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Reproductive Rights

new internationalist
issue 168 - February 1987


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Glowing milk
Birsch Tree powdered milk and Dutch Lady evaporated milk, both from Holland, have been banned from distribution by the Filipino government after being found to exceed the permitted limits of radioactivity. These limits are already ten per cent higher than in Europe. Close to those limits have been a number of other British and Dutch milk brands including Mix-Me, Skim, Red Seal, Alban, Alaska and Alpine.

What is not clear is whether highly radioactive milk is being deliberately dumped in overseas markets with more relaxed restrictions. Perish the thought.

From Consumer Currents, No. 92


Australia's trade
About 3,000 to 4,000 Asian brides-to-be arrived in Queensland in 1982, a Melbourne survey reveals. About two thirds were Filipinas the rest being Malaysians and Thais according to the Australian Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Numbers are boosted by classified adverts in the Sunday newspapers with such dubious copy as 'Your wildest erotic dreams will be turned into reality. Our service is genuine - the ladies are willing and waiting but all payments have to be made in advance.'

With the value of the Filipino peso going down relative to the Australian dollar, the economically beleaguered women pin their last hopes of escaping poverty on a letter in the mail box.

From Balai Asian Journal, No. 12


Official smokescreen
One of the problems with radioactivity is that few people understand the units of measurement. New Scientist light-heartedly suggests we do away with becquerels, sieverts and the like and adopt a new system based on concern. This would run as follows:

A microconcern: someone at the nuclear plant forgot to lock up their overalls.

A milliconcern: children can drink the tapwater but not jump in the puddles.

A concern.' enough luminous sheep to threaten the loss of a marginal seat in a by-election.

A kiloconcern: a disaster a government said wasn't one, eg. Three Mile Island.

A megaconcern: a disaster that everyone knows damn well was one, whatever the Number Three in the Politburo says.

A 'No cause for concern': announcement by officialdom to be treated with alarm. Five of them could trigger off mass hysteria and even the resignation of the Minister of the Environment.

From New Scientist, 16.10.86


Snowed under
In the early years of this century, when colonialism held sway over Africa, a bwana in the Kenyan capital Nairobi felt that the emerging city needed some by-laws. The chappie came from a north of England town called Blackburn where winter is marked by icy wind, freezing fog and - inevitably - snow. In Nairobi the climate is rather different. The average degrees centigrade giving way to summer temperatures of around 27 degrees. Our budding administrator hit on an idea. Rather than write the by-laws from scratch, he wrote to Blackburn for a copy of its by-laws. 'Copy these out just as they are,' he ordered his staff. 'except that wherever it says "Blackburn", write "Nairobi".'

Nothing much else to report except that until someone tumbled to what was happening in the 1970s, the roof of every correctly constructed new building in Nairobi had to be strong enough to withstand six inches of snow.

From Appropriate Technology, Vol.13 No.2


Who's pro-life?
Musing through the entrails of morality on the abortion issue The Humanist in a recent issue sought to pin down the type of person who is against abortion. Although such people often call themselves 'pro-life', the evidence that emerged from US Senators' voting patterns appears to show the reverse. Voting patterns in the Senate on bills involving abortion, capital punishment, support of the Vietnam War, support of 'no knock' legislation (police not needing a court order to break into a private home) were all analysed. Findings included:

· 71 per cent valid relationship between supporting capital punishment and being against abortion.

· 72 per cent valid relationship between supporting the Vietnam War and being against abortion.

· 71 per cent valid relationship between opposing handgun controls and being against abortion.

· 65 per cent valid relationship between supporting the 'no knock' law and being against abortion.

The conclusion from this was that anti-abortion ideology did not reflect respect and concern about human life but instead, an ideology of authoritarian control over the lives of individuals including violent means of oppression ...all a long way from being 'pro-life'.

From The Humanist. P 0 Box 146, Amherst, NY 14226. USA. Sept/Oct 1986


Vital statistics
Here's a job lot of figures on American women's lives and families to set you thinking:

* Almost one out of four homes with children is now headed by a single woman; by 1990 it is projected that the number of kids with single mothers could increase by more than 50 per cent.

* Forty-seven per cent of single mothers live below the poverty line.

* In the year following a divorce, women with children average a 73 per cent drop in standard of living; husbands average a 42 per cent rise.

* Less than 15 per cent of all divorced and separated women receive alimony; the average award is under $4,000 a year.

* According to a Yale-Harvard study, white college-educated women have a 20 per cent chance of marrying if they are single at 30. By 35, the odds drop to five per cent, by 40, down to one per cent.

* If present trends continue, half of all new marriages will fail; one out of every three children will see their parents divorce.

From The Christian Science Monitor, July 29, 1986


AIDS in Uganda
Cases of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome are increasing at an alarming rate in Uganda. In the worst-hit district, Rakai, close to the Tanzania border, it is estimated there is one AIDS patient for every 1,000 residents. Further, some 15 per cent of pregnant women and blood donors in the capital, Kampala, have tested positive for the antibody that indicates the presence of the AIDS virus. The Ugandan Health Ministry has released fliers recommending the use of condoms; unfortunately these are not available in the country.

From New African. July issue.

'I owe an allegiance to the planet that has made me possible, and to all the life on that planet, whether friendly or not. I also owe an allegiance to the 31/2 billion years of life that made it possible for me to be here, and all the rest of you too. We have a responsibility to the largest population of all, the hundreds of billions of people who have not yet been born, who have a right to be, who deserve a world at least as beautiful as ours, whose genes are now in our custody and no one else's.'

David R Brower, Chairot Friends of fhe Earth

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New Internationalist issue 168 magazine cover This article is from the February 1987 issue of New Internationalist.
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