Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Zooming In

June 25, 2008

Google 'M' for Murder

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: Taxing prostitutes in Jamaica; a Turkish press "genocide" omerta; and a blogger arrest in Singapore.

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.

Singapore

Singapore
A US-based blogger was arrested in Singapore on charges that he had insulted a public official. At the time of his arrest on May 31, the 58-year-old Gopalan Nair was not told by the five plainclothes officers in his hotel lobby what he had done wrong. Following his arrest, Nair spent six days in solitary confinement in a jail cell in Cantonment Police Station. Nair blogs as the singaporedissident, and in one of the last posts before his arrest he called out a Singaporean court as being a farce that bent the rule of law according to the will of powerful figures. Specifically, he wrote, "The judge Belinda Ang was throughout prostituting herself during the entire proceedings, by being nothing more than an employee of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders. There was murder, the rule of law being the repeated victim." In the last post before his arrest, he specifically challenged Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister. In response to the diplomat's threat to sue any blogger who defames him, Nair wrote:

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, look here. I am now within your jurisdiction and that of your corrupt police and your corrupt judiciary who will do anything you want of them, however criminal and illegal.

What are you going to do about it?

Gopalan Nair
Broadway Hotel
Singapore
May 31, 2008

Since returning from solitary confinement, Nair has been updating his blog, writing about the court proceedings and the dubious nature of the charges brought against him. According to the AFP, conviction of the charge of insulting a public servant carries a maximum fine of 5,000 dollars (3,660 US) or one year in prison.

Germany

Germany
German news magazine Der Spiegel reports that a raccoon has moved into the garage of the Park Inn, one of Berlin's landmark hotels. Raccoons are rare in this part of Germany, and so conservation law stipulates that they cannot be removed from where they choose to make their home—even if it’s on private property. According to Der Spiegel, “the hotel's management seems ambivalent about having a raccoon living in its garage.” The raccoon has been nicknamed Alex after the Alexanderplatz square on which the hotel is located, and has become a minor celebrity in the local Berlin media. It seems that raccoons were first brought to Germany from the US under the direction of Nazi leader Hermann Göring, in an effort to "enrich the local fauna" and presumably to eradicate the mice problem.

South Korea

South Korea
Anyone who thought the media coverage of Hillary Clinton was sexist shouldn’t go into South Korean politics. The Seoul Times reports that "Pretty-face lawmaker Na Kyung-Won of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) was furious about the remark by Chairman Jung Gwang-Yong … that compared her with government geisha." Referring to Na's political amorphousness on a local television program, Jung said Na is like "a government geisha who courts every new district magistrate." Jung continued, "A woman like Ms. Na cannot be a faithful wife but only a gold-digger." The story was broken by South Korean website DongA.com, an "Internet Journal for the 21st Century." Na was previously known for her work getting scholarships for students from low-income families and crying during the last parliamentary royal rumble.

New Zealand

New Zealand
A New Zealand Bioethics Council has ruled that Kiwi parents should have the right to choose the sex of their unborn children. The ruling is referring to the practice of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), in which the embryo is tested before being implanted into the uterus. According to the New Zealand Herald, certain uses of PGD are banned under current law and are punishable by imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of up to $200,000. PGD allows for the controversial practice of social sex selection, which has been banned in Australia and England, though it is allowed in the United States. In what may be the most blatant and dangerous form of sex discrimination, sex-selective abortions, though illegal, are widely practiced in India and China, and are leading to severe demographic imbalances.

Jamaica

Jamaica
The Jamaica Observer reports that health officials have proposed decriminalizing and taxing prostitution in order to regulate its practice. They would then use the estimated $3 billion ($42 million US) in revenue generated from the tax to finance AIDS prevention programs and research. Kevin Harvey, senior medical officer in the health ministry, said at the 2008 Conference on Knowledge, Attitude, Belief and Practices, "We need to have some regulation for this kind of grouping. I am not saying that we must go and legalize it, but we must decriminalize it and regulate commercial sex work in order to have greater reach." Dr Harvey then went on to list in curious detail the work habits of Jamaica's Commercial Sex Workers (CSWs), and the potentially taxable revenue they could generate. While regulating and taxing commercial sex would be sure to decrease the estimated 9% rate of HIV prevalence among Jamaican sex workers, the plan has many political hurdles. Prostitution is a sticky issue, and the article's author, Tanisha Lewis, tells Gelf that she is unsure whether the health ministry's plan will be successful. "I don't think that there is a straight forward [answer] at this point in time," says Lewis. "This is something that was already proposed under the previous government. I guess we will just have to wait and see how the new government handles this one."

Turkey

Turkey
Writing for a Turkish publication can be a tricky proposition. The Armenian genocide is a matter of great political sensitivity for Turks and Armenians around the world, and the very term has damaged international relations and doomed would-be ambassadors. The matter is so dicey that the US State Department considered pairing the candidates for ambassadorship to Armenia and Ankara in a single confirmation hearing, so that when pro-Armenian senator Bob Menendez presses Marie Yovanovitch, the candidate for Armenia, on the Armenian genocide, she can simply defer to her colleague. Yovanovitch ultimately responded to Senator Menendez's questions, calling the events of 1915-1917 "mass killings, ethnic cleansing and forced deportations," but not genocide. While American diplomats tiptoe around the word at occasional Senate hearings, the Turkish Daily News has to deal with it on a daily basis. They do so by constantly putting the word in quotes, preceded by the word alleged, and in the case of the Yovanovitch hearings, referring to it as the "g-word." Sometimes, they leave it out altogether, leading to almost comically clunky passages like "[Turkish President Abdullah Gül] said the best way to achieve accuracy is to leave the evaluation of historical events to historians." Ironically, TDN also reported that "Killings of Armenians in Ottoman Empire 'genocide,' says American historian." TDN did not respond to Gelf's request for comment.

England

England
According to computer forensic experts, an East Midlands man Googled the term "how to kill with a knife" just days before murdering his American wife and their child in Massachusetts two years ago. According to the AFP, Neil Entwistle, 29, searched for how-to tips on January 16, 2006, just six days before the murder. Not to make light of this tragedy, but Entwistle must have been unsuccessful in his Google search, as he ended up killing his family not with a knife but a .22-caliber handgun. Maybe that's because searching "how to kill with a knife" returns sites about criminal psychology, tips for Resident Evil 4, and now, lots and lots of stories about a man Googling "how to kill with a knife" days before murdering his family.

Michael Gluckstadt

Michael Gluckstadt is an editor at Gelf and host of the Varsity Letters speaking series.







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Article by Michael Gluckstadt

Michael Gluckstadt is an editor at Gelf and host of the Varsity Letters speaking series.

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