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By , World Editor of The Christian Science Monitor

For most East Timorese, the return of their own Nelson Mandela-like figure marks a new beginning - much more than last week's vote by Indonesia's parliament to grant independence. But the beloved "Xanana" Gusmo will have his work cut out for him in Oecussi. This patch of East Timor is the most vivid example of a scorched earth policy - and it may be the most difficult to defend.

China balks at charges that it pilfered US technology, but a missile factory official admits to accepting the goods.

How fares Christianity in Europe on the eve of the millennium? A Roman Catholic synod takes stock. - David Clark Scott, World editor

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REPORTERS ON THE JOB *CAMERA-SHY CROWS: The Monitor's Nicole Gaouette dearly wanted to provide a photo of crows pecking at the garbage on her street. Every block has a rubbish station where neighbors can deposit their trash in government-approved garbage bags. The anticrow net goes over the pile at 7 a.m. But the obsidian-black birds must have known Nicole was gathering evidence. She went out in the early morning chill, on several occasions, with a trench coat over her PJs. She waited with her camera, while the crows watched from the telephone wires. "They're extremely intelligent," says Nicole, and resolute in refusing to pose for her.

*KEEP THE THUMB OUT: The Monitor's Cameron Barr wasn't expecting to hover over Oecussi, East Timor yesterday. He was told he might be allowed to join a UN flight to visit a town in western East Timor. While waiting at the airport in Dili, Cameron discovered that the trip would be too short for any interviews on the ground. At the same time, a UN helicopter crew was preparing for an overflight of Oecussi, a troubled area not yet seen or visited by journalists. Cameron asked if he might ride along. No one objected. "Patience and persistence - and just showing up - are some of the most valuable tools for a reporter," he says.

PRESS CLIPPING *WHODUNIT? Dick Francis has penned 39 mystery novels. More than 60 million copies of the former British jockey's books have been sold in 35 languages. But an unauthorized biography says Dick was a poor English student and his wife, Mary, helped edit, research, and write the books but never got credit. In The Sunday Times of London, their son, Felix, writes: "Was it Dick or was it Mary? Whodunit? Neither one. It was both, they dunit together. It was a collaboration, a partnership, a communion - but no trickery, no secret, and no mystery."

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