Today's Story Line

European leaders meet tomorrow in Helsinki, Finland, to flesh out the details of self-defense through self-reliance. Europe is moving to cut its dependence on US rapid-response forces.

And what looks like a throwback to the 1950s, Russia and China are turning to each other for mutual support and defense amid Western criticism of their human rights policies.

Only time will tell if it's a minor deal or a major step forward, but the conflict in the Congo shows signs of ebbing.

David Clark Scott, World editor


*SMILE - JUST IN CASE: Traveling in Iran is not often hazardous for foreigners, but Mideast correspondent Scott Peterson got a surprise when he was planning to go to southeastern Iran. "Don't worry, we won't need it," said an editor of the Tehran daily Iran News, whipping out a camera. "But you don't mind if we take of picture of you ... in case you get taken hostage?" he asked. They both laughed uneasily as Scott consented. A German was abducted by robbers in February and killed, while drug smugglers in the area where Scott was headed had kidnapped three groups of Europeans - including a Portuguese television team. All of them had been released after days or weeks, an exchange with the police for imprisoned drug traffickers. The day Scott flew to Kerman, news came back that the chief kidnapper had been killed by security forces.


*NO PATENT FOR AMAZON PLANT: A US patent on the Amazonian ayahuasca vine was canceled last week. As reported in the Monitor on July 28, indigenous peoples from nine South American countries said the patent was an attempt to "steal their intellectual property rights" because the plant had been used in religious and healing ceremonies for centuries. The US researcher said the patent was on an altered strain of the plant that he was studying for its medicinal value.


*BABY STEPS: Seven days after her son is born, Nahed Al-Maghrabi steps over him seven times. It's part of the Egyptian ceremony of welcoming a newborn. The Soboa dates to Pharaonic times.

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