Zooming In

March 31, 2005

Zooming In 3/31/05

In a new feature, Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local newspapers around the world. This week: Moscow courts music stars for political support, Nepal grapples with high maternal mortality rate, a tourism scandal in Mozambique, and more.

David Goldenberg

Some of the most insightful writing from outside the U.S. comes from local newspapers. In this new weekly feature, Gelf will identify noteworthy stories that haven't gotten attention outside local borders.

Correction: Naresh Newar is a man. An earlier version of this article referred to Newar, of the Nepali Times, as a woman.

Rocking Out to the Status Quo

In The Moscow Times, Kevin O'Flynn writes about the government's unusual efforts to prevent a popular revolution. Vladislav Surkov, a deputy head of the presidential administration, met with Russian music stars, including Sergei Shnurov, Zemfira, and Boris Grebenshchikov, in an effort to convince them to support the government or at least remain neutral if a popular uprising were to occur. "If you were going to put the meeting into an American rock and roll perspective," O'Flynn writes, "a fair parallel would be something like Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and the Mamas and Papas meeting President Richard Nixon's chief of staff at the height of American students' protests over the war in Vietnam."

Water Worries

In the Tico Times, Kim Beecheno and Rebecca Kimitch tackle the problem of Costa Rica's growing water shortage. In the Guanacaste region, traditionally one of the drier parts of the country, increased agriculture, including government-subsidized rice farming, has combined with the growing tourism industry to sponge up almost all of the water from the Tempisque River basin, the primary water source for people in the region. As a result, over the past 20 years, wetlands in the region have shrunk to one-third of their previous size. "Judging by the records of the municipalities, I would have to say the loser (if there is any) will be the public," Kimitch told Gelf in an email. "Tourism and agriculture have strong lobbies here, and I hardly see them suddenly being told to switch to more water-efficient crops or sports (golf courses being a large consumer). I think that if approached with efficiency and conservation in mind, there is enough water for tourism, agriculture and the public, and maybe preservation of some wetlands. But this would take a rare show of long-term thinking on the part of the government."

Now You're Cooking

In the Al-Ahram weekly, Sherine Abdel-Razek reports that Egypt is planning to shift its focus to natural gas as its petroleum reserves begin to dry out. By 2008, when Egypt is expected to become a net importer of crude oil, it is expected to increase its natural-gas production by over 50%. Abdel-Razek states that as the EU attempts to shift away from reliance on petroleum and the natural-gas reserves in the North Sea begin to dry up, European countries will look to Egypt as a source for the gas. The reporter also mentions the deal that Israel allegedly entered with the Egyptian government to import natural gas, as reported by the Israeli business publication Globes. Egyptian officials deny the deal.

Spread 'Em, Mr. Prime Minister

In Papua New Guinea, many people are upset about the treatment of Prime Minister Sir Michael Somar, who was searched by security while transferring planes in Brisbane, Australia (Post-Courier). Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer claimed the search, which included a scan of the Prime Minister's shoes, was a necessary evil. "It's the way of the world these days," he told the Post-Courier. According to The National, a protest march about the treatment is planned in Port Moresby.

A Nation's Disgrace

In the Nepali Times, Naresh Newar writes eloquently about Nepal's stunningly high maternal mortality rate: Almost one out of every 100 women dies during childbirth. Even more shocking: Over the past few years, more Nepalis have died in childbirth than in the conflict between security forces and Maoist rebels. Newar cites the low status of women in Nepali society as a major reason for the continuing poor maternal health. He quotes Indira Shrestha of the Support to Safe Motherhood Program, who tells him, "I see maternity mortality more as a human rights and gender discrimination issue than a public health indicator."

But Which One has Better Food?

A poll conducted by the Lowy Institute, an Australian research firm, found, among other things, that more Australians have "positive feelings" about China than the United States (The Australian). In the article, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer downplayed the polling, which also found that 70% of Australians feel that the country's government is too heavily influenced by American foreign policy. "It depends what questions you put to people, the time that those questions are asked and what happens to be in the media on that day," Downer said in the article. Indeed, an editorial in the same issue of The Australian criticizes the Lowy Institute for asking "loaded questions." When asked about specific issues, Australians questioned in the poll seemed to align more closely with the U.S. than with other countries.

'Tourist' Trouble

In Mozambique, the Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique reports on an emerging scandal near the resort town of Ponta de Ouro. A reporter with the Portuguese weekly Domingo accompanied the Tourism Minister Fernando Sumbana on a trip to the area, where they found supposed tourists ripping up coral, tearing up dunes, and even running an illegal fish processing plant in the middle of a nature reserve. Though Sumbana reacted angrily to what he saw there, locals said that all of the destruction had been green-lighted by corrupt officials from the capital city of Maputo.

Ever Been to a New Turkish Prison?

In Ankara, Güney Yıldız of the Turkish Daily News writes about the impact that the new Turkish penal code will have on how the government deals with adultery, freedom of the press, and defining genocide. The new code, which will take effect on April 1, was drafted in an effort to show the EU that Turkey is making democratic reforms.

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- Zooming In
- posted on Apr 23, 05
Naresh Newar

Hi there,
thanks for highlighting my story on maternal health on your webpage, "A Nation's Disgrace" but I am a male writer. You have referred to me as a she or her. Please remember that woman's issue is not necessarily covered only by women. As men they are also equally accountable as they also have mothers and sisters.

In fact, here in Nepal, I as a male writer, report on woman's issue more than any female journalist or writer.

Please change your reference of me from she to he.

Naresh Newar
Nepali Times

Article by David Goldenberg

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