Flat Earth

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French lesson in hardline diplomacy

LIKE all French lycees abroad, the one in Abu Dhabi comes under the authority of the cultural section of the Quai d'Orsay in Paris, enabling French officialdom to help guide expatriate children along paths of rectitude.

But an Arabic-language textbook published by the United Arab Emirates' Education Ministry and used at the school has shocked an inspector from France. The Jews, he read, were 'the bastards of humanity'. A teacher who had declined to use the textbook had been transferred back to France.

The lycee is built on land donated by the UAE, with a UAE government loan. Under local laws, the UAE had a say in what was taught. What to do?

The Quai d'Orsay gritted its teeth and banned the book.

To where, guv?

OUR man in Sydney confirms that half the city's taxi-drivers fail the street-wise test. 'King's Cross,' he told a driver (blank stare). 'Sydney Cricket Ground,' he told another (ditto). From July, cabbies are to be tested in English and the street system.

Marks of respect

CHINESE legislators can now be expected to show more deference to the police. Yan Zhengxue, an elected deputy from Zhejiang province, had demanded to be let off a bus between stops. The conductor refused. A squabble ensued. At the next stop, Officer Zhang Chi was waiting to give the deputy a thrashing.

Bang to rights

TWO men seized by police for speeding in San Salvador turned out to be US embassy bodyguards. Inside the police station, one of them, Lt-Col Julio Rivera, tried to explain that a grenade he was carrying was a fake. It exploded, killing him. A medical report found he had been taking marijuana.

Stirring trouble

A BLACK South African general claims President F W de Klerk's National Party was spiking the porridge of blacks with invisible ink to thwart the forthcoming elections. Voters' hands are to be marked with ink to stop them voting more than once. But Maj-Gen Bantu Holomisa said that blacks, many of whom eat porridge with their hands, would enter the booths already marked with the ink, which would show under infra-red lights. Nelson Mandela is said to be baffled. The De Klerk party thinks the accusation is absurd. But the general still leads election crowds chanting: 'Down with the porridge of the Boers.'

Sniffy response

FOLLOWING reports that the Berlusconi effect on Italian women was like 'a sniff of cocaine', readers responded to Flat Earth's invitation to find appropriate stimulants for British pols. Some are too rude to repeat. Ruth Silcock's concoction, Slippery Elm, wins a bottle of wine.