Today's Story Line

At press time, Japan's Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi was still reportedly in a coma. His absence hits the world's second-largest economy at a difficult time. The search for an Obuchi successor has already begun.

Until now, Chechnya has been seen as a military conflict. But with Russian police units now taking casualties, the character of the public debate over the conflict is changing.

In Johannesburg, upwardly mobile blacks are flocking to the Tselane Tambo Grooming School. Meet the Miss Manners of South Africa.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

David Clark Scott World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB

CLOSE TO HOME: The Monitor's Fred Weir got the idea for doing today's story while at a country dacha with his family. There have been many reports in the Russian media about the numbers of soldiers dying in Chechnya. But Fred noticed that his Russian in-laws and their neighbors reacted much more emotionally to the news of large numbers of policemen dying in the conflict. They followed the funerals in the media closely, and there was much shaking of heads. Fred says, "Because a police unit is all from one town, it hits very hard, becoming a community tragedy. This goes beyond just a body count, it's more personal for Russians."

TIPTOE TOPIC: There are few subjects as sensitive to cover in Australia as today's story on Aboriginal assimilation. "It's easy to offend someone on either side of this issue," says reporter Shawn Donnan. His own Australian relatives, for example, are visibly offended by the assertion that their government or their church, which ran some orphanages, might have done something wrong in taking Aboriginal children from their mothers. On the other side, "you can hear the frustration and anger in the voices of Aboriginal leaders when you question their facts, too," says Shawn. Part of the problem, he says, is that the estimates of numbers of children "stolen" are just that, estimates.

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