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spiked-geist, 19 October

Remember: loose talc costs lives; A good time for petty crime; Haile suspicious; Divide the bill, divide the enemy.

Rob Lyons
Columnist

Topics Politics

This is a bit of random text from Kyle to test the new global option to add a message at the top of every article. This bit is linked somewhere.

Remember: loose talc costs lives

These are anxious times in the Western world. I don’t know if there’s a proper term for a fear of powders, but whatever it’s called it’s contagious (unlike anthrax).

From Toronto, there is the story of an eagle-eyed citizen who spotted a ‘white powder’ in the baby-changing area of a public toilet. Could it have been talcum powder? In Australia, there was a scene on a Qantas flight after a passenger noticed some kind of ‘white powder’ on her Danish pastry. Icing sugar, perhaps? A Sydney street was blocked off while police investigated a ‘white powder’ on the road, quickly discovered to be fake snow that had drifted from a shop window display.

That there are members of the public lacking in common sense is nothing new. That the authorities are taking mad reports so seriously is a bit more bizarre. But readers will be relieved to know that Qantas has now removed any dustings from their in-flight food.

Flour Power, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 October 2001

First arrest made in hoax campaign, Herald Sun, 18 October 2001

A scary day at the office, New Zealand Herald, 18 October 2001

A good time for petty crime

According to Fox News, anthrax panics are now putting a strain on the authorities in small towns. The police department in Martin, Tennessee (population 10,500) was called to a rural home where white powder had been found in the mailbox. Unable to contact the owners, the seven officers on duty put on full-length black rubber suits (any excuse) and cordoned off the area. The owner arrived home shortly to inform the cops that the substance was…pesticide. God knows what might have been happening around the town while the police were busy re-enacting Outbreak. Not a lot, probably.

On Tuesday 16 October alone, the International Association of Fire Chiefs logged 2000 anthrax-related calls. Small-town Americans should avoid smoking in bed or leaving deep-fat friers unattended for the foreseeable future – there could well be nobody around to put the fire out.

Small-Town Police Forces Struggle to Meet Demands of Anthrax Scare, Fox News, 17 October 2001

Haile suspicious

Another new phobia – fear of foreign-looking blokes with beards – seems to have affected a stewardess on a recent JMC flight from London to Malaga. Two rastafarians boarded the flight, one wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Haile Selassie (a foreign-looking bloke with a beard) and the words ‘World Peace’ printed on it, and the other wearing badges with the same foreign-looking bloke on them.

The stewardess wondered if the foreign-looking bloke being celebrated on the t-shirts and badges was some kind of terrorist, maybe even Osama bin Laden. And when the rasta pair refused to take her seriously, the pilot called the police and had them escorted off the plane. According to a JMC spokesman, ‘I am not going to speculate on what knowledge the stewardess may or may not have had about Emperor Haile Selassie’. That’s probably just as well – but t-shirts proclaiming ‘World Peace’ aren’t widely associated with terrorism.

One of the ejected passengers said that ‘the officers were very sympathetic and admitted it was a misunderstanding’. Now, that really is shocking.

Rastas banned from flight in T-shirt mix-up, Daily Telegraph, 17 October 2001

Divide the bill, divide the enemy

The Houston Chronicle reports that a substantial number of Taliban fighters have changed sides due to an unpaid lunch bill.

Several dozen fighters enjoyed a hearty meal of rice, meat and bread at the teahouse in Taleh Barfaq but refused to pay. The owner’s friends, also Taliban fighters, took umbrage at this behaviour – and one bazaar shootout later, the brother of local Taliban leader Nuruddin lay dead along with a handful of others. As a result, Naruddin’s 1000 men, who control the main Kabul to Mazar-i-Sharif road, defected to the Northern Alliance.

But Nuruddin is not new to changing sides. He was a member of the Northern Alliance until 1998 when the Taliban’s success led to a pragmatic switch. Apparently, in this civil war people don’t surrender – they just change sides.

Maybe Bush and Blair should dig themselves out of their hole by stirring up a bit of infighting. I can see it now: a faked letter from bin Laden to Mullah Mohammed Omar, telling him his mother is rather unattractive and what a good thing it is that she has to wear a veil. I bet it would sound even more insulting in Arabic.

In long run, Taliban paid a high price, Houston Chronicle, 15 October 2001

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Topics Politics

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