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The Independent Online
Nobel features

Terribel problem, being a Nobel prizewinner. Especially if you're a modest type, like Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. She was fed up with being recognised, she said. So, to spare her the agony, a Polish paper has organised a lookalike contest for the 73-year-old: an "official double" is to be crowned on a television special next month. It is not yet clear if the double will also turn up in Stockholm on 11 December, when Ms Szymborska is due to pick up her prize.

Diamond geezer

An even more terrible problem, being the descendant of an emperor. The grandson of the last ruling Habsburg has hotly denied smuggling, after failing to declare a diamond and emerald-studded tiara, when he and his wife Francesca (nee Thyssen, one of Germany's wealthiest families) entered Austria from Switzerland. Karl Habsburg says it was all a terrible misunderstanding; but the Austrian authorities are not impressed. According to Austrian radio, Habsburg could face a fine of around pounds 13,000, if found guilty. In addition, he and the missus would lose the tiara. Easy come, easy go.

Perfidious? Moi?

Poor Britain. Ever mocked. French diplomats have noted the sharp contrast between the excitement in Britain and the relative calm in France, following last week's fire in the Channel Tunnel. One diplomat explained it to his masters in Paris by reference to the old British headline "Fog in Channel - Continent cut off." The high drama was, he suggested, "another example of the Continent being isolated".

In her coups

Forget Madame Vasso or Mystic Meg. If you want somebody with clairvoyant powers, a press secretary is clearly what you need. Researchers for ITV's The Big Story bid recently for an interview with Benazir Bhutto, who was at that time still Prime Minister of Pakistan, regarding the fate of Britons kidnapped by Kashmiri rebels. Long negotiations for the interview seemed to be getting nowhere. Until, that is, Ms Bhutto's press secretary suddenly announced that the PM would have more time on her hands "after 3 November". And sure enough, she did. On 4 November, Ms Bhutto was ousted in a military- backed coup. Nice to know that somebody knew what was happening.

Sun set and match

Already , D-Day in Hong Kong is approaching, with the handover to Peking barely seven months away. Some believe that this, finally, is when the sun will truly set on the British Empire. But a precise-minded colleague insists that this is not quite the case. The combination of the Falklands, Pitcairn Island in the Pacific and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean means that the sun will continue to shine on a piece of British soil, 24 hours a day. Aren't you feeling better already?

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