New Internationalist

Update

Issue 261

new internationalist
issue 261 - November 1994

Update

BABY MILK
The battle of the bottle
Boycott of Nestlé products

Baby Milk Action continues its boycott campaign against Nestlé, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of baby milk. Unsafe bottle-feeding, they say, kills a baby every 30 seconds. Nestlé undermines breastfeeding to create a market for its baby milks – if it doesn’t get babies on the bottle it won’t do business.

The boycott campaign focuses on Nestlé’s biggest-selling brand, Nescafé. But there’s a long list of other brand names.

For more information contact:

UK:   
Baby Milk Action, 23 St Andrew’s Street, Cambridge CB2 3AX.
Aotearoa/NZ:   
Breastfeeding Clinic, 41 Halton Street, Christchurch 5.
Australia:   
Baby Food Action Group, Community Aid Abroad, 156 George Street, Fitzroy, 3065.
Canada:   
IBFAN, 10 Trinity Square, Toronto M5G 1B1, Ontario.
USA:   
Action, 129 Church Street, Newhaven, CT065610.
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Killer lobby
Cigarette packets in Canada must now carry compulsory warnings like ‘Smoking can kill you’. The tobacco lobby, for its part, has killed a Government initiative to have all cigarette packaging standardized, with no design elements on plain brown paper.

Wayne Ellwood

 

Homeless surfers
A group of homeless men is ‘surfing’ on the Internet global computer communications network via the Seattle Public Library. They discovered the Internet link on the library computer terminals for themselves. Some library staff were not even aware of its existence until they noticed the men sitting at the terminals for hours on end. The men are now considered the in-house experts. The potential problem of a shortage of terminals was averted when they met and agreed not to hog the computers and give others a go. ‘This is one of the most effective experiments in universal access,’ said deputy city librarian Craig Buthod.

New Scientist no 1938.

Plaque removers
Beijing-controlled Tibet TV has announced the sentencing of five Tibetans to jail terms of up to 15 years for putting up pro-independence posters and smashing a Communist Party building’s plaque.

Far Eastern Economic Review vol 157, no 32.

No Brazil in Brazil
Some of the last remaining habitats of the Brazilwood tree are under threat. The wood, used to make bridges for violins, fetches an even higher price than mahogany and is frequently smuggled out of the country. The first Portuguese colonists thought the colour of its trunk resembled that of a coal fire (brasa in Portuguese), and named the country after it because of the abundance of the tree in Brazil’s Atlantic coastline forest. This forest has now almost disappeared and property development along the coast east of Rio de Janeiro is threatening what remains. The botanic garden in Rio is trying to persuade local authorities to create reserves for the tree.

New Scientist no 1938.

 

WORLD BANK
Villagers displaced by the rising waters of Sardar Sarovar still resist resettlement.
RODERICK JOHNSON / PANOS PICTURES
Dammed
Resistance to Indian project continues

Children have died and people are suffering because the World Bank is shirking its responsibilities to villagers displaced by the Sardar Sarovar dam project in India.

Three young girls and a four-year-old boy have died from diarrhoea and malnutrition at the resettlement site at Simamli in Gujarat. According to Narmada Bachao Andolan, a local anti-dam group, people re-settled at Simamli received no medical attention before the deaths. Living conditions are so appalling that 50 of the 80 families sent to the site have tried to return home.

‘Home’ was the village of Dhankhedi, Maharashtra, the area in which the dam is being constructed. Although the World Bank pulled out of the dam project earlier in the year it supplied India with $200 million in loans for the project and is still responsible for enforcing the conditions of the credit agreements signed in 1985. These require that people resettled must be able to improve their standard of living or at least regain it ‘as soon as possible’.

Many villagers who have tried to resist resettlement have been forcibly removed from their homes by Indian police.

In July a court ruling in Nandurbar ordered the release of protesters. According to Narmada Bachao Andolan this ruling ‘clearly shows that state officials are involved in illegal activities to suppress resistance by the people’. They add that police have impounded the group’s motor-boat, which for some was the only source of relief supplies.

Despite Government attempts to prevent them from leaving, many people due to be evicted from the village of Vadgam, also in Maharashtra, travelled to Boroda to protest. They were joined by other project-affected people from Gujarat. Similar rallies have been held in Badwani, Madhya Pradesh and Bombay.

Probe International

Sardine sandwich
World records have been tumbling in Lima, Peru. Some 11,200 rolls of bread and large quantities of sardine paste were used to build a row of sandwiches measuring 4,500 metres, the longest ever constructed. Afterwards spectators rushed to take pieces away for lunch. On the same day the world’s largest mural was painted, overtaking one at Mexico City University. A Lima environmental group now plans to build the world’s largest broom from the trunk of a eucalyptus tree.

World Press Review vol 41, no 8.

Crop crisis
ALISON MASON /
PANOS PICTURES

Crop crisis
Crop failure in Malawi has led the World Food Programme to provide maize rations for seven months to 1.2 million people and for three months to 500,000 people who are less critically affected. In addition there is a feeding programme of beans and nutritious blended food for 500,000 children aged under five. A major difference from the drought in 1992-93 that devastated southern Africa is that maize can now be purchased in the region, especially in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Southern Africa Political and Economic Monthly vol 7, no 10.

Missed target
JIMMY HOLMES /
PANOS PICTURES

 

Missed target
Japan will probably fail to meet the commitment it made at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to freeze its carbon-dioxide emissions. A draft report by the country’s Environment Agency says that by the year 2000 emissions will probably surpass 1990 levels by about three per cent. The surplus amounts to some 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Even these estimates are regarded by many environmentalists as optimistic. The Environment Agency suggests that consumers should switch to energy-efficient appliances, recycle rubbish and insulate their homes.

New Scientist no 1938.



ANIMALS
Tiddles on top
Upmarket stores lure pampered pets

Upmarket stores lure pampered pets. The pet-food business in North America is preparing itself for a dog-eat-dog battle over who will take the lion’s share of a multi-billion-dollar business. The US-based Petstuff Inc, one of the top dogs in pet-food retailing, is set to invade Canada and plans to open four superstores in the Toronto area by the end of the year. Supermarkets and speciality stores such as Pet Value Inc are preparing for the battle.

A Petstuff Inc store carries 6,500 products to keep Rover and Tiddles happy. Customers can acquire anything from dog paddles – for canines who have trouble with swimming – to Kitty Kondo, a playhouse for cats that has wall-to-wall broadloom carpet. The pet-apparel line includes hats and T-shirts.

‘Humans love this stuff,’ says a Petstuff spokesperson. ‘Especially if they’re a childless couple, they’ll treat their pet as the child of the family and shower it with gifts at Christmas and birthday time.’

Stores provide services like grooming, obedience training, photography, adoption and a knowledgeable sales staff. There is also the powerful lure of low prices.

Pet speciality stores are a growth industry as pet owners become increasingly health-conscious. The so-called ‘high-end’ brands of dog and cat food are capturing a larger share of the market. Supermarkets, which compete more on price than selection or service, have been the biggest losers. Their share of pet-food sales has plunged.

One pet owner feeds her dog on a canned lamb and rice concoction, while one of her two cats is on a special diet for overweight felines. She wouldn’t dream of giving them cheaper brands from the grocery store. Another pet owner blamed supermarket brands for giving her dog gas. The purveyors of pet élitism are sharpening their claws for what could be a bloody battle. Whoever wins will pocket the fortune pet owners are prepared to pay to keep their charges in top shape.

‘Nutrition is coming on very strong,’ says David Mitchell, general manager of the Pet Food Association of Canada.

Alan Hughes

 

MEXICO
The power of pox
Expulsions from communities in Chiapas
San Juan Chamula: strange spectacle.
PHOTO BY DAVID RANSOM

Dressed in the red-and-black Tzotzil Mayan indigenous costume, Domingo Lopez Ruiz taps his silver-tipped wooden baton authoritatively on the ground. Some three-dozen village elders surround the corpulent cacique (‘boss’), many with eyes glazed from habitual abuse of pox (pronounced ‘posh’), the local hard liquor. In the nearby white-and-blue church Mayan indigenous peasants sit in a cloud of incense on the pine-needle-covered floor, praying in the Tzotzil language as they offer candles, bottles of Pepsi and pox to the Mayan-Catholic gods.

The caciques have been granted valuable franchises by the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in return for ensuring votes for the party from the local population. In the last 20 years, since the arrival of progressive Catholic and evangelical missionaries, some 30,000 converts have been banished from their communities for failure to ‘uphold traditional customs’.

‘To live in San Juan Chamula you have to join in all the alcohol-soaked, incense-shrouded rituals and be a PRI member,’ says diocesan priest Father Gonzalo Ituarte who was himself banished from Chamula 16 years ago.

‘Before we knew God we bought their alcohol and candles,’ says Pedro Lopez, a Seventh-Day Adventist banished from San Juan Chamula with his family of six. ‘But when we stopped, they got angry.’

Lopez is one of 584 people chased out of San Juan Chamula last September when Lopez Ruiz sent his men on the rampage. They burnt at least six houses, damaged 40 others, and beat and threatened villagers.

But Lopez Ruiz’s days of absolute power over this strange, spectacular community could be numbered. Proposed reforms to the penal code could imprison caciques for up to 10 years.

‘It seems that the Government has finally decided that it’s not worth its while to keep this handful of despots in power,’ says Father Ituarte. Leader Juan Perez agrees: ‘It’s only since the Zapatista uprising that we’ve seen signs that at last something is being done’.

A Government commission proposes resettling those expelled from Chamula elsewhere. But Pedro Lopez says they are determined to return home and stand up to the caciques: ‘If we give in now, the expulsions will continue and they will become even more powerful.’

Mary Durran

Duty-free booty
Brazil’s triumphant World Cup soccer team returned home with 17 tonnes of baggage – 13 tonnes more than they had taken with them to the US. The luggage included TV sets, microwave ovens, refrigerators and computers. When a zealous airport official dared to suggest a customs check the players threatened not to take part in the scheduled parade through Rio de Janeiro. Finance Minister Rubens Ricupero telephoned the airport to get the baggage through unchecked. The head of the tax department, Osiris Lopes Filho, was forced to resign. After public indignation, however, customs inspectors visited each player at home to collect an estimated $1 million in unpaid duty.

The Economist vol 332, no 7875.

Quote

‘We are this beacon of hope for the world because we are so improbable.’

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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