Russ Baker

New York-based Russ Baker is an award-winning journalist who covers politics and media.

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BELGRADE, SERBIA-MONTENEGRO -- For a journalist, Iraq is ostensibly the only place to be these days. But the reality is that it's quite easy to get a good picture of the situation there from a distance, by reading and by channel surfing. The same can't be said of Serbia. Not long ago this country was the focus of the world's attention; now it is a place where it seems that just about anything can happen -- and, no matter how dramatic, receive scant attention in the world at large.

I was here several weeks ago when the reformist prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, was assassinated, and I covered it for media around the world. But the war with Iraq began shortly thereafter, and soon the former Yugoslavia was a locale non grata.

The Ecumenist

On October 6, the crowd at the Manhattan Institute--a mostly white, clubby, conservative think tank--enjoyed one of those delicious pinch-me moments: hearing a speaker improbably introduce George W. Bush as "my homeboy." But if the moniker seemed mismatched, even odder was the bestower, an urban African-American minister and lifelong Democrat, the Reverend Floyd Flake.

Only In New York

Clash of the Titans won't be playing in New York voting booths for another eight months, and already many of us are tired of hearing about it. Yet the battle for U.S. Senate between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani offers so many firsts--and some real if subtle ideological disagreement--that it is required viewing for anyone who cares about government.

Stealth TV

At Clifton High School, a mostly white, working-class institution in suburban New Jersey, it's time for second period--and for Channel One, a public-affairs TV broadcast available exclusively for school viewing. Mounted high in a corner of every classroom--as omnipresent an icon as the American flag--is a large-screen television set, provided by Channel One. The face on the screen is that of school principal William Cannici. Speaking into a microphone, he tries a few jokes, then announces student vocational-award winners. In Mrs. Rossi's Spanish class, restless students begin talking among themselves. Suddenly, the teacher shushes her charges: It's show time.