Today's Story Line

The latest Russian casualties not withstanding, the Chechen war has catapulted Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his favored Unity party to the top of the polls. Sunday's elections of a new parliament should highlight the trend.

Half a world away, but just as popular, Venezuela's President Hugo Chvez is looking increasingly like a Latin American leader settling in for the long term.

Sunday midnight marks the end of another empire. After 442 years, the tiny Portuguese enclave of Macau reverts back to China.

David Clark Scott World editor


*PRESIDENTIAL CITATION: On Sunday, Howard LaFranchi was interviewing supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chvez outside the Army building where the president hosts his weekly radio program. Suddenly, a fellow US journalist screamed that Mr. Chvez had just said, "Howard LaFranchi of the American newspaper The Christian Science Monitor" on the national radio program. "My first thought was, 'Oh no, what did I do now?' " says Howard. Was he in trouble for one of the stories he had written about Chvez? As it turns out, Chvez simply told Venezuelans that their debate over a new constitution was raising international interest, and cited one US journalist witnessing the radio program as proof. Phew.

* JUST STAND HERE: Reporter Corinna Schuler went to a South African ostrich farm to investigate the boom in feather sales. At the local bed and breakfast, she was served a large ostrich omelette (one egg is the equivalent of 24 chicken eggs). And she took a tour, where she was invited to stress test a giant egg. "They can take up to 80 kilos [176 pounds] of weight on them," boasted the tour guide. "OK," agreed Corinna, eyeing the thorn branch being brandished by the farmer. "Ostriches have sharp toenails and can be very aggressive," says Corinna. She stepped gingerly on the egg, slowly putting her full weight on it and watched the ostrich mother's reaction. "I was very nervous that it was going to crack and splat," she says. But egg, mother, and Corinna passed the stress test.


*BAH HUMBUG IN BRAZIL: Brazilian shopping mall employees refused to wear red Santa hats in the pre-Christmas period, saying they were too hot and simply "felt ridiculous," according to the O Estado de So Paulo daily newspaper. Employees at the Lindoia mall in the city of Porto Alegre called on their union, the Labor Department, and the prosecutor's office to support their bid to get rid of the hated hats.

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