New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 126

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] WORLD MAP[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Wrong projection
It was good to have the June ‘New Internationalist’ in the form of a world map.

But Peters’ projection grossly distorts the shape of most Third World countries and the distances within and between them. His colour scheme tells us nothing at all about any of them. The effect is just as misleading as the ‘traditional Mercator’ despised by Peters, which in any case has been out of use for 50 years for this sort of map.

Any atlas contains examples of suitable equal area projections, in which proportion and tolerable direction within and near the tropics are maintained by choosing the equator as the standard parallel and a standard central meridian for each continent. On one of these as a base we could have had vital information in colour about food production or distribution of population.

Next time — and I hope there will be another — ask a geographer first!

Mr. F.D.N. Spaven,
Inverness, Scotland,
United Kingdom.

There is no shortage of projections — but none universally accepted. Dr Peters rejects as misleading those projections which use a rounded grid and which form the basis of the alternatives usually suggested. Would that Mercator really were dead; Mercator-spotting has become a pastime since we started on this project. Is there a map in your pocket diary, for example?

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Where’s Wales?

Thank you for your recent new map of the earth produced in the June New Internationalist.

It makes interesting reading and will be in immediate use on my office wall at the United Nations Association. As a Welsh person, however, I am deeply distressed to see that the country of Wales is totally ignored, without the name of a single city mentioned. It is interesting to note that Scotland have three, England seven, Belfast one, but two and a half million people in the west of Britain are totally ignored.

I realise there is shortage of space but it is interesting that the Basque country in Spain is well covered, and in New Zealand a small town like Hamilton is worthy of note.

Muriel Davies,
London, United Kingdom.

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NI wallpaper?

Thank you very much. We’re doing well. The map is on the wall next to the door and on the door we have your Calendar for the second year. How special it is to bring the whole world into your living room!

Philip and Veronica Young,
North Walsham,
Norfolk, United Kingdom.

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[image, unknown] PEACE[image, unknown]

Original Sin

I have been deeply disturbed by the tone of some recent items in NI, in particular ‘Cain’s’ emotive piece about universal guilt. This displays a dangerous pessimism, based on the idea of a fixed (and evil) ‘human nature’, the modern version of original sin.

It is nonsense to suggest that we are all party to the exploitation of the Third World. In a less obvious sense we are ourselves exploited by the same system. Their hope of liberation and ours are inextricably linked.

Of course we are part of the animal world, but unlike animals we have a quality called consciousness, the ability to review our actions, to work for change. Unfortunately, we also have the ability to indulge ourselves in breast-beating and self-loathing.

Such negativism wastes valuable time and energy. We shall only ever achieve a sane world by taking the power from those who use it with such criminal irresponsibility and this can only be done by political action. As Marx said long ago, it is not enough to try to understand the world; ‘the point is. . . to change it’. Change it we can, and must, before it is too late.

Kate Begley,
Bradford, Yorkshire,
United Kingdom.

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[image, unknown] TERRITORY[image, unknown]

Pseudobiology

I have just read Debbie Taylor’s piece on ‘personal space’ (NI 123).

Please, don’t let NI. degenerate into a vehicle for ‘pop’ sociobiology by printing any more third-rate rehashes of reactionary, pseudoscientific rubbish.

People like Konrad Lorenz. Robert Ardrey, and Desmond Morris — all cited approvingly by Debbie Taylor— have made their fame and fortunes telling people what they want to hear — providing ‘scientific’ explanations for territoriality, aggression, racism, sexism, imperialism, or war. The message is always the same — to use Ms Taylor’s own words ‘. . . our civilised humanity is stretched thinly over a pulsating animal psyche’. It’s all instinctual, in our genes, part of our animal inheritance and hence ineradicable. It’s no use trying to change things, to fight for a better world, so we might as well sit back and accept it.

An understanding of social problems is to be sought in our own social development and history, not in the pseudobiology of the ‘human zoo’ or the ‘territorial imperative’.

Our own history and our knowledge of animal behaviour teaches us that — except in the most trivial and obvious sense there is little to be learnt from such superficial comparisons of animal and human societies. Indeed, the whole of human history is nothing but the progressive transformation of human nature.

I hope New Internationalist will redeem itself with an early article arguing just this.

Richard Clarke,
University of London,
Department of Extra Mural Studies,
London, United Kingdom.

The authors were not cited ‘approvingly’ at all. But the disapproving comments were edited out in the interests of preventing the main message — about power and responsibility being obscured by a critique of sociobiology. We plan an issue on Mental Health in 1984 where such a critique will be argued in full.

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Suspect syrup

The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia has drawn our attention to the article, ‘Travelling sickness’ (Update NI 120). This contained the statements: ICI wanted to send Imperacin, a tetracycline syrup which has potentially harmful side effects when given to children, back to the UK for relabelling and then on to markets in Saudi Arabia.’

It is important to make two points clear:

1. ‘Imperacin’ (oxytetracycline) syrup is a legitimate medicine officially registered in ICI’s ‘home’ country, the UK, by the Department of Health and Social Security and by many other independent health authorities in both developed and Third World countries.

All drugs have side-effects which have to be taken into consideration by the doctor when deciding treatment. The tetracycline group of anti-biotics is, of course, no exception and the potential adverse reaction of most concern in children is the effect on dentition, an effect more usually seen during prolonged usage. There are, nevertheless, circumstances when a tetracycline drug would be a preferred treatment in children or pregnant women, despite this known risk, and the DHSS in the UK does not contraindicate the use of tetracyclines in such patients for this reason.

2. Local stocks of ’Imperacin’ syrup in Bangladesh were destroyed some time ago by our local company, in compliance with the Bangladesh Government’s New Drug Ordinance.

The statement in your February issue, that ICI intended to export this medicine to Saudi Arabia via the UK, is incorrect.

G.Holman
ICI Plc,
Pharmaceuticals Division,
Cheshire, United Kingdom.

ICI requested permission from the Bangladesh Government to export the drug. Would they have bothered if they did not intend to take it out of the country? As for Imperacin being a ‘legitimate medicine’, I would refer Mr. Holman to the British National Formulary which notes that the drug ‘should not be given to children under 12 years of age or pregnant women.

Andy Chetley,
War on Want,
author of the original article.

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Leprosy costs

Your correspondents (Letters NI 122) have, we think, rather overestimated the cost of curing a patient with the most common type of leprosy under the new WHO control strategy.

It may be that rifampicin costs about $1.20 per day. However, it is administered only once a month. In arriving at the figure of around $200 to treat somebody with the commonest type of leprosy (paucibacilliary) it would appear that the writers of the letter have assumed that the drug is given each day.

Ciba-Geigy are currently offering to supply the drugs needed for the new regimens in packages at a special rate for members of the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations. As supplied in Europe (ie. excluding costs in the field), the cost will be 30 cents per month for a paucibacilliary patient, and SI.50 per month for a multi-bacilliary one.

As such, leprosy treatment remains relatively expensive in Third World terms, but the consequences of not adequately treating it are dearer.

Dorothy & Alastair McIntosh,
32 Forrester Park Loan,
Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

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Throwaway recipes

Your Up-date about ‘Revolting recipes’ (NI 119) reminded me of that excellent book Unmentionable Cuisine, by Calvin W. Schwabe (University Press of Virginia, 1979), which represents a collection made over 30 years while travelling around the world, illustrating Elizabeth David’s dictum that ‘in Chinese cooking everything that can be eaten is eaten, and in American cooking everything that can be thrown away is thrown away.’ Dr. Schwabe’s book is both erudite and entertaining and surely fulfils his hope that it ‘contributes in some measure to a better understanding . . of the global food problem to which people’s prejudices and ignorance add significantly.

J. Peter Greaves
UNICEF Representative
Brasilia, Brazil.

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