FLAT EARTH

Drug barren

We were talking recently about the US seeking targets for its indignation more according to their inability to retaliate than to the gravity of their crimes. The latest example is the contrasting treatment of Mexico and Colombia.

Bill Clinton had to decide whether these two Latin American nations were co-operating with the US in its fight against drugs. Leaving aside the question of whether the US is doing enough to stop its own citizens taking the stuff, a lot of aid is at stake. In the end Mexico passed the test, while Colombia fell short - the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, praised the Mexicans for increasing the number of drug seizures and arrests, but said corruption "remains rampant at the highest levels of the Colombian government".

True, but it must have been a bit embarrassing when it emerged just how successfully the Mexicans had manipulated the authorities in Washington. On Thursday, just before Clinton was to take his decision, a top drugs suspect was arrested amid great fanfare; the same day another one was somehow allowed to escape, but that news did not get out until later.

Everybody knows, though, that it would be too inconvenient to "decertify" Mexico, a fellow member of the North American Free Trade Association, where American corporations have huge investments. Much easier to take on Colombia, which probably needs the aid more. The only problem is that it encourages no one to take the fight against drugs very seriously.

Voulez-vous?

What has happened to Frenchwomen's taste in men? A survey of more than 500 French females in Paris Match disclosed that the male they most fantasise having a one-night stand with is... Kevin Costner. I know it's none of my business but the list is depressingly conventional, with Costner being followed by Paul Newman (popular with the older respondents), Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford.

"Horrible discovery: they dream only of Americans," the magazine laments. The leading Frenchman, Francis Huster, an actor unknown to Anglophones, is sixth, and you have to descend to 12th place to find another: Alain Delon, who comes top with women 65 and over. Gerard Depardieu is 20th out of 20.

There are two English in the list - Hugh Grant (15th) and Daniel Day Lewis (19th, if you are allowed to call him English). Ho hum. I'm sure any survey of English or American women would be a lot kinder to Frenchmen than their countrywomen are.

Dutch treat

These days, whether you want to stage a Millennium festival or host the next Olympics, the first thing you sort out is your logo. The Dutch will be holding an EU summit this summer, just before their presidency comes to an end, and as a symbol to put on all the brochures, direction signs, guide's badges and associated paraphernalia they have alighted upon the statue of Atlas which adorns the royal palace in the middle of Amsterdam.

It was not until preparations had gone too far to be reversed that someone pointed out that the anatomically correct Atlas was also very popular with Amsterdam's many gay clubs and bars, who use him on their flyers. The stage seems to be set for some farcical misunderstandings worthy of Feydeau or La Cage aux Folles.

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