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Reporters on the Job

On Another Note: The Monitor's Peter Ford managed to put his extracurricular social activities to good professional use this week, as he gathered material for a story on the plight of French scientific researchers (this page). Peter sings every Monday evening in a local choir, and generally sits next to a fellow baritone who works at the French Natural History Museum.

Normally he and Peter talk about the finer points of the music they are singing, but this Monday Peter whipped out his notebook at the end of the rehearsal and grilled his colleague about the funding problems besetting his research team. "The poor man did not seem very optimistic about getting more money from the French government," Peter says. "As a paleobotanist, he specializes in the fossilized pollen of ferns that grew hundreds of millions of years ago - not exactly the sort of subject that attracts easy funding."

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Feeling Left Out: Talking to people about struggles to have a child is sensitive at best. But what struck correspondent Sophie Arie as she interviewed adults about Italy's restrictive new law on reproductive assistance was their sense of abandonment by the state (page 1).

"A number felt they were facing infertility because of other medical problems, and thus the state should help them. Instead, they feel ignored," Sophie says.

All commented on the irony that Italy, with its low birthrate, is trying to encourage larger families. "On Monday, International Women's Day, the president gave a speech about helping women to have both children and careers by offering them more support. It struck more than a few people as ironic, coming as it did in the same week a law took effect that many see as antiwomen."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

CULTURAL SNAPSHOT