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Since the return of democracy across Eastern Europe 10 years ago this month, many people have yearned for a return to the relative simplicity of life in the communist era. In the Czech Republic, at least, they're about to get their wish. No, radicals haven't seized the government again. But public TV will reprise old Soviet-era programming such as "Festival of Political Songs" and the drama "He Who Searches, Finds," a riveting exploration of "abuses blocking the development of socialist economy" in a washing-machine factory.

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In these recessionary times, many Japanese are no longer assured of job security. But Jun Sato seems to have found one line of work with little or no competition. Carefully dressed in protective gear, he walks Tokyo's Ginza district and - for $10 - absorbs three minutes' worth of pummeling from customers wanting to work off tension. "It is," he explained, "good business."

Census Bureau releases new report on poverty in the US

Officially, 13.7 percent of Americans - and 20.5 percent of children - lived in poverty in 1996, the Census Bureau reported this week. In Mississippi, the state with the highest poverty rates, 20.8 percent lived below the poverty line, which in 1996 was $16,036 a year for a family of four. Mississippi edged out West Virginia, which had the lowest median income but second-lowest poverty rates. The District of Columbia had a higher rate of poverty than any state - with 21.1 percent of all residents and 35.6 percent of children living in poverty - but it's an urban area, more comparable to cities than states. The 10 states with the lowest median income in 1996:

West Virginia $25,822

Mississippi 26,925

New Mexico 27,303

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Arkansas 27,392

Oklahoma 27,662

Montana 28,707

Louisiana 28,742

Alabama 29,518

South Dakota 29,846

Kentucky 30,418

- Associated Press

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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