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Saddam Hussein is rattling the oil markets and there's a dj vu quality to today's stories (page 1). Not since 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait has it cost this much to buy a barrel of petroleum. The Iraqi leader is again threatening Kuwait and he's well-positioned to influence the direction of oil prices. Finance ministers from the Group of Seven industrial nations will meet in Prague Saturday, just ahead of the International Monetary Fund meeting with a new priority: develop a strategy for getting oil prices back under control.

REPORTERS ON THE JOB

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RALPH NADER, WHO'S THAT?: Upon taking up her new assignment in Tokyo, the Monitor's Ilene Prusher got a taste of the less-than consumer-oriented approach of Japanese business. She found that to switch the cellphone used by her predecessor to her credit card would require special documentation from the US Embassy. Not wanting to bother Ambassador Thomas Foley and his staff, Ilene opted to get a new cellphone. How hard could that be?

She went to a downtown Tokyo cellphone store and took a number. After 20 minutes her number came up. "I sat down at the representative's desk and spent three hours in a horribly smoky NTT DoCoMo shop," she says. After choosing between several dozen models and a dozen different calling plans, she spent about hour and a half filling out forms. "I don't know if it's the telephone company or the government that requires this arduous process but it's certainly not designed to make it easy to get a cellphone," notes Ilene.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society