Odds and Ends ...

Upturned palms

UPTURNED palms should be sweating all over the world by now. But they're not, because last year's forward-looking crusade against business bribery has run into backward-looking nations. The latter may think they are doing their multinational companies a favor by letting them bribe their way into certain developing markets. But they not only contribute to other countries' corruption, indefensible in itself, they also risk increasing local instability and thus reducing future business opportunities.

The effort against bribery includes various measures by a galaxy of international organizations: the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization of American States, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). One goal is for nations to make bribery of foreign officials illegal and end tax deductions for it as a business expense.

The United States took these steps two decades ago following international bribery scandals. Most of OECD's 29 members, due to meet May 26, are reportedly ready to follow suit. But biggies France and Germany urge waiting for an international treaty, which would mean many more happy years of bribery as usual. Say it ain't so, Joe, er, Franois and Fritz.

Crumb couples

MUSTACHES are in these days - milk mustaches, that is. They are as fetching on celebrities in today's glossy ads as they used to be on the cookie-duster lips of children coming up for air after chug-a-lugging their milk quota of the moment.

Why has the ketchup on the chin, mayonnaise on the cheek, or crumb in the corner of the mouth never become chic enough for Madison Avenue?

That is what couples all over the world want to know, as they expand their repertoire of dining-out warning signals. She softly clears her throat and places a pensive finger beside a nostril; he snaps into action with napkin covering his whole meat sauce area. He catches her eye over the rim of his goblet, like a rou of the silent screen; she nonchalantly pats the grease leaking toward her jawline as if she were patting things in general.

"Good heavens, you have butter on your ear!" says Grandpa right out. But the milk-mustached children don't do anything. They know Grandpa always says that when they're eating corn on the cob.

Seed saviors

WE'VE heard of heirloom seeds, but this is ridiculous. Nine domesticated squash seeds from a Mexican cave have been dated to some 10,000 years ago, 5,000 years before agriculture was supposed to have begun in the Americas. If only the Seed Savers Exchange had been there, or Seeds of Change, or some Stone Age version of these organizations dedicated to preserving seeds through the generations.

Seedsters recall the World War II siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) where botanists at a seed bank of 200,000 species martyred themselves to preserve these genetic heirlooms. Present-day scientists from there have been part of expeditions sponsored by the Seed Savers Exchange to collect what remains of the array of unique plants decimated by pollution around the Aral Sea.

But gardeners can go to a catalog instead of Kazakstan for seeds with a pedigree, and plant a little history at home.

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