Zooming In

June 13, 2005

Zooming In 6/10

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: Planet Bollywood, the Swedish anti-Bikini Team, and a soccer match pits ski jumpers against actors.

David Goldenberg

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.


China: Plastic surgery, once illegal in China as a sign of "bourgeois vanity," is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, according to the Asia Times. Though the $2.4 billion that Chinese people spent on cosmetic surgeries last year is still far below Japan's level of $18.7 billion, the article notes that in a land where employers can still specify "pinmao duanzhuang," or "appropriate appearance," in job interviews, plastic surgery is no fad. Surgeons now advertise on taxis, television, and in newspapers, and doctors from elsewhere in Asia are moving in to take advantage of the market. Perhaps inspired by Fox's The Swan, several surgeons in China have attempted to cash in on the man-made beauty phenomenon by providing extensive surgery to unfortunate-looking women free of charge, and placing pairs of before-and-after pictures on billboards. (See Zhang Di's in the article).

India: It's a logical next step. After McDonald's and Pizza Hut set up shop here, Planet Hollywood followed. By 2010, the enterprise—started by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Demi Moore—hopes to have five restaurants in the country. The first one should be up and running in Mumbai by the end of next year (Asia Times). Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl said in a statement, "Our presence will bring the excitement of Hollywood and combine it with the power of Bollywood in a very special way." According to the article, India's rising middle class country eats out often, contributing to a national per-capita spending rate on food that is among the highest in the world. Perhaps it's just the right combination to convince people to spend money on Schwarzenegger's mother's recipe for banana strudel.

Korea: CT scans have been used to create 3-D images of 1,500-year old golden shoes, according to the Korea Times. Even though the shoes are still encased in hard mud and rocks, researchers at Seoul University National Hospital were able to digitally analyze the scans to tease out fine details of the shoes' shape and pattern—along with a recreation of the foot bones still inside them.


Continental: Two damning reports about the state of African-Western relations are cited in the East African in the run-up to the G8 summit. The first, from the Lancet, notes that the brain drain of doctors from sub-Saharan Africa continues to flow to the U.K. unstaunched, despite British government promises to curb the problem. Now, over 31% of doctors and 13% of nurses in the U.K. are from foreign countries. The second report, from OxFam and ActionAid, is even more worrisome: It finds that over 40% of foreign-aid budgets—$20 billion annually—is spent on paying Western consultants.

Kenya: Anglican Churches from Eastern Africa continue to reject funding from the American Episcopal Church in protest of the Americans' decision to allow gay bishops and same-sex relationships in the Church. "There is not enough money for the needs we have in Rwanda after the [1994] genocide," said Bishop John Rucyahana of the Diocese of Shyira told The Nation of Kenya. "But if money is being used to disgrace the Gospel, then we don't need it." When New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, who is gay, was elected in 2003, many African Anglicans—comprising almost half of the Anglican Communion—announced they wouldn't accept grants from the Espicopal Church, which previously provided over 70% of the funding. Bill Atwood, general-secretary of the Ekklesia Society, an international Anglican network, recently toured the communities who had rejected funding. "I met with some archbishops a week ago and they were saying how painful it was," he told The Nation, "with people starving to death to make these choices."

Liberia: Now that George Weah is running for the presidency of Liberia (see related Gelf article in April), he no longer has time to devote to the Liberian Football Association (LFA), which he brought up from the ashes to one victory shy of qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. As a result, the entire program is in disarray, writes Hassan Kiawu in the Liberian Observer. The national team just returned from a 4-1 shellacking in Mali, and LFA officials are refusing to submit to a government audit about FIFA funds. According to the article, in the wake of soccer's slow death, other sports are starting to take prominence, most notably basketball and track. (The writer may be a little biased, though; in the article, Kiawu writes that he "gained the reputation as 'The human jet' for maintaining years of unbeaten record and a blazing speed in the sprints (100m and 200m) after a transformation from Middle distance to the events.")

Morroco: Asmae Leghzaoui recently finished up her two-year ban from professional running for her use of EPO, the same synthetic hormone for which American track stars Kelli White and Alvin Harrison are currently serving bans. Since Leghzaoui's return, she has been nearly unstoppable, winning road races throughout the United States, including San Francisco's Bay to Breakers. Other athletes aren't happy with Leghzaoui's newfound success; most recently, racing stars Lornah Kiplagat and Paula Radcliffe spoke out about the Moroccan, saying that they shouldn't have to share accolades and sponsorships with a known cheat, especially one who confines herself to the rarely-tested world of road racing (The Nation). Kiplagat recently withdrew from a race in which Leghzaoui entered. A profile of Leghzaoui in the Washington Post is more sympathetic. The article states, "Others said they cannot continue to penalize someone who has shown no evidence of continued use. 'It's like saying to someone who spent jail time, you're never going to work again in your life,' said George Banker of the Sallie Mae race." Leghzaoui won the race, setting a course record.


Poland: If a group of Polish actors played a soccer match against ski jumpers from around Europe, who would win? For the last three years, that surreal question has been settled on the field. This year, the ski jumpers got the better of their thespian competition in a closely fought 1-0 battle. The Warsaw Voice reports on the game, and notes the celebrities who participated, including Rafał Mroczek from the M jak miłość TV show. Though the ski jumpers eventually win, getting revenge for their 4-2 thumping at the hands of the actors last year, Veli-Matti Lindström, a Finnish jumper, had his season put on hold after breaking his leg. Rather than being distraught, though, he told the Voice, "I can see no reason why I should not come to a match like this next year."

Slovakia: Truckers in Slovakia have long paid an annual toll for the use of highways, a simple way for the government to collect money to maintain its roads, but one that punishes truckers who drive less than others. According to the Slovak Spectator, the government is planning to add electronic systems to each truck that would measure traveled distance and charge truck owners accordingly. While implementing this new system will be costly, it is required by the European Union, which wants to ensure interoperability between systems of different countries. Slovakia is considering whether to use a DSRC microwave system, in which on-board units register every time they pass by specially installed gates, or a GPS tracking system.

Sweden: The U.N. describes Sweden as the most gender-neutral country in the world (The Local), so why is there suddenly an uproar in the country over what has been referred to as feminist fundamentalism? First, the Miss Sweden competition was canceled due to pressure from feminist organizations. Then, the Feminist Initiative was formed as a political party. Last month, women protesting outside of a strip club sent three men to the hospital after a confrontation with bouncers turned violent. And a couple of weeks ago, Swedish Television aired its inflammatory documentary entitled "The Gender War" in which a network of 50 battered women's shelters was portrayed as a man-hating organization. (The leader of the group is filmed, somewhat unfairly, agreeing with statements like "men are animals and walking dildos.") The Local ran an editorial saying that the whole feminism debate has been cheapened by the documentary; one commenter adds, "International readers should know that the picture that the Swedish media paints about 'feminists' causing trouble is terribly slanted, fabricated and sensational. It sells papers, and people seem too willing to buy this manufactured myth."

Ukraine: Last week, former Ku Klux Klan leader and Louisiana Senate candidate David Duke arrived in the capital for a conference called "Dialogue of Civilizations: Zionism as the Biggest Threat to Contemporary Civilization." The conference allegedly supported the deportation of Ukrainian Jews. Also present at the event were officials from several Middle Eastern countries, and Levko Lukyanenkom, a deputy of the Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. An editorial in the Kyiv Post calls for Lukyanenkom's ouster, noting:

It's sad enough that Palestinian and Syrian representatives should, in their peoples' troubles, resort to consorting with the likes of Duke, who's a pariah back in the States—one of the most repellent semi-celebrities extremist politics have lately vomited up. It's even sadder and weirder that Lukyanenko should consort with him, or that a deputy in the Rada of the "new" Ukraine should feel comfortable at such a disgusting "conference" in the first place.

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Article by David Goldenberg

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