Today's Story Line

International condemnation of Russia's treatment of civilian refugees is growing. Russian troops now forbid any male that can carry a gun from entering or leaving Chechnya.

As Latin American democracies mature, more politicos are recognizing the women's vote. The latest example: this Sunday's presidential elections in Chile.

Afghanistan produces 75 percent of the world's opium crop. What's being done to lower the production?

South Africans question the pace of progress in healing the racial divide after a white man shoots several blacks.

David Clark Scott World editor


* CHECHEN GIFTS: The Monitor's Fred Weir had to sit in the courtyard of his Ingushetia hotel in order to get a clear signal for his satellite phone. But filing a story in the below-freezing temperatures didn't affect him nearly as much as the comments of the fleeing refugees and aid workers, he says. At one border crossing yesterday, dozens of men huddled around, desperate to get across to join families they left in Chechnya. Russian officials refused their requests. Then, the gate suddenly opened. But not for the refugees to pass. A long convoy of Russian ammunition trucks was going into Chechnya. "One of the Chechen guys I was talking with wryly commented: 'Gifts for the Chechen people,' " says Fred.

*STATE SECRETS IN THE KITCHEN: Normally, when a book is published, the author is readily available for interviews. It's a way to generate sales. But Peter Ford's request to interview the chef to France's presidential palace - who just wrote a book about his culinary duties - was denied. "As an employee of the Elyse Palace, Joel Normand is bound by the droit de reserve (a vow of discretion), which forbids him from giving interviews," says Peter. "As you can imagine, the restriction is driving his publisher's public relations woman up the wall," he says.

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