The Null Device


The Howard Era's paternalistic censorship regime strikes again. A Tasmanian band were fined for importing their own CDs to Australia. Customs officers seized 207 copies of the latest album by Intense Hammer Rage (let me guess: they're a metal band of some sort). The CD is released by a US label and is legally available over the counter in the US; in Australia, it is a prohibited product, because it contains "offensive lyrics".

(Offensive lyrics are banned in Australia? They should go down to the Arthouse some evening.)

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U.S. government harshly criticises Saudi Arabia for allowing the recent terrorist attack on Western enclaves despite being aware of the al-Qaida cell behind them for two months prior. Perhaps they should have added "don't make us develop solar-powered cars" or something like that.

Meanwhile, a video has been found of the alleged leader of the terrorists holding a Kalashnikov and kissing it. Or maybe it was an old Madonna video.

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Minitel, France's proprietary information network, is 20 years old. Initially started as a means of replacing paper phone directories, it evolved into a model of what the Internet would have been like if the French had invented it: centralised, subsidised, run by a state-owned monopoly, based on proprietary technology and tidy, if a bit bland. Oh, and it's based around 1980s-vintage technology and phone lines. Though even while the French embrace the Internet, Minitel is far from dead; the lightweight, micropayment-based model of information exchange embodied in it is apparently being adapted to mobile phones, where it will undoubtedly prove as spectacularly popular as WAP.

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