FLAT EARTH

Porn in the USA I know women's soccer is more popular in the US than here, not least because the women are much better than the men - yesterday they played China in the final of the Women's World Cup - but, given his image, Bill Clinton must have expected a joke or two about his presence in the crowd. Bill might say he was not there to watch girls running around in shorts. No politician can resist a sell-out crowd, after all. But did he have to book himself into the Los Angeles hotel which was about to host the annual American "adult entertainment expo"?

Among the exhibitors are the makers and distributors of porn videos and other "adult product" retailers. There are seminars - "Obscenity and The First Amendment" - and also an opportunity to meet the porn stars. It's not clear whether Clinton will sneak a peek, but an organiser said: "He promised not to bother us and we promised not to bother him."

Bing the deterrent

"Mall rats" are the scourge of shopping centres the world over. They are the teenage loiterers who hang about for hours on end, causing trouble just for the hell of it. Mall managers view them as vermin, because they not only don't spend anything, they scare off people who might.

Nobody in the US, their main haunt, seems to have had much luck getting rid of them. But I have news from Australia that should have mall managers across the States booking flights to Warrawong, in southern New South Wales. As a local schoolboy told interviewers outside the town shopping centre: "All the people from Warrawong High used to hang out here after school - now you just don't see them."

What's the secret? The mall had a lot of success with pink fluorescent lights, which highlight teenagers' pimples. But the killer deterrent turned out to be Bing Crosby. Continuous playing of his 1938 hit, "My Heart is Taking Lessons", at the entrance to the centre has driven every last teenager away.

No bull, seriously

The State Department is famous, or notorious, for having advised Americans, after a bomb or two went off in Europe a few years ago, not to go abroad at all. Stay home, period.

But judging by the latest "travel advisory" from Foggy Bottom, they seem to have acquired a sense of proportion - indeed, a sense of humour. This is what their spokesman had to say to Americans foolhardy enough to be planning to run with the bulls at Pamplona:

"Without wishing to set any kind of precedent, I now have bull guidance," he said. "What I can tell you is that given today's security environment, no American can be considered safe from raging bulls.

"There are, however, some precautions that US citizens may wish to consider taking to avoid becoming a target. Make sure your sneakers are tied, your valuables are safely stowed in your neck pouch and your medical insurance is thoroughly up to date." And don't say we didn't warn you ...

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