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The lead story is, yes, still the Middle East. And justifiably so. "The crisis is not confined to the Palestinian territories or Israel ... but it threatens the whole region and extends beyond," said United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Egypt.

Indeed, one needn't live in Israel or the West Bank to see the effects of this conflict. In suburban American and European neighborhoods anti-Semitic attacks have flared. Oil prices are above $30 a barrel, and traders are hanging on the results of the Middle East summit in Sharm el-Sheikh. So are Arab leaders, concerned about rising instability in the region (page 1). Part of what's sparking Arab passions abroad is a feeling of solidarity with Palestinians over protecting Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

David Clark Scott World editor

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SUMMIT BY THE RED SEA: The Middle East summit is taking place at Sharm el-Sheikh. It's on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, an area that was captured by the Israelis in 1967 and returned to Egypt under the Camp David accords. Today, this Red Sea resort, known for its scuba diving around spectacular tropical reefs, is a popular destination for Europeans. And most aren't particularly aware of the sudden gathering of kings, potentates, and heads of state, says the Monitor's Peter Ford.

"My hotel is packed with Italian sunbathers who are more interested in the evening aerobics class than high-level diplomacy," he says. Peter says he feels strangely out of place as he strides purposely through the lobby to fire off a fax in his gray trousers and tie. "It's not that people here are insensitive to the issues. But it's a salutary reminder that life does go on," he says. Peter was last spotted heading for a shop that sells flowered shorts and flip-flops.

THE MELON JUICE VOTE: A frequent criticism of Mexico's PRI, which was defeated in July's presidential election for the first time in 70 years, is that the political party had grown too distant from real people. As the PRI tries to rebuild, the merchants at headquarters in Mexico City have a suggestion for reacquainting the party with the people: Tear down the wall that keeps real people outside the three-building complex.

"I talked to the party hairstylist, the cafeteria manager, the optometrist, the travel agent, and they said letting people inside the gates would be best for their business and the PRI," says the Monitor's Howard LaFranchi. "I had fresh melon juice at the cafeteria, and while I don't know if it would have made me a PRI voter, it was good enough to warrant a return visit."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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