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Two tests of democracy take center stage. Today, the residents of East Timor have an opportunity to bring 23 years of violence to an end. It's expected that most will choose complete independence, as opposed to greater autonomy as a province of Indonesia.

In Venezuela, a different trial of democracy is under way. Two elected bodies are vying for power. A constitutional assembly, filled mostly with supporters of President Hugo Chvez, is attempting to revoke the powers of Congress and is taking on the judiciary. It claims a popular mandate to purge the government of corruption among the nation's elite. Opponents see a raw power bid by President Chvez.

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Two years of lower coca production in Peru are being hailed by the US. But the alternative has left local farmers less exuberant.

- David Clark Scott, World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB *MOONLIGHT SERENADE IN CARACAS: The Monitor's Howard LaFranchi was eight floors up and unable to sleep. Political protests in the streets? No. It was a high-pitched chirping from outside. "I thought it was a cacophony of audible street signals that let blind pedestrians know when it's safe to cross, but I couldn't imagine why there were so many." A hotel employee revealed the chirping comes from frogs - hidden in Caracas's tropical foliage - "singing for rain." Says Howard, "Once I knew it was frogs serenading me and not a machine, I had no trouble sleeping."

* YES, WE HAVE BANANAS: Reporter Lara Santoro was struck by the lushness of Ruhengeri, Rwanda since her last visit. The eucalyptus trees had been felled and banana plantations, which abound in the region, were burned to the ground to deny rebels cover. Since 1997, the entire province, town, and the national park harboring rare gorillas, have been virtually inaccessible to everyone but the Rwandan Army. Aid workers could travel there only in a convoy, and only under heavy armed escort. The trees are back. And so are tourists. But Liz Williamson, a gorilla researcher, still can't spend nights in the park for security reasons. *

FOLLOW-UP ON A MONITOR STORY * GUN CONTROL IN CANADA: As reported last Thursday, Canadian police support is waning for a law that requires all guns - including rifles and shotguns - to be registered by 2003. Despite heated debate, delegates at the annual meeting of the Canadian Police Association Friday voted not to withdraw support for the controversial Firearms Act. The CPA did call for a review to address concerns about the cost of implementing the law.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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