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Reporters on the Job

• A DIAMOND CULTURE IS FOREVER: Nicole Gaouette was struck by the diamond industry's contrasts and intrigues (page 1). "Like at the Israel Diamond Exchange, it presents this gleaming, state-of-the-art exterior. But after a while you realize that at its heart, this is still a trade that works like a medieval guild," Nicole says. "Dealers still carry around gems worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in simple, scuffed-leather brief cases".

Because the trade is so tightknit, Nicole says, outsiders are automatically suspect. "It took five months of phone calls, letters, and meetings with their various representatives before I got interviews with all the members of the Schnitzer-Gertler family," Nicole says. "And no one would talk about them, even flatteringly, on the record. And while competitors are very eager to tell you their rivals' secrets, you have to be wary of being lied to, especially as new international pressure and business changes led by DeBeers make the industry more competitive."

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• NO PRESIDENTIAL PARDON: When reporter Danna Harman went to Yemen, she put in a request for an interview with the president as a matter of course. "I wasn't expecting I would get one," she says.

But to her surprise, an interview was granted (page 7). One of the president's young advisers called her to set up the interview at noon. Danna was extremely pleased, but soon realized she had a problem: She had to file a page 1 story at 3 p.m. and needed time to write.

"So, I called the adviser and asked if I could perhaps change the appointment," Danna says. "I could hear a shocked silence on the other end. 'You want to reschedule the president, who never gives interviews?' he asked me. I immediately backpedaled and said I could be there a quarter hour early."

• THE TWILIGHT DMZ: Monitor reporter Robert Marquand observes that the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea is "a place out of the twilight zone. You have to experience it to grasp the nature of this standoff" (this page).

He says the North Korean side blares quasi-traditional music along with dance tunes out of massive speakers. Atop a hill, a football-field-size billboard reads: "Our general is the best general." One of the largest flagpoles in the world flies a 600-pound North Korean flag. The line that separates the two sides is only a 14-inch-high concrete barrier. But all the messages may be lost on the American troops: "They are given strict instruction not to look North Koreans in the eye," Bob says.

- Faye Bowers

Deputy world editor