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Reporters on the Job

If I Were a Rich Man: If staff writer Peter Ford could just rustle up the 15,000 Euros asking price he would not at all mind renting the Chateau de Villette for a weekend and putting up 35 of his closest friends in sumptuous luxury (see story). The mansion that appears in "The Da Vinci Code" (slightly altered to suit the plot) was beautiful when Peter visited it this week - even with its formal gardens (designed by the man who did Versailles) full of TV people filming a drama involving a large black helicopter. Now the property of a Chinese-American real-estate magnate, Olivia Hsu Decker, who says she has spent 5 million Euros doing the place up, the chateau is for rent to those who can afford it - like Mercedes-Benz, which entertained some motoring correspondents there last weekend.

Peter says he was especially taken with the ornate gilt mirrors, gold-painted chandeliers, and 17th-century Venetian corner cupboards, which now decorate a room currently used as a garage for Ms. Decker's royal blue Bentley.

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Kind Words: Correspondent Ben Lynfield (see story) recalls a gentler time, before the second intifada, when Israeli and Palestinian leaders would offer each other warm wishes on key holidays. "Every time it was a Jewish or Muslim holiday, you would hear of leaders wishing each other a happy new year or a happy feast," Ben says.

But, he notes, that has largely become a thing of the past - or so he thought. "I was interviewing the governor of Bethlehem, Zuheir Manasra, when his phone rang," Ben says. "As soon as he knew who it was, he wished them a happy new year, for Rosh Hashanah. It's a basic thing, but in the current climate such civility seems to have broken down, so it stood out to me."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot

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