Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Zooming In

September 25, 2007

Skirting China's One-Child Law

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: Boy Racers in New Zealand; political (and familial) intrigue in Poland; hedonism in Chile; and more.

Michael Gluckstadt

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.

Graphic created by Paul Antonson
"One of the biggest practical problems for China is how differently family-planning laws impact the rich and the poor."

Graphic created by Paul Antonson


All politics are local, but in Poland, it's all in the family. The party in power, Law and Justice (PiS), is led by identical twin brothers, President Lech Kaczyński and his Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczyński. According to the Warsaw Voice, the party has recently suffered a number of high-profile defections to its main rival Civic Platform (PO) in the run-up to the October 21 elections, including the speaker of the Senate. But the defections did not have the impact that PO leaders were expecting. They were offset by the high-profile announcement that Nelly Rokita would accept the position of adviser to President Kaczyński on women's affairs. Rokita is the wife of Jan Rokita, one of the most prominent members of the PO, and runner-up to Kaczyński in the 2005 election. In the wake of his wife's actions, Rokita has resigned from politics.


Chile celebrated its 197 years of Independence from Spain with five days of Fiestas Patrias and the entire country took off from work to take part in a non-stop party—including the staff of the Santiago Times. The five-day work vacation is the longest in South America, and occurs this year because the Chilean Parliament declared a holiday of the "sandwich day" of September 17, stuck between the weekend of the 15th and 16th and the actual dates of Fiestas Patrias on the 18th and 19th. The staff of the Times took part in the traditional holiday, publishing a series of prepackaged essays in lieu of hard news. Not surprisingly, they could not be reached for comment for this article.


In the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram Weekly, Mustafa El-Labbad writes about the appointment of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to the position of chairman of the Assembly of Experts. Rafsanjani is a long time player in Iranian politics and is the leader of its moderate conservatives. He was the de facto leader of the country during the war with Iraq in the 1980s and served as president from 1989-1997. In 2005, he lost his bid for a third term to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; the loss reshaped the Iranian political scene. His new post is the akin to the role of Speaker of the House in the United States, only instead of a branch of the legislature, he represents an 86-member body of clergymen who have the sole authority to appoint a Supreme Leader. Cairo-based Iran expert El-Labbad gives credit to Rafsanjani for his accomplishments, but ultimately compares him to Sisyphus, and says he is a leader whose "relatively restricted powers in the two positions he currently occupies are insufficient to lever him back into the co-pilot's seat or even a higher position yet."


The Associated Press reported this week that Belgium has been put up for sale on eBay. The item was posted by Gerrit Six, a former teacher and journalist who was doing his part to protest the Belgian government's political impasse. The item cleared the eBay screeners as an obvious joke, but was taken down when the country actually fetched a bid for 10 million Euros. On his eBay posting, Six offered "Belgium: A kingdom in three parts." Shipping is free and the package includes Flanders, (described by Six as "Catholic but not fanatical"), Brussels ("A real Babylon with several coexisting minorities") and Wallonia ("German-speaking backyard") along with the bonus of the king and his court. The Belgian consulate in the UK had little to say on the matter. "I believe it was a joke," said an employee who preferred not to reveal her name. "The country is not actually for sale. I suppose it's funny. No further comment."


There are many ethical, legal, and cultural issues with China's family-planning laws. But one of the biggest practical problems for China is how differently the laws impact the rich and the poor. The current system calls for a monetary fine for every child past the allotted quota (which is basically one child per family, though there are exceptions). Poorer families can't afford the fine, but wealthy people and celebrities in particular have flouted the law and agreed to pay the fee, which is to them a minor cost. According to state officials, this leads the rich and famous to consider themselves as "special citizens" and sets a bad example for the rest. As a response, authorities in Shaanxi Province have introduced new laws to keep the wealthy in line. According to China Daily, the new measure simultaneously increases benefits for poor families abiding by the quota and bars violators of the family-planning law from receiving any honorary titles or awards. State workers who violate the policy may lose their jobs and be dismissed from the party.

New Zealand

New Zealand is cracking down on a growing trend of "boy racers" in the middle of a weekend of violence associated with the dangerous activity. A boy racer is a slang term in Britain and New Zealand for a young male who modifies his car to dangerous specifications and drives recklessly for fun—an image popularized on the TV show Pimp My Ride and in The Fast and the Furious film series. In Christchurch, police carried out Operation Hornet, an intense crackdown on the illegal activity planned to coincide with a car show occurring over the weekend. According to TVNZ, police handed out 500 tickets and impounded over 60 cars in the course of the operation. Over the weekend, there were two unrelated violent incidents in New Plymouth concerning boy racers. One 19-year old was killed when he stepped out of his car and was struck by a speeding Nissan Primera, and another person was stabbed at a boy-racer gathering (New Zealand Herald). The "Boy Racer Act" in New Zealand makes it illegal to do wheel spins, donuts, or spill petrol, with violators facing fines or imprisonment.

Michael Gluckstadt

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

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- Zooming In
- posted on Mar 28, 09
Katy Horre

well it deosnt say who the leader was durning these events I DONT LIKE THAT!!!!!!!!!!

Article by Michael Gluckstadt

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

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