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Today's Story Line

More hostages were taken by Muslim separatists yesterday in the Philippines - the third incident of its kind in recent weeks. Who's behind this crisis?

European unity moves to the stock market as two of Europe's biggest bourses, London and Frankfurt, yesterday announced a merger deal.

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Conservation in paradise? Flexing its economic muscle, an environmental group purchased the Palmyra Atoll, a group of 52 deserted islets in the Pacific.

Canadians get in touch with their inner patriots. The prompt? A beer ad.

David Clark Scott World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB

*TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Today's story on three separate kidnappings in the Philippines was a difficult story for reporter Abby Tan to write. Abby had just left the same Malaysian island resort two days before 21 people (staff and tourists) were kidnapped. "The Malaysian dive masters, the Filipino receptionist and chamber maid, the man who took us out to show us the sea turtles on the beach at night - I knew them," says Abby. She also became friends with a German family of three, who are among the hostages. She's been closely following the conflicting reports about the health of the hostages with more than her normal journalistic curiosity. "I could be with them now. It shook me up," she says.

* AMERICAN UNDERCOVER: Today's story on Canadian patriotism highlights some of the differences between Canadians and Americans. Toronto-based correspondent Ruth Walker, born and bred in the United States, is rarely mistaken for a Canadian. But she doesn't want to stick out as a foreigner either. "To keep from sounding off-putting or distracting in conversations with Canadians, I'll use "Zed" instead of "Zee" or "process" with a long O," says Ruth. Recently, a Canadian acquaintance paid her the supreme compliment. "She said my accent didn't sound American."

*THAT DON'T IMPRESS ME MUCH: Maybe our Mexico correspondent Howard LaFranchi has spent too much time listening to Shania Twain's hit. But Howard says he can't understand why his January stop in Real de Catorce, the central Mexico ghost town featured in today's story, didn't cause anything like the stir that the presence of Brad Pitt is causing. "When I asked at my hotel why they didn't have a telephone for me to call home to Mexico City, the doorman - the only guy around - just shrugged and pointed me towards the town's only phone at the phone-chips-and-soda store," Howard says. "But Brad Pitt comes to town, and suddenly they start adding phone lines."

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