Today's Story Line

Few Americans will forget that 50 US diplomats were held hostage by young militants for 444 days in Iran. In the two decades since then, the guiding hand of the charismatic Ayatollah Khomeini has given way to a competing gaggle of politically-minded clerics who are torn between being true to Khomeini's uncompromising legacy, and the pro-democracy demands of the modern world. Students are now siding with reformers, but protests in recent days have been met by police brutality.

Eight months after Hurricane Mitch, many Central Americans are seeing the tragedy as an opportunity. They're not just repairing their homes and roads, but are making fundamental changes in how they approach land use, education, health care, and corruption.

The shooting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has stopped. But without rapid United Nation peacekeeping support, the latest peace pact may become simply a pause to resupply forces.

Striking Canadian nurses are taking a breather, too. Another attempt will be made to reach an agreement.

Russia's Communist Party may also be taking a break - a permanent one - given the challenges it confronts in the months ahead. The party is showing signs of disintegration.

- David Clark Scott World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB *AN ARSENIC-FREE MENU, PLEASE: The level of distrust to be conquered in the Congo conflict is indicated by dining habits of one rebel leader, says Lara Santoro. Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, a bookish history professor, wouldn't eat any hotel food during the peace talks in Lusaka. It wasn't a reflection on the hotel chef's cooking. Rather, Mr. Wamba dia Wamba feared his enemies might poison his meals. So he had his food cooked at a local restaurant, according to a source at the talks. The chef was supervised by security guards, who also tasted each dish before Wamba dia Wamba ate.

*TIGHT CAMPUS SECURITY: Rarely are outsiders allowed into the academic sanctuary of Iran's universities. To put the presence of Iranian riot police in perspective, correspondent Scott Peterson recalls his last visit. He arrived at the front gate for an interview with a professor with a letter of permission from the ministry, his press card, passport, and a passel of picture IDs. "But that wasn't good enough for the university guards. Calls were made. We waited. More calls were made. Did we have another letter? Something more specific? Finally, we were ushered upstairs, to the chief gatekeeper. More explaining and another call. Finally, 45 minutes later we were allowed to walk among the students of Tehran University."

Let us hear from you. Mail to: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 via e-mail: world@csmonitor.com

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