The first attempt to introduce a non-religious, non-charity street paper sold by homeless people into South America has been made with the launch of Hecho en Buenos Aires (‘Made in Buenos Aires’) on the streets of Argentina’s capital. Patricia Merkin, who spent much of 1999 at the British headquarters of street paper The Big Issue in London, sees the Argentine version as ‘a combination of the tried and tested strengths of The Big Issue and a realistic approach to local idiosyncrasies.’ These include a massive slum population, unemployment that rises to 30 per cent in some suburbs of the capital and no widespread public idea of what being homeless (sin techo) really means.
‘Currently, most social programmes are run by official government departments or international organizations,’ says Merkin. ‘It is time to create a more participative society and leave behind the “aid” model which only perpetuates the problems of the socially excluded and their state of mind.’
Merkin is positive about the prospects of Hecho en Buenos Aires, pointing to the success of homeless street papers in other countries: ‘It’s a proven experience in countries with diverse social and political conditions and different levels of exclusion. It is perhaps an experience that can show the other side of globalization. If McDonalds and Coca-Cola can be international, why can’t The Big Issue?’ Referring to Buenos Aires’ burgeoning informal economy – a response to unemployment and under-employment – she adds: ‘The street model itself is a standard formula in Third World countries to solve economic problems, as street selling is a very common source of income for excluded people.’
Meanwhile in Brazil, Luciano Rocco and a small team of volunteers are working to launch their own equivalent, Mutirão, early in 2001. ‘We are following The Big Issue as a model for Brazil, but I’d like to see as much balance as possible between pages edited by the vendors and non-vendors,’ says Rocco. ‘Actually, I’d like to see the vendors running the whole business in the long run. Our concern is to give them control over their image and voice. Besides a “street lights” section, for instance, we see them editing letters from the readers to be published in the magazine, from the very beginning, like an open dialogue.’
International Labour Organization
British child poverty boom
Gone but not forgotten
Martin Dayani / Gemini News Service
While members of ex-President Milosevic’s regime run for cover from aggrieved Serbs, Yugoslav Army spokesperson Colonel Svetozar Radisic can take comfort in his paranormal powers. Radisic is a self-proclaimed expert in ‘neo-cortical war’. This warfare employs ‘various methods to influence the brain’s cortex with the aim of deforming the related areas,’ says Radisic. ‘This allows for the manipulation of groups of people or whole nations, inducing them to accept certain ideas against their real interests.’
In his latest book, Neo-Cortical War, Radisic expounds on the ‘satanic elements’ contained in some of the toys, especially the plastic dinosaurs, distributed to Serbia’s children in McDonald’s ‘Happy Meals’. Children’s video games are another example of neo-cortical warfare, he says. Radisic’s extensive analysis of these games revealed the presence of ‘satanic messages and symbols’. Hence Radisic’s profound opposition to computers, which he claims are ‘satanizing Serbia’s children’.
His most recent printed article pinpoints the US’s devious ploy of conducting international negotiations at its own military bases. Here the US military could more easily manipulate the participants’ cerebral cortices, Radisic explains. He adds that Yugoslav ex-President Slobodan Milosevic could have been subjected to such electro-magnetic magic during the negotiations at the Wright Patterson military base ahead of signing the Dayton Peace Accords.
Radisic has a long association with the mysterious Group 69 – a small collection of people who claim to down enemy aircraft and rockets using the ‘power of their minds’. The group also creates a ‘psychological shield’ over Serbia to ward off the Pentagon’s parapsychological attacks.
In a recent interview with the Nedeljni Telegraf, Radisic complained that the high command of the Yugoslav Peoples Army (JNA) failed to take him seriously for many years: ‘There was no understanding for it [mind-control] in the JNA. Ten years later and the Army has changed its stance on this phenomenon.’
Many now see Radisic as part of, or a consequence of, a broad propaganda campaign, which aimed to constantly consolidate Milosevic’s position by engendering ever-greater xenophobia and paranoia among the Serbian people. Radisic’s theories would have been at total odds with service in a ‘normal army’, comments a retired Yugoslav Army officer: ‘This fantastically fits into the model of xenophobic Serbia, which was convinced that Milosevic defended the country from the “dark forces of the West”.’
Istvan Molnar / Institute for War and Peace Reporting: www.iwpr.net
Guardian Weekly Vol 162 No 18
Taking more than photographs
New Scientist Vol 166 No 2233
Madagascar is in the grip of a sapphire rush that has led thousands of poor farmers to abandon their fields. People from all over the country have flocked to the south, around Sakaraha and Ilakaka, which have been transformed from tiny settlements to Wild West-style frontier towns. ‘It’s phenomenal,’ says Dr Koto Bernard, head of the Sakaraha office of the global environment agency WWF. ‘The town of Sakaraha has completely changed in the space of a year.’
No-one knows the extent of the gem deposits in the region, where savannah and red earth conceal rich reserves of sapphires in yellow, pink and blue. Informal estimates put the amount circulating in the precious-stone market each day at more than $1.4 million: a staggering sum in a country that had a gross domestic product in 1998 of $234 per person.
Environmental and social groups have raised concerns about the safety of those involved. Digging is largely unregulated and done by hand by groups of people who scoop out holes ten metres or more in depth, sifting the earth in water in order to reveal gems. They say the work is hazardous, with a constant risk of tunnel collapses.
Another cause for concern is the influx of professional gem dealers from countries such as Sri Lanka and Thailand. Ismael, a former student who acts as an intermediary between the diggers and the merchants, says it is hard for miners to secure good rates for their gems. ‘The problem is the prices,’ he says. ‘All the foreigners buy as they like.’
Sapphires have brought with them social difficulties, with both students and their teachers leaving schools to hunt for gems. The stones offer people the prospect of swapping lives of agricultural subsistence for wealth beyond their wildest imaginings. Despite government promises to crack down on sapphire dealers, as an interpreter to a group of Thai businessmen, puts it: ‘It’s the sapphires that rule.’
Michael Peel, a Financial Times journalist, visited Madagascar on a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellowship.
Running out of time
David Suzuki Foundation: www.davidsuzuki.org/climate_habitatrisk.htm
Monsanto’s greener grass
Rural Advancement Foundation International: www.rafi.org