Today's Story Line:

China's taking its crackdown on the Falun Gong religious sect to another level. Four of the group's leaders will be tried under a new, stricter law.

Argentina's leadership change means a change in its US relationship.

Talks begin today in Oslo, Norway, between Palestinian and Israeli leaders, but another side of the Mideast peace equation is getting little attention: Syria.

- David Clark Scott World editor


*SCRUBBED MISSION: Monitor Tokyo correspondent Nicole Gaouette went to personally investigate Japan's newest hygiene craze: the human washing machine. On her rain-soaked commute to the company's office in the posh Ginza area, she wondered what are people doing when they step inside this device? And more important, do they tumble dry? Curious reporters, she was told, can try the 18-minute experience without a reservation. But at Avant's office she was told her wash would have to be, well, scrubbed. Curious, pregnant reporters can't try the machine - it hasn't been "safety tested" yet. Discouraged, Nicole says, "having already endured one nature-made shower, I wrung out my socks and settled for interviewing a woman going through her first-ever wash cycle."

*FRUGALITY CALLS: Two days into his stay in Buenos Aires, the Monitor's Howard LaFranchi checked his hotel phone bill. Calls to Chile (his next stop) and Mexico (home) and the US (pesky editors), were running $13 to $15 per minute. But across the street was a phone office, a ubiquitous feature in the city. "They assign you a booth, inside is a chair, a counter, and a meter to tell you how much each call costs," says Howard. Long distance calls: 85 cents per minute. Local calls: 20 cents. Howard set up office in a booth. "Without privatization of the telecommunications industry, by outgoing President Carlos Menem, this option would not have been open to me - or any Buenos Aires residents," says Howard.


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