new internationalist 152 October 1985
Communist and non-Communist arms sales to the Third World buyers are at their lowest level since 1976, says a US government report. Why? Possibly, suggests the Congressional Research Service, because the market is saturated.
From World Development Forum Volume 3, No. 10 1985.
The cost of sex appeal
The hunt for musk, supposedly an aphrodisiac, has driven the musk deer to the edge of extinction. Musk is used in Eastern medicines as well as European perfumes, and is four times more expensive per gram than gold.
The adult male deer is hunted for musk, which is contained in the sheath around its sex organ. It takes over 100 males to produce a kilo of musk, and a single deer can be worth between $150
- $400. The estimated global demand is for 200 kilos of the precious commodity every year.
Fresh musk is a brown, greasy semi-liquid. To harvest it, the deer are killed and their musk pods removed and dried into a grainy powder. As hunters cannot distinguish between males and females, both are killed indiscriminately. This is hastening the deer’s extinction throughout its natural habitat of Siberia, Korea, China, Tibet and the Indian Himalayas.
From Earthscan Bulletin Vol. 8 No. 3 July 1985.
High-tech leg irons
As the American economy speeds ever onward and upward to high-tech new horizons, the corrections industry is eager not to be left behind. Now serious overcrowding in Michigan prisons has inspired ankle bracelet transmitters that afford offenders the luxury of ‘home confinement’.
Offenders wear electronic bracelets linked to a centrally located computer. Should an offender stray more than 200 feet from home or another determined site, the alarm sounds and the police swing into action. The system is being tested in a six-month pilot program in Washtenaw County. And prison inmates continuing to suffer in indecently crowded prisons may not have to despair much longer over their own more low-tech existence: Denning Mobile Robotics has announced plans to manufacture a line of robot prison guards.
From Mother Jones, July 1985.
The elephants’ revolt
Lovers of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books might have felt a twinge of nostalgia as they read recently of the elephants’ revolt in Sumatra. According to International Wildlife, the Indonesian government herded the animals to a special reserve to make room for human settlers and an expansion of farming land. For a while the tuskers seemed to accept their move graciously. ‘Then about a year ago, small groups and eventually herds of 50 or 60 began daily rampages through their old grounds, terrorising villagers, smashing homes and destroying crops. Some 300 residents have had to be evacuated and authorities admit they may eventually have to concede the land to the persistent pachyderms.’
Bountiful Uncle Sam
When 200 people were sworn in as US citizens in a mass ceremony this April, the good folks of Santa Fe, New Mexico, made sure the new Americans got off to the right start. Each new citizen was handed a patriotically trimmed red-white-and-blue plastic bag filled with items than no American citizen should be without: a Department of Energy cartoon book, a Motel 6 directory and book of matches, a booklet on ‘Etiquette of the Stars and Stripes’, a directory of Safeway stores, a ComputerLand business card, a religious booklet called ‘You Can Be a Winner’, a pencil from the First National Bank of Santa Fe, an anti-litter pamphlet and various local discount coupons. Oh yes, the bag also contained a copy of the preamble to the Constitution.
From Mother Jones, July 1985.
Curtains of death
Monofilament driftnets, ‘curtains of death’ were one of the marine issues taken up by Greenpeace International at the Oslo meeting of the World Commission on Environment and Development in June this year. According to the campaigning environmentalists in just the North Pacific Ocean alone, 2,200 kilometres of driftnet are set every night for salmon.
The nasty side-effects of this type of heavy fishing include the widespread killing of diving sea-birds who become trapped in the meshes of the nets. Many fish too, are injured in the gills and fall from the net. In turn there is a dwindling of seals and other marine mammals as their natural foods disappear. Not the least hazard comes from abandoned or loose nets which continue floating and ‘ghost-fishing’ till they sink or are washed ashore - and that can take a long time. Greenpeace wants the Commission to call on the General Assembly of the United Nations to urge governments to mark, register and control driftnet fishing worldwide.
Profiteers of racism
British merchant bank Hill Samuel is top of the list of international lenders to the South African government, an international survey has just disclosed. From June 1982 to December 1984 Hill Samuel took part in 19 such loans worth a total of $1,400 million to South Africa, more than any other bank in the world. British banks as a whole were involved in 34 loans worth $l,958 million, more than the banks of any other country.
Two Canadian banks were also reaping lucrative rewards from the apartheid system, involved in 11 loans worth $516.8 million. The biggest slice of the action came from Dominion Securities Ames with a $450 million loan.
This comes from Bank Loans to South Africa 1982 4, a publication produced by the action group End Loans to Southern Africa, and funded by the Programme to Combat Racism of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches.
The survey documents all publicly-known loans to South Africa for the period June 1982 - December 1984 and the banks which participated in them. It covers 98 loans worth $4,244 million.
Copies of ‘Bank Loans to South Africa 1982 - 4’ available from End Loans to Southern Africa,
Canada’s half open door
Trying to persuade the government to double its present refugee levels from 20,000 to 40,000 per annum, the Canadian Inter-Church Committee for Refugees was lobbying the Ottawa administration in June of this year. The church coalition was particularly concerned with high priority being given to the people spilling out of South East Asia and Central America. The Canadian Churches have consistently argued for ‘humanitarian values to he given primacy over economic ones . . .‘ replying to critics worried about whether the refugees would be useful to the country’s economic needs.
‘We cannot,’ they insisted, ‘ignore the need of those languishing in uncertainty in refugee camps or facing persecution in precarious temporary situations while Canada decides, for economic or demographic reasons, that immigration should be increased . . . This country has been built by those whom, today, we would call refugees.’
Whether such humanitarian commonsense reasoning will be received with much sympathy by the new Conservative administration, remains to be seen
For further information: Inter-Church Committee for Refugees,
This article is from
the October 1985 issue
of New Internationalist.
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