Today's Story Line

Prepare to hear a lot about TMD.

That stands for "theater missile defense," the "star wars" way of shooting down missiles. A US proposal to put TMD in Asia - maybe even on Taiwan - could push US-China ties to the brink .

The world is still learning lessons from the Asia economic crisis and its spillover. Now the World Bank may be shifting its lending policy to embrace a Japanese style of government activism in guiding a nation's economy.

Indonesia's newly flush democracy has unleashed Islamic political parties vying in the June election. The military has long opposed Islamic dominance.

- Clayton Jones World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB *IN THE LINE OF HIRE: Reporters in conflict zones expect the unexpected, and often find themselves taking on nonjournalistic tasks. In the Kosovo capital of Pristina, reporter Justin Brown was driving around the deserted streets about 10 p.m. March 1 looking for an open restaurant when suddenly two uniformed Serbian policemen ran into the road and waved him down. They got in the back seat (obviously besotted from a night on the town) and told him where to drive - "left ... straight ... right" - until they reached the police station. They never realized they had commandeered a foreign journalist. And, worse, they gave no tip for the taxi service! Justin eventually found some food at a store within walking distance of his apartment.

*IN THE BUFFET LINE: Some reporters for this newspaper put themselves at risk to get stories. When he's in his home base of Tokyo, Cameron Barr leads a more genteel life, punctuated as it is by receptions, newsmaker luncheons, and other non-life-threatening events.

This week he and another reporter positioned themselves next to World Bank President James Wolfensohn at a reception in the ballroom of a glittering hotel in the Japanese capital. Cameron wanted to quiz Mr. Wolfensohn on his new proposals about development under discussion at a conference. The famished executive appeared more interested in the sushi buffet, but answered questions obligingly.

Up came a conference participant, eager to exchange business cards in Japanese fashion with the eminent international official. Plate of sushi in one hand, Wolfensohn reached into a pants pocket and produced a crumpled wad of US currency - just what you'd expect a bank president to have in the way of pocket change - and a clump of business cards. Unable to fish a card out to offer his accoster, the bank chief asked him to pull one out for himself. But Wolfensohn declined when the reporters asked if they could help themselves to the $20 bills.

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