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new internationalist
issue 160 - June 1986



Women under fire
Peace camp zapped

The army and police appear willing to use microwaves to counter non-violent protests.
Photo: Julio Etchart

THE steady erosion of civil rights - including the right to peaceful protest - is continuing in the UK. Mounting evidence shows that women peace campers at Greenham Common are being attacked with electronic weapons from within the base. The women believe that some form of electromagnetic wave or other signal is being directed at them and is responsible for a series of illnesses they have suffered over the past year.

Symptoms range from mild headaches or drowsiness to bouts of temporary paralysis and, in one case, an apparent circulatory failure which required emergency treatment. Women have also complained of sharp pains and problems with speech co-ordination. A team of doctors from the Medical Campaign against Nuclear Weapons are compiling a report on the condition of the women affected.

The women first noticed a pattern of illnesses emerging late last year, and started to suspect interference from inside the base. Women at different points around the camp appeared to have experienced similar symptoms at the same time, even when they were not in contact with one another.

Electronics Today has carried out a number of tests around the base in co-operation with journalists from other organisations. Readings of electromagnetic radiation taken with a wide-range signal strength meter showed marked increases in the background signal level near one of the women's camps at a time when they claimed to be experiencing ill-effects. On another occasion previously low signal levels near the camp rose sharply when the women created a disturbance just outside the perimeter fence of the base.

Electronic weapons are known to have been used on a number of previous occasions. Americans are reported to have used ultrasound to disorient and demoralise their enemies during the Vietnam war and a number of American police forces are believed to have carried out trials with infra-sound generators mounted on the back of trucks. The high intensity, low-frequency pressure waves produced in this way are said to cause vomiting, nausea, fits and a range of other disturbances. American medical groups have protested against the proposed use of these weapons for urban riot control.

Microwave radiation is also believed to have been used as a weapon at various times. The most celebrated instance was the irradiation of the US Embassy in Moscow during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. It has never been made clear whether the Russians used the signal as a weapon or for surveillance, but a television documentary screened last year reported a high incidence of cancer amongst ex-Embassy staff and suggested that disorders of the blood and nervous system could also have been caused by the signal.

Ministry of Defence officials have denied that any form of electronic signal is being used against the women. Tests at the base are continuing.


Tough choices
Sterilisation increase

[image, unknown] STERILISATION has become the most widely used method of contraception in the world, as more and more couples are opting for this once-and-for-all solution to their family planning needs. According to new assessments by the New York-based Association for Voluntary Sterilization, there are now, for the first time, well over 100 million couples permanently protected from an unwanted pregnancy. This compares with an estimated total of 60 million women using the intra-uterine device (IUD), 50 million pill users, and some 40 million couples using the condom.

In a variety of countries around the world between one-fifth to a half of all couples are using sterilisation as a method of family planning. In the lead are Puerto Rico and the Indian state of Kerala, where just under 50 per cent of couples choose to be sterilised. But the United States is not far behind with 39 per cent of couples protected by this method, when hysterectomy (removal of the womb) is included. Other countries where sterilisation is widely used include India, South Korea, China, Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. One couple in five in Britain and the Netherlands is protected by sterilisation.

Sterilisation is much less popular in Africa - with rates of almost zero in Nigeria, for example, and in some countries of Latin America and Asia, such as Peru, Paraguay, Indonesia and Pakistan. In actual numbers China and India outweigh the rest of the world with some 65 million people having undergone the operation.

Commenting on future trends, the Association reports that 'the picture is one of rapid, historic and unprecedented movement towards permanent contraception in a wide range of settings'.

Diana Smith, International Planned Parenthood Federation


Bean aid
Brigades help harvest

Coffee, picked co-operatively, is vital to Nicaragua's survival.
Photo: Stella Lewis

VOLUNTEER coffee-pickers are going to help alleviate the economic crisis in Nicaragua created by the economic embargo imposed by the US in May 1985. (NI 153). Between last December and March over 900 foreign volunteers went to Nicaragua to help harvest cotton and coffee.

There is a major labour shortage in Nicaragua during the harvest period for two reasons. The success of the Sandinista land-reform programme since 1979 means that over 50,000 peasant families now possess their own land. So, for the first time, they have no need to migrate every year to the coffee regions for the backbreaking work of the coffee harvest.

Secondly, the war against the US-backed contras is now in its fifth year and means that around 20 per cent of the male population is enrolled in either the army or the militia The constant need for defence prevents peasants doing agricultural work. Those Nicaraguans that are not in the army face danger when they work the land. Last year during the harvest season the contra forces killed 200 Nicaraguan pickers and burnt down over 50 farms. Eleven thousand hectares of coffee could not be harvested because of the danger.

Although the brigadistas are kept away from the most dangerous areas, they are not shown a rosy picture of Nicaraguan life. They live in extremely basic conditions in isolated rural farms, sharing the lives of local peasant families. A bed of planks and an unchanging diet of rice and beans is standard.

The foreign brigades provide short-term economic aid, and their contribution increases - in small leaps - each year. For example last year only a handful of individuals went to Nicaragua to pick coffee from Britain, but this year 60 people went. Other countries send more volunteers: hundreds of pickers go from the US and other brigades come from Australia, Argentina and Eastern Europe.

Stella Lewis


Soiled whites
Cricket protest

TRINIDAD' S anti-apartheid movement has mounted a campaign for a sports boycott of South Africa, hoping to persuade Australia and New Zealand to ban visits by players. This year four members of an English cricket team visiting Trinidad were on a United Nations register for 'collaborating' with South Africa. The invitation to these men - Willey, Emburey, Gooch and Taylor - has been opposed by the island's unions, musicians and the opposition party. And it was 'unofficially regretted' by Prime Minister George Chambers (although he did not agree to call the tour oft).

The protests have changed Trinidadian popular culture. During carnival time Kelvin 'The Duke' Pope, calypsonian, captured audiences singing 'How many more must die before they set South Africa free?' 'Duke' is just one of many popular calypsonians, among them the Mighty Sparrow, Black Stalin, Valentino and Composes, who use their artistic talents to protest against apartheid.

Across the road from the music hall is the headquarters of the Oilworkers Union, the largest and most militant of Trinidad's trades unions. A large white banner is draped across the front of the building. Its slogan: 'We love cricket but we hate apartheid more'.

Trades unions have campaigned against apartheid for several years. South African goods are already boycotted by the island's dockers and seamen, and the oil workers have refused to co-operate with South African tankers. Cecil Paul, Oilworkers Vice President says: 'We feel apartheid is a fundamental human-rights issue. I believe that if there is any little thing you can do that will worry South Africa and stop apartheid - then you should do it'

Sue Balding


Camel goes Rambo
Macho men take on Australian jungle

J REYNOLDS, like other multinational companies, plunder the world's few remaining wildernesses if they contain the raw materials they want or if - as in this instance - such ravages will give them a higher public profile. Since 1980 the 'Camel Trophy' - supposedly the 'world's greatest off-road motor event' - has managed to rip through the rainforests of Borneo, Brazil, Sumatra and Papua New Guinea. This year Northern Australia is being attacked in the name of sport by these 'men with guts of steel' (their words, not ours). The whole event will cover 3,165 kilometres of Australia, through the last remaining patches of rainforests in a 'battle of man and machine against nature'.

The battle consists of trying to drive V8 Landrovers through the world's last great areas of wilderness. All done in the 'pioneering spirit that epitomises adventures', these macho playboys will wreck the delicate ecosystems they cross, while presumably sitting inside their vehicles merrily puffing away at their Camel cigarettes.

The rally was to have passed through the Okovango swamps of Botswana in Southern Africa, but the government rightly pulled out of the agreement when it was realised the extent to which the event would damage the swamps. They probably also disliked the fact that the organisers described this large part of Botswana as '1,500 kilometres of untamed hell' in their promotional literature.

The areas the rally has been through, and future areas if their events continue, must be protected from this type of needless destruction.

Asia-Pacific People's Environment Network invites you to send letters and cables of protest to:
Camel Cigarettes R J Reynolds, P0 Box 1959, Winston-Salem NC 17101 USA

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New Internationalist issue 160 magazine cover This article is from the June 1986 issue of New Internationalist.
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