issue 166 - December 1986
Poor fund the rich
The overall flow of money last year between the Third World and the developed countries benefited the latter by US$31 billion. According to a United Nations report, the trend is likely to continue into 1987. The 1986 World Economic Survey by the UN Economic and Social Council said the margin in favour of developed nations came from higher interest charged on loans to the Third World and a decline in new investment.
From New Straits Times. Malaysia, July 3. 1986
A study of 1986 US primetime TV programming reports that there is six times as much drinking on television as in real life. It states that alcohol is consumed on average 4.6 times each hour on US prime-time television. This means that each child will see alcohol consumed 75,000 times on TV before reaching legal drinking age. Only one per cent of these portrayals will be unfavourable. The American Medical Association has urged advertisers and broadcasters to co-operate in eliminating programme content which depicts the irresponsible use of alcohol without showing the adverse consequences.
Consumer Currents, No 90. Sept 1986
The emergence of genetic engineering and other fields of biotechnology has increased the possibility of biological and toxic weapons being used for military purposes.
The Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 does not prohibit work on 'microbial or other biological agents, or toxins of types and quantities that have justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes'. As a result, much work is being done with biological and toxin weapons for 'defensive' purposes, but there is no clear division between defensive and offensive research and development in this field.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
Slaughter and extinction
Of the 480 million farm animals slaughtered in Britain last year, up to one third of all poultry were bled to death while fully conscious and sensitive to pain; up to one third of all sheep were conscious when their throats were cut, and more than four million animals were ritually slaughtered for either Jewish or Muslim consumption, their throats cut while fully conscious.
In Australia, the kangaroo culling quota for 1986 was set at 2.6 million. They are killed on the pretext that they cause agricultural damage. At the present rate of killing, it is predicted that kangaroos will be almost extinct by the end of the century.
From Agscene No 85
More children than ever before are dying in armed conflicts. An increasing percentage of these deaths are the result of a deliberate shift in policy. Recent reports have noted that small bombs made to look like butterflies, pens, pencils and other toy-like objects are placed in towns and villages in conflict areas. Photographs taken by doctors and nurses show children whose arms had been blown off by what they thought were objects of play.
Other reports have mentioned how children have been singled out for public torture or murder. Despite all past tragedies, there is no existing structure to report and safeguard the rights of children in armed conflict.
From Action for Children Newsletter No 5
Something in the air
The World Health Organization considers passive smoking to be an indisputable health risk. In a recent resolution they stated that 'passive, enforced or involuntary smoking violates the right to health of nonsmokers, who must be protected against this noxious form of environmental pollution'. Passive smoking can also occur through the nicotine and carbon monoxide-laden blood of pregnant women who smoke, leading to the child's lower birth weight and a higher risk of perinatal mortality.
From World Health Organization Media Service
US child poverty grows
Poverty among US children has been growing steadily for the past 20 years. In New York in particular it is reaching crisis proportions. One in every four US children under the age of six lives in poverty. The greatest victims continue to be among minority groups such as blacks and Hispanics, and among single and unwed mothers.
Yet the US Congress seems likely to slash welfare spending in order to reduce the Government's record deficit The Washington-based Children's Defense Fund lobby group blames rising military expenditure and growing tax loopholes for the budgetary problems.
From Action for Children Newsletter. No 5
Singapore's fertility level, which was reduced to the two-child family average in 1975, fell to 1.5 children per family in 1985. Unless this trend is reversed the country's population will begin to fall by early next century, presenting a challenge to the island's finely tuned social structure. One of the biggest problems would be an increasingly ageing population.
Professor Saw Swee Hock of Singapore National University has called for the present child allowance scheme and income tax privileges for small families to be reversed. And, in neighbouring Malaysia, the Government is aiming to increase the population by nearly 400 per cent to 70 million by 2100.
Meanwhile in Rwanda, Africa's most densely populated country, the fertility rate is 8.5 per woman and 11.8 per family.
Dr Paul Caseman, technical adviser to the UN Fund for Population Activities, says 'It's still the image of the man that he must show his virility through his number of children. And if he only has two children and he stops they will say he is not a man. The theme of Rwanda's next five-year plan is to be the four-child family.
From People magazine, Sept 1986
Brazilians face new threat
After centuries of disease, exploitation, slaughter and land invasion, only 200,000 Brazilian Indians have survived out of an original population of up to five million. But now the remaining tribal communities are facing the most devastating threat ever - nuclear testing in their own back yard.
At least 8,000 Indians live in the region surrounding the nuclear test site in the Cachimbo mountains in the state of Parana. The Amazon region is suffering under increased militarization as well as the intensification of Brazil's military nuclear programme. The Cachimbo airbase alone is 4.5 million hectares, an area larger than the Netherlands.
From Survival International. Sept 1986
More than a bad taste
US Government plants producing nuclear materials for weapons are contaminating groundwater, including drinking water wells in three US states, according to a Congressional watchdog agency. The General Accounting Office has reported that eight out of nine plants that it studied had contaminated groundwater.
From Reuter, Sept 1986
'In Bhutan, marijuana is fed to the pigs, not the people.'
'This makes the pigs happy, and us happy.'
says the Foreign Minister.
Geoffrey Lean in the Observer magazine 18 November 1984,
quoted by Richard North in 'The Real Cost'; Chatto & Windus, 1986