Zooming In

March 21, 2008

Counting Progress of a Girl From the Jungle

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: fake Scotch in Scotland; online trouble in China; and postal shenanigans in the Czech Republic.

Michael Gluckstadt

Some of the most insightful writing from outside the US comes from local media. In this occasional feature, Gelf identifies noteworthy stories that haven't gotten much attention outside local borders.


According to the Phnom Penh Post, Rochom P'ngieng—who emerged last year from the Cambodian jungle after 18 years, naked, mute, and malnourished—is making measured progress in her rehabilitation. With the help of those who claim to be her family, the woman who Fox News once referred to as a "half-animal" now speaks a few words, wears clothes without trying to taking them off, and even eats her food with cutlery. When P'ngieng came out of the jungle, she was taken in by Cambodian policeman Sal Lou and his wife Rochom Soy. They believe the girl to be their long-lost daughter who disappeared into the jungle while shepherding water buffalo when she was nine years old. Guardian journalist Jonathan Watts doubts the family's claim, arguing instead that the girl likely escaped from being held in captivity, as evidenced by scars on her arms and legs. Feral children have been known to attract the interest of the media (especially in England), and this one has even ended up on MySpace.


According to China's state-owned newspaper China Daily, Chinese children are
far more likely to have encountered online dangers than children of the same age in other countries. Data released by Symantec Corp. suggests that nearly half of Chinese children between the ages of eight and 17 who use the internet have been exposed to inappropriate content. Of the 44% of children surveyed who have been approached by strangers on the internet, over 93% say they discussed something that made them uncomfortable. Comparatively, only 16% of US children say that have been approached by strangers, of which 25% were made uncomfortable.

Chinese internet officials attribute the disparity to the popularity of internet cafes in China as opposed to other countries' preponderance of home computers, with more child-control options. It is also possible that American children, who have more of the internet available to them, are used to the pop-ups for Britney Spears sex tapes and emails selling V.I.A.G.R.A, and don't consider spam to be personal contact. All of this is part of China's complicated relationship with the internet. No matter how controlled it is, the internet can be a liberating force. If the internet can't be tamed by the government, at least it can be villainized. Further evidence: The subheading of this article is a link to another entitled, "Do Some Love Computer More Than Lover?"


Uganda, which has experienced unusual success for sub-Saharan Africa in curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS, now has a new approach. President Yoweri Museveni has called for the death penalty for anyone who knowingly spreads the virus. At a ceremony commemorating 25 years since the first AIDS case was identified in the country, Museveni said, "I am glad to learn that the parliamentary committee on HIV/AIDS is coming up with a law to punish people who deliberately infect others. I would advise that they be condemned to death by hanging." The bill currently being drafted in the Ugandan parliament also calls for the outlawing of primitive circumcision practices that help spread the virus with the use of knives.

Uganda has been a relative success story in fighting the AIDS epidemic, having reduced HIV's prevalence in the adult population from 15% in the early '90s to 6.7% in the 2005 UNAIDS estimate. AIDS charity AVERT attributes Uganda's success to the ABC method: Staying Abstinent until marriage, Being faithful to a spouse and always using Condoms.


The Scotsman newspaper is helping to expose fraudulent 27-year-olds. No, not Barack Obama's foreign-policy advisors. The paper has uncovered a "faker's paradise" of knock-off vintage whisky, giving new meaning to the term bootlegging. A growing number of scammers have been found repackaging Scotch whisky in empty bottles and selling them online on sites like eBay for up to thousands of dollars. Experts say the fake antique whisky market is rapidly growing, with support from the Italian mafia, Russian business tycoons, and amateur internet entrepreneurs. Forgeries range from sloppy fakes to sophisticated hoaxes with laser-imprinted labels. French whisky enthusiast Serge Valentin took it upon himself to declare war on fake whisky by cataloging suspicious packages on his website, though he has recently called off his crusade to limit the collateral damage he was inflicting.


On April 6, Israel will run an unprecedented massive emergency drill. The National Emergency Authority will conduct a series of tests over a five-day span, some of which will simulate the reaction to a missile striking a five-story hospital with toxic and combustible chemicals inside, according to the Jerusalem Post. The Israeli Police, IDF Home Front Command and other military branches, all of the country's hospitals, the Fire and Rescue Service, Magen David Adom, and other rescue services all will take part in the drill, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will convene his cabinet for an emergency session to discuss the Israeli response.

Meanwhile, civilians all over the country will locate the nearest public bomb shelters. The relatively benign announcement (by Israel's standards at least) was met with a lively response in the Post's robust comment section. One user believes the drill to be an Orwellian exercise meant for Israel to "instill fear in [its] own population, to drive the 'under siege' mentality even deeper into the minds of [Israel's] citizenry." Others debated whether Islam is a religion of terror, what Olmert would actually do if there was such an attack, and what to do when you get to a fork in the road map.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic
In a development that would have pleased Newman from Seinfeld, Czech construction workers found 71 bags of mail in a tunnel at the train station of Breclav, on the Southern border with Austria. Roughly 63,000 pieces of mail were pulled out of a tunnel that had been scheduled for demolition. The tunnel had been inactive for the past 20 years, though most of the letters were dated between 2001 and 2006. "To tell you the truth, we are in shock," Gabriel Pleska from the Czech Post Office media office told iHNed.cz. "Even if the perpetrator were not an employee of Czech Post, some employee must have made a mistake."

Post a comment

Comment Rules

The following HTML is allowed in comments:
Bold: <b>Text</b>
Italic: <i>Text</i>
<a href="URL">Text</a>


- Zooming In
- posted on Mar 26, 08

The 'Scotland' map will have men painted blue and wearing no underwear come round your house with erected claymores, ready to do damage. And rightly so! Bloody geographically uneducated Americans.

Article by Michael Gluckstadt

Contact this author