issue 228 - February 1992
US struggling to keep military stronghold
Imelda, wife of the late Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines' disgraced former president, flew into Manila in early November amid mounting speculation that she would stand for the presidency next year. She also flew back into rising unrest over the US Government's manoeuvring to maintain its military foothold in the region.
Unrest has been growing since the Filipino senate narrowly rejected a new bases treaty, which would have extended the US's military presence in the Philippines for another 10 years. By a 12-11 vote the senate presented the US Government with the need to reshape substantially its South East Asian military strategy. The 1947 Military Bases Agreement expired in September.
The proposed new treaty would have provided for the continued US use of Subic Bay naval base for the next decade, in exchange for compensation of $363 million in 1992 and $20 million for each succeeding year.
It would also have designated training areas, air space and other mutually agreed areas for training, servicing, accommodation and logistics supply. The US's pervasive military presence would have continued much as it was before. This would have allowed unrestricted transit and overflight of Air Force planes, the servicing of nuclear-equipped ships and the storage and installation of nuclear and conventional weapons in the Philippines.
Endorsed by 12 Senators led by Wigberto Tanada and Juan Ponce Enrile, the anti-bases resolution said the proposed treaty was one-sided and failed to provide even the most basic reciprocal rights. It also said bluntly that the US bases had been instruments of colonialism and intervention, and had perpetuated Philippine dependence on the US for defence and security.
To celebrate the proposed treaty's rejection, the National Democratic Front (NDF) announced a unilateral ceasefire on 11 September. The NDF, which represents 14 revolutionary and political organizations, including the Communist Party and the New People's Army, was fulfilling its promise to declare such a ceasefire once the proposed treaty was rejected. However, the Aquino Government indicated it might resurrect the defunct 1947 Military Bases Agreement and the NDF withdrew its ceasefire.
The Bush administration and the Aquino Government continue to work hand in hand to maintain the present military alliance. Anti-bases groups say the US may well be given a further three-year period for 'orderly withdrawal' from Subic Bay. Further extension of the base's stay under the guise of a phase-out could buy crucial time for the US Government and its Filipino allies to install another subservient administration that will allow renewed US military access.
A senator recently condemned the Aquino leadership as a 'presidency that is dormant and insensitive to public clamour until it is threatened by widespread demonstrations and rallies'. A renewed Marcos leadership holds no greater promise.
Poor Britain - official
More than 50 million Europeans have been living in poverty during the mid-1980s, according to the European Commission's report on the second European Poverty Programme. 'In 1985,' says the report, 'the proportion of low income persons in the population as a whole was particularly high (18-32 per cent) in the poor countries of the Community, i.e. Portugal, Greece, Spain, Ireland and the UK.' Now it is official: Britain is poor.
In fact Britons account for 23.5 per cent of Europe's poor people. Only Portugal is worse off. Almost a quarter of the European children who live in poverty come from the UK.
As an afterthought, only two countries in the European Community lack a national minimum wage: Britain and Ireland. The Government argues that a minimum wage would make exports more uncompetitive and increase unemployment. How other countries manage is not explained.
Chartist No.135, 1991
A prehistoric skull has become a bone of contention between Zambia's National Heritage Commission and the British Natural History Museum. Found in a lead zinc mine in Zambia in 1921, it is one of the world's most important fossils and was given to the British Museum by the British South Africa Mining Company in 1924. The Zambians have wanted it back since independence in 1964. One British official claims that 'it is not just a Zambian fossil - it is an international fossil'. Dr Robin Cocks, Keeper of Palaeontology, is more blunt: 'The narrow legal thing is simple - we own it.'
Fred Chela / Gemini
Sanctions do more damage than bombs in Iraq
The mortality rate for under-five year olds in post-war Iraq has nearly quadrupled since before the Gulf War. More than 900,000 children are considered malnourished, with 118,000 said to be at greater risk of death than before the conflict.
These are the findings of an independent study team of 89 specialists from around the world who recently visited 9,000 households, 29 hospitals, 17 health centres, 24 electrical facilities and 28 water and sewage treatment plants in Iraq.
Hospitals function at less than 30 per cent of their pre-war levels and lack basic resources such as syringes, anaesthetics, antibiotics and surgical supplies. Drugs to treat chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease are not found at all. Non-emergency surgery has been cancelled for a period of 12 months.
Water-borne diseases such as typhoid, cholera and hepatitis are thriving. Preventable childhood diseases like measles and tetanus - once nearly banished from Iraq - are re-emerging due to insufficient immunization programmes and poor sanitary conditions.
More than two-thirds of Iraqi water supplies tested by the study team were contaminated. Electricity supply is down to 37 per cent of pre-war capacity, food production has been badly hit, and inflation is running at 1,500 to 2,000 per cent. Many families have used up their savings and are now reduced to selling off personal items just to buy vital supplies. During the winter months expenses for things like clothing and fuel rise sharply.
Magne Raundalen, a child psychologist, says 75 per cent of children he examined no longer took any joy in play and were still highly traumatized and haunted by the war. Eighty per cent still feared losing their families. They were like 'the living dead', he says.
The team concludes that the damage done to Iraq's infrastructure by economic sanctions, cutting off spare parts and other vital supplies, is greater than that done by all the bombing during the Gulf War. Once again it is the vulnerable, the young and the old, who are paying the price.
Rula EI-Rifal / Gemini
'Hunters for the Hungry' is a new programme in the US allowing deer hunters to donate the meat they kill for sport to hungry families. State laws prevent such meat being commercially sold, and hitherto hunters have had to either eat the meat or give it to friends.
Program organisers are hoping hunters will donate at least 100,000 pounds of venison to shelters and food banks this season. Butchers that dress the deer are asked to urge their customers to donate portions of their 'deer pack' to local soup kitchens. The pro-hunting lobby hopes that this 'hunting for charity' tactic will help deflect criticism and become an annual event.
The Economist, Vol 321 No. 7733, 1991
Australian blacks protest at Olympic bid
The Aboriginal Legal Service has mounted strong opposition to Australia's bid to host the 2000 Olympic Games. A delegation from the Service heavily lobbied meetings of the international Olympic Committee when it visited Australia recently.
Aboriginal activist Cecil Patten told the Committee that Australia's history of maltreating Aboriginal people was appalling. Mr Patten told the executive, Dr Un Yong Kim, that he wanted the Committee to adopt the same attitude to Australia as they had done to South Africa. There was enough evidence in hand, he said, to lead to Australia's disqualification.
The Aboriginal delegation said that while white Australians had been abroad competing at previous Olympic Games, black Australians were virtually abandoned in their own land and given a status 'that hovers somewhere between a white and a wombat'.
Eco-babble or bust
Corporate Clean-up in Brazil
Eco-friendliness is suddenly in vogue with Brazilian business, and particularly with multinational corporations working in Brazil. But this new interest has less to do with environmental altruism than with public image as the UN's 'Earth Summit' in Rio de Janeiro approaches.
Atlantis Brazil, a subsidiary of Britain's Reckitt & Colman, has invested $3 million in a massive advertising campaign to promote its new line in 'eco-friendly' cleaning products. Brazilian Shell has started handing out leaflets at its gas stations telling its customers how to save fuel and reduce emissions. Autolatina, the holding company for Ford and Volkswagen in Brazil, has spent $200,000 on an effluent treatment plant and fitted air filters to its factories. Johnson & Johnson have stopped using CFCs to sterilize surgical instruments and McDonalds' supplier, Spuma-pac, has replaced CFCs in its packaging.
Initiatives like this, however, are not the result of a change in business profit-oriented mentality. There's a veiled consensus that next June's much-vaunted UN conference on the environment in Rio, widely known as the 'Earth Summit', will expose to harsh criticism those who fail to go beyond glib, eco-friendly talk.
'The pressure comes from abroad,' says João Meirelles Filho, environment consultant to the company in charge of organizing Eco-92, the trade fair that will accompany the Earth Summit. 'By putting on a good face in Brazil international companies are helping their sales all over the world,' he adds.
Alfredo Lobl, of top paper and wood pulp company Klabin, admits to having been an 'environment villain' who 'produced terrible smells and cut down hard-wood trees' in the past. He also admits that pressure from foreign clients helped form Klabin's budding concern for the environment'. But now, he says, Klabin uses only eucalyptus and pine trees - not that this is necessarily an improvement.
In the Amazon, however, the military still wages war against environmentalists who they view as 'traitors', prepared to surrender the region to foreign interests. This reflects a long-standing military preoccupation with securing Brazil's remote Amazonian frontiers. Meanwhile, José Carlos Pedreira de Freitas, president of the Amazonian Industry Association, is afraid that Amazon-based companies will be left to foot the bill for a clean-up. 'This burden should be fairly apportioned between the Third and First Worlds,' he argues. But there is little prospect that the 'Earth Summit' will come up with the cash.
Fabienne Rocha / São Paulo
The Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), the leading Third World bank and formerly patron of the highly respected South magazine, has yet another disreputable revelation to add to its list of misdoings: South African sanctions busting. Attock Oil, a BCCI-owned company sold a cargo of fuel-oil at Karachi, supposedly bound for Singapore. The oil, loaded on the 69,000 tonne tanker Cherry Park, was then diverted to Durban.
The Independent on Sunday, 13 October 1991
Fired for no smoke
Guilty: De Havilland Canada, the aircraft manufacturing company, of wrongfully disciplining an employee who refused to work where tobacco smoke was present. The penalty: a fine of $13,185 for each of the two violations of Canada's Occupational Health and Safety Act. For a provision of the Act gives workers the right to refuse to work if they feel their health is being endangered.
In 1988 Jill Bettes claimed that secondary smoking at her workplace was posing a health risk for her. So she refused to report for work. She was warned by the company, then suspended on two separate occasions. The judge ruled that De Havilland 'showed a general air of insensitivity in the workplace,' adding: 'This is a message to all employers that they can't take reprisals against someone who is executing a legitimate refusal to work.' Do you work in a smoke-free zone?
Toronto Star, August 23, 1991
"My mission is to present to you an overview of the role of special interest groups... In shaping public policy regarding, the cattle industry... The activists we are concerned about want to change the way your industry does business.
The Radicals: want to change the system, have underlying socio-economic/political motives; winning is unimportant on a specific issue; can be extremist/violent.
The Opportunists: exploit issues for their own personal agenda; follow the crowd - from the front; may become more radical to maintain 'leadership'. The key to dealing with opportunists is to provide them with the perception of a partial victory.
The idealists: are altruistic; unaware of unforeseen consequences. Idealists want a perfect world and find it easy to brand any product or practice that can be shown to mar that perfection as evil... They must be educated.
The Realists: look beyond the issue at hand; understand the consequences; can live with trade-offs; willing to work within the system; not interested in radical change; are pragmatic. The realists should always receive the highest priority in any strategy dealing with a public-policy issue."
RA Duchin, corporate research executive, addressing the
1991 US National Cattlemen's Association convention.