Zooming In

April 14, 2005

Zooming In 4/14/05

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local newspapers around the world. In this edition: Termites eat extradition papers, racially insensitive ice cream, undiplomatic diplomats, and more.

David Goldenberg

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


Kenya: After almost a decade of living in the U.S., Kenyan-born middle-distance track star Bernard Lagat finally got his American citizenship, according to the East African Standard. Lagat, who won a silver medal in the 1,500 meters in Athens, will not be able to compete for his new country until after the world championships in August; the International Olympic Committee set tougher rules after the Bahrain and Qatar governments paid several Kenyan track stars to switch citizenships and bring medals to the desert countries. In the article, Kenya's elder statesman of track, steeplechase legend Moses Kiptanui, put to rest the notion that Lagat's decision was also financially motivated. "Lagat has done a lot for this country. He has run for long for this country and since he has an American girlfriend, I don't see anything strange in his decision."


Puerto Rico: Despite a 2002 ban on interstate and international trade in fighting animals, Puerto Rico's cockfighting industry is stronger than ever, the Puerto Rico Herald reports. Over 100 rings supported 190,000 fights last year, generating $42 million in government revenue. According to Carlos Quñones, director of the Office of Cockfighting Affairs of the local Sports and Recreation Department, the ban may even be driving more cock fights to the island, as the best breeders from around the world move to Puerto Rico to get in on the action.


North Korea: In the Asia Times, Andrei Lankov, a professor of Asian Studies at the Australian National University, describes in detail the video of a public execution that was recently smuggled out of North Korea. The government executed the victims for smuggling women into China, a profitable business but one highly embarrassing to the Pyongyang government; Lankov claims that many of the women who have been smuggled out were subsequently married off to South Korean men. Lankov notes, "In the past year alone, marriages between South Korean men and Chinese—usually Chinese-Korean—women constituted an astonishing 6% of all marriages in South Korea."

Philippines: The case to extradite American Roger Lawrence Strunk to the Philippines to be tried for the 2001 murder of his wife Nida Blanca has gotten more complicated. Strunk, who used to perform in B-movies under the name Rod Lauren (IMDB), is accused by the Philippine government of hiring a hit man to kill Blanca, a famous Phillipino movie star (IMDB), but much of the case file, including the extradition petition, was eaten by termites (Philstar.com).


Georgia: Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili whipped up controversy in a recent television appearance, charging international nongovernmental organizations with corruption and collusion with the Right Wing Opposition party (The Mesenger). In response, opposition leader Davit Gamkrelidze labeled Okruashvili a "maniac," adding, "even when he was governor of Shida Karli, he behaved like a madman. He ran from brothel to brothel carrying arms and detaining criminals."

Lithuania: The Russian Ambassador to Lithuania, Boris Cepov, is in the process of being recalled to Moscow, due in no small part to the fact that he told a local paper that Latvia "is not a country but a place for rally of scandal-living brawlers" (The Baltic Times). Cepov was already on thin ice with his boss in the Foreign Ministry for his failure to convince Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus to go to Moscow to mark the 60th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis. Cepov was previously recalled from Kenya for a diplomatic gaffe.

Romania: Romania Cable Systems' newest music television channel "U Televiziune Interactiva" is like MTV—with a twist. Instead of interruptions by annoying VJs, music videos will be played non-stop based on online polling at the channel's website. A spokesman for the New Trend Media Company, which is funding the station, told Nine O'clock (yes, that's the name of the English-language paper there) that there will also be an interactive on-screen text-messaging feature for users.

Sweden: Perhaps taking a page from Dairy Queen, which last year introduced the coffee-based MooLatte (taken on by Slate�s Timothy Noah), Sweden's biggest ice cream maker, GB Glace, recently stirred up its own media controversy when it revealed its newest product, the liquorice-flavored Nogger Black. The Local newspaper has details of GB Glace's graffiti-inspired ad campaign, which bears the slogan "Nogger + liquorice = True."

Middle East

Jordan: Members of the Saadiin tribe in Southern Jordan have not been able to access free government healthcare, though it has been mandated by Royal directive for the past decade, according to the Jordan Times. Health-insurance cards are only being issued in Amman, a city that many of the Saadiin never see. Tribesmen who come to local clinics without cards are turned away.

Saudi Arabia: In the Arab News, columnist Dr. Mohammed T. Al-Rasheed pokes fun at the candidates participating in Saudi Arabia's newest experiment with democracy, the municipal-council elections in Jedda. He uses their campaign posters to show how uncomfortable the candidates seem with the idea of campaigning for votes. "With all due respect, they look funny if not outright silly," he writes, adding later, "Their slogans are funny and meaningless, i.e. 'Together for a better future,' 'Vote for me' (without telling us why), 'I am the man,' etc."

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- Zooming In
- posted on Apr 15, 05

Dr. Mohammed T. Al-Rasheed may be disappointed to learn that even in a mature, more than 200 year old democracy, campaign posters, ads, and speeches don't get much better than "Together for a better future".

- Zooming In
- posted on Jun 29, 07

Cool website! Good work. Good stuff. It very impressive. I will be back!

Article by David Goldenberg

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