Flat Earth

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The Independent Online
Net winners

THE WORLD'S smallest state, Tuvalu, hopes it can enrich its 9,000 inhabitants by selling itself on the internet.

Most of the time, the tiny South Pacific island chain scratches a living from breadfruit, castor-oil fish and, more controversially, by allowing its international phone code to be used for sex lines.

But it has been assigned the internet domain name of "tv", and plans to auction it to television companies, producers, or screen personalities who might like a website with an appropriate ending - such as, say, bbc.tv.

Unlike the bright spark who is said to have registered the name "Twenty- First Century Fox", hoping to force the corporation to buy it back, people who try to grab names such as "cnn.tv" will be rebuffed unless they happen to be Ted Turner.

They deserve to make a fortune, but one thought occurs: most of Tuvalu is only 6ft to 9ft above sea level. If warnings of rising oceans are correct, the country might one day exist only in cyberspace. A virtual nation, indeed.

White out

IT WAS like bringing out a history of 20th-century Germany without mentioning the Nazis. In Cape Town recently a historical dictionary was published with no reference to the National Party.

The Nationalist leader Hendrik Verwoerd, you might remember, invented the word "apartheid", and his party imposed the policy on the black majority during nearly half a century in power, from 1948 to 1994. As soon as South Africa held a free election, their share of the vote was only 20 per cent; a recent poll put their support at half that.

But it seems that a cock-up rather than a conspiracy was to blame for the party's omission from A Dictionary of South African History. "Somewhere along the line while the author still had the script he must have deleted the National Party entry, and it was not picked up," said Russel Martin, of David Philip Publishers.

"It was an unfortunate oversight, not an attempt to be politically correct. The entry will be reinstated when the book is reprinted."

Master piece

CONGRATULATIONS to Amartya Sen, master of Trinity, Cambridge, who won the Nobel Prize for economics last week. Unlike most previous laureates, his principal insight is clearly expressible: you get famines only under dictatorships.

As he has put it: "There has never been a famine in any country that's been a democracy with a relatively free press. I know of no exception. It applies to very poor countries with democratic systems as well as rich ones ... If famine is about to develop, democracy can guarantee that it won't."

Less clear to Associated Press, though, was the arcane nomenclature of Oxbridge. It described him as "a master at Britain's Trinity College in Cambridge", which must have had American readers marvelling at the achievements of a schoolteacher.