FLAT EARTH

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The Independent Online
Making the best of it

"The travel agencies have been preparing for a long time for this kind of opportunity," the Society of Indonesian Professional Con- vention Organisers proclaimed last week. What opportunity? The Indonesian general election, it turns out.

The trouble is that Indonesia's rioters, petrol-bomb throwers and ethnic militants are also looking forward to the general election in June as a great opportunity to practise their craft. But who knows? If you are the kind of tourist who finds Kosovo or Rwanda too tame, this might appeal to you. The price is also not for the faint-hearted: $200 (pounds 125) a day.

Cooking the books

There is slaughter of genocidal proportions in the US, or at least in certain industrial sectors. If you missed this revelation, you clearly have not read Human Rights Record in the United States, published by those well-known upholders of civil liberties, the Chinese government.

To coincide with Madeleine Albright's visit last week, during which the US Secretary of State was expected to voice the familiar criticisms of China's human rights record, Peking decided to get in first. Among the horrors they cite is the following: "Statistics indicate that between 1991 and June 1996... one out of every 10 people in the US working in the catering trade was murdered every week." Maybe this has something to do with the fashion for celebrity chefs.

Chiang change

Already fading from relevance, the late Chinese "generalissimo", Chiang Kai-shek, is about to suffer a fresh loss of face. His smiling image is disappearing from most Taiwanese banknotes.

As part of a revamp of Taiwan's currency, Chiang's grandfatherly visage will vanish from what now are the island's biggest banknotes, the T$1,000 (nearly pounds 20) and T$500. From July next year the T$500 will bear an image of Taiwan's Little League baseball players and the T$1,000 will show junior school pupils. Chiang will still have a presence, but only on the miserly T$200 note.

Losing grandma

The Greeks were already looking pretty stupid after the capture of the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, when he was supposed to be under their protection in Nairobi. Now that the codenames used by their agents have got out, they look even sillier.

"We've lost Grandma," they told "Big Singer", the rotund foreign minister, Theodoros Pangalos, who will have to indulge his taste for karaoke in his own time after being sacked for his part in the affair. Sadly the "football team" in Nairobi was unable to carry out its orders to "get Grandma out" and "give Grandma medicine" - that is, protect him.

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