Tate Hausman

The Top Ten Censored Stories of 2000



Have you read the one about corporations planning to charge you hundreds of dollars a month for your tap water? Or the one about military "psychological operations" specialists manipulating viewers of CNN? What about the highly skilled programmers in Silicon Valley who, because they are immigrants, are laboring under sweatshop-like conditions?

If none of these stories rings a bell, it's not because you've missed the latest e-mail hoax. It's because these very real tales -- and many others like them -- weren't reported in the mainstream media.

Instead, they were among this year's "Top Ten Censored Stories," according to Project Censored, a veteran media watchdog group. Every year for the past 25, Project Censored has tracked important stories that are underreported or blacked out by the mainstream press. The articles are honored with an award and then compiled in a book published by Seven Stories Press.

The consistent theme exposed by these articles is that our government routinely fails to protect our rights, health and safety, especially if there's corporate money at stake. While Americans often bad-mouth "big government," we overwhelmingly favor health and environmental regulations, and trust that they keep us safe. Unfortunately, as these stories show, our trust may be misplaced.

The yearly release of the Project's Top Ten list (and 15 runner-ups) is often accompanied by controversy and a pinch of confusion, mostly because of the Project's complicated definition of censorship. Few mainstream news organizations experience overt, top-down censorship -- for example, an editor killing a controversial story or firing a reporter who has dug too deep.

The reality of censorship in American newsrooms is far more subtle and, arguably, far more pervasive. As mainstream media outlets are increasingly dominated by large corporate conglomerates, they become ever more beholden to the bottom line. Stories that don't make money -- either because they don't capture a large audience, are too expensive to research or might offend advertisers and investors -- often end up on the newsroom floor.

Reporters and editors quickly learn to play by the narrow rules of the game, and to keep their stories within a certain range of ideas and topics. On top of this self-censorship, the relentless pace of mainstream news outlets rarely allows for anything more than simplified treatments of complex subjects.

Fortunately, as Project Censored points out year after year, there are other media outlets that do investigate and report on controversial, complicated stories -- the independent press. Ranging from established national magazines (In These Times, The Progressive, Washington Monthly) to web outlets (MotherJones.com, AlterNet.org) to alternative newsweeklies, these publications, as the Project puts it, report "the news that doesn't make the news."

Unfortunately, because their reach is small compared to the massive media giants that dominate print, radio, television and online news, stories in these indy publications often don't get the attention they deserve. That's where Project Censored believes it can help. By honoring the Top Ten Censored Stories, the Project hopes both to provoke mainstream media to cover these issues and to strengthen the independent press.

"We must redevelop news and information systems from the bottom up," writes Peter Phillips, Project Censored's director and a journalism professor at Sonoma State University. "Thousands of alternative news organizations already exist. We just need to connect and put their news on the breakfast tables of millions of working people."

Executing that vision is easier said than done, of course. And while highlighting the top ten underreported stories every year will hardly cause a media revolution, it will keep more people informed about the pressing issues that passed quietly by last year. So without further ado, the Top Ten Censored Stories of 2000 are ...

1. World Bank and Multinational Companies Seek to Privatize Water

Awards to: Jim Shultz, In These Times and This, Maude Barlow, International Forum on Globalization, Vandana Shiva, Canadian Dimension, Daniel Zoll and Pratap Chatterjee, the San Francisco Bay Guardian

The authors of this year's first-place award all started with the same premise: that global water consumption is doubling every 20 years and that by 2025 the demand for fresh water is expected to rise to 56 percent more than the amount of water currently available.

This frightens environmentalists. But for officials at international lending institutions and multinational companies, it's a business opportunity. "Water is the last infrastructure frontier for private investors," declared one banking official. Monsanto corporation certainly agrees; it plans to earn revenues of $420 million and a net income of $63 million by 2008 from its water business in India and Mexico.

The Bechtel corporation is also on the case, but has botched its scramble for blue gold. While attempting to privatize the local water system of Cochamba, Bolivia, not only did they provoke mass strikes that injured hundreds and shut down the city of 600,000 for a week, but they sought to pin the blame for the uprising on narcotics traffickers. Nevertheless, this bad PR has not stopped Bechtel -- the company appears to be positioning itself to privatize San Francisco's water system.

2. OSHA Can't -- or Won't -- Help Powerless Workers

Award to: Christopher Cook, The Progressive

Though focused on one particularly egregious scandal, Project Censored's second-place winner is more a broad indictment of OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. As author Christopher Cook points out, OSHA has only 2,300 inspectors to cover 102 million workers in 6.7 million workplaces. That's one inspector for every 44,348 workers. It would take OSHA 110 years to inspect each workplace under its jurisdiction just once.

Even when OSHA does inspect workplaces that are violating safety rules, the fines they force employers to pay are a joke. In one case at Titan International, the manufacturing company profiled in Cook's article, OSHA only imposed a paltry $10,000 fine after Titan's illegal equipment, which lacked crucial safety features, killed a worker. For a company raking in hundreds of millions a year, a couple grand is laughable.

The net effect is that employers like Titan pay no attention to rules and regulations designed to keep their workers safe. While it would cost them plenty of short-term dollars to install safety guards and properly train workers, it will only cost them relatively small amounts in fines over a long period if they do not. Their workers, of course, are caught in the middle.

3. Army Propaganda Team Worked at CNN

Award to: Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch

The corporate media has long relied on government spinmeisters to produce news during times of war. The army has entire units of men, called "psychological operations" groups, devoted in part to spreading information and propaganda to news organizations. From them, media outlets get insider, official information without having to do much reporting.

But the military took the principle way too far when it actually placed army psy-ops personnel at CNN's TV, radio and satellite bureaus during the Kosovo war.

Through a program called "Training With Industry," the army stationed five psy-ops soldiers as interns at CNN's Southeast bureau. Later, in a closed-door army symposium, a psy-ops Commander said the cooperation with CNN was a textbook example of the kind of ties the American army wants to have with the media.

"The U.S. Army ... confirmed to me that military personnel have been involved in news production at CNN's newsdesks," said Abe De Vried, who first broke the story in a respected Dutch newspaper. "I found it simply astonishing. These kind of close ties with the army are, in my view, completely unacceptable for any serious news organization."

As award-winner Alexander Cockburn speculated, "It could be that CNN was the target of a psy-ops penetration and is still too naive to figure out what was going on."

4. Did the U.S. Deliberately Bomb the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade?

Awards to: Joel Bleifuss and Seth Ackerman, In These Times, Yoichi Shimatsu, Pacific News Service

On May 7, 1999, U.S. figher pilots bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing three people. The Clinton administration apologized and called it a "tragic mistake" resulting from an outdated map. Chinese authorities rejected both the explanation and the apology and insisted the bombing was deliberate.

Five months later, reports in the Observer of London and Copenhagen's Politiken alleged that the CIA had coordinated the attack in order to destroy a Yugoslavian army rebroadcast center housed in the embassy. Secretary of State Madeline Albright dismissed the allegations as "balderdash," and both stories were ignored by mainstream news outlets in the U.S.

In response to a campaign by media critic group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the Times finally ran an investigative story in April of last year, claiming it found no conclusive evidence of a deliberate attack -- though the reporter, Times Pentagon correspondent Steven Lee Myers, seemed to have his doubts. But the real issue was the reluctance of the U.S. media to confront a story that was receiving serious attention abroad.

5. U.S. Taxes Underwrite Nuke Plants Overseas

Award to: Ken Silverstein and Ian Urbina, The Progressive

"Here's a story you probably won't see on CBS." So begins Silverstein and Urbina's expose of the U.S. Export-Import Bank's foreign nuclear power plant deals. The writers start smugly for good reason: Westinghouse, which built unsafe and overpriced Ex-Im-backed nuclear power plants, owns the CBS network. And sure enough CBS did not cover the story.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank is a government agency that underwrites exports through tax-payer backed loans. As the writers document, between 1959 and 1993, it spent $7.7 billion to help sell American-made reactors overseas. The reason for this "help," however, was not altruistic. U.S. nuclear contractors like Westinghouse, Bechtel and General Electric have watched their home markets shrink, as nuclear power has become riddled with risks and uncertainties. Thus they have searched for clients abroad. Since most countries can't afford to buy nuclear power facilities, the contractors often provide financing backed by Ex-Im and you.

Often, contractors make windfall profits from such loans. In 1985, Westinghouse built the Bataan nuclear power facility in the Philippines at a cost of $1.2 billion, 150 percent above projections. The plant was situated near an active volcano and never generated a single watt of energy. Nevertheless, the Philippines pays $300,000 a day in interest on the loan that funded the project. Of course, none of this should be a huge surprise -- the leader of the council overseeing Ex-Im loans is also the head honcho at Westinghouse.

6. Our Role in the Genocide in Rwanda

Awards to: David Corn, AlterNet.org; Ellen Ray, Covert Action Quarterly

In censored story #6, AlterNet.org columnist David Corn examines a low point of Bill Clinton's foreign policy: the alleged U.S. collusion in the genocide of more than half a million Tutsi people by the Hutus in Rwanda.

Corn noticed a modest news story in the New York Times which said that the Organization for African Unity had issued a report critical of United States -- especially of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright -- for handling the Rwandan genocide so poorly. "But the story did not go into details," Corn wrote, "[even though] the report demolished the Clinton assertion that he had not been fully aware of the genocide when it had been under way." Ellen Ray's lengthy article about the Congo in Covert Action Quarterly echoed this condemning assertion.







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Sidebar: The Rest of the Best

The following stories were selected as the Censored Stories 11 to 25.

11. United Nations Corporate Partnerships -- A Human Rights Peril
Kenny Bruno, Dollars and Sense; Danielle Knight, Multinational Monitor

12. Cuba Leads the World in Organic Farming
Hugh Warwick, Third World Resurgence; Alison Auld, Sustainable Times; Stephen Zunes, Designer/Builder

13. The World Trade Organization is an Illegal Institution
Michel Chossudovsky, Covert Action Quarterly

14. Europe Holds Companies Environmentally Responsible, Despite U.S. Opposition
Joel Bleifuss, In These Times

15. Gerber Uses the WTO to Suppress Laws that Promote Breastfeeding
Peter Montague, Rachel's Environment and Health Weekly; Robert Weissman, Multinational Monitor

16. Human Genome Project Opens the Door to Ethnically Specific Bioweapens
Roy Blake, Washington Free Press; Greg Bishop, Konformist; Robert Lederman, North Coast Xpress

17. IMF and World Bank Staff Tightly Connected to New Yugoslav Government
Michel Chossudovsky and Jared Israel, Emperor's New Clothes; Christian Parenti, San Francisco Bay Guardian

18. Indigenous People Challenge Private Ownership and Patenting of Life
Kimberly Wilson, GeneWatch

19. U.S. Using Dangerous Fungus to Eradicate Coca Plants in Colombia
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch; Ed Vulliamy, London Observer

20. Disabled Most Likely to be Victims of Serious Crime
Dan Sorensen, Tash Newsletter

21. U.S Military Bombing Range Destroys Korean Village Life
Karen Talbot, Freespeech.org

22. U.S. Government Repressed Marijuana-Tumor Research
Raymond Cushing, AlterNet.org

23. Very Small Levels of Chemical Exposures Can be Dangerous
Stephen Lester, Everyone's Backyard; Frances Cerra Whittelsey, In These Times

24. Pentagon Seeks Mega-Mergers Between International Arms Corporations
Federation of American Scientists, Arms Sales Monitor

25. Community Activists Outsit McDonalds
McLibel Support Campaign, A-Infos New Service

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Other mass killings have occurred during Rwanda's brutal history. However, under the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, once a genocide is recognized, the nations of the world are obligated to prevent the killings and to punish the murderers. A story that strongly suggests that our government knew about this horrible rampage and might have been prevented it deserves significant media follow-up.

7. Biotech Industry Censors Critics of Genetically Engineered Food

Awards to: Joel Bleifuss, In These Times; Karen Charman, Extra!; Ben Lilliston, Multinational Monitor

In 1998, Scottish researcher Arpad Pusztai found that genetically engineered (GE) potatoes seemed to be causing sickness and poor brain development in rats. When he went to the press with his preliminary findings, the biotech industry -- poised to make billions from GE foods -- came down on him like a ton of bricks.

Pusztai was quickly fired by his employer, the Rowett Research Institute, while his research team was disbanded and his data seized. It later came out that Rowett had received a $224,000 grant from biotech giant Monsanto prior to Pusztai's firing.

Pusztai pushed his case in the media, creating a firestorm of controversy in the British press. His main point: Why not continue the experiments he had started to determine the health risks of GE potatoes? Eventually, he found an ally in Prince Charles, who wrote a widely publicized article in the Daily Mail questioning the lack of safety testing on GE foods. In a highly unusual move, British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- a biotech advocate -- called Charles to advise him to withdraw his opinion and refrain from any further public comments. Just another startling illustration of how effectively industry, in collusion with industry-friendly government officials, can squash opinions or evidence that might threaten profit margins.

8. Drug Companies Influence Doctors and Health Organizations to Push Meds

Awards to: Stephen Pomper, Washington Monthly; Ken Silverstein, MotherJones.com; David Oaks, Dendron; Jacqueline Sparks Miller, Family Therapy Networker

Advertising would seem an effective enough marketing tool for drugs, since research shows that most patients who ask for a drug they saw on TV get the prescription they want. But pharmaceutical companies are hedging their bets, spending billions each year to influence doctors and even bankrolling "patients" groups to advocate on their behalf.

In "Drug Rush," Stephen Pomper describes how an accelerated FDA drug approval process, combined with too few experts to monitor reports of problems with drugs already on the market, leaves patients vulnerable. The risk to public health increases when pharmaceutical companies ply doctors with incentives to turn them into salesmen for the latest medications.

Meanwhile, Ken Silverstein’s research for Mother Jones revealed that the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), a non-profit advocacy group that calls itself "a grassroots organization for individuals with brain disorders, and their family members," received millions from pharmaceutical companies, including a large chunk from Prozac manufacturer Eli Lilly.

"Mother Jones cracked the shell," David Oaks concluded in a follow up story for Dendron that connects the dots between the drug companies' largess and a coercive medication monitoring program sponsored by NAMI. "It's up to the grassroots to finish the job."

9. EPA Planned to Dump Toxic Waste into Denver Sewers

Award to: Will Fantle, The Progressive

A year ago, the city of Denver planned to "clean" the nearby Lowry Superfund site by pumping radioactive waste through the city's sewer system and selling the sludge to commercial agribusiness concerns for use as fertilizer on crops grown for human consumption.

The local EPA office said there's no credible evidence of dangerous levels of radioactive waste at the site, but a group headed by local law professor Adrienne Anderson said the plan stinks a mile high. Anderson's research convinced 7,000 citizens to sign a petition that prompted the EPA's inspector general to call for an investigation of the proposed cleanup methods. Since this story was published in The Progressive, the city of Denver started, then stopped accepting liquid waste from Lowry, but the program is slated to resume.

What do the local papers, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News (which merged this year) have to say about it? Not much, the story reports -- maybe because for many years, their companies contributed their own toxic waste to Lowry.

10. Silicon Valley Sweatshops

Award to: David Bacon, Labor Notes and the Washington Free Press

There is a silver lining for employers who hire immigrant workers on H1-B visas. They are brought to the U.S. on individual contracts, and therefore, unlike U.S. workers, do not have the legal protection to organize, sue for unfair treatment or even demand the salaries they are promised.

This is particularly true for high-tech workers from India and Pakistan employed by Silicon Valley tech firms. Kim Singh, for example, received an H1-B visa for a software engineer job. Upon arriving from India, he worked for one company that withheld 25 percent of his and other immigrant workers' salaries. At his second Silicon Valley job, he worked seven days a week with no overtime compensation, and discovered only H1-B workers were required to work weekends. His third employer rented him and three other H1-B workers an apartment, charging each $1,450 a month, while holding onto their passports. Complaints about this kind of treatment were met by firings and exportation.

Such abuses have far-ranging effects. Silicon Valley tech companies have lobbied Congress to increase the yearly number of H1-B workers to 300,000 as well as to lift the cap entirely, potentially increasing abuses. And high-tech jobs that have gone to foreigners have prevented firms from training American workers, whom they would have to pay higher wages. "Contract labor boosts corporate bottom lines," David Bacon reported, "but it has a devastating impact on workers."

The Mix

While politicians and pundits bask in the media spotlight, spouting banalities about "mending the rifts" in Washington and "building bipartisan coalitions," we here at AlterNet are refocusing our attention on some folks who are building genuine coalitions and mending rifts around the globe.

For an eye-opener about the real core of the anti-corporate movement, you can't beat today's lead piece, "Globalization from Below." As its authors point out, the "anti-globalization" movement has largely been depicted as a series of dramatic demonstrations against the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank by a bunch of radical Westerners. But the real anti-corporate globalization movement -- globalization from below -- has been percolating in communities of Third World poor people, environmentalists, small farmers, organized labor, students, consumer groups ... the list goes on and on. The movement for globalization from below has been acting and linking up in an enormous range of ways that may be less visible than "meeting-stalking," but that transcend its limitations.

A great example of the fight against corporate globalization is highlighted in Olivia Greer's "Smoking Out Big Tobacco." Greer reports on how the group INFACT, armed with a powerful new documentary, is confronting Big Tobacco's efforts to hook Third World children on cigarettes. The INFACT boycott of Philip Morris/Kraft Foods is still going strong, and we urge readers to consider joining it.

We're also hoping you read through Linda Baker's insightful piece, "Sprawl: Soccer Moms' Public Enemy #1." As a mother of two school-age kids, Baker is struggling with the social, psychological and environmental effects of her new role as family chauffeur. What happens to a community, she asks, when the average mother spends more than an hour a day driving?

And yes, we are still covering the fallout of Election 2000, trying to make sense of it, but not afraid to make fun of it, either. Michael Moore's irreverant column today does both -- "Silver Lining of the Election #9: We will never have to look at James Baker or Warren Christopher again." While Arianna Huffington takes a somber stab at the Supreme Court, we've found a hilarious spam for thought that takes a silly stab at Bush: "Breaking News: GOD Overrules Supreme Court Verdict."

This will be the last Mix; we hope you enjoyed it, and that you'll give us some feedback about the whole AlterNet beta site. Thanks.

This is the Headline changing something

When Bill Clinton delivers the keynote speech at an Oracle Corp. convention Monday, it might mark the start of a new business relationship between the former president and the world's second-largest software company.

The buzz around Oracle's Redwood Shores headquarters these days is that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, an unabashed Clinton admirer, is trying to persuade his old political friend to fill a vacant seat on the company's board of directors.

Keep reading... Show less

House Clamps Down on Class-Action Lawsuits

The House of Representatives passed a bill on September 23 that would make it far more difficult for aggreived citizens to file class-action lawsuits against large corporations. If approved by the Senate and President, the legislation would make irresponsible companies virtually immune from lawsuits such as the recent anti-tobacco and anti-gun claims that have significantly reigned in corporate abuses.The bill, H.R. 1875, would force state court judges to transfer most of their class-action suits to Federal courts. Federal judges are much less sympathetic to plantiffs of class-action lawsuits, often outright refusing to entertain their claims. Furthermore, a massive shortage of Federal judges -- 64 Federal benches remain unoccupied -- has created a drastic case overload for the Federal courts. So even class-action suits that get on the docket would face crippling delays and red tape.Supporters of H.R. 1875 say that the bill would prevent class-action lawyers from filing suits in states whose judges and juries are predisposed to favor citizens over businesses. Opponents call the bill a "backdoor immunity" for cigarette companies, gun makers and other industries that have paid out billions in recent class-action settlements."[H.R. 1875] represents a sealed, locked, closed and forever impenetrable door to justice," said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), one of 207 Representatives who voted against the bill, versus 222 who voted for it.Not surprisingly, a number of large corporations spent millions lobbying in support of H.R. 1875. A study by consumer advocate group Public Citizen estimates that corporations such as Phillip Morris, General Motors, Pfizer and Bank of America have pumped over $85 million into pro-H.R. 1875 campaign contributions and lobbying efforts over the past five years."Though it didn't pass by much, the reason H.R. 1875 made it through the House was because big business can afford more influence than advocacy groups," said Frank Clemente, Director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch program. "Luckily, a strong coalition is putting up resistance to this legislation."Opponents of the bill include Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the Conference of Chief Justices of state courts, and a vast coalition of health, civil rights, labor, consumer, gun control and anti-tobacco organizations. Because of their outcry against H.R. 1875, President Clinton has vowed to veto the legislation if it passes in the Senate."In a free-market system increasingly dominated by large corporations, the class-action device is an essential tool to tame harmful corporate behavior," said Clemente. "It is perilous for Congress to tamper with a system that has served consumers so well."

The Great Gasoline Greenwash

Now that your brain isn't melting out of your ears, you've probably noticed that we're nearing the end of a damn hot summer. So hot, in fact, that over 1,000 people roasted to death, hundreds of record highs were set and one of the worst droughts in history decimated crops across the country. After congratulating yourself on surviving the heat, you might start to wonder, did this summer sizzle because of Nature alone? Or is something more human -- something like our excessive burning of fossil fuels -- causing global warming?While scientists can't conclusively pin 1999's heat waves on fossil fuel consumption, they do agree that our present reliance on burning coal, oil and gas will eventually heat up the planet. Depending on how much the mercury rises, the effects could be severe: more droughts, fires and floods, more hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons, coastal cities obliterated by rising sea levels, fragile ecosystems destroyed by weather changes, even worldwide crop failures. Not a pretty picture. Of course, scientists aren't the only ones who know that the planet might heat up because we burn too much oil. Most Americans know it. And, of course, oil companies know that we know it. They know that if the threat of global warming gets scary enough, Americans might turn against the oil industry. Maybe we'll boycott gas stations. Maybe we'll demand stricter regulations. Maybe we'll sue oil companies, like we're suing the tobacco and gun industries. Whatever happens, it'll be a public relations disaster. And you can bet your last drop of crude that the oil corporations are working to prevent that.Take the latest public relations campaign from British Petroleum (BP), which they call "Plug in the Sun." BP -- which also owns Amoco and ARCO, making it the second largest oil conglomerate in the world -- has put solar panels on top of filling stations in about 20 cities around the globe. On sunny days these solar panels power the station's gas pumps and mini-marts, which reduces their reliance on the public grid. BP now proudly claims, "We fill you up by sunshine."Sounds nice, but as the online magazine Corporate Watch (www.corpwatch.org) points out, it's a misleading load of bull. Even at the most solar-friendly BP stations, cars are still filling their tanks [ital]with gasoline,[end ital] a leading contributor to global warming. Putting solar panels on its filling stations may garner good publicity, but it won't reduce the amount of gas BP sells. If anything, BP will sell more gas to enviro-conscious drivers impressed by the "Plug in the Sun" stunt. More gas equals more emissions -- which equals more global warming. Noting this blatant hypocrisy, Corporate Watch recently named BP as the unwilling recipient of a satirical award -- the "Summer 1999 Greenwash Award."The term "greenwash," unknown twenty years ago, has become so prevalent that the latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary now includes a definition of the term:greenwash (n): Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.In less technical terms, a greenwash is what happens when an environmentally irresponsible corporation poses as a friend of the Earth, either through expensive ad campaigns, non-profit corporate front groups or publicity stunts such as BP's "Plug in the Sun." While rarely filled with flat-out lies, greenwashes rely on misleading, distracting information that masks a corporation's real impact the environment -- which is usually negative."Greenwashing has been around since the early '70s," says Josh Karliner, executive director of the Transnational Resource & Action Center, which publishes Corporate Watch. "Ever since the success of the first Earth Day, corporations realized that people wouldn't put up with environmentally destructive companies. Of course, those companies didn't want to change their business, even if it was hurting the environment, so instead they started greenwashing."And in the oil industry, they never stopped. While BP eventually won the Greenwash Award, four other oil companies were close runners-up: Chevron, for its "People Do" ads; Exxon, for its "Save the Tiger" fund; Mobil, for its op-ed ads in the New York Times; and Shell, for its "Profits or Principles" campaign. With such accomplished greenwashing in the industry, how did BP surpass its competitors to win the award?Kenny Bruno, author of a book called "Greenwash: The Reality of Corporate Environmentalism" and long-time TRAC adviser, points out a number of other factors that added to selecting BP for the award."At the same time as BP announced its solar program, it was in the process of buying ARCO for $26.5 billion," notes Bruno. "The few million spent to add solar panels to filling stations means nothing to BP. Meanwhile, in Alaska alone, BP Amoco will spend $5 billion in the next five years on oil exploration and production. Fossil fuels remains at the heart of BP's business. Everything else is window dressing."Of course, the window dressing often makes the longest-lasting impression. According to Karliner, greenwash campaigns are quite effective when aimed at a specific, influential audience. For example, Chevron's "People Do" ad campaign, which portrays the company as a virtual eco-savior, has been running successfully for more than 12 years. The ads appear predominantly in Texas, Louisiana, California and Washington, DC. The first three are states in which Chevron has most of its refineries, and therefore where the corporation is most heavily regulated and taxed. And Washington is where many of those regulations and taxes -- or deregulations and tax breaks, if the greenwashing is effective -- originate."Greenwash campaigns target decision makers -- regulators, public figures and politicians -- and the constituencies that will influence those decision makers," says Karliner. "The 'People Do' ads were so effective that Chevron executives bragged about them in advertising trade magazines."BP has not publicly responded to the Greenwash Award, except to tell Corporate Watch reporters who asked for BP promotional material that Plug in the Sun is "not a greenwash campaign." Which was a comment that didn't surprise Karliner."Of course they're going to defend their intentions," he says. "But if BP was serious about saving the environment they would invest more than a pittance in solar and alternative fuels, and they'd cut back oil, coal and gas production."When asked what else oil giants could do to go beyond greenwashing, Karliner laughs."Ideally, BP would get out of the oil business altogether," he says. "But we all know that's not going to happen."

Students Ready for a Semester of Struggle

As summer vacation quickly turns to fall, the average college student's mind turns to shopping. Some are picking out trendy new clothes, dorm-room posters or the perfect beer stein. But others -- a significant number of others -- are buying batteries for their bullhorns and ink for their printing presses, getting ready to protest their lungs out when the semester starts.The most energetic student movement of the '90s, the protest against exploitative foreign sweatshops, will be returning to campuses this fall with more vigor, enthusiasm and resources than ever before. At issue is the widespread practice of universities profiting off the sale of clothing and accessories that are produced in sweatshops overseas. While student activists won significant victories against this practice last year, they remain unsatisfied with many of their schools' policies. So instead of letting the sweatshop issue go the way of many campus crusades -- which fade from student consciousness during summer vacation, or dissipate when student leaders graduate -- "no-sweat" organizers have taken steps to ensure that their agenda will stay in the forefront of students' minds.Most visibly, a loose coalition of no-sweat campus groups called United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) has established a national office in Washington, D.C."The national headquarters will be a central place for no-sweat activists to get information and support," says Maria Roeper, a veteran USAS organizer and a senior at Haverford College. "The movement has gotten too big and too complex to move forward without it."When it opens in September, the USAS office will be comparatively small -- employing only one full-time staffer -- but its responsibilities will be overwhelming. Along with supporting hundreds of no-sweat groups across the country, the office will coordinate "national days of action," link student activists with other community activists and make outreaches to campuses without organized no-sweat campaigns. The USAS will also be leading fact-finding expeditions to Latin America -- expeditions in which students will infiltrate factories, meet with garment workers and expose sweatshop conditions to the international community."We were brainstorming recently about all the jobs the national office will be responsible for," says Roeper. "It'll be at least three times what any one person could handle. We haven't even opened the office and we need to hire more staff!"Those myriad responsibilities result from the spectacular growth of the campus no-sweat movement during the last two years. The crusade first gained visibility in 1997, when Duke University students pressured administrators to adopt a "code of conduct" that prohibited Duke from contracting with factories that violated labor laws or human rights. The code of conduct model quickly caught on with student groups at other universities, leading to sit-ins, rallies and marches at dozens of campuses. The protests reached a climax last spring, with hundreds of student groups calling on their administrators to adopt stringent codes. When the USAS called its second annual meeting in July, more than 200 no-sweat organizers showed up -- more than quadruple the number that attended in 1998.Even though the movement has come a long way, it now faces a daunting and ironic foe: the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a White House-sponsored initiative ostensibly designed to combat sweatshop labor. In theory, the FLA would investigate apparel-producing factories overseas and hold them to an industry-wide code of conduct. But student activists claim the FLA is little more than a sweatshop-protecting public relations stunt."The FLA is nothing but a smokescreen for hiding unjust labor practices," says Lyndsey Norman, another long-time USAS activist. "It lacks some of the most important clauses any code of conduct needs -- full public disclosure of factory locations, guarantees to pay a living wage and independent monitoring."Those three criteria -- public disclosure, living wage guarantees and independent monitoring -- have become the USAS's rallying cry. Without disclosing factory locations, apparel companies can guard their sweatshops in secrecy, hiding deplorable work or living conditions from the rest of the world. Without living wage guarantees, factories will, at best, pay only the "prevailing wage" of the country in which they are located -- usually not enough to adequately house and feed workers. And without independent monitoring, companies can hire friendly firms to investigate factory conditions -- with the understanding that the factory will get a passing grade."The FLA would only call for five to ten percent of a company's factories to be visited," says Lauren Stephens-Davidowitz, a Yale freshman who joined the USAS while still in high school. "After those few visits, which would be carefully planned for, the company would get a stamp of approval. That's not real monitoring, not by a long shot."Regardless of these student objections, more than 100 universities have joined the FLA, adding their names beside corporate giants such as Nike, Liz Claiborne and Reebok. Many university administrators defend the FLA as a meaningful way to stop sweatshop abuses. "It makes sense to work within the FLA framework at this point to achieve fair labor conditions," Duke University President Nannerl Keohane told a Scripps Howard reporter. While some administrators agree that the FLA establishes "a floor, not a ceiling" of acceptable factory conditions, many simply embrace the White House-backed plan as is. USAS's Roeper believes that such university acceptance is the result of a concerted FLA recruitment effort. "The FLA is courting universities for legitimacy," she says. "By saying, 'We have 100 universities endorsing us,' the FLA gains a lot of credibility. Meanwhile, university administrators just don't want to deal with the sweatshop issue anymore; it's bad publicity, it's hard work, it's inconvenient. So joining the FLA seems like a win-win situation -- except that it won't do anything to improve worker's lives."To expose the inadequacies of the FLA, student activists have already made some investigations of their own into Latin American sweatshops. Last March, the USAS teamed up with the National Labor Committee (NLC), another anti-sweatshop group, to send a delegation of students to an FLA-monitored Liz Claiborne factory in El Salvador. A spokesman from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm hired by the FLA to audit the factory, had assured students that conditions in the factory "were just fine." But when students arrived, they found egregious violations of human and labor rights, including sub-poverty wages, 15-hour work days (with only two bathroom breaks permitted), daily full-body searches and workers fired for even talking about unionizing. Upon their return, the students penned an open letter to Liz Claiborne."In our eyes," the students wrote, "the abuses we witnessed [in your factories] discredit not only your firm, but also the monitoring efforts of the FLA."After a similar fact-finding trip to Honduras last summer, USAS activists recorded their impressions of other FLA-approved factories in a report called Behind Closed Doors. Wrote one student, "We saw hundreds of workers, the majority young girls, entering a factory. A security guard armed with a huge rifle paced back and forth in front of the gates, occasionally telling the workers to hurry. Disgusted, we watched hundreds of people walking hypnotically into these monstrous buildings, enclosed by barbed-wire fences and 20-foot concrete walls, on a beautiful Sunday morning. It's supposed to be their only day off.""Clearly, the corporate monitors are inadequate," says NLC Executive Director Charlie Kernaghan. "And now that student activists are seeing for themselves -- with their own eyes -- the deplorable conditions that the monitors ignore, they're more likely than ever to resist the FLA."According to Kernaghan, who has been active in human and labor rights organizing for decades, student pressure has become the most powerful force in the no-sweat campaign."In terms of the sweatshop movement, 1999 is the year of the student," he says. "They've made more progress than any labor organizations, any religious organizations, or any human rights groups. If anyone can rock the FLA, it's students."And rock they will. Though specific protests haven't yet been planned, no-sweat organizers across the country are ready to mobilize at a moment's notice. "The atmosphere is changing on college campuses," warns Lyndsey Norman. "If our universities don't switch course and make genuine responses to student demands, you're going to see a lot of action this fall."So if you're headed back onto campus, don't forget your leaflets, banners and spray-paint. For the first time in many years, they may be more useful than that stein.

One Million Prisoners Too Many

Late last year, Michael Robles received a 25 year prison sentence for trying to buy a macadamia nut.Robles had been in trouble with the law before, but by all accounts was the model of a reformed ex-con. After serving sentences for a string of nonviolent crimes, including burglary and petty theft, Robles had decided to go straight. He got a steady job, got married, even started mentoring at-risk neighborhood teens, advising them to say away from the paths that led him to crime. Nevertheless, when undercover narcs arrested Robles for allegedly "attempting to possess an imitation controlled substance" -- a macadamia nut posing as rock cocaine -- the judge and jury overlooked Robles' clean parole record and community involvement. And because of California's Three Strikes law, Robles got hit with an absurdly long sentence: 25 years to life in California prison.While it may seem merciless to lock someone like Michael Robles away for 25 years, that has become the all-too-common fate of many nonviolent offenders. A striking new study by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) has revealed this troubling statistic: For the first time ever, more than one million nonviolent offenders were incarcerated in America in 1998. The JPI report, released on March 25, showed that over the past 20 years, 77 percent of new prisoners were imprisoned for offenses that involved neither harm, nor the threat of harm, to a victim. Many of the 1.2 million nonviolent prisoners, especially those arrested for drug related crimes, are behind bars because of increasingly harsh "mandatory sentence" and "three strikes" laws -- laws supposedly enacted to keep murderers and rapists off the streets."Prisons are built and mandatory sentencing laws passed on the specter of rapists and killers," says Vincent Schiraldi, JPI's director. But, as the report states, "The people sent to prison are not the Ted Bundies, Charlie Mansons, and Timothy McVeighs -- or even less sensationalized robbers, rapists, and murders -- that the public imagines them to be ... [These] 1.2 million people have been warehoused for nonviolent, often petty crimes."As the report points out, the economic ramifications of locking up 1.2 million nonviolent criminals are staggering. Approximately $24 billion was spent in 1998 to incarcerate nonviolent criminals -- one and a half times what the federal government spent on welfare and six times more than it spent on child care. We spend $100 million more every year building prisons than universities. Each nonviolent prisoner costs taxpayers $20,000 a year -- not taking into account the lost productivity of 1.2 million citizens, most of whom were once taxpaying wage earners."Spending more to lock up nonviolent offenders than to feed or educate our country's children is a cruel, self-fulfilling prophecy," said JPI Policy Analyst Jason Ziedenberg. "It's not just bad public policy, it's downright mean-spirited."Among the other findings of the JPI report are these startling comparisons:* Our nonviolent prison population is larger than the combined populations of Wyoming and Alaska.* Our nonviolent prison population is three times the ENTIRE prison population -- violent and nonviolent -- of the European Union, even though the EU includes 100 million more people than the US.* The 1.2 million nonviolent offenders we currently lock up represents five times the number of people held in India's ENTIRE prison system, even though it is a country with roughly four times our population.Explanations vary about why our nonviolent prison population has grown so dramatically in the past 20 years. Many critics chalk it up to the increasingly punitive policies of the War on Drugs. Drug offenders now comprise 59 percent of federal inmates, as opposed to 16 percent in 1970 -- and of those offenders, approximately 80 percent have been jailed for possession. Instead of offering those drug users and sellers help, critics argue, our War on Drugs mentality has spawned mandatory minimum sentences and "three strikes" laws -- both of which are supposed to lock away the big fish, but end up catching the small fry.Others attribute our mushrooming nonviolent prisoner population to corporate greed. One such critic is Michael Robles' wife, Roberta, who has founded a grassroots organization called CATS -- Californians to Amend Three Strikes. Her language is peppered with insights about the "prison-industrial complex" that makes billions of dollars every year."Wall Street owns the prison industry, which basically provides slave labor for large corporations," says Roberta. "Building and maintaining prisons is a huge industry that many people want to keep growing and growing."The explosion in our nonviolent prisoner population has not gone without notice by human rights organizers. Numerous advocacy and support groups for nonviolent prisoners and their families -- unnecessary 20 years ago -- are springing up across the country. Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a national organization based in Washington, DC, has attracted 33,000 members since its birth in 1991. A coalition of groups has scheduled a national series of prison visitations called "Go to Jail Week" (April 11-18), highlighting the overuse of incarceration for nonviolent criminals. Even Roberta Robles' grassroots group, CATS, has drawn letters of support from all over the world."People write to me because they hear the stories of nonviolent criminals -- like Michael -- who get locked up under mandatory minimums," says Roberta. "Like the man who got 25 years for stealing a bottle of Visine, or the woman who got 25 years to life for stealing a dress for her daughter to wear to church. But if we keep challenging these harsh sentences, case by case, eventually the justice system will see how wrong they are -- and how much damage they do."(Critical Resistance's "Go to Jail Week" will include activism all over the country, as well as in England and Australia. To find out about events near you, call them at 510.841.6317, or visit www.prisonactivist.org/critical. The Justice Policy Institute study can be found at www.cjcj.org/jpi/million.html.)

Students Leading the Sweatshop Battle

The sit-in lasted 97 hours. Students had stormed the university's main administrative buildings, chanting angry slogans about exploitation and morality in distant lands. When administrators finally capitulated to the students' demands, a wave of similar protests swept through campuses all across the country. The year could have been 1969, except that the issue wasn't Vietnam -- it was sweatshop labor. And instead of bringing flowers and marijuana to their protests, these University of Wisconsin (UW) students brought laptops and cell phones -- the networking tools of the modern activist.Despite their reputation for apathy and self-absorption, many of today's college students are getting involved in a new wave of activism. United by the campaign against exploitative sweatshops, students all across the nation -- from sprawling public universities to tiny Quaker colleges -- are proving their commitment to economic justice. Their demands are simple: Colleges must stop contracting with unethical sweatshops to produce university logo-wear (clothing and accessories sold in a school's bookshop or catalogue). Their tactics are reminiscent of the '60s -- sit-ins, marches, petitions -- but with a '90s edge. Connected by e-mail and sophisticated Web sites, the "sweat-free campus" protesters are using technology and refined organizing skills to create a united, national campaign.The sweat-free campus crusade dates back to 1997, when students at Duke University successfully pressured administrators to adopt an anti-sweatshop "Code of Conduct." The idea of a code (which creates standards that factories producing logo-wear must abide by, such as health and safety codes, living-wage requirements, anti child-labor provisions and factory location disclosures) quickly caught on with student groups at other universities. On at least 50 campuses -- by some estimates, as many as 150 -- student groups presented Codes of Conduct to their administrators. A national coalition, the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), was formed in July of 1998. Communicating almost exclusively via the Internet, the USAS allowed activists to develop comprehensive, strong Codes of Conduct to present to administrators. It also held a well-attended international Web-based conference on sweatshop abuses and student activism.By late 1998, an estimated 30 universities had adopted or were considering some form of a Code of Conduct. Sweat-free groups had sprung up at hundreds of other schools, and campus awareness about sweatshops radically increased. The USAS campaign's focus then shifted to a more stubborn foe: the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), which manufactures logo-wear for about 160 schools. Student groups recognized that even if their individual school had a strict Code, if the CLC didn't abide by similar standards, the school logo-wear would continue to be produced in exploitative conditions.The CLC responded by pushing back at the universities, trying to persuade them to adopt modified, weaker codes. University administrators told students they would have to compromise. Most student groups, seeing these Codes as a first step in a long battle, agreed to settle on certain points. But as the proposed codes got weaker and weaker -- with crucial provisions like independent monitoring and living-wage assurances excluded -- students became so disenchanted with the "compromising" that they took to the streets."We understand that there are times to compromise, that it's okay to compromise when you're getting the good instead of the great," said Duke senior Tico Almeida, the virtual spokesperson for the sweat-free movement, to a New York Times reporter. "But this latest code is too flawed. It's not even good."Sharing his concerns, about 30 Duke students staged a two-day sit-in to demand a revision of the weak code. Students at Georgetown, facing a similar predicament, occupied their president's office for four days. Next came the UW sit-in, generally regarded as the most successful in that UW administrators yielded to nearly all the protesters' demands. News of these three demonstrations spread quickly through e-mail listserves and Web sites, and soon Harvard, Princeton, New York University, Brown, University of Michigan, Yale, University of Illinois, Cornell, Penn State and countless others all held sweat-free rallies."After recent sit-ins and actions at other schools, students are being taken seriously," one Brown University senior told her school paper after she helped stage a vocal protest at Brown. "Those other efforts empowered us." Other Brown protesters were quoted as saying that their timing was important to show that the sweat-free movement is a "united front." As this article goes to press, dozens of campuses around the nation are planning their own demonstrations.Though their efforts are internally focused, the sweat-free campus message has spilled out past the university gates, inspiring and collaborating with other anti-sweatshop campaigns. The USAS Web site sports many links to national and international anti-sweat organizations, and draws much of its information from those other campaigns. The student efforts have also fueled (and been fueled by) January's flurry of publicity surrounding the "Saipan lawsuits" -- three class-action suits filed against companies who manufacture clothes in the American territory of Saipan. And since the UW sit-in, sweat-free organizers have been able to thrust their agenda into the national media spotlight. ABC News, the New York Times, USA Today and the Boston Globe have all run extensive pieces on the latest protests.Dawn of a New Activism?The vitality of the sweat-free campaign raises a question in many observer's minds: Are the seeds being planted for a new age of campus activism? Despite being the target of the protests, many university administrators certainly hope so."I'm very, very proud of our students," Georgetown's dean of students, James Donahue, told the Boston Globe. "Their commitment and passion is just remarkable." Donahue's sentiments seem to resonate with other university officials, who were more than happy to negotiate with the well-organized, sophisticated student groups. In fact, in most cases the university presidents and chancellors have come out with glowing statements of support and praise for the sweat-free campaign, and have pledged -- publicly, at least -- to pressure the CLC to strengthen its Code of Conduct. As one Duke administrator, John Burness, told the Globe, "Thank God students are getting passionate about something other than basketball and bonfires." Not exactly the heels-dug-in conservatism that college administrators are famous for.It may be this relative ease of protest that makes the sweat-free campus movement appealing to today's college kids. Sweatshop labor is clearly morally reprehensible -- teenage women making poverty wages, living behind barbed-wire fences and enduring forced abortions would outrage anyone with a conscience. Not only does the sweat-free campaign have the moral high ground, it is focused enough to make a genuine, palpable change. Furthermore, students won't have to sacrifice anything more than a couple of bucks per logo-emblazoned sweatshirt. With administrators as conciliatory as Donahue and Burness, students aren't exactly risking expulsion. They're probably more likely to get community service awards.Then again, the ease of the protests may defuse the movement as quickly as it sparked. Nothing kills a movement like an enemy (in this case, the administration) that doesn't fight back. Once administrators submit to student demands, they'll probably enter into drawn-out, closed-door negotiations with the CLC. The students will have won their first battle, but will have lost their visible target. If so, the infamous Gen X attention span might suck the momentum out of the crusade.On the other hand, campus organizers may be learning important lessons from the sweat-free campaign. Surely the movement has proven that the Internet can be used to pull together a national student campaign with a fraction of the energy it would have taken in the past. The lesson of focus and follow-up -- never easy to maintain in transitory, splinter-happy student groups -- has proven effective once again. If campus organizers are smart, they'll use both the momentum of the sweat-free campaign and its tactics to push forward their other agendas.Whether or not student activism is truly reborn, the sweat-free campus movement is having an unmistakable effect on the larger anti-sweatshop campaign. If their energy and commitment is maintained, we will have college students to thank for leading the fight against international economic exploitation.Find the United Students Against Sweatshops homepage at home.sprintmail.com/~jeffnkari/USAS, or contact Sweatshop Watch (www.sweatshopwatch.org) or Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) for more information.

Haiti Slips Towards Chaos

After a tumultuous week of political upheaval, the Caribbean nation of Haiti is quickly slipping towards chaos. While the mainstream American media hardly stops to take notice, violent revolution may soon descend on the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.Haiti's president, Rene Preval, announced on January 11 that he would dissolve the country's Parliament and appoint a new government by presidential decree. January 11 was the legal end-of-term date for the Parliament, but its 27 members had voted to indefinitely extend their terms. In reaction to Preval's announcement, most of the legislators -- who belong to parties that oppose Preval -- vowed that they would not relinquish their positions."Preval has staged a coup against our democratic institutions," declared Parliamentary leader Edgard Leblanc.The following day, riots erupted in the streets of Port-au-Prince, paralyzing the downtown government buildings. Truckloads of police arrived with automatic rifles to disperse the crowd and dismantle makeshift barricades. Shortly thereafter, two assassins sprayed scores of bullets at a car carrying Preval's sister, Marie-Claude Calvin, seriously wounding her and killing her chauffeur.On January 14, members of Preval's cabinet declared that the assassination attempt on Calvin had "political motivations" and pledged to bring the attackers to justice. Meanwhile, the combative opposition parties were making a public appeal to all Haitian citizens to "resist Preval's plans" at any cost. According to these parties, Preval and his political mentor -- former president Jean-Betrand Aristide -- are attempting to consolidate their power into a virtual dictatorship."A totalitarian government is just around the corner," Haitian Chamber of Commerce President Olivier Nadal told one BBC correspondent.Two days later, Preval's Minister of Finance suspended the bank accounts of most government officials, including opposing legislators and their aides. Four senators quickly retired, further exacerbating the already critical power vacuum. Though neither Preval nor his political opponents have voiced an explicit call to arms, both sides refuse to back down or seek compromise. Observers, both Haitian and abroad, fear that bloodshed may ensue.Political turmoil is nothing new to Haiti, which has seen four bloody coups and dozens of puppet dictators in its 200 year history. The country enjoyed a short-lived bout of political freedom in 1990, when Aristide -- a former Catholic priest who captured two thirds of the Haitian vote -- was swept into power by the grassroots "Lavalas" (literally, "landslide") movement. A military coup in 1991 sent Aristide into exile, but he was reinstated to the Presidency in 1994 with the help of the U.S. military. When his Presidential term ended in 1995, Aristide hand-picked Preval as his successor.Soon after Preval came to power, however, political squabbles began to fracture the once-strong Lavalas coalition. Former allies began to accuse the Preval-Aristide faction of power-grubbing and reneging on promises. Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigned in protest in 1996, leaving the Parliament without an executive leader. Tension between Preval and the increasingly hostile Parliament soon escalated into a complete standstill, as legislators refused to ratify Preval's Prime Minister nominations. As a result, the Haitian government has passed no effective laws and has been without a budget for nearly two years.Not surprisingly, the economy has crumbled and government services do not exist. Unemployment hovers around 70 percent in the cities. The lucky few who find jobs make an average of $250 a year, but because of ridiculously high import tariffs, they pay about the same prices for goods as we do in the United States. Most Haitians live in a perpetual state of poverty -- although poverty isn't really an adequate word for their condition.While the U.S. government officially encourages an economic revival in Haiti, some observers say that our government has done more to keep Haitians poor than to aid them. Noam Chomsky, the prominent American intellectual, has argued that Haiti is little more than a U.S. colony, providing virtually free crops (sugar, rice, bananas), sweatshop labor (garment, textile and shoe factories) and an outlet for overpriced American goods (vehicles, oil, electronics). To maintain their enormous profits, multinational corporations need Haiti to stay poor. The U.S. government cooperates.In response to the current Haitian crisis, our government has voiced muted distress. Radio Haiti reported that President Clinton personally called Preval to express his sympathies about the assassination attempt on Calvin. The Dallas Morning Star reported that four ranking Republican congressmen wrote a letter urging the White House "to take stronger action" in Haiti -- which, the Republicans asserted, would best be done by cutting off all economic aid. How this would help solve anything, the Morning Star did not report.The United Nations response to the crisis has been equally uninspired. UN officials issued a resolution on January 18 asking for "credible and transparent elections soon," even though neither Preval nor his opponents have any desire to hold elections. Furthermore, Haiti has no infrastructure to support legitimate voting. Elections in 1996 were declared fraudulent because only seven percent of the population voted and ballot boxes were stuffed.While the political crisis mounts, Haiti's citizens continue to survive on an unusual source of revenue: Haitians living in the United States and Canada who send money back to family members and friends. According to a New York Times estimate, that revenue will add up to $500 million to $700 million this year -- more than double the entire Haitian government's budget. While they would rather have adequate jobs and a stable government, Haitians acknowledge that many would die of hunger without this foreign support -- especially in times of massive upheaval.As this article went to press, both Preval and his opponents were calling for public protests against the other side's actions. Some legislators are rallying to bring Preval before a criminal tribunal and try him for dissolving the Parliament. Most government officials have walked off their jobs, teachers plan to shut down their schools and students are staging street protests in the large cities. A wave of political refugees is already descending on Florida -- the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that police found 21 Haitian refugees wading ashore on January 20 after being dropped off by a smuggling craft. The number of refugees will almost certainly increase if fighting breaks out in Haiti.While all Haitian officials claim to be seeking a non-violent resolution, some of their rhetoric has edged toward the inflammatory. Evans Paul, an influential opposition party leader, captured the combative mood in an interview on Haiti's Radio Metropole."We think it is necessary to have a general strike to tell Rene Preval, 'No, we disagree with the presidential coup d'etat,'" said Paul. "We will fight forcefully to put democracy back on the right track."Tate Hausman is a freelance writer who travels to Haiti with the Haitian People's Support Project, a non-profit organization that provides training and funds to schools, orphanages, clinics and economic cooperatives in Haiti. For more information, write to Pierre LeRoi, Director, 74 Broad Street, West Hurley, New York, 12491, or call 914.679.7320.

Where Have All the Wages Gone?

While the Dow continues to soar and unemployment rates continues to drop, economists and politicians seem to have settled into a perpetual state of smug. There are more jobs now than ever before, they proudly proclaim. More prosperity. More growth. But the politicians fail to mention what kinds of new jobs are being created. All through last week, demonstrations in more than 50 cities across the country brought the truth home -- that the vast majority of new jobs are low-paying, dead-end positions. Organized by Jobs with Justice, a national coalition fighting for the rights of working people, the demonstrations featured local community activists, labor leaders, religious figures and progressive politicians. The activists picketed, held candlelight vigils, made speeches and disseminated thousands of handbills to remind us that working class Americans face more and more hardships every year."Despite the claims of a growing number of jobs, there is still a jobs crisis in America today," said Fred Azcarate, executive director of Jobs with Justice. "When 74 percent of the industries with the most growth fail to pay a livable wage there is little opportunity for many working families." Azcarate's statistics come from a Jobs with Justice report called "Working Hard, Earning Less: The Story of Job Growth in America." Released the same day as the demonstrations, the report theorizes about how recent economic trends will affect working class people. Among other findings, "Working Hard" reveals that almost half of this year's new jobs will pay below $16,000 a year -- less than half the $32,500 living wage for a family of four. Even with two full-time employees, many American households will not reach the livable wage mark.Furthermore, claims the report, workers in rapidly growing occupations are "subjected to gross violations of their right to organize a union." According to Kirk Adams, the organizing director of the AFL-CIO, "The stories in this report illustrate what workers face when they try to organize. In fact, 75 percent of private sector employers oppose workers when they try to organize a union to improve their lives, and 32 percent go as far as firing workers who are active in organizing drives."Of course, corporate profits are up, inflation is low and the gross national product is on a healthy, steady rise. America as a whole is getting wealthier all the time. The Jobs with Justice report and last week's demonstrations were quick to point out where that extra money is going."CEOs continue to give themselves massive raises, further widening the gap between employees and executives," states the report. "Meanwhile, the government has retreated from its commitment to hardworking Americans with policies and spending decisions that fail to invest in workers and protect their democratic rights."As critical as the report and the demonstrations were, Azcarate points out that his organization is doing more than simply pontificating about a sad state of affairs. In fact, Jobs with Justice is currently pushing a platform of political and economic actions that will empower working class Americans to retain their fair share of our recent economic prosperity."Taken together," says the report, "[these actions] offer the promise of turning hard work into real opportunity."To get involved in (your community)'s local living wage campaign, contact (local organization, phone, address).

Invisible Casualties

"When the elephants fight," says the old proverb, "it is the grass that suffers."But when the "elephants" are governments, drug cartels and global corporations, and their fight is the international War on Drugs, it isn't the grass that suffers -- or the heroin, or the cocaine. It's the powerless and disenfranchised peoples of South America.All too often, we hear that the War on Drugs is creeping into our own backyards. We hear tales of medicinal drug users locked away under increasingly draconian laws, tales of privacy and human rights violations, tales of wrongful convictions, tales of unlawful searches and seizures. Opposition to our domestic drug policies has become increasingly vocal, especially from law enforcement officials and human rights organizations. We remain largely unaware, however, that our South American neighbors -- especially the subsistence farmers of Colombia, Bolivia and Peru -- suffer violent fallout from our "tough on drugs" policies. These small farmers, forced to produce drugs and then severely punished for doing so, are the invisible casualties of our War on Drugs. And the U.S. military doesn't want us think about them."The War on Drugs has been an abysmal failure in the United States. Few serious people would argue with that," says Marilyn Clement, Executive Director of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). "But we rarely hear about the horrible, destructive impact the War on Drugs has on the lives of millions of South American people."The statistics prove Clement right. Since the early Reagan years, the U.S. has been waging its War on Drugs both at home and abroad. While Nancy was telling our kids to "Just Say No," Ronald was sending millions of dollars to South American governments to eradicate cocaine and heroin production at its source. In 1989, George Bush stepped up the War, pledging nearly $2.2 billion a year in anti-drug money, weapons, personnel and training to South American governments. Despite evidence that these drug eradication efforts have failed -- cocaine production is up 12 percent, opium production has doubled and drugs are cheaper and more accessible than ever before -- U.S. "aid" continues to flow south, to the tune of about $1 billion a year. But when the invisible casualties raise their voices, they are routinely and violently silenced.To break that silence, WILPF has brought a group of South American women to the U.S. on an unprecedented "tour of truth" that sports the somber title, "America North and South: Women on the Reality of War and Drugs." The tour's mission is to unmask the tragic effects of the U.S.'s international drugs policies -- to tell American citizens and politicians that the War on Drugs is a deadly fraud."The War on Drugs is damaging our culture, killing our people," says Catalina Barbosa, via translator and tour leader Andrea Saenz. Catalina represents the Ashaninka Organization of the Rio Apurimac, a group of indigenous Peruvians who grow coca in the Andean foothills. "Crop fumigations, the main weapon against coca, are devastating our jungles, our rivers, our animals."Fumigations, as Catalina describes them, are full-scale military operations. At daybreak, U.S. surveillance planes start passing over the targeted fields, which usually contain a mixed crop of coca, corn, beans, and potatoes. Heavily armed helicopters follow the surveillance planes, machine-gunning the fields and surrounding jungle, ostensibly to scare away or kill any rebel soldiers that might shoot at the planes. Next come the fumigation planes, which unleash massive payloads of defoliants such as Round-Up, Tibertheron and the infamous Agent Orange. The planes spray from high altitudes -- again, to avoid rebel gunfire -- and so the chemicals spread out over large areas. After three or four runs, any nearby vegetation is completely destroyed, including the food crops and the fragile Andean jungles.Despite the heavy damage they inflict to the environment, Catalina insists that fumigations are an ineffective way of halting drug production. Because they can sell nothing but coca or opium to eke out a living -- the Peruvian economy is built largely around drug production -- the farmers simply move deeper into the jungle and plant new fields. And then those fields are fumigated. And then the farmers move again.Omayra Morales, a widely-respected Colombian organizer, has similar experiences with U.S.-sponsored fumigations. Through the translator, Omayra describes vast areas of decimated jungle, villages abandoned, native populations completely displaced. "They fumigate constantly," she says. "Sometimes the targets are coca plantations, sometimes they are not. Our children, even our grandchildren, will still be suffering from these fumigations."Fumigations are not the only act of violence that claims invisible casualties. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) reports that eight Bolivian civilians have been assassinated, and scores have "disappeared," in 1998 alone. Over the last ten years, the death toll of Colombian farmers, community organizers and human rights advocates has reached into the thousands. Peruvian paramilitary groups have decimated entire villages of coca-growing farmers.The extent of the U.S. military's involvement in these violent crusades is hard to determine. The Colombian, Peruvian and Bolivian governments all receive military funding, often more than $100 million a year, ear-marked for drug eradication. Their anti-drug paramilitary forces use U.S. weapons and helicopters, and usually receive training from U.S. officers. North American soldiers are a common sight in many coca and opium growing regions.It is unclear if U.S. military support goes beyond money, weapons and training. It is clear, however, that although the U.S. government has sunk at least $25 billion into South American anti-drug efforts, drug production has actually increased. Why, then, do we continue to wage the War on Drugs?According to WOLA, "U.S. politicians support eradication programs in order to appear 'tough on drugs,' even though extensive studies have repeatedly concluded that such programs will fail." In other words, American citizens like to see their government take strong actions against drugs. Supporting a foreign war that supposedly targets drug cartels and international drug dealers makes us all feel good.Catalina has a different perspective. She believes that the U.S. and South American governments continue to wage the unwinnable War on Drugs because it is just that -- unwinnable. "The Peruvian government says it wants to stop drug production," Catalina says, "but it is a farce. Many of our leaders are in power because of drug money. Why would they want to end the drug trade?"Omayra agrees. "There are a lot of powerful people who profit from drug production. Why not shut down the international corporations who supply the chemicals necessary to make cocaine? Why not stop the sales of guns and weapons to known drug cartel leaders? Because South American economies depend on these things."But Omayra goes even a step further. She speculates that extremely powerful multinational corporations are using the War on Drugs as a front, at least in Colombia, to displace and destroy native populations."Colombia is rich in many natural resources," she explains. "We have large deposits of petroleum and uranium under our villages. And land in the North may soon be very valuable, because a number of multinational corporations are planning to build another canal -- a faster, more efficient alternative to the Panama Canal. The plans are already laid, they are public. The only thing that stands in the way of the multinational 'macro-projects' are the native people. Multinational corporations don't want to share Colombia's wealth with the indigenous people. So they choose to drive us off, or kill us."It may sound like a fairly complex conspiracy theory, but her evidence is compelling. And if anyone understands the realities of the War on Drugs, it's Omayra. Though she has been campaigning for human rights since the early 1980s, Omayra first rose to national prominence as one of ten community organizers who helped draft a series of government-farmer agreements in 1994. By the summer of 1996, when the government still had not honored its half of the agreements, Omayra and her fellow organizers planned a nationwide protest. Her eyes well up with tears as she recounts how the "July 7 Marches" turned into the "July 7" Massacres.""At first we were happy," she says, "because so many farmers came out to support us -- more than 250,000, all over Colombia. But when a small group of protesters crossed into one of the regional capitals, the military police attacked. Many farmers were killed, shot in the back while running away, bayoneted by the soldiers. We never imagined there would be so much death."Of the ten community organizers who signed the 1994 agreements, one was killed during the July 7 Massacres. Seven others have "disappeared" since then. The ninth has taken a protected, low-level government job. Omayra is the only one still working against the War on Drugs.Is she afraid? The translator relays the question."Si," she says, sitting very still, her voice barely a whisper. "Si."The translation is not necessary.

Back to the Dark Ages

Chris Peterson landed in jail after failing to pay a $73 traffic violation. He should have gone to a juvenile facility, but his father thought a stint in adult prison would toughen up 17-year-old Chris. After all, old-fashioned discipline builds character, right?Wrong.In his first night at the jail, Chris was beaten, taunted and tortured by the five inmates who shared his cell. All the assailants had extensive criminal records, and two had abused a young inmate in the same cell the previous week. Chris died from his massive wounds -- a victim of senseless, old-fashioned discipline.Horror stories like Chris Peterson's are, unfortunately, all too common -- the tragic and predictable result of throwing minors into adult jails. According to a Columbia University study, juveniles in adult facilities are five times more likely to be raped, two times more likely to be beaten and eight times more likely to attempt suicide than those in juvenile facilities."Twenty-three years ago safeguards keeping kids and adults apart were introduced because youths in jails were being raped within 24 hours," says Vincent Schiraldi, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute. If we repealed such safeguards, Schiraldi contends, we would roll back "to the dark ages, and give the green light to the abuse of 13-year-old [offenders]."On September 14, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) tried to roll us back to the dark ages. And he kept it real, real quiet.While the nation was mesmerized by Monicagate, Senator Hatch and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) smuggled the most punitive juvenile-crime bill of the last 25 years, the Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Act (bill S-10), through a badly distracted House of Representatives. As Hatch and Sessions crafted it, S-10 would:-- Allow juveniles as young as 13 to be incarcerated in adult jails while they await trial.-- Pressure state prosecutors to try juveniles in adult courts.-- Open juvenile's court proceedings and criminal records to the public, including to schools, colleges and employers.-- Require school expulsion for juveniles who possess or use alcohol, drugs or tobacco on school grounds.-- Allow status offenders (such as truants, curfew violators or runaways -- crimes only because the offender is a minor) to be locked up in adult jails for up to 72 hours.Despite its controversial nature -- or maybe because of its controversial nature -- Hatch and Sessions employed a variety of underhanded tactics to sneak S-10 into our law books, instead of opening it up to full congressional debate. To pass S-10 through the House, they attached it as an amendment to the Missing and Exploited Children's Act, a non-controversial bill (who would vote against helping kidnapped kids?) that was expected to pass by unanimous consent.House Republicans then scheduled the Missing and Exploited Children's Act vote for primary day, when almost 30 congressional members were absent, most campaigning in their home states. The congressional docket on primary day would have listed, along with other non-controversial bills (such as a resolution to congratulate Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa) "a bill to authorize appropriations for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children." No mention of the juvenile-crime amendment. House members passed the bill with a simple voice vote."This bill takes parliamentary procedure to a whole different level," says Kim Wade, Legislative Council at the Children's Defense Fund. "There's always been procedural tricks for pushing bills through, but to skip all Senate debate for a bill this controversial is truly sneaky."Luckily, Democratic congressional staffers picked up on the furtive strategy before the bill returned to the Senate for its final confirmation. Soon newspapers across the country got wind of S-10's sly passage and wrote scathing editorials that chastised either the Republican procedures, the bill's contents, or both. Responding to the public outcry, Democratic senators finally halted S-10's uncontested sail through the legislature.Although their initial progress has been stymied, Hatch and Sessions are still trying to turn their juvenile-crime bill into the law of the land. Understandably so -- pressure on Congress to pass such legislation has increased dramatically in the last year. Some experts believe the pressure comes from heightened public fear of young, violent criminals -- fear especially fueled by the media coverage of recent school shootings."Youth violence has been decreasing since the early 1990's, but fear of youth violence is up," says Wade. "Television news coverage of violent kids has gone through the ceiling. There weren't many more school shootings last year than in years past, but the media hype made us believe that there were. And the demonizing of kids fuels these crime bills."Marc Schindler, staff attorney at the Youth Law Center, has a slightly different take on what fuels crime bills like S-10."They're actually not so focused on the school shootings, because all of those happened in rural, white communities," says Schindler. "This crime legislation is aimed at urban, minority youth -- the gangs and so-called 'super-predator' criminals that scare America so much. [S-10] feeds on fears of violent minority youth."Whatever its impetus, the Violent and Repeat Youth Offender Act has accrued a wide variety of critics -- children's organizations, gun rights activists (who resist even the mildest forms of gun control), state governments (who object to federal mandates such as S-10 that will undermine their own plans for stemming youth violence) and even Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. And that's not including the outraged citizens who have seen the agonies that juveniles suffer in adult jails -- like Janice Peterson, Chris's mother, who is active in the campaign against S-10.After this public uproar, youth crime legislation in the future will likely be subject to the intense scrutiny that such a controversial issue requires -- the intense scrutiny that Hatch and Session hoped to avoid. Had their back-room maneuvering gone unnoticed, not only would they have threatened the safety and well being of thousands of teens, they would have seriously undermined the sanctity of our democratic process.It makes you wonder: Who's really dangerous for America?

The Great Voucher Debate

Looking for a new bloodsport? Then try this fun experiment: enter a crowded room of education reformers, experts, professors -- maybe even senators -- and yell the word "vouchers!" If you don't get trampled in the ensuing fray, you'll be treated to quite a show.Listening to some education policy makers, the average observer might think that the Great Voucher Debate represents a full scale Armageddon, where the righteous are violently battling the wicked over the future of American public schools. The very term "voucher" has become a hollow buzzword that kills intelligent debate.What the rhetoric fails to explain, of course, is what exactly vouchers are all about -- and why the public should either support or condemn them. The following voucher cliff notes, replete with key definitions of the terms used by policy makers and the media, should properly arm you with the jargon and opinions necessary to fling yourself headlong into the Great Debate.Definitions: * Voucher: A fixed amount of public money -- usually about two or three thousand dollars -- that a state or school district gives to parents to enable them to send their children to private schools. The voucher pays for some or all of a private-school tuition, and the parents pay the remainder. Voucher plans have been implemented, with varying degrees of success, in Milwaukee, Vermont, Cleveland and Maine, and have been suggested or planned in many other states. Also called "tuition vouchers," "tuition choice plans," or "public scholarships."* Private Scholarship Program: Identical to a voucher system, but funds come from private philanthropists and foundations instead of from taxpayers. More than 30 cities, including Indianapolis, Cleveland, Washington, New York and Los Angeles, have private scholarship programs.* Donor Tax Credits: Income tax credit -- usually around $500 -- given to anyone who donates money to private scholarship foundations or public schools. Would encourage private voucher programs at public expense.Pro:1. All children, regardless of their class background, deserve the opportunity to attend good schools. Vouchers would allow any child to attend a private school, which is better than a public school.2. Introducing vouchers into the school system will make education a consumer good. This will naturally create competition in the market, which will create better schools. Bad public schools will either lose all their funding and close, or will be forced to improve their "product."3. Vouchers will give low income parents -- especially minorities -- some leverage in the monolithic system that dominates their children's lives. Since public schools, even in the inner city, are dispropotionately controlled by middle- or upper-class whites, vouchers would give lower-class and minority parents the economic clout they desperately need to have a voice in their local schools.4. The government never uses funds as efficiently as the private sector. Diverting public funds into private hands will stretch taxpayer dollars further.5. By disallowing public funds to go towards sectarian schools, the government is impinging on the freedom of parents to express their religious views, in violation of the first amendment.6. Any change in public education is good change since it challenges the status quo and creates innovation. Public education is too protected by its own inertia and bureaucracies, notably teachers' unions and school boards. Vouchers will upset that inertia and create positive change.7. Many public schools are unsafe. All children deserve to learn in the safe, drug-free, disciplined environments that private schools offer.Con:1. Private schools are not necessarily better schools -- in fact, they can be tuition-hungry diploma mills that allow lax discipline and poor academic standards in return for high tuitions and parental donations.2. Competition in and between schools means cutting costs to produce cheaper, easier products. If schools are always concerned about their bottom lines, they will be tempted to reduce staff, to buy low quality, cheap materials, to increase teachers' burdens and to pay teachers less -- all of which have been proven to impinge on good teaching.3. Vouchers will transfer too much power into the hands of consumers, whose decision to exploit the vouchers will undermine public school teachers and administrators by significantly descreasing their funding.4. Diverting much needed funds from already strapped public schools will only damage public education. Public schools need more support from our treasuries, not less.5. Most private schools (in some states as many as 90 percent) are religiously affiliated -- largely with the Catholic church. Through vouchers, public money will inevitably be used in religious schools, violating the principle of separation of church and state.6. Vouchers will threaten the job security of many underpaid, overworked teachers, especially the most dedicated ones working at the toughest inner city schools. Good teachers will be shuffled from school to school on the whims of a highly volatile market, destroying their ability to teach effectively.7. Studies have shown that private schools are not necessarily any cleaner than public schools. Discipline, safety and drug abuse depend on the administration of the school, not its funding sources.

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