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People: Dan in a huff over TV puffs

THE VETERAN American newscaster Dan Rather has lambasted his profession for what he calls 'the Hollywoodisation of news', in which foreign reports and in-depth analysis are replaced by mayhem, gossip and puff.

This trivialisation of a noble profession was prompted by paranoid fear in television newsrooms of sliding ratings, he said, and he urged news editors to heed their news instinct and stop letting market researchers dictate decisions.

'We pay them to fool us,' he told a convention of news broadcasters. But he is confident the rot can be stopped. 'What has happened to us doesn't have to continue,' he said. 'Just a few good men and women can make a decisive difference.'

A man who felt the full blast of the Hollywoodisation of news, the disgraced former Brazilian president Fernando Collor de Mello, is nostalgic for the good old days of mayhem, gossip and puff. Alone, unemployed and ignored by the press, Mr Collor, who was impeached a year ago for corruption, is dreaming of a political comeback.

'I feel at peace with Brazil. I am waiting for the storm to pass and proving my innocence,' he said in a rare radio interview.

He whiles away his time in the library of his mansion, the Casa da Dinda, living modestly, he claims, though he and his wife, Rosane, are attended by more than 20 servants. What's more, he is feeling the pinch financially.

'I have only dollars 1.5m ( pounds 1m) left from the dollars 5m I borrowed in Uruguay, and I am going through it,' he confessed.

Someone who has come back to the political scene after involuntary absence is the Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng. Recently freed from 14 years' imprisonment, he has bounced right back into the cause of championing Chinese democracy.

'All along I never changed,' he says. He is still addicted to tea and cigarettes, and dismisses as 'nonsense' the authorities' claim that economic development must come before democratic reform.

Democracy is the pillar of society, he argues. 'Without a tree-trunk, how can you still have leaves flourishing at the top? It's impossible.'