Today's Story Line:

The US and other nations have put billions into helping Indonesia, the nation worst hit by Asia's economic crisis. But that money may go to waste unless key economic agents - the country's ethnic Chinese - feel safe to return home after fleeing riots against them this year. In contrast, a long-term "affirmative action" program in Malaysia has created a more-friendly situation for the ethnic Chinese minority. Quote of note: The government must "force people to respect each other." - Indonesia Chinese businessman.

The Clintons' trip to Israel highlights the two sides of the conflict there. Mrs. Clinton visited a utopian village where Palestinians and Israelis live together. Mr. Clinton, however, was forced into diplomatic arm-wrestling.

Russia's democracy may be in trouble because its media is.

- Clayton Jones

World Editor


* OVERSEAS CHINESE: When Asia was the boomtown of the world economy, the Monitor often wrote of the pivotal role of giant companies run by ethnic Chinese families in Southeast Asian nations. This small but powerful minority, part of the historic diaspora from China, gave a spirit of entrepreneurship to these economies. John Naisbitt, author of "Megatrends Asia," found the cross-border economic activity of the 57 million overseas Chinese could be a country all by itself. So it was a bit of a shock for our Tokyo-based writer, Cameron Barr, to walk through an empty, ravaged house of a Chinese family in Jakarta last May. The family fled when a protest against Indonesian President Suharto (who is a native of Java) led to riots against the rich Chinese community. The house had been looted, except for personal items like a child's drawings. He saw a book on the shelf - "House Buying in Malaysia" - which hinted at where the family might have fled. The experience gave him the idea to compare the treatment of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia and Malaysia.


* LONG ARM OF THE LAW: Three years ago, a Monitor story told of a David-and-Goliath battle of indigenous people from Ecuador's Amazon forest filing a suit against oil giant Texaco on grounds, denied by Texaco, that its operations had devastated their environment. A United States district court judge in New York dismissed the case in 1996, but a three-judge panel recently overturned that decision. The new ruling may be a landmark because it gives the district court the power to enforce the results of the trial whether it is held in the US or Ecuador. On Feb. 1, the group's lawyers will argue that the case be tried in the US.

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