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A regular joke in Japan is that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is neither liberal nor democratic nor a party. But now this grouping of conservative clans is reluctantly supporting a freedom-of-information bill that may empower the Japanese to exercise more self-governance. Quote of note: "Japanese people aren't all that mature yet." - Shigeo Uetake, the LDP's lead negotiator on the bill.

Corruption and misuse of foreign aid are getting more attention these days, and the resumption of aid to Cambodia is a test case of how much tougher donor countries will be toward troubled nations.

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In any war, cold or hot, defectors and jailed spies become political pawns. In South Korea last week, both groups spoke out about their plight.

Call it the Great Currency Game. Europe's challenge to the dollar, the euro, is faltering two months after launch.

- Clayton Jones World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB *TRAPPED IN VENUS: Seoul-based reporter Michael Baker often meets with defectors from North Korea, and finds they are effectively coming from Mars. To integrate the defectors into South Korea, the government gives them about $30,000. That may seem generous, but if the defectors don't integrate, they might end up on the street. They've lived in a strict, paternalistic society largely cut off from capitalism or outside culture. Defectors talk of not knowing how to choose products in a store. One defector, who spent his whole adult life in the military, asked Michael how to tell whether something is "expensive" or "cheap." And he didn't see how two apparently similar pieces of paper - a 5,000 won bill ($4) and a 10,000 won bill - could hold different value. When Michael left him at a subway stop, the defector didn't have a clue on how to put a ticket in the wicket.

FUTURE NEWS *AID WITH NEW STRINGS: Asia's economic crisis has helped spark a rethink in the World Bank over how to tie development money to progress in a country's political freedoms. Story tomorrow.

CLIPPINGS *FIT TO BE TIED: When it comes to whether menshould wear ties, Britain and Iran are all in knots - for different reasons. British Conservatives have come up with a plan to win votes: They are to take off their ties, reports The Independent newspaper. In Iran, for the first time since the Islamic revolution in 1979, a candidate campaigned with a portrait showing him wearing a tie, reports the Financial Times. Sadegh Samii, known as "tie guy," says his tie reflects modern technology.

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