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Integrity and the rule of law are among the "intangibles" that can make or break a government or society. Take Moscow's towering inferno. It's not being viewed by Russians as a simple electrical fire. There are reports that this disaster was caused by an inadequate fire-suppression system in a tower packed with more electronics than it was designed for. Rightly or wrongly, the fire is seen as a national symbol of corruption, negligence, and all things dysfunctional in Russia.

There's a similar public loathing of systemic corruption in Taiwan. But the voters have made it clear that the longevity of Chen Shui-bian's administration depends on the progress it makes on this front.

David Clark Scott World editor


*LIFE WITHOUT TV: The fire in the Ostankino tower knocked out television transmissions in Moscow. Reporter Fred Weir says his family, like most, is "a TV-watching family. And we're all missing the news." It's estimated that 15 million people are not getting to watch any of their favorite programs. Many residents are rummaging in their closets for radios. One local newspaper quoted a psychologist who worried that the TV famine might undermine people's mental health. "I don't believe it," says Fred, "but it does shake people's confidence in civilization, when all they see on their TV sets is static."

Fred's Russian mother-in-law is hooked on an Argentine soap opera. After one day, her mental health is fine but her confidence in Russian television execs is wavering. She told Fred that she hopes that they have the presence of mind to repeat all the episodes that she's missing.

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