• Stumbling on a Christmas Story: Staff writer Robert Marquand didn't arrive in port city of Xiamen to write about the growth of Christianity in China (page 1). In fact, he was just passing through on his way to do a story about China's economic boom in the Pearl River Delta. But he was reading about the city's history in a travel guide, and noticed that the first Protestant church in China was built there in 1848. On Sunday morning, he wandered by to take a look. "I expected to find a dusty old mausoleum edifice with a plaque dutifully marking the first church," he says. What he found was a church overflowing with people. Both Sunday sermons at the Xinjie Church were given by women, and Bob later learned that women have equal standing in China's official Protestant church. His reporting, and a cocked ear, later led him to discover the seasonal musical talents of the Hutou Christian Church's brass band (page 10).
• Security for Whom? Pakistan maintains a very tight security presence in Pakistan's Balochistan Province, and especially in Quetta. Staff writer Scott Baldauf didn't run into any problems during his recent reporting trip (this page). But just last week, two French journalists and their Pakistani guide and interpreter were arrested for traveling around Quetta. According to the Pakistani government, their visas did not specifically allow them to travel to Quetta. The two French journalists have access to legal counsel, and recently ended a hunger strike in Karachi. "But the two Pakistanis with them, both of whom are friends of mine, were picked up by another unknown security agency and haven't been heard from since," says Scott.
David Clark Scott