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new internationalist
issue 250 - December 1993

...that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this,
your section, and be answered by other readers. Please address
your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.

Why are storks associated with childbirth?

[image, unknown] The connection was first observed in medieval Europe, when it was noted that storks tended to nest on the roofs of buildings where there were young children or pregnant women.

Storks prefer high, warm roofs of elaborate configuration, usually found on the large houses of wealthy folk. Such houses frequently contained extended families with many servants, including women of child-bearing age. So, there could well be a statistical relationship between storks and childbirth!

Ken Murray
Retford, UK

A number of years ago I heard of an Israeli team researching the promotion of camel’s milk to combat malnutrition. Does anyone know what happened to this idea?

[image, unknown] Camel’s milk is actually the most healthy milk – healthier than human milk – because it is lower in fat and so stays fresh longer. Just 40 litres of camel milk will provide enough nourishment for 100 children a day. In arid areas this is clearly better than relying on food aid.

A project with 25 camels is under-way among the Bedouin, set up by world expert on camel physiology Professor Reuven Yagel of Ben-Gurion University of Negev, Israel. So far he has managed to increase camel milk yield many times by adapting techniques used to increase cattle milk yield. This involves hormone treatment to produce multi-ovulation, followed by transplant of the eight or ten extra ovum into surrogate camel mothers.

In response to calls for help in animal husbandry there are now plans to establish a Desert Animal Centre in Eritrea, for sheep and goats as well as camels. We hope to be raising funds for this through Comic Relief.

Professor T Scarlett Epstein,
Honorary Director of UK Jewish Aid
Hove, UK

Is cannibalism a racist myth?

The question is not what some people eat, but what others will swallow. In the era of colonization ‘they are cannibals’ could usually be translated as ‘we want their land’. The insatiable appetite for stories about ‘primitive’ people inspires some anthropologists to sustain the myths.

They survive in Australia today, resistant to challenge and underpinning attitudes of hostility and superiority towards Aboriginal people. I would be happy to provide details regarding the myth in Australia and would welcome examples of its manifestations.

Richard Buchhorn
PO Box 3230, South Brisbane
Queensland 4101, Australia

Awaiting your answers...

I have a vague recollection that it is possible to get a ‘covenant’ cheque book, which can only be used for gifts to charities and allows a full tax reclaim by the receiving charity. Can anyone tell me more?

Graeme Law
Stirling, Scotland, UK

I’ve read that men have periodical physical cycles, though without the visible symptoms of female cycles. Can anyone tell me more, recommend any books or articles on the subject, or suggest how I might be able to calculate my cycle?

Dinyar Godrej
Oxford, UK

What is the correct name for the aboriginal people of North America? At a recent conference on forest peoples I heard an objection to the use of the term ‘Native American’ from an aboriginal American who preferred to describe himself as ‘Indian’.

I Crowston
Edmonton, Canada

The phrase ‘the enemy within’ was used by Margaret Thatcher to describe the miners during the British miners’ strike on the mid-1980s. Was this phrase originated by Margaret Thatcher? If not, who was the first to use it?

Geoff Toman and Maria Loewendahl
Oxford, UK

Which country or region of the world has been the most peaceful – free from both internal strife and involvement in external strife – during the past two centuries?

Diana Gibson
Ross-on-Wye, UK

If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities,
New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK,
or to your local NI office (click here for addresses).

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Big Bad World by P J POLYP [image, unknown]
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Cartoon by P J POLYP

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New Internationalist issue 250 magazine cover This article is from the December 1993 issue of New Internationalist.
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