New Internationalist

Currents

Issue 333

Click here to subscribe to the print edition. [image, unknown] New Internationalist 333[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] April 2001[image, unknown] Click here to search the mega index.

currents@newint.org

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]
Corporate horror awards

Multinational Monitor’s annual nomination of the Ten Worst Corporations – styled ‘Enemies of the Future’ – for the year 2000 is as follows:

Aventis (France): ‘Making human guinea pigs.’ For contaminating Taco Bell brand taco shells sold in grocery stores by Kraft, as well as many other foods, with genetically modified StarLink corn.

British American Tobacco (Britain): ‘Smuggler of death.’ For engineering a worldwide smuggling scheme to cut the price of cigarettes and increase consumption, with extensive efforts in Latin America and Asia.

BP/AMOCO (US/Britain): ‘Lawbreaker.’ For illegal disposal of hazardous waste on Alaska’s North Slope.

Doubleclick (US): ‘Cookie Crook.’ For implanting electronic ‘cookies’ – surveillance files – on the hard drives of users’ computers without their knowledge and gaining the capacity to combine this data with identifiable personal consumer information.

Word corner

Hippos & rivers
The hippopotamus is literally a 'river horse'. The Greeks thought that the river-living hippo looked like a horse and put together the words hippos (horse) and potamos (river). In German the hippo is a Nilpferd (Nile horse).

Mesopotamia means 'between the rivers' (Greek mesos, middle). The two rivers are the Tigris (from the Old Persian Tigra, arrow, because of the fast current) and Euphrates (perhaps from the Akkadian ur (river) and at (father of rivers, ie a very big river); or u (very) and pratu (wide).

Susan Watkin

Ford/Firestone (US): ‘Reckless homicide.’ For at least 150 deaths around the world linked to tread separation by Firestone tyres on Ford cars, and not recalling the products after learning of the hazard.

Glaxo/Wellcome (Britain): ‘Patents over people.’ For blocking worldwide distribution of cheap, generic versions of HIV/AIDS and other drugs.

Lockheed Martin (US): ‘Testing its pollutant on humans.’ For conducting large-scale tests of percholate – a toxic contaminant from rocket fuel, frequently found in water supplies in southern California – to avoid stricter standards and save millions of dollars in clean-up costs.

Philips Petroleum (US): ‘Deadly employer.’ For third fatal accident in 11 years at plastics plant in Pasadena, Texas.

Smithfield Foods (US): ‘Pig Out.’ For consolidation of the hog market to detriment of family farmers, and spreading factory farms.

Titan International (US): ‘Union buster.’ For unlawfully denying protected labour rights to workers at two tyre and wheel factories where workers have been on strike for two years.

Multinational Monitor

[image, unknown]

Mine of inspiration

Citing our issue on Landmines (NI 294) as inspiration, Scott Cressman and Kyle Ruttan, two grade-eight students from Kitchener, Ontario, have designed an award-winning multimedia CD which they hope will raise awareness of the problem. Using snippets of film, interviews and an interactive game, the CD provides clear information on the types of mines, where they are and what they do, alongside the problems facing deminers and survivors. Schools can order a copy from http://landmines.cjb.net.

[image, unknown]

Death for penalty
Thirty-eight municipalities and more than 1,200 organizations in the US have passed resolutions or referendums calling for a national death-penalty moratorium. They include cities in such traditional death-penalty states as North Carolina and Georgia.

The Nation vol 272 no 2

[image, unknown]

Photo: Jeremy Horner / Panos
Fantasy in the forest: billboard in
Ecuador paints a pretty picture of oil.

Pristine pipeline
A consortium of transnational companies led by Occidental Petroleum, Alberta Energy and Chase Manhattan Bank is proposing to build an oil pipeline through pristine cloud forests (high-altitude rainforests) in Ecuador. Two routes have been proposed and approved by the Ecuadorian Government to pump heavy crude oil from the Amazon to Ecuador’s Pacific coast. The northern route is estimated to cost $594 million and would carry up to 350,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Volcanic activity occurred along it only two years ago when Pichincha exploded causing massive destruction. The southern route follows the path of an existing pipeline and passes primarily through previously deforested areas, thus causing far less environmental impact. A new pipeline is important for the economic development of Ecuador, but the same objectives can be met with far less environmental damage if the right route is chosen and proper safeguards are established from the very outset.

More information: www.wing-wbsj.or.jp/birdlife/mindo.htm
Contact: Comité pro ruta de menor impacto (pipeline@ecnet.ec) or PetraWester@lycos.de

Petra Wester / World Environmental Journalists E-Group, environmentalists@egroups.com

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]
Khadi in crisis

Photo: Sarah Elton
Fewer students want to learn
to make khadi in rural India.

Sandhya Sharma’s hands move quickly over the cotton she is weaving on the floor loom in a classroom at the Village Industries College in rural Rajasthan. She is making khadi, a rustic handmade cloth woven by villagers across India.

Sharma teaches weaving and spinning to the young people who choose to come to the college to learn the trade and live by Gandhian principles. But there are few students these days who want to learn to make khadi. This year, only 19 students showed up – down from more than 150, the normal enrolment number until a sudden drop about three years ago. Last year alone, khadi sales dropped by about $30 million. The government-run stores that sell khadi are dusty and old, often with few customers in sight. Last spring, the Indian Government hired Arthur Andersen – the transnational business consultants – to investigate what has gone wrong with the cloth.

‘People don’t want to do community work any more,’ says Sharma. ‘They would prefer a private-sector job because there they can get more money.’

The decline of khadi means more to India than the end of a fabric line. Gandhi popularized it during India’s independence struggle. In protest against the colonial practice of milling Indian-grown cotton in Britain before selling it back to India, Gandhi took to his hand loom to weave his own clothes and urged others to do the same. Soon villagers across the country were making their own cloth as a political statement. This ‘cottage’ industry became a staple of the country’s rural economy. The khadi people made in home workshops and small-scale factories supplemented the meagre incomes they earned toiling in the fields. And colleges, like the one where Sharma teaches, opened to educate younger generations and propagate Gandhi’s philosophies.

Seven Social Sins
1    Politics without principle.
2    Pleasure without conscience.
3    Wealth without work.
4    Knowledge without character.
5    Commerce without morality.
6    Science without humanity.
7    Worship without sacrifice.
Mahatma Gandhi

But Sharma is not surprised that khadi’s appeal is wearing thin. She points to a general shift in Indian society, away from the values Gandhi espoused and towards a Western lifestyle.

‘Gandhi said food, clothes and a house are all you need in life,’ she says. ‘But nowadays a person thinks, I need a car, I need a good place to stay.’

In 1991, the Indian Government began to liberalize the country’s economy, opening its doors to foreign companies. This created a previously non-existent private sector and a growing middle class with disposable incomes to spend on consumer goods. However, most of the country remains untouched by the economic prosperity. More than 35 per cent of the country’s billion people live below the poverty line.

‘Nobody wants slow progress,’ says Sharma. ‘But if you want progress, Gandhi’s way is the best because everyone can profit from it.’

Sarah Elton

[image, unknown]

Photo: Dermot Tatlow / Panos
Dried-up Yellow River brings sorrow to China.

Shallow river
China’s Yellow River may soon dry up. Water levels are only a third of what they were 50 years ago. Drought, deforestation and mismanagement are responsible, according to Professor Cao Mingming of Xibei University. The river was once known as ‘the sorrow of China’, overflowing at least 1,600 times, changing its course 26 times and killing thousands of people.

Down to Earth vol 9 no 13

[image, unknown]

Cyberwar
In a new dimension to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Lebanon-based Hizbollah group’s two websites were targeted by e-mail ‘bombings’. They were swamped with documents from around the world, some spiked with viruses. The sites crashed as a result. Hizbollah promptly opened up seven new ones. Shortly afterwards, Israel reported the most intense electronic assault on Government websites since they were launched. Israel has more internet connections than all 22 Arab countries put together.

Middle East International no 639

[image, unknown]

Burmese daze
Foreign investment in Burma surged to over $64 million during the first quarter of the financial year 2000/1, more than double the level during the same period in the previous year. The increase is attributed largely to the oil and gas sector; South Korea, Canada and Malaysia are the main investors. Meanwhile UN special human-rights rapporteur on Burma, Rajsoomer Lallah, has resigned after four years in post, saying he is disappointed at the lack of progress. His predecessor had also resigned citing similar reasons.

Burma Issues vol 10 no 4

[image, unknown]

Photo: Alex Smailes
Suffocating in Sumgait: highest
infant-mortality rates in the world

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]
Graveyard in Azerbaijan

‘Have you seen the small cot in the corner? It’s where the children go to die.’

Sumgait town is 30 kilometres from Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. It was once an industrial hub for chemical and heavy-metal production. Over 35 factories made mercury, aluminium, chlorine and acid for the Soviet economy, creating 300,000 tonnes of toxic waste every year. The half-million population of workers lived just a kilometre away. Sumgait soon had the highest infant-mortality rate in the world. Now 70 per cent of the population has some form of toxic-related illness.

Everyday life still goes on in one of Eastern Europe’s most poisoned cities. Isenim, a mother of three, showed no side effects at first. Until, that is, she walked in as her brother-in-law murdered her five-year-old daughter, following a domestic argument. He threw industrial acid in her face and blinded her. Although most of the factories have closed, those that remain and can’t pay their workers give them raw chlorine to store at home and sell on the street.

Dr Ismayilov is a cancer expert in the midst of a silently dying population. He believes they are on the edge of a precipice. The diseases he has identified – a printed list of them fills one side of a large sheet of paper – have started to jump generations. People live in fear of having children.

The Azerbaijan Government has plans for new investment but it lacks the funds and skills to clean up the mess. Some international agencies are trying to help.

Meanwhile, the people of Sumgait know all too well that every breath they take, every mouthful of food they eat, every drop of water they drink is helping them on their way to an early grave.

Alex Smailes

[image, unknown]

Photo: Jeremy Horner / Panos
Observed but unhealed in Kenya.

Pain without gain
Tongue lashing flared in Uganda after it was learned that 415 married couples, kept under observation by US researchers, were either left to contract HIV or, if already infected, received no treatment. Dr Marcia Angell revealed in the New England Journal of Medicine that for ‘up to 30 months, several hundred people with HIV infections were observed and not treated’. Similar revelations have occurred in the British Journal of Medicine about research into male circumcision in Kenya. A report compiled by the Africa Women and Child Information Network (AWC) has indicated that prostitutes in the Majengo slum area of Nairobi were used in a vaccine-development project without receiving any benefits.

Moto (independent Zimbabwean magazine) no 212

[image, unknown]

Summit in sight
Thousands of delegates – as well as the largest security operation in Canadian history – are expected at the ‘Summit of the Americas’ in Quebec City from 20 to 22 April. The Summit will bring together all 34 leaders from the hemisphere – excluding Cuba. It will discuss integration, migration, security, terrorism, democracy and human rights, as well as the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Designed as a pre-packaged media spectacle of gala dinners, cocktail parties and photo opportunities for the leaders, it is providing another focus for the anti-globalization movement as well.

CLAC (Anti-Capitalist Convergence) www.clac@tao.ca

[image, unknown]

Big Bad World by Polyp
Big Bad World cartoon.

Previous page.
Choose another issue of NI.
Go to the contents page.
Go to the NI home page.
Next page.


This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7

Comments on Currents

Leave your comment