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Reporters on the Job

• PREJUDICED BY POOH: Reporter Jonathan Watts says that while growing up in England, he was not a fan of A.A. Milne books or characters. But in the interest of disclosing his prejudices going into today's story about the rise of Winnie the Pooh in Japan (page 1), he admits to being a fan now. "We have two small children and we live near Disney Tokyo. My kids are into Pooh big-time," says Jon.

"I have a soft spot for Pooh with all his faults and foibles," he says. He has a less favorable view of Hello Kitty, the No. 2 most popular cartoon character among Japanese women. "Hello Kitty is described by some here as a device for keeping women in their place. She has no mouth, which some see as a symbol of suppressing women in Japan."

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• STUCK IN BETHLEHEM: The Monitor's Ilene Prusher had three interviews set up in the West Bank city of Ramallah for today's story about Palestinians challenging Arafat's leadership (page 7). Samir Zedan, a Palestinian interpreter who lives in Bethlehem, was planning to meet her in Jerusalem. He had a permit from Israeli authorities to get into Jerusalem, but when he got to the checkpoint outside Jerusalem, the soldiers said it was closed.

Ilene called an Israeli army official, who told her that the closure "was probably some operational problem, and it was probably temporary. If they have some reason to close the checkpoint, they do."

That left Ilene scrambling to get her story done. "I didn't know the location of the appointments in Ramallah and it was getting close to deadline, so I was forced to do the reporting over the phone. Fortunately, the three people had phones and didn't find it strange that I wasn't going to be able to make it. That's a big change from when I was working here two years ago. People would speak on the phone if necessary, but would often encourage you to come out to talk in person."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot