Today's Story Line:

A tiny opening for democracy in China can bring as much surprise as a fortune cookie. Longtime China watcher Kevin Platt found democracy activists want more freedom for Tibet. Quote of note: In June, Clinton's request on Chinese TV for China's leaders to talk with the Dalai Lama "had an electrifying effect inside Tibet and made a lot of Chinese question the propaganda that's coming out of Beijing" (US activist John Ackerly).

Is there something in the air? First a tentative peace comes to Northern Ireland, then the Basque region, and now there's a chance for the Kurds in Asia Minor to try to make a case for a homeland. Their rebel leader has been caught in a legal bind bringing world attention.

Out of the human tragedy in Central America after hurricane Mitch comes an interesting analysis of the political impact of disasters. Will the disaster return Honduras to right-wing government?

- Clayton Jones

World Editor

FUTURE NEWS..

* OVER THERE: Long dependent on America's military might, Europe is finally sending troops to a Balkans trouble spot without direct US leadership (story tomorrow).

MAN IN THE NEWS

* ODD ENCOUNTER: Little is known about Abdullah "Apo" Ocalan, longtime chief of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) recently arrested in Italy and high on the US list of "terrorists" (story, this page). Scott Peterson, the Monitor's Mideast bureau chief, met Ocalan in 1991. "Even by Mideast standards, he is a guerrilla chief wrapped in shadows," says Peterson. "When I met him at a PKK base in the Syria-controlled Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, all the trappings of Marxist revolution were there: Red paper flags festooned part of the camp; young guerrillas ran through their paces. I waited hours for a meeting. Heavy-set, with a thick moustache, Ocalan strode into view. His hand was solid and sweaty, and he grunted quick orders for tea. 'Every Kurd would die for this cause,' Apo said. 'Every Kurd wants a state to call home.' He poured back the tea and walked away, the cuff of his green army trousers lifting to reveal bright white tennis shoes."

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

* asia crisis in perspective: Yesterday, the meeting of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ended with a declaration saying Asia's financial crisis had set back decades of progress in eliminating poverty. At least two members might say things could be worse. A century ago (1898) the US got the Philippines (from Spain) for $20 million. Independent since 1946, the Philippines now has a gross domestic product of $180 billion.

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