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new internationalist
issue 222 - August 1991



Military wipe-out

Losses sustained by the Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) and navy during the 30 April cyclone must set a record for military damage outside of war. The massive tidal bore that surged across the low-lying airport at Chittagong and into the city's river-mouth port and naval base wiped out half the BAF's aircraft and immobilized or sunk all the major ships in the Bangladesh navy.

Some 45 Chinese-built F6 fighters, a version of the Soviet MiG 19, were based at Chittagong. Only five were flown out to Dhaka, despite ample warning from the meteorologists. The other 40 spent about 12 hours under salt-water and ended up in a pile on the tarmac.

Four newly delivered Soviet helicopters, bought for hard currency, were also destroyed. Two had been assembled, while the other two were still in crates.

The navy lost two submarine chasers, two hydrofoil torpedo boats, two landing craft and a small auxiliary. All the remainder of the Bangladesh fleet of 55 at Chittagong were badly damaged. Often this was from large merchant ships which broke their moorings and smashed into them.

From Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol. 151 No 22, 1991


Greed, charity and taxation

The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club (RHKJC) is a strange public utility. It takes vast sums from Chinese punters, the world's most avid gamblers as the chart below makes clear, and recycles much of the profits into social welfare projects and government revenue.

This convergence of greed, charity and taxation will probably remain when China takes control of Hong Kong in 1997 - despite Beijing's well-known abhorrence of gambling.

Hong Kong's horse racing is booming. Turnover for the 1990-1991 season is expected to reach a record six billion dollars. The tax and charity money that has come from the totalizer has become a mainstay of the Hong Kong Government's finances. Last year the RHKJC contributed 9 per cent of the taxes collected, about $626 million, or the same as is spent on social welfare. An additional $118 million was given direct to charities of its own choice, roughly ten times more than that of the next biggest donor in the colony.

[image, unknown]

From Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol. 151 No. 23 1991.


Climb on, McBride

During the Gulf war, American B52 bombers stationed at RAF Fairford in the UK made regular sorties to bomb the Iraqis. And a peace activist, Juliet McBride, also made regular sorties to the base to protest about this. Four times she climbed into the base. The first time she was escorted out nicely; the second time she was thrown out nastily; the third time she was arrested and held for an hour; and the fourth time she was arrested under the 1911 Official Secrets Act, held for eight hours and charged with 'entering a prohibited place with a purpose prejudicial to the security of the state'.

This was a rare charge against such protests and carried a possible sentence of ten years. The authorities were not sure of Ms McBride's purpose - her only action was to unfurl a banner 50 yards from the bombers with the slogan 'Not in my name'. She explained: 'All I wanted to say was: "Your fence, your guns, your uniforms, your pretend duties do not stop me saying no.

Anyway, the Department of Public Prosecution has had to climb down and drop the charge. So Ms McBride can continue to climb in.

From New Statesman & Society, Vol. 4 No.152


A town like Alice

Alcohol is taking a firm grip of many of Australia's aborigines. Liquor consumption in Alice Springs, a centre for the aboriginal people, is 2.5 times higher than the national average. Widespread unemployment and a breakdown in tribal values are to blame, it is suggested.

With the rise in alcohol abuse has come an increase in violent crime. Alice Springs now has 44 homicides per 100,000 people per year, compared with the Australian average of two per 100,000. Last year 12,770 drunks were taken into protective custody in Alice. This in terms of numbers, is more than half the town's population.

From The Australian, reported in World Press Review, Vol. 38 No.6 1991.


Drug bribes

Drug companies spent $165 million in 1988 on gifts, dinners and vacations to entice doctors to prescribe their products, it was revealed at a Senate meeting in Washington recently. Details included more than 180,000 doctors being paid $100 each to attend dinners and 80 per cent ending up prescribing the drug that was being promoted there. Naturally the extra costs of such promotions were passed on as higher drug prices to the patient.

From Health Action International News, No.57, 1991.


The burger connection

After so many denials by burger makers of the connection between hamburgers and the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest to make way for cattle farming, now comes a different story. Birds Eye Walls' Chairman, Alan Price, admitted that his company imports 30,000 tonnes of beef from Brazil each year for their burgers and other meat products.

This surprising confession was to the National Farmers Union annual general meeting, and was used to berate the farmers for failing to produce enough high quality beef that his company needed.

But then the quality from Brazil might not be so good. In March, the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture banned six ranches from selling meat due to their illegal hormone use in their cattle.

From Agscene No. 103 1991.


Hunger pangs

Hungry Zambians dug through a concrete slab 12 feet underground to reach cans of radioactive beef. The cans had been buried as a safety measure by the authorities in 1990. Czechoslovakia had donated the 2,800 cans, which were found to be polluted with radioactivity generated from the Chernobyl partial meltdown.

After the cans were buried near the town of Chongwe, and covered with a concrete slab, local people used pickaxes to dig them up. Police are now mounting guard to stop the cans being taken and the contaminated food eaten.

From San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 10, 1991


'Comparison and conformity go together they breed nothing
but suppression, conflict and endless pain.'
The Impossible Question, by Krishnamurti

'You loot, I shoot.'
Bumper sticker in
English, El Salvador

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