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new internationalist
issue 205 - March 1990



Indonesian adulteration
At least 30 people, including children, have died in Indonesia since July 1989, after eating contaminated biscuits. Health authorities have closed five factories which had mistakenly used the toxic sodium nitrate in their products. Others have been hospitalised after eating noodles, rice and tapioca. In Semarang, Central Java, 33 workers at a garment factory were taken ill after a meal. The Government has released a list of 63 brands of biscuits which it says are safe for consumption. Whether this is going to save consumers from adulterated food remains to be seen. Oh yes, the Ministry for Industry has also ordered the food industry to tighten production procedures. That's all right then.

From Consumer Currents, No. 122


Russian melt-down
A plant outside Moscow which produces aluminium from scrap metal received from all over the USSR discovered that it had melted down over 200 tonnes of radioactive material. Some 260 people may have been contaminated.

From The Environment Digest, No. 30. 1989


Decade of mediocrity
1980, according to Mother Jones magazine, was the last near-great year in movies. Since that time 'American films have been reaping the harvest of Ronald Reagan's reign of mediocrity and escapism.' For US movies no longer reflect real life; they offer only teen comedy, derring-do, gross-out horror and special effects ... in a word, escape. But that is what American public life has been about too - form and symbol over feeling and substance, the orchestration of video images rather than truth-telling. If Ronald Reagan and Hollywood studio chiefs had huddled together in 1980 to form a ten-year plan, they couldn't have meshed more perfectly.

The invasion of Panama and the kidnapping of President Noriega shows George Bush is following in his master's celluloid footsteps.

From Mother Jones, January, 1990.


East Germans welcome
The Government of South Africa has been quick to move, following the large-scale emigration of East Germans to the West.

The national economy has long suffered from a shortage of skilled labour while apartheid laws have banned blacks from these jobs. Thus attracting skilled white immigrants has been one goal of the Pretoria administration. The periodic waves of refugees from Eastern Europe has given the Government the chance to recruit skilled whites with strong anti-communist credentials.

In 1956 large numbers of Hungarians went there. In the early 1980s Polish workers were recruited into the mines and the armaments industry. Then last October, it was revealed that a new programme to recruit East German emigrés was launched. Private South African employers were also free to recruit direct, the State Department said.

From South, No. 110. 1989


Sell the children
There's a free offer for resources-starved schools in the US, from Whittle Communications. It's a satellite dish, video recorder and a 19-inch television for every classroom. The catch? The school must require students to watch a 12 minute program each day. And each program contains four 30-second commercials.

The campaign to stop this insidious offer is being fronted by Peggy Charren, founder of Action for Children's Television. 'I think of the Jonathan Swift essay, A Modest Proposal,' Charren explains. 'There the problem was starvation in Ireland and the proposal was to eat the children. Here we are worrying about hunger in education and the proposal is to sell the children.'

The worst part of the plan, charges Charren, is the message this sends to lower-income students. 'When you tell kids it's what you have that is important instead of what you are, you work against the whole idea of learning.' The Parent Teacher Association has joined the New York and California school systems in spurning the idea, but Whittle Communications plans to beam its March 5 broadcast premiere into at least a thousand schools.

From Mother Jones, December 1989

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Hospitals can kill
The majonty of illnesses in the developing world could be prevented or treated by primary health workers who are trained and supervised by more qualified personnel. More difficult problems could be referred to those who are more qualified.

However primary health care is starved of funds while urban hospitals, usually only serving a very small proportion of the country's people, consume 75 per cent, on average, of central government resources available for health. The chart alongside shows just how much is spent by certain countries on their main hospitals.

From The State of the World's Children, 1990. UNICEF.




Burnt brides
By official counts, five Indian women are murdered in dowry-burnings every day. Activist groups say the toll is much higher; there may be 10 unreported deaths for every one recorded by the police. The favoured way of killing a bride is to douse her with kerosene and set her sari alight. Dowry deaths are often disguised as suicides or kitchen burnings, so it is impossible to know the true numbers.

Dowries have been illegal in India since 1961; and a more recent law requires a post-mortem examination for all women who die unnaturally within seven years of marriage. But kerosene burns leave no evidence of the crime. And police have been suspected of protecting some husbands in exchange for bribes.

From Women's International Network News, Vol. 15, No.4,1989


School's out
West Bank schools for Palestinian children closed again on November 15, ostensibly for the winter holidays. However most children in the Occupied Territories will have received less than three months education in the last two years. The alternative, popular education by volunteers in makeshift classrooms, is illegal. Those who are caught teaching children in this way are liable for up to 10 years imprisonment. Most of the teachers are young, devising their own curriculum based on the violent world around them.

From Exile, Newsletter of the Refugee Council. No. 35

'The crew of the spaceship "Discovery" photographed a smoke cloud over the Amazon
rainforest of a million square miles. Over Europe, it would stretch from London to Moscow.'

Sunday Telegraph, London, 30.4.89.
Forest burning in the Amazon region was responsible for
about 20 per cent of greenhouse gases released in 1988.


'We are embarking upon some pretty desperate measures.'

Comment on the seeking of unemployed teachers in
Ireland, by a London director of education in Barnet, where
83 teachers have resigned in the past few days.

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