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Forget about the flaps over the crime bill and health-care reform. Forget about the Whitewater scandal and higher interest rates. Forget about a possible U.S. invasion of Haiti and the prospect of North Korea's developing a nuclear arsenal, too.

Instead, the most important news of the day - perhaps of the decade - is happening far from the world's major capitals and hot spots.What's more, it holds greater potential for world peace - particularly peace of mind - than anything yet attained by the usual social, political, and economic reformers.

We're referring to the technological breakthrough achieved by the Yamaha Corporation of America, which is introducing a seemingly self-contradictory new product - the silent piano.

In fact, it's not just a single instrument but a whole new Silent Series of fully acoustic upright pianos that can be played in complete silence, heard only by the performer through headphones.

What bliss for the rest of the family as 10-year-old Billy or Sally awkwardly stumbles through scales or thumps through "Chopsticks."

What a relief for apartment dwellers as the neighbor next door insists on amusing himself at the keyboard with renditions of "Melancholy Baby" or "Malaguena" well after midnight.

And what great potential for ending even more suffering if only the same technology can be extended to various other instruments of unintentional torture, starting preferably with drums and the accordion.

The price of such progress, however, doesn't come cheap. The new silent pianos retail for about $8,400 - considerably more than the price tag on a regular upright. But maybe the downstairs neighbors will chip in as an act of self-protection.