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Voice From the Back

Informing the people (allegedly)

[In New York City] a small trucking company known as Advertising in Motion has 15 vehicles with several big windows, each displaying a different advert every seven seconds. And now there is the night crawler. Technique Mirage, which to the cynical and busy New York is just one more piece of aggravation. It trundles around flashing adverts on the sides of buildings such as the Empire State or St Patrick's Cathedral. Financial Mail on Sunday, 8 February.

Progress

According to the New York Times last November, after the Chrysler Corporation spent more than half a billion dollars to convert a car factory in Newark, Delaware, to produce big Dodge Durango sport utility vehicles, it held a party in September to open the new assembly line. Delaware's political leaders stood with Chrysler's chairman on a podium decorated with red and white bunting and waved victoriously to hundreds of cheering auto workers whose jobs had been saved. When the Durango went on sale this fall, dealers could not keep enough in stock. And Chrysler, which barely breaks even on ordinary passenger cars, began to pocket $8,000 in profit for every Durango sold. There is just one problem: The Dodge Durango has a much worse environmental record than the Dodge Intrepid, the full-sized sedan that the factory used to build. The Durango gasoline consumption and output of carbon dioxide, a principal cause of global warming, are 57 percent higher than those of the Intrepid. And the Durango emissions of nitrogen oxides, the main cause of smog, are twice the level of the car it replaced.

That'll teach them!

New figures from researcher at the London School of Economics, calculated for the Commons Education Select Committee, estimate a student paying full fees and his or her own living costs with no parental support will leave university with a £15,000 debt which could take 27 years to repay. Mail on Sunday, 22 February.

A black Mickey

In his office at Team Disney headquarters, Reggie Whitehead, vice-president of Special Markets, admitted that the sales pitch to the Afro-American community had broadly failed. "We haven't made a good job of making Disney relevant," says Whitehead, ruefully pointing out that blacks, even more than whites, would benefit from the realise from urban reality that a Disney holiday offers. "When Mickey and Minnie attend job fairs at black colleges they wear traditional African costumes," Howard notes proudly. To ram home the "diversity" message, cast members are issued with a calendar that lists, for example, Black Poetry Day and First Female FBI Agents Day. There is a pecuniary as well as a moral motive to this. The real magic of Disney is its skilful conversion of dreams into dollars. In 1995 the company worldwide earned $13 billion. American blacks now generate $400 billion a year. "And that is bigger than the economy of Mexico," murmurs the lady co-ordinator of the BET project, which intends to rollercoast a healthy proportion of those greenbacks into Mickey's pockets. Guardian, 15 January.

Quote

My formula for success is rise early, work late, and strike oil. Paul Getty.

They were expendable

South Africa's high mine accident rate and the dangers of high dust levels in coal mines remained issues of great concern, Dick Bakker, the acting director-general of minerals and energy, said [Johannesburg Star, last November]. He told the parliamentary minerals and energy committee that between 1994 and last year [1996], transport-related accidents accounted for 49 percent of the 1484 fatalities in the mining industry while rockfalls and rockburts accounted for 47.7 percent. Environmental and health factors accounted for 3.2 percent.

Thou shalt pay

The number of households cut off from a gas supply because of debt has almost doubled in the two years since competition was introduced, according to the figures yesterday from the Gas Consumers Council. In 1995, BG cut off 14,511 customers, whereas in 1997 its successor, British Gas Trading, disconnected 29,767 consumers. Guardian, 12 February.

For the birds

Pigeons at the Sellafield nuclear plant are so contaminated that a thousand of them are being exterminated. Guardian, 12 March.

New Deal

"Any person refusing a New Deal option without good cause will first have their whole benefit suspended for 2 weeks followed by a 4 week period if they refuse again to take up the option after adjudication." TEN Briefing, July 1997, p2.