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Reporters on the Job

• THEATER OF THE ABSURD? The press conference held by South African observers after the Zimbabwe elections quickly eroded into a source of derision, says Monitor reporter Nicole Itano (page 1). "The observers said that the limited amount of polling stations in Harare was an 'administrative oversight' and the entire room full of reporters just broke out in laughter," she says. Thirty percent of the polling stations - only in the neighborhoods that were opposition strongholds - were closed prior to the vote.

"They said the voting was peaceful. When reporters asked them about the police seen using batons and tear gas on people waiting to vote, they said they didn't see it. But later, they conceded they'd seen photos of it." Nicole says that South Africa's findings didn't jibe with what other election observers saw, nor with her own observations. "The press conference was a joke. They must have been watching a different election."

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• BY THE LIGHT OF A PHONE: To get from Kabul, Afghanistan, to the Bagram airbase in time to do today's story about the battle in the Shah-i-kot mountains (this page), the Monitor's Ilene Prusher rose before dawn. But there was a problem: the electricity was out in her hotel room and around the city. "It was so black in my room, I couldn't see my hand. Fortunately, I'd packed my notebook, pens, and satellite phone the night before. But I couldn't find my shoes or clothes in the dark, and I didn't have a flashlight." But she did have a laptop computer. She got dressed by the light of the screen. But entering the hallway, again, it was too dark to move. "If I play with the volume on my cellphone, the screen lights up. I got down the five flights of stairs with my 'emergency flashlight.' "

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot