FLAT EARTH

Tart of the union

Germany is in the forefront in advancing workers' rights in Europe. We have the Germans to thank for the Social Chapter, for instance, which forbids employers to exploit their staff for more than 48 hours a week.

Now imagine the Germans' horror at the discovery of a hole in their own welfare net. It turns out that one profession - the oldest - has somehow been left out. But remedy is at hand. Women's Affairs minister Christine Bergmann announced last week that prostitutes may be given the full protection of the law, starting with employment contracts with their bosses.

Presumably they would then enjoy the same benefits as other Germans: six weeks' holiday, fully paid maternity leave, a pension, and protection from being fired on the grounds of health, pregnancy or age. What's more, they would be able to sue employers and clients for sexual harassment.

Under his nose

It turns out that the American colonel in command of anti-narcotics surveillance in Colombia missed something right under his nose: his wife, Laurie Ann Hiett, has sent half a dozen parcels of cocaine to New York through the diplomatic pouch, each worth $30,000 wholesale.

"I had no idea what was inside. I did it as a favour for my chauffeur," she told military investigators.

Her driver, Jorge Alfonso Ayala, who has worked 15 years for the American embassy, counters that Mrs Hiett was a habitual user and often used to send him out to score cocaine in the Colombian capital.

In June, the United States Southern Military Command cleared Colonel James Hiett of any prior knowledge of alleged criminal actions by his spouse, age 36, but five weeks ago he was transferred at his own request.

The US state department next week is sending out an emergency team to investigate the burgeoning cocaine traffic in Colombia.

Titanic ego

Leonardo DiCaprio: actor, heart-throb, and now a protected trade mark. The star of Titanic and The Beach applied earlier this year to have his moniker registered with the US Department of Commerce, according to The Smoking Gun, an internet investigative site. It reproduces the documents by which the boyish DiCaprio (TM) sought to make himself immortal, which got preliminary approval. Can DiCaprio: the fragrance be very far behind?

All robbed cons

Four robbers toting machine guns held up some local men in Tremembe, 100 miles north of Sao Paolo, Brazil, and fled with pounds 18,000 of their hard-earned savings. Sad for the victims, but so what? Well, they happened to be inmates in the town's jail.

The booty was money earned by the 416 prisoners that they were sending home for Father's Day.

"Bandits robbing convicts is just appalling," said the prison director. "There are no values left among them."

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