- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2002

Berlusconi names new broadcast board
ROME The government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has named a new board of directors of public broadcaster RAI, a move that critics said would give him almost total control of the country's media.
The decision ended weeks of squabbling that raised major questions about media freedom in Italy.
Antonio Baldassarre, a former chairman of the Constitutional Court, will lead the new five-member board that the center-right government chose Friday. It features prominent intellectuals considered to the right of center.
Critics of Mr. Berlusconi long have cited the relationship between his media empire and his political position. He already owns three television channels that provide the only real opposition to the public broadcaster, as well as insurance and advertising concerns.

Scientology ban sought in Paris
PARIS A French prosecutor asked a court Friday to consider shutting down the Church of Scientology in the Greater Paris area, saying it engaged in "mental manipulation."
"This is about protecting potential victims," prosecutor Christine Forey told the court in Paris.
Ms. Forey charged the church, whose U.S. branch counts Hollywood stars, including Tom Cruise, among its members, with attempted fraud, untruthful advertising and violation of people's rights by holding computer files on them.
The case is the first time the church has been taken to court in France. The French National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, considers it a sect rather than a religion.
Former members of the church, who complain they were harassed after leaving in 1999, brought the case.

Space-flight deal for pop star denied
MOSCOW Teen idol Lance Bass, a singer with U.S. boy band 'NSync, will not become the world's first pop star in space, Russia's space agency said Thursday.
Mr. Bass' agents and commercial space exploration company Mircorp earlier had expressed optimism the 22-year-old pop star would sign a $25 million deal for a seat on a Soyuz space taxi due to fly to the International Space Station in October.
But Rosaviakosmos spokesman Sergei Gorbunov said the Russian agency had begun no such talks on the subject.
Dutch-based Mircorp was behind initial preparations to send up the world's first space tourist, U.S. millionaire Dennis Tito, but the U.S. company Space Adventures brokered the final and successful deal.

Weekly notes
Hungry snowmobile riders in northern Sweden now can eat hamburgers without getting off their machines. The first McDonald's drive-through for snowmobiles opened yesterday in the town of Pitea, about 80 miles south of the Arctic Circle. … About 800 guards of the Danish cavalry have been placed on special leave after 100 of them were struck by a bout of severe diarrhea . The soldiers from the Antvorskov barracks at Slagelse will not be back on the job until Tuesday, the military said.

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