issue 197 - July 1989
A real blowout
As early as 1972, Firestone knew its '500' belted radial tyres had a frightening rate of blowouts. It kept selling them even after tyre tests in 1975 showed that none came close to Firestone's minimum standard of lasting 15,000 miles. No tyre lasted more than 1,385 miles.
The company refused a general recall of the tyres, fearing it would bankrupt the company. When Nader's investigators discovered a US Government study that showed just how dangerous the tyres were, then the company dumped them on the market through half-price sales.
That was ten years ago. Yet accidents still occur because of those tyres. Government investigators count thousands of accidents, hundreds of injuries and 34 known fatalities' from driving on Firestone 5OOs. Was there any punishment for the Firestone executives who took the decision to keep selling such dangerous tyres? Silly question. No official went to jail because of those fatalities. But the company was fined $50,000 for selling a defective product ... that's 560 times smaller than its advertising budget for the year its tyres were having a record number of blowouts.
From Utne Reader. No 33. 1989, quoting a report in The Nation.
Bright new ideas
One Hundred innovations for Development; that's the title of a new publication bringing together bright new ideas from around the world designed to ease the lives of people in developing countries. They include such inventions as a foot-operated treadle pump from Bangladesh (there are now 50,000 in operation); rock-cracking devices (with the aggregate to be used for road-building); and wind-driven ice machines.
The innovations come from 43 countries, winners of an International Inventors Awards competition held in Sweden. Winning inventions were chosen for their ability 'to promote economic and social development in the Third World'. All have practical applications and many are already in use.
One Hundred Innovations for Development,
published by Intermediate Technology.
Myson House, Railway Terrace. Rugby CV2I 31-IT, UK
Argentinians have not lost their sense of humour, despite voting by a big majority for a Peronist government this May. El Heraldo of Buenos Aires reports that every night graffiti invades the walls of the city. The slogans range from the sarcastic ('Collaborate with the police: beat yourself up!') to laments such as 'Some are born with luck; others are born in Argentina'.
The newspaper goes on to report further on this graffiti mania that has reigned ever since democracy was restored to the country five years ago. More than 50,000 square feet of posters have been set up for the graffiti artists. One with a sad twist: 'Yankee go home and please take us with you'.
From World Press Review, Vol. 3b No5. 1989.
The end of songbirds
Where do the songbirds go when winter approaches? According to WildBird, about 650 species of North American birds head south to tropical rainforests where they breed. 'While occupying less than seven per cent of the earth's land surface, tropical rain-forests provide a home for over half the world's species. To date we have already lost one half of the original tropical rainforest.'
Migrants tend to be more concentrated on their wintering grounds and hence are more sensitive to winter habitat destruction, reports the magazine. Furthermore, 'many territorial songbirds migrate to the same area in the rainforest year after year. When these forests have been degraded or destroyed, these birds not only lose their territory but also their urge to remain sedentary . They become wanderers, usually occupying outer forest edges where they are much more likely to starve or be preyed upon'. Estimates made by the Canadian Wildlife Service project that due to loss of winter habitat, '83 per cent of the Philadelphia Vireo's habitat, 63 per cent of the Yellowbellied Flycatcher's habitat and 59 per cent of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird's habitat will probably no longer exist by the year 2000'.
Quoted in World Development Forum, Volume 7No.6 1989.
Making money from racism
A British trade mission to South Africa, scheduled for the last two weeks of October to coincide with South Africa's industry and technology fair, will almost certainly go ahead. This is despite protests over Pretoria undercover agents buying stolen missile plans from Short Brothers, Belfast, filched by Protestant paramilitaries.
Obviously some terrorists are more acceptable than others to Whitehall.
Despite a 1983 Commonwealth decision to discourage trade with South Africa, British exports to that country have continued to increase. Last year, 1988, there was a 13.3 per cent rise to £1.1 billion ($1.8 billion).
From African Analysis, No 71,1989.
'Green' nappies (OK, diapers in North America) are in! Producers of disposable nappies in the UK, Peaudouce and Proctor & Gamble, have moved into the environmental arena with a revolutionary green nappy which takes a smaller toll on the environment than currently marketed nappies.
At present the disposable nappies on sale in Britain are lined with wood pulp, and bleached by chlorine-based chemicals, which have polluted rivers in Scandinavia and the North and Baltic seas. Fears have also been raised that the chlorine bleach could contain minute quantities of dioxin, a cancer-inducing poison, which may migrate into the baby's body.
In the US, disposable diapers are part of the disposal problem. Over 16 billion of these diapers, made largely of non-biodegradable plastic, now account for nearly 2 per cent of all municipal solid waste.
From Consumer Currents. March 1989.
An invention by Chinese traffic specialists, engineers and acupuncturists is easing the aches of drivers and reducing traffic accidents. It is an electric massage cushion which can easily be fitted into vehicles because it draws its current from the cigarette lighter socket. It costs $50.
The three pairs of vibrators in the cushion correspond to the human body's three main acupoints of weiyu, shenyu and yinmen. By sending a small electric charge through the cushion, the flow of 'vital energy' is enhanced and blood circulation stimulated. This relaxes the muscles and sharpens the brain, its inventors say.
According to Chinese police, driver fatigue accounts for half the country's traffic accidents. And tests with the massage cushion in Jiangsu province brought a 33-per-cent drop in accidents.
Chinese car manufacturers are soon to install the cushion in all their cars.
From South, No 103, 1989.
The doctor, engaged in family planning programmes in India,
was chatting with the head man of a village in which a programme
was about to begin. 'How many children do you have?'
the doctor asked his host.
'Three,' replied the villager.
'That's a good size for a family,' said the doctor approvingly,
having feared the typical reply of six or seven.
'But you haven't asked me how many daughters I have,' said the villager.
World Development Forum, February 15, 1989.
This article is from
the July 1989 issue
of New Internationalist.
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