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Clinton Administration Aggressively Promotes U.S. Arms
THE BULLETIN OF ATOMIC
Title: "Costly Giveaways"
Author: Lora Lumpe
IN THESE TIMES
Date: August 11, 1997
Author: Martha Honey
States is now the principal arms merchant for the world. U.S. weapons are
evident in almost every conflict worldwide and reap a devastating toll on
civilians, U.S. military personnel, and the socio-economic priorities of
many Third World nations.
On June 7, 1997, the House of
Representatives unanimously approved the Arms Transfer Code of Conduct.
This Code would prohibit U.S. commercial arms sales or military aid and
training to foreign governments that are undemocratic, abuse human rights,
or engage in aggression against neighboring states; yet the Clinton
administration, along with the Defense, Commerce, and State Departments,
has continued to aggressively promote the arms industry at every
opportunity. With Washington's share of the arms business jumping from 16
percent worldwide in 1988 to 63 percent today, U.S. arms dealers currently
sell $10 billion in weapons to non-democratic governments each year.
During Clinton's first year in office, U.S. foreign military aid soared to
$36 billion, more than double what Bush approved in 1992.
U.S. weaponry is sold to strife-torn regions such as the Middle East.
These weapons sales fan the flames of war instead of promoting stability,
and put U.S. troops based around the world at growing risk. The last five
times the U.S. troops were sent into conflict, they found themselves
facing adversaries that had previously received U.S. weapons, military
technology, or training. Meanwhile, the Pentagon uses the presence of
advanced U.S. weapons in foreign arsenals to justify increased new weapons
spending obstensibly to maintain U.S. military superiority.
Given that international arms sales exacerbate conflicts and drain
scarce resources from developing countries, why does the Clinton
administration push them so vigorously? Proponents of arms sales say that
these sales are a boon to the economy and that they create jobs. However,
the governmentOs own studies reveal that for every 100 jobs created by
weapons exports, 41 are lost in non-military U.S. firms. And as U.S. arms
exports have soared, some 2.2 million defense industry workers have lost
Thus the more plausible motive is the drive for
corporate profits. It is no small detail that U.S. global arms market
dominance has been accomplished as much through subsidies as sales. In
return for arms manufacturers' huge political contributions, much of the
U.S. arms exports are paid with government grants, subsidized loans, tax
breaks and promotional activities. With the 1996 welfare reform law
cutting federal support for poor families by about $7 billion annually
an amount almost equal to the yearly subsidies given to U.S. weapons
manufacturers it is the poor at home and abroad who will pay the price
for escalating arms exports.
Lawrence Kolb, a Brookings Institute
fellow and former assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, sums
up the problem: "It has become a money game: an absurd spiral in which we
export arms only to have to develop more sophisticated ones to counter
those spread out all over the world. (And) ..it is very hard for us to
tell other (countries) .. not to sell arms when we are out there peddling
and fighting to control the market."
Student Researchers: Katie
Sims, Deb Udall, Susan Allen
Faculty Evaluator: Phil Beard, Ph.D.
Personal Care and Cosmetic Products May Be
IN THESE TIMES
Title: "To Die
Date: February 17, 1997
Author: Joel Bleifuss
Title: "Take a Powder"
Date: March 3,
Author: Joel Bleifuss
Tribune, July 29, 1997, Page 3, Zone C
Do you use toothpaste,
shampoo, sunscreen, body lotion, body talc, makeup, or hair dye? These are
among the personal care products the American consumer has been led to
believe are safe but that are often contaminated with carcinogenic
byproducts, or that contain substances that regularly react to form potent
carcinogens during storage and use.
Consumers regularly assume that
these products are not harmful because they believe that they are approved
for safety by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But although the the
FDA classifies cosmetics (dividing them into 13 categories), it does not
regulate them. An FDA document posted on the agency's World Wide Web home
page explains that "a cosmetic manufacturer may use any ingredient or raw
material and market the final product without government approval." (This
is with the exception of seven known toxins, such as hexachlorophene,
mercury compounds, and chloroform). Should the FDA deem a product a danger
to public health, it has the power to pull a cosmetic product from the
shelves, but in many of these cases the FDA has failed to do so, while
evidence mounts that some of the most common cosmetic ingredients may
double as deadly carcinogens.
Examples of products with potential
carcinogens are: Clairol "Nice and Easy" haircolor, which releases
carcinogenic formaldehyde as well as Cocamide DEA (a substance which can
be contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines or react to produce a
nitrosamine during storage or use); Vidal Sassoon shampoo (which like the
hair dye, contains Cocamide DEA); Cover Girl makeup contains TEA (which is
also associated with carcinogenic nitrosamines); Crest toothpaste which
contains titanium dioxide, saccharin, and FD&C Blue # 1 (known
One of the cosmetic toxins that consumer advocates
are most concerned about are nitrosamines, which contaminate a wide
variety of cosmetic products. In the 1970s nitrosamine contamination of
cooked bacon and other nitrite-treated meats became a public-health issue,
and the food industry, which is more strictly regulated than the cosmetic
industry, has since drastically lowered the amount of nitrosamines found
in these processed meats. But today nitrosamines contaminate cosmetics at
significantly higher levels than were once contained in bacon.
FDA has long known that nitrosamines in cosmetics pose a risk to public
health. On April 10, 1979, FDA commissioner Donald Kennedy called on the
cosmetic industry to "take immediate measures to eliminate, to the extent
possible, NDELA [a potent nitrosamine] and any other N-nitrosamine from
cosmetic products." Since that warning, however, cosmetic manufacturers
have done little to remove N-nitrosamines from their products, and the FDA
has done even less to monitor them.
Individual FDA scientists are
speaking out. The FDA's Donald Harvey and Hardy Chou proclaimed that the
continued use of these ingredients contradict what should be a social
goal: keeping "human exposure to N-nitrosamines to the lowest level
technologically feasible, by reducing levels in all personal care
Student Researchers: Robin Stovall, Gavin Grundmann,
Faculty Evaluator: Debora Hammond, Ph.D.
Big Business Seeks to Control and Influence U.S.
Title: "Phi Beta
Date: Spring 1997
DOLLARS AND SENSE
Title: "Big Money on
Date: March/April 1997
Academia is being auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Increasingly, industry is creating endowed professorships, funding think
tanks and research centers, sponsoring grants, and contracting for
research. Under this arrangement, students, faculty, and universities
serve the interests of corporations instead of the public in the process
selling off academic freedom and intellectual independence.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a number of programs serve
corporate interests. One is the MIT's Industrial Liaison Program, which
charges 300 corporations from $10,000 to $50,000 per year in membership
fees. The fees buy the expertise and resources of MIT's departments and
laboratories. Professors participating in the program can earn points
towards professional travel, office equipment, and other
Although universities often claim that corporate moneys
come without strings attached, this usually not the case. A British
pharmaceutical corporation, Boots, gave $250,000 to University of
California at San Francisco (UCSF) for research comparing its hypothyroid
drug, Synthroid, with lower cost alternatives. Instead of demonstrating
Synthroid's superiority as Boots had hoped, the study found that the other
drugs were bioequivalents. This information could have saved consumers
$356 million if they had switched to a cheaper alternative, but Boots took
action to protect Synthroid's domination of the $600 million market. The
corporation prevented publication of the results in the Journal of the
American Medical Association, and then announced that the research was
badly flawed. The researcher was unable to counter the claim because she
was legally precluded from releasing the study.
Presidents often sit on the boards of directors of major corporations,
inviting conflicts of interest and developing biases that undermine
academic freedom and interfere with the ability of the university to be
critical or objective. For example, City University of New York Chancellor
Ann Reynolds sits on the boards of Abbott Laboratories, Owens-Corning,
American Electric Power, Humana, Inc., and the Maytag Corporation. Her
$150,000 salary as chancellor is approximately doubled by what she gets as
a board member. University of Texas Chancellor William Cunningham, after
coming under public fire for conflict of interest, resigned his seat on
the board of directors of Freeport-McMoRan Corporation, and cashed in his
stock options netting $650,422.
While university presidents and
chancellors gain from their corporate activities, industry and business
are returned favors. University boards of trustees are dominated by
captains of industry, who hire chancellors and presidents with
pro-industry biases. New York University's board includes former CBS owner
Laurence Tisch, Hartz Mountain chief Leonard Stern, Salomon Brothers
brokerage firm founder, William B. Salomon, and real estate magnate-turned
publisher Mortimer Zuckerman.
Federal tax dollars fund about $7
billion worth of research, to which corporations can buy access for a
fraction of the actual cost. This is the largely the result of two 1980s
federal laws which allow universities to sell patent rights derived from
taxpayer-funded research to corporations encouraging "rent-a-researcher"
programs. The result of these changes has been a covert transfer of
resources from the public to the private sector and the changing of
universities from centers of instruction to centers for corporate R &
Student Researchers: Angie Yee, Katie Sims
Sally Hurtado, Ph.D.
Exposing the Global Surveillance System
Title: "Secret Power: Exposing the
Global Surveillance System"
Date: Winter 1996/1997
For over 40 years, New Zealand's largest intelligence agency,
the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), has been helping its
Western allies to spy on countries throughout the Pacific region. Neither
the public nor the majority of New Zealand's top elected officials had
knowledge of these activities, activities which have operated since 1948
under a secret, Cold War-era intelligence alliance between the United
States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (the UKUSA agreement).
But in the late 1980s, in a decision it probably regrets, the U.S.
prompted New Zealand to join a new and highly secret global intelligence
system. Author Hager's investigation into this system and his discovery of
the ECHELON Dictionary has revealed one of the world's biggest, most
closely held intelligence projects, one which allows spy agencies to
monitor most of the telephone, e-mail, and telex communications carried
over the world's telecommunication networks. It potentially affects every
person communicating between (and sometimes within) countries anywhere in
The ECHELON system, designed and coordinated by the U.S.
National Security Agency (NSA) is one of the world's biggest, most closely
held intelligence projects. Unlike many of the Cold War electronic spy
systems, ECHELON is designed primarily to gather electronic transmissions
from nonmilitary targets: governments, organizations, businesses, and
individuals in virtually every country. The system works by
indiscriminately intercepting very large quantities of communications and
using computers to identify and extract messages of interest from the mass
of unwanted ones. Computers at each secret station in the ECHELON network
automatically search millions of messages for pre-programmed keywords. For
each message containing one of those keywords, the computer automatically
notes time and place of origin and interception, and gives the message a
four-digit code for future reference. Computers that can automatically
search through traffic for keywords have existed since at least the
1970Os, but the ECHELON system was designed by NSA to interconnect all
these computers and allow the stations to function as components of an
integrated whole. Using the ECHELON system, an agency in one country may
automatically pick up information gathered elsewhere in the system. Thus,
the stations of the junior UKUSA allies function for the NSA no
differently than if they were overtly NSA-run bases located on their
The exposure of ECHELON occurred after more than fifty people
who work or have worked in intelligence and related fields, concerned that
the UKUSA activities had been secret too long and were going too far,
agreed to be interviewed by Hager, a long-time researcher of spying and
intelligence. Materials leaked to Hager included precise information on
where the spying is conducted, how the system works, the system's
capabilities and shortcomings, and other details such as code
The potential abuses of and few restraints around the use of
ECHELON have motivated other intelligence workers to come forward. In one
example, a group of "highly placed intelligence operatives" from the
British Government Communications Headquarters came forward protesting
what they regarded as "gross malpractice and negligence" within the
establishments in which they operate, citing cases of GCHQ interception of
charitable organizations such as Amnesty International and Christian Aid.
Nicky Hager states: "The main thing that protects these agencies
from change is their secrecy. On the day my book [Secret Power] arrived in
the bookshops, without prior publicity, there was an all-day meeting of
the intelligence bureaucrats in the prime minister's department trying to
decide if they could prevent it from being distributed. They eventually
concluded, sensibly, that the political costs were too high. It is
understandable that they were so agitated."
Bryan Way, Brad Smith
Faculty Evaluator: David Van Nuys, Ph.D.
United States Companies are World Leaders in the
Manufacture of Torture Devices for Internal Use and Export
Title: "Shock Value:
U.S. Stun Devices Pose Human-Rights Risk"
Author: Anne-Marie Cusac
Mainstream Media Coverage:
Chicago Tribune, 3/4/97, page 5, Zone N
Times, 3/4/97, page 16A
In its March 1997 report entitled
"Recent Cases of the Use of Electroshock Weapons for Torture or
Ill-Treatment," Amnesty International lists 100 companies worldwide that
produce and sell instruments of torture. Forty-two of these firms are in
the United States. This places the U.S. as the leader in the manufacture
of stun guns, stun belts, cattle probe-like devices, and other equipment
which can cause devastating pain in the hands of
According to the Amnesty International report, the
following are some of the American companies currently engaged in the
production and sale of such weapons: Arianne International of Palm Beach
Gardens, Florida; B-west Imports Inc., of Tucson, Arizona; and Taserton,
of Corona, California. Arianne International makes the "Myotron," a
compact version of the stun gun. B-West joined with Paralyzer Protection,
a South African company, to produce shock batons that deliver a charge of
between 80,000 and 120,000 volts. Taserton was the first company to
manufacture the taser, a product which shoots two wires attached to darts
with metal hooks. When these hooks catch a victim's skin or clothing, the
device delivers a debilitating shock. Los Angeles police officers used the
device against Rodney King in 1991.
These weapons are currently in
use in the U.S. and are being exported to countries all over the world.
The U.S. government is a large purchaser of stun devices, especially stun
guns, electroshock batons, and electric shields. The American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU) and Amnesty both claim the devices are unsafe and
may encourage sadistic acts by police officers and prison guards, both
here and abroad. "Stun belts offer enormous possibilities for abuse and
the infliction of gratuitous pain," says Jenni Gainsbourough of the ACLU's
National Prison Project. She adds that because use of the belt leaves
little physical evidence, this increases the likelihood of sadistic, but
hard-to-prove, misuse of these weapons. In June 1996, Amnesty
International asked the Bureau of Prisons to suspend the use of
electroshock belt, citing the possibility of physical danger to inmates
and the potential for misuse.
Terence Allen, a specialist in
forensic pathology who served as deputy medical examiner for both Los
Angeles and San Francisco coroner's offices, in 1991 linked the taser to
fatalities. With electrical current, Allen says, the chance of death
increases with each use. Allen warns, "I think what you are going to see
is more deaths from stun weapons."
Manufacturers of electroshock
weapons continue to denounce allegations that use of their devices is
dangerous and may constitute a gross violation of human rights. Instead,
they are making more advanced innovations. A new stun weapon may soon be
added to police arsenals, the electroshock razor wire, specially designed
for surrounding demonstrators who get out of hand.
Researchers: Carolyn Williams, Susan Allen
Faculty Evaluator: Dan
Russian Plutonium Lost Over Chile and Bolivia
Title: "Space Probe Explodes,
Date: Spring 1997
Author: Karl Grossman
November 16, 1996, Russia's Mars 96 space probe broke up and burned while
descending over Chile and Bolivia, scattering its remains across a
10,000-square-mile area. The probe carried about a half pound of deadly
plutonium divided into 4 battery canisters, and no one seems to know where
they went! Gordon Bendick, Director of Legislative Affairs for the
National Security Council, states there are two possibilities. Either the
"...canisters were destroyed coming through the atmosphere [and the
plutonium dispersed], or the canisters survived re-entry, impacted the
earth, and...penetrated the surface...or could have hit a rock and bounced
off like an agate marble."
This amount of plutonium has the
potential to cause devastating damage. According to Dr. Helen Caldicott,
president emeritus of Physicians for Social Responsibility, "Plutonium is
so toxic that less that one millionth of a gram is a carcinogenic dose."
She states: "One pound, if uniformly distributed, could hypothetically
induce lung cancer in every person on earth." Dr. John Gofman, professor
emeritus of radiological physics at the University of California, Berkeley
confirms the increased hazard of lung cancer which would occur if the
probe burned up and formed plutonium oxide particles.
17, when the U.S. Space Command announced the probe would re-enter the
earth's atmosphere with a predicted impact point in East Central
Australia, President Clinton telephoned the Australian Prime Minister John
Howard and offered "the assets the U.S. has in the Department of Energy,"
to deal with any radioactive contamination. Howard placed the Australian
military and government on full alert and warned the public to use
"extreme caution" if they came in contact with the remnants of the Russian
In the first of a series of blunders, the day after
the space probe had fallen on South America, the Space Command remained
focused on Australia. Later they reported the probe had fallen in the
Pacific, just west of South America. A Russian news source put the site in
a different patch of the Pacific altogether. Major media in the United
States reported the probe as having crashed "harmlessly" into the ocean.
On November 18, 1996 The Washington Post ran the headline: "Errant Russian
Spacecraft Crashes Harmlessly After Scaring Australia."
29, U.S. Space Command completely revised its account. It changed not only
where, but also when the probe fell. The final report placed the crash
site not west of South America, but directly on Chile and Bolivia. The
date of the crash was also revised from November 17 to November 16, the
night before. Apparently, U.S. Space Command had initially tracked the
booster stage of the Russian craft, and not the actual probe
Yet once the U.S. had determined the plutonium might have
landed on South America it did nothing to help locate and recover the
radioactive canisters. "You can clearly see the double standard," charged
Houston aerospace engineer James Oberg. "Australia got a phone call from
the President, and Chile got a two week-old fax from somebody." Many
attribute this double standard to racism.
The New York Times
mentioned the incident on page 7 under "World Briefs" on December 14,
1996. The Russian government has been uncooperative, still refusing to
give Chile a description of the canisters to aid in retrieval efforts.
Student Researchers: Robin Stovall, Kecia Kaiser
Evaluator: Catherine Nelson Ph.D.
Norplant and Human Lab Experiments in Third World Lead To
Forced Use in the United States
Title: "The Misuses of Norplant:
Who Gets Stuck?"
Date: November/December, 1996
WASHINGTON FREE PRESS
Title: "Norplant and the
Dark Side of the Law"
Date: March/April 1997
Title: "BBC Documentary Claims That
U.S. Foreign Aid Funded Norplant Testing On Uninformed Third World
Date: May 16, 1997
Low-income women in the United States, and in the Third
World, have been the unwitting targets of a U.S. policy to control
birth-rates. Despite continuous reports of debilitating effects of the
drug Norplant, women here and in the Third World, who have received the
implantable contraceptive, have had difficulty making their complaints
heard, and in some instances have been deceived, according to our
Joseph D'Agostino reports on the British Broadcasting
Corporation (BBC) documentary "The Human Laboratory" which accused the
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), of acting in
conjunction with the Population Council of New York City, to use
uninformed women in Bangladesh, Haiti, and the Philippines for tests of
Norplant. Many of these women were subjects in pre-injection drug trials
that began in 1985 in Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries.
Norplant is a set of six plastic cylinders containing a synthetic version
of a female hormone. It is intended to prevent pregnancy for five years.
Surgery is required for removal, at a cost far beyond the reach of
low-income women, whether in Bangladesh or the United States if the
removal is not subsidized.
The BBC documentary contained
interviews with women who complained of debilitating side effects from
Norplant, but who were rebuffed when they asked to have the implants
removed. These women stated that they had been told that the drug was safe
and not experimental. Implantation was free.
One woman interviewed
in the documentary said that after implantation, suddenly her body became
weak, and that she couldn't get up, look after her children, or cook.
Other women reported similar problems, stating that when they asked to
have Norplant removed, they were told it would ruin the study. "I went to
the clinic as often as twice a week," one woman said, "But they said,
'This thing we put in your arm costs 5,000 takas. We'll not remove it
unless you pay this money.'" The narrator of the documentary, Farida
Akhter, recounted that when another woman begged to have the implant
removed, saying "I'm dying, please help me get it out," she was told,
"Okay, when you die, inform us, we'll get it out of your body."
documentary asserts that the women should have been told that the
pre-introductory trials were to assess the drug's safety, efficiency, and
acceptability. Now, says the BBC, many women who were used in the trials
have suffering from eyesight disorders, strokes, persistent bleeding and
other side effects.
The Norplant saga appears to have global
political implications, however, which interfere with reasonable
resolution. According to the documentary, the U.S. government considers
global population control a "national security issue" and has increased
U.S. population control efforts around the world.
devices are figuring in reproductive rights policies in the U.S. as well.
Journalist Rebecca Kavoussi reports that the reproductive rights of women
addicted to drugs or alcohol have once again become the focus of
legislation. Senate Bill 5278, now under consideration in the state of
Washington, would require "involuntary use of long-term pharmaceutical
birth control" (Norplant) for women who give birth to drug-addicted
babies. Under this proposal, a woman who gives birth to a drug-addicted
baby would get two chances, the first voluntary, the second mandatory, to
undergo drug treatment and counseling. Upon the birth of a third
drug-addicted child, the state would force the mother to undergo surgery
to insert the Norplant contraceptive.
Jennifer Washburn focuses on
Medicaid rejection of Norplant removals in the U.S. State Medicaid
agencies, for example, often generously cover the cost of Norplant
insertion but don't cover removal before the full five years. Although
Medicaid policy may cover early removal "when determined 'medically
necessary,'" medical necessity is determined by the provider and the
Medicaid agency, not the patient.
Norplant side effects have
resulted in over 400 lawsuits being filed against Wyeth-Ayerst, the maker
of Norplant. These lawsuits include class-actions representing over 50,000
Student Researchers: Carolyn Williams, Katie Sims
Evaluator: Jeanette Koshar, Ph.D.
Little Known Federal Law Paves The Way for National
Date: May-June 1997
"National ID Card is Now Federal Law and Georgia Wants to Help Lead the
Author: Cyndee Parker
York Times, September 8, 1996, Section 6; Page 58, Column 1
article in The San Francisco Chronicle, September 19, 1996, Page
In September 1996, President Clinton signed the Illegal
Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act of 1996. Buried at approximately
page 650 was a section that creates a framework for establishing a
national ID card for the American public. This legislation was slipped
through without fanfare or publicity.
This law has various aspects:
It establishes a "Machine Readable Document Pilot Program" requiring
employers to swipe a prospective employee's driver's license through a
special reader linked to the federal government's Social Security
Administration. The federal government would have the discretion to
approve or disapprove the applicant for employment. In this case, the
driver's license becomes a "national ID card."
According to the
author, "For the first time in American history, and reminiscent of
Communist countries, our government would have the ability to grant
approval before a private company enters into private employment contracts
with private citizens. Because of the nature of the employment system
alone, personal information would be accessible to local agencies and
anyone who even claims to be an employer. The government would have
comprehensive files on all American citizens' names, dates and places of
birth, mothers' maiden names, Social Security numbers, gender, race,
driving records, child support payments, divorce status, hair and eye
color, height, weight, and anything else they may dream up in the
Another part of the law provides $5 million-per-year
grants to any state that wants to participate in any one of three pilot ID
programs. One of these programs is the "Criminal Alien Identification
Program," which is to be used by federal, state, and local law enforcement
agencies to record fingerprints of aliens previously arrested.
third part of this law provides that federal agencies may only accept
driver's licenses that conform to new requirements, meaning only licenses
which contain digital fingerprints.
The author of the national ID
law, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), stated in a Capitol Hill magazine that it
was her intention to see Congress immediately implement a national ID
system whereby every American would be required to carry a card with a
"magnetic strip on it on which the bearer's unique voice, retina pattern,
or fingerprint is digitally encoded." Congressman Dick Armey (R-TX), among
others, has strongly denounced the new law, calling it "an abomination,
and wholly at odds with the American tradition of individual freedom."
Shortly before the bill was signed into law, Georgia passed its
own legislation, creating something similar to the federal ID program. The
Georgia law requires residents to give digital fingerprints before
obtaining a driver's license or state ID. This law was approved by the
state legislature in April 1996 and received virtually no public or media
attention at that time. Since passage, many Georgia lawmakers have tried
repealing the law. Eight repeal bills were drafted in the Georgia Assembly
and one in the Senate. However, all of the bills were blocked in the
Senate and never voted on.
Student Researcher: Bryan Way, Erika
Nell, Matt Monpas
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, Ph.D.
Mattel Cuts U.S. Jobs to Open Sweat Shops in Other
Title: "Barbie's Betrayal:
The Toy Industry's Broken Workers"
Date: December 30, 1996
Title: "Sweat-Shop Barbie:
Exploitation of Third World Labor"
Author: Anton Foek
Thanks to the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT),
U.S. toy factories have cut a one-time American workforce of 56,000 in
half and sent many of those jobs to countries where workers lack basic
For 23 years, Dennis Mears worked as an electrician at the
Fisher-Price Factory in Medina, New York. In 1993 Mattel, Inc. took over
the plant, welcoming the people of Fisher-Price to the Mattel family. Two
years later, after Mattel had lobbied for NAFTA, touting the agreement as
a boon for U.S. workers, Mears and 700 other employees, including his
wife, an employee of 18 years, lost their jobs. Some of the jobs moved to
the South, but 520 disappeared because of "increased company imports from
Mexico," according to the U.S. Labor Department. Today, Mears works in an
applesauce factory, earning half of what he formerly made.
past decade Mattel, the makers of "Barbie," bought out six major
competitors, making it the largest toy manufacturer in the world.
Employing 25,000 people worldwide, Mattel now only employs 6,000 workers
in the U.S. NAFTA has freed Mattel to further reduce its American work
force and take advantage of repressive labor laws in other
Delfina Rodriguez is a middle-aged woman with seven
children. She assembled Mattel toys on the night shift at the Mabamex
factory, a Mattel affiliate in Tijuana, Mexico, until September 9, 1996.
On that night, she reports, she came to work carrying pamphlets from a
workers' rights meeting held the previous day. Upon entering the plant she
says her purse was searched and she was taken into a room by a security
guard. She and two other workers say they were interrogated, accused of
passing out subversive materials, detained against their will until the
next morning, and prevented from going to the bathroom or making phone
calls to their families. In the end, they were told they would have to
quit their jobs or go to prison. They were released only after agreeing to
resign. Although they have reached a settlement with the company awarding
them severance pay, the women have filed a penal complaint in Tijuana,
claiming their rights were violated.
In the Dynamic factory just
outside of Bangkok, 4,500 women and children stuff, cut, dress and
assemble Barbie dolls and Disney properties. Many of the workers have
respiratory infections, their lungs filled with dust from fabrics in the
factory. They complain of hair and memory loss, constant pain in their
hands, neck and shoulders, episodes of vomiting, and irregular menstrual
periods. Metha is a militant woman in her twenties who tried to start a
union at the Dynamics plant. She claims the company not only fired her but
threatened to shut her up "forever." She developed respiratory problems
and was hospitalized. She expresses her fear to talk to a reporter by
saying, "Barbie is powerful. Three friends have already died. If they kill
me, who will ever know I lived?"
Though separated by distance,
these Mattel workers are intimately connected by experience, as are those
of countless other abused workers in toy factories in Thailand and China,
where Mattel now produces the bulk of their toys.
the industry adopted a code of conduct, which conveniently calls upon
companies to monitor themselves. There's little evidence, however,
according to authors Foek and Press, of any changes in these abusive
Student Researcher: Erika Nell
Staff Evaluator: Carol
Army's Plan to Burn Nerve Gas and Toxins in Oregon
Threatens Columbia River Basin
Title: "Army Plans to Burn Surplus
Nerve Gas Stockpile"
Date: March 1997
Authors: Mark Brown and Kayrn
Despite evidence that incineration is the worst option for
destroying the nation's obsolete chemical weapons stockpile at the
Umatilla Army Depot, the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission (EQC)
gave the green light to the Army and Raytheon Corporation to spend $1.3
billion of taxpayer money to construct five chemical weapons incinerators.
Despite strong protests, on February 7, 1997, the EQC made its final
decision to accept the United States Army's application to build a
chemical weapons incineration facility near Hermiston, Oregon.
Some examples of the chemicals to be incinerated include nerve gas
and mustard agent; bioaccumulative organochlorines such as dioxins,
furans, chloromethane, vinyl chloride, and PCBs; metals such as lead,
mercury, copper and nickel; and toxins such as arsenic. These represent
only a fraction of the thousands of chemicals and metals that will
potentially be emitted throughout the Columbia River watershed and from
the toxic ash and effluents which pose a significant health threat via
entrance to the aquifer.
Citizen groups, environmental
organizations, health organizations, and local Native Americans have
protested incineration of the chemical agents stored at the Umatilla Army
depot. Extensive technical literature supports the Native American
opposition to chemical agent incineration. Cancer, birth defects,
reproductive dysfunction, immune system disorder and neurological damage
can occur at even very low exposure to these toxic incinerator
Their position is reinforced by the problems which
continue to arise in other incinerator facilities. The Umatilla
incinerator will be modeled after the Toole, Utah Chemical Weapons
Disposal Facility. Yet Toole Army manager Tim Thomas admitted there has
been agent detection in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
vestibules since Toole began incinerating in 1996. Additionally, there
have been agent stack alarms once or twice a week, and the Army doesn't
know why. Decontamination fluid continues to leak though cracks in the
Toole concrete floor into the electrical control room.
serious revelations about chemical agent incinerator defects are a mirror
of those reported at the Army's prototype facility, Johnston Atoll
Chemical Agent Destruction System (JACADS), located 800 miles southwest of
Hawaii. According to the Army's own reports, a fire, an explosion, 32
internal releases of a nerve agent, and two nerve gas releases into the
atmosphere have resulted in EPA fines of $100,000. The JACAD facility is
450 percent over budget and had over 30 Resource Conservation and Recovery
Act non-compliances in 1995.
Contrary to what incineration
advocates claim, there is no urgent need to incinerate, since the
stockpile at Umatilla has small potential for explosion or chain reaction
as a result of decay. A 1994 General Accounting Office report estimates
that the actual number of years for safe weapons storage is 120 years
rather than the 17.7 years originally estimated by the National Research
Council. Thus, the timeline for action could conceivably be lengthened
until all the alternatives, such as chemical neutralization, molten
metals, electro-chemical oxidation, and solvated electron technology
(SET), are considered. A delay is supported by a National Academy of
Sciences report, entitled Review and Evaluation of Alternative Chemical
Disposal Technologies, which states that there has been sufficient
development to warrant re-evaluation of alternative technologies for
chemical agent destruction.
Student Researcher: Brad
Faculty Evaluator: Ellen Krebs