New Internationalist

Briefly…

Issue 211

new internationalist
issue 211 - September 1990

BRIEFLY...

ROYALTY

Poll-tax perk

Queen Elizabeth II
Photo: CAMERA PRESS

The world's richest woman. Queen Elizabeth II, has become even richer now that the poll tax has replaced rates on property. She is exempt from poll tax whereas she used to pay rates on her homes.

Last year she saved £5,698 ($9,400) on her 50,000 acre Balmoral estate in Scotland. This year she will save another £12,000 ($21,500) on her Sandringham estate in Norfolk. In all the Queen and the rest of the royal family will save over £50,000 ($80,000) a year.

There are other royal anomalies. Take Prince Charles. His butler. Harold Brown, will pay £15 ($271) more than the Prince. For he lives in Kensington Palace and will pay the charge of £278 ($500) Kensington and Chelsea Council have decided to levy. But the Prince has decided to make Highgrove his official residence for poll-tax purposes. There he will only pay £263 ($473) a year to Stroud Council.

From Land and Liberty, Vol 97 No 1,145, 1990

 

SPIES

CIA recruits
Glasnost hasn't reduced recruiting for The Company, according to former agent Verne Lyon, who once headed the CIA base in Cuba. Now he spends his time warning students to stay away from his former employer.

'Right after World War Two, they did not dare come overtly onto campuses,' he says. They were far more careful. But today, with a personnel need for up to 3,000 recruits a year, recruitment teams take out full-page adverts in campus newspapers to announce their arrival. They line up with all the other corporations, usually in the spring, to interview mild-to-arch conservative chemists, physicists, photographers, typists, engineers and those with language skills. They are aided by "spotters" - faculty members paid to spot and assess students.

The CIA claims it has never had anything to do with Lyon. But Lyon asserts that students who do make the CIA grade can expect job security: 'With no vested interest in peace, the agency will try to undermine any peace process.

From Mother Jones, Vol 15 No. 4 1990

 

ENVIRONMENT

Flower power
What do these plants have in common: rosy periwinkle, Chondrodendron tomentosum, foxglove, Indian snakeroot. mandrake, henhane, thornapples, mayapples, yams, meadowsweet and willow bark?

Answer: Medications are derived from all of them, relieving the ailments from which we suffer. Chondrodendron tomentosum, for example, provides a muscle relaxant helpful to patients facing major surgery.

More than 80 per cent of children with leukemia survive thanks to the chemicals vincristine and vinblastine from the rosy periwinkle. Digoxin from foxgloves regulates heartbeat and is useful to millions of people with heart ailments.

The World Wide Fund for Nature points out that with the destruction of the tropical rain forests: 'Of the estimated 250,000 flowering plants believed to be in existence only some 5,000 have been tested exhaustively for their pharmaceutical attributes. Now this vast store of known and potential medicines is under threat (five plants become extinct every day).'

 

PHILIPPINES

Danger money
The US Defence Department now feels that urban Filipino guerillas pose more of a threat to a soldier's personal safety than being shot at in war. US service personnel in the Philippines are bemused over the $110 a month hazardous duty pay allowance they are drawing because of attacks by the New People's Army. This is $45 more than they would be given if they were in combat.

From Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol 148, No 22 1990

 

FUNDAMENTALISM

Pacifist intolerance
The Peace Pledge Union, one of Britain's main pacifist organisations, has launched a picket of its own headquarters in London. This is in protest at the repeated support by one of its tenants for the killing of Salman Rushdie. For part of the headquarters is let out to the Muslim Institute which has supported the sending of hit squads from abroad to murder Rushdie.

The Peace Pledge Union does not require that its tenants should be pacifists but it draws the line at those which encourage acts of murder. Although the Muslim Institute has been asked to leave, to date they have not done so. Indeed they have just published a Muslim Manifesto urging British Muslims to involve themselves in armed struggle abroad - hardly in line with pacifist views.

From Peace Pledge Union press release

 

ARMS TRADE

Bargains galore
The end of the Cold War and the peace dividend this is meant to bring has taken on a whole new meaning for arms exports to the Third World. For Thailand is planning to buy 350 M48A5 and 300 M6OAI mainline battle tanks from the US at knockdown prices. Starting prices offered by the US for the second-hand tanks are a bargain $100,000 for the M48A5 and $200,000 for the M6OAl. These compare favourably with the $390,000 paid by the Thais for each of their 60 or so Chinese T69 tanks. The American tanks are being offered on the cheap because of the planned withdrawal of US armoured units from Europe.

From Far Eastern Economic Review, 5 July 1990

 

WORLD BANK

First class row
The World Bank's internal magazine has published a letter suggesting that the World Bank staff fly business class rather than first class. The letter was written by Dr Irwin, Director of the World Bank's Health Services department. He claimed he had saved the Bank $1,900 in February and March by travelling business class rather than first class from Washington to East Africa. 'It is wrong,' he wrote, 'that the staff of an institution whose stated goal is the reduction of poverty should be entitled to first-class travel on trips over nine hours.'

Outrage ensued. One senior staff member wrote: 'My family and I will not feel safe again until the Director has been replaced by someone who really cares' Another wrote that this recommendation was 'a chilling statement' and added that an end to first-class travel could lead to an increase in 'post-mission travel-induced strokes'.

Dr Irwin is no longer with the World Bank having resigned a year before his two-year contract was up.

From World Development Forum Vol 8 No 12 1990

 

'He had grown up in a country run by politicians who sent the pilots to man the
bombers to kill the babies to make the world safe for children to grow up in.'

Ursula Le Guin

 

'The feminist tradition abandons the concept of naming enemies and adopts a
concept familiar to the nonviolent tradition: naming behaviour that is oppressive,
naming abuse of power that is held unfairly and must be destroyed.'

Barbara Deming

 

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