New Internationalist

Briefly…

Issue 132

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[image, unknown] BRIEFLY...

[image, unknown] ENVIRONMENT[image, unknown]

Barefoot earthquake predictors

Nicaragua has had two earthquakes this century with heavy casualties. And a third is predicted. How can casualties be reduced? Oxfam America suggests the use of a technique that has proven successful in China: barefoot earthquake predictors. They are ordinary people who watch out for the unusual phenomena that can precede earthquakes by a day or two, like changes in the level of well water or erratic animal behaviour - snakes scooting out of the ground or cats fleeing houses.

From World Development Forum, VoL 1, No. 19.

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[image, unknown] AID[image, unknown]

All hands to the pump

In many developing countries, reports the Tribune, pumps installed to provide pure and accessible water have been breaking down. Recent investigations show why.

The pump handles have been designed for use by men - even though women and children, who need a lower pump handle position, are the main users. The mispositioning leads to damage and eventual breakdown.

It looks like yet another example of well-intentioned help going astray because the recipients of the help haven’t been consulted.

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[image, unknown] WORK HAZARDS[image, unknown]

Coal-mine disaster

Safety in South Africa’s mines has become an issue as never before in the wake of the Hiobane coal-mine disaster in September, which killed 67 people and caused gruesome burns and injuries for many more.

The reason for the change lies not in the size of the disaster - there have been worse - but in the fact that, for the first time, a credible trade union is emerging among South Africa’s 475,000 black miners.

The National Union of Mine-workers (NUM), under the leadership of an astute young black attorney, Cyril Ramaphosa, has engaged in a cool and skilful campaign against the powerful Chamber of Mines, and has been notching up a series of small victories.

The NUM has, for instance, ensured for itself a major role in the forthcoming official inquiry into Hlobane tragedy - a first for a black mining union. And it is calling for a one-hour meal and rest break for miners during their eight-hour shifts (which become nine hours after transport up and down a mine). At present, there is no break. The death rate in South African coal mines is six times higher than in British mines.

From African Business, No. 63.

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[image, unknown] DISARMAMENT[image, unknown]

Peace-loving Pacific

Vanuatu passed a law banning nuclear tests in March 1983. Its next proposal is to amend the constitution to declare its land, sea and air space nuclear-free. Vanuatu and the small Micronesian republic of Palau are now the only countries in the world to have blanket anti-nuclear policies, with both government and opposition unanimously against nuclear tests.

From Commonwealth Currents, Oct. ‘83.

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[image, unknown] MEDIA[image, unknown]

Bad news is good news

The parachute artists - the foreign correspondents - gave a classic demonstration of their craftsmanship in reporting the tragedy in Sri Lanka. In they flew, braced themselves at the bars of the grand hotels and went in search of copy, deadlines pressing on their minds.

How do you begin to report events taking place in a foreign country about which you know little and care less? It takes too long even to delve into the outbreaks of violence since Sri Lanka became independent.

Should they try to set the events in the context of the processes that brought them about? Their news editors would be bored out of their minds.

How then to find a story? The thing to do is identify the guys in the white hats and the black hats, the good guys and the bad guys. Simplify the intricately complex relationships between two groups of people so that the reader gets the drift without understanding any of it. Bewilderment and bloodiness - the gorier the better - are good for business.

From World Paper, Oct. ‘83.

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[image, unknown] TRADE[image, unknown]

Ginseng sells

Trade in medicinal plants and their derivatives (‘botanicals’) has doubled in value in recent years, according to a study carried out by the International Trade Centre, Geneva, a UN subsidiary. By 1980 the trade was worth over $550 million.

Of the plants surveyed, ginseng represents one of the largest currency earners. Among its therapeutic uses: ‘It regulates blood pressure by reducing cholesterol levels. It stimulates the central nervous system, dispelling the feeling of tiredness. It is a tonic and claimed to be a weak aphrodisiac.’

Other plants include liquorice, used as an expectorant and for treating ulcers, and papaya fruit, useful as a digestive.

From World Health, Oct. 83.

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[image, unknown] DISABLED PEOPLE[image, unknown]

Silent singing

Blind photography, voiceless singing? Many handicapped people and other ‘forgotten citizens’ like the elderly have been ruled out of creative activities. But Gina Levete, a British dancer who worked with thalidomide children using dance movement as therapy and wrote a book called No Handicap to Dance, has founded ‘Interlink’, an international organisation designed to maximise the potential of the Arts to help physically, mentally or emotionally disabled people.

A Cuban ballet company, for example, helps psychiatric patients overcome intellectual problems by physchotherapeutic dance. New Zealand’s Independent Theatre of the Deaf teaches people with hearing impairments how to ‘sing’ by hand-miming the words or by speaking them rhythmically. Pierre Coutanche, a photographer, believes that, since 80 per cent of people registered as blind have some residual sight, many may be able to see enough to focus a camera.

Disabled actor and wheelchair globetrotter Nabil Sheban considers acting an important means of communication that enhances self-confidence, prevents isolation and crushes presuppositions about those with disabilities.

From Action, WACC Newsletter No. 82.
Interlink’s newsletter ‘Positif’ is available from:
358 Strand, London, UK for £5 annual subscription.

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[image, unknown] EDUCATION[image, unknown]

Passion doused

Zimbabwe’s government is sacking and jailing amorous male teachers who have been responsible for impregnating their pupils. So far 25 of the 500 teachers in the Guruve district have been fired. And a teacher from Rusape has been jailed for 18 months. Declared the Minister of Education: ‘Our schools are not maternity wards.’

From Africa Business, No. 63.

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Endquote

‘The churches have always had theories of a just war... when oppressed people reach a point where they have no alternative. The churches should not turn pacifist when it is black people who find themselves in that situation.’

Rev. Allan Boesak, at the World Council of Churches assembly in Vancouver, July 1983, to a standing ovation.

 

‘If we were to decide to observe a minute of silence for every person who died in 1982 owing to hunger-related causes, we would not be able to celebrate the advent of the twenty-first century.’

Fidel Castro at the NonAligned Summit
Meeting in New Delhi, March 83.

 

‘I am sure private investment overseas in the underdeveloped countries is the best way to help.’

Nicholas Ridley, Conservative MP on aid, UK


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