Umbrellas en garde
Japan is to ban umbrellas with sharp points, after a recent Tokyo killing when two angry motorists impaled a third in the throat with an umbrella. A new rule flattening and widening umbrella points means that men’s umbrella tips will now have to be at least six millimetres in diameter, though women’s umbrella tips, inexplicably, need only be five.
From Modern Asia, Hong Kong.
Un-jacket your potatoes
Potato skins can hold up to 218 times the recommended safety level of Tecnazene, a fungicide and anti-sprouting agent, according to the UK Ministry of Agriculture. But the Ministry considers this safe because they assume that most people peel their potatoes. They seem not to have noticed the public interest in wholefoods and high fibre diets. The Henry Doubleday Research Association, who pointed out the Ministry’s shortsightedness, recommends baking homegrown potatoes and peeling the rest.
From the Daily Mail, U.K.
Opium of the people
The UN’s Fund for Drug Abuse Control has brought out an informative little booklet on the opium poppy. It says for example, that:
• Heroin laboratories are mushrooming in the Golden Triangle (Laos, Burma, Thailand). In Thailand, more than four out of every five drug addicts are hooked on heroin.
• Opium is one of the earliest known medicines. Ancient Egyptian friezes testify to its use more than 25 centuries ago. Dioscorides of ancient Greece set out its preparation in detail.
• It’s well-known that the artistic elite of 19th century Europe were opium lovers. Coleridge wrote of its ‘subtle and mighty power’: Baudelaire of its ‘sombre and seductive splendour’. But did you know that soldiers and ‘saints’ also succumbed? Clive of India was an addict who died of an overdose. Wilberforce (of the anti-slavery movement) was devoted to an opium-based tonic most of his adult life.
• The profits from street sales worldwide are estimated now at around $200 billion a year. The global investment in anti-opium law enforcement is around $12 billion a year. But the new approach is to complement policing with ‘persuasion through development’.
The island of Dominica in the Caribbean will export water to Saudi Arabia and other areas of the Middle East for the next fifteen years.
The government of Dominica and the American Hampton Douglas Corporation have reached an agreement with the Arab countries to send two million tons of water a year. They will charge a million dollars to transport the water by tanker.
From Noticias del Caribe, December 1982.
Victory against Clioquinol
Seven years after IOCU (the International Organisation of Consumer Unions) published a survey on Clioquinol, and after a concerted campaign by activists, Clioquinol’s manufacturer Ciba-Geigy has announced that it will be recalling the drug. Mexaform and Entervioform are the company’s best known brands of Clioquinot
From IOCU Newsletter No.118.
Book piracy has reached best-seller proportions in India Harold Robbins and Irving Wallace will find that not only are their titles available at a third of the catalogue price; they actually have more books to their credit than they have written. The Confidential Lover by ‘Robbins’ and The Conspiracy by ‘Wallace’ are among the titles conjured up by imaginative pirates, because anything attributed to these authors sells.
Textbooks and expensive volumes on subjects like engineering and medicine also bring in big profits. About 1,500-2,000 pirated titles are published every year, causing a loss of about Rs. 100 million (US $10.1 million) to the publishing industry. The maximum fine for infringing copyright is Rs, 500 — for a pirate who makes that much a day on average, the fine is no deterrent.
The pirate’s argument is simple. He is widening the intellectual and educational horizons of the people by making books cheaper. Many — to the pirate’s profit — can now acquire two or three books for the price of one.
From Far Eastern Economic Review, 24.2.83.
Decade of Disabled Persons
1983-1992 has been proclaimed the Decade of Disabled Persons by the UN General Assembly, after the need for a world programme was recognised during the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981.
The programme is aimed at preventing disability as well as realising the full potential of people already disabled.
From Development Forum, Vol 11, No. 1.
China’s long march
China’s population topped a billion last year. To be exact, there were 1,008,175,288 Chinese on July 1, 1982, according to the preliminary census results released by the State Statistical Bureau. The census is China’s first in 20 years, and means that a new baby is born in China every other second.
Time magazine has computed the figures another way: if all the Chinese stood four abreast and marched through Beijing’s Gate of Heavenly Peace at a steady pace of three mph, it would take them over ten years. Assuming that the new citizens born during this decade also toddled or crawled through the arch at the same speed, the column of infants would take another 20 months to get through. And during these months, still others would be born, and while they were getting through the arch, still others.
From Time, 8.11.82.
Your money or your life
What do we mean by poverty? Hugh Drummond, writing in Power, Madness and Poverty offers this definition:
‘The incomes and possessions of an American, unemployed, inner-city resident on general relief would be like a king’s ransom to a member of a thriving hunter-gatherer tribe in the Kalahari Desert. And yet the former is seen as impoverished and the latter (to anyone who has observed the quality of such a person’s life) enormously rich. Poverty is not so much a matter of possession in itself but of a more subtle and significant affair: power. The poor have no control over their lives.’
Commenting on this definition. George Kent of the University of Hawaii concludes: ‘The purpose of development should be understood not simply as alleviating poverty. We should see that true development means the alleviation of powerlessness.
From World Development Forum, No. 2 VoL 1.
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