The prime minister of Sri Lanka is Ranil Wickremesinghe. The president: Chandrika Kumara-tunga. The leader of the Tamil rebels who have long bedeviled their country is Velupillai Prabhakaran. The news media there rattle off those names with ease. But they've about given up trying to cope with the names of the Scandinavians involved monitoring the truce between the Tamils and government forces. Example: Helge Syversen and Trond Furuhovde, two of the 18 assigned to the mission. In the latter's case, some news outlets are calling him "the retired Norwegian general" to avoid an embarrassing blooper. Asked for comment, a Foreign Ministry official said, "If you think the Norwegian names are difficult, wait 'til the Swedes and Fins get here."
In Aschaffenburg, Germany, a court has ordered a church to ring its bells more softly or pay for the sound-proofing of nearby houses. An investigation showed the bell tower had been built 13 feet closer to the property line than allowed under its approved plan.
They're stereotyped as nerds with a predilection for science-fiction, T-shirts, and caffeinated beverages. But information technology (IT) workers keep globally wired operations on track. And according to Brainbench, a Chantilly, Va.-based firm that certifies professionals for the industry, these are the 10 metropolitan areas with the highest concentrations of high-tech savvy:
1. San Francisco/Oakland/ San Jose, Calif.
2. New York/northern New Jersey/southern Connecticut
5. Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas
6. Los Angeles/Anaheim/ Riverside, Calif.
8. Detroit/Ann Arbor, Mich.
9. Seattle/Tacoma, Wash.
10. Denver/Boulder, Colo.