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Reporters on the Job

• A 'YA BA' RIDE: Reporter Dan Murphy didn't have to hunt long to find users of ya ba, or a form of methamphetamine (this page) in Thailand. Dan and a friend hailed a cab in Bangkok and hopped in. "The guy started doing 100 m.p.h. and weaving in and out of traffic. He would wait until the last second to brake. The whole time he was jabbering in Thai," says Dan. After the five-minute, white-knuckle ride, Dan's friend, who speaks Thai, said: "Oh yeah, that guy's on ya ba for sure."

• PEP TALK: When reporter Philip Smucker arrived at the US base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, three Canadian reporters at the base were still aghast and amused at a US general's speech they had heard a day earlier (page 1). "A Canadian television crew standing in the audience was told to turn off a camera before the speech began. The reporters passed me a text of the speech. It struck me, a correspondent who is not unfamiliar with battlefield language, as coarse," says Phil.

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"But it hit home with the troops here. I asked the softer-spoken public affairs officer about it, and he said simply: 'It is not appropriate for me to analyze any senior leader's message to the troops. He had a message to convey, and he conveyed it on his own terms.' "

• NICE VEST: Today's story about Israeli security expertise (page 1) prompted reporter Ben Lynfield to recall the envy his bullet-proof vest engenders. "It's unbelievably heavy, but I wear it whenever I go to the West Bank or Gaza. Israeli soldiers and Palestinians alike will tap my vest and admire it. I've even had offers to buy it. But I never understood why until recently. It has ceramic plating, and the Israeli army has a shortage of these vests. During the latest occupation, a number of soldiers without the ceramic vests were injured."

Cultural snapshot