Today's Story Line

It's been nearly 10 years since the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and almost nine years since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Yet the West is still paying a price for these two historic events.

In Europe, the United States feels compelled to stabilize the Balkans area by threatening NATO airstrikes against Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic for the killings in Kosovo. At the same time, the European Union plans new member states from the former Soviet bloc but can't afford their farmers until it drastically cuts subsidies to its own farmers.

Both the Kosovo crisis and the ongoing US bombardment of Iraq's air-defense systems have helped forced Washington to switch from domestic concerns to a range of foreign matters.

A curious flight of nomadic Bedouins from Egypt last week shows how much the Mideast has changed in the past century. Israel, which in ancient days was nomadic itself, turned the tribal people away. Quote of note: "Allowing them to stay in Israel would open the way for others, and this is not the way to enter the country." - an Israeli officer.

- Clayton Jones World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB * SOME PLACE LIKE HOME: Traveling into Israel's Negev Desert to visit an encampment of Bedouins who recently crossed over from Egypt's Sinai to escape a tribal feud, Jerusalem-based writer Ilene Prusher took note of the way the nomadic people's portability contrasted with the more organized style of the Israeli army. Many of the Bedouins spoke of their gratitude to Israel for the efforts it made to ease their stay, providing water, food, and first-aid treatment. After leaving Egypt in in haste, many of the Bedouins had left behind their tents, and were making do with blankets under the sun. But a large, prefabricated house installed by the Israelis - and able to sleep as many as 80 people - went unoccupied. Quipped one Israeli soldier: "They seem to prefer the thousand-stars hotel."

MILESTONES * AND BABY MAKES TWO: Half of all conceptions in England and Wales take place outside marriage, compared with one-third a decade earlier, reports the British press. And the number of unmarried couples cohabiting will double by 2021, with the biggest increase among those over 35.

* A CHECK FOR CHESS: Britain plans to make chess eligible for the same kind of government sports grants that soccer, synchronized swimming, and other athletics now receive. But first, the 1937 Physical Training and Recreation Act will have to be changed to include "mind games."

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