FLAT EARTH

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The Independent Online
Beaver bother

The US may be waging a war (of sorts) in Europe, but in Washington the cherry trees are in full bloom around the tidal basin of the Potomac, and all's right with the world. Except that the traditional bloom-gazing at this time of year has been overshadowed by news that no fewer than nine of these legendary trees - gifts from Japan - have been found felled on successive mornings.

After worried joggers reported what appeared to be sabotage with George Washingtonian overtones, the park rangers who are responsible for the upkeep and security of the trees concluded otherwise. The culprit, they deduced, was an overzealous beaver, and they found the tooth-marks to prove it. The culprit has now been spotted by the park rangers with an accomplice, and there could be more.

The Washington Post's "Style" section has offered 10 ways to capture the beavers, ranging from sending Vice President Al Gore to the tidal basin in a pink sombrero, to dispatching ground troops. At the time of writing, though the beavers remained at large, and trees continued to fall.

Bra wars

One would think of Denmark as a bastion of New Men and correctness in sexual politics. But as far as one man in the army is concerned, all women are the same.

Major OP Soerensen, a procurement officer, ordered 500 new bras for the women in his command - all of them size 100, C-cup. "They have bought one model only and think that it can fit all of us. But we are big and small, thick and thin," Lance Corporal Ulla Bekker Madsen complained.

Major Soerensen was reported to be unabashed. This size, he insisted, would fit 90 per cent of Danish women. I wonder how he knows?

State of unrest

Listeners jammed the radio station switchboard to complain about "them" and their funny-talking, bad-driving ways. "We're glad you like Oregon. Now pack up and get out!" one caller fumed.

This wasn't some fringe forum for supremacists. It was the local talk radio station in Portland, Oregon, and the callers were griping about a favourite topic: Californians. The prejudice even extends to local government. Last week state Senator John Lim, himself an immigrant from Korea, introduced a bill to erect signs at the state line telling motorists: "You are welcome to visit Oregon, but please don't stay."

A local university history professor John Findlay, says that when he asks his students for words associated with California, they've consistently come up with: bad drivers, pollution, overcrowded, pushy, vain, rude, disrespectful and superficial.

"Californians learn pretty quickly when they get here to change their plates and take off their UCLA sweatshirt," he says.

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