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Global Marketplace.

Drawing a Line in the Sod

US -- South Dakota farmers got fed up with agribusinesses swallowing up one family farm after another. In November 1998, 5g percent of the state's voters approved a constitutional amendment to ban corporations from owning farmland. Corporations are also forbidden to hire local farmers to raise livestock or crops. A court challenge is expected. [Dakota Rural Action, Box 549, Brookings, SD 57006]

The Virtual Economy

JAPAN -- Eamonn Fingleton, the Tokyo-based author of In Praise of Hard Industries, believes the cyber-hyped New Economy is not a fast-track to the future but a dead-end street. The US "has been too hasty in allowing its advanced manufacturing industries to fade away," he warns. While the Information Economy has created "a surfeit of jobs for a few highly intelligent workers," it offers "virtually no jobs for anyone else." Info-based economies are "notably weak exporters" that generate "only about one-tenth as much exporting as the manufacturing industries that the US has been abandoning." Unlike hard manufactured goods -- e.g., clothing, tools, shoes -- "information-based products are culture-specific. Thus they are more or less unsaleable in foreign markets."

An Island in Chains

PUERTO RICO -- US-based chain stores and mega-malls are eating up Puerto Rico's open spaces reports the InterPress News Service. Commercial properties already occupy 22 million square feet of the island's surface (and that doesn't include the parking lots). Wal-Mart has built nine stores and Home Depot, K-Mart, Macy's and Sam's are vying to catch up. In addition to destroying small locally owned businesses, the US chains also ravage the local ecology. "Megastores like Wal-Mart tend to establish themselves in agricultural lands," says Sarah Peische of Centro de Accion Ambiental. Plaza las Americas, a huge mall built on once-productive dairy land, now hosts more than 200 stores. Juan Rosario of the eco-group Mision Industrial, claims that Wal-Mart "determines its future store Locations after obtaining inside government information on where highways will be built and where their exits will be."

Logs and Kilos Set to Roll

NICARAGUA -- President Amoldo Aleman has overturned a logging moratorium and legalized the export of cedar and mahogany. The ruling benefits the wealthy families that control the g6 lumber companies operating in the country. Sandinista Party Executive Secretary Walmaro Gutierrez accuses Aleman of "opening the doors to indiscriminate exploitation of these precious woods." In what was possibly the last attempt to control illegal logging under Nicaragua's "Operation Ecology" program, National Police intercepted 22 trucks loaded with 200 cubic meters of wood -- mahogany, cedar and pochote -- valued at $300,000. According to ACERA Notes [Native Forest Network, PO Box 57, Burlington, VT 05402, (802) 863-0571,] the trucks were carrying more than just precious wood. "Cocaine and marijuana were camouflaged beneath the wood. Now that logging has been legalized, it will be harder than ever to intercept drugs hidden beneath the logs."

Doming Down the Millennium

UK -- Britain has erected a costly Millennium Dome to honor the year 2000 with "the world's greatest exploration of who we are and where we are going." (No matter who you are, it will cost you 22 [pounds sterling] [36 bucks] to go in.) The Dome is filled with 15 corporate-sponsored theme-sites celebrating consumption. Friends of the Earth/UK notes that, instead of a vision of a sustainable future, the Dome offers "the symbolism of corporate dominance of our society." The Dome's Journey Zone is sponsored by Ford. The Mind Zone is hosted by British Aerospace and General Electric Corp. -- Britain's two biggest armsmakers. Home Planet Zone is sponsored by British Airways. The Our Town Story Theatre is run by McDonald's. While Ethical Consumer magazine opines that "coming clean about unethical activities which the sponsors ... have engaged in would have been a good start to the millennium," the London Observer was more succinct: "The Millennium Dome ... will honor the 2,000th birthday of the founder of the church with a trade fair.... Pray for us, vicar!"

"SUV the Earth" Says GOP

US -- The sales of sport utility vehicles increased 93 percent between 1992 and 1997. Today, one in 13 US drivers owns a SUV. The Atlanta Constitution noticed that a special provision inserted in the $50 billion US transportation budget would prohibit the EPA or Transportation Department "from even studying whether to require increased fuel efficiency for SUVs." Last September, President Clinton condemned such GOP ploys "aimed at strangling programs that save energy, save consumers and businesses money and reduce global warming." The Constitution editorialized that Clinton "should force Congress to guzzle its own cup of hemlock by refusing to sign the transportation spending bill unless the rider is removed."

Corporate Intelligence Agency

UK -- Britain was thrown into an uproar by revelations in The London Telegraph that the US Central Intelligence Agency had spied on Environment Minister Michael Meacher. Meacher, an outspoken critic of genetically altered food (GAF), had insisted on proving the safety of GAFs before permitting commercial plantings, and had removed biotech hirelings from the UK's GAF advisory board. The Telegraph reported that Meacher was the only minister targeted by the CIA. "The immediate fear," said Friends of the Earth/UK Director Charles Secrett, "is that the CIA is working hand-in-glove with [US biotech company] Monsanto to ... force this technology down our throats, whatever democratic politicians say." Secrett raised a question that remains unanswered: "What business is it of the CIA to worry about any politician's views about biotechnology products?"

Hello, Mister Chips

SWITZERLAND -- A website run by the Zurich-based Global Monetary LLP has publicized a foolproof means to conduct e-commerce in today's global marketplace. The IDchip[TM], a small electronic implant made from soft plastic, is painlessly inserted under the skin of the right palm. Global Monetary offered to pay "qualified persons" $250 to install the chip and promised that "Once operational, you will be able to purchase everything without the need of cash or even a credit card!" It turns out the website was a hoax. Its creator, Bill Cross, was astonished to find that people have been signing up for the fictitious implant "in droves."

Divesting in Mitsubishi

MEXICO -- Mitsubishi's plan to build the world's largest saltworks near Latin America's largest wildlife sanctuary has been condemned by environmentalists and 34 leading world scientists (including nine Nobel prizewinners). The saltworks would be built alongside the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, and smack in the middle of San Ignacio Lagoon, a critical calving site for migrating gray whales. More than 750,000 people have begged Mitsubishi not to build the huge $150 million evaporation plant -- twice the size of Washington, DC. Perhaps Mitsubishi will listen, now that 15 mutual funds with $14 billion in assets have vowed to pull their funds from all Mitsubishi operations. The funds are: Calvert Group, Citizens Fund, Crown Futures, Domini Social Investments, Everest Asset Management, First Affirmative Financial Network, Global Environment Fund, Green Century Funds, Miller/Howard Investments, MMA Praxis, Parnassus, Pax World Family Fund, Prentiss Smith & Co., Trillium Asset Management, Walden Asset Management and Winslow Management.

Veni, Vidi, Veggie

US -- In another sign that vegetarianism is going mainstream, a new series of celebrity magazine ads and TV spots is suggesting that, when you forgo meat, you "Do It for Someone You Love." The celebrity vegetarians include: Baywatch's Alexandra Paul, St. Louis Cardinals' manager Tony LaRussa (LaRussa's also an avid animal-rights campaigner), musician Ziggy Marley, actor Keenan Ivory Wayans and teen skateboard champs Ed Templeton and Jaime Thomas.

Courting Disfavor

US -- Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy issued a ringing denunciation of powerful foreign courts that threatened "sovereignty on a scale never seen before.... You cannot overload a judicial structure with basic economic and social decisions," Kennedy warned. Unfortunately, Kennedy was not denouncing the World Trade Organization, a body that meets in secret and routinely overturns environmental Laws without public review or judicial appeal. Kennedy's scorn was directed at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Kennedy apparently was miffed at the court's decision to overturn Britain's ban on homosexuals in the military. (Kennedy upheld such bans as a US federal court judge.)

Shoko Treatment

JAPAN -- Small and moderate-sized companies, no longer able to obtain low-interest loans from Japan's banks, have been turning to "shoko Loan" firms. Shokos are allowed to charge interest rates as high as 40 percent. Shokos are very profitable since they can borrow their Lending capital from banks that charge them a mere 2.3 percent interest. Shokos have some shocking approaches when it comes to collecting debts. A collector for Nichiei, the biggest shoko firm, was caught on audiotape badgering a debtor. "Sell your house," he threatened, "Sell a kidney .... You can get $28,000 for a kidney. You can get $9,500 for an eyeball." In the wake of the "sell-a-kidney" scandal, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Japan's financial regulators have demanded that US-based Citibank and Merrill Lynch "report on their lending to Nichiei."

Chiquita's Unappealing Nature

HONDURAS -- In the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, Chiquita Brands International (CBI) was widely criticized for abandoning the Honduran workers who Labored on its storm-devastated plantations. CBI responded with promises to replant damaged fields and build new homes. CBI replanted several fields with African palm (resulting in job cuts) and built new homes far from the fields (making it more difficult for workers to seize the fields during a strike). CBI threatened to close its Honduran operations unless it was granted exemptions from export taxes, labor regulations and agrarian reform laws. The North American Committee on Latin America reports that conditions for CBI's laborers are so bleak that "2,800 workers had deserted the camps, many heading north to the US."

Diapers: Disposables Undeposed

US -- Disposable diapers consume trees and clog landfills. Nonetheless, reusable cloth diapers -- the environmentally preferred alternative -- may be on their last legs (and bottoms). Cloth diaper services boomed after Earth Day 1989 and many parents dropped disposables after chemically treated nappies were linked to an epidemic of diaper rash. (Procter & Gamble responded by saturating its diapers with "Rash Control," yet another chemical) Today 95 percent of diapers used are disposables and companies like Procter & Gamble (Pampers, Luvs) are flush with annual global profits of $17 billion. What happened? During the 1991 Gulf War, when Americans were glued to their TV sets, some of the world's biggest companies -- including Procter & Gamble -- unleashed a strategic advertising blitz. Cloth advocates have charged that Kimberly-Clark's innovative Huggies Pull-Ups training-pant-diapers are designed to keep kids using diaper products well into kindergarten. True, it takes a couple of gallons of water to dean an average day's worth of 11 cloth diapers. But, according to US hygiene Laws, before the disposables can be sent to a landfill, the contents of soiled disposable diapers must be removed and flushed down a toilet. If Landfill operators rejected soiled diapers, the disposables market would disintegrate.

Coke's Promise Fizzles

US -- North Americans discard 2.5 million plastic bottles a day. In 1998, more than a billion pounds of plastic soda bottles wound up in US Landfills. In 1990, Coca-Cola promised to start using recycled plastic in its bottles but four years Later, Coke stopped using recycled plastic. Coca-Cola now turns 750 million pounds of virgin plastic into 10 billion suck-and-chuck bottles each year. Coke uses recycled plastic bottles overseas, however -- in Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Sweden. In several countries, Coke is sold in refillable bottles. Coke claims that it is too costly to use recycled plastic in the US, but Plastics Recycling Update claims that 20-ounce bottles containing recycled plastic would only cost an additional one-tenth of one cent. Coke didn't abandon recycled plastic to save money; Coke did it to make money. In 1996, when the price of virgin plastic dropped from 80 to 40 cents per pound, Coke pocketed the $150 million difference. According to the GrassRoots Recycling Network [PO Box 49283, Athens, GA 30604, (706) 613-7121,], "while Coke reaped tens of millions, many plastic recyclers were driven out of business and community recycling programs suffered." In August, a series of full-page ads in the New York times and the Wall Street Journal challenged Coke CEO Douglas Ivestor [(800) 571-2653] to explain why his company can't afford to pay a pittance to reduce its pollution. (Perhaps this would eat into Ivestor's $20,469,799 salary.)

The Decade's Dirtiest

US -- The Fortune 500 now has competition. Multinational Monitor has compiled a fist of corporate misfortune -- the Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s. The complete list appeared in the July/August 1999 issue and can be seen on-line at The worst environmental offenders were: Exxon (#5), Louisiana-Pacific (#11), Summitville Consolidated Mining (#17), Royal Caribbean Cruises (#21), Iroquois Pipeline (#25), Royal Caribbean Cruises (#35), Colonial Pipeline (#39), Eklof Marine (#40), Chevron (#41), Rockwell International (#42), Dexter Corp. (#52), ALCOA (#58), US Sugar Corp. (#58), Bristol-Myers Squibb, Chemical Waste Management, Ketchikan Pulp, United Technologies and Warner-Lambert (tied for #62), Arizona Chemical (#67), Conrail (#68), International Paper (#69), Consolidated Edison, HAL Beheer BV and John Morrell (tied for #70), Browning-Ferris and Unocal (tied for #77), Doyon Drilling, Eastman Kodak and Case Corp. (tied for #82), Marathon Oil (#85) Bethship-Sabine Yard, Palm Beach Cruise and Princess Cruises (tied for #87), American Cyanamid and Regency Cruises (tied for #93), Adolph Coors and Exxon (tied for #96).
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Publication:Earth Island Journal
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2000
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