Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Zooming In

February 12, 2007

Valentine's Day Is for Lovers — and the Rich

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: bumbling ATM thieves; a nun helps hire a prostitute; and a Hallmark Holiday is marked worldwide.

Carl Bialik

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
"It is hard to think of a more crassly-offensive tagline to those men and women in Sierra Leone who have no right hand to raise…"—The Daily Mail's Richard Pendlebury on the new diamond industry tagline, "Raise your right hand."

Graphic created by Paul Antonson

South Africa

Would-be ATM thieves appear to be having more success removing money from circulation—and inadvertently fighting inflation—than getting a quick payday, according to police. There were 23 attacks in the first few weeks this year, many of them using commercial explosive from mines and targeting cash machines without closed-circuit monitoring. Police spokesman Ronnie Naidoo told the Mail & Guardian, "The explosives are obviously not strong enough, and most of the time the criminals can't even use the money because it gets burnt in the blast. But they still keep trying."


With Blood Diamond opening in England, the British papers are assessing the significance of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie for the diamond trade, and for its setting, war-torn Sierra Leone in the 1990s. In the Daily Mail, Richard Pendlebury eviscerates the diamond industry's campaign to pay celebs to wear rocks, with the tagline "Raise Your Right Hand," since the nation's wounded include tens of thousands of amputees. "It is hard to think of a more crassly-offensive tagline to those men and women in Sierra Leone who have no right hand to raise, but who have paid a far higher price for diamonds than the celebrities ever will," Pendlebury writes.
But Sierra Leone's mineral resources minister wants no part of the film, expressing "concerns that the film will present the west African state in a poor light, disturb its diamond industry and weaken the country's fragile economy" to the South African News Agency.
Meanwhile, a disturbing report from Patricia Ofori Atta in Accra's Public Agenda claims that people are being sacrificed as part of "juju" rituals to bring good luck to diamond digs. The sourcing and grammar are dubious ("According to a 40-year-old man, people travel to Nigeria and other places to bring the spiritualists to give them juju to guide them. It is estimated that , more than hundred people both adult and children have been used for the sacrificed at the area.") but other parts of the article are more credible: "Some of these young children at the mining area are school dropouts because their parent could not afford to pay their school fees."


Newspaper editor Hrant Dink, who was shot and killed last month, was controversial among both Armenians and Turks—the former, for suggesting a dialogue between the groups despite the genocide of Armenians early in the 20th century; and the latter for using the word "genocide," reports Gareth Evans of Al-Ahram Weekly. The resulting murder investigation led quickly to a capture and confession, but a video showing police posing for snapshots with the suspect has sparked claims that the cops chose not to follow up on warnings before the murder. Today's Zaman headlines its report about the suspicious investigation, "Dink murder probe pits everyone against everyone else." (For more on the murder of journalists, see this Gelf article by Joshua Gardner.)


Nick Wallis—confined to a wheelchair because of muscular dystrophy, a disease whose sufferers typically die before the age of 40—lost his virginity to a prostitute. "After mulling things over, I felt I had already attempted to form relationships without success and firmly decided that I wished to experience sex without fear of rejection or the possibility of spoiling an existing friendship," Wallis wrote in the Guardian. As for the sex itself, "The two hours passed quickly and it was, you may say, satisfactory," though Wallis isn't sure he'll repeat the experience. Sister Frances Dominica, who runs the hospice that cares for Wallis, told the Daily Telegraph she supported his plan to lose his virginity: "It is not our job to make moral decisions for our guests. We came to the conclusion that it was our duty of care to support Nick emotionally and to help ensure his physical safety."


Valentine's Day, the holiday named after two Christian martyrs, is being celebrated around the world, including in countries with lots of non-Christians. In India (2.3% Christian, according to CIA's World Factbook), a jewelry retailer is hoping to sell 350 platinum pieces at a festival in Kolkata, according to Financial Express. Roses are also big business in Bangalore, with 350 tons of them exported to countries in Asia, Europe, Middle East, the UK, and Singapore, according to In past years, Hindu organizations have been as active as businesses on February 14, but protests were muted this year, reports the Indo-Asian News Service, because "some right-wing Hindu leaders say they are so preoccupied that they have no time to think of it."
In Thailand (0.7% Christian), a think tank expects residents to spend nearly $30 million on the holiday, helping local businesses "make up losses for the unsatisfying performance during the Christmas and New Year season due to the New Year's Eve series bombings in the capital Bangkok and its suburban, which led to the canceling of many festivities," Xinhua reports.
More than three quarters of respondents told the Independent Online of South Africa (79.7% Christian) "Who Cares" in response to the question, "Are you ready for Valentine's Day?" But Zuleika wasn't one of them: "Breakfast: Berries with cream Lunch: Picnic at Silvermine reserve Dinner: High tea at Mount Nelson Hotel Dessert: Lingerie, chocolate & Sherry kisses. Hmmm... I wish I could get a guy to share this with me :-)"
In the Herald of Zimbabwe (50% syncretic, 25% Christian), Brenna Chigonga writes a rather generic column about "a special and romantic day for lovers," until the pointed 12th paragraph: "With most Zimbabweans reeling under harsh economic woes, one wonders how many of us will afford to spare a dime for love. For the majority of us—who are taking home 'peanuts' and are on the wrong side of $100,000 [$400 US], with the larger chunk being channelled towards other more pressing issues—the usual excitement and romance of the day is likely to be dampened."

Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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- Zooming In
- posted on Dec 19, 16
Shop For Paliwal Jewelers Online Jewellery India

• Movies like blood diamond have spread awareness among the common public of the illegal ways in which diamond are traded between different countries. In India there is a fare trade of diamond jewellery, no only that the diamond can be purchased my middle class people as they are expensive but to a certain level. Therefore not only the richs but even the middle class men can buy his love a diamond.

Article by Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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