FLAT EARTH

We're the nice fascists!

A map of Europe in Time magazine illustrating hot spots where Nato troops might be deployed in future has caused grave offence in the east German city of Magdeburg. Residents had been aware of the notoriety of their racist thugs, and there was one startlingly strong showing for the neo- Nazis in local elections last year. Nevertheless, they felt lumbering Magdeburg in the same category as Sarajevo and Grozny was going a bit over the top.

At the invitation of the mayor, a senior Time editor paid a second visit, only to be fed alive to the reptiles of the local press. Still, he did manage to clear up the misunderstanding. The original package had mentioned the city's "liberated zones" - areas the neo-Nazis claim to have cleansed of foreign influence. Alas, this was translated into German as the equivalent of "liberal zones". Now there's an insult!

Doomed and quaking

A group in New Zealand is being trained in the use of assault rifles, grenades, shotguns and missile launchers. No, they are not attempting to emulate those crazy gun-toters deep in the American backwoods. The military hardware is of the virtual kind.

Those in training are the censors who, in their fight against violence and sex in computer games, are expected to be adept in the use of the weaponry featured in many of the games.

The censors, however, just don't have the expertise it takes. Working under legislation requiring the content of a game to be viewed in order for it to be classified, the head censor said his staff spent hours trying to conquer each game and looking into every virtual option. "It is impossible to apply the law to this medium. If I bought a computer game and I could play the whole thing in, say, three, four or five hours - I would be ripped off."

The solution to this problem? Cheating, of course. The censors are forcing games importers to supply "cheat sheets" so that the censors can reach the end of the game.

Money girl

Stockbrokers do it, computer nerds do it, and pop stars are latching on to the craze which has been sweeping the US.

The Nasdaq Stock Market and the New York Stock Exchange have been forced to review their trading hours because of the amount of trading done by armchair investors, after hours, over the internet.

Barbra Streisand is one of the most illustrious of the burgeoning army of private investors who buy and sell shares on a regular basis, aided by cheap broking services and the improvement in superhighway access.

Ms Streisand made $130,000 - about pounds 81,000 - from shares in the internet auction house eBay in a single month last autumn. More recently she has come to the aid of her cash-strapped friend, designer Donna Karan.

A stellar $1m was invested by Streisand on the DKNY founder's behalf and she doubled the money in just five months.

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