Today's Story Line

Democracy schmocracy. After 40 years of elections, the majority of Venezuelans don't mind a little dictatorship lite. It's OK, they say, if it leads to a better quality of life and less theft of national wealth by the societal elite. In fact, a curious mix of historic norms and and current problems is producing similar sentiments in other Latin American nations.

On the US diplomacy front, former Sen. George Mitchell is jumping back into Northern Ireland's fray. And US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has just begun a Mideast peace tour, hoping to usher in the implementation of the Wye accord and the next phase of talks with Syria. But her skills may be needed in the West Bank by Burger King.

- David Clark Scott, World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB *VENEZUELA'S FOURTH ESTATE: Despite the hand-wringing over the changes to Venezuela's democratic institutions, correspondent Howard LaFranchi says there's one pillar of Venezuela's democracy that appears untouched: a free press. Howard says most sources he called to interview in Caracas - pro- and anti-Chvez - defined their availability based on TV appearances or press interviews already scheduled. "A free press doesn't replace a robust and independent legislative branch," says Howard. "But judging by the tough questions leveled at Chvez and his supporters by Venezuelan journalists, the press is free to do its job."

*A BURGER BY ANY OTHER NAME: While reporting on the controversial Burger King in the West Bank, Ilene Prusher overheard a man in line order a "Whoffer." A local variant? No. In Hebrew, the letters P and F are very close, and Israelis often confuse them - especially when translating foreign words. But, Ilene says, US restaurants often localize menu names. At a McDonald's in Jerusalem, for example, the Fillet-O-Fish is called a "McDag." Dag (pronounced "dug") is the Hebrew word for fish.

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