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Reporters on the Job

Following a Hunch: During her last trip to the US-Mexico border, staff writer Danna Harman had heard that one of Mexico's many police forces - perhaps in Ciudad Juárez - was doing spirituality training (page 1). But when she got to town, she couldn't find anyone who knew anything about it. She called the federal, state, and finally the municipal police headquarters. Still nothing.

"I had a hunch that it might be worth stopping by the municipal police headquarters, if only because across the country this force has the worst reputation," says Danna.

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But the first few minutes at the Ciudad Juárez police station weren't proving any more fruitful. "The desk officer was telling us there was nothing to write about here," she says. Then, Danna spotted a priest walking by. She persuaded the officer to let her talk to the head of the police academy. "We weren't in his office two minutes when he asked us to come outside for a moment, and the same priest was there giving communion to the whole office."

Streets of Baghdad : A recent drive offers anecdotes about the security challenges in a "civil war" situation (page 1). Staff writer Dan Murphy left his hotel, where Kurdish and Shiite militia are prevalent and easily identifiable. "Traffic suddenly comes to a halt, and we hear the crackle of gun fire. It's a group of gunmen in civilian clothes and late-model cars trying to clear a lane for some presumed bigwig," he says.

"Militia," says Dan's driver. Or, perhaps a private security force for any number of political groups, says Dan. Moments later, another group of gunmen were trying to get through traffic, with one guy banging on the hood of a car with the butt of his gun. Three times in 20 minutes, three different groups of men with guns stopped traffic. "It wasn't like this a year ago," says Dan.

David Clark Scott
World editor