RUSSIA . . . I'LL BUY A VOWEL

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The Academie Francaise, famous for trying to purge the French language of creeping Americanisms such as "le weekend," has now been upstaged by Russia. In the southern city of Belgorod, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported today, authorities have imposed a tax on foreign letters used in advertisements and company names. Writing with non-Russian letters will cost owners 500 times the minimum monthly salary -- about $6,230.