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There's a reason that courtroom dramas, even the fictionalized versions such as "Perry Mason" or "The Practice," make for compelling viewing. The stakes are often life and death, and in their pursuit of truth the lawyers must probe the specific cases for their fundamental values and principles. It's not unlike the way we try to do journalism: taking specific events and exploring the underlying themes, forces, and principles.

In today's edition, three court stories - from Indonesia, the Netherlands, and Britain - tackle different dimensions of the law and the implications for their respective societies. Perhaps the most difficult - and heart wrenching - is the case of Siamese twin girls in Britain. Yesterday, the girls' parents decided not to appeal a court order to surgically separate the two.

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Quotes of note:

The operation was the "least detrimental choice." - Justice Ward

"The parents have simply adopted the only position they felt was consistent with their consciences and with their love for both children." - Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

David Clark Scott World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB..

GEOGRAPHICAL DISCOMBOBULATION: Everything about the trial of the two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing seems surreal, says the Monitor's Peter Ford. The machine-gun-toting police are quite out of place in the blandly wooded Dutch countryside where the specially built courtroom is located on an old US air base. "The Scottish burr with which all the court and security officials speak makes you think you are in Edinburgh, rather than Utrecht, Netherlands," he says. And the courtroom arguments between lawyers over arcane points of Scots law between English translations of Arabic answers "must strike the former Libyan intelligence operatives as bizarre to say the least," Peter says.

CULTURAL SNAPSHOT: NEW OLYMPIC EVENT? No. South Korean environmentalists warning that the host of World Cup 2002 must reduce air pollution.

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(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society


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