Around the World
Italy – Fearing that their increased incidents of leukemia were caused by exposure"to "electrosmog" (powerful radio waves), residents of a Rome neighborhood appealed to Italy’s Environment Minister Willer Bordon to clamp down on the offender – the Vatican, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. Bordon’s investigation confirmed that Vatican Radio’s transmissions were three times higher than levels presumed safe under Italian law. Bordon promptly ordered the transmissions halted. The Vatican (which exists as a sovereign political entity inside Rome) declared Bordon’s request "unacceptable." Sovereign or not, Vatican City draws its power from Italy’s state electric grid. When Bordon threatened to pull the plug on the Holy See, church officials capitulated. The day after the pope’s Easter Day message, the Vatican agreed to cut its 1530 kHz band transmissions from 14 hours to seven hours a day.
A Taste of What’s to Come?
Moldova – In March, the World Health Organization reported that desperately poor Moldavians were selling kidneys and other body parts for cash. The buyers (know" as"recruiters") harvest the organs for clients in Israel, Turkey and Western Europe. Extreme weather swings – from drought to freezing temperatures – have destroyed crops and triggered power blackouts. Could things get worse for the 4.5 million inhabitants of Europe’s poorest country? In April, two women were arrested for selling "outlawed meat" in the streets of the capital, Chisinau. The meat turned out to be human flesh. The women told police they obtained the meat from the state cancer clinic. The London Independent reports that police decided not to announce the arrests because "they did not want to create public revulsion and panic."
WTO Does Something Good!
Switzerland – In mid-March, the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a stunning ruling upholding France’s right to ban imports of highly toxic and cancer-causing white asbestos from Canada. France, which was defended by lawyers representing the 15-member European Union, argued that WTO rules permit trade bans when products pose threats to human, animal or plant health. Canada contended that the ban violated a 1994 agreement that allowed WTO members to ignore any health and safety issues that were used as a "pretext" to exclude imports. "This ruling shows thatS legitimate health issues can be put above pure trade concerns," said EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy. This marks the first time that the WTO has issued a ruling that placed health concerns over free-trade goals. The EU hopes to eliminate the use of asbestos by 2005.
McC Says No to McD
UK – Sir Paul McCartney cancelled a guest appearance on the Chris Evans’ Virgin Break-fast Show when he discovered that the DJ is a Big Mac addict. Evan’s not only advertises for McDonald’s, he makes a point of munching cheeseburgers and Chicken McNuggets on air. McCartney is a staunch vegetarian.
The North Sea "Powerhouse"
Germany – Harvest-ing the force of the North Sea winds could generate three times the electricity currently consumed by Ger-many, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and the UK. This estimate comes from the German Wind Energy Institute (GWEI), which calls the North Sea winds a "European powerhouse." Greenpeace Analyst Karl Mallon says the GWEI report demonstrates that "the same storms crippling Western Europe can be harnessed for good to power the region with clean energy... If one percent a year of the offshore resources of these five North Sea countries were used to displace coal through 2012 [it]... could be saving 186 million tons a year in CO2 emissions – equal to 10.3 percent of their current CO2 rates." Tapping just one percent of this potential, Greenpeace estimates, could power 6.5 million homes, create 160,000 new jobs and shut down five coal-burning powerplants every year.
Globalization and Bribery
UK – Western multinationals pay an estimated $80 billion a year in bribes to corrupt foreign governments – enough money to eradicate poverty worldwide. A study by The Corner House, a British environmental think tank, found that a bribery boom is sweeping the planet due to the "rapid privatization... of public enterprises." A 1999 US Commerce Department report concluded that bribery played a role in the awarding of 294 contracts worth $145 billion over a five-year period. The World Bank claims its policies reduce corruption, but The Corner House report reveals that the accounting firm the bank hired to investigate corruption was caught in its own bribery scandal – paying a "substantial commission" to win a government contract in Pakistan. According to the report, "an estimated 80 percent of the loans made by commercial banks during the 1980s never reached their destined countries, remaining instead in Northern bank accounts." [The Corner House, PO Box 3137 Station Road, Sturminster Newton, Dorset DT10 1YJ, UK]
Working Towards a Solution
Switzerland – According to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) World Employment Report 2000, "one-third of the population of all the developing countries [is] living on less than $1 a day" and the US has the highest child poverty rate of any industrialized nation – 22.7 percent. A third of the world’s workers are unemployed or underemployed and the problem is growing worse as globalization increases the gap between rich and poor. In the US, the richest 10 percent of the population control more than 26 percent of the country’s wealth. In England, the richest 10 percent controls 35 percent of the wealth. The ILO calls for an end to "the insecurity unleashed by liberalization and globalizationS. Social protection is not only morally indispensable, but also economically viable." [ILO, 4, route des Morillons, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland, http://www.ilo.org].
UN Team Calls WTO a "Nightmare"
Switzerland – A report prepared for the UN Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights concludes that the World Trade Organization’s rules are so "grossly unfair and even prejudiced" that the WTO has become "a veritable nightmare" for developing countries. The report found that the WTO’s rules "reflect an agenda that serves only to promote dominant corporatist interests." El-Hadji Guissse of Senegal claimed the WTO was conducting a "second colonization process in which the only interest was profit." The commission called for the WTO’s operations to be monitored and regulated by the UN.
Scotland – In an act of counter-globalization, wage-slaves at McDonald’s fast-food restaurants have formed a global fraternity called McDonald’s Workers Resistance (MWR) to protest "late nights, skin irritations, no overtime, harassment, low wages, stupid uniforms, unlawful business practices, imbecilic propaganda, cuts and burns." MWR [PO Box 3828, Glasgow, Scotland, G41 1YU] publishes McSues, a vulgar parody of McNews, the official McDonald’s company magazine.
"The company makes $3 billion profit a year and we’re on the minimum wage," a McSues correspondent writes. "Add to that, the unsociable hours [and] the company’s bollocks propaganda and it’s no wonder we’re a bunch of degenerate alcoholics... McDonald’s has become a symbol for... American world domination. We have the potential to become an inspiration, not just to all McDonald’s workers, but to low-paid workers the world over."
Bottled Water? Feh!
Switzerland – Bottled water’s claims to purity are bogus, says a study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Selling bottled H20 for 1,000 times the price of tap water has given birth to a $22 billion-a-year industry, but the WWF’s tests show that bottled water – if it isn’t the same as tap water – can be less healthy than the stuff that flows from your faucet. While there are strict laws that govern municipal water quality, private water bottlers are unregulated. Each year, 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to manufacture single-use water bottles. A quarter of all bottled water is imported from other countries: the added transportation fuels the release of greenhouse gases. Even when tap water is of poor quality, it is cheaper to filter or boil it than to buy bottled water. "Clean water is a basic right," says WWF’s Richard Holland. And the best way to deliver clean water is by "protecting our rivers, streams and wetlands."
What Next? Nicotine Coco-Puffs?
UK – London-based British American Tobacco and the US Brown & Williamson tobacco company have created a "refreshing and satisfying" mint that contains as much nicotine as a cigarette. The watchdog group Action on Smoking and Health, accuses the tobacco giants of "encouraging children and young people to use a product containing nicotine." The companies have promised to wrap each 20-pack box of Ariva "cigaletts" in "child resistant" packaging. "Since each Ariva pellet is about 60 percent tobacco," University of Florida Associate Professor of Dentistry Scott Tomar observes, "I would say it’s probably going to pose a significant health risk."
Did I Say "Terrorist"?
Finland – Despite 20 years of protests by anti-nuclear activists, Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen is defending his decision to build a nuclear power plant in his country, the first such proposal in Europe in nearly 20 years. TVO, the company that would build the reactor, raised the familiar (and faulty) argument that nuclear power would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. When the Worldwatch Institute and Norway’s Bellona Foundation suggested a boycott of Finnish goods if the powerplant were built, Lipponen accused the groups of being "terrorists." He later apologized, saying he’d looked up the wrong word in his Finnish-English dictionary. He’d really meant to accuse the organizations of being "activists." Finland already has four nuclear power plants. Finland’s Environment Minister, Satu Hassi (a member of the Green Party) is opposed to the new plant.
Big Dam Could Break Lynx
Portugal – The Alqueva project – which includes 10 dams, 3,000 miles of irrigation canals and dozens of new roads, bridges and pumping stations – will require the clearcutting of more than one million trees. The dam, which is being funded by EU taxpayers, will destroy one of Europe’s richest wildlife habitats and help push the Iberian Lynx (the world’s most endangered big cat) to extinction. The Vale do Guadiana region of Portugal is home to some of the world’s rarest wildlife, including endangered eagles, wildcats, genets, Egyptian mongoose and many endemic fish and plant species.
The stated purpose of the dam is for agricultural irrigation, but critics believe that the real purpose involves the building of new tourist complexes (and 48 golf courses) on the 460 islands to be created within the reservoir.
Hundreds of people will be displaced and unique archaeological finds dating back to the Neolithic era will be flooded. Construction of a 160-square-mile reservoir will destroy the old-growth oak nesting trees and hunting grounds of Portugal’s only pair of golden eagles. Ten percent of the country’s rare black storks will be made homeless.
The Portuguese Nature Protection League says that filling the dam to 139 meters, instead of the projected 152 meters, would save half the trees and wildlife habitat. So far, efforts by Portuguese environmental groups have been ignored. Contact Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres [email@example.com] and ask him to save the valley and the lynx.
Europe to Ban Animal Tests
Belgium – On April 2, the 626-member European Parliament voted to ban sales of cosmetic products tested on animals. If approved by the 15 European Union member nations, the law would eventually ban all new cosmetics using animal-tested ingredients. German socialist member Dagmar Roth-Behrendt authored the bill. (The 8,000 animal-tested cosmetic ingredients already on the market would not be affected.) The $39 billion European cosmetic industry opposes the ban.
Euro-Greens Bash Bush
UK – George Bush’s rejection of US responsibility for polluting the world’s atmosphere prompted Green Party members of the European Parliament to call for a Europe-wide boycott of the Big Three US oil companies – Texaco, Chevron and ExxonMobil. Other European groups like Families Against Bush (FAB) are boycotting US goods and services to "hit that part of corporate America which put Bush in power and thinks it can get away with polluting while the rest of the world pays the price." As FAB points out, "a boycott of sugar from American plantations helped stop the slave trade." Greenpeace International has joined the boycott campaign, challenging the top 100 US firms to condemn Bush’s pro-pollution policies or "face the consequences from concerned consumers, institutions and organizations from around the world."
Biofuels for the Biosphere
The Hague – The Ecologic Foundation has called for the world’s transport systems to shift from petroleum-based fuels to biofuels. According to Ecologic Executive Director Guy Salmon, displacing oil on the scale envisaged in global low-emissions scenarios would require the creation of about 15,000 community-scale forest plantations, each about 12 km in diameter. "If biofuels were to be available in quantity by 2020, a global planting program needs to begin urgently. Most of the planting would need to take place in developing countries, and be financed by rich countries."
China – Volunteer members of Qinghai province’s Wild Yak Brigade gained worldwide fame for risking their lives to protect Tibetan antelopes from poachers. Hunters have been killing 25,000 animals a year for their fur, which is used to make finer-than-silk shahtoosh shawls. Last year, the eight-year-old brigade was disbanded and members were given jobs in the Kekexili District Protection Administration. The move was a mistake. Eight former brigade members have been arrested for selling 94 antelope pelts. Initial outrage was tempered by the disclosure that the men had not been paid their promised salaries. Their wives said their husbands had not been paid wages for two years and "we didn’t have enough to eat or money to buy vegetables." The men never killed any antelopes, their wives explained, they merely sold some pelts they had seized from poachers.
Japan – New York-based Innovest Strategic Value Advisors studied 16 steel companies in the US, Canada, Europe, Japan and South Korea, using 60 environmental filters. Topping the list with a perfect AAA rating was Japan’s NKK Corporation [1-chi, C1-2 Marunouhiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8202], which invested $3 billion over the past 30 years in technologies that cut energy use by 20 percent, sulfur dioxide by 20 percent, nitrogen oxides by 40 percent and dust by 80 percent.
Serious about Recycling
Japan – Garage sales may suffer but Japan’s landfills will benefit from a new law that requires manufacturers of TVs, washing machines, air conditioners and refrigerators to reclaim their products for recycling. Japanese shoppers, who cast off some 20 million used appliances every year, will pay an extra $20 to $40 to cover recycling costs.
Bombay’s Beef with McDonald’s
India – Shortly after a US lawyer filed suit against McDonald’s for flavoring its fries with beef fat, Big Mac attacks erupted across India, the country with the world’s largest population of vegetarians. On May 4, Hindu fundamentalists rampaged through a McDonald’s, busting chairs, tables and ceiling lights, while in Bombay members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party pelted a statue of Ronald McDonald with patties of cow dung. McDonald’s officials insisted "We only use 100 percent vegetable oil in India," but Indians remained skeptical. McDonald’s made the same promise in the US in 1990 and lied for 11 years, recalled protestor Jai Bhagwan Goyal. "We can’t take them at their word."
Hide and Seek
India – Cows are sacred in India but leather remains a major export, particularly for the manufacture of shoes. A campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) drew attention to the cruel treatment of cattle consigned to the leather trade. Liz Claiborne and The Gap ceased operations with India in 2000 and the Florsheim Group canceled its contracts with Indian leather suppliers in March. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and the Council for Leather Exports failed to meet its promise to ensure enforcement of animal protection laws by May. PETA plans renewed protests.
Diesel’s Days Are Done
The Philippines – In September, work begins on the world’s largest solar project, a $48 million effort to bring electricity to 400,000 residents of rural Mindanao. In addition to installing solar panels to power 15,000 homes in 150 villages, the project will bring clean power to 68 schools and community centers, 35 health clinics, 44 agrarian reform communities and 97 clean water distribution systems. The project, a joint effort of the Philippines, Spain and British Petroleum (BP), will replace noisy, air-polluting diesel generators with clean, efficient, low-maintenance solar panels.
Cheats and Chong
Borneo – On May 12, Malaysian High Court Judge Datuk Ian Chin Hon Chong ordered the powerful state-backed Borneo Paper and Pulp Company (BPPC) to stop logging inside a 672-hectare area of Sarawak rainforest claimed by an indigenous Dayak community. The decision to recognize "customary" land rights based on the communal use of land, forests and rivers rocked the government. Hundreds of native Dayak villagers had filled the courtroom to hear the verdict. Many elders openly wept with happiness. Earth Island’s Borneo Project played a major role in the outcome by providing mapping tools and training that allowed the Iban village of Rumah Nor to establish a well-defined claim to the land.
Enron Overpowers Maharashtra
India – Houston-based multinational Enron is locked in a battle with Maharashtra officials over the fate of its $2 billion Phase-II Dabhol powerplant on the coast 100 miles south of Bombay. Maharashtra officials complain that they do not need – and cannot afford – the power from Enron’s 2,184 MW gas-fired plant (the largest in the world). But Enron has a 20-year contract that commits state and central governments to pay for the costly, unneeded electricity if the state’s electricity board goes bankrupt. If the government can’t pay, Enron has the option of seizing public buildings.
"Once the agreements are signed," wrote novelist Arundhati Roy, the multinational powermongers "are free to produce power at exorbitant rates that no one can afford." The payments to Enron would exceed the state’s entire budget for primary and secondary education. "Free us from Enron" has become a rallying cry in Maharashtra. In desperation, Maharastra has stopped paying Enron’s bills.
The New York Times called the standoff "one of the fiercest battlegrounds in the debate about who wins and who loses from globalization." India can’t expect any help from Washington: One of George W. Bush’s closest friends and biggest backers is Enron Chairman Ken L. Lay.
A Worldwide Political Party
Australia – The Global Greens conference, which convened in Canberra in April, dramatically demonstrated that a historic movement has been born – a political party that spans political boundaries. Reuters reported that the delegates "arrived on foot, by bike or by compressed natural gas-powered buses..., declaring they were no longer lobbyists but mainstream political players." The three-day summit attracted more than 700 delegates from 60 countries. Green parties are active in 80 countries and serve in coalition governments in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Finland, Slovenia and Mexico. Green politicians hold 29 seats in various national parliaments. The summit called for the creation of a World Environment Organization backed by an international court to counter the growing power of the World Trade Organization. The conference also called for a global citizens’ boycott of ExxonMobil and France’s TotalFinaElf oil companies. [For more information on the conference: Global Greens, Box 1108, Canberra City, ACT, 2601, Australia, http://www.global.greens.org.au]
Anti-Loggers Log a Victory
Aotearoa – On June 1, the New Zealand government bowed to decades of nonviolent protests and decreed that all 130,000 hectares of native lowland forest owned by Timberlands West Coast would be transferred to the Department of Conservation, creating two new conservation parks and extending several national parks. "This is a great day for the forests [and] an important defeat of the myth of ’sustainable management’," declared Native Forest Action’s Peter Russell. [http://www.forests.org]
Cheney’s Link to Mexico’s Oil
Mexico -Dick Cheney once claimed that it was a "damned shame" the Good Lord didn’t put the Earth’s best oil reserves in democratic countries. About the time Cheney became CEO of Halliburton (the world’s largest oil services company), Mexico’s autocratic ruling party, the PRI, began planning an ambitious $19 billion public works project – drilling for offshore oil in the Gulf of Mexico’s Cantarell region.
In 1998, the US Export-Import Bank loaned $536 million to Petróleos de Mexico (Pemex). Pemex used the money to hire a construction consortium headed by Halliburton. Financing the Cantarell Project is among the Ex-Im’s biggest undertakings.
For the first time since Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas nationalized US and British oil operations in 1938, Mexico’s oil reserves are again falling under the control of foreign companies like Halliburton, Fluor Daniel and Bechtel. Soon after Vincente Fox won Mexico’s presidency, Hoover Institute scholar Robert J. Barro penned an essay in the international edition of Business Week urging Fox to privatize Pemex. The Hoover Institute plays a prominent advisory role in the Bush administration.
—Martin Espinosa/Corporate Watch [http://www.corpwatch.org]
Pipeline Project Looms
Ecuador – The world’s leading bird conservation alliance, BirdLife International, has criticized the Ecuadorian government’s plan to allow a multinational consortium to build the $594 million Mindo Pipeline, which would carry crude oil through the habitat of the endangered Black-breasted Puffleg hummingbird. Fewer than 250 of the birds are believed to exist. The consortium includes the Alberta Energy Corporation (Canada), Occidental Petroleum (USA), Kerr-McGee (USA), Agip (Italy/Ecuador) and Repsol-YPS (Spain/Argentina).
Michael Rands, Director and Chief Executive of BirdLife International [http://www.birdlife.net], warns that the Mindo Pipeline and accompanying roads "will destroy much of the remaining vegetation and will probably lead to the extinction of the species at that site."
The Pufflegs’ last breeding sites are found on the Volcán Pichincha, an area largely deforested for cattle grazing and charcoal production. The Environmental Impact Assessment for the project was withheld. A second construction route, located in southern Ecuador and following the existing Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline, would have been cheaper to build and less damaging to the environment – and would have carried more oil.
Let Them Eat Scrambled DNA
Bolivia – Farmers and environmentalists were livid when the Bolivian Environment and Development Forum revealed that shipments of US food aid contained significant amounts of genetically engineered soy, wheat and cornmeal. The import of genetically altered food is banned under Bolivian law. According to La Prensa, US embassy officials replied that they were "not aware of the regulation." US Ambassador Manuel Rocha’s response was even less diplomatic. Rocha informed critics that, if they didn’t like genetically engineered food, they should think twice about ever visiting the US because "that is what we offer to visitors." The contaminated food was shipped in April and distributed by Project Concern, CARE, Food for the Hungry and ADRA.
Honduras Up for Grabs
Honduras – A year-long investigation by the Asociación de Organismos No Gubernamentales found that the Honduran Mining Department has issued 14,000 square miles (36,000 square kilometers) of mining concessions – nearly 30 percent of Honduras’ territory – to multi-nationals from Canada, Australia and the US.
The December 1998 "General Mining Law" (passed while Hondurans were distracted by dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch) grants companies lifelong concessions, low taxes, unlimited access to water, and the right to expropriate campesino and indigenous lands. The law, which also grants nearly unlimited power to petition for the removal of traditional communities located near mineral deposits, was written by a mining association dominated by US and Canadian companies.
Southern and eastern rainforests are being affected by open-pit, cyanide-leaching gold mines and the eastern rainforest is threatened by river dredging.
In December 2000, the International Monetary Fund pressured Honduras to eliminate the export tax on mining products. With land-use fees as low as $1,500 a year for a large mine, Honduras offers an ideal investment environment for foreign companies.
Greenstone Resources Limited was one of the first US mining companies to take advantage of this favorable business climate. "Our community has existed on this land for nearly 200 years," said Miguel Miranda, President of the Azacualpa Community Council. "When Greenstone came, they offered us employment and promised to leave our road, the cemetery and surrounding lands intact. But we were fooled. The company’s explosions shake our homes and their open pit is swallowing our homes, causing landslides and cracks in our walls and foundations. Their heavy equipment put our children’s lives at risk. When we complain, the Mining Department says that we have to understand that this is for the good of the country."
A Park Is Born
Peru – In May, the government of Peru rejected the political pressure tactics of the local logging lobby and transformed a 5,225-square-mile stretch of rainforest into a national park. An international team of scientists has identified 28 previously unknown plants and animals in the park a vast wilderness larger than the state of Connecticut. [http://www.planetark.org]
Water Shortage? Melt a Glacier
Pakistan – Three years of drought have emptied rivers and lakes across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Per capita water supplies in India, the world’s most densely populated country, are expected to drop by as much as 75 percent. With most of Pakistan’s 142 million citizens lacking adequate water for drinking and farming, the government has proposed spraying charcoal dust over the ice-covered peaks of the Himalayas to force the glaciers to melt. Sounds like a case of biting off your snows to fight scorched space.
British Petroleum Nips Watchdogs
Arctic Ocean – Despite its trendy pro-solar press releases and its new "green" sunflower logo, British Petroleum (BP) is hard at work on the Northstar project, the first oil-drilling platform in the Arctic Ocean. The massive BP Amoco project has turned an undersea shoal into a five-acre drilling platform. Greenpeace International decided to place its own watchdogs near the site. When activists at Ice Camp Sirius (powered by two solar panels and six wind turbines) began posting construction photos on the Internet, BP didn’t take kindly to the attention. On March 10, BP security guards arrested three Greenpeacers at a wind-powered observation post near BP Amoco’s "no-trespass zone." Join the monitoring effort by checking out the Greenpeace website. [http://www.greenpeace.org]
Can’t Keep Coasting
US – "Unless things change very quickly, the world’s coastal areas face a grim future," warns Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute [WRI, 10 G Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002, (202) 729 7736, http://www.wri.org]. According to a WRI report released on April 17, "Many important coastal habitats like lagoons, wetlands, mangroves, and coral reefs are disappearing."
Beating Bombs into Wind Shears
US – It’s no longer news when a new windpower facility opens somewhere on the planet, but a 120-turbine windfarm set to go online by the end of the year has a claim to distinction. The 664-acre facility is located inside the Nevada Test Site. Until the signing of the Limited Test Treaty in 1963, the NTS served as the proving grounds for the Pentagon’s atomic bombs. More than 1,100 aboveground nuclear blasts have cratered the NTS, a swatch of desert area larger than Rhode Island. Eventually, nearly half of the former atom bomb range will be covered with 325 wind turbines generating 260 MW.
Don’t Barr Killers, Call Armitage
US – A month before Israel announced that "liquidating" Palestinian activists had become official state policy, US Congressmember Bob Barr (R-GA) was paving the way toward "legitimizing" US state-sponsored terrorism. Barr’s "Terrorist Elimination Act of 2001" (HR 19) would repeal a trio of executive orders (signed by Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan) forbidding the US from carrying out foreign political assassinations. While the major media ignored the bill, Michael C. Ruppert, publisher of the newsletter From the Wilderness, warned that Barr’s move "only underscores the clear message that the Bush administration is sending to the world." And that message is that there is "quite likely a list of people the Bush administration wants to start killing fairly quickly."
The appointment of Richard Armitage as deputy secretary of state reinforces these fears. Artimage (who lost a 1989 bid to become assistant secretary of state because of his role in the Iran-Contra affair) has been linked to illegal arms transfers and CIA drug-running operations. William Tyree, a Special Forces vet who served with Armitage on covert missions in Laos and Cambodia, reports that Armitage "enjoys killing."
Making a Buck Can Be Such a Pain
US – According to an Amnesty International (AI) report, "Stopping the Torture Trade," the US is not only the world’s biggest exporter of armaments, it also supplies much of the world’s implements of torture. More that 80 US manufacturers are identified as supplying clubs, handcuffs, thumbcuffs, leg irons, restraint chairs and electroshock devices to governments accused of human rights violations. AI is pleading with the Bush administration to ban "the use, manufacture, promotion and trade of police and security equipment whose use is inherently cruel, inhuman or degrading." In their weekly column, Focus on the Corporation, Robert Weissman and Russell Mokhiber note that the US "has led the way in the development of new technologies used in torture." This may help explain why the US was voted off the UN Human Rights Commission.
Sol Brothers Get It On
US – When the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332 [http://ibew332.org] decided to build a new headquarters in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, they topped the roof with state-of-the-art solar tiles. The 200 PowerGuard® tiles will generate 23 kW of free, clean, on-site electricity. The solar tiles, which should last 30 years, will double the life of the roof while increasing the insulating effect. "Our organization is very committed to a responsible approach to energy efficiency," said Local 332 official Jay James. Mayor Ron Gonzales praised the union’s showcase "green building" as "a cornerstone of San Jose’s aggressive efforts to... stabilize future energy costs."
Riding into Trouble
US – If you try to exercise your free speech in a National Forest, it’s gonna cost you. Terry Dahl rode his bike on a 20-mile trek through Los Padres National Forest but, in order to protest the 1997 law that imposed fees on users of public parks, didn’t stop to pay the $5 park entry fee. The US Attorney’s Office is now trying to sock Dahl with a six-month prison term and/or a $5,000 fine.
Only You Can Prevent Forest Fees
US – As further proof of the adage that no "temporary" tax has ever been withdrawn, the US Forest Service (USFS) is pushing to permanently institutionalize "user fees" at all US national forests. (The 1965 Land Water and Conservation Act specifically bans the imposition of admission fees to public lands.) To critics who claim that hitting up taxpayers for entry into public lands represents "double taxation," the Forest Service replies that only $1.80 of every $10,000 raised goes to help to the USFS care for the forests. So where does most of the money go? As the Environment News Network notes, the plan "allows the USFS and National Park Service to partner with the recreation industry." The $2 to $5 per-day entry fees are supported by the American Recreation Coalition, which includes skiing businesses and the makers of snowmobiles, jetskis and off-road vehicles. "In the long run," says Michael Ziehuf of the fee-fighting organization, Free Our Forests, "Disney could have parks on public lands."
A Free Market in Children
US – "Schools should be commerce-free zones," syndicated curmudgeon George Will thundered in a May 7 column. Will’s outburst was provoked by a report from the Motherhood Project of the Institute for American Values that called on advertisers to stop promoting "an ethic of selfishness." What riled Will was the report’s collection of insider quotes that referred to children as "consumer cadets" capable of forming "brand associations" at the age of 12 months. Infants are "born to be consumers," the corporate memos report. Believing that "the consumer embryo begins to develop in the first year of existence," corporate marketing wizards are plotting a Brave New World for "toddler-age consumers" and the "pre-school market." One ad consultant notes: "Advertising at its best is making people feel that, without the product, you’re a loser. Kids are very sensitive to that." Another confidential memo stated: "When it comes to targeting kid consumers, we at General Mills follow the Proctor & Gamble model of ’cradle to grave.’... We believe in getting them early and having them for life."
GOP & Big Beef Fight Truth
US – An EPA report on the dangers of dioxin may never see the light of day if the US chemical, beef and poultry industries get their way. The study, the result of more than a decade of research, reportedly concludes that consuming animal fat and dairy products containing traces of dioxin can cause cancer in humans.
EPA scientists are urging EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to issue the full report this summer. The EPA’s issuance of a final report could result in costly federal and state regulations at a time the global beef industry is suffering from the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Europe.
Lining up to help bury the report, are the American Chemistry Council, the Chlorine Chemistry Council, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, the American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and a host of Republican politicians. The chemical, livestock and meatpacking industries contributed $1,171,000 to George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign.
Fewer Chemicals; Less Cancer
US – Eight years ago, the nine counties surrounding San Francisco Bay instituted pollution controls to lower toxic emissions from factories and cars. In April, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced that the cancer rates had dropped from 356 per million (in 1991) to 186 per million (1999). This, despite the increase in the number of cars on the road and the presence of 6,000 industrial plants. Thanks to Bay Area pollution laws, levels of carcinogenic benzene dropped as much as 71 percent in a single year. Environmental laws have also curtailed releases of ethylene oxide, carbon tetrachloride, trichloroethylene, methylene chloride and hexavalent chromium. Nationally the cancer risk is 333,000 per million -one in every three Americans.
FBI Raids Independent Media
US – Security at April’s Summit of the America’s trade conference in Quebec was tight, but not so tight that a copy of the police strategy for protecting delegates fell into the "wrong hands" – i.e., the public got hold of it. The documents were posted on the Internet by the Seattle-based Independent Media Center (IMC). On April 21, FBI agents descended on the IMC office and seized the group’s computer logs. IMC staffers were told "not to talk about" the raid under threat of imprisonment. Posting the documents did not violate any existing US law and should be protected by the First Amendment. [Note: Calling the Quebec summit a "trade conference" is misleading. The discussions were about trading civilian control of government services for corporate control of schools, prisons, healthcare, water and food.]
Oppose Armageddon; Go to Jail
US – On May 5, anti-war activists Michael Sprong and Bonnie Urfer were sentenced to jail for cutting down a portion of the US Navy’s nuclear war communication system in Clam Lake, Wisconsin. The defendants had been cleared by a lower court ["Bow Saws vs. Armageddon," Winter 2000-2001 EIJ] but were retried in federal court. Federal Magistrate Stephen L. Crocker upheld a request by government prosecutors to ban the defendants from discussing their motives, US nuclear policy or international law. Sprong was sentenced to two months imprisonment and a $7,492 fine. Upon sentencing, Sprong reminded the magistrate that the World Court has ruled that preparing for nuclear war is a criminal act under international law. "When the prosecutor said no one has the right to act above the law, that includes the US government," Sprong told court. Urfer, the co-director of Nukewatch [PO Box 649, Luck, WI 54853, (715) 472-4185, http://www.nukewatch.com] was jailed for six months and ordered to pay $7,492 in restitution. "Project ELF is part of a system ready and waiting to unleash the equivalent of 85,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs," Urfer told the judge. "I will continue to work for complete nuclear disarmament."
Enron Plots Global Power Grab
US – California’s power blackouts should serve "as a warning to the rest of the world of what can happen when electricity is liberalized instead of being treated as a public service," says Public Services International, a utility workers organization. Two recent PSI studies [http://www.psiru.org] reveal how multinational energy giants like Enron and AES have been taking over publicly owned power systems around the world. The multinationals offer to build private generating plants in developing countries in exchange for preferential long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs). These contracts give the foreign energy providers an advantage over domestic power producers that frequently leads to the bankruptcy of locally owned public utilities. The World Bank admits that PPAs "hamper efficiency" and can cause the cost of energy to rise 600 percent but the bank continues to promote the privatization of publicly owned power around the globe.
Don’t Mess with California
US – A statewide Field Poll found most Californians believe the state’s power woes were "a manufactured crisis" and a growing body of evidence supports this view. A special state committee found that out-of-state generators had "gamed" the market by creating artificial shortages to boost profits. (In one year, the cost of power rose 3,000 percent.)A San Francisco Chronicle investigation disclosed that utilities used a complex technique called "ramping" to seesaw power output to drive up prices. The state Public Utility Commission wants to know why several perfectly good powerplants were shut down during the "crisis." State legislators have sued the US Federal Energy Regulatory Committee for failing to assure "just and reasonable" power rates. The state Attorney General is investigating several out-of-state power providers and vows that "some of these people are going to jail." A survey of power outages among California’s five major power providers found that the most unreliable company was... Reliant Energy.
Fog City Could Go Solar
US – In November, San Franciscans will vote on a plan to install solar panels atop city-owned buildings to generate 50 MW of electricity. Under the proposal by Supervisor Tom Ammiano, the city would rely on municipal revenue bonds and state and federal subsidies to finance installation of the solar panels.
GOP Mavericks Go Green
US – George W. Bush broke his campaign promise to cut CO2 emissions but this hasn’t stopped Republican Congressmember Sherwood Boehlert (NY), Senator Susan Collins (ME) and former Republican (and newly Independent) James Jeffords (VT) from sponsoring bills (House bill 1256 and Senate bill 556) to cap CO2 emissions from US powerplants. House Resolution 117 sponsored by Barbara Lee (D-CA) calls for cutting greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2010.
Bush EPA Blindfolds the Public
US – In March, the EPA announced that it would repeal a Clinton Administration plan to give the public access to documentation on the potential health risks posed by chemical plant accidents. When the government fails to protect the people, the people have to take control. The Environmental Defense Fund has created a website identifying the toxic chemicals used at plants in every US neighborhood. Visit the website [http://www.scorecard.org], enter your ZIP code, and share the information with your neighbors.
Free Speech Gets the Ax
US – In response to the growing clamor for sustainably harvested lumber, the American Forest & Paper Association has created its own certification system, the Forest Stewardship Initiative (FSI). When the nonprofit group Forest Ethics tried to place ads exposing the FSI as a Big Timber "sham," the Seattle Times refused to run the ad. Forest Ethics tried to place an ad in the Boston Globe criticizing the Staples office supply chain for turning forests into "cheap, disposable paper products." The Globe nixed the ad. By contrast, the New York Times said it would be willing to run the Staples ad. In their weekly column, "Focus on Corporations," Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman observe that this "refusal to carry truthful advertisements criticizing corporations mocks the spirit of the First Amendment."