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Top Ten Censored Stories of 1997

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1

Clinton Administration Aggressively Promotes U.S. Arms Sales Worldwide

Sources:
THE BULLETIN OF ATOMIC SCIENTISTS
Title: "Costly Giveaways"
Date: October 1996
Author: Lora Lumpe

IN THESE TIMES
Title: "Guns 'R' Us"
Date: August 11, 1997
Author: Martha Honey

The United 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.

Most 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 their jobs.

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.


2

Personal Care and Cosmetic Products May Be Carcinogenic

Sources:
IN THESE TIMES
Title: "To Die For"
Date: February 17, 1997
Author: Joel Bleifuss

IN THESE TIMES
Title: "Take a Powder"
Date: March 3, 1997
Author: Joel Bleifuss

Mainstream coverage:
Chicago 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 carcinogens).

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.

The 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 products."

Student Researchers: Robin Stovall, Gavin Grundmann, Erika Well
Faculty Evaluator: Debora Hammond, Ph.D.


3

Big Business Seeks to Control and Influence U.S. Universities

Sources:
CAQ
Title: "Phi Beta Capitalism"
Date: Spring 1997
Author: Lawrence Soley

DOLLARS AND SENSE
Title: "Big Money on Campus"
Date: March/April 1997
Author: Lawrence Soley

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.

At the 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 prizes.

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.

University 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 & D.

Student Researchers: Angie Yee, Katie Sims
Faculty Evaluator: Sally Hurtado, Ph.D.


4

Exposing the Global Surveillance System

Source:
CAQ
Title: "Secret Power: Exposing the Global Surveillance System"
Date: Winter 1996/1997
Author: Nicky Hager

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 world.

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 soil.

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 names.

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."

Student Researchers: Bryan Way, Brad Smith
Faculty Evaluator: David Van Nuys, Ph.D.


5

United States Companies are World Leaders in the Manufacture of Torture Devices for Internal Use and Export

Source:
THE PROGRESSIVE
Title: "Shock Value: U.S. Stun Devices Pose Human-Rights Risk"
Date: September 1997
Author: Anne-Marie Cusac

Mainstream Media Coverage:
Chicago Tribune, 3/4/97, page 5, Zone N
Washington 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 torturers.

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.

Student Researchers: Carolyn Williams, Susan Allen
Faculty Evaluator: Dan Haytin, Ph.D.


6

Russian Plutonium Lost Over Chile and Bolivia

Source:
CAQ
Title: "Space Probe Explodes, Plutonium Missing"
Date: Spring 1997
Author: Karl Grossman

On 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.

On November 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 space probe.

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."

On November 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 itself.

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
Faculty Evaluator: Catherine Nelson Ph.D.


7

Norplant and Human Lab Experiments in Third World Lead To Forced Use in the United States

Sources:
MS.
Title: "The Misuses of Norplant: Who Gets Stuck?"
Date: November/December, 1996
Author: Jennifer Washburn

WASHINGTON FREE PRESS
Title: "Norplant and the Dark Side of the Law"
Date: March/April 1997
Author: Rebecca Kavoussi

HUMAN EVENTS
Title: "BBC Documentary Claims That U.S. Foreign Aid Funded Norplant Testing On Uninformed Third World Women"
Date: May 16, 1997
Author: Joseph D'Agostino

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 resources.

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."

The 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.

Now Norplant 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 women.

Student Researchers: Carolyn Williams, Katie Sims
Faculty Evaluator: Jeanette Koshar, Ph.D.


8

Little Known Federal Law Paves The Way for National Identification Card

Source:
WITWIGO
Date: May-June 1997
Title: "National ID Card is Now Federal Law and Georgia Wants to Help Lead the Way"
Author: Cyndee Parker

Mainstream Coverage:
The New York Times, September 8, 1996, Section 6; Page 58, Column 1
Related article in The San Francisco Chronicle, September 19, 1996, Page A1

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 future."

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.

A 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.


9

Mattel Cuts U.S. Jobs to Open Sweat Shops in Other Countries

Sources:
THE NATION
Title: "Barbie's Betrayal: The Toy Industry's Broken Workers"
Date: December 30, 1996
Author: Eyal Press

THE HUMANIST
Title: "Sweat-Shop Barbie: Exploitation of Third World Labor"
Date: January/February 1997
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 rights.

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.

In the 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 countries.

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.

Under pressure, 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 practices.

Student Researcher: Erika Nell
Staff Evaluator: Carol Tremmel


10

Army's Plan to Burn Nerve Gas and Toxins in Oregon Threatens Columbia River Basin

Source:

EARTH FIRST!
Title: "Army Plans to Burn Surplus Nerve Gas Stockpile"
Date: March 1997
Authors: Mark Brown and Kayrn Jones

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 emissions.

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.

These 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 Smith
Faculty Evaluator: Ellen Krebs

     For Safe., Effective, Non Toxic Products

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