Today's Story Line:

Russia's arms export business is booming - both to keep the war in Chechnya well supplied and to pay for it .

In its first year, the euro has lost 15 percent of its initial value.

All eyes may be on the US stock market, but how about Cyprus?

Europe is experiencing some of the worst storms of the century.

Faye Bowers Deputy world editor


*FOLLOW THE MONEY: The Monitor's Peter Ford was full of enthusiasm a year ago, when he ordered a brand-new euro checkbook from his bank. But in 12 months, he hasn't written a single euro-check. "There simply hasn't been any need - everything is still priced in francs - and though my bank manager assures me there is no extra fee for processing euro-checks, I am not persuaded," Peter says. Since European banks can no longer earn exchange commissions on euro-transfers between countries, they have simply slapped on enormous processing fees instead: banks charge customers an average $17 to transfer 100 euros ($100), and one Portuguese bank charged 73 euros to transfer 100 euros to an Italian bank.

* FOLLOW THE MONEY II: Mike Theodoulou, who wrote the Cyprus stock market piece, says he's refused to indulge in the "very iffy" market himself. But just about everyone he knows is. He recently talked with a friend, a construction worker, who put down his shovel to exchange tips about the market with another friend on his cell phone. And his sister-in-law tells him she's about to invest a sizable sum. Mike tells her he wouldn't do it, and "she looks at me like I'm a fool," Mike says.


An Afghan gardener works at the Kandahar airport in Afghanistan yesterday, as the hijacked Indian Airlines plane still sits on the tarmac. Indian officials say the hijackers - linked with a Pakistan fundamentalist group - stepped up their demands yesterday. They asked for $200 million in ransom, plus the release of 35 militants jailed in India, for the release of the passengers and crew.

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