People: New kids on the Baltic block take over

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The Independent Online
ESTONIA, one of the youngest states in Europe, has a government to match. Its prime minister, as well as the ministers of foreign affairs, defence, economics, finance, interior and justice are all men aged between 27 and 36.

'When I read how old my minister of interior was, after he already took his post, I thought, 'Oh my God, he's only 28]' ' said Mart Laar, the Prime Minister, who is 33.

The youngest top official is Juri Luik, 27, the Foreign Minister. 'Who in this country has the experience for today's problems? No one,' said Mr Luik, who met most of his fellow ministers at Tartu University in the mid-1980s, where they were strongly influenced by the writings of the economist Milton Friedman.

Their tough market policies have won praise from Western leaders, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, but at home the government has an approval rating of just 10 per cent. 'Experience from other countries shows that populist policies only lead to economic disaster,' Mr Laar argues. 'Realism is our idealism.'

IN PEARLS and a stylish black suit, Sydney Biddle Barrows stood before 80 paying customers in the Consort Room of a Chicago hotel to reveal the tricks of the trade. Barrows, dubbed the 'Mayflower Madam' when she hit the headlines 10 years ago as the head of an elite New York call-girl ring, addressed an audience of men and women on 'How to Get a Job as an Escort'. First things first: 'There is no such thing as a legitimate escort service.'

She said she advised her employees to dress elegantly, to use aliases and never carry identification. To tell if a hotel client was an undercover cop, her escorts would look for clues, such as coffee cups from an outside establishment rather than room service. The secret to avoiding big trouble if you're caught, though, is to pad your client list with a few names of important people who have not sought your business. Prosecutors will want to protect such men, she said. 'That's why I got off.'

THE WORLD'S best-known wrapper, Christo, has suffered an artistic setback at the hands of Helmut Kohl. For 22 years, the Bulgarian-born artist has wanted to swathe the Reichstag, the old parliament building in Berlin, in silver fabric. The Chancellor's Christian Democrats and their sister Christian Social Union deputies voted 'no'. Mr Kohl said he respected Christo's work but was conscious of the building's dignity.

The artist, who has previously wrapped a Paris bridge and some tiny Florida islands, first proposed wrapping the Reichstag in 1972 and was turned down three times before the Berlin Wall, which passed behind the building, fell in 1989. West Germany argued that shrouding the building in former West Berlin could offend East Germany and the Soviet Union, which had criticised the project as 'imperialist art'.