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A Hungry Child Died Every Two Seconds in 1981

SYNOPSIS: While world leaders debate the nuclear arms race and others warn of untold casualties from a nuclear holocaust, an estimated 50 million people quietly starve to death each year. In addition, according to a United Nation's (UN) report released in 1980, more than a half billion people-one out of every nine human beings-are severely malnourished.

In 1981, the price of a child's life was $100 but much of the world found it too high a price to pay. Thus, every two seconds of 1981, a child paid that price with its life. According to figures projected at this time, 17 million of the children born in 1982 would also die before their fifth birthday.

"This [1981] has been, therefore, another year of 'silent emergency'; of 40,000 children quietly dying each day; of 100 million children quietly becoming disabled in mind or body; of 200 million six- to eleven-year-olds quietly watching other children go to school; of one-fifth of the world's people quietly struggling for life itself," the UN report said.


UPDATE: In the 22 years since the first World Food Conference was held in 1974 to deal with imminent famine, the number of undernourished people in the world declined despite an overall growth in population of 1.5 billion. Science came to the rescue with the "green revolution" in agriculture-the use of hybrid varieties of grains in combination with massive doses of chemical fertilizers and pesticides-to greatly increase crop yields.

Faced with 2.5 billion more mouths to feed in the first quarter of the next century, delegates to the second World Food Summit that concluded in Rome on November 17, 1996, once again appealed to science-this time in biotechnology and food-preservation techniques-to save the planet. The problem of hunger is still urgent. An estimated 800 million people are said to be undernourished and some 200 million children go to bed hungry every day (Los Angeles Times, 11/18/96).

The Rome summit pledged to cut the number of hungry people from more than 800 million to 400 million by 2010, to enhance the role of women in traditional societies, and to lower the rate of population growth (Sacramento Bee, 12/1/96).



Training Terrorists in Florida

SYNOPSIS: While the Reagan Administration publicly opposes international terrorism, terrorists are being trained in the United States with its knowledge, if not assistance.

Guerrilla training camps are openly operating in Florida with the knowledge of the federal government and in apparent violation of federal law. While an investigation by the Pacifica National News Service found no proof of active U.S. involvement in the camps, the Justice Department, by passive acceptance, condones their existence.

Camp Libertad, located only five miles outside Miami, is one of the camps where exiled Cubans and Nicaraguans prepare for attacks on their homelands. The 600-acre camp is surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by men with AR-15s, the basic combat weapon of the American Army. The camp's paramilitary activities, once limited to small groups who trained in the Everglades, has expanded into a large, well-organized structure of camps. Americans, mostly ex-Green Berets, participate in the training.

The activities appear to violate a number of federal laws that prohibit any organized attempt by private citizens to overthrow or undermine another government. One of these laws, the U.S. Neutrality Act, states, in part, that it is unlawful to "provide or prepare a means for, or furnish the money for or take part in, any military or naval expedition or enterprise" against any government with which the United States is at peace.


UPDATE: Terrorist or guerrilla training has changed in at least two ways since the 1981 story. While Camp Libertad once trained Cubans and Nicaraguans for attacks on their homelands, unofficial militia camps now train U.S. citizens for attacks on their own government. The existence of the militia camps, such as the 80-acre Michigan Militia camp at Wolverine, Michigan, started to receive media attention in the aftermath of the tragic Oklahoma City bombing (The Boston Herald, 4/24/95).

There also is the official U.S. terrorist training of Latin American officers at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. Critics charge that the foreign officers receive training in executions and torture. On September 20, 1996, the Pentagon released training manuals that contained references to executing guerrillas, beatings, drunkenness, and coercion as methods of obtaining information (Associated Press, 9/21/96). Alumni of the school have been implicated in the murders of priests, nuns, and others in Latin America, including the 1989 murders of six Jesuits and two women in El Salvador. The School of Americas Watch, an activist group opposed to training terrorists, holds protests at the school and advocates closing it down (Newsday, 8/15/96).



Cultured Killers -- Biological Weapons and Third World Targets

SYNOPSIS: Following World War II, biological warfare (BW) was advanced through funding by the CIA, the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Navy with hundreds of BW projects at corporations and universities throughout the country.

The research was banned in 1969 due to public pressure. Existing BW stocks were to be destroyed and further research confined to "defensive purposes." Yet, in 1975, it was learned that a CIA project still maintained BW stocks at Fort Detrick, Maryland, with covert connections to "specific assassination plans."

Race-specific weapons such as cocci (Valley Fever) and tuberculosis have been researched only by the DOD as biological warfare agents. Third World countries are considered to be particularly vulnerable targets for a BW attack due to dispersed rural populations with poor health and nutritional status and barely sufficient agriculture for sustenance.

There is a lack of distinction between offensive research, which is banned, and defensive research, which is still permitted. The DOD says it is funding cocci research to develop a vaccine.


UPDATE: Despite the international agreement which banned development of germ-warfare agents, the Pentagon's research budget for infectious diseases and toxins has increased tenfold since fiscal 1981. Further, most of the 1986 budget of $42 million went to 24 U.S. university campuses where the world's most deadly organisms are being cultured in campus labs. Similarly, the U.S. Army has resumed biological agent testing at its Dugway, Utah, test site which had been declared unsafe a decade earlier.

By the mid-1990s, a new acronym, NBC, was being used to describe nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare. The use of biological weapons, at one time unimaginable, had become a reality. On March 20, 1995, a Japanese doomsday cult, Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth), unleashed a nerve gas attack in Tokyo's subway that killed 12 and sickened more than 5,500 commuters (The Independent, 7/17/96). In mid-June 1996, the U.S. Defense Department admitted that American troops in the 1991 Gulf War may have been exposed to Sarin, the same nerve agent used in Tokyo (News day, 6/29/96).

In late August 1996, the U.S. Army's long-delayed, $12 billion program to destroy the nation's chemical weapons through incineration was started in a new $650 million Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility southwest of Salt Lake City. Shortly after it started, it was shut down. A small amount of Sarin nerve gas was found in the end-of-the-line filters that clean factory air before releasing it into the desert skies. After being closed five days, the plant started up again and plant officials assured its 600 workers and the public the gas leak had posed no health risk (The New York Times, 911196). Nonetheless, low levels of Sarin were again detected at the plant in late January 1997. Once again, officials assured critics none of the Sarin was released outside (USA Today, 1/27/97).

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