Today's Story Line:

When the US fired its first missile at Yugoslavia on March 24 at 6:50 p.m., it set off events that have drawn more and more American soldiers and weapons to the Balkans. The war's escalation - include the use of low-flying helicopters - has put NATO closer to a land war and forced it to redefine its role. Quote of note: The new forces "will give us the capability to get up close and personal to the Milosevic armor." - Pentagon official.

One unseen aspect of the war is how American leaders cite ideals for their cause and the Serbs cite history, including the martyrdom of a 14th-century Serbian prince. That difference may count for more than military superiority.

A post-cold-war attempt by the US to woo the strategic state of Ukraine away from Russia's influence has been set back by the war. A communist opposition is forcing Ukraine to side with Russia in opposing NATO.

An Arab man campaigning to become Israel's prime minister in the May 17 elections has put a spotlight on how the 1 million Arab citizens in Israel might influence the vote.

Almost every American town has a martial-arts center, and now in South Korea, the sport has been revived from its ancient roots.

Too close to its giant neighbor in too many ways, Mexico hopes to expand exports to Europe as a way to reduce its dependency on the US market.

- Clayton Jones World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB

*RATIONS OF NATIONS: Various countries are sending emergency food rations, such as high-protein biscuits, to hungry Kosovo refugees. But Moscow bureau chief Judith Matloff, who's become something of an expert in field rations from her previous posting in Africa, offers this food review on the tastiness of the rations: Among NATO members, French rations rank highest for their freshness and spices. Italy comes second ["great pastries"] and Portugal a close third. At the bottom are Britain and the US, although Judith recommends US-provided hazelnut cake as a "tasty breakfast." The ham omelettes, she warns, should be avoided at all costs.

FOLLOW-UP ON A MONITOR STORY

*HOTEL POWER IN CHINA: Mao Zedong once said power comes out of the barrel of a gun. But his Army in the past two decades has wielded power by owning capitalist enterprises. Last year, China's leaders ordered the Army to divest itself of vast business empires (story, Sept. 10, 1998). Now the military has handed over the most visible symbol of its businesses, the swanky five-star Palace Hotel in Beijing, to a holding company controlled by the State Council, China's Cabinet.

Let us hear from you.

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