– Scott Peterson


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