Notes and shorts from around the world


Social media tax
Uganda has introduced a tax on access to social media websites amounting to 200 Ugandan shillings (7.5 cents) a day –
a measure denounced by critics including Amnesty International as a blatant attack on free speech by Yoweri Museveni’s government. President Museveni, 73, who has ruled as president since 1986 (Uganda having abolished the presidential term limit in 2005 and, more recently, the age limit of 75) insists the tax is needed to clamp down on the spread of online gossip, which he has described as a mix of “opinions, prejudices, insults [and] friendly chats.” His government, which blocked access to Facebook and Twitter during the most recent, allegedly rigged, election in 2016, hopes to raise $138 million a year from the tax.
Helicopter escape
A notorious French gangster escaped by helicopter from a prison south east of Paris. In his second escape, Rédouine Faïd was broken out by three accomplices, who had kidnapped the helicopter’s pilot, forcing him to fly to Réau and land in its prison’s courtyard, which is not protected by nets because it is not used by inmates. Armed with Kalashnikovs, they set off smoke bombs and forced their way into the visiting room, where Faïd was waiting. The helicopter was later found 60km away. The pilot was unharmed, but in shock. Faïd remains at large.
Teacher short-changed
The case of a young woman who was told – after four years at college – that she had failed to qualify as a teacher because she is too short, has caused outrage and incredulity on Chinese social media.
At 140cm, the woman does not meet the minimum 150cm for female teachers in Shaanxi province (men must be 155cm). Several provinces have dumped height rules in recent months amid growing public disquiet over the issue.
Publishing twaddle
An academic who was sick of being asked to pay to publish his research in bogus journals has taken his revenge. Gary Lewis of Royal Holloway and Bedford New College of London University submitted a paper impressively entitled Testing Inter-hemispheric Social Priming Theory, which used sophisticated statistics to unearth “compelling evidence” that “one’s political preferences are manifested in the hand used while cleansing one’s posterior.” The article was duly published by Crimson Publishers, even though it contained lines such as, “The politician Nigel F. ‘Arage told the research assistant to ‘bog off’.”
Bons mots
“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can; all of them make me laugh.” W.H. Auden, English poet
and librettist


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