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new internationalist
issue 159 - May 1986



Told you so
Cover of the NI issue 83 Ten predictions for the forthcoming decade were made in the January 1980 issue of the NI, with a free re-subscription form to all readers in 1990 if we scored less than five out of ten. The good news of Marcos' departure from the Philippines has helped our scorecard no end. Here's a report-back to date:

In the Philippines, Marcos will go. Revolution before 1985.
We were getting rather worried, but are now reassured about our crystal ball gazing.

Rebellion of the unemployed in Third World. Riots shake cities. Among those to fall will be Egyptian President Sadat.
Correct, even if the macabre assassination was not foreseen.

Australia - quarry of the Western world. It's cheap mineral exports will help sabotage producer cartel action. So no chance for higher export income by developing country mineral producers. 'Canberra Watergate' with senior politicians bribed by mining companies.
Halfway there; watch out for the corruption scandal in the next four years.

Protection and automation squeeze middle-income country manufacturers. High tariffs mean corporations concentrate production in rich markets. Unrestrained automation used to break trade unions. Chief beneficiaries in enlarged EEC will be Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece.
Sounds accurate to date.

What was the biggest error? Well, in our reading of the teacup leaves we were confident the most troubled nation of the 1980s would be the Soviet Union. Poland was to be the thin end of the wedge. Obviously wishful thinking obscured our scientific methods of prediction.


Export or die
What is Brazil's biggest export earner? Coffee? Wrong. Minerals? Wrong again. It is weapons, estimated to bring the country $2.5-$3 billion in 1985. The burgeoning export industry was helped by the decision of Britain's Royal Air Force to buy 130 Brazilian T-27 Tucano military airplanes, the first such deal with a 'respectable' NATO country. It has established the country as the fifth largest arms exporter in the world. Britain's $168 million purchase opened the door for sales of at least 200 more of the two-seater, propeller-driven Tucano to developing countries for $240 million.

Although official figures for exports run at $700 million a year, many weapons are exported under innocuous categories such as mechanical components. The accepted figure of exports, $2.5 billion at least, represents a tenth of US arms sales.

Future plans include the building of a Brazilian version of the French Exocet missile, which Saudi Arabia is expected to finance. This is likely to miff another unprincipled arms supplier, Israel, which has seen Brazil consistently undercutting its own prices. And of course the Latin American manufacturer is helped by being able to supply all the Arabian states, including the warring states of Iran and Iraq as well as Libya. And that's an area where Israel has to step carefully.

Information from South, November 1985.


Mail-order marriages
The mail-order bride business, which specialises in pairing Western men with Asian women, is booming. Mother Jones magazine has estimated that the multi-million-dollar business has brought 10,000 mail-order marriages over the past 12 years. The popular conception is that the business amounts to legalised prostitution, providing middle-aged misfits with submissive child brides. But while many women are victims, the magazine argues controversially that for others the opportunity to correspond with scores of Western men is a unique opportunity for them to have some say in choosing a mate.

In the end, the magazine concludes, the man is no John Wayne, the woman no Suzy Wong. 'She demonstrates with exposure to new possibilities, a pesky tendency toward human enlargement . . . he discovers rather enlightened cravings for a loud and living mate . . . They are not master and servant, but two people grappling with long odds against durable understanding.' Can't you hear the violins in the background? Or were they groans?

Information from Mother Jones, San Francisco, March 1986


The mothers who die
'Every six hours, day-in and day-out, a jumbo jet crashes. The 250 passengers are all women and they are all pregnant or have just delivered a baby. Some are teenagers. Many have growing children and a family that depends on them. The child they have delivered was commonly stillborn or will die shortly ... These are global statistics of maternal mortality. For every woman who dies, an even larger number are injured and some will be subject to lifelong pain and illhealth.'

Eighty-five per cent of the world's births take place in developing countries. These same countries also suffer 95 per cent of the world's infant deaths and 99 per cent of all maternal deaths. More women die in India in one month than die in all of North America, Europe, Japan and Australia in one year.

From Prevention of Maternal Mortality, WHO No.99 1985


Is it IBM compatible?
We struggle to adapt our lives to the computer revolution, but we have the advantage of a 26-letter alphabet. Think of China having to cope with the problems involved in its 80,000 characters.

They have been tackled by Qian Weichang, president of Shanghai Industry University who has designed a new Chinese-language computer coding system, modestly entitling it 'Qian' after himself. His system uses only eight basic strokes and 163 components grouped on 43 keys. With the help of Chinese and Western operating systems, users will have the 6,763 most frequently used Chinese characters at their disposal.

From South, February, 1986


Lead poisoning reduced
The first firm evidence of the link between lead additives in petrol and lead levels in human blood has been discovered in Athens. Greece has recently reduced the amount of lead in petrol from 0.4 mg/litre to 0.15 mg/litre. This has produced a two-thirds reduction in the amount of lead in Athens air. At the same time there has been a sharp drop in the amount of lead in the blood of Athenians. The lead in blood content for men fell from l8mg/l00ml IN 1982 to l4mg/l00ml in 1985 and for women from 14mg/l00ml to 10mg/l00ml. That's the good news. However children, who are more susceptible to lead poisoning anyway, have not been able to cleanse their blood to anything like the same degree.

From New Scientist, 31.10.85

'When.., you have succeeded in dehumanising the Negro; when you have put him down and made it impossible for him to be but as the beasts of the field; when you have extinguished his soul in this world and placed him where the ray of hope is blown out as in the darkness of the damned; are you quite sure that the demon you have roused will not turn and rend you? Our reliance is in the love of liberty that God has planted in us. Our defence is in the spirit which prized liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors ... Accustomed to trampling on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you.'

Abraham Lincoln

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