New Internationalist

Briefly…

Issue 141

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[image, unknown] BRIEFLY...

[image, unknown] LITERACY[image, unknown]

Spread the word

September 8 each year is International Literacy Day. It was first established by UNESCO in 1966 to draw attention to the need for improved primary education in poorer countries and to reverse the tendency among the poverty-stricken to relapse into illiteracy later in life. If you have any interesting ideas for celebrating the Day by organising such events as the launch of a local literacy project, setting up printing facilities, exhibitions, libraries, film shows or the like, it is possible to get technical and (a little) financial help from UNESCO.

From SCI Action. No. 68.

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[image, unknown] YOUTH[image, unknown]

Young ambassadors

Five Puerto Rican teenagers who form the singing group ‘Menudo’ have been appointed as the first ‘Youth Ambassadors for UNICEF’. The boys’ ages range from 12 to 16 years and, according to the UN’s Ideas Forum have millions of young fans in Latin America and the US. They have a weekly syndicated TV show and have appeared in numerous TV specials and two feature films. That should lower the average age of UNICEF’s ‘Goodwill Ambassadors’ - the familiar ones are Danny Kaye, Liv Ullman and Peter Ustinov. Members of Menudo are obliged by their contracts to leave the group on their 17th birthday so the age reduction should continue.

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[image, unknown] PESTICIDES[image, unknown]

Anti-ant twist

Someone dumped an orange-peel-based grease remover on an anthill - and the ants died. Dr Craig Sheppard (of the University of Georgia) happened to notice, and wondered if citrus peel had insecticidal properties.

Preliminary investigations indicated that oil from orange, lime or grapefruit peel killed all the insects tested - but weren’t toxic to humans or other vertebrates. Sheppard thinks that this natural insecticide could rid both livestock and humans of external parasites, be used for fumigating food-handling and storage facilities as well as for household pest control. For developing countries, many of which are citrus producers, the discovery holds promise of a low-cost, non-toxic pesticide with considerable potential for reducing food losses.

From World Development Forum 2/12.

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[image, unknown] AGEING[image, unknown]

Silver-haired cyclist

People walk, run and ride on behalf of all kinds of worthy causes, but usually the participants are young. Not Georges Krassovsky, a Frenchman who has organised ‘eco-cycle’ races for people worried about environmental damage to the planet. The entry requirements: an interest in conservation and a minimum age of 55. M. Krassovsky’s plan is to cycle round the perimeter of France, focusing media attention on ‘the destruction of nature, on pollution and on the proliferation of weapons which could bring an end to all life on earth’.

From World Development Forum 2/12.

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[image, unknown] CHRISTIANITY[image, unknown]

Black priests in training

Is Catholicism gaining or losing ground? A recent Vatican survey shows that rich countries are experiencing a decline in the number of Catholic seminarians - but countries with the lowest per capita incomes tend to show an increase. Between 1970 and 1982, numbers in the US fell from 12,750 to 7,180. In Zaire, in the same period, they climbed from 459 to 1,935, and in Brazil from 2,000 to 5,000. To achieve a secure replacement level, seminarians need to be in excess of 10 per cent of the number of priests. The world average figure is 17.9 percent. In France the level is only 3.9 per cent, while in Nigeria it stands at 109.3 per cent.

From The Tablet, Aug. 84.

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[image, unknown] MULTINATIONALS[image, unknown]

Curried Coke

The Coca-Cola company has turned to cookery books to win the hearts (and tummies) of schoolchildren. Along with promotional material claiming that Coke could ease the day’s tensions - unlikely since each can of Coke contains around 35 mg of pepping-up caffeine - the company provides a recipe book called ‘International Cooking with Coca-Cola’ as part of its school project material.

What Italians might think about the addition of a cup of Coke to minestrone defies imagination - or what curses the chefs of France might utter were they to see Coke poured into French onion soup. Other abominations include Coke in Indian curry and in Hungarian goulash. The ingredients listed take no heed of nutritional value: apart from the sugar in Coke, lashings of salt are suggested and canned and frozen foods used in abundance.

From Choice, Australia. Sept. 1984.

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[image, unknown] SMOKING[image, unknown]

Indonesian epidemic

Indonesians are smoking more than four times as many cigarettes as they did a decade ago and will thus face an ‘epidemic’ of lung cancer over the next 20 years. According to the World Health Organisation, Indonesian tobacco consumption jumped from 230 cigarettes per person in 1973 to 1,000 cigarettes per person in 1981.

From the New Straits Times, Malaysia 19.9.84

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[image, unknown] PESTICIDES[image, unknown]

Poison letters

In June 1984, the Brazilian branch of Ciba-Geigy started an original marketing campaign on the pesticide Diazinon. About 10,000 people received in their homes by ordinary mail, in a nice white envelope without any indication of the sender, five grams of Diazinon.

A young woman who received one such envelope brought it to the office of a women’s group, the Acao Democratica Feminma Gaucho (ADFG). When ADFG held a press conference to denounce Ciba-Geigy’s tactics, the company claimed that the materials were not meant for private persons but only for retailers - though the young woman in question, for a start, had never sold any pesticides. Local radio and TV stations spread the news immediately and repeatedly and Ciba-Geigy responded through TV the same evening agreeing to give up mailing these materials.

Franz Consumer Currents, Oct 1984.

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[image, unknown] ENVIRONMENT[image, unknown]

Forests into boxes

A Sri Lanka-sized area of tropical moist forest is lost each year, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Where is it disappearing so fast?

* Illegal logging is so rampant in the Philippines that the National Police Chief pus out a warning that air force jets will fire on ships smuggling logs out of the country.

* Some 30 Thai forest guards are killed each year in gun battles with hardwood poachers. In just 10 years, Thailand has lost a quarter of its forest cover as a result of legal and illegal logging.

* In Madang. Papua New Guinea, a mechanical chipper devours 80,000 hectares of tropical forest, converting more than 200 species of trees into woodchips for making cardboard boxes for Japanese stereos and TVs.

From Asiaweek, Hong Kong, 13.7.84

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[image, unknown] FOOD[image, unknown]

Red plague

The onslaught of padi pests and diseases on modern fast-growing species of rice has been unparalleled in the past four or five years in Malaysia. In 1978, ared virus disease destroyed just four hectares (worth $5,300) in the Mada area. But the following year it destroyed 202 hectares - and in 1982, an astronomical 17,000 hectares (worth $23 million).

From SAM features, 28.4.84.

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Endquote

‘It is by Justice that we can authentically measure man s value or his nullity. The absence of justice is the absence of what makes him man.’

Plato

‘The rushing river they call violent. But the riverbed pressing it in Nobody calls violent.’

Bertolt Brecht


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