Sunday 23 February 1997
REMEMBER the exciting news that you could now e-mail the US Secretary of State for an explanation of any points of American foreign policy that escaped you? Your message might not be scrutinised by Madeleine Albright herself, we were told, but you would get an answer.
At last, it seemed, the democratising qualities of cyberspace were bringing government closer to the people. I fired off some questions, aimed at discovering how a dinosaur like Jesse Helms could be obstructing US ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and what Mrs Albright intended to do about it. Alas, the reply was no more than an electronic equivalent of the form letter.
"The Secretary receives so much mail that she cannot personally review each message," it said. "Your foreign policy opinions and concerns are regularly given to the Secretary with a representative sampling of the mail . . . Your continued interest and participation in foreign affairs is very important to her."
So far, so bland. But then there was a sinister postscript: "This is the only electronic message you will receive from email@example.com. No other message claiming to be from this address is authentic. This . . . is an automated response."
A friend who grew up in New Zealand recollects that the Prime Minister's home number was in the Wellington phone book, and that his father regularly rang up the PM to tell him where he was going wrong. We are still some way from achieving that on the Net, I'm afraid.
WATCHING a rerun of Cry Freedom! the other night, I found myself irritated at the re-enactment of the start of the Soweto uprising. As someone else commented, the black pupils doing the toyi-toyi looked more like a chorus line than an angry crowd, but a more serious distortion was to show a unit consisting only of white policemen pouring long bursts of automatic fire into them.
In fact most of the policemen on duty that day were black. The shooting was sporadic and motivated mainly by panic, as at Sharpeville 16 years earlier. Although there were deliberate attempts at other times to mow down protesters in cold blood, the film captured none of the deadly confusion which I witnessed on 16 June 1976.
It might be argued that this does not matter, but I wonder. It is the details we remember, and they may be purely imaginary. Did a bullet loose a mother's grip, causing her baby's pram to careen from top to bottom of the Odessa steps? The Battleship Potemkin makes us believe it must have been so.
IT'S hard to say why, but somehow one's awe for Vaclav Havel is slightly diminished by the news that the Czech president is taking his honeymoon in Belgium. The widowed playwright and statesman is at a health resort near Spa with his new wife, the former actress Dagmar Veskrnova. The somewhat unromantic destination is probably due to Havel's recent operation for lung cancer, but for Belgium, which is swamped by political corruption and paedophilia scandals, the association can only help.
The Bruno Magli company is not happy about its connection with OJ Simpson, though. Sales might have shot up since he was proved to have worn a pair of its shoes, but the Magli people fear the reflected fame may rebound, especially since Simpson tried to deny owning such "ugly-ass" footwear.
Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: Learn from Quebec's mistakes and beware of promises. Vote Yes.
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Revealed after 75 years of secrecy: 'Fifi' the glamorous WW2 special agent who tested British spies' resolve
- 5 Have you heard about the film Singapore has banned its people from watching? Well, you have now
Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
Scottish independence: Final opinion polls show undecided voters could swing result either way
Scottish independence: Almost half of No voters have felt 'personally threatened' by the Yes campaign
Isis release 'Flames of War' video warning Obama of attacks troops could face in Iraq
Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
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