REPORTERS ON THE JOB...

BEST OF THE REST ...

Tis crude, bubbling crude: Yesterday's Moscow Times reported that Russia - in addition to being the major source of natural gas to Germany - is becoming its main supplier of crude oil as well.

"Russia's share of German crude imports should grow to 31.6 percent in 2001, up from 28.7 percent in 2000 and 26.5 percent in 1999, the Association of the German Petroleum Industry said in a new report posted on its website, www.mwv.de," the paper says.

"In the 1970s, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries delivered 90 percent of the total amount of crude consumed by the Federal Republic of Germany. But OPEC's mood swings and constant pursuit of higher prices - coupled with never-ending hostilities in the Middle East - have forced Europeans, led by Germany, to rethink their attitudes.

"Last October, Russia cut a deal with the European Union to double oil and gas exports within the next 20 years," the article goes on to say.

RUNNING ON EMPTY: A taxi Rena Singer hired in Gusau, Nigeria, broke down in the middle of nowhere because of bad fuel the driver had purchased on the black market. Rena had arranged to meet him in the afternoon, thinking that he could wait in the petrol line in the morning and fill up. "But the station had run out of gas, and the driver bought fuel instead on the street corner," Rena says. Big mistake. "We made it about one hour until the car, which appeared to be a 1970 station wagon, shuddered, gasped, and then gave up completely. After waiting by the side of the road for about an hour, a man I had metearlier in the day drove by, picked me up, and brought me to the nearest town, where I hired yet another taxi to drive me another 1.5 hours to Kano."

MOST IMPROVED IMAGE: Ariel Sharon's hard-line past and bullying style once made him a political write-off - so much so that members of his own party called him a "toothless lion." But his promise to deliver a tougher government appealed hugely to voters last month.

Nicole Gaouette spoke to one woman who was appalled when Mr. Sharon was made defense minister in the 1980s.

"My husband and I told each other that if he was ever made prime minister, we'd leave the country," she said. "Now we think he won't be so bad."

Even though they didn't vote for Sharon and have a son about to enter the army, this woman and her husband say the situation in Israel has changed, and so, too, has Sharon. Now, they say, the country needs him.

Let us hear from you.

Mail to: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 via e-mail: world@csmonitor.com

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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