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new internationalist
issue 158 - April 1986



Recently tens of thousands of Icelandic women walked off their jobs for 24 hours to protest against male privilege. Businessmen could not place telephone calls because most of Iceland's telephone operators had joined their sisters on protest lines chanting, 'We dare! We can! We will! The government was temporarily leaderless because President Vigdis Finnbogadottir had stayed away from her office to demonstrate solidarity with the striking women. But for the men, the worst problem was starting the day. Most women refused to make the morning meal. Restaurants got jammed because so many men went to them for breakfast.

The disruption was intended to demonstrate that Iceland, a tiny country of 240,000, could not function without its women. Why make this rather obvious point? Because women in Iceland earn 40 per cent less than men on average. A male journalist seeking more data on the wage disparity ran into the Icelandic version of Catch-22. 'I'm sorry,' said a female employee at the Iceland Information Office, 'I can't speak to you. I'm on strike'.

From Time Magazine, Vol. 126, No. 44.


Buying Bugs
The heavy tread of Big Brother has come a lot closer with the commercial production of voice-analysers: instruments connected to the telephone network which can analyse the content of a conversation and detect who is speaking. Fifty five countries, most of them in the Third World, would have brought a Swedish-made telephone system which can incorporate voice-analysers. Saudi Arabia is the biggest customer, buying a $1.5 billion, 586,000 line network. The most recent buyer is Uruguay, and other customers are Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico and Panama.

The likelihood that these voice-analysers will be used by the police for surveillance has prompted the union at the manufacturer Ericsson to protest against supplying countries where 'the military have a leading presence in the politics and organisation of the state'.

From Andres Alsina in Stockholm.


Purchasing power
Ex-president Marcos' of the Philippines proposed national budget for 1986 contained $22 million for 'intelligence'. He was not publicly accountable for the ways in which the money would have been spent. The funds were listed as 'approved by the President for confidential and intelligence activities'. More money was to have been spent on the so-called intelligence budget than on the Prime Minister's office, the National Assembly and four Ministries. President Marcos' big spending - in a country with an imploded economy - added to the dissatisfaction that ended his rule.

From Aliran Monthly. Penang, October 1985, Vol. V. No. 9.


Child medics
Oman started this decade by successfully fighting a major cause of blindness - trachoma - through an unusual grass-roots programme. Blindness was Oman's worst health problem, affecting over 80 per cent of the children in many areas. The Omani authorities decided that it was cheaper to treat every child rather than to test to discover trachoma victims. But there were not enough health-workers to carry out a comprehensive treatment programme. This problem was side-stepped by getting schoolchildren to act as health-workers. In 372 schools one student in each class was given three days training in how to treat trachoma with tetracycline ointment. Each day the student health workers treated the eyes of every child. By 1982 over 42,000 children were treated. In Muscat, the capital, incidence of trachoma fell from 59 per cent to six per cent. In Nizwa, trachoma cases fell from 91 per cent to ten per cent, and other regions reported similar results.

From South, No. 61.


Kerpoww, boom, urghh!!
Hollywood movies and TV have set new records for violence in the last six months. According to the International Coalition Against Violent Entertainment, of 96 recent Hollywood movies there are now a record 33 violent acts per hour, led by films like City of the Walking Dead, Rambo and Missing in Action. Television, led by Mike Hammer, The A- Team and Matt Houston is averaging 16 acts of violence per hour. Movie violence, according to the watchdog group, has increased by 68 per cent since 1980 whilst TV violence is up over 100 per cent.

For more information contact Dr T. Radecki, ICAVE Research Director, P0 Box 2157, Champaign IL 81820, USA.


Converting the Amazonian Indians
In the last 50 years the number of North American fundamentalist missionaries working among the 200,000 Indians of Brazil's remote Amazon basin have grown to some 700. They represent 20 conservative Protestant sects based in the USA's Deep South - and they instruct Indians in reading, writing and religion. Brazil's Catholic Church, on the other hand, is now abandoning its own interest in conversions and closing ranks in the defense of Indian culture.

From World Press Review, Vol. 32, No. 12.


Roots music
Fred Zimbi, a Zimbabwean musician, has recently published a book called Roots Rocking in Zimbabwe, showing how Rhodesians undermined African music. He reveals that as recently as 1975 about 90 per cent of the music recorded by black singers was given English titles. When a group called The Pied Pipers tried to record a song called 'I'm a Black Man', the recording company changed the title to 'I'm a Country Boy'. During the Zimbabwean Liberation War traditional and chimurenga (revolutionary) music became popular again. In the euphoria of Independence in 1980, 'more and more revolutionary and traditional songs were heard on the radio,' according to the book. But, over the next two years, DJs returned to playing European music. Lyrics in shona (the most widely spoken language in Zimbabwe) became less political. Fred Zimbi concludes that 'traditional Zimbabwean music is unrecorded and undervalued. Now it is heard only in rural areas'.

From the Third World Cultural Information Services Co-op. Amsterdam.


Infant care on the rubber estates
Several plantation crèches in Malaysia have poor infant feeding standards. Most of the tappers on the estates are women, for the pay is so low the men go to the cities looking for higher wages. Obviously the women tappers need crèches for their babies. But the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations' investigations have found milk powder being mass mixed' in rusty buckets and scooped out when needed. If the babies remain thirsty, then the mix is overdiluted. So it is not surprising to find that malnutrition prevails. The Malaysian Ministry of Health recently reported 400 annual infant deaths due to diarrhoeal diseases, almost entirely amongst the bottlefed.

From Consumer Currents, Vol. 32, No. 12.

'I used to think that anyone doing anything weird was weird.
I suddenly realized that anyone doing anything weird wasn't weird at all
and that it was the people saying they were weird that were weird.'

Paul McCartney

'One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown
is the belief that one's work is terribly important.'

Bertrand Russell

'Independence? That's middle-class blasphemy. We are all
dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.'

George Bernard Shaw

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New Internationalist issue 158 magazine cover This article is from the April 1986 issue of New Internationalist.
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