Today's Story Line:

Pushed to the brink again, Palestinian and Israeli leaders are talking truce, again. For the third time in less than a month, the two sides have agreed to announce a break in the hostilities. Extremists on both sides are predictably unsupportive. And given the track record, this truce is accompanied by a large dose of skepticism among the general public. But some may find encouragement in the fact that the leadership is at least still giving lip service to peace (page 1).

- David Clark Scott

World editor


VOTER'S BLOCK: Dan Murphy has been living and reporting in Indonesia for the past five years, long enough to have voted in the last US presidential election from Jakarta. Dan and his roommate, also an American, had planned to cast their absentee ballots at the US Embassy yesterday, the normal practice for US citizens abroad during the presidential election. "We suddenly realized we can't vote," says Dan. The US Embassy is closed for security reasons through Monday (story on this page). "We hope they'll let us in on Tuesday," he says.

NO WAITING LINES: Thursday, the Monitor's Cameron Barr and Faye Bowers took a break from their reporting to visit Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. It seemed like a good opportunity, since the Israeli-Palestinian violence of the past month has left Bethlehem bereft of tourists. A plaza that normally hosts a long waiting line was almost completely empty.

Cameron and Faye took a few minutes to stroll through the church and visit the underground room that many Christians revere as the place of Jesus's birth. They were alone in a space that is normally packed with eager pilgrims. Upstairs in the church, two brown-robed Franciscan brothers, one from Argentina and the other from Mexico, were understandably bored, and rather glum about the lack of visitors.


DAM PROTESTS: Angry protesters set fire to four government vehicles and staged demonstrations as construction resumed on India's largest dam project, according to the Times of India. As the Monitor reported on Aug. 5, 1999, construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam has been stalled for six years by a lawsuit filed by environmental groups. Opponents to the Sardar Sarovar, the biggest of some 3,200 dams to be built on the Narmada River, say that the project will displace millions of people without adequate compensation and the dam's benefits are limited. Supporters say that the dam will provide drinking water and electricity to millions of people.

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