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Islamic extremists holding more than 150 airline passengers hostage in Afghanistan hope to focus attention on the Indian province of Kashmir.

See the Monitor briefing on another hot spot (centuries old), Chechnya.

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Speaking of Russia, one Japanese woman claims it's warmer in Moscow than in Tokyo.

Is anyone anywhere not excited about celebrating this special New Year's? Oh, yes. See Africans on time.

A tale of a mid-level Chinese bureaucrat turned small-time businessman.

Faye Bowers Deputy world editor


*THE INSPIRATION: The Monitor's Cameron Barr, who writes today on the Japanese way of warmth, says he got the story idea while shopping for a humidifier. A saleswoman handed him a catalog from the Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. that had nearly 40 pages of heating devices. A company executive told him that Matsushita exports hardly any heating goods - a sharp contrast to its other products, which are made and sold around the world under the Panasonic and National labels. "I wanted to know why only the Japanese need these things - certainly Matsushita would export them if it could," Cameron says.


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*JOURNALISTS DETAINED: Russian officials yesterday criticized seven foreign journalists - including Boston Globe and Washington Post reporters - who were held for nine hours after being detained in Chechnya. The officials said they lacked proper accreditation. The Washington Post's foreign editor says the detainees were not harmed. "Apart from having to eat Russian cookies, we were not mistreated," he quoted Post correspondent Daniel Williams as saying.

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