Flat Earth: It doesn't add up

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The Independent Online
In most occupations, taking a laptop computer to work is seen as a an admirable sign of technical adeptness and a desire to be as productive as possible. Michael Enzi wanted his for note-taking and possibly a bit of research.

But Enzi is one of the two US Senators from Wyoming, and while his colleagues may have given up quill pens for ballpoints and allowed TV cameras into the Senate chamber, some have drawn the line at admitting personal computers.

Apart from claims that laptops would be ugly and distracting, one senator feared discussions might be "scripted" if members had access to laptops - a bit rich, given the absence of any genuine debate in the chamber 99 per cent of the time. A more serious objection is that lobbyists might e-mail senators during crucial debate or votes, but Enzi, a former computer programmer, says this could be prevented.

I can't help wondering, though, whether the fact that Enzi is also the Senate's only qualified accountant explains much of his colleagues' resistance to his new-fangled ideas.

Hopping mad

Maybe some linguist out there could inform us whether there is a word for the animal equivalent of xenophobia. In South Korea the government has launched an all-out patriotic campaign against an invasion of foreign bullfrogs: the Hyundai company has offered extra holiday to workers who catch one, amid slogans like "Let's set a goal to catch 100 tadpoles each" and local TV is showing films of nasty, imported bullfrogs eating nice, noble, indigenous Korean snakes.

In Greece, meanwhile, lovers of kokoretsi - kebabs of liver and kidney, wrapped in lamb intestines - have launched a web site lamenting a European Union rule banning consumption of innards as of next year. The "Free Kokoretsi" site comes with a mourning red ribbon and ticking clock reminding Greeks there are only 109 days left before "We can forget about Kokoretsi". Web surfers are given the e-mail address of the EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, and urged to push the Greek government to have the country exempted from the rule.

To inflame Greek patriots further, the web site reminds them: "Our lambs and veal are fed with God's green grass. They remain vegetarian, and have not turned into cannibals." There can only be one response from any true Greek: eat them!

A baht turn

Today we salute Kamphol Thonsiriratana, a 25-year-old make-up artist in Bangkok. This is why: he discovered that his bank's cash-dispensing machine was paying out more than it was supposed to, thanks to a software fault. He drew out 705,500 baht (pounds 12,500) - then paid it all back.

His honesty was hailed by Thai newspapers, shaming about 30 other people into returning their windfalls. The grateful bank rewarded him with a tea set. But poor Kamphol could probably have done without his mother gushing to reporters.

"He was stunned," she told them. "He didn't know what to do when the machine dispensed that much money to him. I was worried that the police would come to get my son. He is also a transvestite, you know."