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Reporters on the Job

CHEAP SHOTS: The Monitor's Peter Ford says he has never been in a war zone where weapons are so inexpensive.

In the first days of looting after Saddam Hussein fell, he could have bought an AK-47 for the equivalent of 25 cents, though the price has since gone up.

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Unlike in Chechnya, however, where Russian soldiers at checkpoints would routinely offer to sell him their Makarov pistols, nobody has yet tried to sell him a weapon on the street.

"I hope it is not because they are planning to use them some time," Peter says.

THAT SPECIAL SHINE: After spending several hours at the Hotel Bauen, the latest Argentine business being run as a cooperative by former employees (page 8), correspondent Brian Byrnes was taken with the pride the workers had in trying to restore the grand hotel to its former glory.

The hotel was once the pride of downtown Buenos Aires, and though Brian found it a little dusty from having been closed for the past couple of years, the two workers who gave him a tour beamed as they pointed out all the hotel's luxurious appointments, and the efforts the workers were putting in to make the place shine.

"They were so proud of what they were doing," says Brian. "They showed me every little detail, like the grand ballroom or the huge theater that holds 300 people. You got the sense that they really wanted to bring out the grandeur that the hotel once had. And they were working really hard to get it up and running."

David S. Hauck
Africa/Americas editor

Cultural snapshot