Multinational Monitor’s annual nomination of the Ten Worst Corporations – styled ‘Enemies of the Future’ – for the year 2000 is as follows:
Aventis (France): ‘Making human guinea pigs.’ For contaminating Taco Bell brand taco shells sold in grocery stores by Kraft, as well as many other foods, with genetically modified StarLink corn.
British American Tobacco (Britain): ‘Smuggler of death.’ For engineering a worldwide smuggling scheme to cut the price of cigarettes and increase consumption, with extensive efforts in Latin America and Asia.
BP/AMOCO (US/Britain): ‘Lawbreaker.’ For illegal disposal of hazardous waste on Alaska’s North Slope.
Doubleclick (US): ‘Cookie Crook.’ For implanting electronic ‘cookies’ – surveillance files – on the hard drives of users’ computers without their knowledge and gaining the capacity to combine this data with identifiable personal consumer information.
Ford/Firestone (US): ‘Reckless homicide.’ For at least 150 deaths around the world linked to tread separation by Firestone tyres on Ford cars, and not recalling the products after learning of the hazard.
Glaxo/Wellcome (Britain): ‘Patents over people.’ For blocking worldwide distribution of cheap, generic versions of HIV/AIDS and other drugs.
Lockheed Martin (US): ‘Testing its pollutant on humans.’ For conducting large-scale tests of percholate – a toxic contaminant from rocket fuel, frequently found in water supplies in southern California – to avoid stricter standards and save millions of dollars in clean-up costs.
Philips Petroleum (US): ‘Deadly employer.’ For third fatal accident in 11 years at plastics plant in Pasadena, Texas.
Smithfield Foods (US): ‘Pig Out.’ For consolidation of the hog market to detriment of family farmers, and spreading factory farms.
Titan International (US): ‘Union buster.’ For unlawfully denying protected labour rights to workers at two tyre and wheel factories where workers have been on strike for two years.
Mine of inspiration
Citing our issue on Landmines (NI 294) as inspiration, Scott Cressman and Kyle Ruttan, two grade-eight students from Kitchener, Ontario, have designed an award-winning multimedia CD which they hope will raise awareness of the problem. Using snippets of film, interviews and an interactive game, the CD provides clear information on the types of mines, where they are and what they do, alongside the problems facing deminers and survivors. Schools can order a copy from http://landmines.cjb.net.
Death for penalty
The Nation vol 272 no 2
Petra Wester / World Environmental Journalists E-Group, [email protected]
Sandhya Sharma’s hands move quickly over the cotton she is weaving on the floor loom in a classroom at the Village Industries College in rural Rajasthan. She is making khadi, a rustic handmade cloth woven by villagers across India.
Sharma teaches weaving and spinning to the young people who choose to come to the college to learn the trade and live by Gandhian principles. But there are few students these days who want to learn to make khadi. This year, only 19 students showed up – down from more than 150, the normal enrolment number until a sudden drop about three years ago. Last year alone, khadi sales dropped by about $30 million. The government-run stores that sell khadi are dusty and old, often with few customers in sight. Last spring, the Indian Government hired Arthur Andersen – the transnational business consultants – to investigate what has gone wrong with the cloth.
‘People don’t want to do community work any more,’ says Sharma. ‘They would prefer a private-sector job because there they can get more money.’
The decline of khadi means more to India than the end of a fabric line. Gandhi popularized it during India’s independence struggle. In protest against the colonial practice of milling Indian-grown cotton in Britain before selling it back to India, Gandhi took to his hand loom to weave his own clothes and urged others to do the same. Soon villagers across the country were making their own cloth as a political statement. This ‘cottage’ industry became a staple of the country’s rural economy. The khadi people made in home workshops and small-scale factories supplemented the meagre incomes they earned toiling in the fields. And colleges, like the one where Sharma teaches, opened to educate younger generations and propagate Gandhi’s philosophies.
But Sharma is not surprised that khadi’s appeal is wearing thin. She points to a general shift in Indian society, away from the values Gandhi espoused and towards a Western lifestyle.
‘Gandhi said food, clothes and a house are all you need in life,’ she says. ‘But nowadays a person thinks, I need a car, I need a good place to stay.’
In 1991, the Indian Government began to liberalize the country’s economy, opening its doors to foreign companies. This created a previously non-existent private sector and a growing middle class with disposable incomes to spend on consumer goods. However, most of the country remains untouched by the economic prosperity. More than 35 per cent of the country’s billion people live below the poverty line.
‘Nobody wants slow progress,’ says Sharma. ‘But if you want progress, Gandhi’s way is the best because everyone can profit from it.’
Down to Earth vol 9 no 13
Middle East International no 639
Burma Issues vol 10 no 4
‘Have you seen the small cot in the corner? It’s where the children go to die.’
Sumgait town is 30 kilometres from Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. It was once an industrial hub for chemical and heavy-metal production. Over 35 factories made mercury, aluminium, chlorine and acid for the Soviet economy, creating 300,000 tonnes of toxic waste every year. The half-million population of workers lived just a kilometre away. Sumgait soon had the highest infant-mortality rate in the world. Now 70 per cent of the population has some form of toxic-related illness.
Everyday life still goes on in one of Eastern Europe’s most poisoned cities. Isenim, a mother of three, showed no side effects at first. Until, that is, she walked in as her brother-in-law murdered her five-year-old daughter, following a domestic argument. He threw industrial acid in her face and blinded her. Although most of the factories have closed, those that remain and can’t pay their workers give them raw chlorine to store at home and sell on the street.
Dr Ismayilov is a cancer expert in the midst of a silently dying population. He believes they are on the edge of a precipice. The diseases he has identified – a printed list of them fills one side of a large sheet of paper – have started to jump generations. People live in fear of having children.
The Azerbaijan Government has plans for new investment but it lacks the funds and skills to clean up the mess. Some international agencies are trying to help.
Meanwhile, the people of Sumgait know all too well that every breath they take, every mouthful of food they eat, every drop of water they drink is helping them on their way to an early grave.
Pain without gain
Moto (independent Zimbabwean magazine) no 212
Summit in sight
CLAC (Anti-Capitalist Convergence) [email protected]