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As cities get bigger and buildings taller, the damage from earthquakes can be more severe. Colombia's quake on Jan. 25 put a spotlight on the need for better building codes and construction techniques in quake-prone areas. Around the world, scientists, architects, and governments are improving quake preparedness .

Quote of note: "We know earthquakes are going to happen; we know buildings are going to fail. Given these, education and response planning have to get higher priorities." - Nafi Toksoz, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor.

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World flashpoints such as Cyprus often don't get much flash when a war is averted While reuniting the island still seems far off, diplomacy recently prevented a clash between two NATO members, Turkey and Greece, over the issue of new missiles in the Greek-controlled south.

Egypt, still the center of the Arab world, has not made unofficial peace with Israel 20 years after the official peace

- Clayton Jones World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB *HELPING YOU TO SEE THE HOTEL'S TV: Staff correspondent Judith Matloff's experience in Kazakstan's new capital, Astana, shows how modern conveniences are rare in the remote city, but local craftsmen are well versed in keeping things working . Many of Astana's buildings have been fancied up on the outside, but interiors are as shabby as before. This was certainly the case at the Intourist Hotel, situated on the plaza across the street from the new, imposing presidential offices. The hotel had odd priorities for guest amenities. It was a challenge to find a room where you could make a phone call, take a hot bath, or watch television. But get your eye glasses fixed? No problem. When Judith asked where the nearest optometrist's office was, she was directed past the hotel reception down a long unlit corridor. At the end was a small room where a man was grinding lenses by the light of the dying sun. Without looking up, he took her spectacles, inspected the broken frame, and attached a new pin. It happened quicker than you could say "room service."

*LIKE A CAR WASH: Come early, Mideast bureau chief Scott Peterson was told when he arranged an interview at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo for today's story. Why? To begin with, he had to go through two checkpoints. Then, guards questioned him on what he was doing there. Later, his bags were searched and he went through a metal detector. Once it was over, Scott remarked on how thorough the process had been. Actually, replied the guards, he got through rather easily: They had phoned back to Jerusalem to check him out before he arrived.

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