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Eight 2-year-old giant pandas arrived at the Beijing zoo from the earthquake-devastated zone of China. The visit was planned prior to the quake. They will stay for six months as part of the Olympics.

China Daily/Reuters

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Checking Out People: Correspondent Mark Rice-Oxley thinks of himself as reasonably enlightened, but nonetheless took the opportunity while doing his reporting on the "Living Library" in London to challenge one or two of his own prejudices.

Mark checked out "Immigrant" – a man from Rwanda.

"I'm not anti-immigration, but most of the other 'books' were checked out and it was interesting to hear him speak about one of the burning issues of the day. After defending his own contribution to British society, he then said that immigrants should be prepared to work hard or should leave. I was quite surprised by that."

Next up: preoperation transgender person. "I did find this quite eye-opening," says Mark. "She was clearly a troubled soul, and I could appreciate the agony of being, as she put it, 'a woman's mind trapped in a man's body.' It still seems a drastic thing to do to yourself."

Olympian Moms: Staff writer Mark Sappenfield met US Olympic judo contender Valerie Gotay at a media event in Chicago (see story). Typically, the big name athletes are at the center of a media scrum. But Mark had Valerie to himself for a good 20 minutes. "I knew she was a mom. But I didn't know she home-schooled her children and I didn't know that she would be so forthcoming," he says.

Mark says that most Olympic athletes, male or female, have a macho streak. "There's an Olympic ideal of sacrifice and toughness: 'Whatever you throw at me, I can take it. I'm an Olympian,' " he says.

What struck him about Valerie was her honesty. "There was a raw emotion, an openness. All mothers have great affection for their children. But she was open about how deeply it affected her not to be with them. To me it made that sacrifice more profound. As a new parent myself, I really felt it and was impressed by it."

David Clark Scott

World editor

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