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. It's too bad that no one is paying attention, because a lot has happened here since the prime minister's assassination. Buoyed by a rare opportunity to hit back hard at normally untouchable elements, allies of the slain leader have moved quickly under a state of...

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. Floyd Flake has been blurring party lines for some time now, not just warming up Republican crowds, but actually endorsing the candidacies of Republican New Yorkers Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, and Alfonse D'Amato. The fact that his occasional defections seem so strange underscores one of his favorite themes: that Democrats should not take blacks for granted. And maybe they shouldn't: Blacks were Lincoln Republicans, even Eisenhower Republicans, before becoming a near-monolithic, 90-percent-plus Democratic voting bloc in the civil rights era. To Flake and his sympathizers, his...

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. It is the first time a first lady--and, more importantly, a sitting first lady--has sought political office. There may never have been a political matchup in which the contestants were as well known as this duo. Solid, 100 percent name recognition. The candidates will likely spend record sums: Each raised $8 million last year, a New York Senate first for a pre-election year; Hillary's goal is $25 million. It's the first time in 42 years a New York Senate seat has been vacant. If Hillary wins, she'll be the first female senator from New York. And should Rudy best her, he will be positioned to be the first New York mayor who...

Stealth TV

A t 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. The hip-hop music starts. Heads bounce to the beat. Cut to two young, fashionably dressed anchorwomen, one white and one black. First up in the news is a tough sell to almost any viewership: the census. Point: Without an accurate count, schools can't get their rightful aid. The census form flashes on the screen. "Hey, I got that...