Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Zooming In

October 15, 2007

The Poultry Adviser to the Executive Branch

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: Small victories in Sri Lanka; limericks in Limerick; magic mushrooms in the Netherlands; 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.

Graphic created by Paul Antonson
After a chef was named "Gastronomic Adviser to the Executive Branch," a rival decried "a President who doesn’t have limit nor respect for Dominican society."

Graphic created by Paul Antonson

South Africa

An editor and a journalist are going to be arrested this week for illegally possessing the medical records of the health minister, reports the paper they work for, South Africa's Sunday Times. Editor Mondli Makhanya and deputy managing editor Jocelyn Maker have come under fire from the government for their August 12 report and recent follow-up on the abusive and bizarre actions of Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang during her two stays in the Cape Town Medi-Clinic hospital in 2005.

According to the report, "Tshabalala-Msimang dispatched staff to buy alcohol, threw drunken tantrums, abused nurses and washed down medication with wine and whisky." Under South Africa's National Health Act, it is a criminal offense to gain access to any person's confidential health records. According to Ray Hartley, editor at the Times, the imminent arrests represent "a bleak and ominous moment for our country." South African journalist and political commenter Justice Mulala sees the arrest as a frightening trend in the "Stalinist" misuse of power by President Thabo Mbeki and his government.

Sri Lanka

sri lanka
The Sri Lankan Navy confiscated two boats full of military equipment intended for the Tamil Tigers terrorist group. The seized cargo contained a miniature remote-control plane and a similar toy-like helicopter, which the Navy says could be used for small-scale aerial attacks or surveillance purposes. The Tamil Tigers (or LTTE) is a militant organization with nationalist aspirations to create a separate Tamil state in the North and East of Sri Lanka. The Navy was happy to trumpet news of the seizure. Commander D.K.P. Dassanayaka said, "This is the first time in the history of the military operations against the LTTE, Sri Lanka Navy has been able to capture an aircraft in the possession of the enemy."


Some Kenyan Muslims are celebrating Eid-ul-fatr—the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan—earlier than the official announcement by Muslim authorities. The discrepancy is based on the varying opinions on the exact date of the New Moon, which marks the changing month. Since the New Moon is always invisible in the sky on the exact date of change, it is marked the day afterwards, when the Crescent Moon is first sighted. The National Council of Crescent was set up to mark the official declaration of the sighting of the Crescent Moon in different regions. However, some Muslim countries don't recognize the authority of the National Council. These countries either declare their own sightings or—as is the case in Uganda—follow a controversial Saudi astronomical calendar model.

Dominican Republic

Dominican President Leonel Fernandez has angered many citizens with his recent spate of questionable government appointments. The 60 consular, diplomatic, and special appointments include Minister Tito Hernandez as "poultry adviser to the Executive Branch," professional model Selineé Méndez as "ambassador assigned to the Foreign Ministry," and folk star Ana Josefa Taveras as "Civil Assistant to the President." While it's easy to see the humor in last month's appointment of chef Mike Mercedes as "Gastronomic Adviser to the Executive Branch," Fernandez's opposition is not laughing. Cristian Paredes of the rival PRD party says the designations are "a charlatanry from a President who doesn’t have limit nor respect for Dominican society."


In the coming week, Dutch authorities are set to ban the sale of hallucinogenic mushrooms throughout the Netherlands under the country's Opium Law of banned substances. Health Minister Ab Klink and Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin are consulting on whether so-called "magic mushrooms" in their fresh form should join their dried counterparts on the illegal substance list—as they have in almost every European country since 2005. There has been a rethinking of the Dutch public attitude towards magic mushrooms after a number of dangerous incidents involving tourists who had taken them, including a 17-year old French girl who drowned after jumping from a bridge. There is at least one Dutch politician who opposes the ban. Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen—no doubt mindful of the mushroom's tourist draw—has instead proposed a three-day "reflection period" for people considering buying the drug.


News adapted from the Limerick Post:

The town of Limerick was wasteful,
Addressing the problem, they were hasteful
Recycling increased 9 per cent
But as for where the rest went
Illegal dumping is done by the crateful

The prison in Limerick is violent
But the warden had always kept silent
A European committee inspected
Found that rules had been circumvented
And declared an unsuitable environment

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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