Zooming In

February 1, 2006

Dog Food Snafu

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: A controversial food donation; an empty airline; and camel wrestling.

David Goldenberg

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

Hong Kong: "The male business traveler in Asia notices one thing rather quickly—the relative comeliness of the women who tend to him as he jets around the region," writes Kent Ewing in the Asia Times. Indeed, most airlines in the region force their female flight attendants to retire well before old age sets in. (Gelf mentioned Malaysian efforts to restrict the number of children stewardesses could have in a previous Zooming In.) After losing a recent discrimination case, Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific—rather than loosening its age requirements—simply has extended its mandatory retirement age of 45 to male cabin crew. "Once their time is up in the cabin, flight crew can apply for other employment at the airline (all jobs for which retirement ages are more generous)," Ewing tells Gelf over email, "but they have to line up with all the other applicants." Gelf also noticed that the subtitle of Ewing's article was "No dragons allowed," so we asked him to explain. "My editors, not I, used the word 'dragon' in the headline," he writes, "but, yes, it can be used in that context to mean older woman."

Zimbabwe: As part of the country's "Look East" policy—in which the government encourages economic ties with Middle Eastern and Asian countries as an alternative to Western trading partners—the government-owned Air Zimbabwe has been flying routes to Dubai and China. According to the Zimbabwe Independent, the plan isn't working out so well. The country is losing almost $1 million a month by flying nearly empty planes around the region; last year, the airline flew one passenger from Harare to Dubai. Another reason for the huge losses? The Independent notes that President Robert Mugabe routinely commandeers one of the six planes in the fleet for globetrotting.

Turkey: Let's say you take a winter vacation to the Aegean coast and are looking for a good time. The thing to do, according to the Turkish Daily News, is watch camels wrestle. The most popular sport in the region pits camel versus camel as they use their long necks to gain leverage and try to pin their foe. Besides for white froth flying from the dromedaries' mouths—which, according to Salon writer Laurie Udesky resemble "the head of a badly poured beer"—there's little in the way of disgusting body fluids that predominate most animal fights. Nonetheless, it often takes up to a couple of dozen handlers to separate the camels after a winner has emerged. For those wishing to learn more, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism has provided a video (it's at the bottom of the page).

New Zealand: The country's chief censor, Bill Hastings (Wikipedia), has banned an issue of Otago University's Critic magazine after the student publication printed an article headlined "Diary of a drug rapist—no means no, but if they can't talk, they can't turn you down," according to the New Zealand Herald. In the Herald article, Critic editor Holly Walker stood up for the satire piece, saying, "I was offended by the article as well, but it is defendable in that it highlights a very important issue and will hopefully make women more aware of what could happen to them."

South Korea: In the aftermath of the Hwang Woo Suk cloning scandal, much has been made of the stature Hwang enjoyed in Korean culture. Articles, including this piece in the New York Times, have discussed how nationalistic sentiments in the country played a role in propping up the now disgraced scientist. On Ohmynews, artist Sean Lee takes offense to such portrayals in the US media, penning a cartoon comparing Koreans' deference to Hwang to Americans' deference to Bush. "If I were to publicly state that we can attribute America's propensity to be easily corrupted and fooled to the U.S. Christian background or generalize about white and black Americans as Kool-Aid drinking, gun-toting, violent people, I would be called a bigot, a racist and derided by the rest of Americans as ignorant," he writes. "Yet apparently it's OK for the U.S. media and many Americans to just generalize Koreans and Americans of Korean descent into a certain mold." There's also a pretty interesting discussion in the comments section.

Kenya: The founder of New Zealand's Mighty Mix dog food company is shipping 42 tons of preprocessed food mix to be distributed to children of Rusinga Island. Many Kenyan officials are offended by Christine Drummond's charity, saying that the offer of a mixture based on dog food is undignified and disrespectful (The Nation). Mighty Mix office manager Natasha Mason tells Gelf over email that the outrage about the donation is based on confusion. "The media have told a lot of untruths, and we have wiped our hands of them, but are still determined to go through with it," she writes. "The food we have dispatched to Kenya consists of 2 main ingredients which are differently processed and have never been used in our dog food." In an attempt to alleviate concerns about the product, Drummond went on television to eat some of it herself. (You can see the video at TVNZ.)

Japan: Even in this blog-happy country, there are limits to citizen-journalist activities. Japanese athletes who blog at Turin will be disqualified, according to the country's Olympic Committee. "With the development of information technology, there is enough possibility for unexpected conflicts," Vice Chairman Chiharu Igawa told the Japan Times (mirrored at tmcnet). It's unclear why such activities are frowned upon, but the article notes that the International Olympic Committee first started regulating the practice in 2000, when Carl Lewis (or Louis, as it is spelled in the article) text messaged his impressions of Barcelona's opening ceremonies to a newspaper.

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Article by David Goldenberg

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