Up till recently, if you were unfortunate enough to die in Switzerland, there was a 50 per cent chance you would have been buried in a coffin made of rare abachi wood from West Africa. No longer. Switzerland’s largest casket manufacturer has announced it is switching to a local species to help reduce pressure on tropical forests.
The decision is just one of the conservation measures resulting from the World Wildlife Fund’s international campaign to conserve tropical forests, which has won the support of the Swiss Timber Association. Many tropical countries earn considerable foreign exchange from the sale of timber: the worldwide trade is worth $8 billion. But the forest resources in some countries, like the Ivory Coast (which, at 6.5 per cent per annum has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world) are nearly gone and severe ecological damage has resulted.
From Ecoforum Vol. 8, No. 1.
World’s priciest hospital
According to the Windhoek Observer, Namibia runs the most expensive hospital in the world, at the cost of a million rand per bed. A local newspaper claims that the Keetmanshoop State Hospital cost R.22 million ($18m) but never has more than 23 patients and has ‘no hope in this century of utilising even a substantial portion of it’.
The hospital was built in a small city in the south of the country dominated by whites.
The white administration in charge of the building said there were no personnel shortages in the hospital. The majority of the country s black population live in the north, where health facilities are urgently needed.
From Action on Namibia bulletin.
The government of Guyana, which faces a major food shortage, has prevented the Catholic Church there from taking delivery of a huge consignment of cheese and powdered milk donated by US Christians.
The cheese and milk were donated on condition that the Catholic Church in Guyana distribute it among the poor - particularly pregnant women and young children. But the government insists that the Church can only accept the consignment if government agencies are ‘fully involved’ in the distribution - in other words, if the government and not the Church decides who gets the supplies.
Since this would be contrary to the terms under which the food was offered in the first place, there is little prospect of a compromise.
From One World, September 83.
God the Mother
A radical new version of scriptural readings released in the US has caused strident debate. The National Council of Churches has sought to provide Bible readings free of male bias.
God in heaven is no longer just ‘the Father’ but ‘the Father (and Mother)’ - or even ‘(Mother) and Father’. The Deity is addressed as ‘Sovereign One’ but never as the ‘Lord’; Jesus Christ never as the Son of God or the Son of man but as ‘the Child’.
Genesis 2:18,22, usually reads: ‘Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.”
The new version reads: ‘Then God the Sovereign One said, “It is not good that the human being should be alone; I will make a companion corresponding to the creature.”’
From Time, Oct. 24 ‘83.
Smoking has been banned for passengers on domestic flights of Aeroflot. The airline’s chief medical officer, Dr. Vladimir Tokarev, said: ‘Our doctors established that only a few people on board each plane were smokers but that all the passengers were forced to inhale smoke, however effective the ventilation.’
Smoking is banned throughout the country in all public places, including the underground rail system.
From World Health, Sept. ‘83.
Any parrots to declare?
Border guards at Ghana’s frontier have seized 50 parrots from traders smuggling them into Togo. The parrot smugglers were arrested on unapproved bush paths to Lomé, the Togolese capital.
Exporting parrots was banned in 1979 after it was discovered that Muslim pilgrims often buy them for sale in Saudi Arabia during their Hadj pilgrimages. The high demand for birds has raised their prices to rival those of gold, diamonds and marijuana, the items most sought by smugglers. The birds are bought from local trappers for between 2,000 cedis ($727) and double that price.
Last August, it was reported that two consignments of parrots totalling 1,140 were seized at Accra airport and sold for a total of Ce.5 70,000 ($20,700).
From African Business No. 62.
The majority of people in the world manage with few, if any, animal products; but throughout history the rich and powerful have tended to eat animals, so ‘rising standards of living’ are equated with the consumption of more animal products. It is up to the affluent to break the equation, says the Vegan Society.
From ‘Towards a Solution of the World Food Problem’.
Penlight on leprosy
A simple penlight torch, adapted to take an electronic head, is scheduled for field tests in 11 countries to determine its worth in the very early diagnosis of leprosy.
One symptom of early leprosy is the inability of patients to distinguish between hot and cold; testing is carried out in leprosy clinics by using two test tubes, one containing hot water and the other cold. The penlight’s design makes testing in the field possible. When the electronic end is switched on, it produces a temperature of 40ºC (104ºF), while its other end remains at an ambient temperature. The sooner leprosy is diagnosed, of course, the better.
From World Health, September ‘83.
Developing countries, in their eagerness to entice multinationals to invest in them, use women as their selling point. A Malaysian brochure claims: ‘The manual dexterity of the oriental female is known the world over. Her hands are small and she works fast and with extreme care. Who could be better qualified by nature and inheritance to contribute to the efficiency of a a bench assembly production line than the oriental girl?’
From ICDA News July-August ‘83.
Help us keep this site free for all
New Internationalist is a lifeline for activists, campaigners and readers who value independent journalism. Please support us with a small recurring donation so we can keep it free to read online.