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new internationalist
issue 207 - May 1990



Oxfam and furs
Oxfam UK's second-hand clothes shops have decided they will no longer accept fur coats. No new furs are being accepted and the last stock was sold off before 1 March, 1990. As the Director of the 830-odd shops put it: 'Over several years Oxfam has become more and more concerned at the environmental implications of the fur trade and the threat we believe it poses to certain animal species... we've decided to phase out as quickly as possible all handling of fur items.' What to do with the donated but unsold coats? Sending them to Romania is one possible solution

From Oxfam press release 5 February 1990


Good news
Admissions for all classes of psychiatric illness have fallen by 17 per cent in England and Wales between 1952 and 1986. Over that same period, hospital admissions for schizophrenia are down by more than 50 per cent.

Findings published in The Lancet, after reviewing admission statistics over the 34-year period, say the drop in cases appears to be real, not the result of changing hospital admission policies or moves towards care in the community. Nor is it a case of doctors diagnosing patients as having a condition once called schizophrenia but now given other labels such as mania - as there have been no corresponding increase in these other cases.

From The Lancet, March 1990


Phone friendships
A retired British diplomat has got round the complex rules restricting export of technology to communist states by using a Norwegian satellite dish to provide Cambodia with its first international direct-dialling communications link.

The Hun Sen government was contacted a year ago by John Pedlar, a director of the Cambodia Trust and a British embassy official in Phnom Penh in the 1950s. His proposal was for a communications system to help the politically isolated regime promote dialogue with the West. The $38,000 worth of equipment needed was funded by the Cambodia Trust. The system provides direct-dial telephone, telex and fax transmission, enabling the country to access the International Maritime Satellite system.

From Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol. 147 No 7 1990


Go, Shell
The city of Vancouver will no longer buy Shell products. This was decided at a City Council meeting in September 1989. Vancouver is the first Canadian town to boycott Shell because of its involvement in South Africa. In the US 30 towns have already endorsed the boycott.

Access to the city museum of Delft, Holland, has been denied to Shell by the city council. They wanted to hire the beautiful sixteenth-century building for a farewell party for the director of Shell Nederland, Mr H Hooykaas. Delft's mayor said the decision was only logical given the council's policy of not accepting money from companies with investments in South Africa.

From Newsletter on the Oil Embargo against South Africa, No.18, first quarter 1990


Canada leads
Canada will soon become one of the first Western countries to resume aid to all three of Indochina's war-ravaged countries: Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. In bringing an end to Canada's support for the aid embargo imposed by most non-communist countries following Vietnam's 1978 invasion of Cambodia, External Affairs Minister Joe Clark said Cambodia's needs were real and could not wait for a political solution to the civil war.

From Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol. 147, No 6,1990


Guns for PNG
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is to be given an additional $11.5 million by Australia, including increased military aid and arms supplies. Concern is simultaneously growing at the security forces' beating and killing of innocent people in Bougainville, where a separatist movement has closed the giant copper mine. Canberra has denied any connection between the increased aid and the human-rights-abuse allegations.

In January a Briton became the first foreign national to die as a result of the troubles when he was killed by rebel forces. 70 people have died violent deaths there over the last year

From Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol. 147 No. 6, 1990


Breathing filth
More than one billion people are now breathing air so polluted that it breaches international safety limits, according to the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute. The Institute's new report assembles statistics from around the world based on breaches of the World Health Organization's air-quality standards.

On heavily polluted days in Greater Athens, for example, the death rate rises sixfold, while the air in Bombay is so polluted that a day's breathing is equivalent to smoking ten cigarettes.

Britain's sulphur dioxide (SO2) problem is described as the worst in Europe with 1.89 million tonnes being produced each year. The sulphur dioxide is a prime cause of acid rain which has damaged some 64 per cent of British forests. The report criticizes European Community agreements to cut SO2 emissions from power plants by 57 per cent by 2003, and reduce nitrogen oxides by 30 per cent by 1998 as 'too little, too late'. Instead the report would like to see 90-percent cuts in the two acid-rain gases.

From a Worldwatch Institute report noted in New Scientist, 27 January, 1990


Profiting from pollution
The usual selling point of skin-care products is the protection they provide against sun, wind and weather. Now those cosmetic companies alert to new trends are hoping to sell a new kind of protection... against pollution. Chanel touts the ability of its Prevention Serum to counteract 'environmental impurities'. Estee Lauder's Skin Defender lotion promises to shield against the 'onslaught of irritants from pollution'. The treatments typically contain sunscreen plus ingredients designed so neutralize so-called free radicals, the highly reactive molecules found in some air pollutants.

From Consumers Union News Digest. US. 15 December 1989


Mercurial play
Some 100 kilogrammes of poisonous mercury dumped at an industrial estate near Baroda, India, started a rush from surrounding villages and slums. People were collecting the mercury in their lunch boxes, cooking pots and any other containers that could be found. Entire families, from grandparents to small children spent days scraping mercury from the semi-solid muck of the dump. They ate their food on the site, their babies played on the site. The reason for the rush was the money paid for the mercury: $9 - $12 a kilo.

The Gujarat Alkalis and Chemicals Ltd, a state-owned company producing caustic soda, has been blamed for the dumping. According to newspapers, they had dumped 20 truckloads of the liquid waste containing the mercury at the site.

From Panos Features, Nov 17 1989

'Was not necessity the plea of every illegal exertion of power or exercise
of oppression? Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human
freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.'

William Pitt the Younger.

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