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Yasser? No, sir

LAST WEEK, Benjamin Netanyahu was demonstrating the power Israeli prime ministers have over American public opinion - a power enhanced, in his case, by his public relations skills.

I have always thought that one of Netanyahu's most successful ploys is the way he manages to convey to Americans that Israelis, like themselves, are a society of idealistic achievers: in short, winners. The Palestinians, by implication, are a collection of losers. I wondered if their leader, Yasser Arafat, had this in mind when he said the other day, "we are not just a bunch of refugees begging for pity and charity".

If he did, though, he ought to look to his own image. The sight of the increasingly frail and often unshaven Arafat in military uniform does not bespeak a man in touch with reality.

Publish and damn

MORE cases of corruption will be made public this year by the Chinese press. How do I know? A press release from the Chinese embassy in London tells me so.

It sounds very laudable. That outstanding liberal Li Peng, former prime minister and now head of the National People's Congress, has urged the press to "criticise government mistakes and shortcomings more, and to expose corruption". The courts have been told not to keep the press out, and a special committee is being set up for the protection of journalists. I can't help suspecting, though, that in an imperfect democracy such as China these aims may get distorted.

Imagine the scene: People's Daily reporter Wang is summoned by his carpet- chewing editor to be told: "You have fallen short of your quota of corruption stories!" "Give me a break, boss," pleads Wang. "Every time I try to expose officials they threaten me with the labour camps." "I don't care!" roars the editor. "Make it up if you have to! How do you think we got all those stories about hero workers?"

One could turn it into a movie script - though the Film Bureau would never pass it.

RAW deal

IT IS not merely common decency to avoid giving your child initials such as RAT or PIG: it may help him to live longer.

Yes, this is the latest discovery of that indefatigable breed, the American researcher. A team who worked through 27 years' worth of California death certificates discovered that people with initials such as ACE, GOD or WOW are likely to live longer, and less likely to commit suicide or die in an accident, than those whose names spell out words like APE, DED or UGH.

The study concentrated on men, since their initials don't usually change on marriage, and found people with favourable monograms such as WIN or VIP lived 4.48 years longer, while DUDs, ASSes and the like died 2.8 years earlier, than those with neutral initials.

"You get teased at school, you wonder what your parents thought of you - at every stage it's a little tiny depressant to be called PIG, or a little tiny boost to your esteem to be called ACE or WOW," said the psychologist leading the research, Nicholas Christenfeld. "All we can do is look at the final outcome."