New Internationalist

Briefly

Issue 118

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[image, unknown] BRIEFLY...

[image, unknown] HUMAN RESOURCES[image, unknown]

Athletic sperm

The controversial US sperm bank for Nobel prizewinners and eminent scientists — the Repository for Germinal Choice — is now to open its service to athletes.

‘Athletes are high-class animals,’ said the Californian entrepreneur Robert Graham, aged 75, who founded the bank three years ago. ‘I think we’ll find that most of them are of far better than average mentality.’

Critics fear that the selective genetics practised by the bank could function as an attempt to create a’superior race’, on the Nazi model, according to The Star (Malaysia).

The Malay Mail adds that Joyce Kowalski gave birth to a daughter this spring after insemination by one of the Repository’s 12 scientist donors, in this case a famous mathematician.

‘We feel’ explained Mr Graham, ‘that by making the sperm of America’s great minds available free to a widespread populace, we’ll help raise the level of intelligence in this country.

Will the world be scrutinising Ms Kowalski junior’s intellectual progress — and will Dad be allowed to help her with her maths homework?

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[image, unknown] INTERNATIONAL LAW[image, unknown]

Live sea scrolls

This month there is to be a signing ceremony in Venezuela for the Law of the Sea treaty. The treaty lays down a set of rules and principles designed to cover virtually every aspect of political and commercial activity in, on and under the ocean; it regulates sovereignty, transit rights, pollution, conservation, access to mineral resources and fishing territorial rights. Only four countries — including the US — have refused to sign the treaty; 130 have agreed; and 17 have abstained, including Britain and West Germany.

The sticking point for the US is the question of deep-sea mining the US wants it to be in the hands of transitional mining companies without supervision from any international body. But the basic principle of the treaty is that ocean resources are part of the common heritage of mankind’. And who first proposed the setting up of an International Seabed Authority to ensure mining proceeds would be distributed fairly? None other than the exUS Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.

From the UK Methodist Church Autumn Agenda

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[image, unknown] PHILIPPINES[image, unknown]

Iron butterfly flying higher

President Marcos has decided to appoint his wife Imelda popularly known as the Iron Butterfly — to the Philippines’ powerful 15-person Executive Committee set up to run the country in the event of his death or incapacitation. The decision paves the way for her to become his immediate successor.

Three other Marcos supporters were also appointed to the committee, which was created last year and is vested with succession powers even in the event of the president’s ‘removal from office or resignation’.

The pro-government press failed to reflect the significance of this presidential move because the day after the announcement, Marcos issued a tough warning to his political detractors, whom he accused of plotting a nationwide series of assassinations. With his emergency powers Marcos can take whatever measures deemed necessary against them, ‘including. but not limited to, preventive detention’.

From Far Eastern Economic Review, 13.8.1982

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[image, unknown] RESOURCES[image, unknown]

Coffee break

Coffee is the most valuable traded commodity after oil, with an annual value of $18 billion. I accounts for a quarter or more of the export earnings of 11 Latin American and African countries. It provides employment for more than 20 million people in 50 producer countries.

Yet it provides a poor livelihood for those that grow it, for the Guatemalan plantation worker earning $2 for a 12-hour day or the African small-holder growing a few bushes to make a precarious living. And as world coffee prices have not kept up with the rising prices of manufactured goods, it is an unreliable source of income for coffee exporting countries.

From The World in Your Coffee Cup, Campaign Cooperatives.

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[image, unknown] AUSTRALIA[image, unknown]

Disabling attitudes

Surveys carried out in Australia for the International Year of Disabled People found that 13.2% of the population could be termed ‘disabled’. The survey included in its definition blindness, deafness, speech difficulties, blackouts, inability to use limbs, long term mental or nervous disorders and disfigurements.

About two-thirds of them reported limitations in schooling, employment, communication, self-care or mobility. A survey of attitudes towards people with disabilities was carried out in Melbourne. Questionnaires were sent to 1,600 disabled people. A surprise finding: employers tend to have a more positive attitude than does the general public. Not a surprise was another finding: that the public assumes that physical disability also implies mental disability.

From IYDP newsletter No 11. True story: A blind friend wanted to open a special account at his bank. He was given such patient and friendly help that he was moved to congratulate the bank assistant on her understanding. ‘Oh, rm used to it,’ came the cheerful response. ‘I have a niece who is mentally retarded.’

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[image, unknown] SOUTH AFRICA[image, unknown]

No room for motherly love

A black Woman working in a White South African area as a domestic is subject to arrest if her children spend even one night with her in her servant’s room. In order to care for her white employer’s children, she is separated by law from her own.

The alternative to the servant’s room is to find a single sex hostel. But many black women haven’t even these unpalatable options. The pass laws forbid them to live in white urban areas unless they have a job— and the jobs they may apply for are restricted: married women, for example, are barred from employment in public services.

The possibility of arrest is not an abstract danger. During 1980. 20,000 black women were arrested for convening the pass laws. Winnie Mandela describes the reality: ‘Detention means that midnight knock when all about you is quiet . . it means your seizure, dragged away from little children screaming and clinging to your skirt, imploring the white man dragging mummy to leave her alone.’

From the AntiApartheid Movement Women’s Committee.

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[image, unknown] POLLUTION[image, unknown]

Fingerprinting oil slickers

The International Maritime Organisation believes it has found a way to track down ships that dump their oily wastes in the sea.

Swedish researchers have come up with a simple and inexpensive idea: tiny particles of a metal alloy added to oil cargoes act as ’fingerprints’ from which a dumped cargo can be identified.

A half-year trial in the Baltic which averages 500 oil slicks each lear appear to prove the method works.

A more sophisticated approach is being engineered by the UK’s Lancaster University: a satellite system that informs ground-based scanners of an oil slick while it is still in the making. If it works, offending tankers will be caught red handed.

From World Environment Report

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Endquote

ON PEACE AND WAR:
Overheard two women discussing the indiscipline of the younger generation: 'Welt, it's all this violence they see all the time. It's not like in our day. We didn't have violence we just had the war.'

‘We have met the enemy and they are us.’

Pogo: cartoon character created by Walt Kells


ON CHANGE:
‘Feel the fear and do it anyway.'

Susan Jeffers, writer and psychologist


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