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Reporters on the Job

Calling Howard Dean: The Monitor's Scott Baldauf attended two rallies in Kandahar province, one for President Karzai and one for his rival, former Education Minister Yunis Qanooni. The Qanooni rally hadn't started by the time Scott left, but the crowd of men had already reached about 1,000, with cars and buses still streaming in, he says.

"More important, the men at that rally seemed to recognize the power of their collective voice, and the importance of their individual vote," Scott says. "The Karzai rally, by contrast, was quietly well-organized, with plastic chairs in neat little rows, and just a few hundred college students listening to speeches and poetry."

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Scott says that Karzai's brother finally took the stage - before the main event, Afghan traditional music - and said he was disappointed by the turnout. He told his listeners, "Everyone here is educated, so you should use your education to instruct others how to vote."

A few young men clapped. "In any election, it is not so much how many people agree with you, but how intensely they agree with you that matters. In Kandahar, the intensity favors Qanooni."

Kitty Here, Kitty There: Talk to parents of girls younger than, say, 14, and you'll get knowing nods if you mention Hello Kitty, the pop feline icon. But correspondent Bennett Richardson is less familiar with the pencil boxes and oven mitts that she graces. So he went to the Hello Kitty art exhibition in Tokyo that is marking her 30th anniversary.

"What was interesting was that the foreigners I spoke to thought Hello Kitty was very cool, kind of a counterculture image," Bennett says. "Even art students I know have tried to use her as a sort of strange, edgy image."

But the Japanese whom Bennett met were not so wowed. "A number told me that they had come to the exhibit because their moms had bought them Hello Kitty toothbrushes when they were little."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor