Johns Hopkins Magazine -- February 1998
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Waging war against landmines... global divisions... a looming disaster in China... making air travel safer... the long-term impact of welfare reform... baby boom

Landmine opponent wins Nobel
International peace initiatives tend not to have opulent headquarters, but they usually have fancier digs than a rural house in Putney, Vermont. Nevertheless, Jody Williams's house in Putney recently became, for a time, the most newsworthy place in Vermont when Williams and her International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

Williams (SAIS '84) founded the organization six years ago and has coordinated its efforts from her house ever since. The circumstances may be modest, but the campaign is not. Williams and her fellow activists have organized more than 1,000 groups in 60 countries to ban one of the world's most ubiquitous and vicious weapons.

Williams (who at press time was traveling and could not be reached for an interview) estimates that there are more than 100 million anti-personnel mines scattered around the world, principally in Third World battle zones like Cambodia and Afghanistan. When the conflicts end, the mines remain, killing and maiming civilians for years. Advocates for eradication estimate that someone is killed by a mine every 22 minutes, and that one of every five victims is under the age of 15.

Williams, 47, became aware of the toll when she was associate director of Medical Aid for El Salvador, a charity that helped victims of that country's civil war. Her primary job was raising funds for and delivering prosthetics to children who had lost limbs to mines. The experience so moved her, she decided to campaign for a worldwide ban.

One of her principal collaborators has been Stephen Goose (SAIS '78), program director of the Human Rights Watch Arms Project and a member of the ICBL's steering committee. He's succinct about why Williams has succeeded: "Drive. Determination. Diligence. Political savvy."

The ICBL recently enjoyed its biggest victory when 122 nations signed an international treaty banning landmines. Notable absences from the signatories were the United States, Russia, and China. Says Goose, "Those are three countries where the leaders are not convinced that the humanitarian costs outweigh the military utility. Three countries with very large stockpiles. They have not yet seen the light."

The official U.S. position has been that it supports efforts to remove mines from areas of former conflict, but must continue to use the weapon in places like South Korea, where it has planted mines as a defense against possible incursions by North Korea.

"You should take a look at who has signed this treaty," Goose says. "We've got the majority of the big producers and exporters of the past 25 years, who were in large part responsible for producing the disaster that's out there. More important, the treaty has most of the key users of the weapon. If you want to have a humanitarian impact, you want to get the users to pledge no more use, and to sign a document pledging to destroy their stockpiles within four years. So we've got Cambodia, Angola, Mozambique, Sudan, Bosnia, Croatia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, all the Central American nations--that's the real impact." -- DK

Illustration by Kevin O'Malley
Think globally...
If we could shrink Earth's population to 100 people, there would be:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 North and South Americans
8 Africans

To put it another way, there would be 70 non-whites and 30 whites, or 70 non-Christians and 30 Christians. That's according to a report given in November by Gerald V. Poje, director of international programs at the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, during a conference titled "Equity, Human Health, and the World's Resources: Food Security and Social Justice." The conference was sponsored by the
School of Public Health's new Center for a Livable Future.

Seventy people out of the 100-person world village would be unable to read. Fifty would be suffering from malnutrition. Eighty would live in substandard housing. Only one would have a college education, Poje went on to tell the largely white, North American audience.

The people who make decisions affecting the public health of the world's population must understand who is in that population, he said. "We are not the world as a whole. We're not representational." --MH

Illustration by Kevin O'Malley
Making air travel safer
Air bags and shoulder restraints could reduce deaths from head injuries suffered in airplane crashes, according to Hopkins medical researchers.

A new study, published in September's The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, examined the injuries sustained by the 2,554 people who died in American airline crashes in 1980 and in 1990. Head injuries were the immediate cause of death for 22 percent of those victims and the leading cause of death for children.

"The currently used lap belt is insufficient in protecting passengers from decelerative injuries," says Guohua Li, associate professor of emergency medicine. "To prevent serious head injuries, more effective restraint systems, as well as crash-worthy seats, airframes, and superstructures, must be considered."

Containing China
When David Calleo looks to China, he sees a looming disaster. "China has demonstrated through its military operations off the Taiwanese coast that it poses a serious threat to peace and stability in Asia," said Calleo recently, in a talk given as part of the European Lecture Series at Hopkins's
Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

Calleo said that given China's large population, aggressive government, and geographic location, the U.S. needs a strong and able partner in Russia to contain the Chinese from acts of military aggressions against Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, or even the U.S. Though China has had nuclear capability for many years, it has lacked the proper delivery systems to pose a threat to the U.S. mainland, said Calleo, Dean Acheson Professor and director of European Studies at SAIS. But that is changing. China's rapidly growing economy enables its government to spend more money on arms, and it is now only a matter of time, Calleo said, before the Chinese will have intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching American cities.

Calleo underscored the importance of the U.S. remaining on friendly terms with Russia, noting its nuclear prowess and proximity to China. "European policy that unnecessarily antagonizes Russia jeopardizes peace in Asia," he said. In particular, he criticized the Clinton administration's recent support of NATO expansion--an expansion that offends the Russians, who remain adamantly opposed to NATO enlargement in Eastern Europe. --ST

In the aftermath of welfare reform
What will be the long-term effect of the welfare-reform bill that Congress signed into law in August 1996? That's the question two Hopkins scholars will be exploring over the next five years.

Andrew Cherlin, professor of sociology, and Robert Moffitt, professor of economics, are part of a team that will be surveying how low-income women in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio cope with the impact of going off welfare and into the workforce. Beginning this summer, researchers will interview 1,000 women in each of those cities once a year until 2002.

Says Moffitt: "These women have to adopt, basically, one of three coping strategies.They can attempt to become self-sufficient through their own earnings. A second strategy is to combine work with some kind of assistance from friends and relatives, particularly their mothers, since some of these women are quite young. A third is to look for some other government transfer program, like food stamps or a medical program. It's quite possible that women who are cut off from one source of welfare may hunt around and look for support from other programs that have not been cut back so severely."

The investigators will also study what role health problems play in these families ("There's quite a bit of debate as to how many women have problems so severe it significantly hinders their abilities to work," notes Moffitt) and how women arrange for child care. "Everyone suspects that low-income families will end up using quite a bit of informal care, usually a friend or relative or a woman in the neighborhood to take care of children," says Moffitt. "We want to gauge what kind of care that is and whether it's beneficial for the children.

One advantage of a five-year project is that it will allow Cherlin, Moffitt, and the rest of the team to observe the effects of changes in the economy. Says Moffitt, "Right now, the economy's in great shape. The unemployment rate is extremely low. Initial findings from other analysts indicate that quite a few women have already gone off welfare and found jobs, because employers are begging for workers. But if the economy turns down in the next two or three years, that may be quite different. We want to be out there interviewing women if that happens."

Accompanying the formal survey will be an ethnographic study of 50 families in each city. Ethnographers will virtually live with selected families to gather significantly more data about how those families are doing. "That can give you a much better picture than going in once a year and asking them some questions," says Moffitt. "It will complement the survey."

Several foundations are funding the study, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the Annie E. Casey Foundation; and the Kellogg Foundation, headed by former Hopkins president William Richardson. Beside Cherlin and Moffitt, the other principal investigators include William Julius Wilson of Harvard University, Lindsay Chase-Lansdale from the University of Chicago, Pennsylvania State University's Linda Burton, and Ronald Angel from the University of Texas. --DK

Booming babies
Good news for expectant parents in the United States: infant mortality rates are at an all-time low. Researchers from the School of Public Health report in December's Pediatrics that the infant mortality rate for 1996 nationwide was 7.2 per 1,000 live births--5 percent lower than in 1995. Lead author Bernard Guyer, Hopkins professor of
maternal and child health, credits new techniques for managing respiratory distress syndrome and sudden infant death syndrome for much of the decline.

Written by Melissa Hendricks, Dale Keiger, and Shar Tavakoli '98.