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Countries with lousy weather may want to rethink how they develop. That's one lesson in our latest post-Mitch story from Central America (page 1). One US senator wants to bring NAFTA to the region. Quote of note: "This disaster opened the curtain on our weaknesses for the whole world to see." - director of a Nicaraguan institute.

Asia's crisis is not just any ordinary recession. Wholesale reform is requiring "painful political decisions" (stories, this page and next). Thailand, which triggered the crisis, has reined in its free-wheeling financial institutions. Korea has a towering task in downsizing powerful industrial firms that misinvested using easy credit.

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- Clayton Jones

World Editor


* EMPIRE STRIKES: Korea's conglomerates are drenched in red ink (this page), but that didn't stop Hyundai's founder, Chung Ju Yung, from inviting our Seoul contributor Michael Baker and a couple of thousand people to a fancy ballroom bash last month. The occasion: to celebrate the release of a book, written by an American professor, that glorifies the founder. Mr. Chung was followed by dozens of company men and spoke before a man-sized cake decorated with the book in frosting. Critics say Korea's tycoons don't understand that their empires might soon end.


* HAVE YOU DRIVEN A FORD LATELY? Jrgen Chrobog, Germany's ambassador to the US, stopped by this week to discuss such top-of-mind matters as European unity and transatlantic ties. The conversation took a cross-cultural turn when he pointed out that "100 percent" of German children learn English. He confirmed that many German youths - including his own children - have a big appetite for America's chief cultural export, movies. This may be hurting Germany's own celluloid success. The ambassador said he'd just seen the German-made Oscar hopeful "Run Lola Run" and praised it to his kids. But they had just been blown away by "Enemy of the State," the US action movie. "Lola," they told him, "will have to run a lot faster." The ambassador told us, good-naturedly, that he had no problem with America's mass-marketing trump "as long as you keep buying our cars."


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* CHINESE DISSIDENT ARRESTED: A Nov. 19 story broke the news that the head of the would-be China Democratic Party, Xu Wenli, sympathized with Tibet's plight and welcomed the Dalai Lama's return. On Monday, he was arrested on charges of being a "threat" to national security. Mr. Xu and other dissidents have been trying to register their political party.

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