New Internationalist

Briefly

Issue 115

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[image, unknown] BRIEFLY...

[image, unknown] BASIC NEEDS[image, unknown]


A child for $100

Far from being priceless, a child's life was worth less than $100 in 1981. Wisely spent on each of the world's poorest 500 million mothers and children, such a sum could have brought improved diets and easier pregnancies, elementary education and basic health care, safer sanitation and more water.

In other words it could have provided the basics of life and prevented the deaths of 17 million young children during 1981. In practice this proved too high a price for the world community to pay.

Only one in 10 of those children, for example, was immunised against the six most common and dangerous diseases of childhood. The cost of so immunising all of the Third World's infants works out at approximately $5 per child. The cost of not doing so works out at approximately five million deaths a year.

From UNICEFs State of the World's Children Report 1981/82.

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[image, unknown] ADVERTISING[image, unknown]


First-class accuracy

The copywriters who produced the advertisements for Malaysian Airlines are sticklers for accuracy.

First-class passengers, they promise, will be serviced by 5½ cabin attendants.


From Far Eastern Economic Review, 18—24 June 1982.

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[image, unknown] FORESTS[image, unknown]


Back to the trees

About half the world's estimated 5-10 million plant and animal species are believed to exist in tropical moist forests, making them the world's richest biological regions.

Less than one per cent have been scientifically examined for their potential value to human well-being. The US National Cancer Institute fears a major setback to the fight against cancer if forest plants are eliminated. And without the Mexican yam, there would be no birth control pill. Three Amazonian trees have been pinpointed as promising sources of oil. Japanese researchers confirm that the leaves of the Stevia plant, used by Paraguayan Indians for generations as a sweetener— contain a substance that is calorie-free, harmless and 300 times sweeter than sugar.

The forest people discovered the medically important effects of curare (a muscle relaxant), coca (source of cocaine) and cinchona (quinine), though they have never been rewarded for their services to world health. Nor have the groups who discovered rubber, potatoes, cassava and cocoa.

The list of valuable tropical forest products already known to the outside world is huge. Thousands more may be wiped out before we even discover them. If deforestation continues at the present rate, an estimated one million forest species will be extinct by the turn of the century.

From People, Vol. 9 No. 2.

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[image, unknown] LAOS[image, unknown]


Shovelling bombs

The war is over, but the bombs are live. Between 1969 and 1974, 400,000 tons of bombs - two tons for each resident - were dropped by US planes on Xieng Khouang province, Laos. Now, eight years later, the casualties continue. Villagers are killed or maimed as anti-personnel bombs explode in the fields.

Upland farmers traditionally use a short blunt hoe. Its striking motion detonates the apple sized bombs still littering the land In spite of severe food shortages, many fields lie idle: as they are cleared, injuries mount Oxfam-America is helping the villagers by providing shovels, whose scooping motion reduces the danger. Its newsletter(May 1982) points out the irony of the situation: American shovels being used to scoop away American bombs.

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[image, unknown] LATIN AMERICAS[image, unknown]


South-South cooperation

Brazil has been quietly strengthening its links with Nicaragua over the past couple of years. Traditionally, Nicaragua has been Brazil's least important trading partner in Central America. The rapid change came after the victory of the Sandinistas, when Brazil offered help in the reconstruction of Nicaragua. In 1980, Brazilian exports rose to US$17.9 million - more than the previous 16 years - worth put together. And a second loan earlier this year, of US$30 million, means that Brazil has now lent Nicaragua more than has the USSR.

Ernesto Gutierrez, Nicaraguan ambassador to Brazil, welcomes the help because Brazil's 'independent foreign policy is formulated in Brasilia, not Washington'.

And Brazil is making its mark on popular culture too. A Brazilian soap opera is showing nightly on local television during peak viewing hours.

From Latin America Weekly Report WR-82-19.

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[image, unknown] DEVELOPMENT EDUCATION[image, unknown]

Food First for Lou Grant

Television's popular 'Lou Grant' series, one of those rare shows that manage to be watch-able and worthy simultaneously, will be featuring the ideas out of the development classic Food First (see NI No's. 55 and 90) in one of its programmes.

Reporter Rossi learns how hunger isn't caused by a scarcity of food but by the powerlessness of the poor, when he meets a nun just back from Central America.

Joe Collins, one of the Food First team, helped develop the script.


From Food First News No. 10

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[image, unknown] TRADE[image, unknown]

Dollars before desirability

'Civil trade with other countries should be determined by commercial considerations and not by the character of the governments of those countries', said Cecil Parkinson, chairman of Britain's Conservative Party, back in 1979 when he was Trade Minister. He was talking about South Africa, but it may explain why the present British government traded with Argentina for so long before noticing the 'undesirable' character of her government.

According to Anti-Apartheid News (May 1982), the US is South Africa's biggest trading partner, followed by the UK, Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany and Switzerland, in that order. If Switzerland comes as a surprise, think of the South African diamond and gold export market British trade rose by 170 per cent in the Seventies. But other trading developments have been even more dramatic.

In just six years (1973-79), Israeli trade with South Africa increased by 500 per cent; Chilean trade increased from US$17 million to $301 million; and Brazilian trade displayed an astonishing 3500 per cent leap.

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[image, unknown] PRODUCTS[image, unknown]

Unsafe safety tests

Just how reliable are chemical safety tests? A frightening investigation of the Industrial Bio Test Laboratories of Illinois (IBT), which performed more than 22,000 chemical safety tests in the US, shows that at least 80 per cent of some 900 IBT tests examined by the government were determined invalid - with evidence that some were deliberately falsified. The tests were conducted on chemicals used in everything from crop pesticides to deodorant soaps. And IBT's clients included 31 of the largest pharmaceutical and pesticides producers in the world - companies with household names like Ciba-Geigy, DuPont and Shell.

Government officials discovered that vital records at IBT had been shredded. So it will be at least 30 years before IBT's results are evaluated and we can be certain all the products are safe. In the meantime, they remain on the shelves.


From Mother Jones, June 1982

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[image, unknown] MEDICINE[image, unknown]

Many hands spoil the soup

There seems to be a saying for every point of view. For example: 'The patient needs effective measures, not reassuring words,' according to a stern Spanish proverb.

But then there's this: 'The effective physician is the man who successfully amuses the patient while nature effects a cure.'


Voltaire, 1694-1778.


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