New Internationalist

Briefly…

Issue 173

new internationalist
issue 173 - July 1987

BRIEFLY...

CRIME

Australia nabbed
According to just about every editorial in Australian newspapers, the country has a major crime problem on its hands. The latest publication from the Australian Institute of Criminology, 'The Size of the Crime Problem in Australia' shows that today's crime rates are lower than all the hue and cry would lead us to believe. Murder, for example, is no more prevalent in Australia in 1985-86 than in 1973-74. And this clear-headed report shows that it is the land of the bold and free, the US, where citizens have the most justifiable worries about law and order.

From Australian Society, April 1987

COMMODITIES

Zimbabwe's gold
Zimbabwe's gold was used in some of the earliest medieval coins in England and now gold production is again on the increase, with output surging from 11.4 tons in 1980 to about 15 tons in 1986. By the beginning of 1988 production is estimated to hit 17 tons a year.

Since breaking its ties with South Africa, Zimbabwe has been refining its gold in Australia. Now, with Australian help, it will establish a gold refinery in Harare. Companies actively mining include Rio Tinto Zinc, Lonrho, Anglo-American Corp., Falcon Mines and Cluff Oil Holdings.

From The Star, Johannesburg

ENVIRONMENT

Hamburger desolation
Recently an approximate cost of hamburgers in terms of tropical rainforest has been estimated. A hectare of well-developed rainforest sustains about 800,000 kilos of plants and animals. Total meat production on the same hectare levelled and used for pasture will be about 200 kilos a year - that is, some 1,600 hamburgers. In other words, the cost for the first year is something like half a tonne of rainforest per hamburger. The price of that meal-in-a-bun is anything up to nine square metres of irreplaceable natural wealth - the richness and diversity of the rainforest which may never be recreated when the grazing lands are in due course abandoned.

From World Food Association Bulletin, Nos. 3 and 4, 1986

DUMPING

Exporting radiation
Since the Chernobyl disaster shipments of radioactive powdered milk have been exported as cattle fodder from West Germany. The contaminated milk has been reported in Egypt. The disclosure came amidst a scandal involving train-loads of such milk arriving from Bavaria in Cologne and Bremen railway stations in February 1987 and being placed under police guard. The trainloads intended for export to Egypt, Angola and other countries where checks were likely to be slack, registered radioactive levels between 1,800 and 8,000 becquerels per kilo - well above the accepted level of radioactivity in food destined for human consumption.

Bavarian authorities insisted that the contaminated milk had been sold to an exporting company and it was 'no longer our problem'. Too hot to handle, the train freight is now to be 'temporarily' stored at West German military bases until a decision on another disposal method for the product is made. Authorities are investigating the two companies which attempted to sell the product.

From Consumer Currents, No. 95, 1987

PERSONAL POLITICS

Divorce in India
Once only the very rich or the very poor divorced in India. Now the middle classes are divorcing too. Courts are overflowing with quarrelling couples: New Delhi has five additional district and session judges and Bombay three city courts for divorce. Four years ago it had one. Generally cases have more than doubled over the last decade.

Why are so many marriages failing, asks India Today. A major reason could be the fading stigma of divorce. It is no longer a fate worse than death; if anything, it is an escape from it. The number of dowry deaths and bride burnings and the publicity generated by them has convinced many parents that it is better to allow their daughter to divorce rather than have a dead one.

Once only men filed divorce petitions, today more and more women are filing them. The growing independence of women and their ability to walk out of a bad marriage may also be related to the increase in the number of women bringing home a wage.

From India Today, 31.12.86

IMPERIALISM

Canada's big brother
'It isn't always easy to be a friend of the United States,' confided Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 'The easiest thing would be to say to hell with them. But then what do you do the following day?' It was a roundabout apology for imposing a 15 per cent export tax on softwood shipments to the US demanded by Washington DC as a way of protecting the American lumber industry from cheaper Canadian imports. No import controls are needed when you can tell your neighbour to do the dirty work for you. And it is feared this will set a precedent.

Other bones of contention include a US research icebreaker being sent through waters claimed by Canada; the projected distribution of drilling licenses in the Beaufort Sea, including the Canadian areas, and the US refusal to inform Ottawa about how many of its submarines are operating beneath the Canadian Arctic ice. Perhaps these arguments, suggests the German newspaper, are why the Canadian Coast Guard have been empowered to mount machine guns on its ships.

From Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Jan. 9, quoted in World Press Review Vol. 34/No.3 1987

FOOD

Latest EEC nonsense
About 65,000 tonnes of butter is being sold for 60 French centimes (about 10 US cents) a kilo to veal producers, it has been disclosed by the French National Institute for Consumer Affairs. It is part of the EEC's attempts to get rid of surplus stocks of dairy produce. The only problem is that the veal raised on this butter will in all likelihood find its way into the Community storage refrigerators because there is an overproduction of veal in Europe as well. So consumers will pay twice over to finance the crazy system. And they will be able neither to buy cheap butter nor cheap veal; after all retail price levels have to be maintained. The only people happy at all this must be the farmers: they receive cheap butter as fodder and a price-guarantee system on their unsold veal.

From Consumer Currents, No. 95, 1987

'Riots are the language of the unheard.'

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

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