They don't seem to want us

In Laos, which doesn't often make news anymore, a ceremony has been scheduled for Jan. 5 to unveil a new statue of 14th-century King Fa Ngum, the landlocked country's first ruler, and proclaim his birthday a national holiday. So what, you ask? Well, the move is significant because of its surprise value. The last king was overthrown in 1975 by communist Pathet Lao cadres, who then undertook an all-out effort to expunge the monarchy from memory. But why now? Said one well-placed (but otherwise unidentified) diplomatic source: "After almost three decades of the revolution, people still don't see the benefit of it."

It's making our job easy

For almost seven months, police in Selishten Dol, a small Bulgarian town favored by affluent retirees and folks with vacation homes, haven't had to respond to a single report of a break-in or burglary. That's remarkable, considering that those previously had been frequent. Why the change? It seems to be related to the arrival in town of a new pet purchased by a retired Army general: a young, growing Siberian tiger with a big appetite.

Film group chooses top screen offerings for 2002

A few aren't yet in wide release, but the American Film Institute has named its picks for the best movies of the year. Selections are made by a 13-member panel of trustees, industry professionals, critics, and historians. AFI's top 10 (in alphabetical order), and their directors:

"About a Boy," Chris and Paul Weitz
"About Schmidt," Alexander Payne
"Adaptation," Spike Jonze
"Antwone Fisher," Denzel Washington
"Chicago," Rob Marshall
"Frida," Julie Taymor
"Gangs of New York," Martin Scorsese
"The Hours," Stephen Daldry
"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," Peter Jackson
"The Quiet American," Phillip Noyce - Associated Press

Today's quote

'The absence of supporting evidence is what we are talking about, mainly. That continues.'

- UN arms inspection chief Hans Blix, asked to characterize Iraq's required report on its weapons arsenal.

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