News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 11

Important but overlooked news from around the world.


“Both the right and the left are talking about Americanization, Westernization, and cultural homogenization. Something like Tisza shoes is embraced because it’s retro, it’s Hungarian, and it’s also a statement against the big corporate brands.”

— Anthropologist Balazs Frida on the new communist chic in the former Eastern Bloc (see “Pop & Politics,” below).


*Top Stories*
Pesticide politics and the light brown apple moth
From bike lanes to “wildlife highways”
Comfort sought in Philippines for WWII sex slaves

*Law & Justice*
South Africans march as crime wave peaks

*Pop & Politics*
Communist chic in the former Eastern Bloc


* Pesticide Politics and the Light Brown Apple Moth

California’s nine-county Bay Area is now on a federal quarantine list — to which Mexico has added Los Angeles and Napa counties — as state and federal officials ponder billions of dollars in losses and a massive pesticide campaign to combat the light brown apple moth.

Amid rising controversy over the aerial spraying campaign, which would repeatedly blanket whole cities, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the owner of the company that produces the moth pesticide is a major political campaign donor.

Stewart Resnick, who owns some of the largest almond, pistachio and citrus farms in the country and the world, also owns a pesticide company in Oregon that produces CheckMate, a pheromone that disrupts the moth breeding patterns.

The Chronicle notes that Resnick has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns, including almost $150,000 to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Spokesmen for both Schwarzenegger and Resnick denied that the donations have had any impact on spraying decisions.

A CheckMate spraying campaign over Santa Cruz and Monterey counties last fall provoked hundreds of complaints from residents who said they had been sickened by the chemical.

State officials say they haven’t found evidence that CheckMate is harmful to humans, but numerous resolutions and petition campaigns are underway to block spraying over urban areas.


“Pesticide maker owned by political donor”
San Francisco Chronicle, March 8, 2008

“Pesticde Fears Along California’s Central Coast”, January 8, 2007

* From Bike Lanes to “Wildlife Highways”

The planned community of Cambourne in the United Kingdom is notable not just for its abundance of bike lanes and pedestrians, but also for the wetlands, woodlands and lakes, which have attracted an unusual variety of wildlife.

According to The Independent, Cambourne was built in the 1990s on what used to be farmland, and built “wildlife highways” to link ponds, forests and other habitats before the local office park or housing developments were approved.

By linking habitat fragmented by development, isolated plant and animal species are more able to move around, mingle and propagate.

As a result, Cambourne is rich with biological diversity, including numerous bird species, deer, badgers, newts, dragonflies and voles.

Although the town is not chock-full of solar houses or wind turbines, it has been lauded by wildlife campaigners for its protection of habitat.

The Wildlife Trusts, which helped Cambourne develop its “green infrastructure,” said habitat protection is the missing link in a government plan to establish “eco cities” with low or no carbon dioxide emissions.

Critics say the plan is too secretive, and shuts out local voices, giving rise to widespread fears of large tracts of “zero carbon” homes that nonetheless fragment local ecosystems, and disrupt animal migration and water cycles.


“Eco-towns: The new town that got back to nature”
The Independent (U.K.), March 12, 2008

* New Reparations Call for Philippine “Comfort Women”

The Philippine legislature is considering a new resolution to ask for apologies from Japan, as well as financial reparations, for “comfort women” held captive by occupying Japanese forces during World War II.

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the resolution was unanimously passed by a legislative committee, but was met with dismay by the Department of Foreign Affairs, which stated that financial reparations were already dealt with in two previous treaties, in 1951 and 1996.

However, an official said the government had no opposition to private claims of “sexual slavery” sought against Japan.

Proponents of the measure also stated that the terms of Japan’s surrender required it to maintain “continuing compliance with modern human rights law.”


“House panel OKs resolution on comfort women”
Daily Inquirer (Philippines), March 11, 2008


* South Africans March as Crime Wave Peaks

A planned march against crime in South Africa is highlighting how racial and economic relations have changed in the nation since the fall of apartheid 14 years ago.

South African entertainer Desmond Dube plans to hold the Million Person March Against Crime on April 24 to call for the South African government to do more to ensure safety on the streets.

He was inspired to action after the slaying of his friend and neighbor, Bashimane “Shimi” Mofokeng, last week, according to South African news reports.

The slaying was just one of many that have terrorized parts of South Africa in recent years.

Already the rally is generating a good deal of media attention and interest from the public, according to the reports.

“This campaign will grow, unlike others, because its leading voices are black South Africans,” wrote the South African newspaper Dispatch, in an editorial.

The Dispatch noted that previous anti-crime campaigns have been mostly organized by European-descended South Africans, which led to accusations of racism.

One organizer told the nation’s Sunday Times that people need to take action, because the government is sitting on its hands.

His sentiments were echoed by former cricket player Ali Bacher, who called the transition to democracy a “miracle,” but also said that the South Africans are in denial about the crime problem.

He told the newspaper that his grandchildren and several friends have recently been robbed at gunpoint.

The controversial new president of the ruling African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, has said that crime will be a priority if he takes over leadership of the government, as he is expected to next year, when President Thabo Mbeki steps down.

Zuma, who is currently battling corruption charges, said that the old regime is to partly to blame.

“People in this country were abused by the old (white) government which resorted to using deadly criminals as instruments to deal with freedom fighters. So there’s that kind of culture here,” he told The Guardian in the United Kingdom.

Last year, a study by the South African Institute of Race Relations found that most of the nation’s residents have grown poorer during Mbeki’s administration.

–Will Crain/


“Proposed march against crime gains momentum”
Mail & Guardian (South Africa), March 9, 2008

“Crime march”
Dispatch (South Africa), March 10, 2008

“Prominent South Africans back million-man crime march”
Sunday Times (South Africa), March 9, 2008

“New date for million march”
The Times (South Africa), March 11, 2008

“Zuma stakes his claim as a president for the poor”
The Guardian (U.K.), March 9, 2008


*Communist Chic in the Former Eastern Bloc

There’s nothing unusual about people returning to the fashions, products and social spots of their youth, but when that youth was spent in communist Eastern Europe, nostalgia takes on new levels of meaning.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that young and old alike in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and other countries in the region are engaging in a fashion craze for communist-era clothing, eateries and brands of sneakers and soft drinks.

There are even new nightclubs that are explicitly modeled on the infamously gray, institutional look of the old Eastern Bloc.

The fad is sometimes referred to by the German term “Ostalgie,” or “nostalgia for the East,” the Monitor reported.

Andreas Ludwig, a museum director, said that the trend is a combination of pop culture and a “social critique” of Western-style capitalism.

Indeed, while some older residents are merely clinging to the fashions they’re used to, a major inspiration for Ostalgie among younger people appears to be ambivalence about how things have changed since the fall of communism almost 20 years ago.

Speaking about a communist-era brand of sports shoes that is enjoying a big comeback in Hungary, anthropologist Balazs Frida told the Monitor that “[b]oth the right and the left are talking about Americanization, Westernization, and cultural homogenization. Something like Tisza shoes is embraced because it’s retro, it’s Hungarian, and it’s also a statement against the big corporate brands.”

–Will Crain/


“Communist retro-chic: East-bloc icons win new status”
Christian Science Monitor, March 6, 2008

Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain

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