News Release Archive - 1998

Assessing Some Key Trends of 1998

Two of the most important trends during the past year seem certain to have major impacts in 1999 and beyond — the momentum of “merger mania” and the unraveling of America’s safety net. Experts critical of these developments can be contacted directly by editors, reporters and producers:

** Merger Mania **
ROBERT WEISSMAN
Co-director of Essential Action, a Ralph Nader-founded corporate accountability group, Weissman points out that “1998 has witnessed an unprecedented merger spree.” He adds: “Exxon plans to gobble Mobil for nearly $80 billion. BP is taking over Amoco for $58 billion. In telecommunications, Bell Atlantic and GTE plan to combine in a $70 billion-plus deal, SBC (Southern Bell) is buying Ameritech for nearly $70 billion, WorldCom acquired MCI for $37 billion and AT&T is merging with TCI in a $33 billion deal. Merger mania in financial services manifested itself in the form of the NationsBank-BankAmerica merger ($42 billion), the Citicorp-Travelers Group marriage ($37 billion, even though existing law does not permit such a merger), a Wells Fargo-Norwest deal ($32 billion) and many others. While these mergers may be good for Wall Street, they are a bad deal for everyone else. They mean less competition, higher prices, corporate downsizing, less consumer choice and concentrated economic power that gives rise to a dangerous concentration of political power.”
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** Unraveling of the Safety Net **
FRANCES FOX PIVEN
Piven is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the graduate school of the City University of New York. Her books include “The Breaking of the American Social Compact.” She comments: “In 1998, many of the poorest Americans did worse, as the safety net created during the New Deal continued to unravel. The new welfare law gives the states a lump sum, no matter the number of people they aid, creating a financial incentive for the states to slash the rolls. This they are doing by simply `diverting’ or denying applicants, or dropping families from the rolls for transgressing one or another of a tangle of new rules. Early reports on what has happened to the families dropped from the rolls are ominous… Whether they actually find work or not, the policy of pushing hundreds of thousands of desperate mothers into the search for work is certain to drive down wages at the bottom of the labor market where wage recovery has just begun.”

For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; Norman Solomon, (415) 552-5378

Role of Former High Official in Pinochet Dictatorship Is Now Subject of Pointed Questions in United States

WASHINGTON — While former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet continues to face the possibility of prosecution in Spain for human-rights abuses, a former high official in his regime is the subject of growing controversy in Washington.

An article published Tuesday (Dec. 22) in Investor’s Business Daily condemns Jose Pinera’s role in Chile and raises questions about his current relationship with the Cato Institute, a prominent Washington think tank.

“It strains credulity why top officials at that well-heeled organization have continued to embrace” Pinera, says the newspaper article, which was written by the directors of two U.S. organizations, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Pinera, currently co-chair of the Cato Institute’s Project on Social Security Privatization, was Chile’s Minister of Labor and Social Security from 1978 to 1980.

Noting that today “Pinera is a Cato luminary,” the article says that while he worked as a top official in the Chilean dictatorship, “Chile was under Pinochet’s boot, with the legislature having been shuttered and laws made by decree.” Human-rights groups have documented that the Pinochet regime engaged in widespread political imprisonments, torture and murder. “The fact that Cato even hired Pinera is a puzzlement,” the article comments, given that “at the heart of its ideological prattle are heated professions against intrusive government, the definition of which presumably doesn’t include torture.”

After the 1973 coup, which overthrew a democratically elected government, Chile privatized its pension system. In recent years, officials at the Cato Institute and other advocates of privatizing Social Security in the United States have cited Chile as a model.

For more information:

LARRY BIRNS
Council on Hemispheric Affairs

NORMAN SOLOMON
Executive Director, Institute for Public Accuracy

Contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

Rule of Law and the Bombing of Iraq

In a little-noticed speech on the House floor last Thursday, Rep. David Skaggs (D-Colo.) said: “President Clinton acted in violation of the Constitution in ordering these attacks without authority of Congress.” Among the legal scholars available for comment are:

MICHAEL RATNER
Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City

FRANCIS BOYLE
Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois College of Law at Champaign

RICHARD FALK
Professor of International Law at Princeton University

JULES LOBEL
Professor of Constitutional and International Law at the University of Pittsburgh

Relevant legal citations:

U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have power to…declare war…”

The War Powers Resolution, 50 U.S.C.A. Sections 1541-1548. Section 2(c): “The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”

U.N. Charter, Chapter I, Article 2: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

U.N. Charter, Chapter VII, Article 51: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

Perspectives on Bombing and Impeachment

DENIS HALLIDAY
The former head of the U.N.’s “oil-for-food” program, Halliday told the Institute for Public Accuracy on Friday afternoon: “The military strikes constitute a futile and short-run irrational action of desperate men.”
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GWENDOLYN MINK
A professor of politics at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Mink said: “If there is a right-wing conspiracy, Bill Clinton must be calling the shots. He’s turned feminists into defense attorneys for alleged sexual harassers. He’s turned people of color into defenders of a president whose crime and welfare policies hurt us. Now, he’s turned Democrats who have been cautious about war into supporters of unilateral bombings in the dead of night while children are sleeping.”
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JULES LOBEL
Professor of Constitutional and International Law at the University of Pittsburgh, Lobel said: “If the Republican majority were really worried about the rule of law, they would be asking why Clinton bombed Iraq without congressional and Security Council approval, as required by the Constitution and the U.N. Charter.”

BARBARA EHRENREICH
Author of the acclaimed “Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War,” Ehrenreich asks: “Why do people suspend their normal rational judgment when the shooting starts?”

BARBARA LUBIN
Lubin, executive director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, said: “Our elected officials miss the point. There is a reason to impeach Bill Clinton and that’s for high crimes — the killing of innocent women and children in Iraq as we speak.”
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JEFF GUNTZEL
Guntzel traveled recently to Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness, a group opposing sanctions.
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HOWARD ZINN
The noted author of “A People’s History of the United States” said: “We’re impeaching Clinton for lying about his sex life. He’s told more important lies about why we’re bombing Iraq.”
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GORDON CLARK
Clark is executive director of PeaceAction, which is coordinating a national day of mourning and protests on Saturday.
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LAURIE KING-IRANI
Editor, Middle East Report
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For a time-line of U.S. statements about the sanctions on Iraq, see: www.accuracy.org/iraq

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

Iraq Bombing: Interviews Available

BISHOP THOMAS GUMBLETON
A Catholic Bishop from Detroit, Gumbleton has just returned from Iraq.
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ERIK GUSTAFSON
A U.S. soldier during the Gulf War and now the executive director of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, Gustafson said: “The people of Iraq are not their government. Dictators are answerable to no one. And yet, it is the blood of innocent Iraqi civilians that has already begun to flow.”

KATHY BERGEN
A specialist on the Middle East for the American Friends Service Committee, Bergen said: “On the eve of momentous religious holidays for all three Abrahamic faiths, the U.S. has taken actions that could, by the Clinton Administration’s own admission, result in the deaths of 10,000 Iraqi civilians, even in a `medium case scenario.’ (Washington Post, Nov. 16)”
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RANIA MASRI
Coordinator of the Iraq Action Coalition, Masri noted: “Bill Clinton last night claimed that without the sanctions, there would be `less food for [the Iraqi] people.’ In fact, the sanctions have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.”

JON STRANGE
At the historic “town hall” meeting in Columbus, Ohio, last February, Strange asked Secretary of State Albright about double standards. She publicly promised that she would explain U.S. policy to him for “50 minutes” — but to this day has declined to do so. Strange said: “The administration bombed without any public debate.”

JOHN QUIGLEY
Professor of Law at Ohio State University, Quigley said: “The U.S. bombing campaign against Iraq is a grave violation of the U.N. Charter.”

HUSSEIN IBISH
The media director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Hussein said: “Contrary to U.S. official claims, Arab governments have not backed these bombings. They know Iraq is not a military threat to the region and the Iraqi people have suffered enough.”
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PHYLLIS BENNIS
Author of “Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today’s U.N.,” Bennis said: “For the U.S. to bomb without even the appearance of Security Council discussion is unacceptable. Richard Butler made the decision to evacuate U.N. inspectors without consulting the Security Council or the Secretary General. The U.S. wants the U.N. out of the way.” More Information

For a Washington Post profile of Denis Halliday, who recently resigned as the head of the U.N.’s “oil-for-food” program, see: http://search.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1998-12/17/226l-1 21798-idx.html

For a time-line of U.S. statements about the sanctions on Iraq, see: www.accuracy.org/iraq

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020.

Iraq and Impeachment: Interviews Available

MICHAEL RATNER
An attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Ratner is author of a forthcoming American Journal of International Law article titled “Bypassing the Security Council: Use of Force and the Iraqi Inspection Regime.” On Wednesday afternoon, Ratner said: “Clinton’s repeated attacks on Iraq and his bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan are impeachable. They violate the Constitution, which gives Congress the power to declare war, and the War Powers Resolution. Also, the U.N. Security Council has not given any authority to bomb Iraq for allegedly violating the inspection regime. A bombing would violate our Constitution — only Congress can declare war. Clinton’s attacks on Iraq are a subversion of our Constitution, our structure of government and treaty obligations.”

FRANCIS BOYLE
Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign, Illinois, Boyle said: “The incentive is to start bombing and continue until January 6th, when the new Congress convenes and the resolution of the House Judiciary Committee dies. The new Congress would have to start impeachment proceedings all over again…. The war powers clause of the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, expressly requires authorization by Congress before the President can engage in acts of war, unless there is a direct attack upon the United States. Clinton has also violated the War Powers Resolution of 1973 that was enacted by Congress over President Nixon’s veto in order to prevent a repetition of the Vietnam War scenario, where Americans were misled by repeated presidential lies, misrepresentations, deceits and falsehoods at every step of the way.”

SIMONA SHARONI
Professor of Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University, Sharoni said: “Strategically, it is doubtful that bombing would get rid of Saddam Hussein or make him comply with UNSCOM. In fact, it could end UNSCOM’s role. One cannot help but be sickened by the prospect of a miliary attack on the eve of Clinton’s impeachment and in the midst of the holiday season.”

STEPHEN ZUNES
Zunes is chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. “No member state of the United Nations can unilaterally enforce a Security Council resolution without expressed approval by the Security Council,” he said. “The U.S. had such authorization in 1991 regarding the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait — but it has no such mandate now.” Zunes added: “If the U.S. could unilaterally attack Iraq for its violations of a U.N. Security Council resolution, then Russia could unilaterally bomb Israel for its many violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020.

Other Voices on Impeachment

ALAN HIRSCH
The author of For the People: What The Constitution Really Says About Your Rights, Hirsch has just written A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment. Says Hirsch: “The guide is not intended to make the case for or against impeachment, but to help people follow and understand the process. It also discusses a range of scenarios. For example: Can a subsequent House rescind articles of impeachment adopted by a previous House? May the Senate convict the President but decide not to remove him from office? Can the Senate convict on grounds not stated in the House’s articles of impeachment?”

STANLEY KUTLER
Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, editor of Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes and author of The Wars of Watergate, Kutler said: “There is a lot of talk about the law of impeachment. There is no law of impeachment, there is a history of impeachment, it’s a rich history. What’s clear is that this affair in no way measures up to the impeachment proceedings of Richard Nixon, Andrew Johnson and Samuel Chase.”

KIT GAGE
The national coordinator for the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, Gage said: “Any time someone faces accusations using evidence they can’t see, it threatens the justice system. However, having Clinton face this is ironic since his administration pushed the use of secret evidence in deporting people for political reasons. There are people currently in jail who are denied bond because of secret evidence.”

RICHARD FALK
Professor of International Law at Princeton University and author of Law in an Emerging Global Village, Falk said: “A curse on both their Houses. The case that is being made for impeachment is essentially undermining democratic legitimacy and has a strong vindictive and puritanical dimension to it. But the way Clinton has manipulated foreign policy initiatives, particularly in the bombing of the pharmaceutical facility in the Sudan and maintaining the sanctions on Iraq with the knowledge that they are killing thousands of civilians each month, makes him guilty of crimes against humanity. So it’s difficult to muster much sympathy for him or for his presidency which has been responsible for carrying out these policies.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020.

Available for Comment on Pinochet Decision

JOYCE HORMAN
Horman is the widow of American Charles Horman, whose execution by Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s forces in the days after the 1973 coup was the subject of the film “Missing,” starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. Ms. Horman has continued to pursue the case legally.

MICHAEL RATNER
An attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing the Horman family, Ratner said: “This is a watershed victory for human rights and for the people of Chile. We should now examine the role of the CIA in Pinochet’s crimes. Everyone, including world leaders, whether in the U.S. or other countries, should be held to the same standards of law.”

ISABEL LETELIER
Isabel Letelier is the widow of Orlando Letelier, Chile’s former Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United States. He was assassinated along with Ronni Moffitt by Chilean secret police in 1976 when a bomb went off in their car just blocks from the White House. Said Letelier: “General Pinochet must be held accountable for his crimes.” She is in Washington, D.C., for one week only. Interviews can be arranged through the Institute for Policy Studies.

SAUL LANDAU
Landau is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of the book Assassination on Embassy Row, an investigation of the Letelier-Moffitt murders. Landau says that the U.S. government has classified documents related to Pinochet’s participation in several international terrorist acts that it has yet to turn over to the Spanish judge investigating the Pinochet case. Said Landau: “Now we shall see whether or not President Clinton will reinforce his words about combating international terrorism with deeds.”
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LARRY BIRNS
The director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Birns said: “The British Home Secretary Jack Straw’s decision takes international law into the next millennium. It also represents a slap in the face to Chile’s ruling coalition government, which put out a line that few believed: that if Pinochet was returned to Chile he would have to stand trial there. The whole event helped strip some ill-deserved positive PR from Chile as Latin America’s ‘economic miracle.’ In fact, Chile has one of the most concentrated systems of national wealth in all of Latin America, with one-third of the population living below the poverty line. The only negative factor involved in what otherwise is good news for the rule of law and accountability is that the U.S. State Department almost sat out the entire debate, a fact which was noted worldwide.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.

Three Perspectives on Impeachment Uproar

GWENDOLYN MINK
“The president and his defenders cry ‘sexual McCarthyism’ as a defense against charges that he perjured himself in a sexual harassment case. These appeals to sexual privacy are both damaging to women and hypocritical,” says Mink, a professor of politics at the University of California at Santa Cruz and author of Welfare’s End. She adds: “‘Privacy’ is precisely the mantra that has been used against women to keep our issues — from harassment to incest to domestic violence — out of the purview of justice. We all cherish our privacy; but we also know that privacy does not give anyone carte blanche to thwart civil rights proceedings or to undermine the rule of law… While this president cloaks himself in privacy, he is not willing to share that cloak with women whose privacy is invaded every day. In the welfare reform he initiated and signed into law, the president rolled back the privacy rights of women who find themselves in need of economic assistance. The welfare law compels mothers to answer the government’s questions about their sex lives. Poor unmarried mothers must tell judges or welfare officials the names of the men they have slept with if the paternity of their child has not been established. In judicial proceedings they also have had to tell how often, where and when. If they refuse, they can be denied food stamps or Medicaid or welfare. But where are the defenders of their privacy? Don’t their rights count?”

HOWARD ZINN
A noted historian and author of A People’s History of the United States, Zinn points to acts by Clinton “far more serious than his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky or his lies to Kenneth Starr.” Zinn notes that “in 1993, Clinton bombed Iraq alleging a plan to assassinate former President Bush. The evidence was dubious and the bombs killed at least six people.” Similarly, “the day that Lewinsky testified before the grand jury, Clinton bombed Afghanistan and the Sudan, claiming without providing evidence that the Sudan target was making nerve gas.”
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ROBERT PARRY
The editor of I.F. magazine and a former Newsweek correspondent, Parry has been examining the Clinton scandals, the Starr investigation and the way the special prosecutor system has evolved. “Starr might be in as much of a perjury-obstruction pickle as Clinton,” Parry said. “Arguably, Starr’s testimony to the House contained the basis for felony indictments on at least two significant points: how his prosecutors handled Lewinsky on Jan. 16 and whether Starr’s office leaked secret grand jury material.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Analysis of Clash Between IMF and World Bank

A new report by the World Bank is sparking controversy because of its criticism of the IMF’s policies related to the Asian economic crisis. Among those available for comment are:

ROBERT NAIMAN
A research associate at the Preamble Center who specializes in assessing the impacts of economic globalization, Naiman said: “The good news is that the World Bank admits that punishingly high interest rates have destroyed these economies and that nations need controls on capital flows. The bad news is that it still funds IMF bailout packages that impose impossibly harsh austerity conditions on developing countries.”
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CATHERINE CAUFIELD
The author of Masters of Illusion: The World Bank and the Poverty of Nations, Caufield said: “It’s outrageous that the World Bank should criticize the IMF and the U.S. without acknowledging that it pursued the same policy of deregulating financial markets that led to the present instability. The Bank has been trying to distance itself from the IMF, but the fact is that it has pursued the same flawed policies since the 1980s.”
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JEFFREY WINTERS
Winters is a professor of political economy at Northwestern University who has written widely on Southeast Asia. “The World Bank’s years of tolerating corruption contributed as much to the current Asian crisis as the more proximate policies of the IMF,” said Winters, who is author of “Power in Motion: Capital Mobility and the Indonesian State.” “Over the course of the Suharto regime, for example, the Bank loaned roughly $30 billion to Indonesia, knowing that roughly a third — by the Bank’s own admission — was being systematically stolen.”

NJOKI NHOROGE NJEHU
Director of the 50 Years Is Enough Network, Njehu said: “People have been suffering from the IMF/World Bank policies for over 20 years, not just the last year in Asia. What is different is that some bankers and investors lost money this time — though they benefitted from the bailouts, while poor and working people were excluded.”
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CAROL WELCH
The international policy analyst for Friends of the Earth, Welch recently authored a paper titled “IMF and Good Governance.” Welch comments: “It’s refreshing to have the World Bank finally criticizing the austerity programs of the IMF…. The report demonstrates the need to rein in rampant speculative capital. They should have ‘speed bumps’ for capital outflows.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.