Today's Storyine . . .

US stocks are again buoyant in large part because Japan is finally serious about juicing up its economy. Our story looks at the latest government effort.

America's muscle-flex helped force Iraq to back down, but our two Mideast writers, Scott Peterson and Ilene Prusher, tell us why a new political climate in the Mideast also made Saddam think twice (page 1). Notice the comment by a Cairo scholar that no one in Egypt would miss the Iraqi regime if it were replaced.

Quote of note: From a woman living in Kyrgyzstan who is not tempted to return to Germany, unlike most of her 20,000 fellow ethnic Germans there: "I have my husband and sons. I live with God. When a person has bread, water, and peace, then he is happy."

World Editor


* CLINTON IN ASIA: With President Clinton visiting Japan and South Korea, we'll be running stories from White House correspondent Francine Kiefer and Japan correspondent Cameron Barr. As US officials say, America's future lies in Asia.


* KEEP 'EM LAUGHING: Two members of the Swedish parliament want to sponsor a national "laugh-in mobilization" in the wake of a worrying official report. The study found Swedes spend only six minutes a day laughing, down from the 18 minutes a day they spent in stitches in the 1960s. "Everyone knows that life was a lot funnier in the 1960s, when we had 5 percent annual growth and a flourishing nanny-state," say parliament member Per Rosengren.

* TRAFFIC TRAVAILS: Our Indonesia correspondent, Sander Thoenes, asked people in Jakarta why they refer to speed bumps as "sleeping policemen." The name is a clue to the public's distaste for the corruption and greed that typifies many of these officials. In Bangkok, traffic is so snarled that a study was done by the United Nations to estimate the costs of traffic delays: $272 million a year in lost revenues, or more than 2 percent of the city's economy.


* WHERE'S LARA? Our Africa correspondent, Lara Santoro, is there somewhere. We think she's currently covering dicey ethnic unrest in Nigeria. Because of phone circuits, time zones, and government regulations, we have lost her temporarily several times this year. Recently, we lost track of her when she was abducted in Congo. Then she was marooned in Angola and out of touch for three days. Her adventures always turn up with original stories.

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