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The Venezuela mudslides are now being called the worst natural disaster in Latin America this century. But amid the tragedy are also stories of courage and generosity

How are nations preparing for the heralded naughts? While the focus is on New Year's Eve, experts say some Y2K glitches may not show for months.

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North Korea appears ready to regain the trust it lost with Japan, the US, and South Korea. Is it a ploy to gain help or a sincere opening?

So, this is Christmas? The Japanese version of Dec. 25 .


*HOAX IN CARACAS: The radio broadcasts held all of Venezuela spellbound. "Yes, I'm calm, but my daddy isn't," said the five-year-old voice from a mud-encased basement in the coastal town of Los Corales. Using a cellular phone found on one of six bodies trapped in the dark basement, little Luis Eduardo Landaeta and his father Luis spoke live with a Caracas radio station. At least that's what everyone thought. The Monitor's Howard LaFranchi included this tale as part of his story today. But later Howard called to say, "It's a hoax. Take it out." Venezuela's President Hugo Chvez - who spoke to the caller and ordered a rescue team sent to the basement, only to discover it was empty - condemned the hoax.

YES, WE HAVE NO VISAS TODAY: Covering North Korea is one of the most frustrating tasks for Monitor reporters in Asia. Tokyo-based Cameron Barr has tried repeatedly to get a journalist's visa. The reclusive government has refused him one, as it has almost every other Western journalist. Still, Cameron appreciates the polite refusals he has collected from a variety of North Korean organizations. One of his favorites: "It is to be regretted that I can not give you any positive answer," wrote an official of the Korean Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries.


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