Flat Earth

King Jigme enters the TV age

"Ours will be a public service television channel that will complement the radio, the print media and the Internet by providing information, education and entertainment and by being a catalyst in the task of nation- building," says the Bhutan Broadcasting Service about the launch of a television channel in the national language, Dzongkha, and English.

Lofty ideals indeed for a nation with an absolute monarchy, one newspaper, only 20,000 radios and fewer than 200 televisions (the population is only 700,000 or so). There are fewer than 4,000 telephones in domestic use and virtually no computers.

The autocratic monarch of this isolated Himalayan kingdom is renowned for wanting to keep it that way. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck - despite being educated in the West - has gone to great lengths to preserve the culture and purity of the land and its people. In the 27 years of his reign he has decreed that traditional Bhutanese costume, the Gho for men and the Kira for women, is compulsory. Those who wear anything else face a pounds 2 fine, which amounts to three days' wages.

With the arrival of this new "catalyst in the task of nation-building", perhaps he will go on to allow his subjects to wear what they please. Maybe even jeans, which are considered to be the height of decadence and are banned.

Another bad week for Lenin

Last week we told you about a statue of Lenin outside a restaurant in Las Vegas which was decapitated to keep the patrons happy. Someone went further in the town of Berezovsky in the Ural Mountains: last Thursday, the anniversary of the old despot's birth in 1870, his statue was blown up. The local chief of police, Mikhail Onuchin, says an investigation is under way, but "many fantasies could be associated with this explosion". What he means, or what these "fantasies" might be, is a mystery.

After the air war: low-flying yogis

The Natural Law Party has what it considers to be the solution to the current Balkans conflict. In a letter to Nato, it is offering training in transcendental meditation for 10,000 troops.

Natural Law Party leaders from eight European Union states sent the open letter to Nato and the EU explaining that meditation and yogic flying - a type of cross-legged levitation - would "create an atmosphere in which a stable solution will naturally emerge". Daily training in the techniques would apparently enable troops to re-establish harmony in the region "not by talking or bombing but by radiating peace".

The party has appealed for practitioners of yogic flying to converge urgently at the Croatian resort of Dubrovnik to generate an atmosphere of peace throughout the region. What are you waiting for?

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