Flat Earth

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Nudges for Bill

THE PROBLEM for Bill Clinton is that whether he beats the Lewinsky rap or not, there seem to be doubles entendres everywhere he goes. I remember that when the Paula Jones affair was at its height, he didn't exactly help himself by listing his favourite Elvis numbers: "Hound Dog", "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Don't Be Cruel".

Tomorrow Bill has to testify on what exactly he got up to with Monica, and you couldn't blame him for feeling a little paranoid last week. On a fund-raising visit to Chicago, he alighted from his limo for his main speaking engagement almost opposite a cinema showing - in order - The X-files, Deep Impact, Bulworth (the Warren Beatty film of a President who suddenly decides to tell politics like it is), Last Days of Disco and Sliding Doors. No sooner was he inside the protective walls of the city's Historical Society than he heard his host laud his prowess at being "on target over and over again on the issues that mean so much".

To add insult to injury, Al Gore, his Vice-President and loyal supporter, had just presented a report establishing that July 1998 was "the hottest month on record" - setting off sniggers all round. He then fled to Hawaii on holiday.

And reporters boarding the charter flight to accompany Clinton on his trip to Chicago came across a little gadget, just to the left of the entrance, labelled "hush-cover". Whatever it is, I bet the President wishes he had one for Monica, Paula, his aides, Kenneth Starr and anyone else who might dish the dirt on him.

Pride of India

AND ON the subject of harnessing technology for political ends: the right-wing Hindu government in India has enlisted the telephone system. When you pick up the receiver, you hear a shrill "Vande Matram!" before the dialling tone begins. This translates as "Our Motherland is Free!" and has allegedly been introduced to mark the 51st anniversary of independence this month.

All very well for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, but their wheeze clashes with another technology. Those wishing to access the Internet from India have had to reprogram their computers, and Internet service providers are sending complicated e-mails to their customers to explain the problem.

Cyberspace explorers kept earthbound by the Indian phone system may want to e-mail Jayalalitha, a matronly former film star who is now one of the main political forces in south India. She is deciding whether to pull out of the ruling coalition, which could topple the BJP-led government.

Women's wants

WHAT DO women really want? I only ask because two surveys purporting to tell me turned up last week.

The first claimed that Frenchwomen prefer sensitive, caring men who can cook to sexual supermen - only 2 per cent rated sexual performance most highly, and a similar proportion said their ideal lover would be a man who ripped their clothes off. On the other hand, a poll of women tourists to Italy found that the most common attraction was sex, with food well behind in second place.

The answer, presumably, is that women want different things at home and on holiday. But the sort of man they are seeking in Italy is changing: nearly two-thirds prefer northerners to the traditional swarthy Latin from the south. According to the pollsters, this is because unemployment is robbing southerners of their swagger. A spokeswoman quoted an Italian pop song: "He who doesn't work doesn't make love."