The Russians Are Melting

You want oligarchs? We got oligarchs!

The Russians listened intently while we explained that the Chroniclereflected a segregationist position right up to the dawn of the civil rights movement in the early '60s. In fact, when a crusading editor named Bill Stevens assigned a reporter to write a groundbreaking series on racism and its social costs in Houston, the stories were killed and the editor sent packing. The series by Saul Friedman, which just might have secured the Chronicle that Pulitzer Prize it has never won, slumbers unpublished in the Texas Room of the Houston Public Library.

For their part, the visitors seemed distinctly unimpressed with the tone of the current U.S. presidential campaign. Dr. Yuriy Girenko of the Center for Political Information of Rostov-na-Donu described the Gore-Bush race as boring compared to the last Russian mudfest that led to the election of President Putin. And mention of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal brought a flurry of comments and laughter from the group, which was distilled by translator Anatoli Samochornov into a pithy line.

"If Boris Yeltsin had been proved to have done such a thing, it would have been a cause for celebration by the nation."

With sentiments like that, the Clinton State Department should keep that group on tour until the November elections.

Desperately Seeking Debra Doggy

A Heights-area Houston Press reader e-mailed the Insider last week in a state of disbelief.

"Do you live in Danburg's district? If so, perhaps you got a phone call like this: 'Hello -- this is your state representative, Debra Danburg, and I need your help to find my dog.' "

"It goes on to apologize," the e-mailer wrote, "for the fact that it is a recorded message and then describes the dog. I listened mesmerized. I am still amazed, ten hours later."

From the Museum District to the Heights, thousands of households learned via the recorded message that Luna, Danburg's young female black lab, was missing. Danburg turned to her campaign phone bank specialist, Sherwin Roden, and his WC Management for help after Luna strayed from the representative's home on Vassar Street on July 26. Roden used Texas driver's license data to program the calls.

Political consultants contacted by the Insider can recall no previous use of a phone bank by a politician to find a lost canine. Commented one: "It just shows Debra is crazy about the dog and wants her back."

Luna is described as small, lanky and sleek, with a microchip ID implanted in her shoulder. Anyone who finds her should contact Danburg at (713)520-8119 to collect a $250 reward or a $500 donation to the humane charity of choice.

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