New Internationalist

Briefly…

Issue 172

new internationalist
issue 172 - June 1987

BRIEFLY...

CANADA

Maple Leaf in hock
Canada is quickly becoming one of the world's most indebted nations. Its $130,000 million foreign debt is 37 per cent of the country's gross national product, putting it in the same league as Mexico, whose $100,000 million is about 41 per cent of GNP. As a point of comparison, the $250,000 million US foreign debt represents only 6 per cent of the country's GNP.

From Globe and Mail, Toronto

CONSUMER RIGHTS

Sleight of hand
Sales staff in Soviet food stores refuse to replace their abacuses and mechanical scales with electronic equipment, complains Pravda. The reason, it appears, is that with a little doctoring of the counterweights and sleight of hand on the abacus, customers are being systematically and profitably cheated. In fact a recent investigation found that of 193 food purchases, 156 customers had been cheated in cost or weight

Some time ago a production association tried to introduce an electronic scale that displayed weight and price automatically. Cashiers threatened to leave and the shop manager gave in, asking that the new scales be removed.

From World Press Review, Vol. 34/No.4 1987

TECHNOLOGY

Nuclear mania
Nuclear research in Nigeria is getting nowhere fast, according to a report in Newswatch of Lagos. After 11 years and some $6.5 million of government spending, there is little to show. At Ife University a nuclear energy research center is still being constructed after long delays because of embezzlement of funds by the original building contractor. At Ahmadu Bello University where another such facility was planned in 1976, the land where the center is to be built still has to be cleared. Some research is being done at a temporary laboratory. Yet a neutron generator cannot be stored there because it lacks proper fuel storage.

Twenty students are abroad at government expense studying for their doctorates in nuclear physics. Unfortunately when - or if - they return not only will they be lacking buildings but there is also a shortage of laboratory technicians.

OVERSEAS AID

Stingy Canberra
Overseas development agencies in Australia are strongly protesting against cuts in the country's aid programme. The major agency co-ordinating the campaign, The Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) in the first of a new Campaign Update series, wades into the government for reducing aid to its lowest level for more than 20 years: 0.39 per cent of GNP. The restoration of the 1985 level of 0.46 per cent of GNP is being campaigned for. Why? Because:

· Australians are in favour, contributing over $75 million to voluntary agencies in 1985

· the economy benefits - for close to 90 per cent of the bilateral aid programme is provided in the form of goods and services from Australia

· humanitarian reasons, for over a quarter of a million Australians gave to Live Aid/Band Aid in 1985. They now feel 'sold out by a Government that has halved assistance to Africa,' says ACFOA.

Under the banner 'Simply Not Enough', there will be public demonstrations, media campaigns, lobbying of parliamentarians and production of educational materials for development activists throughout the country.

ANIMAL RIGHTS

More on frogs' legs
After years of vigorous campaigning by activists against the export of frogs' legs, the Indian Government has succumbed and now banned their commercial killing and export. The legs - a delicacy to some European palates - are from wild frogs caught at night, crammed into gunny sacks and taken to primitive processing plants where they are severed in half, leaving their top halves writhing.

The ecological consequences of the trade have been severe, for frogs live on the waterborne pests which destroy crops and carry disease. The absence of frogs has meant spending more than $20 million on increased pesticide imports to deal with the insects; more than offsetting the $8 million earned by frogs legs exports.

Unfortunately Bangladesh and Indonesia have chosen not to agree with India and end this miserable trade. British imports of frogs legs from Bangladesh increased by 68 percent in 1986, when total imports amounted to 54,000 kilograms. Compassion in World Farming is now campaigning for a total EEC ban on these imports.

From Compassion in World Farming, 20 Lavant Street. Petersfield, Hampshire GU32 3EW

FOOD

Australia's diet findings
A vegetarian diet, according to medical research from Perth, Australia, has brought a reduction in blood pressure. In the study, patients were put on a vegetarian diet supplemented with milk and eggs for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks, the patients returned to their 'normal' diets. Monitoring of their blood pressure revealed an average drop of about five millimetres of mercury. And a drop of blood pressure of the amount found in the study would be sufficient to produce a seven per-cent reduction in the number of heart attacks.

From The Independent, 5.12.86

ARMS EXPORTS

Secondhand aircraft carriers
Where have all the aircraft carriers gone? Sold to poor states every one. A recent copy of the Indian feminist publication Manushi explains that their navy has just bought a second aircraft carrier from the British (HMS Hermes, now The Virat) and is thinking of manufacturing a third. This ship is the single most expensive conventional weapons system in the world. The UK carrier cost India about 1,000 million rupees ($100 million). As it is so vulnerable, it has to be guarded by numbers of escort vessels, each of which cost millions of rupees more. Experts believe that in any major war such a carrier cannot expect to last more than two days as it can be destroyed by any small nation at minimal cost with long-range missiles. Australia, Canada, China and Japan have eliminated their carriers, while the superpowers are cutting down their carrier fleets. So why, asks the article, are we buying them?

From Manushi, No.38 1987

HEALTH

Alcoholic medicine
Many medicines for children, like gripe water and cough mixtures, include levels of alcohol which parents might find disturbing if they looked at the label. It's a particular concern for those Muslims whose religious scruples forbid the drinking of alcohol in any form.

Indeed many medicines shipped to Arab countries seem to have a particularly high alcohol content. Recresal, a tonic produced by the West German company Hoechst, normally has an alcohol content of five per cent. But Recresal A, designed for selective marketing in the Arab world, has an alcohol content of 20 per cent. In some countries like North Yemen, where the import controls are not very stringent, some tonics and vitamins have been found to be up to 50 per cent alcohol.

From Consumer Currents, No 89.

'Eventually we may achieve our aim, by eliminating every "competitor"
for living space on the crowded Earth. When the last creature has been
accounted for, we shall have made ourselves masters of all creation. We shall
look around, and we shall see nothing but each other. Alone at last'
Norman Myers

 

'Hell is truth seen too late.'
John Locke

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