The Null Device
The Filipino Book Blocade
All is not well in the Philippines; the country has been facing a shortage of imported books after corrupt customs officers decided to make some money by demanding extra import duties
, in contravention of the Florence Agreement of 1952, an international treaty holding books to be duty free. The customs officials argue, with the chutzpah typical of corrupt petty officials across the world, that the Florence Agreement is invalid, applying either only to school textbooks or books used in book publishing, and that the rest of the world has been doing it wrong all along:
"For 50 years, everyone has misinterpreted the treaty and now you alone have interpreted it correctly?" she was asked.
"Yes," she told the stunned booksellers.
The writer David Torrey Peters, who once spent a year in Cameroon (which is even more corrupt than the Philippines), wrote of being pulled out of a taxi by a policeman who demanded that he produce his immunization card. David did this, but the cop told him that he was missing an AIDS vaccination. When David told the man that there was no such thing as an AIDS vaccine, the policeman was indignant.
"You think just because there isn't an AIDS vaccine I can't arrest you for not having one?"
The booksellers caved in, paying the illegal levy, as well as inflated "storage fees" for the detained books, and the customs department congratulated itself on having cracked down on this unfettered and untaxed trade in books.
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