FLAT EARTH

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The Independent Online
Virtually virtuous revels on the Net HOW'S your head? Too much partying into the wee hours of this morning? In contrast, Internet users could have logged on to an online Auld Lang Syne and put away glass after glass of virtual champagne, with no fear of a hangover.

The celebrations took place wherever a human and a computer were gathered with a modem, and many started partying in the east and worked their way across the planet. Wild ones cast caution to the wind and posted their new year resolutions on computer bulletin boards, so the whole world can nag them if they don't stop smoking or lose weight, whatever. Or if they file frivolous lawsuits.

Sagan rebutted A JUDGE in Los Angeles has thrown out Carl Sagan's invasion of privacy suit against Apple Computer, which had used the celebrity astronomer's name as an in-house label for the computer that later became the Power Macintosh 7100-66. After Sagan complained, the company changed the moniker to BHA, or Butt-Head Astronomer, which further enraged him.

Judge Lourdes Baird said the BHA label did not libel Sagan. Nor, presumably, did it libel Butt-Head, the rude cartoon friend of Beavis. But by suing, the astronomer ensured that something that would have languished undiscovered on the edge of the research universe was seen by all - without a telescope.

Face-shaving idea THE Old Testament met New Technology when New York State prison officials agreed to accept a computer image of a jailed Hasidic rabbi without his beard and locks.

Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, sent to prison for kidnapping a student, had argued that shaving his facial hair to satisfy prison requirements for photos of inmates violated his faith.

"We resolved the issue by using state-of-the-art computer technology to enforce a biblical commandment that goes back to the Old Testament," his lawyer said.

Not so happy about new technology was the Canadian Health Minister, Paul Ramsey, who began an inquiry into how computerised medical histories of thousands of Vancouver patients were sold at a discount store for 20 cents per floppy disk.

"Clearly this is not the way you expect records to be handled," Mr Ramsey said.

No, that would be carrying reductions in the health system a cost-cut too far.

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