Former motion picture chief awarded Legion of Honor

Paris -- Jack Valenti, former president of the Motion Picture Association of America, has been named a commander in France's prestigious Legion of Honor.

Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres presented Valenti with the award Monday in a gilded room decorated with a crystal chandelier and French and American flags. The "commander" honor is the third of five ranks and is highly coveted.

"I am so grateful to you and to the president that I don't know how to say thank you, except to say thank you," Valenti said.

After 38 years, Valenti, 83, retired recently as head of the film association, which oversees U.S. movie ratings and lobbies for Hollywood's top seven studios in Washington.

To Russia, with love

Paris -- Madonna drew massive applause from a sold-out crowd at Paris' Bercy stadium when she dedicated a cover version of John Lennon's peace ode "Imagine" to the Russian hostage crisis.

Addressing the audience midway through her Sunday-night show, Madonna spoke briefly about the hostage-taking at a school in the southern city of Beslan that left at least 330 dead. Officials have blamed the deadly attack on Chechens and other Islamic militants.

As video images of war and children were broadcast behind her on giant screens, the 46-year-old pop diva urged fans to think about what happened in Russia and about Lennon's lyrics.

Presidential coach

Provo, Utah -- Robert Redford played videotapes of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate "over and over" to coach Democrat Jimmy Carter before his debates with President Gerald Ford.

"I was probably president because of Bob Redford," said Carter, who confided that before the debates leading to his 1976 election, he "didn't know what in the world I was going to do."

Redford told him what not to do. He arrived at Carter's house with a projector and films of the historic debate that made Richard Nixon look dour and John F. Kennedy charismatic.

Redford, winner of the best director Oscar for 1980's "Ordinary People," "played the tape over and over and gave me advice," Carter said Saturday as part of an authors' series.

Redford embraced Carter before taking the podium to praise his old friend at the actor-director's Sundance ski resort in Utah's Wasatch Mountains.


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