FLAT EARTH

Money talks in Chinese whispers

I don't want to be the pooper at Bill Clinton's victory party, but remember Wang Dan? He was one of the Chinese student leaders whose courage enraptured the world seven years ago. Last week the Chinese authorities put him away for 11 years for such crimes as writing for foreign publications, and I couldn't help but remember the following:

"I would say [to China] if you want to continue most-favoured-nation status for your government-owned industries as well as your private ones, observe human rights in the future, open your society, recognise the legitimacy of those kids who were carrying the Statue of Liberty in the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989."

That was Bill Clinton, during the presidential TV debates in 1992. Earlier in the campaign he had accused George Bush of "coddling" the "butchers of Beijing". Since then, of course, he has had to renew China's trading privileges. There is simply too much money at stake. The White House expressed "deep concern" last week, but Warren Christopher will still be going to Peking later this month.

What caught my eye, though, was the State Department's comment that isolating China would not have a positive effect on human rights. Here is Bush in the same debate in 1992: "Communist China has made progress on human rights issues, although not enough. But humiliating them is not the way you make the kind of progress we are getting. Governor Clinton's philosophy is isolate them. You isolate China and turn them inward, and then we've made a tremendous mistake. I'm not going to do it."

Bad case of DTs

People who subscribe to the myth of German efficiency have never had anything to do with the recently-privatised telephone monopoly, Deutsche Telekom, whose record of obstruction and ineptitude outdid anything even BT was capable of in its state-owned days.

But the new market-driven German telecoms chaps have learned one thing: how to squash the competition. In the usual frenzy of image-overhauling, 40,000 old yellow telephone booths are being replaced with pink and grey ones, and a couple of enterprising eastern Germans (one appropriately named Rainer) had the idea of converting the surplus booths into shower stalls. They sold two for more than pounds 1,600 each, but have now been told they can't have any more.

Why not? Because, says DT, people might try to make calls from them. "It would be problematic if someone wanted to make an emergency call and ran into the booth that was actually a shower," said a spokesman.

Open and shut

Perhaps it is a legacy of the days when a small country was at the heart of a great empire ... somehow this analysis sounds familiar ... but Portugal is notorious for its red tape.

The Portuguese are used to endless queues at law courts, hospitals and government offices, dealing with a bureaucracy whose capacity for obfuscation and foot-dragging would try the patience of a Byzantine under-secretary. The ruling Socialists, however, are committed to more open government, and have introduced a number of reforms simplifying things like buying a house or setting up a company. Part of their drive to get the country moving was to declare an "Anti-Bureaucracy Day".

You can guess the rest. Journalists who rang up the relevant ministry in search of a quote were asked: "What do you want to know?" When they explained, they were told: "Send a fax with your questions." The phone was then put down.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn