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Reporters on the Job

Military speak: Reporting on military affairs is often an exercise in interpreting acronyms, something correspondent Simon Montlake confirmed while with US forces in the southern Philippines (see story).

"It wasn't the weapons and logistics officers, but the civil-affairs folks who really laid it on thick," says Simon.

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Simon says that he and his escorts choppered into a village, Panamao, on the north coast of Jolo near the combat zone to see how US and Philippine troops are using civil outreach and development to build relations.

"It's fairly simple stuff: Show the locals that you care for their well-being, unlike the insurgents waging war in the jungle, and win them over," he says. But to Simon's ear, the US soldiers doing CMO, or civil-military operations, made it sound like a math equation.

"We were told of the importance of EBO (effects-based operations) and PMESI (political, military, economic, social, infrastructure, and information capabilities) and to never underestimate SWEATMS (short-term projects that have maximum impact). Then there's NBLT, a term the Philippine troops used. What it comes down to is that villagers have a new mosque, schoolrooms, and a communal toilet."

It's Not All About Image: Staff writer Robert Marquand was intrigued by differences in American and French perceptions of electoral candidates (see story). "I talked to one political adviser who felt that the US media have looked at this race strictly from the standpoint of Ségolène Royal," he says. "He insisted that for the French, the main character is the election itself. He said that they're immersed in all the issues – and that while they may like the fact that they have an intriguing candidate like Royal, at the end of the day, they're not as wowed by the gender breakthrough that she represents."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor