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Reporters on the Job

Looking for Omkar: Sometimes journalists have to keep pulling on the only thread they have. When reporter Saurabh Joshi arrived in the village of Pahisaur, India, all he had was a first name. No phone number, no address.

But the reception was warm, and before long, Saurabh had located Omkar Sharma, a farmer who has sold his land to developers setting up an Special Economic Zone.

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"He and his family showed me their struggling farms, brick kilns, and cattle sheds, and throughout conversation was always slow and sometimes came with much pensive puffing of tobacco," he says. While Saurabh speaks Hindi fluently, he had to occasionally struggle to understand the local dialect.

Full-size Saudi Basements: School and real estate were often the center of conversation when Middle East editor Michael Farrell met with leaders of the Shiite community in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province. They told him that their children would come home from class crying that they'd been called infidels. They said that the country's schools are controlled by the Saudi's conservative Wahhabi clerics, who consider Shiites apostates.

In the Shiite village Al Qatif, an ordinance was created shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, preventing Shiites from building basements the same width as their houses. The intent was to keep Saudi Shiites from holding secret religious ceremonies or political meetings, Mike was told. The ordinance was overturned by the local (Shiite) council this fall. So far, the change has not been challenged by Saudi rulers.

David Clark Scott
World editor