How abreast are you with international affairs? Do you know, for instance, that Iraq and the United States are on the brink of war? That the widow of assassinated prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia, has been campaigning in the Indian general election? And Monica Lewinsky is a bloke? You are asking: What has he been reading? I want a copy too! The truth is, I made up the last item to test how knowledgeable you are. Monica Lewinsky is, in fact, a hi-tech remote-controlled humanoid sent by President Bill Clinton's political opponents to investigate what kind of, er, job White House interns are asked to perform. If only. Unfortunately, with only a few exceptions (such as the bizarre sleeping contest in Germany in which participants who can lie in bed the longest will get a cash prize), overseas news can be quite mundane. As Hong Kong life is already quite eventful, many locals are not particularly interested in what goes on around the world unless it concerns: a) Hollywood celebrities; b) sex scandals; and c) Hollywood celebrities in sex scandals. I recently lunched with a journalist who writes for a popular Chinese broadsheet and he said his paper seldom ran editorials on foreign affairs simply because: 'Who cares?' I can imagine a scenario in which both Washington and Baghdad declare war and scores of Hong Kong people are walking around Causeway Bay worrying not about its effects but about their shopping. But I can understand why some locals automatically switch off when they read the world news section in a paper. Like me, they black out when confronted with a vast pool of unfamiliar names of people and places. For instance, what, who and where are: Coimbatore, Yaounde, Mossad, Pamplona, Nicosia, Suva, Bosanski Samac, Slobodan Milosevic, Bertie Ahern, Tiger (not the animal), and Banpot Piamdee. If you know all of the above, I have no idea why you are reading this column. But Hong Kong people are not alone in not knowing their world affairs. I once came across a popular national newspaper in the United States and searched for the world news section. When I could not find it, I asked a local where it was. 'But this is world news!' he said, waving the paper in the air. However, in my profession, one tries one's best to make sense of what goes on around the world - which is just as difficult as Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa trying to meet his pledge to build 85,000 flats a year. For instance, there have been several strange international news items that caught my attention. Just when you think Queen Victoria (the statue) has had a rough time after 'artist' Pun Sing-lui coated it with red paint and smashed its nose, the Little Mermaid statue on Copenhagen's waterfront was decapitated with a grinding machine. A character based on a fairytale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, the Mermaid is also Denmark's national symbol. Three days later, its head was returned. Apparently, the statue also had its limbs sawn off before. Now, who would be so mo liu (idiotic) as to do a thing like that? Then again, who in their right mind would throw cold water over a government official like Danbert Nobacon of chart-toppers Chumbawumba did to British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at a music award ceremony? As I was saying, locals are more aware of what revolves around them and, therefore, more informed on local issues. Well, most of us. Charles Yeung Chun-kam, the 'King of Trousers', for instance, drew laughter during a provisional legislative council meeting the week before the Budget when he said he did not grasp the importance of this week's Budget speech. He said: 'In the whole Budget, I can only see the figures on the expenditure side but nothing on the revenue side.' Hello?! But it is common knowledge the 'revenue side' of the Budget is not revealed until the Budget speech, which was given by Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on Wednesday. I have yet to decide whether it is what Mr Yeung said or the fact that he is a provisional legislator that is more alarming. He is also contesting for the textiles and garment functional constituency in the forthcoming election. I suggest he start reading this column.