Reporters on the Job

• SAUDI PROPOSAL MOMENTUM: On Sunday, the day we prepare the Monday edition, the Monitor's Cameron Barr filed his first story on the Saudi peace initiative. Faced with a half-dozen sources who had nothing good to say about the idea's prospects, he concluded it was "going nowhere fast." Trouble was, behind the scenes, it was starting to go somewhere, and not slowly. One diplomatic source called Cameron on Tuesday to amend his weekend comments and indicate that the initiative was gaining momentum. Hence today's story (page 1), in collaboration with the Monitor's diplomatic correspondent, Howard Lafranchi. "Now that we've written this piece," Cameron says, "I just hope it isn't starting to fizzle."

• FALLING TOKYO PRICES: The Monitor's Ilene Prusher says that when she decided to accept a posting in Japan, people tended to react with one singular response: "But it's so expensive!" They were right. "After living in Israel, where fruit and vegetables were so ripe and reasonable they seemed almost free, I was suddenly shelling out $3 for two mealy little tomatoes that never seemed to ripen," she says. "Now, with the deflation and the decline of the yen against the dollar, things are seeming more and more reasonable. The sushi lunch specials, which were 1,000 yen (about $9) when I arrived here over a year and-a-half ago, are now $7.50. Discount clothing stores and 100-yen shops are now as popular as Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Dinner out is usually no more expensive than an equivalent restaurant in New York or Los Angeles." But for Japanese paid in yen, it's more expensive to travel abroad. The yen now stands about 134 to the dollar, and some economists say it may go as high as 150.

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot

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