CUBA IN FLUX: The Cuban exile leader Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo told Fidel Castro last week that he would like to take his Miami organization, Cambio Cubano, to Cuba as an opposition political party.
In doing that, experts in Cuban affairs say, Gutierrez Menoyo was asking for something that goes against what the Cuban government has always considered key to its survival _ unity. Still, Gutierrez Menoyo, who was a guerrilla commander in the revolution before turning against Castro, insisted that his 10-day visit to Cuba, and a private audience with Castro, implied hope for a more open political system.
Many in the exile community were skeptical; some called Gutierrez Menoyo quixotic and others, determined to bring down Castro by sanctions or force, labeled him a traitor.
Senior Clinton administration officials, on the other hand, saw a positive sign. President Clinton reaffirmed his support for the American trade embargo against Cuba, but said the United States would respond "with our own calibrated response" to real political and economic reform.
JAILED DISSIDENTS: For Americans, Harry Wu may very well be the Scarlet Pimpernel of China. The Chinese-born human rights activist spent 19 years in Chinese prison labor camps, then moved to the United States and transformed himself into an undercover human-rights investigator who penetrated Chinese labor camps.
He was detained by Chinese border authorities nearly two weeks ago as he crossed into China from Kazakhstan (with a legal U.S. passport and current visa), and has been held without access to American consular officials.
In addition, Chen Ziming, a dissident whose release from prison last year was personally requested by President Clinton, was jailed again last week. Branded as one of the "black hands of Beijing" for his role in the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989, he had spent five years in prison before his release for medical treatment.
Although the detention of the two men seems to be motivated primarily by China's preoccupation with internal security, it signals that the United States will continue to pay for its decision to allow President Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan to make a private visit to the United States last month.
The U.S. side has insisted that it wants to embrace Beijing. But Clinton's decision last week to lift a ban imposed last year on fish and wildlife imports from Taiwan is bound to be read in China as just another punishment.
SCHOOL DRUG TESTING: The Supreme Court's ruling last week that schools can conduct random drug tests on student athletes left many schools
wondering where to get the money for testing, what kind of drugs to look for _ and why athletes should be the ones to look at.
School officials acknowledge that the Supreme Court had good reasons for making a legal distinction between athletes, who volunteer for a team, and other students. They agree that athletes serve as role models and may have special safety needs. But as a practical matter, they said, it would probably make more sense to test students not involved in sports.
"Most of our statistics indicate that there probably would be a lesser percentage of people participating in extracurricular activities who were involved in recreational use of drugs," said Ralph Swearngin, associate director of the Georgia High School Association.
Many coaches say their athletes are far more likely to use steroids than street drugs. But while a marijuana test costs $20 or less, a steroid test runs $70 and up. Even some school officials who support testing say that, without enormous parental pressure, they would never choose to spend their tight budgets on urine tests.
THE RIGHT STUFF: It was the antithesis of Apollo 13. Despite real danger and high stakes, the coupling in orbit of an American space shuttle and a Russian space station came off without a hitch last week.
The union of more than 200 tons of metal hurtling about the earth at nearly 5 miles a second was so flawless that even old space hands were amazed. They predicted that the feat would give new momentum to the joint ambitions of the Russian and U.S. space programs.
The failed mission of the Apollo 13 moon probe in 1970 was high drama, so much so that it is now a pulse-quickening movie. By contrast, the 10 astronauts aboard the space shuttle Atlantis and the Mir space station quickly settled into a pedestrian routine of biomedical research and cargo transfers.
A ground controller was seen yawning at his console.
A TERRORIST'S CREED: "Take us for example, if we had never done anything violent and had submitted the present writings to a publisher, they probably would not have been accepted. If they had been accepted and published, they probably would not have attracted many readers. Even if these writings had had many readers, most of those readers would soon have forgotten.
"In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we've had to kill people."
_ Excerpt from a manifesto sent to the New York Times last week by a bomber in the Unabom case.
_ The New York Times