Today's Story Line:

To many Canadians, their country's universal public health-care system is integral to their national identity. It's said to define them as a kinder, gentler nation. But one premier is suggesting a new definition of kinder, gentler: He wants to privatize some health services.

Quote of note: "The whole system is in peril.... We shouldn't let our emotional attachment to our current system dissuade us from having the discussion we need to have." - a Canadian surgeon

Since independence, Panama has been defined by its canal. Can it handle the so-called China threat? What about narco-terrorists? Locals say the real threats to the Panama Canal's operation are closer to home.

Quote of note: "When we started looking at all the factors we realized that unless something was done soon, some time after 2010 there wasn't going to be enough water." - a canal commission official

By meeting in Hong Kong, the Falun Gong is testing the limits of China's policy of "one party, two systems".

David Clark Scott World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB

* AIR AFGHANISTAN: A flight on Ariana Airlines, Afghanistan's aging national carrier, is a reflection of the nation's politics, culture, and economic state, says correspondent Scott Peterson. On his flight from Kabul to Kandahar (international flights have been banned by the UN), Scott was treated to Vita Mango Drink from Pakistan ("For taste conscious people," the label reads) and orange-cream cookies from Iran. Each country has meddled on rival sides in the Afghan civil war. In lieu of customary air-sickness bags, small plastic sacks are stuffed into each seat pocket - a hint of the country's extreme poverty. And in keeping with the ruling Taliban's version of Islam, images of any living thing are forbidden. So pictures printed on tickets (by the previous regime) are blacked out with permanent marker.

* CANAL LINGO: Panamanians' use of the word "reversion" to describe the turnover of the Panama Canal and the surrounding land is irksome to some Americans in Panama. "The Americans repeatedly point out that while the lands where military bases and other US installations once sat are indeed being returned, the canal is not being 'returned' because it was built by Americans and never before belonged to Panama," says Latin American correspondent Howard LaFranchi. Be that as it may, Howard noticed that the word "reversion" has joined the local lexicon. "Sale ads in Panama City newspapers suddenly aren't talking about 'price cuts' but 'price reversions,' " he says. "One restaurant boasts a 'reversion' to last year's prices."

Let us hear from you.

Mail to: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 via e-mail: world@csmonitor.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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