issue 243 - May 1993
Is chocolate really the food of love, luxury and passion? A closer look at how it is produced and consumed reveals a less appealing side of its nature. The $130 million spent annually in the UK on advertising chocolate is targeted carefully at women, for whom it is the number one binge food: there are some three-and-a-half million sufferers from compulsive eating disorders in the country. At least 32 pesticides are used in cocoa production and residues have been found in the bars themselves as well as contaminating the land where cocoa is grown. Ill-protected and poorly paid pesticide sprayers commonly experience nosebleeds, breathing problems, headaches, nausea and skin rashes: 80 per cent are women, whose wages average five dollars a day, making chocolate a luxury they cannot afford.
For more information on the 'Politics of Passion' campaign contact
Naomi Diamond at Women's Environmental Network,
22 Highbury Grove, London N5 2EA, UK
Why do dogs bark? Behavioural biologists think they have the answer: because they never grow up. Scientists think the domestic dog evolved from the wolf, which - like most wild dogs - seldom barks. By contrast a cocker spaniel can get through 907 barks in ten minutes. Analysis of the sounds in a bark suggest it is somewhere between a puppy's distress call and a growl: both 'come here' and 'go away'. Why should an animal spend so much time telling the world that it's indecisive? Because tameness is juvenile behaviour. Domestic dogs were selected for tameness - or prolonged adolescence and lifelong barking.
New Scientist no 1,862
The island nation of Sao Tomé and Príncipe has Africa's highest literacy rate, but until recently had never produced a book. Although the writers' union is one of the tiny country's most prestigious institutions all it had ever published was its own by-laws. Finally, last December, the country's first book was published: The Lost Word and Other Stories. A UN representative from the Netherlands helped to design the book, a Corsican provided the paper and the printing was done by a local newspaper. And this is only the beginning. The first set of mimeographed high-school readings is anticipated this year.
World Press Review vol 40 no 3
Business as usual
One and a half million children die each year - four thousand a day - because they are not breastfed, according to UNICEF. Nestlé is the world's largest baby milk company, promoting its product by supplying it free to hospitals worldwide. In July 1991 the Synod of the Church of England voted to join a boycott of Nescafé, Nestlé's flagship product - and sales of the instant coffee have dropped by three per cent since. But the company still refuses to act. The promise made by all the major baby milk suppliers to end free supplies to hospitals by December 1992 has not been kept. Nestlé has switched to making gifts to health workers and promoting its products in hospitals. The boycott of Nescafé is therefore being stepped up.
For more information contact Baby Milk Action,
23 St Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX, UK
Late-payers and cheapskates
UN finances are in a mess, largely because the UN is expected to put the world to rights without being given the means to do so. This year only 18 of its 180 members had paid their dues in full by the 31 January deadline. The US, which pays 25 per cent of the regular budget and would pay more if a top limit had not been set, never stumps up until October; Japan never pays until June. The UN is owed $500 million in arrears, about half of it from the US. On average, countries give the UN's peacekeepers only $1.40 for every $1,000 they spend on their own military forces. To put it in perspective: the sum of the UN's regular and peacekeeping budgets in 1992 - a particularly active year - would not have paid for two Stealth bombers.
`Financing an Effective United Nations`, Ford Foundation, New York
Piano pages cow
Japanese cows now have their personal paging systems... call and they come - more eagerly if it's piano music that has distinct and individual notes. With cowherds becoming unaffordable in Japan, researchers considered the feasibility of an individual musical call that would be transmitted to the cow via tiny pagers fastened to its neck. It takes about two weeks to train the cows to respond to their individual musical notes. Relaying the music over loudspeakers is another technique being tried out on some Japanese farms.
Down to Earth vol 1 no 7
The Refugee Speaking
In your country
God is dead.
In my country
God is death.
Ismail Kho'i (exiled Iranian poet, whose
work was recently banned by the Iranian regime because he
signed an open letter in support of Salman Rushdie.)
This feature was published in the May 1993 issue of New Internationalist. To read more,
buy this issue