Today's Story Line

It's hard to imagine resorting to violence over nutmeg or cloves. But 400 years ago, Portugal, Spain, and Holland fought for control of a group of Indonesian islands, now known as the Malukus (or Spice Islands). Today, the same islands are ground zero in a brutal (and widening) conflict between Muslims and Christians. The stakes for all of Indonesia are as high or higher than they were in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Religious differences in Canada are the source of tension in another arena: boxing. The rub is that facial hair is banned from the ring for safety reasons (page 7). But a male Sikh will not shave. He must adhere to five sacred Ks. The first k, for kesa (hair), requires that he must remain unshorn. A Sikh who violates this sanctity becomes a patit (outcast).

It has been widely noted that Mattel's Barbie doll sets an impossible anatomical standard for young girls. Brazil's answer to Barbie is Susi. The bestselling doll underscores an emerging cultural confidence in local norms and aspirations.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

David Clark Scott World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB..

*BRIDGING A GAP WITH SPEEDBOATS: The Indonesian city of Ambon, where the Monitor's Cameron Barr reported the story on religious strife, is a divided city. Christian and Muslim sectors are separated by buffer zones overseen by Indonesian military posts. People from one side do not venture into the other. For foreign reporters, the divisions mean working with two sets of translators and drivers. And safely traveling from the Christian part of Ambon city to the Christian community of Galala requires a speedboat trip, since the road passes through Muslim areas. The boats have three outboard motors - partly to quicken the trip and partly, as Cameron's Christian translator observed, to ensure that a vessel doesn't get stranded in the wrong part of Ambon bay.

PRESS CLIPPINGS

*SUNDAY NIGHT FEVER: The British government plans to lift a 220-year old ban on commercially sponsored Sunday dances. The proposal before both houses of Parliament would ease the Sunday Observances Act. Organizers would be allowed to charge for public entry to dances and serve alcohol. "If people want a bit of 'Sunday Night Fever,' that's fine by me," said Mike O'Brien, a government minister.

*THE FORCE WAS WITH HER: Belgian newspapers report that a woman in Brussels has won the right to name her baby "Anakin," after a Star Wars character. She threatened a hunger strike. The local registrar initially balked because it wasn't on his approved list of proper names.

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