The Null Device
Four years ago, the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, founded as a Buddhist sanctuary and acting as the model for the fictional Shangri-La, became the last nation to introduce television, giving Rupert Murdoch's Star TV the rights to broadcast imported entertainment programming to its citizens. Consequently, the crime rate skyrocketed:
"Until recently, we shied away from killing insects, and yet now we Bhutanese are asked to watch people on TV blowing heads off with shotguns. Will we now be blowing each other's heads off?"
The marijuana that flourishes like a weed in every Bhutanese hedgerow was only ever used to feed pigs before the advent of TV, but police have arrested hundreds for smoking it in recent years. Six employees of the Bank of Bhutan have been sentenced for siphoning off 2.4m ngultrums (£40,000). Six weeks before we arrived, 18 people were jailed after a gang of drunken boys broke into houses to steal foreign currency and a 21-inch television set. During the holy Bishwa Karma Puja celebrations, a man was stabbed in the stomach in a fight over alcohol. A middle-class Thimphu boy is serving a sentence after putting on a bandanna and shooting up the ceiling of a local bar with his dad's new gun. Police can barely control the fights at the new hip-hop night on Saturdays.
Czech Republic votes yes to EU membership by 77% margin, the latest in an unbroken line of yes votes. This only leaves the two easternmost Baltic states, Latvia and Estonia, left to vote.