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Russia Sells Its Forests Widespread corruption in Russia threatens the country's forest wilderness

Russia harbours one of the greatest remaining forest wildernesses on the planet. But things are set to change. Russia's timber Mafia, profiting from illegal logging in Siberia and the Far East, is cutting great swathes through the forest. Corrupt government officials are party to the destruction, selling contracts for illegal tree harvesting on public land.

Now China is getting in on the act. After last year's terrible floods, caused in part by the systemic deforestation along the banks of the Yangtse river, the Chinese government has put a stop to all logging in its highlands. So timber merchants, desperate for raw wood, are cashing in on the cheap Russian market. 'The Chinese are ready to pay, and pay most often in cash without any paper documentation," says Russian national newspaper Novie Izvestia.

Some of the transactions, though devastating, are quite legitimate. The Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation, for example, has agreed to sell three million cubic metres of timber to China's Harbin Economic and Technological Cooperation Corporation. The total investment is estimated to have cost the Chinese $6 million, says the Asia Pulse. The corporation will use Russian machinery and labour, and export the entire harvest to China for sale.

The deal is hot on the heels of another sale last September, when Thailand's forestry department agreed to hand over 175,000 acres of public forest land to Chinese investors. I f China continues to export deforestation, rather than living within its environmental means, the consequences for the planet will be dire. Siberia's forests are under threat

Iceland or Greenland? Iceland, the UK supermarket, is to ban the artificial sweetener aspartame from its own brand products. The move is certain to disturb Monsanto, which has been selling the chemical through its subsidiary Nutrasweet for over 20 years

Americans, the biggest consumers of soft drinks in the world, drink 20 billion cans of diet fizzy drinks a year, most of which contain aspartame. But recently there has been growing disquiet, with fears that the compound could be linked to multiple sclerosis and brain tumours.

In an article posted on the internet, Betty Martini, the founder of the Atlantan direct action group Mission Possible, relays a paper she gave at a Multiple Sclerosis conference. She believes that the endemic incidence of multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus in the United States should actually be

attributed to "aspartame disease."

At high temperatures - above 86° Fahrenheit - the wood alcohol in aspartame converts to formaldehyde and then to formic acid, says Martini. "I f you are using aspartame and you suffer from fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, blurred vision or memory loss... you probably have Aspartame disease," she claims.

According to Martini, the compound is particularly deadly for diabetics, as it plays havoc with blood sugar levels. Others, like US diabetic specialist Dr. H. J. Roberts, believe the chemical also causes Alzheimer's and birth defects.

Nutrasweet dismisses such claims. "The web has become a real problem; there's a lot of misinformation about," says one spokeswoman. But now King's College, London are to conduct a threeyear trial to test links between aspartame

and brain tumours.

Iceland will be the first UK national supermarket chain to impose a ban. Recently, the supermarket has been trying to reposition itself as a 'green' grocer. It has banned monosodium glutamate, artificial additives and most preservatives from its own brand products, as well as guaranteeing meat stock that is free of hormones and hasn't been fed on meat or bonemeal.

For more information see Defence Against Alzheimer's Disease by Dr H. J. Roberts (ISBN 1-800-814-9800) or Dr. Russell Blaylocks Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills (Health Press, 1-800643-2665). To contact Betty Martini please write to: Mission Possible International, 9270 State Bridge Road Suite 215, Duluth, Georgia 30097, email Tel. +1 770 242 2599.


The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 8, December 1999 America: A Nation of Legal Drug Addicts When it came to drugs, "just say no" used to be a parents favourite slogan. But not any more, says psychiatrist Peter R. Breggin in The Boston Sunday Globe. Today America is raising a nation of legal drug addicts.

cent of the world's Ritalin - a 'remedy' for so-called Attention Deficit Disorder.

What type of children are drugged? Children who are sad, anxious, angry, aggressive or just plain disobedient... even shy, dreamy children are being drugged. In short, childhood itself has come to be seen as a disease.

"In my psychiatric practice, I see children six to ten years old who have been put on four or five psychiatric medications at once," says Dr. Breggin. This year, six million children across the USA - over one tenth of the schoolage population - will be prescribed anti-depressants and stimulants. "From Ritalin and Dexedrine to Prozac and Paxil, the drug epidemic among our children comes increasingly from our prescription counters," he declares.

The situation is now so out of control that the International Narcotics Control Board of the World Health Organisation has issued a warning against the massive over-prescription of stimulants to American children, a country that consumes 90 per

But in a country that is supposed to value differences, such wholesale drugging of children "reflects an extreme of enforced

conformity. The child is compelled to display a drug-induced, superficial social veneer."

By turning to pharmaceutical drugs as a quick-fix solution to their children's more disappointing characteristics, many believe that parents are bringing up a generation of people who have little sense of personal responsibility. Instead of learning how to improve themselves and the world they live in, children are being taught that they are somehow defective and should rely on drugs to make them 'right'.

Puerto Rican Islanders Say 'Basta' to US Army Activists are forming a 'human shield' to prevent the US Navy from bombing US-owned Vieques, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico

In 1941, the American military appropriated most of Vieques island for use as a bombing range. But now its inhabitants, enraged by the killing of a resident by a stray bomb, are saying 'Basta'. For the last five months, protestors have been camping out on the Federal land, obstructing any further bombardment.

Protestors say the island, which is 30 km wide and has a population of over 9,000, has already been massively dam­

aged by the Navy, and they won't budge until the firing stops.

The bombs have devastated the island's environment, whilst cancer and infant mortality rates are higher on Vieques than anywhere else in Puerto Rico. Tndependentistas', who want Puerto Rico to be free from US rule, are using the situation to sound their political horn.

The protest has found support with members of all Puerto Rico's main political parties, as well as the church: " I feel profound admiration and respect for such activism", says Roberto Gonzolez, Catholic archbishop of the San Juan diocese.

Washington is less ecstatic. Although

some US legislators support the action, others, like Republican senator James Inhofe, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have demanded that the protestors be removed. The US Navy, for their part, have issued the activists with a Federal Eviction Notice.

The situation hasn't escaped President Clinton, who appointed a commission to study the matter. Its verdict was that the navy should begin a five-year phase out plan, starting with an immediate 50 per cent reduction in the use of live ammunition in military drills. But the protestors say this is not enough. They want to see the back of the US Navy right away.

France's Anti-Nuclear lobby Celebrates Victory A delay in France's nuclear power programme has given hope to activists. By Stephanie Roth

Recent news that no decision regarding the future of France's Energy Pressurised Nuclear Reactor (EPR) will now be taken before 2003-2004, has been greeted with delight by organisations who have over the last two months co-ordinated a demonstration on November 28 against a continuation of France's nuclear programme.

In a press release, the NGO Reseau Sortir du Nucleaire declared that the decision was "undeniably a victory for the whole anti-nuclear camp, and a large majority of the people opposed to the development of any new nuclear plants." "The pressure put on the government over the course of the last months no doubt contributed to the backtracking of the nuclear lobby," it stated.

lobby to maintain the momentum built up over the last few months. "It is vital that we remain alert and not grow complacent," they declared. The groups which called for the demonstration, recognising the strong support shown in the first weeks of the protest's preparation, will meet again soon to decide on further action, including possibly a national demonstration in the spring of 2000.

The demonstration organisers have warned, however, against any premature celebrations, and urged the anti-nuclear

For more information, visit

The Ecologist, Vol. 29. No 8, December 1999