New Internationalist

Briefly..

Issue 120

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[image, unknown] BRIEFLY...

[image, unknown] CHILDREN[image, unknown]

Night blindness

Almost 20 per cent of all Indonesian children will develop ‘night blindness’ (xerophthalmia) before reaching their sixth birthday, according to a study by Dr. Alfred Sommer, medical adviser to Helen Keller International. Every year, another 10 million children in the Third World develop the disease, which can result in partial or total loss of sight. Half a million of these children become blind.

The disease reaches a peak during the hot, dry months when green, leafy vegetables (sources of vitamin A) are at their scarcest. It is also when diarrhoeal diseases hit hardest, interfering with the children’s ability to absorb what little vitamin A is available to them. Early weaning doesn’t help either, for it deprives babies of the vitamin A in breastmilk.

But Dr. Sommer strikes one hopeful note; treating the disease by providing vitamin A in capsule or liquid form— a cheap and easy method of treatment compared to the 1970s injection treatment — has been proving successful.

From HAT News.

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[image, unknown] DISARMAMENT[image, unknown]

A psychological shift

‘The world’s nuclear stockpile is now such that if it were divided up into bombs the size of the one that destroyed Hiroshima, it would be possible to drop one each day for well over 4,000 years before they were all used up. Yet no one dares to reverse the arms race, which has itself become a sort of war.

‘The aim must be to change that psychological attitude which sees the enemy as absolutely evil — which alone can justify building up such terrible weapons. The West can perhaps moderate its image of the enemy if it remembers that it alone has dropped these bombs on populations — and not once but twice; that its scientists were ordered to speed up the project, in case the war ended before the new inventions could be tested; and that it was the West that considered using the bomb in Korea’

From The Tablet, the International Catholic Weekly, No. 7424.

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[image, unknown] HEALTH[image, unknown]

Sunshine fridges

Each year, five million children in the developing world are disabled by measles, tuberculosis. diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus. The industrialised world’s children are regularly immunised against these diseases but in the poor world less than one child in five receives immunisation.

One of the problems is that, to remain useful, vaccines must be kept at temperatures below W C (460F) from the time they are made to the time they are used. But a method of harnessing solar power to fuel refrigerators for vaccine storage is now being field-tested on a large scale in 13 developing countries, including India, Peru and Mali. Tropical countries, especially in rural areas, lack regular supplies of electricity, and the usual alternative fuels— kerosene and liquid propane gas — are expensive; sunshine, however, is available in good supply.

From Change, No. 2, 1982.

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[image, unknown] NUCLEAR POWER [image, unknown]

No to sweet words

The Nishimari Labourer’s Welfare Centre, a job centre in Osaka, Japan, has decided to reject job offers from nuclear power stations because of radiation dangers. The centre has also added a supplement to its regular bulletin warning workers not to accept such jobs which, they say, are often described with ‘sweet words’ by employers.

From Wise, No. 161.

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[image, unknown] FOOD[image, unknown]

Sleeping fish

The next product to hit supermarkets shelves may be sleeping fish.

A Japanese researcher, Dr. Hisateru Mitsuda, has developed a technique for putting fish into artificial ‘hibernation’ by adding a half-and half mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide into their water.

In this sleeping state fish can be taken out of water and kept alive for as long as 30 hours. So they can be transported considerable distances still alive, reducing spoilage and transport costs.

A few minutes in clean water and the fish ‘wake up’ again.

From Asia 2000

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[image, unknown] CULTURE[image, unknown]

Chinese etiquette

What is considered polite in one country is frequently considered downright rude in another. Being polite in China might be considered — well, let the following excerpt from a Chinese rejection slip to a British writer speak for itself:

‘We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper it would be impossible for us to publish any work of a lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that, in the next thousand years, we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.’

From World Development Forum, Vol. 1, No. 1.

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[image, unknown] RELIGION[image, unknown]

God’s greatest hits?

Were God and his inspired scriptural writers unforgivably long-winded? Could they have benefited, like other authors, from a dose of tough-minded, unworshipful editing? Verily, saith the Reader’s Digest, and last week it brought forth the Reader’s Digest Bible. It is 320,000 words (or 40 per cent) shorter than the Protestant text of the Revised Standard Version on which it is based; the Old Testament has been cut down by half and the New by one-quarter. Alas, less in this instance is not more.

In the poetic books, chapter after chapter is hacked away. Gone is fully half of the book of Psalms, which might now be better retitled David’s Greatest Hits. The prophets are especially victimised. Besides large chunks, telling phrases are lost. Consider the felicitous line from Jeremiah: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt.’ Snip out the last three words.

Digesters must have entertained the thought that not everybody was going to be pleased. Why else would they have dropped some of the climatic words from the last book in the Bible, Revelation? The passage threatens eternal damnation ‘if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy’.

From Time, October 4, 1982.

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[image, unknown] FOREIGN AID [image, unknown]

Mahaweli mishandling

American and Japanese engineers will soon begin digging irrigation channels in Sri Lanka, as part of the Mahaweli river project The foreign aid for the scheme has been heavily conditional, according to Sri Lankan journalist Gamini Navaratne: most of the machinery and technical personnel must come from the donor countries.

Critics of the scheme concede that Sri Lanka could not have launched such a vast development project on its own but argue that the government should have obtained the foreign currency. then hired the necessary engineers locally and purchased the machinery and materials in the cheapest markets. This way, they say, the costs could have been more than halved. (Estimated at $380m. in 1978, inflation had pushed the figure to over $2060m. by 1982.) And. they add, it could have helped reverse Sri Lanka’s brain drain

At present a top engineer in the public sector in Sri Lanka is paid around S165 a month — a quarter of what a low-grade foreign technician is paid on the Mahaweli project There are over 2,000 foreign experts now— even before the arrival of the American and Japanese channel cutters— and critics point out that Sri Lankan building companies were not even allowed to tender for this simple work.

From D.C., No. 5, 1982.

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Endquote

We seem to be designing exclusively for the old, the fat, the rich, the white, the powerful, the ones who have managed to get us into every single mess and frightfulness mankind has so far experienced. To create lipstick for honest whores is one thing. But to create deodorant for the pimp is another’

Prof Victor Papanek, University of Kansas, USA.

‘It’s no coincidence that the question mark is an inverted plough, breaking up the hard soils of old beliefs and preparing for new growth.’

Anon quoteed by Saul Alinsky in ‘Rules for Radicals’.


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