default.html Issue 83
Table of Contents

Gridnapped!: Electric Deregulation's Ransom

by J.A. Savage Policymakers point their pudgy fingers at greedy power generation companies. Generation companies point their digits at hungry consumers. Consumer groups point at avaricious utilities. Greedy Wall Street investors just point their magic wands and poof! The entire electric system in California collapses. Greed, indeed, is the underlying cause of California's energy crisis

Trust Us, We're The Experts

by Tate Hausman "More and more of what we see, hear and read as 'news' is actually PR content. On any given day much or most of what the media transmits or prints as news is provided by the PR industry. Its off press releases, the result of media campaigns, heavily spun and managed, or in the case of 'video news releases' its fake TV news -- stories completely produced and supplied for free by former journalists who've gone over to PR. TV news directors air these VNRs as news. So the media not only fails to identify PR manipulations, it is the guilty party by passing them on as news"

How Corporate America Lies To You

Corporate sponsors have formed "partnerships" with a number of leading nonprofit organizations in which they pay for the right to use the organizations' names and logos in advertisements. Bristol-Myers Squibb, for example, paid $600,000 to the American Heart Association for the right to display the AHA's name and logo in ads for its cholesterol-lowering drug Pravachol. The American Cancer Society reeled in $1 million from SmithKline Beecham for the right to use its logo in ads for Beecham's NicoDerm CQ and Nicorette antismoking aids. A Johnson & Johnson subsidiary countered by shelling out $2.5 million for similar rights from the American Lung Association in its ads for Nicotrol, a rival nicotine patch

Bush Protester: "This Is A Nightmare"

by Jennifer Bleyer The weather seemed a fitting denouement to this election year, and thousands of protesters braved the cold rain and grim forecasts to voice their opposition to what they saw as a stolen, illegitimate presidency

Hail To The Thief

by Geov Parrish The lack of organizational backing made these protests more, not less, impressive. All the "sponsors" did was provide permits; tens of thousands of dissenters found their way to D.C. on their own volition, and without any apparent policy goal beyond the desire to display opposition to a regime that had not yet even taken office

Philip Morris Puts Up Good Citizen Smokescreen

by Lori Dorfman Philip Morris, the world's largest and most profitable producer and marketer of consumer packaged goods, recently spent $2 million on domestic violence programs nationally, part of $60 million it spent on charity in 1999. That same year, Philip Morris spent $108 million on the advertising campaign to tell us about it

BP: Re-branding the Oil Giant as "Beyond Petroleum"

by Kenny Bruno That challenge is what is meant by "moving beyond petroleum" when used by environmental groups. Rainforest Action Network, for example, says their Beyond Oil campaign works to "move our societies out of our devastating dependence on fossil fuels and into renewable energy options..." BP's re-branding as the "Beyond Petroleum" company is perhaps the ultimate co-optation of environmentalists' language and message. Even apart from the twisting of language, BP's suggestion that producing more natural gas is somehow akin to global leadership is preposterous. Make that Beyond Preposterous

California Energy Crisis Puts Governor On Hot Seat

by Harold Meyerson California's deregulation debacle is forcing Gray Davis to do the unthinkable: choose between a proven donor base (the energy industry, which has given him hundreds of thousands of dollars) and an irate public. This is a choice Davis devoutly wishes he did not have to make; he is in politics, so far as anyone can discern, specifically to raise money and offend nobody. For months, he resisted making this choice, even as energy executives, consumer activists, business lobbyists, editorialists and ratepayers all demanded action

Indonesia's Bloody Christmas Eve

by Andreas Harsono As its first democratically-elected president faces corruption charges and maybe impeachment, Indonesia was rocked Christmas Eve as well-coordinated terrorist bomb attacks in cities thousands of miles apart left 18 dead and nearly 100 badly injured. Targeted were Christian churches and the Jakarta Stock Exchange. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombings

"If I Were Indonesia's Christmas Bomber..."

by Andreas Harsono In Jakarta, I would treat myself to a good meal and a few drinks. After all, the bombing was a great success. It made headlines around the world. Most of the bombs -- 38 of them, to be precise -- exploded in the churches I targeted, claiming a total of 133 victims, including 14 who died. Christmas Eve was a nightmare in Indonesia

Indonesia's Reform President Facing Corruption Charges

by Andi Asrun Just a few months after Indonesians were shocked to learn that embezzlement charges were dismissed against ex-dicator Suharto, the nation's democratically-elected president faces his own trial for corruption

Researchers Accidentally Create Doomsday Virus

by Rachel Nowak A virus that kills every one of its victims, by wiping out part of their immune system, has been accidentally created by an Australian research team. The virus, a modified mousepox, does not affect humans, but it is closely related to smallpox, raising fears that the technology could be used in biowarfare

Parents Often Not Told of MD Drug Errors

Half of parents were not told when a drug error had occurred in the treatment of their child, shows a new study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. The study involved a review of drug treatment errors in a children's teaching hospital over five years from 1994 to 1999. The overall error rate was low, with one mistake for every 662 admissions to the hospital. But four out of 10 mistakes occurred in children under the age of 2; one fifth occurred in infants up to the age of four weeks

With Clinton Exit, Hopes For Mideast Peace Fade

by Eric Margolis U.S. support for Israel may wane. For the past eight years, Israel has exercised unprecedented influence over the Clinton Administration, virtually directing U.S. Mideast policy. Unlike the Clinton team, which was top heavy with supporters of Israel, the incoming Bush Administration has few in evidence

Bringing Back the Bilbies

A unique partnership between academics, environmentalists, and a mining corporation is restoring a huge section of desert country in Central Australia to re-establish the native animals that vanished from it long ago. The Arid Zone Recovery Project aims to restore 24 square miles of arid zone land to pre-European condition

Africa is New Target for Big Tobacco

by Judith Achieng Smoking prevalence in the continent ranges from between 15 percent to a high of 67 percent, a factor largely attributed to intense promotional campaigns by the tobacco industry targeting youths in all the countries in the region

Clinton's True Legacy

by Arianna Huffington The President has clearly decided to spend his final days in office paying homage to all the things he did nothing about when he had the power to do almost anything

The Anti-Environmental Gang Comes to Washington

by David Helvarg Bush's naming of former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton as Interior Secretary and recently defeated Michigan Senator Spencer Abraham as Energy Secretary suggests that Republicans haven't learned from the 104th Congress of 1995, when attempts to gut environmental protections helped undermine the short-lived Gingrich revolution. The beliefs that Norton and Abraham shared about natural-resource exploitation are as close as subsurface oil and gas but completely out of whack with their departments' stated missions

Rumsfeld: Star Warrior Returns

by Michael T. Klare The surprise selection of Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary provides a clear signal of President-elect George W. Bush's intent to transform radically the military policy of the United States. Of all the candidates considered for this position, Rumsfeld is the most ardent advocate of ballistic-missile defense and holds a tougher stance toward Russia and China. A longtime Republican activist with markedly conservative views, Rumsfeld is also known for his opposition to all arms-control measures and for favoring the deployment of weapons in space

Ashcroft Appointment Worth All-Out Fight

by Bruce Shapiro Other Bush Cabinet nominees also pose direct threats to specific constituencies, but there is real urgency to laying down a marker on Ashcroft. The threat his nomination poses cuts across constituencies and issues, and the stakes are every bit as high as in the Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork Supreme Court nomination fights

Did Ashcroft Vow to Ignore Law?

by Daniel Forbes John Ashcroft drapes himself in the mantle of "integrity." He used the word in reference to himself several times during his introduction by President-elect Bush as the Attorney General nominee. Yet, during Sen. Ashcroft's tenure as governor of Missouri, he blithely told two senior law enforcement officials he would ignore a serious matter of law, according to Don Burger, then an official with the Justice Department. Says Burger, two law enforcement officials said Gov. Ashcroft had told them he would "look the other way" should the police ignore a ruling about to emerge from the Missouri Supreme Court

Paying for the Bush-Cheney Inauguration

Number of donors who gave a total of $100,000 or more to parties and candidates in the 2000 elections awarded positions on George W. Bush's Transition Advisory Teams: 14

Bush's Drug Czar: A Modest Proposal

by Arianna Huffington The bottom line for Bush is that drug policy, an issue he avoided like the Ebola virus during the campaign, is where he has the greatest opportunity to quickly demonstrate that he is indeed a reformer with results. And if he wants to build bridges to the African-American community that so overwhelmingly rejected him, few things could be more effective than stemming the flood of black youths pouring into our nation's prisons

DNC Nominates Top Fundraiser for Chairman

by Arianna Huffington The announcement that Democratic Fundraiser-in-chief Terry McAuliffe has been all but anointed as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee is a ringing public acknowledgement of what has been a reality for some time now: the devolution of political parties into fundraising machines. The sleaze of our political life is becoming more blatant -- and less-lamented -- with each passing month

Black Leaders Slam "Illegitimate" Bush Presidency

by Katherine Stapp Denouncing what they described as "massive voting irregularities" in the November polls, eight well-known black leaders have vowed to aggressively contest two of Bush's cabinet nominations, to protest his inauguration on Jan 20, and to pursue comprehensive electoral reform in the courts and in Congress

Bush Cabinet Older, Farther Right Than Expected

by Jim Lobe Despite campaign promises to be a "uniter, not a divider," President-elect George W. Bush has chosen a remarkably partisan cabinet which, with only one exception, spans the ideological range from center-right to far right

Dubya's True Colors

by David Corn With Bush and his gang in power, the picture becomes much clearer. His transition team is dominated by corporate lobbyists. His pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mel Martinez, has little experience in housing. Gale Norton, his designated Secretary of the Interior, refused to concede during her confirmation hearings that there is a strong scientific consensus that holds global warming is under way and is dangerous -- which undeniably there is. And thank god for John Ashcroft. That selection shows Bush does not have Clinton's talent for muddying the waters. By picking Ashcroft, Bush undermined his dominant theme

An Army of Victims

by David Corn The new Army campaign has more truth to it than its authors and the Army may have realized. Too often, the U.S. military has treated its grunts as armies of one that could be disavowed or tossed aside. Remember Agent Orange -- the toxic defoliant used in Vietnam which ended up poisoning American GIs as well as the locals? For years, the military ducked responsibility for harming its own

McCain Prepares a Shakespearean Revenge

by David Corn By insisting campaign reform be issue-number-one in the opening scene of Bush: The Sequel, McCain has, in his not-too-subtle manner, positioned a poison-tipped bayonet against the softest part of the person who quashed his presidential quest. The Democrats would not do anything so rude

Ashcroft Deserves a Grilling, But Won't Get It

by David Corn The Democrats have to put on a show for their key constituents, but there's no sign they're going to the mattresses over John Ashcroft's nomination as attorney general. (A guy steals the presidency from them, and the Dems don't try to bump off even one of his nominees?) In any event, Democrats are going to be reluctant to delve into the touchy area of Ashcroft's religious beliefs or to grill him on the more foolish aspects of the religious right

Crisis and Opportunity at Ben & Jerry's

by Jim Slama When it came time to appoint a new CEO for the company, Unilever ignored the suggestions of Ben and Jerry's advisory board and appointed a twenty-four-year Unilever veteran. Yet, the problem goes deeper than the new CEO. "I am troubled because there were a bunch of commitments made by Unilever which I thought were legally binding, but now I understand they are not," says Ben Cohen

Inuits Report Climate Change Impact

by Danielle Knight Residents tell of how they blame the shorter winters, longer summers and increase in water for the high number of insects in the area. "We now have sand flies here for the first time," says Kuptana. New species of birds, including robins and barn swallows, have also been spotted and bird behavior is changing, she says. Snow geese stay for a shorter time in the spring, while some small birds which traditionally migrated, now stay the entire winter

Arctic Natives Divided Over Oil Drilling

by Paul Weinberg Native peoples in the far north of North America are expressing strong differences over a proposed plan to drill for oil and gas in the 19 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. On the opposing side are the 7,000 Gwich'in Indians half of who live in Canada's western Arctic, while the rest reside on the Alaska side. More supportive of the development are Alaska's Inupiaq Eskimos

Fears Spread in Balkans About Kosovo War Radioactive Ammo

by Vesna Peric Zimonjic As the United States and European Union scramble to reassess the health risks from depleted uranium shells used during NATO's interventions in the Balkans, officials in the region say it could take a decade to fully appreciate the long-term impact on the local population

FBI Works Closely With Insurance Industry Group

by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman The FBI has developed a very close working relationship with National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The Chicago area crime-busting group is funded by the insurance industry to investigate crimes against insurance companies -- for example, to crack down on individuals who stage auto crashes to cash in on insurance policies. Last year, the property and casualty insurance industry pumped $28 million into the NICB

Ten Worst Corporations of 2000

by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman With the HIV/AIDS crisis at least as severe as the Black Death which wracked Europe in medieval times, Glaxo Wellcome and other drug manufacturers persist in engaging in a variety of tactics to block African and other poor countries from making available cheap generic versions of lifesaving AIDS drugs

S American Dams Cost More Than They're Worth

by Gustavo Gonzalez Large dams financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Latin America have overrun their original budgets by an average of 45 percent, states a report by the World Commission on Dams (WCD). The report states that while large dams contribute significantly to human development, they also have "in too many cases an unacceptable and often unnecessary" social and environmental price

White Supremacists Begin Countdown For Y2050

by Jim Lobe The radical right and the racist movement have seized upon a new date, 2050, to rally the troops. That's the year demographers say non-Latino whites will become a numerical minority in the United States

Human Trafficking a $7 Billion Global Business

by Mario Osava The international traffic in human beings, especially of women who are then forced into prostitution, is the third biggest category of organized crime, generating $7 billion annually, according to the United Nations

Greenpeace, Other Try to Block "Floating Chernobyl"

by Marcela Valente Instead of using the Panama Canal, the Pacific Swan and its cargo of "among the most radioactive material ever produced," sailed around Cape Horn in order to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean. This means it will have to enter the exclusive economic zones of Argentina and Chile, in an area made extremely treacherous by fierce gales, strong currents and icebergs

Rubber Bullets Not Effective, Study Finds

by Rob Edwards Non-lethal guns have to be accurate, otherwise they risk killing people rather than merely incapacitating them. The first study of its kind has found that more than half of all non-lethal guns are so wildly inaccurate that they usually miss people-sized targets

Press Distorted Quotes of "Kill Cops" Politican

by Randolph T. Holhut When the press shifts into its feeding frenzy mode, it's not a pleasant sight. Views get distorted, reputations get mangled and the truth generally gets ignored. Tom Alciere, a first-term Republican member of the New Hampshire House, learned this when he talked to a reporter about his hatred for the police

Mexico's Fox and Zapatista Marcos Near Summit

by Diego Cevallos Political analysts indicate that the movements made by Fox and the rebel leader are just additional steps in their respective local and international publicity campaigns. The president is attempting to prove he is interested in peace in Chiapas, and Marcos hopes to attract attention to demands for full recognition of Native rights

Corporate Blind-Eye To King Holiday

by Earl Ofari Hutchinson Corporate executives give a litany of excuses when asked why they don't give their workers a day off on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday or, at the very least, acknowledge the day with a ceremony, or commemoration. A study of hundreds of businesses last year found that fewer than 25 percent of businesses gave their workers the day off. Worse, this was a sharp drop off from the year before. By contrast, 90 percent of firms gave their employees paid holidays on Memorial Day. And 50 percent of companies gave their employees Presidents Day off. This is the next least celebrated day next to King's birthday

Reasons to Perk Up

by Molly Ivins The president is a Texan, the governor is an Aggie, God's in His heaven, all's right with the world. And I want it noted for the record that I am doing my dead-level best to be cheerful about this revolting development

Linda Chavez's Baggage

by Molly Ivins Chavez, an anti-feminist who has been married for 34 years, does not call herself Mrs. Gertsen. She is, however, opposed to all affirmative action programs, is a vociferous opponent of anti-discrimination measures and has urged the reversal of several civil-rights policies. But of course the reason she was named to the Cabinet is precisely because her father was New Mexico Spanish. This is why Hispanics call her "the Latina Clarence Thomas," meaning someone who has benefited from affirmative action but is opposed to it

It's Borking Season

by Molly Ivins The Borking of Linda Chavez is leading to another round of sulking, hurt feelings and general acrimony, making the upcoming fight over the confirmation of Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft even more festive. Now everybody's prepared to nurse grudges and hug hurt feelings. The nice thing about dealing with real 5-year-olds is that they're easily distracted and get over their tantrums quickly

Bush Poised to Make Energy Crisis Worse

by Molly Ivins The reason that the utility industry was regulated in the first place is because it's a natural monopoly, and experience with monopolies indicates that you have to regulate the things

Bush Sabotaging Himself

by Molly Ivins For Bush to emphasize his notorious disregard for the environment shows, among other things, a distressing inability to learn from experience. Texans will recall that upon first becoming governor, Bush appointed a trio of anti-environmentalists to the state environmental regulatory agency who soon earned an almost comic reputation for outlandishness. This did nothing to enhance Bush's reputation

Best and Worst of the Year 2000

by Molly Ivins From Who's-John-McCain to who won Florida, the most striking feature of the political year was the evitability of George W. Bush. All the king's horses, all the king's men and all the Republican money in the country could barely drag the poor guy across the finish line. Special thanks to Jeff Greenfield of CNN for having the common sense to observe at several points, "None of us has any idea what's going to happen now" g

Mushroom Clouds Over Nevada

by Norman Solomon As golden anniversaries go, it's a somber occasion. In a forlorn expanse of desert scarcely an hour's drive northwest of Las Vegas, on Jan. 27, 1951, the Nevada Test Site went into operation by exploding an atomic bomb. During more than a decade, mushroom clouds often rose toward the sky. Winds routinely carried radioactive fallout to communities in Utah, Nevada and northern Arizona. Meanwhile, news media dutifully conveyed U.S. Atomic Energy Commission announcements to downwind residents: "There is no danger"

Ashcroft and Racist Code Words

by Norman Solomon Ashcroft is experienced at speaking in code while exploiting racism for political gain. A few weeks ago, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recalled that Ashcroft "has built a career out of opposing school desegregation in St. Louis." Twice, as governor of Missouri, he vetoed bills that sought to give residents of the heavily black city of St. Louis the same access to voter registration as the mostly white residents of surrounding suburbs

All Hail the Triumphant Runner-Up

by Norman Solomon The degree to which Bush can succeed at flaunting himself as the people's choice will largely depend on the dynamics of media coverage and the behavior of Democrats on Capitol Hill. Right now, for the most part, those Democrats seem inclined to let bygones be bygones -- signaling to journalists that they may as well do the same. But shrugging off recent electoral history requires downplaying the series of key events

False Prophets

by Alexander Cockburn Our society has made criminal behavior that wasn't criminal ten years ago. Statutory rape is the latest craze -- it's no longer "teenagers in love." Now when a 16-year-old has sex with a 15-year-old it's statutory rape. All kids commit crimes. Most adults commit crimes. We smoke joints, we have stolen if we don't steal now, we walked the streets in groups (now called gangs, just being in one is illegal), we lie on our tax returns. The point is not just that youth is criminalized, but that certain kids are especially criminalized, kids from bad neighborhoods

Can Bush Admin Be Worse Than Clinton's?

by Alexander Cockburn What else can Norton do that Babbitt hasn't already set in motion? Not much. Last year Babbitt's Fish and Wildlife Service put a moratorium on the listing of endangered species, and he's smiled on the privatization of public assets through land trades, whereby timber corporations get old growth and we get the cut-over terrain. Salmon protection? The Clinton administration let the Republicans off the hook on that one, decreeing that the dams on the Snake River won't be breached. Oil leasing off the continental shelf? For Bush/Cheney it would be political suicide. Reagan tried and had to back off. Norton will go after the National Environmental Protection Act, but here again Babbitt and Gore paved the way, with their habitat conservation plans, which have ushered so many corporate foxes into the coop

Nature's Revenge

by Alexander Cockburn In Germany, it's probably the biggest crisis since 1945. Millions of Germans daren't sausage. In France, ranchers and slaughterhouse workers are blocking all roads to Paris, and traffic is backed up 100 kilometers. The reason is mad cow. Last week, the Health Minister for Germany's largest state, Baerbel Hoehn in North-Rhine-Westphalia, told the Cologne Express: "Whoever wants to be totally certain shouldn't eat beef at the moment"

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