Today's Story Line

Venezuela's oil minister gets credit for the threefold rise in oil prices during the past 10 months.

It's difficult to persuade Albanians and Serbs to work together in Kosovo.

The mayor of Nago, a small town in northern Okinawa, approved construction of a US base in his city.

China metes out punishment to Falun Gong leaders.

Faye Bowers, Deputy world editor


*Trying sources: The Monitor's Beijing correspondent, Kevin Platt, finds that many Falun Gong members are so spooked by the intensity of the government crackdown that few are willing to talk to foreign reporters.

Kevin found one willing person in Beijing, who described himself as a former Falun Gong practitioner. At dinner with Kevin, he glanced around the room continuously, apparently fearing the presence of secret police.

And Kevin phoned a family member of one of the defendants tried this weekend. The person wanted to know how Kevin got the number and hung up as soon as Kevin identified himself as a foreign reporter.

*Being a reporter in a foreign land is easier than you might think - when all goes according to plan. Japan's foreign ministry is usually fastidious about translating official statements and faxing them to foreign reporters. But yesterday the ministry told the Monitor's Cameron Barr that "technical difficulties" meant that English versions of official comments on Okinawa wouldn't be available. "Oh sure," quipped one of Cameron's colleagues in Tokyo. "The one time when you want to know what [Prime Minister Keizo] Obuchi says." Fortunately, the Monitor's Tokyo researcher, Yasue Aoi, and a friendly Japanese diplomat made sure our reporter learned what Obuchi and other officials said.


A hot-air balloon floats near the Victoria Memorial in the Indian city of Calcutta. The tourism department is offering rides as part of New Year's celebrations. The Victoria Memorial is a prominent landmark built during British colonial rule.

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