Solutions for international instability

This is a time of great international unrest. People around the world are up in arms, and not just because Brad and Jennifer broke up.

In France, voters turned up their noses at the European Union's proposed constitution, jeopardizing the project and giving the rest of the world the impression that the French just might be a bit snobbish.

In the Third World, factory workers continue to be exploited by athletic apparel companies, toiling for low wages so pitchmen like Shaquille O'Neal can buy yet another Bentley complete with mini-bar and bathroom attendant.

And in Germany, the tasteless and misguided continue to buy David Hasselhoff albums.

These are all serious international issues deserving of immediate attention. But first, we must end Finland's toilet paper shortage.

Finnish paper makers enforced a four-week lockout May 18 after a two-day strike by workers. Reuters news service reports the dispute is mainly over the industry's plans to use outside labor and to scrap mill shutdowns during some holidays.

Consumers have become unraveled. Shoppers are raiding store shelves for toilet paper, fearing it will run out as the lockout shuts down the nation's paper mills. "As soon as we get a delivery, the packages vanish off the shelves. The big bags go first," said Hille Laine, manager of a Helsinki shop that was relieved of its tissue paper products.

To their credit, the Finns aren't taking this crisis sitting down. What can we, as Americans, do to help? For starters, we could send over a few cases of Cottonelle. We must strive to aid the incontinent, regardless of continent.

Now, back to those other pressing issues we were about to tackle. As for getting the French on the EU bandwagon, chances are they'll surrender if we commandeer their Camembert supply and replace it with processed Velveeta slices. And then ... hold on, I have just been handed an important bulletin. Let's turn our attention to India, where they're hiring monkeys to work for the government.

The Indian minister for human resources has hired a langur monkey and a professional monkey catcher to scare off other monkeys that have invaded his office, trashing light fittings, ripping up documents and generally acting as if they were auditioning for a Samsonite commercial.

The HR minister moved into the office after the country's petroleum minister tired of the daily simian onslaught, Ananova news service reported. Offices were given caged doors, and four monkeys - along with two catchers - were dispatched to patrol the buildings at night after a series of official documents were torn to shreds and several civil servants were bitten.

What should we, as Americans, do to help? Absolutely nothing: The Indian government is onto something here. Maybe the U.S. should install monkeys to run the government. We could call it Congress.

The country that could really use some night watch-monkeys, though, is Germany. Ananova reports that a German man who was mugged in a nightclub was mugged again two more times while waiting for police.

The 27-year-old lost his wallet and his mobile phone when three men attacked him in the club's bathroom. He called police from outside using a friend's phone, but while he waited for them to arrive he was approached by three other men, who stole his watch and cigarettes.

As he leaned back against a wall to recover, another five men approached him and again threatened him, stealing his jacket, the last of his small change and his remaining faith in humanity.

Perhaps the reason it's easier to find a mugger than a cop - even for those who have called a cop - on Germany's streets is that police are overwhelmed. After all, millions of Germans have been ripped off since 1989. And that's just counting the people who bought David Hasselhoff albums.

Renowned for his diplomacy and tact, columnist Ben Bromley hopes to be named ambassador to Luxemburg. A former editor at Lillie Suburban Newspapers, he is now a writer for the Baraboo News Republic.

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