Today's Story Line

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

An estimated 120 countries, at least in name, follow a democratic form of government (up from about 30 in 1974). But creating institutions and societies that are truly responsive to their people is often a slow process. There are signs of progress, though, in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Guatemala. Judges in these countries are flexing their muscles, becoming a viable counterweight to the other branches of government .

In South Africa, traditional tribal leaders are struggling to find a power-sharing arrangement within the context of a developing democracy.

David Clark Scott World editor

Recommended: 15 biggest moments for women in the Olympics

REPORTERS ON THE JOB..

*CATCHING THE OLYMPIC SPIRIT: Reporter Shawn Donnan didn't have a ringside seat for the opening ceremonies in Sydney. He watched it on TV from inside a tin-roofed livestock shed. Officially, the building is the Main Press Centre, but after the Olympics the cattle will move in. "There's almost 20,000 journalists in Sydney for the Olympics, and if we'd all been given tickets, we would have taken up almost one-fifth of the 110,000-seat stadium." But Shawn did get to see some of the ceremony "live." "We all ran outside when the fireworks went off. They burst right over the press center. Afterward, we ran to the other end of the alley outside our particular shed and saw the Olympic flame. Pretty cool stuff." In fact, Shawn says his Olympic fatigue (brought on by covering the preparations for three years) is gone. "It's amazing how the atmosphere has changed in Sydney. I'm thrilled to be at the Olympics now. A week ago I was moaning about all the hype. But now that the athletes have actually gone to work, it's a whole different story: It's like being a kid again."

*LAFRANCHI JUSTICE: Mexico's high courts may be on the road to greater independence and efficiency, but the Monitor's Howard LaFranchi says that everyday Mexicans still often pursue a more neighborly sense of justice. Howard recalls when a man climbed over the wall of his family's home in Mexico City one night, terrorizing his family by trying to break in before he suddenly passed out. Howard's wife called the police (Howard was away on a reporting trip), who arrested the intruder and required Mrs. LaFranchi to file a complaint. The next day a delegation from the man's family, including his mother, aunts, and a gaggle of children, showed up at the LaFranchis to beg clemency. "The case wasn't pursued," Howard says, "but there was a sense of justice being done, if shame counts as a sentence. From then on, the man, a neighbor, walked by our house very quickly with his head pulled down into his jacket."

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