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Reporters on the Job

• STAYING THE COURSE: The Monitor's Scott Baldauf says that it was hard keeping people on the subject of deeper social change and multiculturalism in modern Kashmir (page 1).

"Everyone wanted to turn the conversation away from education to politics," Scott says. " "Ah, but to talk about the Hindu vacuum," said one teacher, "you have to know why they left and who's to blame." Another Kashmiri was obsessed with America's obsession with Islamic religious schools and Islamic fundamentalism. "Why do you Americans only care about Muslim fundamentalism – and I don't mean you," said one academic. "What about Hindu or Christian fundamentalism?" But persistence won out – usually. "You have asked an unusual question," one Kashmiri politician told him. "But before we can understand that question, first we have to go back 500 years to the roots of this conflict."

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David Clark Scott
World editor

• BAGHDAD JOURNAL: The little yellow sticker in the rear passenger window said, in Japanese, that that a special fare would be in effect from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. Then I noticed the white lace slipcovers on the seats, a standard feature of Japanese cabs. Having lived in Tokyo for several years, it all seemed so comforting. Then I remembered I was in Baghdad.

The Iraqi driver explained that his Toyota Crown had been incarnated as a taxicab in Japan. He'd acquired the vehicle while working in the United Arab Emirates, a common destination for Japan's used cars. Before shipping the vehicle to Iraq, he had had the steering wheel moved from the right-hand side to the left. He also had had the car's engine altered to run on gasoline instead of liquid propane.

All this work was worth it because Iraqis are devoted to Toyota Crowns. Their popularity means a steady supply of spare parts, which is a winning feature in a country under a UN trade embargo.

– Cameron W. Barr

Cultural snapshot

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