Flat Earth

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The Independent Online
Rhyme and crime

POET, psychiatrist - and indicted war criminal. That's Radovan Karadzic. Sadly, we know more of the Bosnian Serb leader's political insights than of his literary efforts, which have until now been available only to those able to appreciate Serbo-Croat.

Last week, however, Greek readers got the opportunity to savour his style. After studying a new translation, a Greek author, Christos Halayias, pronounced: "The poems present a passionate, human Karadzic, not the Nero he is thought to be." I don't know about that - Nero's proficiency on the violin didn't prevent him being a monster, surely? The Greek publishers say proceeds from Radovan's slim volume, Of Immemorable Years and Other Poems, will go to humanitarian aid for Bosnian Serb children, but children all over the former Yugoslavia would probably be a lot less in need of aid if he had stuck to the psychiatry and the poetry. (Has no one ever thought to say to him: "Psychiatrist, heal thyself"?)

The bard was unable to attend the launch - a small matter of possible extradition for crimes against humanity - but his former "education minister", Ljubomir Zukovic, promised: "Until the end of his life, Karadzic will serve his people through poetry and politics." The West, he said, "may like to see him more of a poet than a politician, but so would we prefer Bill Clinton as saxophonist than President of the United States".

Carl's confession

IS Carl Carlson just stupid, or does he demonstrate the average American's inability to resist blurting all on TV? I'll let you be the judge.

Carlson, 20, went on Sally Jessy Raphael's national talk show for an episode entitled "I'm 14 and I Want a Baby", with his 15-year-old girlfriend, their baby - conceived when the girl was 14 - and the girl's mother. On air Raphael asked Carlson if he understood he had violated the law when he had sex with the girl. "I understand that," he replied. "I should have thought about that a little bit more." After a pause, he added: "A lot more."

The police had launched an investigation after the birth, but gave up when they found the girl unco-operative. The TV appearance was the idea of the girl's mother, who promptly sent a videotape to the police. Carlson has been bailed on a charge of felonious sexual assault, for which the sentence is up to seven years. His lawyer says he will plead not guilty, despite his televised admission. As for the TV company, a spokesman said the whole affair was "the kind of epiphany we look for on our show".

Creature comforts

AS WE report elsewhere on these pages, the International Fund for Animal Welfare is trying to save bears in China, and a lateral thought came to me as I was surfacing from sleep the other day: why don't conservation groups raise money for animals from the people most likely to empathise with them?

Stockbrokers, for example, might be persuaded to stump up for bears, as well as bulls and stags. There is a creature called a secretary bird which eats snakes; that might strike a chord with many harassed office assistants. But there is no need to restrict this to the workplace. How about weight-watchers' groups helping to save the whale?

No sooner had this come to me than I learned of the WWF's latest campaign, which is to rescue the shark from extinction. I rest my case: if lawyers were to take an interest in the fate of their fellow predators, the shark would be in no danger at all.

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