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As long as one person in Russia has a finger on the nuclear trigger, we need to do some old-style Kremlinology . Who will succeed President Boris Yeltsin next year? On the street, many Russians admire the "can-do" Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov (pronounced LOOZH-koff). Quote of note: "It doesn't matter to me if he's in the mafia. I think he's better than the other candidates." - Moscow resident Oleg Klodt.

Taking a cue from France's attempt to block Hollywood's blockbusters, Mexico is protecting its cinema by law (this page). But as more American films are made in "Baja Hollywood" and other foreign locales, is Hollywood really American anymore?

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Old Mideast hands love to reminisce about Beirut's former charm and that of other Arab cities. Some cities are trying to revive the old along with the new.

-Clayton Jones World editor


AN AMERICAN IN BEIRUT: You might think that as the longest-tenured (10 years) American journalist in Beirut, Monitor contributor Edward Alan Yeranian, who writes today's story on the changing look of Arab cities, might stick out in a crowd. Not so, says he, thanks to his Armenian heritage. His name, for one, blends right in, and his darker complexion makes him look Lebanese. It doesn't hurt either that he's fluent in Arabic and French. Once, in fact, arriving at the Beirut airport from Cyprus, he was given quite a hassle because he was taken for a local.

On the other hand, sometimes it pays for Edward to display his American side. When he calls Lebanese officials, he uses English - with his American accent - since they're eager to talk with foreign journalists. In one case, Lebanon's then-Prime Minister Selim Hoss went quite the extra distance to grant him an interview. Dr. Hoss had sat down in the midst of fighting (in 1989) for a television interview, but when the 20-minute spot was over, Edward realized the camera had the wrong lens on, making the picture unusable. No problem, said Hoss, unfazed: He sat down for another 20-minute interview.


WE AREN'T THE WORLD: While Mexico was passing a law in favor of Mexican films, the Israeli parliament last month passed a law requiring that at least half the songs on Israel Radio and Israel Army Radio have Hebrew lyrics. As if echoing Mexico's concerns about cultural invasion, an Israeli legislator said the law aimed to "conserve the original Israeli culture and to protect it from the trend of Americanization." An Arab legislator, Abdel Wahab Dawarshe, proposed that half the songs be Israeli - not exclusively Hebrew. This would allow Arab songs to be broadcast as well, he said.

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