Flat Earth: Porn on wheels

IT TAKES an affluent community like Malibu, the ritzy beach resort on the fringes of Los Angeles, to enjoy the benefits of a community service all too rare in southern California - a mobile library. But being Malibu, over-coddled home to every type of misguided idea about progressive behaviour, the library is not exactly working as most would imagine.

Parked outside an elementary school on the coast at Point Dume, it has been handing out adult-rated videos to 10-year-olds, most recently Private Parts, radio shockjock Howard Stern's paean to his own sex life. The rationale? Children have rights of free expression under the First Amendment just like anyone else, and a library card is a library card.

Following complaints, however, the library has been forced to find a new location. This in turn has caused protests - from the senior citizens who live near Point Dume and who have come to rely on the library. Pensioners in defence of porn?

Smell of gas

THE STORY of the mysterious cargo of the El Al plane that crashed in Amsterdam six years ago caused international waves in recent weeks - in some parts of the world, at least. The implications certainly seemed startling - as reported by Katherine Butler on this page.

If the British intelligence services were linked to the possible production of lethal nerve gas, one assumes that the British papers would carry the story prominently.

In Israel, however, the story was discreetly eased off the front page - can't think why. Israel's best-selling daily, Yediot Ahronoth, was typical. Ignoring sarin gas, it carried as its lead story something far more dramatic... news about taxation on interest-bearing savings accounts.

Starr gazing

THE STARR report on the Monica Lewinsky drama has found excited readers in many parts of the world. In Egypt, for example, it has gone on sale as the Red Nights at the White House, with a tasteful picture of Monica in blue lingerie, standing in front of the Prez.

The book has been selling well - not that that has anything to do with prurience. Far from it. According to journalist Nabli Abaza: "This book is considered a documentary and historic book and all the readers in the world have the right to read it." So that's all right, then.

Cabbies gagged

WHAT A gutsy government the Malaysians have. First, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad locked up his former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, after he had dared to call for reform. Now airport taxi drivers have been told to avoid any discussion of the matter, because - in the eloquent phrase of the deputy transport minister, Mohamed Ali - taxi drivers are "diplomats to tourists".

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