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Censored 2003 :
The Top 25 Censored Media Stories of 2001~2002
(#1) FCC Moves to Privatize Airwaves
Faculty evaluators: Scott Gordon
For almost 70 years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has administered and regulated the broadcast spectrum as an electronic "commons" on behalf of the American people. The FCC issues licenses to broadcasters that allow them, for a fee, to use, but not own, one or more specific radio or TV frequencies. Thus, the public has retained the ability to regulate, as well as influence, access to broadcast communications.
Several years ago, the Progress and Freedom Foundation, in their report The Telecom Revolution: An American Opportunity, recommended a complete privatization of the radio frequencies, whereby broadcasters with existing licenses would eventually gain complete ownership of their respective frequencies. They could thereafter develop them in markets of their choosing, or sell and trade them to other companies. The few non-allocated bands of the radio frequency spectrum would be sold off, as electronic real estate, to the highest bidders. With nothing then to regulate, the FCC would eventually be abolished. The reasoning behind this radical plan was that government control of the airwaves has led to inefficiencies. In private hands, the frequencies would be exchanged in the marketplace, and the forces of free-market supply and demand would foster the most creative (and, of course, most profitable) use of these electronic "properties."
This privatization proposal was considered too ambitious by the Clinton administration. However, in February 2001, within months after a more "pro-business" president took office, 37 leading US economists requested, in a joint letter, that the FCC allow broadcasters to lease, in secondary markets, the frequencies they currently use under their FCC license. Their thinking was that with this groundwork laid, full national privatization would follow, and eventually nations would be encouraged to sell off their frequencies to global media enterprises.
Michael K. Powell, FCC Chairman, and son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a recent speech compared the FCC to the Grinch, a kind of regulatory spoilsport that could impede what he termed a historic transformation akin to the opening of the West. "The oppressor here is regulation," he declared. In April 2001, Powell dismissed the FCC's historic mandate to evaluate corporate actions based on the public interest. That standard, he said, "is about as empty a vessel as you can accord a regulatory agency." In other comments, Powell has signaled what kind of philosophy he prefers to the outdated concept of public interest. During his first visit to Capitol Hill as chairman, Powell referred to corporations simply as "our clients."
Challenges to this proposed privatization of airways have emerged from a number of sources. One group, the Democratic Media Legal Project (DMLP) in San Francisco, argues that even the existing commercial media system, aided by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, is unconstitutional because it limits diversity of viewpoints, omits or misrepresents most social, political, and cultural segments, and is unaccountable to the public. Therefore, explains DMLP, advertising-based media and the 1996 Act, which encourages mergers and cross-ownership of media outlets to the exclusion of the vast majority of people, have deprived the people of their right to self-governance as self governance can occur only when we have the unimpeded and uncensored flow of opinion and reporting that are requisite for an informed democracy.
The course of wireless broadcasting is approaching an unprecedented and critical crossroad. The path taken by the United States, and by the other industrialized nations that may follow our lead, will profoundly influence the ability of the citizenry of each country to democratically control the media.
(#2) New Trade Treaty Seeks to Privatize Global Social Services
Faculty evaluator: John Kramer
Extensive international corporate media coverage including:
A global trade agreement now being negotiated will seek to privatize nearly every government-provided public service and allow transnational corporations to run them for profit.
The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is a proposed free-trade agreement that will attempt to liberalize/dismantle barriers that protect government provided social services. These are social services bestowed by the government in the name of public welfare. The GATS was established in 1994, at the conclusion of the "Uruguay Round" of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). In 1995, the GATS agreement was adopted by the newly created World Trade Organization (WTO).
Corporations plan to use the GATS agreement to profit from the privatization of educational systems, health care systems, child care, energy and municipal water services, postal services, libraries, museums, and public transportation. If the GATS agreement is finalized, it will lock in a privatized, for-profit model for the global economy. GATS/WTO would make it illegal for a government with privatized services to ever return to a publicly owned, non-profit model. Any government that disobeys these WTO rulings will face sanctions. What used to be areas of common heritage like seed banks, air and water supplies, health care and education will be commodified, privatized, and sold to the highest bidder on the open market. People who cannot afford these privatized services will be left out.
Services are the fastest growing sector of international trade. If GATS is implemented, corporations will reap windfall profits. Health care, education, and water services are the most potentially lucrative. Global expenditures on water services exceed $1 trillion each year, on education they exceed $2 trillion, and on health care they're over $3.5 trillion.
The WTO has hired a private company called the Global Division for Transnational Education. This company plans to document policies that "discriminate against foreign education providers." The results of this 'study' will be used to pressure countries with public education systems to relinquish them to the global privatized marketplace.
The futures of accountability for public services, and of sovereign law are at stake with the GATS decision. Foreign corporations will have the right to establish themselves in any GATS/WTO-controlled country and compete against non-profit or government institutions, such as schools and hospitals, for public funds.
The current round of GATS negotiations has identified three main priorities for future free-trade principles. First, GATS officials are pushing for National Treatment to be applied across the board. National Treatment would forbid governments from favoring their domestic companies over foreign-based companies. This idea already applies to certain services, but GATS will enforce it to all services. This will create an expansion of mega-corporate access to domestic markets and further diminish democratic accountability. The economically dominant western countries would like to make it illegal for developing countries to reverse this exclusive access to their markets.
Second, GATS officials are seeking to place restrictions on domestic regulations. This would limit a government's ability to enact environmental, health, and other regulations and laws that hinder "free-trade." The government would be required to demonstrate that its laws and regulations were necessary to achieve a WTO-sanctioned objective, and that no other commercially friendly alternative was available.
Third, negotiators are attempting to develop the expansion of Commercial Presence rules. These rules allow an investor in one GATS-controlled country to establish a presence in any other GATS country. The investor will not only be allowed to compete against private suppliers for business, but will also be allowed to compete against publicly funded institutions and services for public funds.
This potential expansion of GATS/WTO authority into the day-to-day business of governments will make it nearly impossible for citizens to exercise democratic control over the future of traditionally public services. One American trade official summed up the GATS/WTO process by saying, "Basically it won't stop until foreigners finally start to think like Americans, act like Americans, and most of all shop like Americans."
(#3) United States' Policies in Columbia Support Mass Murder
ASHEVILLE GLOBAL REPORT
RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH NEWS
Faculty Evaluators: Jorge Porras, Fred Fletcher,
Over the past two years, Colombia has been Washington's third largest recipient of foreign aid, behind only Israel and Egypt. In July of 2000, the U.S. Congress approved a $1.3 billion war package for Colombia to support President Pastrana's "Plan Colombia." Plan Colombia is a $7.5 billion counter-narcotics initiative. In addition to this financial support, the US also trains the Colombian military.
Colombias annual murder rate is 30,000. It is reported that around 19,000 of these murders are linked to illegal right-wing paramilitary forces. Many leaders of these paramilitary groups were once officers in the Colombian military, trained at the U.S. Military run School of the Americas.
According to the Human Rights Watch Report, a 120-page report titled "The Sixth Division: Military-Paramilitary Ties and US Policy in Colombia," Colombian armed forces and police continue to work closely with right-wing paramilitary groups. The government of President Pastrana and the US administration have played down evidence of this cooperation. Jim Lobe says that Human Rights Watch holds the Pastrana administration responsible for the current, violent situation because of its dramatic and costly failure to take prompt, effective control of security forces, break their persistent ties to paramilitary groups, and ensure respect for human rights.
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair contend that the war in Colombia isn't about drugs. It's about the annihilation of popular uprisings by Indian peasants fending off the ravages of oil companies, cattle barons and mining firms. It is a counter-insurgency war, designed to clear the way for American corporations to set up shop in Colombia.
Cockburn and St. Clair examined two Defense Department commissioned reports, the RAND Report and a paper written by Gabriel Marcella, titled "Plan Colombia: the Strategic and Operational Imperatives." Both reports recommend that the US step up its military involvement in Colombia. In addition, the reports make several admissions about the paramilitaries and their links to the drug trade, regarding human rights abuses by the US-trained Colombian military, and about the irrationality of crop fumigation.
Throughout these past two years, Colombian citizens have been the victims of human rights atrocities committed by the US-trained Colombian military and linked paramilitaries. Trade unionists and human rights activists face murder, torture, and harassment. It is reported that Latin America remains the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists. Since 1986, some 4,000 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia. In 2000 alone, more trade unionists were killed in Colombia than in the whole world in 1999.
Another problem resulting from the Colombian "drug war" has been the health consequences of the US-sponsored aerial fumigation. Since January 2001, Colombian aircraft have been spraying toxic herbicides over Colombian fields in order to kill opium poppy and coca plants. These sprayings are killing food crops that indigenous Colombians depend on for survival, as well as harming their health. The sprayings have killed fish, livestock, and have contaminated water supplies.
The US provides slightly over 1 billion dollars of military aid for what is known as "Plan Colombia," yet it is more a war against citizens and those who are fighting for social justice. US aid is not improving conditions for the people of Colombia, but rather supporting the government and right-wing paramilitary groups. According to an American member of the international steelworker delegation, Jesse Isbell, who recently visited Columbia, "The US says one thing to the American public when in reality it is [doing] something totally different. Our government portrays this as a drug war against cocaine but all we are doing is keeping an ineffective government in power."
(#4) Bush Administration Hampered FBI Investigation into Bin Laden Family Before 9/11
TIMES OF INDIA
THE GUARDIAN (London)
Faculty evaluator: Catherine Nelson
Corporate media coverage;
A French book Bin Laden, la verite interdite (Bin Laden, the forbidden truth) claims that the Bush Administration halted investigations into terrorist activities related to the bin Laden family and began planning for a war against Afghanistan before 9-11.
The authors, Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, are French intelligence analysts. Dasquie, an investigative reporter, publishes Intelligence Online, which is a respected newsletter on economics and diplomacy. Brisard worked for French secret services and in 1997 wrote a report on the Al Qaeda network.
In 1996, high-placed intelligence sources in Washington told the Guardian, "There were always constraints on investigating the Saudis." The authors allege that under the influence of US oil companies, George W. Bush and his administration initially halted investigations into terrorism, while bargaining with the Taliban to deliver Osama bin Laden in exchange for economic aid and political recognition. The book goes on to reveal that former FBI deputy director John O'Neill resigned in July of 2001 in protest over the obstruction of terrorist investigations. According to O'Neill, "The main obstacles to investigating Islamic terrorism were US oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it." The restrictions were said to have worsened after the Bush administration took over. Intelligence agencies were told to "back off" from investigations involving other members of the bin Laden family, the Saudi royals, and possible Saudi links to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Pakistan. John O'Neil died on 9/11 in the World Trade Center.
An FBI file coded 199, which means a case involving national security, records that Abdullah bin Laden, who lived in Washington, originally had a file opened on him "because of his relationship with the Saudi-funded World Assembly of Muslim Youth a suspected terrorist organization." The BBC reiterated a well-known claim, made by one of George W. Bush's former business partners, that Bush made his first million dollars 20 years ago from a company financed by Osama's elder brother, Salem. It has also been revealed that both the Bushs and the bin Ladens had lucrative stakes in the Carlyle Group, a private investment firm that has grown to be one of the largest investors in US defense and communications contracts.
Brisard and Dasquie contend that the government's main objective in Afghanistan was to unite the Taliban regime in order to gain access to the oil and gas reserves in Central Asia. Brisard and Dasquie report that the Bush government began negotiations with the Taliban directly after coming into power and representatives met several times in Washington, Islamabad, and Berlin.
There were also claims that the last meeting between the United States and Taliban representatives took place only five weeks before the attacks in New York and Washington.
Long before the September 11th attacks, the United States had decided to invade Afghanistan in the interest of oil. In February of 1998, at the hearing before a sub-group of the Committee on International Relations, Congress discussed ways to deal with Afghanistan to make way for an oil pipeline. Jane's Defense News reported in March 2001 that an invasion of Afghanistan was being planned.
Times of India reported that in June of 2001, the US Government told India that there would be an invasion of Afghanistan in October of that year. By July of 2001 George Arney, with the BBC, also reported the planned invasion.
(#5) U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water System
Faculty evaluator: Rick Luttmann
During the Gulf War the United States deliberately bombed Iraq's water system. After the war, the U.S. pushed sanctions to prevent importation of necessary supplies for water purification. These actions resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians many of whom were young children. Documents have been obtained from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which prove that the Pentagon was fully aware of the mortal impacts on civilians in Iraq and was actually monitoring the degradation of Iraq's water supply. The destruction of civilian infrastructures necessary for health and welfare is a direct violation of the Geneva Convention.
After the Gulf War, the United Nations applied sanctions against Iraq, which denied the importation of specialized equipment and chemicals, such as chlorine for purification of water. There are six documents that have been partially declassified and can be found on the Pentagon's web site at www.gulflink.osd.mil. These documents include information that prove that the United States was fully aware of the costs to civilians, especially children, by upholding the sanctions against purification of Iraq's water supply.
The primary document is dated January 22, 1991 and is titled, "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities." This document predicts what will take place when Iraq can no longer import the vital commodities to cleanse their water supply. It states that epidemics and disease outbreaks may occur because of pollutants and bacteria that exist in unpurified water. The document acknowledges the fact that without purified drinking water, the manufacturing of food and medicine will also be affected. The possibilities of Iraqis obtaining clean water, despite sanctions, along with a timetable describing the degradation of Iraq's water supply was also addressed.
The remaining five documents from the DIA confirm the Pentagon's monitoring of the situation in Iraq. In more than one document, discussion of the likely outbreaks of diseases and how they affect "particularly children" is discussed in great detail. The final document titled, "Iraq: Assessment of Current Health Threats and Capabilities," is dated, November 15, 1991, and discusses the development of a counter-propaganda strategy that would blame Saddam Hussein for the lack of safe water in Iraq.
The United States insistence on using this type of sanction against Iraq is in direct violation of the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention was created in 1979 to protect the victims of international armed conflict. It states, "It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installation and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive." The United States, for nearly a decade, has "destroyed, removed, or rendered useless" Iraq's "drinking water installations and supplies."
Although two Democratic Representatives, Cynthia McKinney from Georgia and Tony Hall from Ohio, have spoken out about the degradation of Iraq's water supply and its civilian targets, no acknowledgment of violations has been made. The U.S. policy of destroying the water treatment system of Iraq and preventing its re-establishment has been pursued for more than a decade. The United Nations estimates that more than 500,000 Iraqi children have died as a result of sanctions and that unclean water is a major contributor to these deaths.
(#6) U.S. Government Pushing Nuclear Revival
Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists
Faculty Evaluator: Sasha Von Meier
Corporate News Coverage:
The US Government is blazing a trail of nuclear weapon revival leading to global nuclear dominance. A nuke-revival group, supported by people like Stephen Younger, Associate Director for Nuclear Weapons at Los Alamos, proposes a "mini-nuke" capable of burrowing into underground weapon supplies and unleashing a small, but contained nuclear explosion. This weapons advocacy group is comprised of nuclear scientists, Department of Energy (DoE) officials, right wing analysts, former government officials, and a congressionally appointed over-sight panel. The group wants to ensure that the U.S. continues to develop nuclear capacity into the next half century.
Achieving this goal of nuclear dominance will take far more than just refurbishing existing weapons and developing new ones. A decade long effort, that would cost in the $8 billion range, would be needed just to bring old production sites up to standard. Billions more would be needed to produce and maintain a new generation of nuclear weapons. This plan has not been presented to the public for their consideration or approval.
Part of the plan includes the building of "mini-nukes," which would have a highly accurate ability to penetrate underground stockpiles of weapons and command centers. The recent interest in such weapons is based on two premises. First, the belief that only nuclear weapons can destroy these underground networks, so the "mini-nuke" would deter other countries from using these underground systems. Second, these new bombs would give government the option to launch a nuclear strike to take out a small target while delivering minimal civilian casualties. It is believed that these bombs could specifically target underground headquarters or weapon stockpiles in Korea, Iraq, or Iran.
Princeton theoretical physicist Robert W. Nelson has studied the question for the Federation of American Scientists. Nelson concluded, "No earth-burrowing missile can penetrate deep enough into the earth to contain an explosion with a nuclear yield even as small as 1 percent of the 15-kiloton Hiroshima weapon. The explosion simply blows out a massive crater of radioactive dirt, which rains down on the local region with an especially intense and deadly fallout." Nelson used data from the Plowshares program of the 1960s and from the 828 underground nuclear tests conducted in Nevada. The two sources show that full containment of a 5-kiloton explosion is only possible at 650 feet or more, while a 1-kiloton explosion must take place at least 450 feet into the earth. These figures are taken at optimum conditions, where weapons are placed in a specially sealed shaft in a well understood geological environment. The "mini-nukes" will be expected to penetrate into deeply hardened targets in unyielding conditions. Nelson also concludes that a 10-foot missile could only be expected to penetrate 100 feet into concrete and steel, a depth far too shallow to contain even a very small explosion.
The Panel to Assess the Reliability, Safety, and Security of the United States Nuclear Stockpile has recommended spending $4 billion to $6 billion over the next decade to restore the production capabilities of plutonium pit plants in the U.S. The DoE is currently spending $147 million on pit production at Los Alamos this year and is requesting $218 million for 2002. A renovated Los Alamos will be capable of producing up to 20 pits a year by 2007. Last year the DoE received $2 million to design a new pit plant capable of producing 450 cores of plutonium a year. This would generate approximately half the amount of plutonium produced during the latter period of the Cold War. The facilities at some of these nuclear production plants are in drastic states of disrepair.
Only 26 percent of the weapons complex buildings are in excellent or good condition. One laboratory building at Los Alamos wraps pipes carrying radioactive waste in plastic bags to prevent leakage. The roofs at other facilities are allowing rainwater to seep into the rooms where nuclear weapons are inspected and repaired.
(#7) Corporations Promote HMO Model for School Districts
The Progressive Populist
North Coast Xpress
In These Times
Faculty Evaluators: Perry Marker, Tom Ormond, and Elaine Sundberg
For decades, public schools have purchased innumerable products and services from private companiesfrom text books to bus transportation. Within the last decade, however, privatization has taken on a whole new meaning. Proponents of privatized education are now interested in taking over entire school districts. "Education today, like healthcare 30 years ago, is a vast, highly localized industry ripe for change," says Mary Tanner, managing director of Lehman Brothers, "The emergence of HMOs and hospital management companies created enormous opportunities for investors. We believe the same pattern will occur in education." So while the aptly named Educational Management Organizations (EMO's) are being promoted as the new answer to impoverished school districts and dilapidated classrooms, the real emphasis is on investment returns rather than student welfare and educational development.
According to some analysts, Bush's proposal for national standardized testing is helping to pave the way for these EMO's. Bush wants yearly standardized testing in reading and math for every student in the country between the third and eighth grades. "School districts and states that do well will be rewarded," Bush states in his education agenda, No Child Left Behind, "Failure will be sanctioned." The effect of Bush's testing plan will be nothing less than a total reconstruction of curriculum and instruction across the country. Perversely, schools with already limited resources, serving poor and minority communities, will be those under the greatest pressure to boost scores or face loss of funding.
Additionally, standardized testing funnels public dollars directly to non-public schools, including religious schools, through taxpayer-supported vouchers. School vouchers, proposed by Bush in his education plan to increase federal education spending, will reward schools that do well on annual standardized tests. Vouchers shunt kids out of the public schools system and into private for-profit institutions. Since only public school students take the standardized tests, kids whose parents can afford private schools don't have to agonize year after year about potential failure.
Standardized testing hits immigrant students especially hard. Bush wants to freeze funding in 2002, despite surging enrollment of students speaking limited English. Angelo Amador, a national policy analyst for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, says, "With the pulling of bilingual education funding, states with high-stakes testing are pushing low-performing Latino students into special education classes or out of school altogether in an effort to keep their test scores high."
Critics charge that standardization's real goal is not to improve public education but to disparage it while building support for privatized, union-free alternatives. Proponents of corporate-run education claim that, by cutting the "fat" out of the system, they can improve student achievement with the same amount of money, and still turn a profit (Ignoring the fact that the U.S. is ranked ninth globally in terms of money spent on education). The reality is that, though most EMO's have yet to show investors a profit, they generally cut teacher salaries, eliminate remedial, special, and bilingual education programs (mandated for public schools), and consistently perform at or below the level of surrounding schools in test scores.
Privatization opponents say that public education should serve and be run by the public, especially teachers and parents, as opposed to shareholders who run the for-profit companies.
(#8) NAFTA Destroys Farming Communities in U.S. and Abroad
Source: Fellowship of Reconciliation
The Hightower Lowdown
Faculty Evaluators: Tony White, Al Wahrhaftig
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are responsible for the impoverishment of and loss of many small farms in Mexico and Haiti. NAFTA is also causing the economic destruction of rural farming communities in the United States and Canada. The resulting loss of rural employment has created a landslide of socio-economic and environmental consequences that are worsening with the continued dismantling and deregulation of trade barriers.
When NAFTA came before Congress in 1993, US farmers were told that the agreement would open the borders of Mexico and Canada, enabling them to sell their superior products and achieve previously unknown prosperity. Corporations who operate throughout the Americas, such as Tyson and Cargill, have since used the farming surplus to drive down costs, pitting farmers against each other and prohibiting countries from taking protective actions. These same corporations have entered into massive farming ventures outside the U.S. and use NAFTA to import cheaper agricultural products back into this country, further undermining the small farmers in the U.S. Since the enactment of NAFTA, 80% of foodstuffs coming into the U.S. are products that displace crops raised here at home. NAFTA has allowed multinational mega-corporations to increase production in Mexico, where they can profit from much cheaper labor, as well as freely use chemicals and pesticides banned in the U.S.
In both Mexico and Haiti, NAFTA policies have caused an exodus from rural areas forcing people to live in urban slums and accept low paid sweatshop labor. Farmers in Mexico, unable to compete with the large-scale importation and chemical-intensive mass production of U.S. agricultural corporations, are swimming in a corn surplus that has swelled approximately 450% since NAFTA's implementation. Haiti's deregulation of trade with the U.S. has destroyed the island's rice industry in a similar manner. Urban slums, engorged with rural economic refugees, are contributing to the breakdown of cultural traditions and public authority, making the growing masses increasingly ungovernable.
The Mexican government clashes violently with any organized protest of NAFTA. Dissent in Chiapas and in Central Mexico has lead to the reported arrests, injuries, and deaths of dozens of activists. Community leaders like Minister Lucius Walker, executive of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, state that, "The biggest challenge facing all of us in this new millennium is to build a citizens' movement to counter the corporate captivity of the Americas."
The1993 NAFTA agreement desolated small farming communities in the U.S. and in Mexico and Haiti. With the scheduled 2009 lift on tariffs and import restrictions, as well as Bush's proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) adding 31 more countries to the NAFTA agreement, many additional farming communities are in danger.
(#9) U.S. Faces National Housing Crisis
In These Times
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Garfin
Corporate media coverage:
The national housing crisis affects nearly 6 million American families and is growing worse. Over 1.5 million low-cost housing units have recently been lost, and millions of children are growing up in housing that is substandard, unaffordable and dangerous.
A new crisis in affordable housing is spreading across America. What was once a problem relegated to low income families along the east and west coasts, is now affecting the middle-class all across the country. Middle-class working Americans are having just as much trouble finding affordable housing as low-income families did ten years ago.
In San Francisco, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidizing housing for public school teachers. California business groups complain that the States housing shortage hinders their ability to attract skilled workers, and chambers of commerce link lack of affordable housing to a resultant slowdown in economic growth.
Julie Daniels earns $28,000 a year working full time as a certified nursing assistant for Stamford, Connecticut. A member of local 1199, Daniels and her three children have been unable to obtain affordable housing within traveling distance of her job. The family's only available housing option has been a homeless shelter, and the prospects that Daniels will obtain safe and affordable housing are unlikely.
Still, politicians refuse to add federal funded housing to the U.S. budget. Low-cost housing programs are slowly being drained of funding. More than 100,000 federally subsidized units have been converted to market-rate housing in the past three years. While the $5 billion Federal Housing Administration surplus is tied up in Washington, neither major political party seems responsive to the current housing crisis. Neither party is addressing issues of living wage, adequate health care, or affordable housing.
Homelessness has become the result for many families across the nation. The economic slowdown, the welfare reform of 1996, and the events of September 11 are pushing hard working Americans into the street. In New York alone it is estimated that 30,000 people are living in shelters, and many thousands more live on the street.
In Chicago, over 20,000 units of public housing units have been removed from service and some 50,000 people now reside in the streets.
In an era when there is only one apartment for every six potential renters in this country, Congress has taken no action to address this problem. Corporate media has only covered this issue locally and few corporate media reports have recognized this as a national crisis.
(#10) CIA Double Deals In Macedonia
July 26, 2001
Faculty evaluators: Elizabeth Burch, Phil Beard, John Lund
The CIA destabilized the political balance in Macedonia to allow easier access for a US-British owned oil pipeline, and to prevent Macedonia from entering the European Union (EU), thereby strengthening the US dollar in a German deutschmark dominated region.
Without Macedonia in the EU, British and US oil companies have an advantage over European counterparts in building oil pipelines. Actions toward destabilization intend to impose economic control over national currencies, and protect British-US oil companies such as BP-Amoco-ARCO, Chevron, and Texaco against Europe's Total-Fina-Elf. The British-US consortium controls the AMBO Trans-Balkin pipeline project linking the Bulgarian port of Burgas to Vlore on the Albanian Adriatic coastline. The power game is designed to increase British-US domination in the region by distancing Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania from the influence of EU countries such as Germany, Italy, France and Belgium. It's an effort supported by Wall Street's financial establishment, to destabilize and discredit the deutschmark and the Euro, with hopes of imposing the US dollar as the sole currency for the region.
The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the National Liberation Army (NLA) were trained in Macedonia by British Special Forces and equipped by the CIA. British military sources confirm that Gezim Ostremi, NLA Commander, was sponsored by the UN and trained by British Special Forces to head the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC). When Ostremi left his job as a United Nations Officer to join the NLA, the commander remained on the UN payroll. Attacks within Macedonia by the NLA/KLA last year, coincided chronologically with the process of EU enlargement and the signing of the historic Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and Macedonia. These attacks paved the way for further US military and political presence in the region.
In a strange twist the CIA, NATO, and British Special Forces provided weapons and training to the NLA/KLA terrorists, while at the same time, Germany provided Macedonia's security forces with all-terrain vehicles, advanced weapons, and equipment to protect themselves from NLA/KLA attacks. US military advisers, on assignment to the KLA/NLA through private mercenary companies, remained in contact with NATO and US military and intelligence planners. It was Washington and London who decided on the broad direction of KLA-NLA military operations in Macedonia.
Following the August, 2001 Framework Peace Agreement, 3,500 armed NATO troops entered Macedonia with the intent of disarming Albanian rebels. Washington's humanitarian efforts for the NLA/KLA suggested its intent to protect the terrorists rather then disarm them. Vice President Dick Cheney's former firm, Halliburton Energy, is directly linked to the AMBO's Trans-Balkans Oil Pipeline.
Last year's conflict in Macedonia is a small part of a growing rift between the Anglo-American and European interests in the Balkans. In the wake of the war in Yugoslavia, Britain has allied itself with the US and severed many of its ties with Germany, France, and Italy. Washington's design is to ensure the dominance of the US military-industrial complex, in alliance with Britain's major defense contractors, and British-US oil. These developments establish significant control over strategic pipelines, transportation, and communication corridors in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union.
(#11) Bush Appoints Former Criminals to Key Government Roles
(#12) NAFTA's Chapter 11 Overrides Public Protection Laws of Countries
The Nation "The Right and US Trade Law: Invalidating the 20th
Faculty evaluator: Elizabeth Martinez
Mainstream coverage; Bill Moyers, PBS Documentary; Trading Democracy,
Certain investor protections in NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) are giving business investors new power over sovereign nations and providing an expansive new definition of property rights.
Chapter 11 of NAFTA, which allows a corporation to sue a government, contains a particularly disturbing "regulatory takings" clause. Under this "takings" clause, intangible property, such as a corporation's potential future profits, is considered private property. Any law or regulation that is imposed to protect the public interest is considered "taking" that company's potential to make a profit. Therefore, the government should be required to compensate the owners for lost property/profit. This expanded definition of private property goes beyond established terms in US jurisprudence and supercedes domestic law. NAFTA's investor protections and the "regulatory takings" idea mimic a radical revision of constitutional law that the right wing has been pushing for years.
Richard Epstein galvanized the idea of "regulatory takings" in the 1980s with his book Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain. Regulations, Epstein argues, should be properly understood as "takings" under the Fifth Amendment. This would require governments to pay corporations whose property, tangible or intangible, is in some way diminished by public actions. Since any regulation will have some economic impact on private assets, the "takings" doctrine is therefore a vehicle for shrinking the reach of government and crippling its regulatory procedures. This has the potential to undermine long-established social welfare and environmental regulatory protections. "Takings" protections will also have a chilling effect on a government's future laws and regulatory procedures as they realize that any new legislation may leave them vulnerable to corporate lawsuits. A government may be confronted with enormous financial penalties simply for enacting or upholding regulations that protect the basic health and human rights of its citizens.
The Methanex v. United States case illustrates the type of lawsuit made possible by Chapter 11. Methanex is a Canadian company that manufactures the gasoline additive MTBE. Although MTBE was intended to mitigate the air pollution caused by gasoline use, in the mid-nineties it was identified as a hazard to California's water supplies. Even small amounts of MTBE leaking from pipelines or storage tanks caused water to become unfit to drink. After testing the chemical was also found to be carcinogenic.
In 1999, California Governor Gray Davis issued an executive order to begin the phase out of MTBE. Four months later, Methanex Co. filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, asserting that California's new regulations damaged their future profits, and requested $970 million in compensation. But Methanex did not pursue its case in U.S. federal court, where the legitimacy of "potential profits" might have been publicly questioned. NAFTA provides for a three-judge arbitration tribunal, an offshore venue where suits can be resolved in secrecy. Although matters vital to public welfare are being decided in the unelected tribunals, the public is given no notice of the proceedings unless both parties agree to disclose the case.
The Methanex vs. United States case is pending, but other companies have already triumphed in their quest to acquire financial compensation for the loss of potential profits. In 2000, the Metaclad Corporation won a suit against the Mexican government. The outcome of the case means that $16.7 million of Mexican taxpayers' money will go to Metaclad in compensation for profits lost because the government stopped it from building a toxic waste dump.
"Regulatory takings" laws have not yet been adopted into US domestic law. The Supreme Court has so far declined to accept this redefinition of the Constitution. However, NAFTA's precedent has opened the door for the "takings" premise to become a standard facet of international law, and corporations are working to realize that goal.
In April of 2001, a collection of 29 major US multinational corporations and industry organizations (including GE, Ford, GM, International Paper, Motorola, Dow, DuPont, Chevron, Procter & Gamble and 3M) wrote to US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, urging him to push for a Chapter 11-type provision in upcoming FTAA negotiations. The letter applauded NAFTA's regulatory takings clause, saying it provides "protection from regulations that diminish the value of investors' assets." Although FTAA negotiations are not yet complete, at present the draft of the agreement includes a provision nearly identical to Chapter 11 that allows for "investor-to-state" lawsuits.
If the potential profit laws succeed to the degree that some companies hope they will, such basic government regulations as minimum wage and OSHA standards may become null and void in favor of corporate profit. As Epstein writes in his Takings book, "It will be said that my position invalidates much of the 20th century legislation, and so it does."
(#13) Henry Kissinger and Gerald Ford Lied to the American Public about East Timor
Asheville Global Report
Corporate media coverage:
The release of previously classified documents makes it clear that former President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, in a face-to-face meeting in Jakarta, gave then President Suharto a green light for the 1975 invasion of East Timor.
According to documents released by the National Security Archive (NSA), in December of 2001(the 26th anniversary of Indonesias invasion of East Timor) Suharto told Ford during their talks on December 6, 1975 that, "We want your understanding if it was deemed necessary to take rapid or drastic action [in East Timor]." In a previously secret memorandum, Ford replied, "We will understand and not press you on the issue. We understand the problem and the intentions you have." Kissinger similarly agreed, with reservations about the use of U.S. made arms in the invasion. Kissinger went on to say regarding the use of U.S. arms, " It depends on how we construe it, whether it is self-defense or is a foreign operation," suggesting the invasion might be framed in a way acceptable to U.S. law. Kissinger added, "It is important that whatever you do succeed quickly the U.S. administration would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens after we return [to the U.S.]. If you have made plans, we will do our best to keep everyone quiet until the President returns home."
For years Henry Kissinger has denied that any discussion of East Timor took place in Jakarta. The newly released dialogue between the three adds significantly to what is known about the role the US played in condoning the Indonesian invasion. The dialogue was part of a batch of documents on U.S. policy effecting East Timor obtained through the National Security Archive. Indonesia invaded East Timor the day after Ford and Kissinger left. As many as 230,000 East Timorese died as a result of Indonesia's invasion and the 23-year occupation of the country. As much as one third of the population died as a result of starvation, disease, caused by counter-insurgency operations carried out by the Indonesian army from 1976 to 1999. According to Amnesty International, East Timor represents one of the worst cases of genocides in the 20th century.
Under international pressure Indonesia allowed a plebiscite in 1999, in which East Timorese overwhelmingly voted for independence. After the vote Jakarta-backed militias rampaged the territory, burning and looting the country. The UN Security Council authorized an Australian-led international force to restore order. East Timor is now an independent country.
(#14) New Laws Restrict Access to Abortions in US
Faculty Evaluator: Greta Vollmer
A quiet war against abortion rights is being conducted by many local governments in the United States. Cities and counties are placing repressive legal restrictions on abortion providers under the guise of women's health laws. These restrictions can include: width of hallways, jet and angle type of drinking fountains, the heights of ceilings, and how long one must wait between initially seeing the doctor and when the procedure can be performed.
These legal ordinances are known as TRAP laws. TRAP stands for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. These laws attempt to restrict all aspects of the physical environment related to an abortion. While called women's health laws, they are seldom applied to any medical facility other than abortion clinics. The goal of TRAP laws is to discourage and make extremely difficult a woman's legal right to choose abortion. In the words of one right-to-life leader, the idea is to create an environment "where abortion may indeed be perfectly legal, but no one can get one."
TRAP laws have been passed in several states including Utah, Connecticut, Louisiana, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Alabama, Colorado, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Illinois, Nebraska, and Texas. Complying with TRAP laws can be very expensive. Remodeling modifications such as hallway width, angle and jet types for drinking fountains, ceiling height, doorway width, counseling room dimensions, air-circulation rates, outdoor weed-control practices, and separate changing rooms for men have resulted in the closing of cash-poor abortion clinics. Sometimes the clinics are closed only temporarily, but often the repairs are simply too expensive and the clinic is forced to cease operating altogether.
In 1992, when the Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling established continued support for the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, a new stealthier strategy was shaped by pro-life campaigners. Right-to-life advocates began thinking about other ways to attack abortion rights that were not so overtly challenging to the Roe v. Wade decision. By claiming that abortions take place in dirty facilities and cause such illnesses as depression and breast cancer, right-to-lifers have subtly moved away from the moral and legal debate and into a nebulous realm of womens health.
Dorinda Bordlee, a right-to-life advocate and staff counsel for Americans United for Life, says, "What's good for the child is good for the mother. So now we're advocating legislation that is good for women." With this reasoning, anti-abortionist make laws sound plausible and even necessary. However, the dimensions of a counseling room will clearly not guarantee a safe and correct abortion. Counseling room size does not protect a woman's health, but it does restrict the availability of abortions.
Louisiana's newest anti-abortion law, known as the civil-liability law, would allow any woman who has had the procedure to sue the doctor for up to 10 yearsnot just for her own injuries, but also for "damages occasioned by the unborn child." While still being challenged in court, this civil-liability law threatens the viability of clinics in the entire state of Louisiana.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly supported a woman's right to abortion, but these laws are quietly taking that right away. If these laws remain unchallenged it may mean the end of legal abortions in the United States.
(#15) Bush's Energy Plan Threatens Environment and Public Health
Environment News Service
The Progressive Populist, www.populist.com/
Faculty evaluator: Dorothy Friedel
The Bush administration's energy plan will actually increase air pollution in the United States. The plan calls for increased fossil fuel consumption, and for decreased funding for research into renewable, clean energy development. The plan also lowers upgrade requirements on 30- to 60-year-old power plants that often emit four to ten times as much sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, and mercury as newer power plants. The administration stands behind this plan despite higher smog levels, increased respiratory related hospital visits, and record high asthma cases on the East Coast last year,
Although Bush conceded earlier in his presidency that global warming is underway and that steps must be taken to reduce emissions, the U.S. is still responsible for 25% of the world's emissions. The Bush plan puts into jeopardy the New Source Review (NSR) provision, which is a vital part of the Clean Air Act. The NSR requires facilities to offset pollution increases with reductions elsewhere in the facility or demonstrate that the facility is using the best available pollution control. Major power, coal, and oil companies who own power plants that were built between 1940 and 1970, have sought to ease the restrictions of the NSR claiming that the law hurts their business due to high costs to upgrade to the best available pollution control technology. The EPA and several states have successfully sued a number of large utilities for violation of this NSR provision. These legal victories have led to millions of dollars in penalties.
Power plant air pollutants in some regions are known to cause as much damage to human lungs as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. According to Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, "President Bush's invitation to weaken these pollution controls is an invitation to increase asthma and other health problems triggered by power plant smog."
While East Coast record smog levels have resulted in 6 million asthma attacks and 212,000 hospital visits due to respiratory problems last summer, George Bush claims his energy plan will be good for the environment and the economy. After rejecting the 1997 Kyoto accord (which was supported by every other industrialized nation in the world), Bush declared that, "Our immediate goal is to reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions relative to the size of our economy." While this sounds like a positive statement, it should be known that what the Bush energy plan actually means is that the rate of emission production must stay below the rate of economic growth but will result in increasing pollution by 14% over the coming decade. So the plan calls for no immediate reduction, only slower increases. Emission producing businesses would only have to monitor and report their emissions to receive pollution credits, which can then be sold to other companies to increase their emissions.
Additionally, the Bush plan calls for a slashing of funding in research for renewable, clean forms of energy such as wind and solar power, which can provide very effective amounts of energy for U.S. consumption. The slashing of funding for research into clean renewable energy and increased dependence on fossil fuels will speed up the effects of global warming and have a detrimental effect on our health and environment.
(#16) CIA Kidnaps Suspects for Overseas Torture and Execution
World Socialist Website: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/mar2002/cia-m20_prn.shtml
Original U.S. Source: *
The Washington Post
Faculty evaluator: Noel Byrne
Corporate media coverage:
US agents are involved in abducting people they suspect of terrorist activities and sending them to countries where torture during interrogation is legal, according to US diplomatic sources. Suspects are shipped to allied countries where they are denied legal assistance and imprisoned without any specific charges made against them. The prisoners have been taken to countries such as Egypt and Jordan (whose intelligence agencies have close ties to the CIA) where they can be subjected to interrogation tactics, including torture and threats to family, which are illegal in the United States.
One of the abductees, Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni was believed by the CIA to be an al-Qaeda member with possible links to Richard Reid, the American Airlines shoe bomber. In January, 2002 the CIA provided Indonesian intelligence officials with information that lead to Iqbal's arrest. A few days later, the Egyptian government requested that Iqbalwho had carried a passport for Egypt as well as Pakistanbe extradited in connection with terrorism, although they did not specify the crime. Indonesian agents quickly took him into custody, and two days later, without legal hearing or access to a lawyer, Iqbal was put on board an unmarked, US-registered Gulfstream V jet, arranged by the CIA, and flown from Jakarta to Egypt.
Indonesian government officials told local media that Iqbal had been sent to Egypt because of visa violations. However, a senior Indonesian government official told reporters that revealing the US role in Iqbal's case would have prompted criticism from Muslim-oriented political parties in the region. "We can't be seen as cooperating too closely with the United States," he said. Nevertheless, the official confirmed that, "This was a US deal all along. Egypt just provided the formalities."
According to one US diplomat, "After September 11th, these sorts of movements have been occurring. It allows us to get information from terrorists in a way we can't do on U.S. soil."
Although such "movements" have intensified since 9/11, the U.S. has long been involved in this practice of kidnapping. These abductions, known to those in the business as "rendition," violate local and international extradition laws as well as internationally recognized human rights standards. According to the Post's sources, from 1993 to 1999, suspects were rendered to the U.S. from a variety of countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and the Philippines. US officials have acknowledged some of these operations, but the Washington Post's sources say that dozens of other covert renditions occurred, the details of which remain cloaked in secrecy.
Some documented cases include reports of suspects being interrogated, tortured, and even executed. In 1998, US agents apprehended Talaat Fouad Qassem, the reputed leader of an Egyptian extremist organization, in Croatia. Qassem had been traveling to Denmark, where he had been promised political asylum. Egyptian lawyers say that the US agents removed Quassem to a US ship stationed off the Croatian coast. On board, he was questioned by the agents before being taken to Cairo, where a military tribunal had already sentenced him to death in absentia.
Also in 1998, five members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad were taken into custody by Albanian police working in tandem with CIA agents. The five suspects were interrogated for three days before being shipped to Egypt on a CIA-chartered plane. The U.S. alleged that this group of people had been planning to bomb the US embassy in Albania's capital. Two of the five people were put to death.
*The details of this covert and illegal abduction campaign were brought to light in the U.S. by a Washington Post article printed on March 11, 2002, entitled, "U.S. Behind Secret Transfer of Terror Suspects." The article cites various U.S. and Indonesian officials (sources unidentified by name) recounting and commenting upon these violations. Although the article appeared on the Post's front page, the story was picked up by only one other corporate media source in the U.S., and the Post itself as of this writing has not followed up its own story with any new information.
(#17) Corporate Media Ignores Key Issues of the Anti-Globalization Protests
Columbia Journalism Review JR
Faculty evaluator: Suzanne Toczyski
Corporate media coverage: NY Times, 2/5/02, A-15
The US press failed to inform the public of the core underlying issues of the major anti-globalization protests of recent years. Dramatic images such as protesters enshrouded in tear gas, facing down a line of police officers dressed in riot gear have come to dominate the media coverage and overshadow the actual reasons that thousands of people are taking to the streets.
In July of 2001, over 100,000 people went to Genoa to protest the G-8 meetings. Corporate television gave little recognition to the issues that were being raised by the protesters. CNN showed few protesters actually sharing their views or reasons for protesting. Instead, news correspondents briefly summed up the protest in terms of who was there. This broad summary format was significantly lacking attention to specifics of the meetings or the protests. On Fox networks, the Genoa protesters were all but ignored.
A hard look at more than 200 stories by major news outlets including: ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, and Newsweek, shows serious weaknesses in the coverage of the four largest proteststhe International Monetary Fund meeting in Prague in September 2000; the Hemispheric Free Trade talks in Quebec City in April, 2001; the European Union summit in Gothenburg, Sweden in June of 2001; and the G-8 meeting that took place in Genoa in July of 2001. The problem is not so much the focus on the small percentage of protesters who acted violently but that the coverage lacks context.
The message that protesters are trying to get across is that they want more democratic control (and less corporate control) over the rules that affect the environment and labor conditions around the world. This includes more democratic control over supranational organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization, whose un-elected leaders, the protesters argue, override democratically determined laws and regulations in the name of development and free trade.
There are many instances of police brutality at these large protests,
yet what tends to be emphasized by the mainstream news sources are
the few acts of violence perpetrated by the protesters. For example,
at the Genoa protest that took place last year, approximately seventy
members of an Italian SWAT team barged through the doorway of a
site where protesters were organizing. This led to the hospitalization
of sixty-one demonstrators.
An article in The New York Times, written by Andrew Jacobs supports the notion that the media coverage of anti-globalization protests is appalling. Jacobs reports, most press accounts focused on security concerns and the potential for violence leaving little room for explanations of why people were protesting in the first place.
(#18) World's Coral Reefs Dying
Faculty evaluator: Ervand Peterson
One-quarter of all coral reefs have been destroyed by pollution, sedimentation, over-fishing, and rapid global climate change. Coral reefs have survived enormous changes in our planet's past, but today they are experiencing challenges from a multitude of new fronts. Remaining reefs are in such peril that governments are preparing for the contingency that millions of island residents will need to be relocated.
Corals are among the simplest of invertebrate animals. They are composed of little more than a hollow tube, the gastric cavity, which is surrounded by a fringe of stinging tentacles with which they capture prey. Generation after generation of new corals grow atop the limestone skeletons of dead corals, until a reef is formed. The growth is less than one inch per year, and the colonies can live a thousand years or more. Coral colonies occur in the narrow band of equatorial water at the 21C isotherm, where the delicate balance between sunlight, temperature, salinity, nutrients, and gases meets the exacting requirements of the tiny coral animals, and compose the largest aquatic architecture on the planet.
Ordinarily, more than 6.5 million zooxanthellae inhabit each square inch of coral, and in return these algae contribute the by-products of their photosynthesis: oxygen, carbohydrates, and alkalinity. The corals calcium carbonate production is considered a likely mediator of atmospheric CO2, making this collaboration between plant and animal a contributor to the stability of our atmosphere. The reefs contain nearly one-quarter of all marine life and, as they are visibly altered by climatic and sea level changes, are often called the record-keepers of the sea.
Under assault from pollution, coastal development, agricultural runoff, overpopulation, and over-fishing, the worlds reefs are exhibiting their vulnerability in many ways. Each year new coral diseases are discovered, some caused by such factors as the desertification of Africa, where huge volumes of dust in the atmosphere are dropping viral and fungal spores onto the weakened seas.
In the last two decades, worldwide coral bleaching events associated with higher seawater temperatures have destroyed reefs throughout entire ocean basins. Increasing global temperatures, resulting in a lack of proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates necessary for coral reproductive and skeleton building causes bleached corals. A 1991 bleaching event in French Polynesia led to the death of 25% of all Acropora corals. The 1997-98 El Nino killed 70% of all corals in the Indian Ocean from Africa to India, and the reefs of the Galapagos Islands have yet to show signs of recovery from the bleaching event 17 years ago. Increases in ultraviolet rays entering the atmosphere have contributed to the bleaching effect in the coral reefs worldwide.
The worldwide trade in aquarium fishing, currently worth $200 million per year, is another source of coral reef destruction. The collection methods of exotic fish include using poisons, primarily sodium cyanide, which destroy entire ecosystems in order to capture the few remaining fish on the perimeter. Blast fishery, also common in such places as the Philippines, is a practice whereby fish for local consumption are collected with explosives, killing the fish at the epicenter, and incapacitating those on the perimeters. The blasts reduce the reefs to rubble, from which they may never recover.
(#19) American Companies Exploit the Congo
Voice (Pioneer Valley, MA)
Honorable Mention: From Previous Censored Yearbook 2001
Faculty evaluator: Philip Beard,
Western multinational corporations attempts to cash in on the wealth of Congo's resources have resulted in what many have called "Africa's first world war," claiming the lives of over 3 million people. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been labeled "the richest patch of earth on the planet." The valuable abundance of minerals and resources in the DRC has made it the target of attacks from U.S.-supported neighboring African countries Uganda and Rwanda.
The DRC is minerial rich with millions of tons of diamonds, copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese, uranium, niobium, and tantalum also known as coltan. Coltan has become an increasingly valuable resource to American corporations. Coltan is used to make mobile phones, night vision goggles, fiber optics, and capacitators used to maintain the electrical charge in computer chips. In December of 2000 the shortage of coltan was the main reason that the popular sale of the Sony Play Station 2 video game came to an abrupt halt.
The DRC holds 80% of the world's coltan reserves, more than 60% of the world's cobalt and is the world's largest supplier of high-grade copper. With these minerals playing a major part in maintaining US military dominance and economic growth, minerals in the Congo are deemed vital US interests.
Historically, the U.S. government identified sources of materials in Third World countries, and then encouraged U.S. corporations to invest in and facilitate their production. Dating back to the mid-1960s, the U.S. government literally installed the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, which gave U.S. corporations access to the Congo's minerals for more than 30 years. However, over the years Mobutu began to limit access by Western corporations, and to control the distribution of resources. In 1998, U.S. military-trained leaders of Rwanda and Uganda invaded the mineral-rich areas of the Congo. The invaders installed illegal colonial-style governments which continue to receive millions of dollars in arms and military training from the United States. Our government and a $5 million Citibank loan maintains the rebel presence in the Congo. Their control of mineral rich areas allows western corporations, such as American Mineral Fields, to illegally mine. Rwandan and Ugandan control over this area is beneficial for both governments and for the corporations that continue to exploit the Congo's natural wealth.
American Mineral Fields (AMF) landed exclusive exploration rights to an estimated 1.4 million tons of copper and 270,000 tons of cobalt. San Francisco based engineering firm Bechtel Inc. established strong ties in the rebel zones as well. Bechtel drew up an inventory of the Congo's mineral resources free of charge, and also paid for NASA satellite studies of the country for infared maps of its minerals. Bechtel estimates that the DRC's mineral ores alone are worth $157 billion dollars. Through coltan production, the Rwandans and their allies are bringing in $20 million revenue a month. Rwanda's diamond exports went from 166 carats in 1998 to 30,500 in 2000. Uganda's diamond exports jumped from approximately 1,500 carats to about 11,300. The final destination for many of these minerals is the U.S.
(#20) Novartis' Gene Research Endangers Global Plant Life
Faculty evaluator: Albert Wahrhaftig
Scientists working for Swiss food giant Novartis have developed and patented a method for 'switching off' the immune systems of plants, to the outrage of environmentalists and Third World charities who believe the new technology to be the most dangerous use so far of gene modification.
Patents filed by Novartis, manufacturers of Ovaltine, reveal that its scientists expect to be able to use the radical biotechnology for almost every crop on earth. Novartis claims that the new use of genetic modification (GM) will give farmers greater control over disease and boost production. But critics insist that it will make Third World farmers dependent on buying the company's chemicals each year to produce healthy harvests.
A spokeswoman for Novartis said, We are trying to help farmers, not hinder them. We are looking at ways to improve the way plants fight disease. She agreed that the company had discovered a way of genetically modifying crops so that their immune systems were disabled, but stressed that this was for research purposes only. The process involves transferring a single DNA molecule, described by the firm as the NIM gene, to the plant. This gene then reacts with the plant's immune system, allowing it to be switched on selectively by the use of chemicals when disease threatens. But the patent also describes plants where the entire immune system has been switched off, making them highly prone to disease.
Environmentalists fear the new technology could have a disastrous ecological impact if crops with suppressed immune systems are allowed to cross-pollinate with surrounding plant life. The use of GM technology, which uses chemicals to activate genetic traits, was specifically condemned by the UN earlier this year. It recommended that the technology not be field-tested and called for a moratorium on its development until the impact had been fully assessed.
The patent documents seen by The Observer suggest that Novartis intends to use the new GM technology on barley, cucumber, tobacco, rice, chilli, wheat, banana, and tomatos. The company cites an extensive list of more than 80 crops, including several cereals, dozens of fruits such as apples, pears, and strawberries, vegetables like beans and lentils, and cash crops like cotton and tea.
Alex Wijeratna of Action Aid, a charity that works with farmers in developing countries, said, We find it extremely frightening that such a powerful multi-national [corporation]is working on this type of technology, which seems aimed at protecting their profits by threatening the rights of poor farmers.
Dr. Sue Mayer, director of Gene Watch, says, These companies should halt development of these potentially dangerous products until there has been a proper assessment of whether they are good for agriculture.
(#21) Large U.S Temp Company Undermines Union Jobs and Mistreats
The Progressive Populist
Faculty/Community Evaluator: Michael Robinson
Labor Ready Inc. is a national temporary employment agency that employed over 700,000 people in 2000. Labor Ready has 839 offices in 49 states and in Canada, and stands ready to place temporary workers as strikebreakers in union labor disputes. During the recent Northwest steal strike, it was Labor Ready who provided hundreds of strike breakers to Kaiser Aluminum in Spokane Washington.
Labor Ready temps are often paid minimum wage for what can be very rigorous construction work. They receive no health benefits and can be seriously mistreated in their temporary places of employment. Workers are required to arrive at dispatch offices between 5-6:00 A.M. and wait for daily referrals. Workers are not paid for the waiting time at the dispatch office. Labor Ready workers have to pay an average of $1.58 when they cash their daily paycheck at the company's cash dispensing machines. In 1999 the company raked in $7.7 million in fees from these machines. Labor Ready's worker injury rate is three times the national average.
The AFL-CIO Building and Constructions Trade Department (BCTD) has supported class action lawsuits by former Labor Ready employees, and would like to see a national union organizing efforts to protect temporary workers nationwide.
BCTD President, Edward Sullivan stated, "Our organizing committee is wrestling with the growing threat posed by temporary employment agencies, which are selling themselves as 'hiring halls without the union' and sending thousands of construction workers out to jobs everyday." Some 75 building and construction trades councils, and more than 100 local unions in 30 states are participating in BCTD's campaign to organize temporary workers. Labor Ready has been forced to close 10% of its hiring offices because of union activities, but there is still no noticeable improvement in wages or working conditions nationwide.
There are practical reasons a national union drive is difficult. Many temp workers are unskilled or semi-skilled, with hourly wage rates of less than one-third the average union scale. Only about one-third of Labor Ready's employees work in construction. Most workers are used in manufacturing, trucking, landscaping, yard work, and other day-labor assignments. It is very difficult to organize such a transitory labor force.
(#22) Fish Farms Threaten Health of Consumers and Aquatic Habitats
Mother Jones Magazine
PEW Oceans Commission Report on Marine Aquaculture, 2001
Faculty evaluator: Bill Crowley
Farmed fish provide one-third of the seafood consumed by people worldwide. In the US, aquaculture supplies almost all of the catfish and trout as well as half of the shrimp and salmon. In the early 1990s, the fledgling aquaculture industry was hailed as a remedy to the problem of marine over-fishing and the subsequent decline in jobs for fishermen. Unfortunately, aquacultures harm to people and surrounding environments may be greater than its highly anticipated benefits.
A recent Canadian study found that a single serving of farmed salmon contains three to six times the World Health Organization's recommended daily intake limit for dioxins and PBCs. A salmon farm of 200,000 fish releases an amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and fecal matter roughly equivalent to the nutrient waste in untreated sewage from 20,000 to 25,000 people. Farmed salmon (usually called Atlantic or cultured Atlantic salmon) are genetically modified to be larger and have a 50 to 70 percent higher metabolic rate. When these super-fish get into the wild they compete unfairly for food resources, causing an increased rate of starvation among wild fish.
There is also a wide range of chemicals used in aquaculture, including antibiotics, parasiticides, pesticides, hormones, anesthetics, minerals, and vitamins. The use of these antibiotics is a health risk for fish as well as people, since it promotes the spread of antibiotic-resistance in both human and fish pathogens.
Canada is a major target for salmon farming. At first, salmon farms were welcomed for the jobs they would bring. Within a few years, however, large foreign corporations bought out many of the smaller operators. As the new operators took control, farms expanded and anchored their net pens in places where wild salmon smolts rested and fed on their way out to sea. Shrimp fishermen began pulling up traps full of back muck a gooey mixture of feces, excess antibiotic-laden fish feed, and decayed salmon carcasses that had drifted out of the pens.
Other problems persist. Piercing acoustic sirens have been installed over salmon pens to keep seals and sea lions away, the noise has caused killer whales to flee the Canadian archipelago. To rid their fish of sea lice, farmers dose them with ivermectin, a potent anti-parasitic known to kill some species of shrimp. Farmed fish contracted antibiotic-resistant stains of furunculous, a fatal disease that produces ugly skin ulcers; wild salmon that migrated past their pens also contacted the disease. Said one Canadian fishing guide, "I've been catching salmon up here all my life. I'd never seen a fish with a lesion until the farms came in."
Glen Neidrauer, a game warden who patrols the archipelago for Canada's department of Fisheries and Oceans, said," I can appreciate the values of the jobs, but why would you jeopardize a place so pristine? We're not just talking fish. All the birds, bears, and sea mammals depend on the wild salmon. I wonder how long you can mess with that until they finally don't return."
(#23) Horses Face Lives of Unnecessary Abuse for Drug Company Profits
Faculty Evaluator: Wendy Ostroff
Premarin, the top selling hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopausal women, is made from pregnant mares urine (PMU). Estrogen is extracted from the urine and is sold in many different forms to help with the symptoms of menopause. Approximately 9 million women are currently taking some form of Premarin and that number is expected to rise due to aging baby boomers. Premarin, made by Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, a subsidiary of American Home Products, is the only human estrogen replacement drug that is derived from animal products, most others are derived from soy and vegetables. The patent on Premarin, owned by Wyeth-Ayerst, is about to expire. This may well result in the manufacture of an array of generic substitutes, and is likely to increase the number of horses used in this industry.
Pregnant horses are four legged drug machinesbeing repeatedly impregnated and confined to narrow stalls as their urine is collected. Horses are kept inside for 6 months out of the year. The horses are housed in cramped stalls 8x 3 1/2x5. Horses are hooked up to a urine collection bag that is fixed into position just below their tail. These urine collection devises (UCDs) are painful and unhygienic. Urine soaks the skin of the vulva and can cause severe infection and painful lesions. The horses are tied with a short rope to keep them from taking more then a single step in either direction, or from lying down. After several years on line, the mares are shipped to slaughterhouses where they are butchered so their meat can be exported to Europe or Japan for human consumption.
Today, there are 439 PMU farms still in existence. The majority are in Canada and a few are in North Dakota. In 1999 there were about 55, 000 to 65,000 mares on the pee lines. Guidelines state that horses should be offered water no less then two times per day. However, PMU farmers prefer to water as little as possible to keep the concentration of estrogen in the urine high. They are paid based on the concentration not the volume of urine collected.
Every spring, each mare gives birth to a foal. These foals spend the first few months with their mothers and then are rounded up in September to allow their mothers to rejoin the lines. Most of these young horses are then taken to feed lots were they are fattened up and sold for slaughter. The meat is then exported to European and Asian markets for human consumption.
Ollie Bracken a retired Manitoba, Canada PMU farmer, stated in a 1995 interview that he retired from PMU farming because, When you have to see a colt being born and then have to destroy it, its rough because theyre just babies. I just dont think it was right to continue what I was doing.
According to a former PMU farmer from New York, "piss farms," as he called them, were located in New York and Vermont in the early 50s. Urine was collected by Wyeth-Ayerst, a subsidiary of American Home Products in Philadelphia, and taken to Montreal where it was processed into a powdered form and then shipped back to New York to be made into tablets and marketed
Most of the media attention regarding PMU farms has focused primarily on the mass production and slaughter of the foals born to the tens of thousands of mare annually. The heightened European demand for horse meat, due to the effects of mad cow and hoof-and-mouth disease has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of horses slaughtered, and has caused the price of horse meat to go up.
(#24) Wal-Mart Takes Union Busting to the State Level
Madison Capital Times
Faculty evaluator: Phil McGough
This campaign will inevitably undermine the ability of unions to effectively organize. The right to work law has union members angered and concerned, as expressed by a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers "Union members across the country should take note of Wal-Mart's support of measures like 'right to work' before they spend any of their union wages at Wal-Mart stores." Right to work laws were developed in the 1940s by segregationists to keep African-Americans, Latinos, and white workers in the South and Southwest from unionizing. Right to work laws were among the vile legacies of an era when conservatives worked at the state and national level to erect legal barriers to racial progress. Only two states have passed right to work laws since the civil rights era.
In the 21 States with right to work laws, the medium household income is $4,882 less than states where workers are free to organize effective unions. These states have higher poverty rates and less health insurance coverage than states without right to work laws.
Oklahoma rejected a right to work law in 1964, when Martin Luther King Jr. came to campaign against the proposal. This time around however powerful right-wing interests combined with Wal-Mart to push the initiative. The Daily Oklahoman contributed advertising space and Governor Frank Keating and U.S. Senator Don Nickles campaigned in support of passage.
Nichols writes, "In a sense, it is a good investment for Wal-Mart, which often has a hard time finding workers willing to accept low wages paid at it stores. If the Oklahoma campaign is a success, right-to-work advocates hope to use it as a model for passing similar initiatives in Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, New Hampshire and New Mexico."
Update: On September 25 the voters of Oklahoma passed the right-to-work
law by a 54% margin. Wal-Mart contributed $250,000 to the campaign.
AFL-CIO had filed legal challenges to the law.
(#25) Federal Government Bails Out Failing Private Prisons
The American Prospect
Faculty evaluator: Pat Jackson
Corporate media coverage:
For close to a decade the private prison industry was booming because state legislators thought they could be both tough on crime and fiscally conservative by contracting with private prisons. However, private prisons have been rife with more abuse and lawsuits than state run prisons, leading to a decline in state level support. By last year not a single state solicited private contracts and many contracts were rolled back or even rescinded as a result of inefficiency and abuses.
The largest private prison in the US, The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), has been criticized for widespread abuses and high rates of escape. In April of 2001, prison guards at Cibola county Correctional Center in New Mexico teargassed 700 inmates who had staged a daylong nonviolent protest of conditions at the facility. Additionally a score of lawsuits have been filed for beatings of prisoners, lack of proper medical treatment, and corruption among staff. Other private companies have similar records. Wackenhut prisons, the second largest private-prison company, has had many similar problems and repeated breakouts of violence.
Problems are often the consequence of companies' attempts to hold down costs. Prisons for profit have resulted in low pay for guards and a high turnover rate of under-qualified staff. Whereas guards who work for state run prisons receive benefits and are usually union members, private prisons tend to hire less-qualified, lower-cost personnel.
While most state correctional officials are aware of the problems, the federal government continues to expand contracts with the private prison industry. Private prison industry officials make significant campaign contributions and their lobbyists have spread their influence widely in Congress. High-ranking private prison company officials have served as directors of the Federal Bureau of Prisons under former presidents Reagan and Bush. U.S. government pending private prison contracts are up to over $4.6 billion for the next ten years. With the new federal contracts, CCA, which carried more than $1 billion in outstanding debt, was able to avoid bankruptcy and continue in business.
Harsh drug laws have increased the federal prison population but federal immigration polices are less known. The 1996 Immigration Reform Act expanded the list of crimes for which non-citizens could be deported after serving their sentences. About 36,000 non-citizens are now in federal prisons. This is close to double what it was only seven years ago. Immigrants make up 9.3 percent of the US population, but disproportionately compose 29 percent of the federal prison population. About half of federal prisoners are Mexican, 10 percent Colombian, 7 percent Cuban, and the rest are a mix of other nationalities. Only 1.5 percent were sentenced for violent offenses compared with 15 percent in state prisons.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) is now proposing up to 7,500 low security beds in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. Additionally several thousand are being proposed elsewhere in the nation. The private, for-profit prison industry is deemed most likely to receive these upcoming contracts.
Prison reform advocates and correctional officers are fighting the expansion of private prisons. Democratic Congressman Ted Strickland of Ohio, and Republican Congressman John E. Sweeney of New York have introduced federal legislation that would deny contracts with private prisons from the Federal Bureau Of Prisons or by states who contract with private prisons. Nevertheless, the federal government is making sure the private prison industry continues.