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Reporters on the Job

SPINNING THEIR WHEELS: If one image struck reporter Ben Lynfield when was reporting today's story on the Gaza Strip (page 7), it was the traffic. "It was pouring, I was watching cars sinking in the mud," says Ben. "They were there because the bridges had been blown up by the Israeli Army in retaliation for rocket attacks, leaving them with one unpaved road connecting Beit Hanoun with the rest of Gaza."

Ben noted that the timing was bad. The Muslim festival of Eid-ul Adha was about to start, and people were forgoing visits to relatives. "It was hard: you felt people were at the mercy not only of the Israeli army but of the elements as well."

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In the nearby Israeli town of Sderot, the target of the attacks, the mood seemed normal, Ben says - until he started probing. "People were very worried. Some have in mind what happened many years ago in northern Israel, when rockets fired from Lebanon disrupted life. There's a sense here of support for tough action so the threat won't grow."

REBELS WITH A HEART: Monitor reporter Danna Harman was a little embarrassed about her line of questioning as she and Lane Hartill reported today's story in Ivory Coast (page 7). They had traveled there to talk to rebels who are battling the government of Laurent Gbagbo. But the subject on their minds was - well, love.

Danna notes that the French journalists following every nuance of the story were embarrassed as well when she started asking about matters of the heart. But Valentine's Day was approaching, and it has caught on in the Ivory Coast.

Danna speculates starting her interviews with this most common of concerns may have paid off.

"Anyone will talk about love issues," she says. "No matter who you are, that's a big part of your life. All these rebels are sad about not being with their girlfriends - even if you're fighting a revolution, you miss the one you love."

Rebels, she notes, get bored when they're asked constantly about what they're going to do about this ultimatum or that initiative. "But ask them about their girlfriends, and they really wind up. After hearing a bit about my issues and priorities in love, one rebel told me he thought we had a lot in common."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

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Correction

In yesterday's story on China's space program ("Columbia tempers mood of China's great leap in space," p. 7), only China's booster rockets have the name "Long March," while the capsules launched on the rockets are known as Shenzhou 4 or Shenzhou 5.