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Reporters on the Job

• A MONA LISA MASK: As Robert Marquand prepared today's story (page 7) about China's heir apparent, Vice President Hu Jintao, he was reminded of the last time he'd seen Mr. Hu in action. Last February, President Bush gave a speech at Beijing's Tsinghua University. The event was colorful, not least because it marked the first time Hu and Bush had met. This was Hu's alma mater; Hu introduced Bush and sat on the podium.

At one point, Bush, animated and enjoying his answer to a student's question about American society, commented that that all young people want change. At that point Bush turned to Hu and said in a self-deprecating manner, that "even older citizens like us want change, want to change our society, don't we?"

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Such free-form questions are unusual in China, and this was certainly the first time a US leader on national TV had asked such a question of a member of the Politburo standing committee, the seven-person ruling body. Everyone looked at Hu to see his reaction. But as Bob remembers, it was like looking at the Mona Lisa – there was only a polite never-changing smile.

• NOT FOUND AT BLOCKBUSTER: Reporters get information in many unusual ways, but seldom are politically sensitive videos volunteered so readily. The video of Indonesian preacher Abu Jibril Abdurrahman waving a pistol and urging violence in today's story (page 1) was actually passed to reporter Dan Murphy by one of Jibril's own associates. After an interview in which Dan had asked questions about Jibril, the man said: "You know, we sell videos. I have one with Jibril on it if you're interested." That he would sell the tape to a foreign journalist is revealing, says Dan. "It underscores the point that this Islamic militant group doesn't think anything it's doing is wrong: Every act of violence is righteous, because it can be justified as self-defense."

• LAWLESS AFTER ALL: A month and a half ago, the Monitor's Ilene Prusher was accosted in Khost, Afghanistan, by the aide of the provincial governor. "He was angry that I'd used the word 'lawless' in a story to describe the province. He said the governor was angry, too." Yesterday, Ilene was in Kabul waiting to see the Minster of Frontiers and Tribal Affairs (this page) and she bumped into the same governor. "He immediately remembered the story, and greeted me warmly. He told me that what I'd written had come true. He said he was in Kabul to take a break from the 'lawlessness' and to seek help from the central government."

David Clark Scott
World editor