Today's Story Line:

Nine months after his election, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is in the doghouse. With peace talks stymied and a war exploding with Lebanon, his popularity is plunging. Can he go the distance?

Questions of longevity are also in the air in Indonesia. When President Wahid returns from his 13-nation tour, will he give General Wiranto the boot?

The clock is ticking for Northern Ireland's beleaguered peace process. What's behind the IRA's refusal to disarm .

Mexican authorities may be forgiven if they start quoting Forrest Gump: "Life is like a box of chocolates".

David Clark Scott World editor


*HONEYMOON ENDS: Relations between Israel's media and its prime minister have gone from warm and fuzzy to downright chilly, in some cases. A party finance scandal and stalled peace talks are blamed. Jerusalem-based reporter Danna Harman noticed the change on the flights to Amman and Cairo this past week. "The curtain was drawn in the front where the prime minister and his wife sit. That was unusual. In the past, he's come back with the press, sat down with us, and joked. His wife usually came back too, and chatted about her days as a school teacher. Or we'd be invited up to their part of the plane. Not now."

*HONEYMOON BEGINS: In Jakarta, reporter Dan Murphy says there's been a telling change in the way the Indonesian military deals with the press. For the first time in at least 30 years, the military spokesman and military intelligence chief are Air Force officers. And the military chief of staff is a Navy admiral. For decades, these posts were held by Army officers. "It's clearly a symbolic move to put the Army in its place," says Dan. "The new spokesman took my call right away, even though we've never met. And he stressed the rule of law. His predecessor publicly challenged the president's constitutional authority to tell the military what to do."

*WHY CHOCOLATES?: Cars brought illegally from the US into Mexico are dubbed chocolates in Mexico City, says Monitor correspondent Howard LaFranchi. On the border, they're called carros chuecos [crooked or joke cars]. "I asked several people where chocolates came from. Nobody was too sure, but one federal official said it was describing the car's "obscure" past or that they are "something not clear and white." There was also speculation that since many cars are gifts brought by relatives living in the US, they are the ultimate box of chocolates.

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