Flat Earth

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Strife in the air

Unaccountably, no one has listed the war of the check-in counters at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris among the many tests facing our inexperienced new government.

British Airways has closed its desk because the Algerian national airline has been placed next door and uses the same conveyor belt for luggage. It fears the carnage going on across the Mediterranean might spread to Paris, embroiling innocent Brits. This has infuriated the Algerians, as Robin Cook has no doubt immediately been made aware: "Les Anglais snobent Air Algerie" was the main headline in Le Matin of Algiers.

But the allegedly dangerous airline is allowed to fly to Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton without special measures. "We should demand better security in Britain," a pilot said, "because British Airways might be attacked by IRA bombers." Over to you, Mr Cook.

Hard labour

REMEMBER Walter Armanini, the flamboyant former Milan city councillor and one of the very few unlucky enough actually to be jailed in Italy's mega-corruption scandals?

Happily Armanini has been let out on day release. In theory he should be spending his days as a sales assistant in a jewellery shop but in practice he never turns up. His dapper if rather morose figure can be seen instead strolling through the medieval alleys of central Orvieto and sitting in his favourite bar drinking cocktails.

Such is life on the chain gang in Italy - it makes you wonder why more of those thousands of corrupt officials and industrialists don't try it out some time.

Over for Rover

THE Internet is a rich source of urban legends these days, though on reflection this is more of a rural tale.

This (American) man buys a Jeep Grand Cherokee for $30,000 (pounds 18,000) plus. He decides to take it out duck-hunting, but all the lakes are frozen. No problem: to open up enough water to float a decoy in, our friend parks on the ice and gets out a stick of dynamite with a short fuse, lights it and hurls it a safe distance away.

Trouble is, his Labrador chases off and starts bringing the dynamite back. Two barrels of birdshot are needed before the unhappy dog begins to think twice. But instead of dropping the dynamite it decides to seek refuge - you guessed it, under the Jeep.

End of fuse, end of dog and goodbye brand-new Grand Cherokee. The owner had yet to make his first $400 monthly payment, this e-mail says, and insurance companies don't cough up when illegal explosives are involved.