FLAT EARTH

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The Independent Online
It's a jungle

out there

AN EYE for an eye and a tooth for a tooth ... that's generally the spirit in warlike Afghanistan. Last week a man climbed into the lion's den in Kabul Zoo and, before an admiring crowd, began to play with the lion, stroking its mane and pulling back its lips to examine its teeth. Then the lion bit him, and he died. Now don't be surprised at what happened next: the dead man's relatives turned up and hurled handgrenades through the bars at the animal. It's still alive, but staggering round the pen untreated. After years of war in that vengeful land, there are no drugs to spare for lions.

Oscar wild

VERY strange, the British response to the Academy Awards last week. "Each time you think the Oscars have grown up, they return with a rattle and a bib, making exuberantly retarded noises," snapped the Financial Times. The Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, and Times joined the lamentations - the main cause of which was the success of Forrest Gump, a sentimental rewrite of history, in which the hero suffers a mental disability but emerges in triumph. "Would never be made in Britain," harrumphed the Telegraph. But surely that's also a precise description of the plot of The Madness of King George?

The wonder is that anyone thought the 5,000 Americans on the Academy jury might prefer the British to the American version of the tale.

Grove mistake?

WHILE everyone watches the fishing wars in the North Atlantic, let's not forget the Eastern Med, where Lebanese fishermen retrieving their nets were last Monday subjected to withering fire from an Israeli gunboat. What were the Israelis up to? Conserving sardine stocks? Protecting, perhaps, the rare Mediterranean turtle?

No - they were "sending a signal" to Beirut regarding Hizbollah attacks on Israeli farming settlements. Only in the tormented logic of the Middle East do you protect your citrus crop by shooting up fishermen.

Awkward age

EMBARRASSING business in Hong Kong the other day, when senior policeman Peter So announced he was retiring early. The government, which is concerned at the haemorrhage of top officials before 1997, hastily pointed out that he had reached retirement age, and not too much should be read into his decision.

But Deputy Police Commissioner So, whose job it was to persuade policemen to stay on and serve under the Chinese, said the sole reason he was leaving is that he did not want to stay on and serve under the Chinese.

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