Today's Story Line:

Much of the world - at least those who aren't glued to the US presidential race - is focused on the crisis in the Middle East. But even as the Muslim world begins its celebration of Ramadan, militant "pilgrims" are threatening the security of three countries in Central Asia (this page).

- Faye Bowers Deputy world editor

DOG DAYS IN COURT: Courtrooms in Taiwan are typically devoid of excitement. But as Bill Ide witnessed during hearings of the Hsichih trio (page 7), anything goes. Not only were people with all kinds of gripes showing up, but they also brought their animals. One man, who feels he's been slighted by the hands of justice and is known in Taipei for taking truckloads of dogs and parking them outside of government offices in protest, showed up.

His rottweiler was stopped by police at a metal detector, but a knee-high, mixed-breed dog managed to slip through. Bill saw the mut wandering around the halls, over television camera cables, perhaps looking for a place to relieve himself or just curl up for a moment and avoid the commotion.

PEAK FORM: The news from Kyrgyzstan in August raised the eyebrows of Moscow bureau chief Scott Peterson: Four of America's top rock climbers had been taken hostage by insurgents while they were climbing one of the Central Asia's most stunning rock faces. They escaped after six days - but their predicament caused Scott to pause a moment as he packed his rock boots for his latest trip to Kyrgyzstan. "The rock wall was still off-limits," he says, but local climbers took him to another area near the capital, Bishkek. "The snow stopped, clouds parted, and the sun warmed up some tough routes," Scott says, deeply satisfied.

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