The pesticide was designed to kill worms infesting the roots of banana trees on Latin American plantations.
But at least 5,000 agricultural workers from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama have filed five lawsuits in this country claiming they were left sterile after being exposed in the 1970s to the pesticide known as DBCP.
Jury selection for the first of the lawsuits is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
"This is the first time any case for a banana worker has come before a U.S. court," said Duane Miller, one of the attorneys representing more than 30 Nicaraguan plaintiffs who worked on plantations from 1964 to 1990.
The cases raise the issue of whether multinational companies should be held accountable in the country where they are based or the countries where they employ workers, legal experts said.
A verdict in favor of the workers could open the door for others to file similar claims in the U.S., where juries are known for awarding bigger judgments.
"The administration of justice in developing countries in comparison to the administration of justice in the U.S. -- there's a big gap," said Alejandro Garro, a Columbia University law professor.
"The significance of it is we're talking about a global economy where big business does business all over the world and where we don't have a uniform type of justice," he said
The upcoming lawsuit was filed in 2004 and accuses Dole Fresh Fruit Co. and Standard Fruit Co., now a part of Dole, of negligence and fraudulent concealment while using the pesticide.
Dow Chemical Co. and Amvac Chemical Corp., manufacturers of the pesticide, "actively suppressed information about DBCP's reproductive toxicity," according to the lawsuit.
Attorney Erin Burke, who represents Westlake-based Dole, and Kelly Kozuma, a spokeswoman for Newport Beach-based Amvac, declined to comment.
Scot Wheeler, a spokesman for Midland, Mich.-based Dow, said in an e-mail that the lawsuits were without merit, and that "there are no generally accepted studies in the scientific community of which we are aware which establishes an effect on sterility in banana farm workers" exposed periodically to the chemical.
"Workers bringing these claims rotated jobs often or changed jobs altogether with enough frequency that long-term exposure would have been fairly unusual and it is not likely that there is any injury whatsoever related to DBCP," Wheeler wrote.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Web site says the chemical was used as a fumigant on more than 40 different crops in the U.S. until it was largely phased out by 1979.
Long-term exposure to the pesticide causes male reproductive problems, including decreased sperm count, according to the site, which lists DBCP as a "probable human carcinogen."
In April, all five lawsuits were placed under the jurisdiction of Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney. The legal actions involve claims on behalf of workers from Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala and Costa Rica. Other growers and manufacturers are named as defendants.
straight to the source:BusinessWeek, Associated Press, Noaki Schwartz, 08 Jul 2007
New Study: Over 60% of PVC Packaging Violates Laws in 19 States Across the Country
New Study: Over 60% of PVC Packaging Violates Laws in 19 States Across the Country Elevated Levels of Toxic Lead and Cadmium Commonly Found in PVC Packaging Center for Health, Environment and Jusitce, 7/10/07
For Immediate Release:
(New York, NY) A new national study released today found for the first time ever that over 60% of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) packaging tested contains toxic heavy metals that violate state toxics in packaging laws in 19 states. Inks and colorants used on plastic shopping and mailing bags were the other packaging materials with frequently detected heavy metals. The study was conducted by the Toxics In Packaging Clearinghouse, a network of nine state environmental agencies coordinating toxics in packaging legislation.
"This new study underscores the need for a global phase out of PVC packaging," said Michael Schade, PVC Campaign Coordinator with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. "PVC packaging contains heavy metals that can harm our health and environment. Safer PVC-free packaging is widely available and innovative companies are eliminating this poison plastic."
In response to PVC's health and environmental impacts, many companies have publicly committed to eliminate PVC packaging. Wal-Mart has committed to phase out private label PVC packaging in two years. Other companies eliminating PVC packaging include Aveda, Body Shop, Bristol Myers, Boots, Crabtree & Evelyn, Dean Foods, Dell, Estée Lauder, Evian, H&M, Helene Curtis, Hewlett Packard, Ikea, Johnson and Johnson, Kiss My Face, Limited Brands (Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works), Marks and Spencer, Microsoft, Nike, Nokia, SC Johnson, Samsung, Sharp, and Sony. A national coalition of over 60 health and environmental organizations are calling on Target to phase out PVC packaging and products. Since October, over 40,000 Target customers have signed petitions and sent letters to the company and over 200 events have been held at Target stores across the country.
Nineteen states have laws that prohibit the sale or distribution of packaging containing intentionally added cadmium, lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium. The states with this legislation are California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) is working to prevent harm by shifting decision makers from producing, using and disposing of PVC consumer products and packaging. CHEJ has worked with and convinced Microsoft, Johnson and Johnson, Wal-Mart, Crabtree & Evelyn, and other companies to phase out their use of PVC in packaging.
Plant-based cooking approach means not heating food above 115 degrees to keep the nutrients intact
Debbie Bennett and Paula Sigman are giving food a raw deal, but in a good way.
The pair recently launched Naked Food Live Cuisine in San Luis Obispo, a lunch delivery service featuring dishes made according to the “raw food” philosophy.
As Bennett explained, this culinary approach “is all plantbased, traditionally a vegan way of eating,” with nothing brought to a temperature above 105 to 115 degrees F because “if you cook it you’ll kill the nutrients.”
To make items such as tostadas, and even falafels, Bennett simply uses a food dehydrator.
Bennett discovered the raw food movement while “on my own health journey. I found that I kept moving in that direction because I found that I feel better physically and mentally, and have more energy.”
Sigman agreed, explaining that she was introduced to the concept when taking one of Bennett’s health classes.
“I loved what she was doing,” said Sigman, “so when the lunch idea came up, I said, ‘Let’s go.’ ”
To order your own Naked Food Live Cuisine to go, you choose from a set menu which alternates each week (though special dietary needs can be accommodated), and place your order via phone or e-mail by 5 p.m. the previous day for delivery in San Luis Obispo on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
So far, one of the most popular multicourse options consists of tomato cilantro soup; tostada with spicy beans, salad and sour cream; and cinnamon raisin truffles; while another favorite is almond falafels with tahini sauce, sprouted quinoa tabouli, hummus and flax crackers, and halvah.
All the meals are made with organic produce, with particular focus on sources such as farmers markets and the Cal Poly Community Supported Agriculture program.
As Sigman noted, “it’s very important to use your local farmer. It’s really all about the integrity of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
FOR MORE DETAILS
For information about menus and ordering, contact Naked Food LiveCuisine at 550-2487 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No-Bean Hummus is a quick and refreshing dish for summer. Debbie Bennett of Naked Food Live Cuisine explains that zucchini will give you the same texture as beans in this hummus recipe, adding that you can also use other vegetables as well, including raw sprouted beans.
Tahini is a Middle Eastern ingredient made from crushed sesame seeds; it is readily available at most groceries, especially health food stores or ethnic markets.
Makes: 3-4 servings
• 2 zucchini
• 3/4 to 1 cup raw tahini
• 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
• 2-1/2 teaspoons sea salt • 1/2 tbls. ground cumin
Published on Tuesday, May 30, 2006 by the Independent / UK Why It's Over For America by Noam Chomsky An inability to protect its citizens. The belief that it is above the law. A lack of democracy. Three defining characteristics of the 'failed state'. And that, says Noam Chomsky, is exactly what the US is becoming. In an exclusive extract from his devastating new book,"Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy," America's leading thinker explains how his country lost its way.
The selection of issues that should rank high on the agenda of concern for human welfare and rights is, naturally, a subjective matter. But there are a few choices that seem unavoidable, because they bear so directly on the prospects for decent survival. Among them are at least these three: nuclear war, environmental disaster, and the fact that the government of the world's leading power is acting in ways that increase the likelihood of these catastrophes. It is important to stress the government, because the population, not surprisingly, does not agree.
That brings up a fourth issue that should deeply concern Americans, and the world: the sharp divide between public opinion and public policy, one of the reasons for the fear, which cannot casually be put aside, that, as Gar Alperowitz puts it in America Beyond Capitalism, "the American 'system' as a whole is in real trouble - that it is heading in a direction that spells the end of its historic values [of] equality, liberty, and meaningful democracy."
The "system" is coming to have some of the features of failed states, to adopt a currently fashionable notion that is conventionally applied to states regarded as potential threats to our security (like Iraq) or as needing our intervention to rescue the population from severe internal threats (like Haiti). Though the concept is recognized to be, according to the journal Foreign Affairs, "frustratingly imprecise," some of the primary characteristics of failed states can be identified. One is their inability or unwillingness to protect their citizens from violence and perhaps even destruction. Another is their tendency to regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic or international law, and hence free to carry out aggression and violence. And if they have democratic forms, they suffer from a serious "democratic deficit" that deprives their formal democratic institutions of real substance.
Among the hardest tasks that anyone can undertake, and one of the most important, is to look honestly in the mirror. If we allow ourselves to do so, we should have little difficulty in finding the characteristics of "failed states" right at home.
No one familiar with history should be surprised that the growing democratic deficit in the United States is accompanied by declaration of messianic missions to bring democracy to a suffering world. Declarations of noble intent by systems of power are rarely complete fabrication, and the same is true in this case. Under some conditions, forms of democracy are indeed acceptable. Abroad, as the leading scholar-advocate of "democracy promotion" concludes, we find a "strong line of continuity": democracy is acceptable if and only if it is consistent with strategic and economic interests (Thomas Carothers). In modified form, the doctrine holds at home as well.
The basic dilemma facing policymakers is sometimes candidly recognized at the dovish liberal extreme of the spectrum, for example, by Robert Pastor, President Carter's national security adviser for Latin America. He explained why the administration had to support the murderous and corrupt Somoza regime in Nicaragua, and, when that proved impossible, to try at least to maintain the US-trained National Guard even as it was massacring the population "with a brutality a nation usually reserves for its enemy," killing some 40,000 people. The reason was the familiar one: "The United States did not want to control Nicaragua or the other nations of the region, but it also did not want developments to get out of control. It wanted Nicaraguans to act independently, except when doing so would affect US interests adversely."
Similar dilemmas faced Bush administration planners after their invasion of Iraq. They want Iraqis "to act independently, except when doing so would affect US interests adversely." Iraq must therefore be sovereign and democratic, but within limits. It must somehow be constructed as an obedient client state, much in the manner of the traditional order in Central America. At a general level, the pattern is familiar, reaching to the opposite extreme of institutional structures. The Kremlin was able to maintain satellites that were run by domestic political and military forces, with the iron fist poised. Germany was able to do much the same in occupied Europe even while it was at war, as did fascist Japan in Man-churia (its Manchukuo). Fascist Italy achieved similar results in North Africa while carrying out virtual genocide that in no way harmed its favorable image in the West and possibly inspired Hitler. Traditional imperial and neocolonial systems illustrate many variations on similar themes.
To achieve the traditional goals in Iraq has proven to be surprisingly difficult, despite unusually favorable circumstances. The dilemma of combining a measure of independence with firm control arose in a stark form not long after the invasion, as mass non-violent resistance compelled the invaders to accept far more Iraqi initiative than they had anticipated. The outcome even evoked the nightmarish prospect of a more or less democratic and sovereign Iraq taking its place in a loose Shiite alliance comprising Iran, Shiite Iraq, and possibly the nearby Shiite-dominated regions of Saudi Arabia, controlling most of the world's oil and independent of Washington.
The situation could get worse. Iran might give up on hopes that Europe could become independent of the United States, and turn eastward. Highly relevant background is discussed by Selig Harrison, a leading specialist on these topics. "The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the European Union were based on a bargain that the EU, held back by the US, has failed to honor," Harrison observes.
"The bargain was that Iran would suspend uranium enrichment, and the EU would undertake security guarantees. The language of the joint declaration was "unambiguous. 'A mutually acceptable agreement,' it said, would not only provide 'objective guarantees' that Iran's nuclear program is 'exclusively for peaceful purposes' but would 'equally provide firm commitments on security issues.'"
The phrase "security issues" is a thinly veiled reference to the threats by the United States and Israel to bomb Iran, and preparations to do so. The model regularly adduced is Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981, which appears to have initiated Saddam's nuclear weapons programs, another demonstration that violence tends to elicit violence. Any attempt to execute similar plans against Iran could lead to immediate violence, as is surely understood in Washington. During a visit to Tehran, the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warned that his militia would defend Iran in the case of any attack, "one of the strongest signs yet," the Washington Post reported, "that Iraq could become a battleground in any Western conflict with Iran, raising the spectre of Iraqi Shiite militias - or perhaps even the US-trained Shiite-dominated military - taking on American troops here in sympathy with Iran." The Sadrist bloc, which registered substantial gains in the December 2005 elections, may soon become the most powerful single political force in Iraq. It is consciously pursuing the model of other successful Islamist groups, such as Hamas in Palestine, combining strong resistance to military occupation with grassroots social organizing and service to the poor.
Washington's unwillingness to allow regional security issues to be considered is nothing new. It has also arisen repeatedly in the confrontation with Iraq. In the background is the matter of Israeli nuclear weapons, a topic that Washington bars from international consideration. Beyond that lurks what Harrison rightly describes as "the central problem facing the global non-proliferation regime": the failure of the nuclear states to live up to their nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligation "to phase out their own nuclear weapons" - and, in Washington's case, formal rejection of the obligation.
Unlike Europe, China refuses to be intimidated by Washington, a primary reason for the growing fear of China on the part of US planners. Much of Iran's oil already goes to China, and China is providing Iran with weapons, presumably considered a deterrent to US threats. Still more uncomfortable for Washington is the fact that, according to the Financial Times, "the Sino-Saudi relationship has developed dramatically," including Chinese military aid to Saudi Arabia and gas exploration rights for China. By 2005, Saudi Arabia provided about 17 per cent of China's oil imports. Chinese and Saudi oil companies have signed deals for drilling and construction of a huge refinery (with Exxon Mobil as a partner). A January 2006 visit by Saudi king Abdullah to Beijing was expected to lead to a Sino-Saudi memorandum of understanding calling for "increased cooperation and investment between the two countries in oil, natural gas, and minerals."
Indian analyst Aijaz Ahmad observes that Iran could "emerge as the virtual linchpin in the making, over the next decade or so, of what China and Russia have come to regard as an absolutely indispensable Asian Energy Security Grid, for breaking Western control of the world's energy supplies and securing the great industrial revolution of Asia." South Korea and southeast Asian countries are likely to join, possibly Japan as well. A crucial question is how India will react. It rejected US pressures to withdraw from an oil pipeline deal with Iran. On the other hand, India joined the United States and the EU in voting for an anti-Iranian resolution at the IAEA, joining also in their hypocrisy, since India rejects the NPT regime to which Iran, so far, appears to be largely conforming. Ahmad reports that India may have secretly reversed its stand under Iranian threats to terminate a $20bn gas deal. Washington later warned India that its "nuclear deal with the US could be ditched" if India did not go along with US demands, eliciting a sharp rejoinder from the Indian foreign ministry and an evasive tempering of the warning by the US embassy.
The prospect that Europe and Asia might move toward greater independence has seriously troubled US planners since World War II, and concerns have significantly increased as the tripolar order has continued to evolve, along with new south-south interactions and rapidly growing EU engagement with China.
US intelligence has projected that the United States, while controlling Middle East oil for the traditional reasons, will itself rely mainly on more stable Atlantic Basin resources (West Africa, western hemisphere). Control of Middle East oil is now far from a sure thing, and these expectations are also threatened by developments in the western hemisphere, accelerated by Bush administration policies that have left the United States remarkably isolated in the global arena. The Bush administration has even succeeded in alienating Canada, an impressive feat.
Canada's minister of natural resources said that within a few years one quarter of the oil that Canada now sends to the United States may go to China instead. In a further blow to Washington's energy policies, the leading oil exporter in the hemisphere, Venezuela, has forged probably the closest relations with China of any Latin American country, and is planning to sell increasing amounts of oil to China as part of its effort to reduce dependence on the openly hostile US government. Latin America as a whole is increasing trade and other relations with China, with some setbacks, but likely expansion, in particular for raw materials exporters like Brazil and Chile.
Meanwhile, Cuba-Venezuela relations are becoming very close, each relying on its comparative advantage. Venezuela is providing low-cost oil while in return Cuba organizes literacy and health programs, sending thousands of highly skilled professionals, teachers, and doctors, who work in the poorest and most neglected areas, as they do elsewhere in the Third World. Cuba-Venezuela projects are extending to the Caribbean countries, where Cuban doctors are providing healthcare to thousands of people with Venezuelan funding. Operation Miracle, as it is called, is described by Jamaica's ambassador to Cuba as "an example of integration and south-south cooperation", and is generating great enthusiasm among the poor majority. Cuban medical assistance is also being welcomed elsewhere. One of the most horrendous tragedies of recent years was the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. In addition to the huge toll, unknown numbers of survivors have to face brutal winter weather with little shelter, food, or medical assistance. One has to turn to the South Asian press to read that "Cuba has provided the largest contingent of doctors and paramedics to Pakistan," paying all the costs (perhaps with Venezuelan funding), and that President Musharraf expressed his "deep gratitude" for the "spirit and compassion" of the Cuban medical teams.
Some analysts have suggested that Cuba and Venezuela might even unite, a step towards further integration of Latin America in a bloc that is more independent from the United States. Venezuela has joined Mercosur, the South American customs union, a move described by Argentine president Nestor Kirchner as "a milestone" in the development of this trading bloc, and welcomed as opening "a new chapter in our integration" by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Independent experts say that "adding Venezuela to the bloc furthers its geopolitical vision of eventually spreading Mercosur to the rest of the region."
At a meeting to mark Venezuela's entry into Mercosur, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said, "We cannot allow this to be purely an economic project, one for the elites and for the transnational companies," a not very oblique reference to the US-sponsored "Free Trade Agreement for the Americas," which has aroused strong public opposition. Venezuela also supplied Argentina with fuel oil to help stave off an energy crisis, and bought almost a third of Argentine debt issued in 2005, one element of a region-wide effort to free the countries from the control of the US-dominated IMF after two decades of disastrous effects of conformity to its rules. The IMF has "acted towards our country as a promoter and a vehicle of policies that caused poverty and pain among the Argentine people," President Kirchner said in announcing his decision to pay almost $1 trillion to rid itself of the IMF forever. Radically violating IMF rules, Argentina enjoyed a substantial recovery from the disaster left by IMF policies.
Steps toward independent regional integration advanced further with the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia in December 2005, the first president from the indigenous majority. Morales moved quickly to reach energy accords with Venezuela.
Though Central America was largely disciplined by Reaganite violence and terror, the rest of the hemisphere is falling out of control, particularly from Venezuela to Argentina, which was the poster child of the IMF and the Treasury Department until its economy collapsed under the policies they imposed. Much of the region has left-center governments. The indigenous populations have become much more active and influential, particularly in Bolivia and Ecuador, both major energy producers, where they either want oil and gas to be domestically controlled or, in some cases, oppose production altogether. Many indigenous people apparently do not see any reason why their lives, societies, and cultures should be disrupted or destroyed so that New Yorkers can sit in SUVs in traffic gridlock. Some are even calling for an "Indian nation" in South America. Meanwhile the economic integration that is under way is reversing patterns that trace back to the Spanish conquests, with Latin American elites and economies linked to the imperial powers but not to one another. Along with growing south-south interaction on a broader scale, these developments are strongly influenced by popular organizations that are coming together in the unprecedented international global justice movements, ludicrously called "anti-globalization" because they favor globalization that privileges the interests of people, not investors and financial institutions. For many reasons, the system of US global dominance is fragile, even apart from the damage inflicted by Bush planners.
One consequence is that the Bush administration's pursuit of the traditional policies of deterring democracy faces new obstacles. It is no longer as easy as before to resort to military coups and international terrorism to overthrow democratically elected governments, as Bush planners learnt ruefully in 2002 in Venezuela. The "strong line of continuity" must be pursued in other ways, for the most part. In Iraq, as we have seen, mass nonviolent resistance compelled Washington and London to permit the elections they had sought to evade. The subsequent effort to subvert the elections by providing substantial advantages to the administration's favorite candidate, and expelling the independent media, also failed. Washington faces further problems. The Iraqi labor movement is making considerable progress despite the opposition of the occupation authorities. The situation is rather like Europe and Japan after World War II, when a primary goal of the United States and United Kingdom was to undermine independent labor movements - as at home, for similar reasons: organized labor contributes in essential ways to functioning democracy with popular engagement. Many of the measures adopted at that time - withholding food, supporting fascist police - are no longer available. Nor is it possible today to rely on the labor bureaucracy of the American Institute for Free Labor Development to help undermine unions. Today, some American unions are supporting Iraqi workers, just as they do in Colombia, where more union activists are murdered than anywhere in the world. At least the unions now receive support from the United Steelworkers of America and others, while Washington continues to provide enormous funding for the government, which bears a large part of the responsibility.
The problem of elections arose in Palestine much in the way it did in Iraq. As already discussed, the Bush administration refused to permit elections until the death of Yasser Arafat, aware that the wrong man would win. After his death, the administration agreed to permit elections, expecting the victory of its favored Palestinian Authority candidates. To promote this outcome, Washington resorted to much the same modes of subversion as in Iraq, and often before. Washington used the US Agency for International Development as an "invisible conduit" in an effort to "increase the popularity of the Palestinian Authority on the eve of crucial elections in which the governing party faces a serious challenge from the radical Islamic group Hamas" (Washington Post), spending almost $2m "on dozens of quick projects before elections this week to bolster the governing Fatah faction's image with voters" (New York Times). In the United States, or any Western country, even a hint of such foreign interference would destroy a candidate, but deeply rooted imperial mentality legitimates such routine measures elsewhere. However, the attempt to subvert the elections again resoundingly failed.
The US and Israeli governments now have to adjust to dealing somehow with a radical Islamic party that approaches their traditional rejectionist stance, though not entirely, at least if Hamas really does mean to agree to an indefinite truce on the international border as its leaders state. The US and Israel, in contrast, insist that Israel must take over substantial parts of the West Bank (and the forgotten Golan Heights). Hamas's refusal to accept Israel's "right to exist" mirrors the refusal of Washington and Jerusalem to accept Palestine's "right to exist" - a concept unknown in international affairs; Mexico accepts the existence of the United States but not its abstract "right to exist" on almost half of Mexico, acquired by conquest. Hamas's formal commitment to "destroy Israel" places it on a par with the United States and Israel, which vowed formally that there could be no "additional Palestinian state" (in addition to Jordan) until they relaxed their extreme rejectionist stand partially in the past few years, in the manner already reviewed. Although Hamas has not said so, it would come as no great surprise if Hamas were to agree that Jews may remain in scattered areas in the present Israel, while Palestine constructs huge settlement and infrastructure projects to take over the valuable land and resources, effectively breaking Israel up into unviable cantons, virtually separated from one another and from some small part of Jerusalem where Jews would also be allowed to remain. And they might agree to call the fragments "a state." If such proposals were made, we would - rightly - regard them as virtually a reversion to Nazism, a fact that might elicit some thoughts. If such proposals were made, Hamas's position would be essentially like that of the United States and Israel for the past five years, after they came to tolerate some impoverished form of "statehood." It is fair to describe Hamas as radical, extremist, and violent, and as a serious threat to peace and a just political settlement. But the organization is hardly alone in this stance.
Elsewhere traditional means of undermining democracy have succeeded. In Haiti, the Bush administration's favorite "democracy-building group, the International Republican Institute," worked assiduously to promote the opposition to President Aristide, helped by the withholding of desperately needed aid on grounds that were dubious at best. When it seemed that Aristide would probably win any genuine election, Washington and the opposition chose to withdraw, a standard device to discredit elections that are going to come out the wrong way: Nicaragua in 1984 and Venezuela in December 2005 are examples that should be familiar. Then followed a military coup, expulsion of the president, and a reign of terror and violence vastly exceeding anything under the elected government.
The persistence of the strong line of continuity to the present again reveals that the United States is very much like other powerful states. It pursues the strategic and economic interests of dominant sectors of the domestic population, to the accompaniment of rhetorical flourishes about its dedication to the highest values. That is practically a historical universal, and the reason why sensible people pay scant attention to declarations of noble intent by leaders, or accolades by their followers.
One commonly hears that carping critics complain about what is wrong, but do not present solutions. There is an accurate translation for that charge: "They present solutions, but I don't like them." In addition to the proposals that should be familiar about dealing with the crises that reach to the level of survival, a few simple suggestions for the United States have already been mentioned: 1) accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court; 2) sign and carry forward the Kyoto protocols; 3) let the UN take the lead in international crises; 4) rely on diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in confronting terror; 5) keep to the traditional interpretation of the UN Charter; 6) give up the Security Council veto and have "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind," as the Declaration of Independence advises, even if power centers disagree; 7) cut back sharply on military spending and sharply increase social spending. For people who believe in democracy, these are very conservative suggestions: they appear to be the opinions of the majority of the US population, in most cases the overwhelming majority. They are in radical opposition to public policy. To be sure, we cannot be very confident about the state of public opinion on such matters because of another feature of the democratic deficit: the topics scarcely enter into public discussion and the basic facts are little known. In a highly atomized society, the public is therefore largely deprived of the opportunity to form considered opinions.
Another conservative suggestion is that facts, logic, and elementary moral principles should matter. Those who take the trouble to adhere to that suggestion will soon be led to abandon a good part of familiar doctrine, though it is surely much easier to repeat self-serving mantras. Such simple truths carry us some distance toward developing more specific and detailed answers. More important, they open the way to implement them, opportunities that are readily within our grasp if we can free ourselves from the shackles of doctrine and imposed illusion.
Though it is natural for doctrinal systems to seek to induce pessimism, hopelessness, and despair, reality is different. There has been substantial progress in the unending quest for justice and freedom in recent years, leaving a legacy that can be carried forward from a higher plane than before. Opportunities for education and organizing abound. As in the past, rights are not likely to be granted by benevolent authorities, or won by intermittent actions - attending a few demonstrations or pushing a lever in the personalized quadrennial extravaganzas that are depicted as "democratic politics." As always in the past, the tasks require dedicated day-by-day engagement to create - in part recreate - the basis for a functioning democratic culture in which the public plays some role in determining policies, not only in the political arena, from which it is largely excluded, but also in the crucial economic arena, from which it is excluded in principle. There are many ways to promote democracy at home, carrying it to new dimensions. Opportunities are ample, and failure to grasp them is likely to have ominous repercussions: for the country, for the world, and for future generations.
Noam Chomsky, the eminent intellectual and author, is a professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"Over the Hedge" is one of the few comic strips in which you will find debates about the Theory of Relativity, population control and global warming. None of those issues are much discussed in the new animated feature inspired by the strip, but there is a great deal about suburban sprawl, junk food and the popularity of the SUV ("How many people does it hold?" "Usually one.")
The movie opens with the coming of spring and the emergence from hibernation of many forest animals, including some that do not actually hibernate, but never mind. Vincent the bear (voice by Nick Nolte) awakens to find that his entire stash of stolen food has been -- stolen! He apprehends the master thief RJ the raccoon (Bruce Willis) and gives him a deadline to return the food, or else. RJ cleverly mobilizes the entire population of the forest to help him in this task (during which he does not quite explain the bear and the deadline). And together they confront an amazing development: During the winter, half of their forest has been replaced by a suburb, and they are separated from it by a gigantic hedge.
That's the setup for a feature cartoon that is not at the level of "Finding Nemo" or "Shrek," but is a lot of fun, awfully nice to look at, and filled with energy and smiles. It's not a movie adults would probably want to attend on their own, but those taking the kids are likely to be amused, and the kids, I think, will like it just fine.
Once again we get an animal population where all the species work together instead of eating each other, and there is even the possibility of interspecies sex, when a human's house cat falls in love with Stella the skunk (Wanda Sykes). There is also the usual speciesism; mammals and reptiles are first-class citizens, but when a dragonfly gets fried by an insect zapper, not a tear is shed.
These animals once ate leaves and roots and things, but all that has changed since Hammy the squirrel (Steve Carell) discovered nacho chips. The animals find these so delicious, they are the forest equivalent of manna, and RJ, who usurps leadership of the bunch from Verne the turtle (Garry Shandling), is happy to lead them to the promised land of nachos and other junk foods, in the garbage cans and kitchens of humans.
Like all humans who like to live with a view of beautiful forests, the humans in "Over the Hedge" are personally offended that they are occupied by animals. Gladys (Allison Janney), the head of the homeowners' association, is personally affronted that RJ and his cronies might violate her garbage can, and brings in Dwayne (Thomas Haden Church), a pest control expert known ominously as The Verminator. "I want them exterminated as inhumanely as possible," she tells him. She's all heart.
The encroachment of the forest animals and the efforts of the Verminator in "Over the Hedge" don't approach the wit and genius of a similar situation in the Academy Award-winning "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" (2005), but then how could they? This movie is pitched at a different level. But the action scenes are fun, the characters are well-drawn and voiced, and I thought the film's visual look was sort of lovely. If the animals lack the lofty thinking of their originals on the comics page, they are nevertheless a notch or two above the I.Q. levels of many an animated creature.
They have to be. It's a hard life for a forager these days, when you're caught between an angry bear on one side of the hedge and a street hockey game on the other.
Cast & Credits
Featuring the voices of: RJ the raccoon: Bruce Willis Verne the turtle: Garry Shandling Hammy the squirrel: Steve Carell Stella the skunk: Wanda Sykes Ozzie the possum: William Shatner Lou the porcupine: Eugene Levy Vincent the bear: Nick Nolte Dwayne the Verminator: Thomas Haden Church Gladys: Allison Janney Tiger the cat: Omid Djalili Heather: Avril Lavigne Penny the porcupine: Catherine O'Hara
DreamWorks Animation presents a film directed by Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick. Written by Len Blum, Lorne Cameron, David Hoselton and Karey Kirkpatrick. Running time: 87 minutes. Rated PG (for some rude humor and mild comic action).
The European Commission has ordered more tests after scientists warned they may have found so-called "mad cow" disease in sheep.
Experts working at the EU's laboratories in Weybridge, Surrey, have been studying the brains of two sheep from France and one from Cyprus amid concerns that they could contain the first detected cases of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in sheep.
Their initial results are far from conclusive. A report sent to the Commission in Brussels says that some data suggests the samples may not be BSE, but goes on: "There is insufficient evidence to definitively rule out BSE".
The expert panel from Weybridge overseeing the work recommended continued investigations and on Thursday the Commission approved the decision.
EU veterinary experts on Wednesday finally lifted the 10-year ban on British beef exports because of BSE.
But the Commission moved swiftly to reassure the public that there is no new danger, whatever the outcome, of the sheep testing.
A statement said: "BSE has never been found under natural circumstances in sheep. The sheep now being evaluated were detected as part of the EU-wide surveillance programme for TSE strains in small ruminants.
"Whatever the final test findings show, there is no risk to public health as the sheep did not enter the food and feed chain and strict animal health measures are applied to all farmed ruminants".
TSE's are Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies, a family of diseases including BSE in cows, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jackob Disease (CJD) in humans. It was the fear that BSE in cattle could transfer to humans as variant Creutzfeldt-Jackob Disease (vCJD) which triggered the 10-year British beef export ban.
Scrapie has existed for over 200 years in sheep without showing any signs that it can be transmitted to humans. Equally, BSE has never been detected in sheep before, but experts have long considered that BSE in sheep could be a possibility.
One of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s most vociferous critics launched a campaign Tuesday with 17 current and former Wal-Mart workers speaking out against health insurance coverage they claim is too expensive, leaving them uninsured or on taxpayer funded programs.
News conferences by the workers in eight states Tuesday and four more scheduled later this week and next are timed to help a union-backed drive for legislation that would require the world's largest retailer to pay a fixed percentage for health coverage of its 1.3 million U.S. workers.
WakeUpWalMart.com, a group backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, said 10 speakers were current Wal-Mart employees and seven more had quit or been fired.
In workers' stories collected ahead of the news conferences by the group, several current employees talk about being unable to afford premiums and deductibles even after working for Wal-Mart for several years.
Dana Razaie has been a stocker at a Wal-Mart in Fridley, Minn., for about five years. She said she depends on state-funded MinnesotaCare for health coverage for herself and three children.
According to WakeUpWalMart, Razaie's wage of $11.29 an hour at Wal-Mart and a second job at a gas station leave her with take-home pay of less than $20,000 a year. Razaie says she cannot afford Wal-Mart's health insurance plan with $300 monthly premiums and deductibles reaching over $1,000.
Wal-Mart said it is already taking steps to make insurance more affordable. It offers a new plan this year that costs $23 a month and covers three doctor visits and three prescriptions before a deductible of $1,000 kicks in.
It also launched an $11 plan in a limited number of locations but will widen that to be available to half of all employees later this year, as well as shortening the eligibility period for part-timers and adding coverage of their children.
"Our jobs give people the opportunity to move from public health programs to private health coverage," company spokeswoman Sarah Clark said.
Clark said 7 percent of new employees are on Medicaid when they join Wal-Mart, a percentage that drops to 3 percent within two years, and that Wal-Mart created 125,000 jobs last year.
Wal-Mart also offered testimonials from six current employees who praised the company's coverage, including a woman who was a divorced mother of three when she joined in 1998 in Hermiston, Ore.
"Within the first year with Wal-Mart, I no longer needed food stamps and I had medical, dental, and life insurance through Wal-Mart," wrote Heather Baumgartner, now a logistics manager in Grantsville, Utah.
Razaie was due to appear at a news conference Tuesday in Minneapolis. Other workers were to speak Tuesday in Boston; Dallas; Lansing, Mich.; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Tulsa, Okla.; and Syracuse, N.Y. The other five events over the next two weeks are to be held in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New York and Tennessee.
The campaign comes as unions are pushing for bills in several states similar to one passed in a veto override by the Maryland legislature in January.
Maryland's "Fair Share" bill, which has been challenged in federal courts by a national retail association, requires large employers to spend at least 8 percent of payroll in a state for employee health coverage or pay the difference into state coffers for publicly funded programs for the uninsured.
Proponents say similar bills filed in at least 22 states would stop taxpayer subsidies for profitable companies that skimp on health coverage, leaving workers to sign up with state programs.
Opponents including Wal-Mart and many business groups say the bills are bad policy aimed at punishing Wal-Mart and will do nothing to solve the problem of the working uninsured and rising health care costs.
Labor unions are pushing the bills in about 30 states. Maryland is the only state to have passed it, and since then similar bills have been rejected, stalled or withdrawn in at least eight states, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures and Wal-Mart..
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