Today's Story Line


MIR SPLASH: The Moscow Times yesterday reported that the Mir space station, which turns 15 today, will be brought back to earth - into an area 1,500 to 2,000 kilometers off Australia - in the first half of March.

"'There is a 98 percent chance that it will go down as designated,' said [Nikolai] Ivanov, who has been downing Russian civil spacecraft since 1960."

"However, there is a 2 percent chance that 'this unique and first ever operation of such a scale and complexity' will go wrong ..., he said in an interview."

"Some 80 countries have expressed fears about the splashdown and have asked Russia to keep them posted on the descent, officials said."


POUNDING THE PAVEMENT: Scott Peterson (below) experienced Georgia's decline firsthand - or foot-first. An avid runner, he'd intended to hit the pavement his first evenings in Tbilisi, but was always too busy. One afternoon he finally got his shoes on - and was grateful it was daylight.

The result of the public ripping off public works was scary, Scott says. Many manhole covers were missing - apparently sold for scrap metal, which left gaping holes in sidewalks. "The street lights didn't work either, so running at night would have been crazy indeed," Scott says.

SAY WHAT? Peter Ford (below) reckons that his French is pretty good; certainly he has no problems in the ordinary course of events understanding everything he is told, and saying exactly what he wants to say. But reporting today's story on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) from a cattle farm, he found that his farmyard French needed brushing up. It was not just that he had difficulty recalling the different words for a young cow that has calved and one that has not: He came up against European Union farm support jargon, too. The farmer said that his 180 cows, bullocks, calves, and heifers represented "110 UGB."

Peter looked blank, and it was explained to him that UGB means "unite grand bovin," which means "large bovine unit." And the European Union says it wants to promote natural farming....

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