Zooming In

November 2, 2007

Should College Degrees Be Practical?

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this Times-themed edition: sexist Kuwaiti headlines; feces and tourism in Costa Rica; melted faces in Malta; and more.

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.This week, all the news is brought to you by international papers with the word "Times" in them.


The Santiago Times (now back from vacation) reports that there is a proposal in the Ministry of Education that would require university degrees to be economically viable. If passed by Congress, the bill would force universities to send data to the Ministry of Education on the job prospects for each major. This would lead to sanctions against universities that offer too many majors with few career options. The proposal comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by 49 criminology students at Santiago's Metropolitan Technological University (UTEM) who allege that administrators misled them about job prospects related to their major. Julio Castro, head of the ministry's higher education division, says, "You could potentially have a degree in anything, like Gastronomical Engineering or Tourism Engineering. It is necessary that we regulate these degrees so they focus on an established area of knowledge and maintain their social value.” (Castro has yet to comment on the viability of degrees offered in other countries, like Yale's Ethnicity, Race, and Migration major.)


In Kyoto, the Japan Times reports that public prosecutors have decided not to arrest a journalist who revealed confidential material. Atsuko Kusanagi wrote a book which recounted in detail the exchanges between a psychiatrist and his patient, a 17-year-old boy who burnt down his house with members of his family inside. The doctor, Morimitsu Sakihama, was arrested earlier this month on a charge of leaking confidential information he obtained professionally. Kusanagi refused to reveal the psychiatrist as her source, but the details in the book Boku wa Papa wo korosu koto ni kimeta ("I decided to kill Papa")—in which she did not even change the boy's name&#!51;made it obvious where the information was coming from. An editorial in the Times condemns the author and publisher for not being more sensitive to the right of privacy and pushing the limits of the free press, but calls for the government not to convict Dr. Sakihama, as "the arrest of the 'source' could pose a threat to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech, expression and press. The arrest may throttle offers of information to journalists, thus jeopardizing people's right to know."


Perhaps hitting a new low for reporting on sexual abuse, the Arab Times in Kuwait features a story with the headline "Girl Skips School, Gets Raped." The story leads off with the caustic line, "Police are looking for an unidentified youth for 'raping' a 17-year-old schoolgirl." Anonymous acts of violence seem to be the norm in the Kuwaiti police blotter. In the next story an Indian woman was struck dead by "an unidentified motorist" in Jabriya. And finally, the police report the arrest of six Kuwaitis "who had been earlier sentenced in absentia for committing unidentified crimes." Gelf tried to reach the editor of the "Kuwait Crime News" section, but the unidentifiable man was unavailable for comment.

Costa Rica

A study by Costa Rica's National Water and Sewer Institute recently discovered an alarming amount of fecal contamination in the runoff waters of Tamarindo, according to the Tico Times. Santa Cruz's public health ministry has mandated that signs be placed in the area to warn swimmers of potential health risks. The Times quotes an unconcerned Carlos Benavides, the tourism minister, as saying, "All the cities in the world have their problems." According to the Times, "The minister added he doubts the feces-infested water will result in a large drop in tourists to Tamarindo."


The Times of Malta reports that the health minister has to attend a session of Parliament despite sustaining second-degree burns on his face. Louis Deguara sustained the injury when he absent-mindedly lit a match over a stovetop, not realizing that the gas had been turned on. The final budget is being determined this week, and the night set for the debate on the Health Ministry's budget was switched with the debate on roads so that the minister of infrastructure can look after a foreign diplomat. Deguara will defy doctor's orders to stay in, instead helping to moderate the debate between his Nationalist Party and the Labour opposition.

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- Zooming In
- posted on Nov 19, 07
John Bolton

This is great stuff! I wish congress wouldn't have fired me or I would now be laughing in the faces of these countries' leaders

Article by Michael Gluckstadt

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