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UK: Government debates BSE report, acknowledges 'serious shortcomings'
16 Feb 2001
Source: editorial team 

UK agriculture minister Nick Brown pledged that future governments would do all in their power to prevent a repeat of the BSE scandal during the

Brown, opening a parliamentary debate on Lord Phillips' BSE report, acknowledged that the inquiry into the outbreak identified ‘serious shortcomings’
in the handling of the affair by previous Conservative governments.

Mr Brown said: "The whole approach and behaviour of departments and individuals will need to change to ensure that the lessons identified by the
inquiry are properly absorbed and implemented."

Mr Brown said the report found that many of those dealing with the problem ‘hoped and believed’ that a link between BSE and humans would never
be found.

“The official line that the risk of transmissibility was remote and that beef was safe did not recognise the possible validity of any other view.
Dissident scientists tended to be treated with derision.

“There has been a significant loss of public confidence in the arrangements for handling food safety and standards, in large part due to the events
surrounding BSE.”

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Sunday, February 11, 2001

Car Makers' Productivity Bubble Pops 

By DAVID FRIEDMAN Los Angeles Times February 11, 2001 

Daimler Chrysler's sobering announcement last week that it will fire 26,000 workers caps months of bad news from U.S. auto makers. Driven by what were touted as computer-age productivity improvements, auto manufacturing was supposed to be a "new economy" triumph. The car industry's stunning reversal of fortune, however, suggests how much of their recent boom depended on fortuitously cheap energy, money and regulatory loopholes, rather than breakthrough innovations. 

According to new-economy pundits, the U.S. created the world's most nimble, advanced Information Age economy in the 1990s. The U.S. auto industry was one of the biggest beneficiaries. After years of stagnation, U.S. manufacturing productivity suddenly accelerated, something widely attributed to magical new technologies like the Internet. 

Motor-vehicle sales boomed. U.S. car companies earned an unprecedented $85 billion during the decade. But far from reflecting new computer-led design or manufacturing skills, the U.S. firms' successes almost totally depended on making and selling lower-tech light trucks--SUVs, minivans and pickups--rather than more demanding passenger cars. 

For a variety of reasons, truck manufacturing shielded chronically weak U.S. 
manufacturers from the technological, regulatory and competitive challenges they could not otherwise meet. As soon as these fortuitous circumstances changed, the illusory nature of the car industry's renaissance became clear. 
Throughout the 1990s, U.S. companies largely gave up trying to compete with Asian and European manufacturers in producing more refined, less polluting and fuel-efficient passenger cars. Such conventional vehicles are subject to stringent and ever evolving safety, performance and environmental standards. Flexible and creative design and manufacturing skills are necessary to produce them. U.S. auto makers simply did not possess these skills. 

Accordingly, from 1990-99, total annual domestic car sales fell by more than 600,000 units, almost entirely because of curtailed U.S. production of 
passenger cars. By 2000, foreign car manufacturers had gained nearly 50% of the U.S. passenger-car market, compared with 35% at the start of the decade. U.S. manufacturers instead focused on marketing light trucks. This strategy offered several immediate advantages. 

Most light trucks were exempt from pesky federal and state pollution and fuel-economy standards. They could be built with less sophisticated emissions, propulsion and other key technologies than found in typical passenger cars, and thus were less expensive to make. 

High fuel prices and narrower roadways in Europe and Asia, moreover, discouraged overseas producers from even thinking of turning large, gas-guzzling trucks into passenger vehicles and competing with U.S. companies. Nevertheless, U.S. consumers were willing to pay about the same price for a light truck as for a better engineered passenger car. Given these economics, a single U.S. SUV assembly plant could generate as much profit as 20 conventional-car factories combined. 

U.S. firms wasted no time shifting toward light-truck production. By 2000, about 70% of Daimler Chrysler's production, 60% of Ford's and half of GM's was composed of SUVs, minivans and pickups. Annual U.S. vehicle sales rose by 3 million units, or 22% during the 1990s. All that growth was due to light-truck sales, which accounted for nearly 50% of U.S. new vehicles in 1999, up from 30% 10 years earlier. 

In the new economy, business profitability is supposed to be gained through the use of novel, high-tech capabilities that allow for continuous product development and manufacturing, a previously unattainable goal. But U.S. auto industry growth in the last decade took an almost exactly opposite turn. By late last year, the favorable market conditions that enabled short-term U.S. manufacturing successes were rapidly eroding. 

The most important condition was cheap, plentiful fuel. Light trucks are far less efficient than passenger cars. Volatile gas prices would have curtailed their sales. 

After the Gulf War, however, Americans could freely import as much oil as they wanted from grateful Middle East emirates. Like the 1950s, it just didn't seem to matter if vehicles became steadily bigger and heavier, or if average U.S. fuel economy dropped to its lowest level in 20 years. 

Also crucial was the continued relaxation of light-truck pollution and safety 
regulations. Originally intended to lower costs for farmers and small businesses, Congress never dreamed that these provisions would be used to evade more broadly applicable consumer- vehicle standards. But by avidly lobbying to retain light-truck exemptions, U.S. truck producers avoided having to deal with strict passenger-car tailpipe emission controls, crumple zones or rollover stability. They could continue to sell vehicles that were less safe and that spewed forth two to four times the pollution emanating from a conventional car. 
Finally, cheap money, short-term leasing and rapid product turnover reduced 
consumers' quality concerns. 

All these happy circumstances began to evaporate in the last half of 2000. Increases in gas prices rekindled long-dormant fuel-economy concerns. Higher interest rates made buyers more keenly aware of long-term vehicle quality. Light-truck regulatory loopholes started to close. And foreign producers, resigned to the fact that U.S. consumers actually wanted to drive badly built trucks instead of more sensible passenger cars, flooded the market with highly competitive products. 

U.S. manufacturers immediately began to suffer. Their car and truck sales fell by nearly 2% in 2000, even though total domestic-market sales reached a record level. GM's market share dropped to a new low, just 28% of the total U.S. market, compared with 35% 10 years earlier, and it scuttled an entire car division, the venerable Oldsmobile. 

Daimler Chrysler rang up losses of more than $1 billion. Ford, by far the healthiest U.S. producer, suffered embarrassing product and tire recalls and was forced to take a mammoth $1.5 billion charge against earnings. 
Meanwhile, "old economy" European car makers like VW/Audi were achieving the 
world's most rapid sales and profit growth rates with a bevy of new, widely acclaimed vehicles. Honda's U.S. sales rose by 6%. Toyota's Lexus became America's best-selling luxury car. 

Once troubled Nissan accomplished a nearly miraculous turnaround under the auspices of a French chief executive from Renault. Foreign sales in the U.S. surged by 12% and exceeded 30% of the total domestic vehicle market for the first time ever. 

Automobiles are the heart of U.S. manufacturing and, by some measures, account for as much as 14% of the entire economy. If the Information Age had truly transformed U.S. industry, its effects should have been everywhere apparent in car production. Yet, the sobering reality is that U.S. auto makers emerged from the go-go 1990s less capable than ever compared with their supposedly "old economy" competition. 

But what about the fabulous productivity numbers? Much of this improvement seems to have been the result of cutbacks in technology, safety and quality investments. Blessed with a market that did not much value engineering enhancements, U.S. firms could reduce their costs and, at least for a time, boost apparent productivity. When consumers started to become more discerning, however, the industry's latent competitive problems 

Rather than cling to an unsubstantiated sense of economic dominance, the U.S. would be better served by more realistically assessing its industrial strengths and weaknesses. Only a handful of skeptics correctly predicted that higher interest rates would severely throttle the nation's supposedly unstoppable economy. Information Age hype blinded energy experts from the obvious fact that burgeoning computer use would push electricity demand well above previous projections. 

Similarly, even the most encouraging productivity data shouldn't have induced 
many observers to imagine that U.S. auto makers could long thrive on a bloated diet of gas-guzzling, low-quality vehicles. It now seems inevitable that U.S. car makers, and the communities that depend on them, face an uncertain future. 

We can only hope that our other new-economy fantasies are less painfully exposed. 
- - -
David Friedman, a Contributing Editor to Opinion, is a Markle Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation

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Future Hope column, Feb. 16, 2001

Nader and Progressive Leadership

By Ted Glick

As this is written, it's about three months since the November
elections, two months since the 5 Supremes selected their boy to be
President and just about one year since Ralph Nader publicly announced
his independent Presidential candidacy on Feb. 21st of 2000. 

Amid various post-mortems on the Nader/LaDuke campaign and articles
about what Nader is and will be doing, it seems timely to ask the
question, "What should we be looking for from our nationally-known,
prominent, progressive leaders now and in the future?" What can be
learned from the strengths and weaknesses of Nader's heroic independent
Presidential campaign? What steps can be taken now so that the same
weaknesses are not present in an independent Presidential campaign in

Some have criticized Nader for being "a full-blown progressive, taking
strong positions on the death penalty, the military budget, health care,
gay rights, labor organizing, racial profiling, reparations for slavery,
hemp, Palestinian rights-you name it," in the words of writer Micah
Sifry. Sifry feels that this was a negative, that, in the future, "it
may make more sense to build a third-party campaign as an
independent-populist play rooted in the 'radical middle' that came out
for Ross Perot in 1992 and Jesse Ventura in 1998."

This is extremely problematic. It is even more problematic that Sifry's
views are not isolated ones. 

There is a large constituency for Nader's full-blown progressivism.
Exit polls indicated that 10 million or so voters seriously considered
voting for Nader. Many did not, most likely, because of our
winner-take-all political system. If we had instant runoff voting,
instead of 2.75% of the vote, Nader might have received more like 9-10%.
And that 10 million includes very few of the 50% of the population who
don't vote, who are generally working-class, low-income, young and/or
alienated from the whole political process. Many of these people would
respond positively to a pro-justice agenda and a movement which showed
it had the political strength so that their individual votes could make
a difference.

Another example is from the '80s, when Jesse Jackson received close to
7 million votes in the Democratic primaries and polls in 1988 indicated
that, if he had run as an independent, he might have gotten 15% of the
vote. And Jackson was without question a "full-blown progressive," with
a platform that spoke to a wide range of issues.

However, distinctly different from the Nader campaign, Jackson emerged
out of and was a leader of a very different base. First and foremost was
the Rainbow Coalition's base in the African American community. Also
actively involved were some sectors of the labor movement, as well as
farmers, gays and lesbians, etc. Nader's campaign, overwhelmingly white
and with little labor support, was constituency-challenged from the
start. Its strength was on predominantly white college campuses, as well
as among significant swatches of progressives.

Nader, by all accounts I have read and heard, was also very much "the
man" internally within the campaign. In Sifry's words, "his legendary
aptitude for micromanaging" would have made it difficult to build a
campaign that involved a representative cross-section of the progressive
movement in leadership of the campaign. For all of the National Rainbow
Coalition's ties to the Democratic Party, there was a serious effort
during the high point of its influence and power, from early 1986 to
early 1989, to build a collective national leadership, a national board,
that was multi-racial, multi-constituency, democratic and which played a
role in determining direction and activity.

Those of us who are not nationally-prominent progressives-and those of
us who are--need to speak up wherever appropriate about the need for our
national leadership to combine the best of the Nader/LaDuke and Rainbow
campaigns, and keep building upon that combination in not just a
quantitative but a qualitative way. We need:

-leadership that is politically independent of the Democratic Party;
-leadership which speaks out on a range of issues, doing so, of course,
in a way which respectfully educates, informs and positively challenges
people who do not see themselves as on the Left;
-leadership which is committed to genuinely multi-racial,
multi-constituency, cooperative processes of decision-making and
movement-building; and, last but not least,
-leadership which helps to build democratically-organized and 
actively-involving forms of organization at all levels.

We can't settle for less!

Ted Glick is National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive
Politics Network ( and author of FUTURE HOPE: A Winning
Strategy for a Just Society. He can be reached at P.O. Box 1132,
Bloomfield, N.J. 07003,

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USA: Euro crop law conditions dismays biotech companies
16 Feb 2001
Source: Reuters 

By K.T. Arasu

CHICAGO, Feb 15 (Reuters) - A move by several European nations to attach conditions to a law that took the continent a step closer to
accepting new genetically modified crops was met with dismay on Thursday by U.S. backers of biotechnology.

Members of the European Parliament on Wednesday approved strict rules to test and monitor the safety of GM crops, paving the way for lifting
an unofficial ban on approving new strains of GM crops by the European Union.

But on Thursday six EU countries attached conditions on the new legislation that could possibly keep the ban in place for months longer.

Europe is a key export market for U.S. grains and animal feed, and the European Union has not approved any new GM crop varieties since April
1998. A de facto moratorium on approval was put in place by EU environment ministers in June 1990.

"I find it very disheartening," said Tony Anderson, president of the American Soybean Association. "They are just stalling, stopping the

"Companies have got hundreds of millions of dollars invested in research on products that are waiting in the pipeline that can be of benefit to
me, my family, to my farm, to the environment and to people who consume the product in my country and their country," he told Reuters.

The National Corn Growers Association said the move to place conditions puts "a different spin" on the situation.

"It's a case of putting one step forward and taking two steps back. We were optimistic that the Europeans were going to lift their regulatory
blockade on biotechnology, but the action by these other countries shows how this is going to be a very lengthy process," NCGA spokesman
Stewart Reeve said.

"There's going to be a tough road ahead to get these regulations put on a more equal footing. We feel like there are tremendous hurdles to using
biotechnology in the world."

Led by France, six EU countries said they would continue to block new GM permits until further rules are put in place ensuring gene-altered
products can be traced back to source.

Val Giddings, vice president for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said the move by the six countries could be
attributed in part to the food scare sparked by the spread of mad cow disease in Europe.

"Mad cow disease is very heavily implicated in the biotechnology product problem," he said. "A whole bunch of factors come into play, but mad
cow is a big one. It has shown that the existing food safety regime in Europe is desperately in need of fixing."

Loren Wassell, spokesman for agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto Co , which has been waiting for European Union approval of its
Roundup Ready corn for years, was guarded with his reaction.

"We do have a product that was first submitted (for approval) in 1997. Certainly we look forward to the day when products can win timely
approval in all major markets."

He declined to comment directly on the position of the EU countries wanting to attach conditions to the GM law. "We are pleased to see progress
for a working regulatory system that can make timely decisions," he said.

Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn, which is bioengineered to be resistant to a weedkiller known as Roundup, is approved for use in human food
and animal feed in the United States, Canada and Japan, the top importer of U.S. corn.

Greenpeace Genetic Engineering specialist Charles Margulis said the EU law would make it tougher for GM grains and products from the United
States to gain access into the European market. "They are making the law on the imports of such products tighter," he added.

(C) Reuters Limited 2001.

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Shocking FACTS about U.S. income & wealth inequality

Tue, 13 Feb 2001

After 8 years of a genuinely sociopathic "New Democrat" as President
of the United States the appalling inequality of income and wealth that
was exacerbated under the Republican President Reagan actually WORSENED.

At a time when the top 1% of U.S. citizens owns more wealth than the
bottom 95% the new U.S. President wants to further cut the taxes of
that wealthiest 1% while vast numbers of the bottom 95% live paycheck-
to-paycheck and owe enormous credit card debts.

Whether Democrat or Republican, whether Gore or Bush, the result is
the same: the U.S. is damn close to becoming a Third World nation.
Perhaps if more poor people in Honduras, the Philippines, India or
other Third World countries had credit cards they, too -- like so many
heavily-indebted Americans -- would delude themselves that they
were "well-off".

The fact is that tax rate for the wealthiest Americans was 88% in the
two decades following World War II, a time when the U.S. economy was
booming. Working-class and middle-class Americans saved more and
charged less then, too.

What follows are some disturbing facts (from
about just how far from a fair economy we've come, notwithstanding the
joint Dem-GOP deceitful propaganda that
claims most Americans are "better-off" nowadays:

* Since the mid-1970s, the most fortunate one percent of households
have doubled their share of the national wealth. They now hold more
wealth than the bottom 95 percent of the population. (Shifting

* In 1998, 18.7 percent of American children lived in poverty, a lower
rate than 1993 (19.6 percent), but higher than the 1979 rate of 16.4
percent. (Columbia University,

* Nine states have reduced child poverty rates by more than 30% since
1993. These states include Tennessee, Michigan, Aransas, South
Carolina, Mississippi, Kentucky, Illinois and New Jersey. Michigan is a
prime example of a national trend, in that even the recent, dramatic
improvement did not counter the losses of the previous 15 years, in
which its poverty rate increased 121%. (Columbia University)

* In California, the number of children living in poverty has grown
from 900,000 in 1979, to 2.15 million in 1998. (Columbia University)

* Nearly 3 percent of all workers live under the federal poverty line,
defined in 1998 as $13,003 for a family of three. Counting dependents,
this encompasses roughly 5 million people.(The Conference Board,
contact Linda Barrington, 212-339-0481)

* In 1998, the top 1 percent of stock owners owned 47.7 percent of all
stock, while the bottom 80 percent owned 4.1 percent. Between 1989 and
1998, nearly 35 percent of all stock market gains went to the top 1
percent of shareholders. 64 percent of American households have stock
holdings worth $5,000 or less, or own no stock at all. (Economic Policy

* Between 1995 and 1998, the total wealth of the typical American
household rose from $58,800 to $61,000. The average value of stock
holdings rose $5,500, the value of non-stock assets (mostly homes)
climbed $8,500, and household debt increased $11,800. (Economic Policy

* Middle-class families enjoyed 2.8 percent of the stock market gains
between 1989 and 1998, but accounted for 38.8 percent of the increase
in household debt. (Economic Policy Institute)

* In 1998, 62.9 percent of private sector workers had employer-provided
healthcare, down from 63.1 percent in 1989. 49.2 percent of private
sector workers have employer-provided pension plans. (Economic Policy

* 60 percent of U.S. workers say that if they were laid off, their
savings are sufficient to maintain their current standard of living for
a few months or less. Only 29 percent said they are able to save for
the future. 40 percent say they earn enough to be comfortable, but not
to save, while 27 percent said they earn only enough to get by, and 3
percent said they are unable to pay their bills. (Fleet Bank, contact
Rena DeSisto, 212-703-1961)

* 64 percent of U.S. workers say they would rather have more time than
more money. Even in households earning less than $25,000, 49 percent
said they would still prefer time over money. (Fleet Bank)

* Fewer than 43,000 estates -- 2 percent of the total -- paid federal
estate taxes in 1997. (Money, 9/2000)

* In 2000, the federal estate tax is expected to raise $27 billion,
more than double the amount of federal income taxes paid by the bottom
half of all taxpayers. (United For a Fair Economy,

* A study by Treasury Department economist David Joulfaian found that
eliminating the estate tax would reduce charitable bequests by about 12
percent. (United For a Fair Economy)

* While the top tax rate is 55 percent, on average, estate taxes
represent 17 percent of the gross value of the estate. (United For a
Fair Economy)

* More than 2.5 million households have investable assets of more than
$1 million, up from 2 million households in 1995. (Time, 12/14/98)

* As a result of stock-market gains, the most affluent 25-30 percent of
American households) are about 20 times wealthier, on average, than
they were in 1989. (New York Times, 9/20/98)

* Among the industrialized nations, the U.S. has the highest
concentration of individual wealth--roughly 3 times that of the No. 2
nation, Germany. (UN Human Development Report, 1998)

* As of 1997, the richest five percent of U.S. households held more
than 60 percent of the nation's private wealth. The top 1 percent of
households held 40 percent of the wealth. (Edward Wolff, relying on
data from the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances)

* Between 1983 and 1995, the average net worth of households in the
bottom 40 percent of the population declined by 80 percent, from $4,400
to $900. The net worth of the middle fifth of the population declined
by 11 percent. (Shifting Fortunes, Edward Wolff)

* Most Americans in the highest-earning one percent of the population
(median annual income: $330,000) don't consider themselves rich. (Worth-
Roper Starch Survey)

* The inflation-adjusted net worth of the median household fell from
$54,600 in 1989 to $49,900 in 1997. In nearly one out of five
households, debts exceed assets. Household debt as a percentage of
personal income rose from 58 percent in 1973 to an estimated 85 percent
in 1997. (Chuck Collins, Betsy Leondar-Wright, Holly Sklar, Shifting

* As of 1995, 40 percent of American households owned stock either
directly or through a mutual fund or some sort of retirement plan.
Almost 90 percent of the value of all stocks and mutual funds was held
by 10 percent of the households. (Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer

* Between 1983 and 1995, only the highest-earning five percent of
households saw an increase in their financial net worth. By 1995, the
bottom 40 percent of families headed by those between the ages of 25-54
had no savings. The middle quintile of income-earners (the middle
class) have enough savings to sustain their standard of living for 1.2
months, down from 3.6 months in 1989. (Federal Reserve data as analyzed
by Edward Wolff)

* Between 1983 and '89, the net worth of American citizens grew by $5
trillion. About 54 percent of that new wealth went to the half-million
families who make up the top one-half of one percent of the population.
Federal Reserve and IRS data confirm that the net worth of the top 1
percent of Americans now dwarfs that of the bottom 90 percent--the most
extreme wealth concentration since the 1920s. (Jeff Gates, "An
Ownership Solution")

* The likelihood of facing an Internal Revenue Service audit if you
earned more than $100,000 last year: 1.03 percent. In 1988, the audit
rate was 11.4 percent for such taxpayers. Now their chance of being
audited is smaller than that of taxpayers earning less than $25,000 a
year; their rate is 1.5 percent. (The New York Times, April 16, 2000)

* The Gini coefficient is a complex statistical measure of inequality;
a 0 coefficient is perfect equality (everyone has the same share),
while a 1 coefficient is total inequality (one person has everything).
In 1997, the United States had a Gini coefficient of 0.375, up from
0.323 in 1973. The 1997 figure is higher than any other "wealthy"
country. Britain's is 0.346, Germany's 0.300, Canada's 0.286 and
Sweden's 0.222. However, these figures relate to income, and Alan
Greenspan points out that when applied to consumption, the Gini number
for the U.S. falls by about 25 percent. In other words, the poor are
more likely to own the same televisions, washing machines, etc., as the
rich, than income figures might suggest. (Fortune, 9/4/00)

* 5.4 million Americans live in substandard housing or spend more than
half their income on rent. (Fortune, 9/4/00)

* Income inequality declined from the late 1930s through the '60s. In
the 1920s, the richest five percent of American families received about
30 percent of the nation's personal income. That share had decreased to
17.5 percent of income by 1947, and to 15.6 percent by 1969, according
to the Census Bureau (whose figures underestimate high incomes by,
among other things, excluding capital gains). After a brief period of
stability, inequality began widening in the late '70s. The income share
going to the richest five percent of families reached 17.9 percent in
1989, 20.3 percent in 1996. The richest one-half of 1 percent of
American taxpayers now account for more than 11 percent of aggregate
income. In recent years, only college graduates, about a quarter of the
work force, have racked up significant wage gains. (Frank Levy, "The
New Dollars and Dreams: American Incomes and Economic Change")

* From 1989 to 1999, real compensation for the average CEO rose 62.7
percent. The ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay stands at 107:1. In
1989, it was 56:1.(Economic Policy Institute)

* Since 1979, the average income of the highest-earning one percent of
Americans has increased by roughly 80 percent, while the income of the
highest-earning 20 percent has increased by 18 percent. The bottom 60
percent of the population has experienced a decrease in real income.
(Shifting Fortunes)

* In 1973, the combined income of the highest-earning 20 percent of
American families was 7.5 times that of the bottom 20 percent. By 1996,
the multiple was 13. (Census Bureau)

* In 1998, the average American worker's inflation-adjusted weekly
wages were 12 percent below what they had been in 1973. (Collins,
Leondar-Wright and Sklar, Shifting Fortunes)

* In 1947, children were slightly less likely than adults to be poor.
Now the reverse is true. (Frank Levy) The official poverty rate among
children is about twenty percent. Among adults, it's twelve percent.
(New York Times, 1/4/99)

* Although the wage gap has moderated slightly in the last few years,
over-all income differences continue to widen, due to the impact of
stock market gains. Americans with taxable incomes above $200,000 may
only constitute a tenth of a percent of the population, but they
accounted for 18.1 of the household income reported in 1996, up from
14.6 percent in 1994. In 1997, that share increased again, to 19.9
percent. (New York Times, 2/28/99)

* Among chief executives of the biggest U.S. corporations, the median
increase in overall compensation was about 10 percent last year, up
from 25 percent in 1997, according to Graef Crystal. Corporate profits,
meanwhile, rose 5 percent, and factory employees' pay, 2.6 percent.
(New York Times, 4/4/99)

* With stock options factored in, the average CEO of a major U.S.
corporation made $7.8 million in 1997, up from $5.8 million in 1996.
(Business Week, 4/20/98)

* The average CEO makes 728 times more than a minimum wage worker. If
the minimum wage had risen at the same rate as executive pay over the
last three daces, it would stand at nearly $41 an hour as opposed to
$5.15. (Institute for Policy Studies/United for a Fair Economy, April
23, 1998)

* As a result of the merger between Chrysler and Daimler Benz, Chrysler
chairman Robert Eaton will get $69.9 million in cash and stocks, and
options worth another $239 million. In 1997, Daimler chairman Juergen
Schrempp took home $2.5 million, while Eaton made $16 million, though
Schrempp ran a larger and more profitable company. (United for a Fair

* Since 1986, Bill Gates has been earning money at the rate of roughly
$650,000 an hour. If there were such a thing as a $500 bill, it would
not be worth Mr. Gates' while to take the time (circa 4 four seconds)
to bend down and pick one up off the ground. (Bill Gates Net Worth

* The average wage of a Silicon Valley software engineer was $95,800 in
1998, the most recent year for which the data is available. In the
largest of all employment categories, "local and visitor services"
(including retail and restaurant workers), the average wage was
$22,9000. (The New York Times, Jan. 10, 2000).

Health Patterns

Infant Mortality

* Eight American infants die for every 1,000 who are born. The infant
mortality rate for African-Americans is twice as high: 15.8 deaths per
1,000 live births. (Childrens Defense Fund)

* The only OECD nations with higher rates of infant mortality are
Hungary, Korea, Mexico, Poland, and Turkey. In 1994, 31,710 U.S. babies
died. Fifteen thousand of them would have survived if our infant
mortality rate was equal to Japan's. (Childrens Defense Fund) Life

* The United States spends more on medical care--13.6 percent of gross
domestic product--than any other advanced industrialized society. Yet
among the 29 OECD nations, we rank 21st in life expectancy. (Childrens
Defense Fund) The average life expectancy for white Americans is 76.8
years. For black Americans, it stands at 70.2 years (Department of
Human Services Health United States Report, 1998)

* Death rates in the most economically divided metropolitan areas--such
as Pine Bluff, Ark., an Mobile, Ala.--are sharply higher than the
national annual average of 850 deaths per 100,000 people. The increase
in mortality--an extra 140 deaths per 100,000 people--is equivalent to
the combined loss of life from lung cancer, diabetes, motor vehicle
accidents, HIV, infection, suicide and homicide during 1995. (Lynch
J.W., Kaplan G.A., Pamuk E.R., et al. "Income inequality and mortality
in metropolitan areas of the United States," American Journal of Public
Health 1998)

The Uninsured

* Roughly forty-three million Americans--one sixth of the population--
have no health insurance. In 1990, the figure was 32 million. (Knight-
Ridder 2/19/99)

* Eighteen percent of workers between 18 and 64 were uninsured in 1997--
an increase of 15.7 percent over 1990. Sixty-nine percent of white
workers were covered by employer-sponsored insurance, compared with 52
percent of African American workers and 44 percent of Latino workers.
(Sacramento Bee)

* One in four American workers has no access to employment-based health
insurance coverage at any price. (General Accounting Office, Feb 1997,
Employment-Based Health Insurance Costs)

* About ten million children are uninsured. In 1996, 70 percent of all
Americans added to the ranks of the uninsured were children. (Census

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MALAYSIA: Malaysia adds Thailand and Brazil to beef blacklist, seeks advice
from UK
15 Feb 2001
Source: editorial team 

The Malaysian government has banned beef and beef products from Thailand and Brazil. These two countries join the 16 EU Member States on the beef blacklist, which has been drawn up in a bid to prevent the spread of BSE.

As well as banning imports, Malaysian health minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the government has also ordered the immediate removal of all beef-derived products from these countries from food store shelves. Wary of beef being smuggled illegally into the country, officials have implemented stringent security checks along the border with Thailand.

The Malaysian ban seems to be inspired as much by fear as by fact. "We have banned these products including cattle from Thailand for an indefinite period, because of newspaper reports that several people have been hospitalised in that country with mad cow disease," confirmed Jui Meng. However, he added that Malaysia had "received information" that Thai cattle are being fed with meat and bone meal (MBM) derived
from cows imported from EU Member States.

Meng confirmed that the ban had been extended to include beef from Brazil after reports reached the government that the US, Canada and Mexico have banned Brazilian beef. Canada's decision, in particular, was a high-profile move that has generated intense speculation that it has more to do with a longstanding dispute over subsidies than grounded fears over beef safety. To read more click here.

In a bid to better educate veterinary and inspection authorities, the Malaysian government is sending four officials to the UK to participate in a two-week programme to study the latest technologies and tests used to detect BSE.

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The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Facts on the Ground

by Sean Gonsalves

Tuesday, February 13, 2001
Cape Cod Times

I was humbled by my ignorance. But even the ignorant
quickly learn that studying maps and the lay of the land
is central to understanding the Israeli-Palestinian

"If you only look at what is called the 'peace process,'
from the political point of view, you get a certain
picture," Jeff Halper explained in his Jerusalem living

Halper, an American-born Israeli Jew, is a professor of
anthropology at Ben Gurion University. He's been part of
the Israeli peace movement for more than 25 years and now
heads up an organization called the Israeli Committee
Against (Palestinian) House Demolitions.

Without dismissing the good things that have come from the
"peace process", Halper, with humility and painstaking
thoroughness, illustrates that if you focus only on the
political rhetoric the picture you get of the conflict is
severely distorted.

"Look at the generous offer that Israel made the
Palestinians - 95 percent of the West Bank, dividing
Jerusalem" - a typical American (and Israeli) reaction to
news reports about the 'peace process'," Halper said.

Then he asked, "How do you explain the Palestinian
reaction to that?" When the Barak government first started
negotiating, they were offering 42 percent of the West
Bank. The Palestinian negotiating team rejected the

"You see or hear about these advances and think Israel has
come around and then the Palestinians start shooting. It
doesn't make any sense to people," he continued.

What you have to plug into the equation is what's
happening on the ground. "Unless you can understand the
maps, unless you can understand why 95 percent isn't a
good deal for Palestinians, or what the other five percent
means, then it's impossible to evaluate what's going on.
Why are the Palestinians behaving the way they are? Is
Barak really generous?"

We left Halper's house for a three-hour tour of parts of
"Metropolitan Jerusalem," which I later learned
encompasses not just the city of Jerusalem, but 40 percent
of the West Bank, including large Palestinian towns and
villages - Ramalla, El Bireh, Beit Sahour, Bethlehem and
Beit Jalla, to name a few.

What one has to understand about Jerusalem is that it is
being transformed from a city into a larger region by the
Israeli government. This has three effects: It divides the
northern part of the West Bank from the southern part;
isolates Jerusalem's Palestinian population from fellow
Palestinians and; creates a corridor from Tel Aviv to
Amman, Jordan. All of this ensures Israeli control over
any Palestinian state that might emerge from the "peace

Then Halper started talking about something called E1 - an
Israeli government plan that annexes Palestinian land to
create a contiguous urban strip between Jerusalem and the
West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim. E1 effectively
cuts the West Bank in half, which, when and if it's
completed, will prevent the free movement of Palestinians
and their goods and make a viable Palestinian state

According to the master plan approved by former Defense
Minister Moshe Arens, E1 calls for 1,500 exclusively
Jewish housing units, an industrial park, offices,
entertainment and sports centers, 10 hotels, health and
academic facilities and a regional cemetery.

Many of the Israeli "settlers" are being used as pawns,
Halper said. The Israeli government builds these
subsidized settlements for poor and working-poor Israelis
as an incentive for them to move into Palestinian areas.

"I call them economic settlers. They're not religious
settlers as in other settlements," he said. "If the
government built homes for them inside Israel proper, they
would move."

E1, also known as Plan 420/4 Ma'aleh Adumim, is illegal in
international law to the extent that it promotes the
settlement of an occupying power in occupied territories.
It violates Israeli Supreme Court decisions that
settlements can only be established for security purposes
and it violates the Interim Agreement of Oslo that
obligates Israel to preserve the status quo and
territorial integrity of the West Bank pending final

"E1 creates facts on the ground by unalterably integrating
Israeli settlement and infrastructure on the West Bank
into Israel proper," Halper said. "Keep in mind that the
settlement population has doubled since the Oslo accords
were signed."

None of this is to say that Israel doesn't have a right to
exist or that fringe Palestinian violence is justified.
But if you want to understand Palestinian rejection of
Barak's "generous" offer, you must understand the "facts
on the ground."

Add to this the fact that it's all being imposed by U.S.-
supported military might and you'll understand a small
piece of what it is that Palestinians are rejecting.

Next week, I'd like to share with you what I learned about
Palestinian "terrorism."

Copyright © 2001 Cape Cod Times

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Despite overwhelming consumer demand, the Food and Drug
Administration has still failed to require Safety Testing and Mandatory
Labeling for GE foods!
Fortunately there is now a PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD by which the people
can send the FDA a loud and clear message demanding proven SAFE food and
the Right to Know what the food IS. Deadline is April 3, 2001.

A brochure from The Center for Food Safety (Wash DC) points out that
these foods could be toxic, could produce allergic responses, could have
lower nutrition value, could compromise immune responses and have
disruptive environmental consequences. Without adequate testing, every
consumer is made into an unwitting Guinea pig for the technology. The 
responsible industries, with enough wealth and media access to be able to
advertise and sell virtually anything, are so incapable of selling THIS
technology that they prefer to keep it secret from consumers. The FDA,
under pressure from these producers, allows labeling to be
voluntary...but not
ONE producer has voluntarily labeled GE Products as such.

Three points ought be noted on communications to the FDA:
* All GE foods and ingredients should be LABELED so that consumers have
a choice.
* GE foods should NOT be assumed to be safe and must be subject to
mandatory pre-market safety testing.
* There should be a moratorium on GE foods until long-term studies show
they are safe for human and environmental health.

Before APRIL 3, send comments to:
FDA Commissioner
Docket No. OON-1396 / OOD-1598
FDA Dockets Management Branch (HFA-305)
Food & Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane Room 1061
Rockville, MD 20852

(Don't leave out that Docket Number! )
OR submit comments through the Center for Food Safety's web site at:

See also Food and Water (Walden, Vermont) at

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Better, Simpler, Fairer

By William Raspberry
Monday, February 12, 2001
Washington Post

The same day President Bush sent his tax-cut proposal
to Congress, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the
Congressional Progressive Caucus unveiled a tax-cut
plan that Sanders says will do everything the
president's will do, only better, more simply and more
fairly. The funny thing is, he may be right.

The proposal: A $300 tax cut for every man, woman and
child in America -- provided the surplus is for real.

That's it. If you're an American, you get the $300 cut
(or tax credit) each year for the next 10 years. A
family of four gets a $1,200 cut, no matter whether the
family's income is $20,000 or $200,000 a year. But
simplicity is just the starting point. "If you cross-
reference our proposal with the Wall Street Journal's
analysis," says Sanders spokesman David Sirota, "you'll
find ours gives more tax relief than the president's
for 80 percent of American families. That is, families
in the first through 80th percentiles get a bigger tax
reduction under our plan -- at least during the five
years before the president's increased child credit
kicks in.

"Families in the 81st to 95th percentiles get an
average cut of $1,447 under Bush's plan, which is in
the same ballpark as our $1,200 for a family of four."

It's only the top earners, Sirota says, who would do
better under Bush. Families in the 96th to 99th
percentiles (with an average income of $183,000 a year)
get a $2,330 cut under Bush, and the top one percent
(average income of $915,000) get their taxes slashed by
more than $46,000 under the Bush plan.

"It's a travesty," says Sanders, "that the president
would put forward a tax plan that provides a
millionaire family with over $40,000 in tax relief
while a family earning $40,000 will only get around
$600." The president's argument, of course, is that the
rich deserve to get more benefit from the budget
surplus because they contributed substantially more to
it -- both in taxes and in their investments in, and
leadership of, the economy.

Sanders, an avowed socialist, sees it another way. "The
factory workers, sales people and clerical workers
contributed to the boom as surely as Bill Gates did,"
he says. "The rich already have benefited from the
economic boom. My proposal would help those who have
pretty much been bypassed by the boom."

There's more yet. The Sanders plan would be triggered
only by an actual surplus and could expand or shrink
depending on the size of the surplus.

Says Sirota:

"The Bush people are saying he won't even consider a
trigger. His rationale is that we can afford his big
tax cut because of the projected surplus -- a
projection based on the Congressional Budget Office's
assumption of a 3 percent annual growth in the economy.
We believe that's too rosy. [Federal Reserve Board
Chairman] Alan Greenspan says we're at about a zero
growth rate right now."

But at the same time Bush is saying that we can afford
the cut because of the surplus produced by the economic
boom, he's also saying to be on the lookout for a
recession. Indeed the newest rationale for the tax cut
(which he first proposed while the economy was doing
well) is to prevent a recession.

It makes for a tricky argument. If the economy is in
such trouble that we need a $1.6 trillion tax cut to
forestall a recession, then how can he count on an
economy-generated surplus as the source of the cut?

Bernie Sanders avoids the problem. If there's no
surplus, there's no tax cut. But if Bush is right, and
there is a surplus, then everybody gets a $300 tax cut.

The Vermonter (and former Brooklyn hippie) figures his
plan would cost about $900 billion. "If the president
thinks that's too little to stimulate the economy
sufficiently, then he could take our plan and bump it
up to his $1.6 trillion. That would give every man,
woman and child almost $600."

In fact, though, the Sanders approach might prove more
of an economic stimulus than the president's. Rich
people might decide to salt their tax-break money into
savings or splurge on European vacations. With poor
people, the one certainty is that they'll spend the
money and most likely close to home.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company

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EU: Assembly votes to approve tough new GM rules
14 Feb 2001
Source: editorial team 

The European Parliament has voted in favour of strict new rules to test and monitor the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The EU assembly voted by 338 to 52 on Wednesday, with 85 abstentions, to approve the new rules on granting permits for GMOs to be grown and used in the 15 EU nations.

An informal block on approving new commercial GM crop planting has been in place for the last couple of years, with nations agreeing a moratorium until this new law was passed.

Click here to see related news item: New Directive may open up commercial planting of GM crops

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January 19, 2001

Black America Was a Loser During the Clinton Years

By Ta-Nehisi Coates <>

Recently, the New York Times, published a commentary by
President Clinton entitled "Erasing America's Color Lines."
In it, Clinton argued that America was now at a point where,
"we can write a new preamble to the 21st century, in which
color differences are not the problem, but the promise, of

With a series of proposals, Clinton outlined a path that
would allow the incoming Bush administration to reduce
systemic racism. The list included a ban on racial
profiling, an examination of mandatory minimums 
and a presidential commission on voter reform.

But Clinton's suggestions were puzzling given that many 
of them were policies that he refused to implement over the
past eight years. But perhaps most puzzling is the fact that
Clinton knows that there is no way that President-elect Bush
will ever take any of his predecessor's suggestions.

The editorial was a perfect postscript to Clinton's marriage
with Black America, a relationship that was characterized by
Clinton talking loud and carrying a rubber stick.

Throughout his two terms, Clinton surround himself with
Black people, talked up social justice and even globe-
trotted over to Africa to administer a toothless

But the facts do not lie. Bill Clinton leaves behind a
larger -- mostly Black -- prison population than when he
took office. He eviscerated America's only safety net for
the disproportionately Black, working poor under "welfare
reform," and did nothing to do away with the mandatory
minimum sentences he railed against in his New York Times
article. Instead Clinton marketed racial sensitivity and
everyone from Willy Jackson to Toni Morrison bought it.

Clinton's race act was made easy because Black America never
asked him to do much to begin with. For 12 years before
Clinton, Black people were summarily ignored by Ronald
Reagan and George Bush. Consequently, when Clinton made
sincere efforts to woo African Americans, we were just 
happy someone was finally paying attention.

Consequently, perhaps no other president in American history
has managed to get so much support out of one ethnic group,
by giving so little. The Black community's fervor for
Clinton is largely based on the symbolism of his

Never had a president appointed more African Americans to
his Cabinet than Clinton. Clinton's best friend, Vernon
Jordan, was a successful Black businessman and a graduate 
of Howard University.

When the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, Black people's
affinity for Clinton only increased. In an essay in the 
New Yorker, Toni Morrison overstated the case for Clinton 
by arguing, "black skin notwithstanding: this is our first
black President." But Morrison's central thesis, that Black
people identified with the way Clinton was dogged for a
seemingly minor transgression, was true.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, Clinton's relationship
with Black America amounted to little more than the "triumph
of robust tokenism" as Harvard Law professor Randall Kennedy
calls it. Outside of the smoke and mirrors of his diverse
Cabinet, Clinton's policy record on race is stunningly

In his 1992 campaign, Clinton demonstrated -- a la Sista
Souljah -- that his ultimate loyalties were to political
expediency. Clinton would ram this point home repeatedly
throughout his presidency.

Perhaps the biggest example of this was the welfare reform
bill Clinton signed in 1996. The bill has been hailed as a
bipartisan success, but when the economy turns around -- as
it always does -- it will be the Black working poor who will
be tossed from the frying pan into the fire.

Ditto on criminal justice. Clinton's editorial in the New
York Times contains numerous reforms that he'd like to see
enacted in the criminal justice arena. But who was in charge
the past eight years? As conservative economist Glenn C.
Loury notes in the Atlantic Monthly, incarceration rates
during the Clinton years have rivaled Ronald Reagan's 
eight years.

But perhaps the telling marker of Clinton's attitude toward
racial matters is the committee on race relations which he
convened in 1998. Clinton asserted that he was attempting 
to begin a dialogue on race. Instead what resulted was a
calculated infomercial that regurgitated vanilla neo-liberal
propaganda on race. After Clinton's advisory board came up
with its recommendations, Clinton ignored even the 
suggestions from his own sanitized commission.

It was classic Clinton, a man whose record on race relations
has been severely overrated. Ultimately, Clinton behaved only 
as he was allowed to by a visionless and subordinate group of 
Black leaders, who seemingly put no demands on the president 
who claimed to feel our pain.

Clinton is not the worst president that Black America has
ever had, but it's unfortunate that his over-hyped record 
on race is a high point in our history.

Copyright (c) 2000,, LLC. All rights reserved.

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February 5, 2001

None Dare Call It Treason


In the December 12 ruling by the US Supreme Court handing the election to George Bush, the Court committed the unpardonable sin of being a knowing surrogate for the Republican Party instead of being an impartial arbiter of the law. If you doubt this, try to imagine Al Gore's and George Bush's roles being reversed and ask yourself if you can conceive of Justice Antonin Scalia and his four conservative brethren issuing an emergency order on December 9 stopping the counting of ballots (at a time when Gore's lead had shrunk to 154 votes) on the grounds that if it continued, Gore could suffer "irreparable harm," and then subsequently, on December 12, bequeathing the election to Gore on equal protection grounds. If you can, then I suppose you can also imagine seeing a man jumping away from his own shadow, Frenchmen no longer drinking wine.

>From the beginning, Bush desperately sought, as it were, to prevent the opening of the door, the looking into the box--unmistakable signs that he feared the truth. In a nation that prides itself on openness, instead of the Supreme Court doing everything within its power to find a legal way to open the door and box, they did the precise opposite in grasping, stretching and searching mightily for a way, any way at all, to aid their choice for President, Bush, in the suppression of the truth, finally settling, in their judicial coup d'état, on the untenable argument that there was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause--the Court asserting that because of the various standards of determining the voter's intent in the Florida counties, voters were treated unequally, since a vote disqualified in one county (the so-called undervotes, which the voting machines did not pick up) may have been counted in another county, and vice versa. Accordingly, the Court r!
eversed the Florida Supreme Court's order that the undervotes be counted, effectively delivering the presidency to Bush.

Now, in the equal protection cases I've seen, the aggrieved party, the one who is being harmed and discriminated against, almost invariably brings the action. But no Florida voter I'm aware of brought any action under the equal protection clause claiming he was disfranchised because of the different standards being employed. What happened here is that Bush leaped in and tried to profit from a hypothetical wrong inflicted on someone else. Even assuming Bush had this right, the very core of his petition to the Court was that he himself would be harmed by these different standards. But would he have? If we're to be governed by common sense, the answer is no. The reason is that just as with flipping a coin you end up in rather short order with as many heads as tails, there would be a "wash" here for both sides, i.e., there would be just as many Bush as Gore votes that would be counted in one county yet disqualified in the next. (Even if we were to assume, for the sake of argument,!
that the wash wouldn't end up exactly, 100 percent even, we'd still be dealing with the rule of de minimis non curat lex--the law does not concern itself with trifling matters.) So what harm to Bush was the Court so passionately trying to prevent by its ruling other than the real one: that he would be harmed by the truth as elicited from a full counting of the undervotes?

And if the Court's five-member majority was concerned not about Bush but the voters themselves, as they fervently claimed to be, then under what conceivable theory would they, in effect, tell these voters, "We're so concerned that some of you undervoters may lose your vote under the different Florida county standards that we're going to solve the problem by making sure that none of you undervoters have your votes counted"? Isn't this exactly what the Court did?

Gore's lawyer, David Boies, never argued either of the above points to the Court. Also, since Boies already knew (from language in the December 9 emergency order of the Court) that Justice Scalia, the Court's right-wing ideologue; his Pavlovian puppet, Clarence Thomas, who doesn't even try to create the impression that he's thinking; and three other conservatives on the Court (William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy) intended to deodorize their foul intent by hanging their hat on the anemic equal protection argument, wouldn't you think that he and his people would have come up with at least three or four strong arguments to expose it for what it was--a legal gimmick that the brazen, shameless majority intended to invoke to perpetrate a judicial hijacking in broad daylight? And made sure that he got into the record of his oral argument all of these points? Yet, remarkably, Boies only managed to make one good equal protection argument, and that one near the ve!
ry end of his presentation, and then only because Justice Rehnquist (not at Boies's request, I might add) granted him an extra two minutes. If Rehnquist hadn't given him the additional two minutes, Boies would have sat down without getting even one good equal protection argument into the record.

This was Boies's belated argument: "Any differences as to how this standard [to determine voter intent] is interpreted have a lot less significance in terms of what votes are counted or not counted than simply the differences in machines that exist throughout the counties of Florida." A more powerful way to make Boies's argument would have been to point out to the Court the reductio ad absurdum of the equal protection argument. If none of the undervotes were counted because of the various standards to count them, then to be completely consistent the Court would have had no choice but to invalidate the entire Florida election, since there is no question that votes lost in some counties because of the method of voting would have been recorded in others utilizing a different method.1 [Footnotes on page 7] How would the conservative majority have gotten around that argument without buckling on the counting of the undervotes? Of course, advice after a mistake is like medicine after!
death. And as we shall see, no matter what Boies argued, the five conservative Justices had already made up their minds. But it would have been delightful to see how these Justices, forced to stare into the noonday sun, would have attempted to avoid a confrontation with the truth.

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California unions vs the energy crisis

California's energy crisis puts thousands of jobs at
risk and hurts millions of consumers and workers.
Utility workers face lay-offs. Manufacturing workers are
threatened by plant closings. Low-wage workers, middle-
income households, and seniors have been hard hit by
rate increases for nearly a year. The cause of today's
crisis is a deregulation scheme that put unregulated
out-of-state generators in control of prices and
production. We support efforts by Gov. Davis and
legislators to ensure adequate power supplies at
affordable prices. Such efforts are essential to
California's economic future. These ten points of
consensus were developed by California unions
representing all regions and sectors of our economy.
They are principles for united action and solid policy
planning. We encourage all affiliates to endorse them,
and to urge elected leaders to follow them, as we work
together to resolve this crisis.


1 Create a California Public Power Authority to provide
adequate reserves of electric generation capacity,
including building of state power generation plants. Any
plants financed by California taxpayers should be
dedicated to serving Californians first. The existing
workforce should be used for all operation, maintenance,
and construction of power plants.

2 Utility companies must be kept from filing bankruptcy.
In the event of financial underwriting or subsidy by
taxpayers or ratepayers of utility companies, tax and
ratepayers should receive assets in return. Net
undercollection costs should be shared by the utilities,
independent generators and ratepayers. In the event of
bankruptcy or severe service disruptions to businesses,
all workers who lose jobs should be made whole. The
State should contract back with regulated utilities to
operate any state owned assets. All collective
bargaining agreements and successorship clauses should
be recognized.

3 Utilities should be regulated, to the extent federal
law permits, to provide reliable electric generation,
transmission, and distribution.

4 Regulate plant maintenance procedures to coordinate
necessary shutdowns and establish an inspection and
enforcement mechanism to assure proper and safe

5 Maintain the current permitting process,
environmental, and labor standards for approval of
future power plants. Emphasis should be placed on
increasing transmission and natural gas line capacity to
all regulated and municipally owned utilities.

6 Revamp voluntary interruptions policy to protect large
customers from insufficient notice and excessive number
of interruptions, while allowing for planned and
voluntary interruptions.

7 Direct access to unregulated energy marketers should
be limited to large non-core users based on a fixed opt-
out period. Regulated utilities must be able to plan for
their power supply requirements. Pre-existing contracts
must continue to be honored.

8 Fill the vacancies on the California Energy Commission
with knowledgeable and pro-consumer and environmental

9 Increase the State's commitment to programs that
foster conservation.

10 In the event the energy crisis is not solved in the
near future, the State should exercise its power of
eminent domain to take control of power generating
plants previously owned by the utilities as a way to
force power generators to lower prices.

Sharon Cornu,
Communications Director

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New York Times Covering for Colombian Death Squads
February 9, 2001

>From Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

The human rights situation in Colombia is in a state of
"alarming degradation," according to United Nations
human rights observers (Associated Press, 1/20/01), but
you won't learn about it in the New York Times.

According to a joint report from Amnesty International,
Human Rights Watch and the Washington Office on Latin
America (WOLA), "political violence has markedly
increased" since the first installment of the U.S.'s
$1.3 billion Plan Colombia aid package was dispersed in
August, with the average number of deaths from combat
and political violence rising to 14 per day ("Colombia
Human Rights Certification II", 1/01).

There were at least 27 massacres in the month of January
alone, claiming the lives of as many as 200 civilians.
The killings are overwhelmingly the work of right-wing
paramilitaries with close ties to the Colombian
military, such as the Self-Defense Forces of Colombia

Despite the dramatic nature of the attacks and the
U.S.'s heavy financial involvement in the war, the New
York Times did not report on a single massacre during
the month of January. The findings of the human rights
groups' "Certification" report, including its
recommendation that the U.S. cease military funding to
Colombia, also went unmentioned.

Far from documenting the recent wave of paramilitary
terror, the Times has told precisely the opposite story.
Juan Forero's January 22 dispatch from the city of
Barrancabermeja, headlined "Paramilitaries Adjust Attack
Strategies," gave a highly distorted version of events.

Forero claims that "the militia members are killing
fewer people than the rebels, who have responded to the
threat in neighborhoods they long controlled with a
furious assault on those they accuse of supporting the
paramilitaries," and that the New Granada battalion of
the Colombian military "is sending specially trained
urban commandos into the neighborhoods to restore

The notion that the rebels in Barrancabermeja have been
responsible for more killings than the paramilitaries
contradicts all available evidence. A recent dispatch
from Inter Press Service (1/15/01) reported that "one of
the top complaints of human rights groups in the
[Barrancabermeja] area is that a leading cause of
violence is the attitude of the armed forces, which have
facilitated-- by inaction or omission-- the advance of
the paramilitaries, who are responsible for 80 percent
of the massacres perpetrated in and around the city,
according to several reports."

In fact, less than a month before Forero's dispatch, an
article (12/26/00) on the New York Times' own op-ed page
by Senator Paul Wellstone, who had just returned from a
visit to the town, reported that "this year so far,
violence in Barranca has killed at least 410 people.
According to local human rights groups, most of those
killed were the victims of right-wing paramilitary death

Nationwide, Human Rights Watch reported that
"paramilitary groups are considered responsible for at
least 78 percent of the human rights violations recorded
in the six months from October 1999" (annual report,

Some historical perspective is needed, too: Members of
the New Granada battalion were implicated in a grisly
massacre in Barrancabermeja on May 16, 1998. It is
alleged that nine soldiers waved paramilitary vehicles
through an army checkpoint in advance of and after the
attack on civilians (see Washington Post, 8/13/98;
Amnesty International, 5/99). That sort of relationship
between the military and paramilitaries is at the center
of the objections raised by countless human rights
groups to the U.S. aid to Colombia.

"Instead of mass killings," Forero's January 22 article
reported, "the paramilitaries have, for the most part,
been selectively killing rebels. Instead of terrorizing
residents, the paramilitaries are paying handsomely to
rent houses in battleground neighborhoods, as well as
for supplies and information that can be used against
the rebels."

The assertion that the paramilitaries are "selectively"
killing rebels flies in the face of all credible
evidence from journalists and human rights observers in
Colombia. About two weeks before Forero's article was
printed, paramilitaries were suspected of killing 20
civilians in northern Colombia in a matter of days,
including eight in Barrancabermeja (Agence France
Presse, 1/10/01).

Forero's claim that the death squads are renting houses
instead of terrorizing residents is also dubious. In a
January 26 action alert, Amnesty International reported
a January 20 paramilitary raid in Barrancabermeja. The
death squads "reportedly held the local population at
gunpoint and told them: 'We have come to stay. We are
creating employment... and anyone who doesn't want to
work for us, simply won't be forced to, but will be
killed.'" The reported raid took place one day before
Forero wrote his article. Other human rights monitors
have reported similar threats against trade unionists
and other civilians.

The Times' distortions come in the midst of an almost
surreal silence about Colombia from much of the
mainstream press. None of the network news broadcasts
did a single story on the war in the month of January,
though ABC's Peter Jennings did find time for a light-
hearted piece about the "crazy" hijinks of a British man
who was kidnapped by guerrillas while visiting Colombia
in search of rare orchids (ABC World News Tonight,

Not all media outlets have done such a poor job of
informing the public. The Washington Post, for instance,
ran an excellent account (1/28/01) of the AUC's January
17 massacre of two dozen civilians at Chengue,
interviewing survivors who had fled the village. The
Post raised important questions the New York Times has
chosen to ignore, such as why the Colombian security
forces took no action to prevent a massacre they had
been warned about, and why their intelligence apparatus
was apparently unable to either intercept radio traffic
in the area (a tactic they have used against the
guerrillas) or respond to the massacre in a timely

Readers of the New York Times, however, would be hard-
pressed to know that anything had happened at all.

ACTION: Call on the New York Times to investigate
stories of paramilitary massacres. Encourage the
Washington Post to print more of its in-depth reporting
on the situation. Given the level of U.S. military aid
dedicated to Colombia, American citizens deserve a full
accounting of the human rights situation there.


New York Times
229 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036-3959
Toll free comment line: 1-888-NYT-NEWS

Washington Post
Foreign Desk
Read the Washington Post's "Chronicle of a Massacre
Foretold" at:

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EU: New Directive may open up commercial planting of GM crops
13 Feb 2001
Source: editorial team 

The European parliament is set to approve a new directive that could end the de facto moratorium on approving new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the European Union. 

The EU has not granted licenses for the commercial development of new GM crops since April 1998 because of concern over potential health and environmental risks linked with the technology. 

The parliament is due to vote on the directive on Wednesday. The new law proposes toughening rules governing the planting of GMOs, including improved risk assessments and monitoring of crops. 

"If this is approved, it will give us the toughest GMO laws in the world," said David Bowe, the socialist MEP who has guided the legislation through parliament. 

The new rules will tighten up the existing system; requiring more stringent risk assessments, improving crop monitoring, gradually phasing out potentially harmful antibiotic genes from GMOs and ensuring that licences have to be renewed periodically. Each new application will still have to be approved by a majority of the 15 EU states, according to the directive. 

Biotechnology companies have urged the EU to lift their moratorium on new products, while the US has been pressing for what it regards as a clear system of regulation based on scientific considerations. 

"We believe this agreement should restart the regulatory process in Europe. The first votes (on new products) may follow just a few months from this week's decision," said Monsanto, which has several products waiting for approval. Fourteen applications from biotech companies to plant GM products for commercial use have been put on hold during the moratorium.

The European Commission has so far failed to produce follow-up legislation to improve the traceability and labelling of GMOs, and to define more clearly companies' environmental liability.

"The new directive is not enough to protect the environment, consumers and farmers from GM crops," said Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth.

The directive is likely to meet opposition with France already indicating it will block all new licences for commercial growing of GM crops. Italy and Greece hold similar views.

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