Zooming In

August 9, 2005

'I Bought A Diploma' Underwear

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: Korea's Genitalgate; a revolutionary's son with a capitalistic bent; a noodle fight; and steeplechase's new king and queen.

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.


Kenya: Track stars like Saif Saeed Shaheen are considered traitors by many from their birth countries. That's because they accepted lucrative offers to defect to, and run for cash-rich, but medal-poor nations. Thus Kenya's Stephen Kemboi moved to Qatar, where he became Saeed Shaheen. Shaheen, whose Olympic eligibility was blocked by Kenya last year, responded by beating Kenya's Olympic gold-silver duo Ezekiel Kemboi and Brimin Kipruto in the 3,000-meter men's steeplechase at the world championships in Finland (Irish Examiner). "It's one thing to be patriotic but you also need to think about your future and this is what I am doing," Shaheen tells the East African Standard. "Most athletes in Kenya die poor. I really do not want to be like them."

Uganda: Dorcus Inzikuru won the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the world championships, becoming the first Ugandan to win a major athletics competition in over 30 years (New Vision). To capture the gold, Inzikuru went out fast and avoided congestion over the water hazard. One poster to the congratulatory message board writes, "As we have learnt from the experiences of other African countries... sports is a good way of putting poor countries onto the same pedestal with the rich developed ones, not to mention a source of income for the athletes, but also free tourist advertisement for the country."


Japan: The Tokyo High Court removed jail time and reduced the fine for the president of comic-book publisher Shobunkan, Motonori Kishi, who was found guilty last year of publishing pornographic material (Japan Today). Kishi was originally found guilty of violating Article 175 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits the distribution or sale of any pornography, after Shobukan published "Misshitsu" (translated roughly, it means "closed room"), an adult comic book featuring, among other things, close-up drawings of male and female genitalia. During Kishi's hearing, several publishers released a statement complaining that the government's interpretation of Article 175 went against the constitutional right to free expression.

Korea: Korea now has its own version of Nipplegate. The airing of Janet Jackson's breast during the Super Bowl provoked strong reactions in the US, and the primetime display of two punk musicians' penises during a live show of the popular Music Camp show on the MBC network promises to have even harsher consequences in Korea. Already, the Korean Broadcasting Commission has cancelled the show, and the two band members face up to five years in prison "on charges of making an obscene performance and interference in a business" (Korea Herald). Though the performers originally claimed the nudity was spontaneous, they now acknowledge that it was premeditated. "We took off our clothes because we thought it would be fun, as a joke, and to let people know about our music," police reported the two as saying in Chosun Ilbo. Here, of course, is the uncensored video (NSFW).

Nepal: In the four years since the Nepal civil war started, 11,500 people have been killed in the fight between the king's army and that of the Maoist rebels. Tourism revenue has dropped, and now one of Nepal's scarcest resources is drying up. According to an investigative report in the Nepali Times, over 100 of the country's 544 Asiatic one-horned rhinos in Royal Chitwan National Park have been killed since the war started. Before the war, 800 soldiers in 34 camps guarded the park. Now, there are only 10 camps, and poachers are taking advantage. Though several poachers have been caught, new ones replace them right away. And while the gunmen themselves only make $148 per horn, they can sell for as much as $22,000 as aphrodisiacs in China.

Philippines: According to the Manila Bulletin, the National Bureau of Investigation is looking into allegations of game-fixing in the country's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball league. Results from games have started to show up in online gambling sites, leading NCAA president Fr. Edwin Lao to deduce that a group of foreigners is behind a scheme to defraud the league. His only evidence, though, seems to be that young, wealthy foreigners have showed up to games with an abundance of phones. "Some individuals, who carry three cell phones or more, is something we find unique and this has caught our attention," Lao says. "We surmised that these people are betting on the NCAA results. In this case, gambling in the NCAA could be endless."

Thailand: Air Asia passengers in Phuket were kept waiting for over four hours as police interviewed a woman who attacked a flight attendant with noodles as the plane was en route from Bangkok (Bangkok Post). The incident started just after takeoff when a flight attendant asked the woman to quit talking on her cellphone. (Even in mobile-mad South East Asia, cellphone chatter is still a no-no on airplanes.) The passenger refused and subsequently threw a hot cup of noodles at the attendant.


Norway: Nearly 300 lucky travelers took advantage of an error on the website of Scandinavian Airlines System to book expensive seats at a fraction of their normal cost (Aftenposten). After initially considering canceling the tickets, SAS officials eventually decided to allow the customers to fly "Euro Class" from Oslo to Shanghai at a cost of $187. Seats normally cost $4,700 each. SAS estimates that the incorrect price was available on the web for less than three hours. Gelf looked for a follow-up article from the Norway Post, but the self-proclaimed "Doorway to Norway" provided no further details.

Russia: In a country fraught with corruption and organized crime, counterfeit documents are omnipresent. So it's no surprise that websites like dokumentov.net, peddling everything from high-school diplomas to visas, have sprung up. What is surprising is the corporate and official feel of the site, according to Kevin O'Flynn's column in the Moscow Times. The site even has a page listing the employees and their résumés. "The profile of technical director Seregei Danilin even says that he graduated from St. Petersburg State University in 1996," O'Flynn writes. "Whether this is true, or whether he is merely a satisfied customer, is not clear." Big spenders (those who want, say, both a PhD and a doctored passport) are eligible for a special promotion. Customers who spend $1,800 get a free pair of underwear with the phrase, in Russian, "I Bought a Diploma" across the crotch. (If you are a Gelf reader who speaks Russian, please let us know. We'd like to order some of these for Chrismukkah presents.)

Sweden: The country's migration board is once again mulling an unusual proposal to grant asylum to specific groups of refugees. (Gelf previously reported on the plan to provide permanent residency to families of apathetic children.) According to the Local, the government is considering granting refugee status to all homosexuals from Iran, after two 18-year-olds were executed in Tehran for engaging in gay sex. (There is some contention that they may also have been involved in the rape of a 13-year old.) While LGBT groups in Sweden commended the board for suspending deportations to Iran, they said the policy should be broadened to cover asylum-seekers from all countries with anti-gay policies.

Ukraine: Andriy Yushchenko, the 19-year old son of Orange Revolution leader and President Victor Yushchenko, has been the subject of several inquiries by the Ukranian press after being seen running around town in an expensive sports car and spending lots and lots of cash at trendy restaurants. As it turns out, one source of funds might be the rights to symbols of last winter's revolution, including the phrase "Tak!" (Ukranian for "Yes!") and the upside-down red horseshoe on an orange background—Mykola Katerinchuk, the former legal advisor to the Yuschenko campaign, transferred the copyrights to young Andriy in December. "I can't say that they have made Andriy wealthy, but he is an enterprising young guy," Katerinchuk tells the Mail & Guardian. "We'll see when he makes his tax declaration." An editorial in the Kyiv Post makes no effort to conceal its repulsion to the allegations: "How utterly disgusting... No one who slept out in the snow protecting Viktor Yushchenko did so to provide Yushchenko's kid with a cash cow."

Middle East

Israel: Haaretz newspaper has polled members of the Likud Party for the past year, asking them whom they would support in a race for Likud Party leadership. After resigning from the party, former finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds the edge over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the first time. In the most recent poll, Netanyahu beats Sharon by 15%, suggesting that Bibi's withdrawal from the party in protest of Sharon's disengagement policy may have been a shrewd political move. The paper suggests that it may be time for Sharon to try a drastic measure to keep his hold on power:

If the picture does not change following the disengagement, Sharon is likely to seriously consider the "big bang" option that Minister Haim Ramon of the Labor Party has been pushing for some time. Ramon has long claimed that Sharon would never be reelected as head of the Likud, and therefore has only two options: abandoning politics altogether, or splitting the Likud and merging his supporters with Labor and Shinui to form a new "centrist" party. Ramon believes that such a party could win a huge number of seats running against a shrunken, Netanyahu-led Likud that Sharon could easily paint as an extreme right-wing party.

Until now, most of the political world has laughed at Ramon's theory. But this poll, and others like it, may turn the "big bang" into a realistic option.

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Article by David Goldenberg

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