Today's Story Line

The women of India, who number almost half a billion, can celebrate a legal victory that will likely open the door to further equality between the sexes. The nation's high court ruled that mothers can be "natural guardians" just as much as fathers. That sounds strange in the West, but a Hindu tradition of a husband's dominance remains strong.

Consumers of electronic products or services can now get some brands free if they are willing to put up with a regular stream of commercials. It's called "permission-based" advertising or "sponsored communications." Quote of note: "This is all part of tectonic shift away from interruption-based advertising" on TV. - Perry Kamel of FreeWay telephone service.

For years, a geopolitical struggle has been waged over a potential oil bonanza in the Caspian Sea. American diplomacy in the region was directed at getting oil pipelines through friendly countries. Now doubts about the potential for oil riches have collapsed many hopes.

To feed the American appetite for wood, what may be the largest sawmill in the world is being planned in Chile, which is home to more than one-third of the world's remaining temperate rain forests. But environmentalists say other uses of the rare forests could be more profitable.

China rarely lets foreigners tell it how to run its country. But an American group has been allowed to train Tibetan villagers in the Himalayas on how to both preserve and exploit their forests. Preventing deforestation in the headwaters of Asia's major rivers can curb floods and save dams from silting up.

- Clayton Jones, World editor

NEWS YOU CAN USE *TRAVELING SAFELY: The killing this week of eight foreign tourists in Uganda by Rwandan rebels has raised concern about traveling near trouble spots. But for most travelers, the bigger risk is simply being on the road. In many countries, renting a car or taking a bus or taxi can be more hazardous than in the United States. A nonprofit group, the Association for Safe International Road Travel, or ASIRT, offers road safety data - such as driver behavior - on dozens of countries for a small contribution (telephone 301-983-5252; Web site And sometimes, the travel advisories from the State Department include tips on countries where driving may be risky (telephone 202-647-5225; Web site

FUTURE NEWS *COMING CLEAN: Do "truth commissions" really bring justice and harmony to a country with a tortured past? In Friday's paper, we look at the experience of Guatemala and other countries.

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