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new internationalist
issue 206 - April 1990



Popular art of resistance
[image, unknown] Strange things are happening in Mexico. A new form of non-violent resistance to the government has burgeoned, with the help of the silk screen.

The Assemblea de Barrio, a grassroots organization with 80,000 members in Mexico City alone, has invited a specialist design group to teach them how to produce their own silk-screen posters which highlight social problems like homelessness and pollution.

Two of the posters from the workshops have a print run of 10,000 each and are currently plastered all over Mexico City. One tells the voter to keep an eye out for ballot rigging and another demands an end to the appalling pollution problem.

From Creative Review, Vol. 10 No 2 1990


Cheap coffee
The International Coffee Agreement collapsed in July 1989 and meant that producer countries could sell as much as they wanted on the world markets. Inevitably this led to prices dropping. Taking 1989 as a whole the world price of coffee was halved - down from around 150 cents a lb at the start of the year to below 70 cents at the end. The coffee agreement had tried to stop prices slipping below 120 cents.

According to the World Bank, world coffee revenues in 1990 will be 35 per cent less than they would have been if the agreement existed. A modest producing country like Tanzania was expecting a $45 million drop in export earnings from coffee last year.

In December the five Central American countries agreed to withhold 15 per cent of their exportable output until the end of 1990. Much depends on Brazil, the world's largest coffee producer. Continued low prices are likely to prompt it to reduce exports to maintain world prices.

From International Agricultural Development, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1990


Marcos legacy
The Philippines government has brought a law suit against Westinghouse Electric Corporation of Pennsylvania to recover the $2.1 billion spent on the Bataan nuclear reactor. The government alleges the US company bribed former President Ferdinand Marcos to win the contract to build the reactor, which was never used because of fears of radioactive leaks - it was built at the foot of a dormant volcano in an earthquake zone.

The Westinghouse loans are the government's first target in its international debt reduction efforts. During Marcos' 20-year rule, the nation's debt increased from $4 billion to $28 billion. Going through the courts will take years, but it saves paying $350,000 a day in interest payments on the loan.

From Pacific News Bulletin, January 1990


Recycling triumph
First Canadian Place in Toronto is Canada's largest office building. Owners Olympia & York Development Ltd are proud that of the 40 tons of garbage generated each day in the building, only 10 tons reaches a landfill - 30 tons are recycled. Revenues from recycling cover the cost of disposing of the rest of the garbage, and any profits go to the tenants.

From World Action for Recycling Materials & Energy from Rubbish, No 24, 1990.


Crimes of Passion
Last year the Egyptian public was shocked by a series of seven grisly domestic murders. In each case a wife, often with a large family, killed her spouse. Husband killing, it seems, is not a new phenomenon in Egypt. Many believe it reflects the inequality between the sexes. For all the cases involved marriages where the husband threatened to divorce his wife and marry another. Egyptian law gives all the rights (including that of infidelity) to the husband, who can divorce and remarry at will, or become polygamous.

In 1979 the wife of former President Sadat, Jihan Sadat, instituted a new law giving fundamental rights to wives (including automatic divorce in the case of a second marriage). This 'Jihan law' was reversed in 1985.

From Afrique Magazine, reported in World Press Review, Vol. 36/No 12


Australian TV
'Last night Channel 7 treated us to an unforgettable experience. Between 8.30 and 11.45, we were the excited recipients of 82 commercials, thoughtfully delivered in batches of seven. They provided all manner of useful information on topics from tourism to personal hygiene and were linked together by some light thing called Amadeus. We were delighted that in a 195-minute programme, Channel 7 were able to give us 45 minutes solid advertising.

'Perhaps we could improve things further by dispensing altogether with the unimportant movie link?'

Letter in Sydney Morning Herald


Sell sell sell
Soon to be added to the range of supermarket techniques to induce dazed shoppers to buy are shopping trolleys that guide you electronically through the aisles to specific items the store is pushing that day. The brainchild of Chicago firm Information Services Inc, VideOcarts have a 6" x 8" video screen mounted on the handlebar At the beginning of each aisle, the cart trips a trigger that flashes a greeting on the screen ('Welcome to Aisle One') and lists the sale items in the aisle. As you approach product displays, additional triggers set off video adverts for the products. The screen can also show recipes. And an 'item locator' helps you find products.

So far three US grocery chains have introduced the trolleys on a trial basis.

From Consumer Reports. Nov 1989


Zapping the nicotine taste
A law banning all ads for cigarettes - or any products bearing a tobacco manufacturer's trademark - came into effect on 1 January 1990 in Singapore. The law tries to cover every loophole by which cigarettes could be distributed free as samples, gifts or lottery prizes. First-time offenders face a US$5,000 fine or six months in Changi prison.

The health ministry has also decreed that brands sold in Singapore must not exceed 15mg of tar and 1.3mg of nicotine, all specified on the packets.

Perhaps the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing. For in the same month as the new legislative controls, we hear the latest smokeless cigarettes will be manufactured in Singapore. Less cigarettes than synthetic substitutes, these are capsules containing a concoction of tobacco concentrates and artificial flavour. Addicts can suck this out through a plastic tube. Five capsules plus a tube will sell for US$2.

From South. No 112, 1990

'We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills and winding streams with tangled growth, as "wild". Only to the white man was nature a "wilderness" and only to him was the land "infested" with "wild" animals and "savage" people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and
we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.'

Chief Luther Standing Bear, of the Oglala band of the Sioux/Lakota people.


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