Today's Story Line

The media klieg light has brought the horrid conditions of Chechen and East Timor refugees into sharp relief for the world. Less exposed are the conditions of 200,000 North Koreans allegedly in 12 political prison camps.

To understand the Taliban's control over Afghanistan, one must look to the role of the city of Kandahar and an ancient cloak.

A rare meeting of Eastern Orthodox Church leaders in Jerusalem is heralded as an opportunity to display a united front. But it may also be a time of power-brokering.

David Clark Scott World editor


*BEAM ME UP: The Monitor's Beijing correspondent Kevin Platt sometimes feels that finding a Chinese space scientist that will talk to the media is as difficult as the search for extraterrestrial life. "I begged seven different scientists to talk to me, but only one finally relented." Kevin suspects that the reticence has to do with the closeness of the space program to the Chinese military, another organization that doesn't exactly promote conversations with foreign journalists. This was his first explanation as to why the story took longer than expected. The second? "I was abducted," Kevin deadpanned.

*WAR GAMES: The Afghan front line was quiet when Mideast correspondent Scott Peterson visited with the Taliban. But apparently some of the guerrillas make up for the slow moments with their own, ah, hobbies. Take deputy commander Mullah Mallouk, a man with an unkempt beard and a hand covered with scar tissue. One day as he was driving Scott around near the front line, he suddenly pulled over. With a boastful smile, the swarthy fighter pointed out hole after hole of disturbed earth on either side of the road, where antitank mines were recently removed. "Even the commander doesn't know I do it," he told Scott, smugly. "I am demining with my bare hands."

*BELUGA FOR THE HOMELESS: Jerusalem-based reporter Ilene Prusher thought Boris Yeltsin might move in next door during his stay for the Eastern Orthodox Christmas. The Russian Orthodox church owns considerable real estate next to Ilene's apartment, known as the Russian Compound. The buildings are used to help house clergymen and pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. But Mr. Yeltsin and his 150-person entourage are staying at the Hilton Hotel. Unfortunately, the 1,100 pounds of Russian delicacies brought from Moscow were turned away by the hotel. It wasn't kosher. So, the church donated the food to the poor.

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