SOUTH AFRICAN BOYCOTT
Courage of their convictions
Since July 1984 a group often staff have been on strike from a Dublin chain store because of their refusal to handle South African goods. Management of Dunnes Stores say the strikers should leave their politics behind them when they come to work. The strikers, nine women and one man, have all suffered personal and financial hardship because of their stand against apartheid. Bishop Desmond Tutu described them as allying with South African blacks. Through their action, he said, they shared his Nobel Peace prize and were an example for others in the West. The strikers would be happy to give further information about their stand.
Contact: Mary Manning, c/o AFRI. P.O. Box 1522. Dublin, Eire.
NEW INFORMATION ORDER
The international news agencies that feed so many of the world’s newspapers with their overseas stories have often been accused of bias. What constitutes an important news item, it is claimed, depends on the arbitrary judgement of Western news agency editors. World Press Review compared perceptions of the top news stories of 1984, by asking different editors to list their priorities:
Jeune Afrique (Bechir Ben Yahmed, Publisher)
1. Drought and starvation in Africa.
2. Guinea: the death of Sekou Toure, the military take power.
3. Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
4. The re-election of Reagan.
5. Economic recovery in the US.
6. The London-Beijing agreement over Hong Kong.
7. Thousands of Indians poisoned by the Bhopal gas leak.
8. The death of Yuri Andropov.
9. Capitalism in China.
10. Black unrest in South Africa after the so-called participation of Indians and Coloureds in political life.
United Press International (New York)
1. Geraldine Ferraro nominated.
2. Baby Fae and the McDonald’s massacre (tie).
4. The Reagan landslide.
5. Beirut Embassy annex bombing.
6. The Gandhi assassination.
7. Miss America dethroned.
8. The Winter and Summer Olympics.
9. The DeLorean trial.
10. The economy, budget deficits.
To be fair, UPI was surveyed before the Bhopal tragedy. Nevertheless the results speak for themselves.
From World Press Review. February,
Cassava: lifesaver and destroyer
Poor farmers in developing countries have always been able to count on cassava to tide them over hard times. It is a drought-resistant crop and can be left in the ground for up to two years to provide a reserve food supply when other crops fail. But it is a two-edged sword according to the Earthscan Bulletin. While high in calories, it is low in protein. And it has a sinister side-effect: it contains high levels of the cyanide-based poison prussic acid. Even small amounts of cyanide can prevent the body from absorbing iodine. Iodine deficiency leads to goitre, and in pregnant women can have disastrous effects on their unborn babies.
Stopping the bloodbath
The Greenpeace boat, Sirius, is planning to confront the Russian whaling fleet when it sails through the Straits of Gibraltar. A factory ship and seven catcher ships will be on their way to the Antarctic where they wilt be hunting small minke whales. This is the last season for killing whales, for a complete moratorium is meant to come into force in 1986. However the USSR, which has had its quota reduced from 6,000 to 4,000 whales for 1985, have objected to their reduced catch figure. Effectively there is no limit to the numbers they will kill.
A pirate operation is also being planned by Japanese whalers who intend to flout the International Whaling Commission. And Norway is intending to introduce a new category of ‘subsistence’ whaling to the Convention which can continue after 1986 and effectively sabotage the moratorium.
Several species of whale are already close to extinction including the Right, Bryde’s Fin and Sei whales.
From Greenpeace News, November 1984.
The Bishops’ rallying cry
‘We find it a disgrace that 35 million Americans live below the poverty line and millions more hover just above it,’ thundered Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee, chairing a five member committee of Roman Catholic Bishops in their pastoral letter on ‘Catholic Social Teaching and the US Economy’. Denouncing a ‘consumerist mentality which encourages immediate gratification’ the bishops go on to look at the ‘inequitable’ distribution of wealth which ‘violates the minimum standard of distributive justice’. Too bad the release of the draft pastoral letter was deliberately held up so as not to influence the outcome of the recent presidential elections.
Information, but not opinion, from The Corporate Examiner, VoI. 13 No.8, 1984.
The initial findings of the Indian government on the Bhopal gas leak at the Union Carbide plant, which left more than 2.500 dead, include:
. Safety procedures were inadequate to deal with the large scale leak, although managers were fully aware of the dangers. And no precautions were taken to protect those living near the plant.
. Union Carbide never fully advised either the central Indian government or the local authorities of the dangers involved in producing and storing the deadly methyl isocyanate.
. Since 1978 there have been six serious accidents at the Bhopal plant, including three gas leaks and one fatality.
. Some of the safety systems were not operating at the time of the accident. Cooling apparatus designed to stop the gas vaporising had been shut down before the accident.
. Plant workers allowed the leak to be unattended for an hour, then after brief efforts to check the leak they ran away.
Would all this have happened at Union Carbide’s US plant, or is there a different training procedure and safety standards for America?
Information from Time magazine, 18.2.85.
WAR AND PEACE
Spending a penny (or two)
Welfare, education, all the common-sense areas for American government spending are to have their budgets cut by the Reagan administration this Spring; all except the Pentagon. But, reports Time magazine, now the Armed Services Committee have been delving into profiteering by contractors. They have discovered the $400 hammer, the $9000 wrench and the latest ripoff: the $600 toilet seat. Actually it’s a plastic case that fits over the toilet on the US Navy’s P-3C Orion antisubmarine planes. They are available from most trailer home outlets for $25, it was contended.
Lockheed have magnanimously reduced the price of the covers to $100 and refunded the difference.
If this is happening to trivial items where we can all make intelligent comparisons, what are the opportunities of overcharging on star wars technology? No one could find the equivalent in trailer home stores.
Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.’
Robert F. Kennedy
‘When the missionaries first came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘let us pray’. We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land.’
Bishop Desmond Tutu