Snapping up hides
More than a million alligators are poached, and their hides smuggled out of Brazil annually. They go to Bolivia and from there to the European leather market. The majority of the hides come from Brazil’s Pantanal, a vast swampland the size of Portugal and Switzerland put together. It presents an unguarded frontier with both Bolivia and Paraguay and is witness to a lively trade, not just in poached alligator skins, but in drugs, weapons and stolen cars as well.
The animal poachers use high-speed launches, light aircraft, radios and automatic weapons with night-sights when they are hunting the local alligator - a smaller, darker cousin of the Florida species. The hides are clandestinely airlifted over the frontier to Bolivia and then exported legally to wealthy industrialised markets. Bolivia is not a signatory to conservation treaties.
A campaign in 1983 designed to root out the poachers resulted in capture of only 150 of the estimated 3000 poachers. Too many senior people. itis alleged, have their finger in this particularly lucrative pie.
In the meantime, the result of this breaking of the ecological cycle is that the dominant predator of the swamp and marshlands, the alligator, is disappearing. It has brought an uncomfortable increase in piranha fish. Which way would you prefer to go?
Information from South, June 1985.
Food additives are a major cause of concern for British consumers, according to a recent survey by the University of Bradford. The survey results show that people are prepared to pay significantly more to eat food with no additives. Shoppers’ hostile reaction is specifically to the ‘E’ numbers on food packaging - the code used in all EEC countries for additives safe to be used in food.
Public concern has been fuelled, the survey claimed, by media publicity. We hope the New Internationalist has done its modest little bit with Issue No. 135, on The Food Industry News that there will be compulsory declaration of E numbers on all food labels from 1986 will be further cause for grief among manufacturers who are partial to spraying around preservatives and colouring junk.
From Marketing, February 28. 1985
White collar crime
We know American corporate institutions are full of scandals, business intrigue and downright crime. But until recently there has not been much publicity about their particular brands of skullduggery. Offences currently making the headlines include cheating on government defence contracts, cheque-writing frauds, bogus security dealings and money laundering. Culprits include General Electric, E. E. Hutton, the Bank of Boston and General Dynamics. Some powerful executives, stalwart members of the community, face the prospect of several years in the state penitentiary. The white collar crimes include:
· General Electric defrauding the US Air Force of $800,000 in 1980 over a Minuteman missiles contract. The company has agreed to pay fines of two million dollars - about eight hours’ worth of their total corporate profit.
· The Pentagon says that General Dynamic overcharged them by $75 million. The corporation builds submarines and missiles for the military, but now faces the cancellation of two contracts.
· Of the 100 largest US military suppliers, 45 are now under criminal investigation. The vice president of one defense contractor, commented ‘The public’s impression is that everyone in the industry is a thief.’
· The Bank of Boston paid a half million dollar fine in February for failing to report $1.2 billion in shipments of cash into and out of the country - possibly the laundering of suspiciously large sums from criminal sources.
President Reagan’s passionate love affair with big business and his shoot-from-the-hip attitude to arms spending may be to blame for this rise in corporate crime. As Director of Yale University’s studies on white collar crime put it: ‘People are increasingly realizing that the whole economic system operates on the basis of trust.
When trust is repeatedly violated, the system itself begins to be in doubt.’ He said it.
Information from Time Magazine, 10 June, 1985.
Lenin and Jesus
The world’s most translated author is Lenin. It’s official. With 416 titles translated in the Unesco survey year of 1979, he continues to lead the field, as he has done for years. However. the Bible remains the world’s most translated single book with 395 versions that year. These gems come from Volume 32 of Unesco’s Index Translationum, a bibliographical catalogue of 54,447 translated books published in 54 member states. Coming top of the ratings in the fiction field is Jules Verne, translated 230 times in 26 countries, followed by Agatha Christie with 180 titles in 24 countries.
From Unesco Facts & Figures No.4 Jan/March 1985
Things are looking up. Life expectancy at birth in the developing world was 60 years on average in 1982, according to the latest World Bank Atlas. That’s a great improvement on an average life expectancy of 45 years in 1960, For industrial countries the figure is 76 compared with 70 in 1960.
Readers please note that people now live longer in Cuba than in Britain, Australia or New Zealand. Average length of life on that socialist Caribbean island is 75 years compared with 74 years in the UK and Australia and 72 years in New Zealand. Now why is that?
Information from The World Bank Atlas 1985.
How much should you pay for the contamination by radiation of a Pacific island - specifically the home of 1,200 Bikini islanders who want to return? In March this year the US settled one lawsuit, paying $42 million for some clean-up of contamination and other damage of Bikini Atoll, Micronesia. This settlement doesn’t affect another pending lawsuit, where tribal
leaders are demanding $450 million from the US government for the destruction of the atoll’s environment and life.
The islanders were first moved off the atoll in 1946 to make way for atomic weapon tests. They returned later, but were again removed in 1968 when dangerously high levels of radiation were found in the water, soil and animals.
From Pacific Peacemaker, Mali’ Jo tie 1985. Pacific Peacemaker Foundation, 309 18th Ave. E., 204 Seattle, WA 98112, USA.
Brazil’s toxic groceries
A recent study of the Campinas Institute of Food Technology (Brazil) found that nearly all the most commonly eaten foods were contaminated, some to an alarming degree. No doubt this is connected to the country being the world’s fourth largest user of pesticides, with 105,000 tonnes being sprayed, poured and dumped indiscriminately on Brazilian fields annually. Pesticide residues above tolerable levels were found in 81 per cent of butter samples, 93 per cent of sausages, 63 per cent of ham, 100 per cent of sunflower oil and 100 per cent of maize oil. A toxic dinner table? No thanks.
From Consumer Currents, April 1985
This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7