New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 128

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] OVERSEAS AID[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Devious Reasoning

In reproducing the table of OECD aid in your August issue, you draw special attention to the high figure for Israel. Some 30-40 per cent of Israel’s GNP has to be devoted to military preparedness and therefore, as the table shows, the total aid received represents no more than about one-eighth of the cost of defence.

The situation in which most Arab countries support the PLO’s programme of destroying Israelis of great economic value to OECD states, Every year they sell several billion dollars’ worth of advanced weaponry to oil-wealthy Arabs, and, in all, about 100,000 OECD nationals are directly employed in training their armies in its use. Thus the aid to Israel is a staggeringly good investment in a period of world recession.

Dr J Jackson
London
England

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

Mercator Spotting

The editors of New Internationalist have asked readers if they would keep an eye out for the Mercator Map. One of the biggest banks in the Western world is Barclays; its Seaford branch has on display a copy of Mercators map to help its businessmen. Barclays bank has more than 2,000 branches within the UK.

In the Federal German Republic 20,000 schools and 15,000 kindergartens use the Dr Peters map for the education of children.

It seems that Scotland and England are ‘cross’d with adversity’. Mr Spaven in his letter (August issue of the NI) kindly informs that the Mercator Map has been out of use for 50 years in Scotland. I am truly grateful for the news.

However my childrens’ school teachers still use a copy of the Mercator Projection for teaching the geography of world affairs.

I hope our readers will keep spotting that Mercator Map. It is a fact that Sir Alexander Fleming’s penicillin sat on the shelf for twelve years while he was called a quack. I can only think of thousands who died needlessly because his peers would not use his discovery.

Arno Peters gave mankind his work because atlases are Europe-centred and because the Mercator-derived maps control the map market in many cities and towns world wide,

George Caulfield
Seaford
East Sussex

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[image, unknown] TERRITORY[image, unknown]

Bared Fangs

After reading Richard Clarke’s letter about Debbie Taylor’s article, grossly abusing her and the whole corpus of sociobiological knowledge, I wish to say how pleased I was so see such an article in NI. Mr Clarke doesn’t produce a single contrary example, fact, argument or rational critique of what Ms Taylor or any of the sociobiologists has said; his attack is so full of sound and fury and so empty of fact and reason that he unwittingly proves that even in some denizens of our institutes of higher learning a (none too?)’... civilised humanity is (indeed) stretched thinly over a pulsating animal psyche’.

If Mr Clarke really has found evidence to demonstrate that ‘. . . the whole of human history is nothing but the progressive transformation of human nature’, he must be reading an entirely different set of books on history, anthropology etc, and sources of news on current events than I, in a lifetime of study, have ever come across. Surely those biosocial entities that killed Gandhi and Martin Luther King are only too recognisably the same as those who murdered Hypatia, Socrates, and Jesus. Out of the sad alphabet of human vices the only item I can think of which has more or less disappeared is cannibalism; examples of the rest, from arson through bullying, exploitation, genocide, incest, infanticide, murder, oppression, racism, robbery, torture, usury, war and witchcraft to zealotry, can be found in profusion in almost any newspaper any day.

This does not suggest that there have been no improvements or that we need not strive continuously to improve things further and faster in the future, but only that we ought to be realistic about ourselves. Recognition of our animal origins and nature does not logically entail any condemnation of our species or any licensing of our more destructive impulses,

We are (in the strictly neutral sense of that term) animals, products of the same evolutionary process that produced the wonderful array of living things and we must share many of their basic characteristics, If we are not animals living in complex ecosystems then what sort of entities are we?

Jack Parsons
Visiting Lecturer in Population Studies
Exeter and Cardiff Universities
England

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[image, unknown] EDUCATION[image, unknown]

Contradictions

In the article ‘Bound to Learn’, in NI 122 on the class system, there were the sentences referring to education in Chile: ‘Scientific rationalism is paramount, For example, the industrial revolution is supposed to be taught without any reference to its disruptive social consequences -

Obviously then, scientific rationalism is not paramount. For both science and rationalism, either together or alone, always demand open enquiry into and balanced consideration of the consequences of everything.

The world needs a lot more of both science and rationalism in the affairs of humans, but, even more, it needs compassion, We might struggle beyond barbarism without the first two attributes, but not without the last.

Stanley Stokes
Victoria
British Columbia
Canada

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To the point

Your article ‘The Pointless Needle - India’s Mania for Injections’ (NI 123) reminds me of an incident I experienced in Peru earlier this year.

I was staying in a Peruvian village and was amazed to see one of the villagers returning from the clinic with a prescription for two hypodermic needles and four medical solutions. I was told that, because people rarely complete a tablet or medicine course once they begin to feel better, doctors feel that it is more effective to give the whole dosage in one or two injections.

The real problem is that in most cases a doctor does not administer the injection. The villager often simply asks another villager to do it.

The dangers of infection, or re-use of the needle without sterilization, are obvious but Peru shows no sign of changing its ways. Like India, the people have come to expect receiving injections for all types of ailments. One solution may be to get the unused health outposts into operation so that more trained people are on hand to administer injections.

However, the problem will not be resolved until the population is better advised on the dangers of injections and the doctors refuse to prescribe such methods.

David Heslop
Rio de Janeiro
Brazil

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[image, unknown] Freedom in Cuba

I was amazed to read in Amanda Hopkinson’s country profile on Cuba (NI 126) that there are no political prisoners in that country. This is patently untrue.

In the years following the revolution many people were imprisoned for between twenty and thirty years for peacefully opposing Castro’s regime, These people are still languishing in prison. Those whose sentences have expired are arbitrarily re-sentenced, without trial, to further periods of imprisonment, One such case is Jose Oscar Rodriguez Terrero, who was due for release on 16th February, 1981 and who remains in prison, having been re-sentenced for a further year and two years, respectively. These political prisoners are kept in extremely poor conditions and are generally refused the right to receive any visitors or letters, even from their immediate family.

In recent months the Cuban government has been trying to crack down on groups who are trying to form independent trade unions. Five men have been sentenced to death (although this sentence may be commuted to thirty years imprisonment), for leading a group of 50 construction workers, sugarmill hands and cane-cutters who painted anti-government slogans on walls and scattered anti-government leaflets. It would seem that the judge who tried these five men, Nicasio Hernandez de Arimas, at first imposed prison sentences but Castro insisted on a retrial, at which the death sentences were handed down. Judge Hernandez protested at what he regarded as a flouting of socialist legality and was himself put in jail.

Jacinta Bell
International Society for Human Rights
British Section:
14 Newland Road, Banbury
Oxon 0X16 8HQ
England

Ed. Note: We apologize for this inaccuracy. Amnesty International reports 200 known long-term political prisoners. Fidel Castro has himself mentioned holding 2000-3000 political prisoners.

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Teddies for El Salvador

Some two and a half years ago Jean Donovan, a lay missioner, was brutally murdered in El Salvador, Her friends in Europe and the United States had shortly beforehand begged her not to go back to El Salvador , advising her that it was too dangerous. Her answer was that she would consider not going back but for the poor brutalised children in the country.

In October 1980, Jean Donovan had visited one of the aid agencies. She made two requests; one was for funding for one of the Mary Knoll projects in El Salvador. The other was for small cheap toys which she might take back to the children,

The Wimbledon Committee for El Salvador have launched a Teddies for El Salvador Children project. I am asking anyone who can knit to make a few teddies for the children of El Salvador, An easy pattern is available from this address and arrangements have been made for the teddies to be delivered by hand to El Salvador, For those people who despair, of being able to do something positive for the people of central America, this may be something of an answer.

Susan M Godber
Wimbledon Committee for El Salvador
37 Lambton Road
London SW20 0LW

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