Today's Story Line:

The global village may have let onetime outsiders get too close for comfort in some quarters. China's Internet interaction with the wild West has meant opening up to the world a little faster, perhaps, than Beijing would have liked. Beijing bureau chief Kevin Platt reports on how the government is reacting. And in Egypt, a pending law would give Cairo tight control over the work of international human rights organizations inside its borders. Quote of note: "A crackdown on Egypt means a crackdown for the whole region." - An Egyptian human rights worker.

Washington-based staff writer Jonathan Landay outlines the debate within NATO over how much it can and should do in such places as Kosovo as the separatist province heats up again.

- Clayton Collins

Deputy World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB..

* CYBER-CENSORED? As authoritarian as the Chinese government appears to be in prosecuting the country's first cyber-dissident, Beijing may have retreated a bit in its battle to control the Internet. "When I initially arrived in Beijing last year, clicking on any of a number of 'magic words' while Web surfing could crash the computer," says Kevin Platt. "Going online with Yahoo's search engine for China news stories in 1997 was like crossing an unmarked, virtual minefield: Clicking on stories about terrorism in Xinjiang, government suppression of protests, or the passing of supreme leader Deng Xiaoping triggered the instant freezing of the computer screen," he says. Kevin spent some time experimenting with which words appeared to bring down his computer. Toward the end of the year, crashes were less frequent, thanks to what Kevin surmises was an easing of hair-trigger controls. "It was almost disappointing," he says.

CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL..

* BRAKING FOR WHALES: As we report new measures to preserve fish stocks (page 1), word comes of a new step to save the endangered northern right whale (only about 300 survive). The UN's International Maritime Organization this month ratified a proposal requiring ships to report their routes to the US Coast Guard before entering the whales' habitat off the Southeastern and Northeastern coasts of the United States. Reason: Since 1991 about 50 percent of recorded right whale deaths have been attributed to collisions with ships. This way the ships will be told where to avoid the whales, since the whales "spend long periods of time on the ocean surface, resting, socializing, and feeding" and generally "make little effort to move out of the way," according to Jared Blumenfeld of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

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