Today's Story Line

This isn't the 1970s. As gasoline prices rise, and American billfolds empty, there's little euphoria among oil-producing nations. Middle East states are wiser and more cautious now about a petroleum windfall. Quote of note: "The catastrophic low prices of 1998 still make them feel very vulnerable and not quite king of the castle." - Mideast economics writer.

Russia's Acting President Vladimir Putin faces no viable challenger in this month's elections - except one: The "none-of-the-above" protest vote.

On Sept. 20, 1999, Indonesian Army Battalion 745 began its pullout from East Timor. As it passed villages and civilians, the orders were to "destroy everything" and to "shoot anything." For the first time, it met armed resistance.

David Clark Scott World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB

THE UNCAMPAIGN: Moscow bureau chief Judith Matloff has covered numerous foreign elections in emerging democracies - from Africa to Latin America. She has been amazed this year at how low-key Russia's presidential campaign has been. The vote is just two weeks away, but it's hard to tell. "You see billboards, but only for minor candidates, not Putin," says Judith. "It's the biggest non-preelection campaign I've ever seen." People tend not to discuss it, she says, because they just assume Putin will win. The news around the water cooler has more to do with the Chechen war than politics.

FOLLOW-UP TO A MONITOR STORY

PERSIAN PISTACHIOS: As a signal of support for Iran's political reforms, the United States is expected to announce Friday that it will lift the ban on Iranian caviar, carpets, and pistachios, according to the Los Angeles Times. As reported in the Monitor on Dec. 2, 1999, carpets and pistachios are Iran's second- and third-biggest exports after oil. Since the early 1980s, the US has banned most trade with Iran, which Washington has accused of supporting terrorist groups.

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