Zooming In

June 2, 2005

Zooming In 6/2

Gelf highlights overlooked coverage from local media around the world. In this edition: Long-distance golf, panda diplomacy, and a giant Indian.

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.


Kenya: For failing to shield American personnel from prosecution at the International Criminal Court, Kenya will lose almost $16 million in military support, including $8 million directed to fighting terrorism and building democracy in the Horn of Africa, according to an article in the Daily Nation. Because of the American Service Members' Protection Act passed last December, the U.S. is not allowed to give military assistance to countries that ratify the ICC, even though the court was set up to try individuals guilty of international crimes such as genocide. U.S. ambassador to Kenya William Bellamy (not to be confused with actor/comedian Bill Bellamy) acknowledged the problems and told journalists, "But this is not about threats and we don't want to arm-twist. It's the implementation of a law that was passed by Congress."

Madagascar: What do the Malagasy think of DreamWorks' newest feature animation film Madagascar, which stars Ben Stiller and features Sacha Baron Cohen as the king of the lemurs? Not much, says the New York Times, which notes that there are only two movie theaters in the capital city of Antananarivo, neither of which plays Hollywood films. The American Embassy there has tried to get Madagascar's tourism industry to take advantage of the free publicity, but with fewer than half a million tourists coming each year, there isn't much in the way of infrastructure to develop. Nonetheless, Henri Roger, president of the Tourism Board of Madagascar, is confident that the movie will be of use, even if he is off by a factor of 100 in his estimate of the scope of the movie's viewership (Mail & Guardian). "This cartoon will be watched by tens of thousands of people around the world," Roger says. "It will highlight Madagascar and influence their destination choice in the coming years."


Jamaica: After a nine-month investigation, the Jamaica Star released its report about police officers who sell weapons and ammunition to criminals. It documents two different instances of police officers in marked vehicles exchanging guns for cash and a check. "Anytime we want a gun we just check the legal gunman dem and dem line up we arsonery," one person who bought guns from police officers told the newspaper's investigators. "We nuh haffi go through nuh license. We nah fi tell dem what we want it fah and nuh bady nah come search out weh we live and if we hav' no safe a we yard, dem just hand over the merchandise and we hand ova di cash."


China: In an effort to repair strained ties with Taiwan, Chinese authorities are offering several gifts to the island nation, including a pair of giant pandas. China Daily, a government-sponsored newspaper, noted that this decision took place after Taiwan opposition official Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan visited the mainland. Convinced that the offer was "full of political content," Cabinet Spokesman Cho Jung-tai told Taiwan News Online that these gifts would probably not be accepted, especially because China was hoping to bypass CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) by claiming the transfer of pandas is an internal affair. "Even pandas have rights and cannot be sent here or there on someone's order," he said. Cao Qingyao, spokesman of the Chinese State Forestry Administration, affirmed this point to the China Daily: "He said the mainland's offer of giant pandas to Taiwan is an internal affair for compatriots across the Straits and does not therefore fall under the jurisdiction of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species."

India: If you managed to sit through Adam Sandler's most recent (and some would say least inspired) film The Longest Yard, you couldn't have missed the appearance of Dalip Singh, who plays the head-bashing prisoner-cum-offensive lineman Turley, a man who managed to make teammate "Stone Cold" Steve Austin look positively tiny. At 7'2" and over 400 pounds, Singh has the look of a professional wrestler, and indeed, he has spent quality time in the WWF, competing in both the U.S. and Japan. In Mid Day, Narendra Kaushik tracks Singh's journey from poor farm worker in Himachal Pradesh province to police constable to Mr. India to wrestling fame to his Hollywood debut. To maintain his size and strength, each day Singh works out for four hours and eats five chickens.

Indonesia: Australia and Indonesia have long enjoyed cordial and neighborly relations, but it appears that those ties are beginning to break down. After the bombing (Wikipedia) of a Bali nightclub in 2002, in which a plurality of the dead were Australians, many vacationers have been loathe to return to the country. More recently, Schapelle Leigh Corby, a tourist from Queensland, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for allegedly smuggling marijuana (Herald Sun). In what appears to be a retaliation for the verdict, an envelope containing white powder was delivered to the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra. (Jakarta Post). Australian Prime Minister John Howard has stated that the powder is bacillus bacteria, which is related to anthrax. "I think it's very un-Australian," Corby's friend Jodie Power told ABC radio. "It's one thing to boycott Bali but it's another thing to do something like that and put people's lives at risk."

Japan: The Kyoto protocol was just a start. In an effort to reduce the government's reliance on energy during the summer months, officials, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, have launched the Cool Biz campaign, in which central government employees are asked to leave their jackets and ties at home until September (Japan Today). Government offices will also be required to maintain temperatures above 82 degrees Fahrenheit. "Let's take it easy and work without a tie," the PM told reporters. (Check out the article to see the PM in what one commenter to the article refers to as his "splendid pyjama top.")

Malaysia: The discrimination that exists between male and female Malaysian Airline flight attendants used to be easy to spot. Women who had more than two kids or were over 40 were fired, while male attendants could work until 55 and have as many children as they want. (In fact, the Malaysian government generally encourages its populace to be fruitful and multiply.) The national airline didn't exactly buckle to feminist pressure, but it did change some of its regulations—now, female flight attendants can have up to three children without losing their jobs (New Strait Times). Beatrice Fernandez, the former flight attendant who first brought the discrimination suit when she was fired 14 years ago for having her third child, thinks more should be done. "Having a child is a woman's basic right and no one should dictate how many children a woman should have in a lifetime."

Mongolia: Last year, Andre Tolme made history, or a sort, when he become the first person to ever golf across Mongolia, covering over 1,200 miles in 90 days (golfmongolia.com). Now, he's turning his adventure into a business—the first Golf Mongolia Tours start on June 10. In the UB Post, Tolme talks about combining the nine-hole course golfers will play (up to three miles between holes) with side trips to meet other, year-round nomads.

South Korea: Seoul National University professor Hwang Woo-suk has become pretty good at surprising his peers in the biotechnology field. Six years ago, he cloned the first cows. Then, he cloned the first human embryo. Most recently, his team created the first embryonic stem cells that genetically match injured or sick patients. The controversial researcher plans to open the first stem-cell bank in the world later this year. In a three-part series for the Korean Times, Kim Tae-gyu writes eloquently about Hwang's upbringing, his foray into veterinary medicine, and his research plans for the future. "We will push for more progress this year," Hwang said, "and I hope to lower the curtain of the first act (of the stem cell play) by as early as next autumn."


Czech Republic: If you're going to be in Prague, make sure to check out the newly opened wine bar and restaurant Aromi. With quick snacks like fried-zucchini strips and wine by the glass, you might be tempted to simply pop in there and move on. That would be a mistake, according to review in the Prague Post. Instead, you should take advantage of the combination of bizarrely large portion sizes, overly attentive service, and extremely modest prices (pastas cost less than $5) to plan your culinary adventures for the days ahead.

Ukraine: An editorial in the Kyiv Post takes issue with the updated version of the Law for the Protection of Invalids, which in its newest incarnation demands that all businesses reserve four percent of their jobs for disabled people. The editorial mocks the strictness of the law (asking if this rule should apply to the footballers of Kyiv Dynamo), which it says makes almost every business in the country in violation. Instead, the editorial suggests that the government "is passing the buck" instead of fixing the real disability discrimination issues that face the country. "The point is that even if every business did set aside four percent of its jobs for the disabled, many of the latter couldn't even get to work. Kyiv doesn't physically allow it," the editorial states. "Making sure public facilities can be used by all citizens is one of the minimal responsibilities of any government. It's one that official Kyiv has not fulfilled, effectively making Ukraine's disabled second-class citizens. The government should stop bossing around business owners and start doing its duty by disabled Ukrainians. When they're physically capable of participating in civic life, their job situation will take care of itself."

Middle East

Israel: Last year, Bnei Sakhnin shocked the country when the poor soccer team from an Arab town in northern Galilee rallied to win the Israeli Cup (BBC) and become the pride of the 1.25 million Arabs living in Israel. This year, the team, which has to play all of its matches away as its dilapidated stadium gets rebuilt, came disastrously close to falling out of the premiere division altogether. Ha'aretz newspaper covered the final elimination game, talking to nervous fans as they watched the team eke out a crucial victory.

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Article by David Goldenberg

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