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Japan's economy is sputtering and the old-guard Liberal Democratic Party is struggling. Their hand-picked prime minister, Yoshio Mori, has a popularity rating so low that a Japanese beetle couldn't crawl under it. Conversely, the most popular politician in Japan, according to a recent newspaper poll, is Makiko Tanaka, who holds no top post in the LDP but is the daughter of a former prime minister. The challenge for the LDP now is whether to listen to the public - and its own young Turks - or muddle through (page 1). A diving stock market - hitting a 16-year low yesterday - and a parliamentary election this summer add fresh urgency to the questions about the future of Japan's democracy and its ruling party.

- David Clark Scott World Editor

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REPORTERS ON THE JOB

NOT A FUNK AFICIONADO: "I'm more of a samba man," says reporter Andrew Downie, when asked about his personal interest in funk music. But he was struck by how funk (page 1) resonates with the public. "Brazilians identify with their entertainers and their sports figures more than the people in any other Latin American country I've been to. And you see how quickly they help popularize the music and the funk language."

LADIES NIGHT: Men were banned from the streets of Colombia's capital, Bogota, Friday night in a celebration of International Women's Day, as reported March 8. Half a million women took to the streets in a show of unity against domestic and urban violence. Any man foolhardy enough to venture out risked being scolded, having his bottom pinched, or being hit by a bag of flour, reports Agence France Presse.

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