Zooming In

July 18, 2005

Dog-Shit Girl and the Wave of the Future

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: Zero-dollar tours, citizen journalism, making keyrings at the Centre Against Racism, and more.

David Goldenberg

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.



The Ogiek, an indigenous people with a predominantly hunter-gatherer lifestyle, are being evicted from the Mau Forest under orders from the Narok County Council, despite the fact that many Ogiek own deeds to land inside the forest. An editorial in the Kenya Times blames NGOs, including the East African Wildlife Society, for getting their priorities wrong about what is most in need of conservation. (Indeed, the EAWLS once put out the statement, "What is at stake [concerning the Mau Forest destruction] is more important than the plight of the people.") Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, now a highly ranked government official, is also upset by the evictions, telling the East African Standard, "Those who bought forest land are not criminals and they should not be treated as if they grabbed the land."


At the Ange Noir discothèque in Kampala's industrial area a couple of weeks ago, three popular musicians got into a fight, and one was hospitalized. As a result, East Africa Radio and East Africa Television have decided to stop playing music by Bebe Cool, Bobi Wine, and Jose Chameleone, who have been involved in an ongoing turf battle since 2001, according to the Monitor. Wine, the only one of the three men left in Kampala (the others are on tour), told the paper, "Even if I am put on death row I can't reconcile with Chameleone unless he apologises to me publicly." The paper draws parallels to the dispute between 50 Cent and The Game (Wikipedia).



Jacques Roche, a popular journalist and TV personality, was found dead in a slum in Port-au-Prince, one week after he was first kidnapped (BBC). He had been handcuffed, shot, and tortured. Roche's killers were after more money, having already asked for and received $10,000 from Roche's family and friends. Kidnappings like Roche's have been common in the country since Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in an armed uprising last year. In Alter Presse, Haiti's former culture minister Raoul Peck writes about the death of his friend, and lays the blame on Aristide.


Over 250 reggae artists will split a pot of almost $1.7 million in royalties won from the French radio stations that have been playing their music for the last 12 years. Artists who brought suit will be paid based on the number of times that their songs have been used. In the Jamaica Star, John Murray-Smith, the head of Definite Records, says the settlement will ensure that the rest of the world will learn that the exploitation of Jamaican artists is over, and that the music can now be treated as a legitimate business worthy of respect.


Another strange move by President Hugo Chavez has led to widespread protests by Venezuelan doctors, according to the BBC. Evidently, in one of his many dealings with Cuba's leader Fidel Castro, Chavez has arranged for 20,000 Cuban doctors and dentists to come to his country and work in poor neighborhoods in exchange for roughly 90,000 barrels of oil per day. But Venezuelan doctors say that the Cubans are simply taking their jobs, and that most know little in the way of medicine. "These Cubans are political agents who come to indoctrinate, not to work as doctors," said trauma specialist Pedro Carvallo.



Last month, the cellphone numbers of over 600 Chinese celebrities were posted online. This month, the identification-card photos of several of those celebrities, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star Zhang Ziyi (IMDB), have also been posted, to the delight of many fans. According to the China Daily, though, many of the celebrities are upset, and are considering legal action. The paper itself seems to have no qualms about the release of the photosקaccompanying the article are eight pages of the pictures.


In the city of Surabaya, gambling bosses tried to bribe reporters into promoting the Go Shock "golden voucher" game, one of the few forms of gambling that are still legal in the country (Jakarta Post). Journalists who showed up at a reception were given envelopes full of cash, according to Rizal Hasan, an editor at the Suara Indonesia daily who reported on the bribes. According to the article, gambling bribes are extremely common, and are often worth up to $1,000 per month, more than double a reporter's average salary.


If the House of Councilors passes the Postal Reform Act, Japan's post office will be split into four parts and privatized over the next 10 years. An article in the Japan Times discusses the potential ramifications of privatization, noting that many of the current post offices would be closed, and mail delivery would probably get more expensive. Also, the Postal Service would probably diversify its services, potentially adding things like concert tickets, cellphones, and even third-party medical insurance. Because the government would continue to hold on to one-third of the post office, certain things would remain subsidized, like universal mail delivery.


Citizen journalism, the nebulous idea that ordinary people can engage in activities that were previously the domain of reporters (Wikipedia), has been most developed in Korea. OhMyNews, for example, has almost 40,000 contributors and over 750,000 unique visitors each day. In an OhMyNews article, Bernard Moon postulates that the popularity of the service (which actually pays its reporters) has stunted the development of the blog in Korea. With thousands of journalists all over, there is rarely an event that goes uncovered, as a stubborn woman who refused to clean up her dog's shit soon found out after fellow train passengers posted pictures of her and the mess on the internet (BoingBoing). Korean citizen-journalism efforts seem to have skipped right over podcasting (Wikipedia) to TV reporting— The Korea Times notes that because over 30 million people have video capabilities on their cellphones, even the most spontaneous of incidents (like an embarrassing drunken confrontation in which a popular reporter kicked a taxi driver) are preserved for posterity.


Two thieves on a motorcycle were caught soon after they snatched the necklace from a hospital worker in Kuala Lumpur. The woman's shouts alerted passers-by who managed to pull the pair off the motorcycle and detain them (New Straits Times). In the ensuing scuffle, though, one of the thieves managed to swallow the chain, worth about $150. According to the article, "Police are waiting for the evidence after giving him a laxative earlier today."


Last year, over 600,000 Chinese tourists came to Thailand, almost all of them on what are referred to as "zero-dollar tours," where the visitors paid no airfare and very little for accommodations. The catch? According to the Asia Times, the tourists, mainly first-time travelers, "are herded from one expensive jewelry shop to another, from pricey entertainment joints to expensive restaurants. Not being able to speak Thai, and virtually imprisoned within the group, they are ripped blind." The Tourism Authority of Thailand has been trying to combat the operators for the last five years, but have made little headway against what is estimated to be a $400 million industry. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is visiting China next week, and, according to the article, "zero-dollar tours" are said to be high on the agenda.



A while back, Gelf noted the racial controversy surrounding Sweden's Nogger Black ice cream, which came with a graffiti-inspired ad campaign. As it turns out, the controversy was ignited by the Centre Against Racism, the government's flagship organization for fighting racism, which is now currently in a scandal of its own. According to The Local, board members for the two-year old organization never made any plans to take any action at all against racism. "We made some keyrings and erasers, but nothing more substantial," a former board member told the paper, "There were no concrete ideas about what we should do." Indeed, the center did not undertake a single investigation or produce a single report, and ran through $1.8 million dollars, including almost $80,000 in charges for hotels, meals, and liquor. Benito Miguel, one of the original founders, told The Local, "The Centre has done absolutely nothing. The campaign against Nogger Black was just to cover up the lack of work."


The daughter of Ukraine's new prime minister is engaged to a cobbler and musician from Leeds, England (Times Online). Evgenia Tymoshenko, the daughter of billionaire Yuliya, who helped to finance the Orange Revolution, met Sean Carr at a bar in Egypt and soon convinced the tattooed lead singer of the Death Valley Screamers to join her in Kiev. Gelf doesn't usually traffic in this sort of gossip (or at least that's what we tell ourselves), but this picture of Carr, from the Kyiv Post, was too funny not to post.

Middle East


Al Jazeera makes little attempt to hide the fact that, as an organization, its sympathies lie with the Palestinians in almost every aspect of the Israeli conflict. But as a recent interview with Avi Farhan—an Israeli living in Gaza—shows, this inherent bias can make for an interesting, lively, and rarely seen exchange of views. Here's a snip:

Al Jazeera: But Israeli settlements are racist by their very nature—only Israeli Jews can live there. Palestinians from Gaza cannot live there. On the other hand, you can live in Um al-Fahem.
Avi Farhan: I can't even walk by Um al-Fahem—I'll get shot.
AJ: Theoretically speaking...
AF: A few hundred metres away from me there are Arabs living here. But there still isn't enough goodwill for them to live inside the settlement. I'm sorry to see things this way, but it's not a one-sided problem.

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Article by David Goldenberg

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