FLAT EARTH

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The Independent Online
Liberal views return to Amazing Grace

THE Republican presidential candidates in the United States and their friends in Congress don't know it yet, but much of the country does. The liberal counter-revolution, the progressive renaissance, is under way. The latest indication is the return of the liberal book. Declared dead two years ago, it is showing itself to be the Comeback Kid of the American publishing industry.

Newt Gingrich's To Renew America is on the half-price tables at bookshops. Other right-wing tomes, including Al D'Amato's Power, Pasta and Politics, Pat Robertson's The End of the Age, Ben Wattenberg's Values Matter Most and Lynne Cheney's Telling the Truth are falling below their publishers' expectations. They were all commissioned after the Republicans' 1994 election sweep, when best-sellers were cranked out by Dan (Mr Potatoe Head) Quayle and the commentator Rush (Dittohead) Limbaugh, and before the country decided it had had enough of Republican hypocrisy and attacks on social benefits.

''These guys have shown their colours,'' says the comedian and writer Al Frenken, ''and they're in retreat now.'' Meanwhile, Bill Bradley's Time Present, Time Past and Jonathan Kozol's case for more social spending, Amazing Grace, are climbing the non-fiction lists.

Franken's own book - a humorous commentary on political rhetoric - is about to overtake It Takes a Village, the policy-wonking book on raising children written by Limbaugh's ''feminazi'' nemesis, Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the New York Times best-seller list. It's delightful title? Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot.

Bushwhacked

WHILE Russian politicians argue over the impact on their country of Western economic ideas and culture, ''Bush legs'' have trampled the agriculture sector. Frozen US chicken imports have overrun domestic poultry producers, according to the acting Agriculture Minister, Alexander Zaveryukha, ''because they're three times cheaper than our own chickens''.

Russians named the chicken parts after George Bush, whose administration first shipped legs, wings and breasts to Russia after fears of a food shortage arose in the initial years of post-Cold War economic reforms. Chickens in Russia tend to be scrawny, the birds perhaps having died of starvation. Some are referred to as ''bluebirds''. They appear, to the trained eye, to have died of the cold.

Glittering jewel

PICTURE the scene: The winter of 1994, and utter despair in the Gaza strip. A humiliating and violent Israeli military presence, a daily battle, in towns and refugee camps, against poverty and violence. Along a beach, barbed wire stretches; beyond it, the waves of the Mediterranean roll, birds soar and dive in gentle mockery of warplanes, and palm trees undulate. Amid it all, dignified Palestinians persevere.

Such is the backdrop for Tale of the Three Jewels, the first feature film to be shot entirely in Gaza. Shown in London on Thursday night, the Palestinian director Michel Khleifi's film is a glimmering parable about the meaning of life, about beauty and freedom, and about the ''three borders'' that govern our destiny: time, space and flesh.

Omar al-Qattan, the film's producer, says the shooting was a continuous struggle against a cycle of killings, curfews, strikes and shootings. The Israelis forbade the filming in Gaza of any scenes involving weapons or hooded men.

''So we waited till the last week of shooting,'' he said, then asked the Israelis for a fax clarifying their rules. ''The Israelis said they don't send faxes. So, since they didn't send us a fax ...''

The scenes were filmed in Gaza anyway but the filmmakers' troubles continue. Although it glitters like the three jewels of its title, the production - by Sindibad Films of London - has yet to find a British distributor.

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