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Reporters on the Job

IN THE HOUSE OF HAMAS: Ben Lynfield went to Gaza yesterday to try to interview Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) leaders about their recent suicide bombings and Israel's declared war on terrorism (page 1). "But all the usual Hamas suspects were in jail or in hiding," he says. So, he went to see the Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin at his home in Gaza City. While Ben was conducting the interview with Mr. Yassin, he could hear Israeli helicopters thump-thumping near by. "Twice we heard the whoosh of rockets, followed by explosions," Ben says. " 'Maybe they will shoot at us too,' Yassin said joking. It was a joke, because in a perverse way, his house may have been the safest place in Gaza yesterday. I don't think Israel would attack Yassin because that would create 10,000 suicide bombers overnight."

r BUENOS AIRES BAROMETER: These days Buenos Aires may be a little ragged around the edges after more than three years of economic downturn, says the Monitor's Howard LaFranchi. But Howard says his personal barometer for the city's spirit is still bright. "After visiting BA a few times, I decided it was the fashionable older women out on the town at night that told me how things were going. If their numbers were down, then street crime in this city of the night was up - or that poor economy was even hitting the retired moneyed set," he says. On his trip to report on Latin America's middle class (this page), Howard found much more bargain-hunting, or just no spending at all. But the ladies were still out, in smart suits and heels. "I asked a group waiting to see a Broadway production of Saturday Night Fever why they chose this musical. One of the ladies got a twinkle in her eye and said, 'If the lead is as cute and dances as well as that guy who did the 1977 movie [referring John Travolta] then we're in for a good time.' "

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Cultural snapshot

IN CONCERT, IN KOSOVO: Pop singer Mariah Carey dons the proper garb before giving a performance yesterday for US troops at Camp Bondsteel.

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