Flat Earth

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The Independent Online
What a liberty

Unhappy in jail? No problem. Get a friend to fax the prison and ask for your release, and that will be the end of the matter.

That was the experience of Richard Foster, who found himself in Richland County Jail in South Carolina. A fax arrived at the jail on what appeared to be an official letterhead. "There are no holds on this subject in this jurisdiction," the fax declared. "Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff's Office has no criminal interest in Mr Foster and is not lodging any detainers against him at this time." Result: the jailers let Mr Foster go.

Then, shortly after Foster walked out of the jail gates, prison officials noticed that the identifying line on the fax included the name of a local grocery store. The message had been sent from a public fax machine.

And yes, Georgia authorities were looking for Foster, in connection with a shooting. According to police, Foster told a friend to shoot a woman in an Augusta nightclub. The woman's alleged offence: she had refused Foster's demand for a dance.

Nudie weds

Not that they are publicity-seekers or anything. Nothing like that. None the less, 38-year-old Hsu Hsiao-dan and her husband-to-be have come up with an unusual idea for their wedding. The couple plan to get married nude, in the port of Kaohsiung in Taiwan. Tickets for the wedding will be sold, and the money donated to charity. Ms Hsu, a stripper turned politician, had previously promised in an election campaign to strip naked when confronting dishonest politicians. It is unclear whether wedding guests are to draw any conclusions about Ms Hsu's fiance, businessman Wu Jong-chang.

Acutely grave

The French daily Le Monde is famous for remaining tres serieux at all times. But times may be changing, even in that rarefied climate. It is traditional for French newspapers to offer their readers a serialised novel during July and August. Le Monde has gone one better, offering its readers a serialised adult western cartoon, full of lines like: "Damn it! ou etes-vous, bande de chiens!" Occupying a full page every day, the story chronicles the blood-splattered career of Lieutenant Blueberry of the US cavalry. Words like tchac!, paw paw!, bawm! and yaooo! abound. Some observers wonder if this is only the start. Coming soon: Page Three lovelies ("Les Mondaines") and Bingo du Monde?

Slobbered on

Earlier this year, huge crowds of demonstrators filled the streets of Belgrade, banging pots and pans to "drown out the lies" of the television evening news.

Six months on, the demonstrations have ended. The Serbian leader, Slobodan Milo- sevic, is still in power, and is now president of rump Yugoslavia. The Serbs, meanwhile, once more sit in front of the television, night after night. Not necessarily to watch the evening news, but something far more important. Nobody can afford to miss Cassandra - a Venezuelan soap opera full of gypsies, love and circuses.

Cassandra has caused nationwide gush which has put mere politics into the shade. Pro-government television is reported to have paid $50,000 for the star of the series to come to Yugoslavia this summer. If Mr Milosevic is lucky, her tour might even improve the national mood enough to allow his party to stay in power.