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new internationalist
issue 177 - November 1987



Glowing reports from Canada
Ottawa's long love affair with nuclear energy continues with news of projects to provide food irradiation units to Third World countries. This is despite the fact that widespread use of the controversial technology on food eaten within Canada has not yet been sanctioned. The logic presumably is if they are brown-skinned and hungry they should count themselves fortunate for any food technology, never mind the glowing side-effects.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) together with the Department of External Affairs and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) are involved in Third World food irradiation projects. The Minister of External Affairs recently signed an agreement whereby CIDA in collaboration with AECL will provide Thailand with a semi-commercial and multipurpose food irradiator. Atomic Energy of Canada says arguments against the technology are based more on emotionalism than scientific facts. Hmm.

Information from The Globe and Mail. Canada 13.5.87


Smoke damage
Photo: Dexter Tiranti Each year tobacco kills over 350,000 people in the US -nearly 1,000 deaths a day. It is the country's largest preventable cause of death and disease. Cigarettes kill more Americans than heroin, cocaine, all other illegal drugs, car crashes, murders and suicides combined. At least one in every six deaths is caused by tobacco, according to US Department of Commerce estimates.

The scientific evidence documenting the dangers of tobacco use are probably more extensive than for any other substance. Over 50,000 studies have detailed these dangers. In 1986 alone, nearly 2,000 studies of tobacco were published. Perhaps the most notorious of the diseases caused by smoking is lung cancer, one of the world's most fatal malignancies. Over 80 per cent of the people who develop it are smokers and a significant number of the others are passive smokers.

Passive smoking, the involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke, endangers millions of non-smokers. For most of them the biggest exposure will come at work, but non-smoking partners (usually women) of smokers have been found to have a higher risk of disease. 5,000 American non-smokers die of lung cancer every year because of the tobacco smoke in the air. Every minute of every day four people are killed by tobacco. That is the equivalent of two jumbo-jet crashes a day, 365 days a year.

From Multinational Monitor, Volume 8, No. 7 & 8, 1987


Signs of sickness
· According to the Washington Post, President Reagan's attempts at conciliation with the Soviet Union in Geneva, 1985, included a vow that the US would join the USSR in the event that Earth was invaded by aliens from outer space.

· A new 'tavern' H-2-O on Rodeo Drive, Beverley Hills, sells only water - 68 varieties of it, from as far away as China and the Soviet Union.

· The US Air Force invited 10 science fiction writers to a brainstorming conference in February near San Jose, California, producing such ideas as genetically altering airplane pilots and implanting computer chips into human brains (they've already done that with dogs' brains). Also on the program: growing human body parts in the lab, flinging meteors at military targets and designing biological diseases that would eat enemy computers.

· A New York publisher markets audio-cassettes of classic literature in one-minute summaries entitled 'Ten Classics in Ten Minutes.'

· Over 40 Detroit school children were shot dead in 1986.

From Utne Reader, No.22. 1987


Watermelon outrage
The Great Watermelon Robbery recently caused a big stir in China, reported the Financial Times of London. Beijing residents who each eat nearly one melon a day and sometimes much more and who eagerly watch TV reports on the watermelon crop during the summer, were outraged when a gang of 160 fruit vendors assaulted a train full of watermelons in Beijing and stole 25 tons of the fruit. The gang leaders were caught, paraded on television with their heads shaved and given life sentences for their crimes.


Killing fields rewarded
To zip up morale amongst PoI Pot's guerillas who harass Kampuchea from their refugee camps in Thailand, new cash incentives have been introduced. In mid-June the Khmer People's National Liberation Armed Forces announced their soldiers could claim a bounty of $77 (Baht 2,000) for every Vietnamese soldier killed and $190 for each one captured alive. Destroying an enemy truck will earn $190, a tank is worth $385 and wrecking a bridge or capturing a Vietnamese position is worth $770. Units escorting porters who carry supplies into Kampuchea have been promised $385 for safe delivery. These material incentives have a strange ring coming from a group that was so anti-money when in power they refused to use it Obviously the soldiers commitment to a return to a Pol Pot-dominated Kampuchea is not so strong. Now why is that? And where is all the money coming from to encourage the flagging action?

Information from Far Eastern Economic Review, 6 August 1987


Bishop Adolphe Proulx

It was with a sense of sadness and loss that we heard from our Canadian NI editors of the death by drowning in the St Lawrence River of Monsignor Adolphe Proulx, the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Quebec Diocese of Gatineau-Hull. He was one of the most outstanding of the Canadian bishops, a leader in the Catholic movement for social change. In his life and work Bishop Proulx was an inspiring example of Christian compassion and dedication to the cause of the oppressed. He was a hard-working member of the Commission of Social Affairs of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, also chairing the Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America. Human rights issues he knew face-to-face, going on several fact-finding missions to such gruelling countries as Guatemala and Chile.

Internationally the Canadian Roman Catholic bishops have been in the forefront of the movement to align their Church with the needs of the poor and the disenfranchised. Great reserves of moral courage have been needed, for they have had to take on not just the lay forces of landed oligarchies overseas but closer to home, the conservative financial institutions and the current voguish 'me generation' concerns of the New Right. They have also had to handle discreet pressure from the Vatican, under the guidance of Pope John Paul II with his all-consuming anti-Communist passions. Elsewhere bishops have succumbed and opted for the quiet life; as in Australia where they disbanded the Sydney-based Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace. But not so in Canada.

Perhaps the best and final word on Bishop Proulx's death should come from a close colleague, the associate director of the Inter-Church Committee, William Fairbairn. 'The best memorial we can give Bishop Proulx,' he suggested, 'is to renew our commitment to the ongoing struggle to create more just and caring societies throughout the world.'

Dexter Tiranti

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New Internationalist issue 177 magazine cover This article is from the November 1987 issue of New Internationalist.
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