News Release Archive - 1998

Critics Denounce Exxon-Mobil Merger

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Responding to today’s announcement that Exxon has agreed to purchase Mobil, critics say that the merger of the two oil giants would mean a vast consolidation of economic power and a serious threat to the global environment. The proposed Exxon Mobil Corp. would be the largest energy company in the world.

Among the researchers and policy analysts available for interviews are:

WENONA HAUTER
Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project, said: “We’re talking about putting back together Standard Oil, which was broken up 90 years ago. Consumers are eventually going to pay the price for this since it induces non-competitive behavior. It’s bad public policy. The lax treatment of mergers, with the government just winking at this, empowers such corporate consolidation.”
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JOHN PASSACANTANDO
“I don’t know if Adam Smith said anything about businesses conspiring to do environmental damage,” said Passacantando, executive director of Ozone Action. “But putting Exxon and Mobil together creates the Death Star of global warming.”
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FR. MICHAEL CROSBY
Crosby is coordinator for Campaign Exxon, a new group of church-based Exxon shareholders and environmental organizations concerned about the oil company’s approach to global warming. “Economically, they may think this marriage is made in heaven,” he said. “Ecologically, we think this marriage is bad for the heavens as well as the Earth. These two have done much to undermine national and international efforts to lessen global warming. To have them come together is only going to make matters worse.”

MARC BRESLOW
Co-Editor of Dollars and Sense magazine, Breslow recently authored an article titled “I Want My Ford Explorer! But Can the World Survive Cheap Gas?” On Tuesday, Breslow said: “Wall Street is hailing this merger as another step towards greater efficiency, but that efficiency in getting oil out of the ground cheaply today will have disastrous results both for oil supplies in the long run and for the environment. There have been many false scares over time about whether there will be shortages of oil, and the last 20 years have made people overconfident that there’s plenty of oil around. But it appears that both the oil companies and the oil-producing countries are myopic. They’re producing at a fast pace now, even though it’s not sustainable…. The likely result, unlike previous scares, is that we really are going to face shortages relative to demand in another decade.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.

Available for Timely Interviews This Week

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About IMPEACHMENT:
ROBERT PARRY
A former Newsweek correspondent and the current editor of I.F. magazine, Parry has been examining the Clinton scandals, the Starr investigation and the way the special prosecutor system has evolved.
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About IRAQ:
BISHOP THOMAS GUMBLETON
A Catholic Bishop from Detroit who has been to Iraq and will be going again next month, Gumbleton has opposed U.S. militaryaction against Iraq and the U.S./U.N. economic sanctions on Iraq.
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PHYLLIS BENNIS
A fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today’s U.N., Bennis has just returned from Europe.
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About SOCIAL SECURITY:
EDIE RASELL
Rasell is the author of Social Security Isn’t Broken, Why Does Wall Street Want to Fix It?

DEAN BAKER
Also from the Economic Policy Institute, Baker is author of Saving Social Security in Three Steps.
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About SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS:
FR. ROY BOURGEOIS or REV. CAROL RICHARDSON
In Columbus, Georgia this past weekend, about 2,300 people from all 50 states crossed onto the grounds of the School of the Americas, risking arrest and calling for closure of the school that has instructed men who became torturers and dictators. Another 5,000 protesters chanted the names of the victims of SOA graduates. Bourgeois and Richardson are co-directors of SOA Watch. Among the protestors was actor Martin Sheen. Early this year, Congress nearly cut off funding to SOA.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 332-5055, or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.

Health Activists Blast Proposed Tobacco Settlement, Denounce Failure to Deal With Expansion Overseas

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WASHINGTON — While attorneys general from some states are touting a tentative deal with the tobacco industry, opponents say that one of the biggest problems with the proposed settlement is that it completely ignores the international operations of cigarette companies.

Among the tobacco foes available for interviews are:

ROSS HAMMOND
Hammond, an economist and author of a new report on the international tobacco industry, said: “Big Tobacco has gone global to make up for declining sales in the United States. These companies now sell more cigarettes abroad than they do in the United States. Largely because of this overseas expansion, the United Nations predicts that the number of people dying each year from tobacco-related disease will rise from the current 3.5 million to 10 million by the year 2025 — or one hundred million people over the next 30 years. How could the attorneys general possibly ignore these facts?”

KAREN LICAVOLI
Licavoli, associate executive director of the American Lung Association of San Francisco, said that the tobacco industry “must take responsibility for the death and disease it is causing overseas. It is irresponsible of the attorneys general to let Big Tobacco off the hook. Any settlement must protect public health both in the United States and abroad.”

ROBERT WEISSMAN
Weissman, co-director of Essential Action, a D.C.-based corporate accountability group affiliated with Ralph Nader, said: “Big Tobacco’s goal with the state settlement is to calm things at home so it can expand massively abroad. Because the state attorneys general have the option of continuing to prosecute their cases on a state-by-state basis, any all-at-once attorneys general settlement must be held to the highest standard. Any settlement that fails to include provisions to promote international tobacco control falls far short of that standard.”

For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Iraq Analysts Available

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JOHN QUIGLEY
Professor of Law, Ohio State University. Specialist in the Mideast and in international law. “There is no basis in any Security Council resolution for unilateral military action by the U.S.”

BARBARA LUBIN
Executive director, Middle East Children’s Alliance
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JEFF GUNTZEL
Traveled recently to Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness, delivering medicine in open violation of the sanctions. Another delegation now on its way to Iraq is reachable via above number.
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RANIA MASRI
Coordinator, Iraq Action Coalition

GORDON CLARK
Executive Director, PeaceAction
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EDMUND GHAREEB
Co-author of War in the Gulf 1990-91: The Iraq-Kuwait Conflict and Its Implications

LAURIE KING-IRANI
Editor, Middle East Report

HUSSEIN IBISH
Media director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
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ERIK GUSTAFSON
Formerly an American soldier in the Gulf with 864th Engineer Battalion, Gustafson is now executive director of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.

DR. PETER PELLETT
Professor of Nutrition at University of Massachusetts and a team leader for several Food and Agricultural Organization missions, Dr. Pellett is an expert on the sanctions.
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RICHARD GARFIELD
Professor of clinical international nursing at Columbia University; chairperson of the human rights committee of the American Public Health Association. Garfield has studied the effects of the sanctions on Iraq. He is leading a forum with “oil-for-food” U.N. workers on Monday.

Timeline of the crisis

For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Iraq Sanctions: What’s the Policy?

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Whether the United States bombs Iraq or not, there are reports that the U.S. is changing its policy to a more sanctions-based approach. While many are claiming that Iraq would be rid of the sanctions if it complied with the weapons inspections, an examination of U.S. policymakers’ statements since the Gulf War suggests otherwise:

  • April 3, 1991: U.N. Security Council passes Resolution 687. It includes many demands but states that once Iraq complies with the weapons inspection regime, the sanctions “shall have no further force or effect.”
  • May 20, 1991: James Baker, Secretary of State: “We are not interested in seeing a relaxation of sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.”
  • January 13, 1993: Incoming President Clinton: “If he [Hussein] wants a different relationship with the United States and the United Nations, all he has to do is change his behavior.”
  • January 14, 1993: Clinton backtracks: “There is no difference between my policy and the policy of the present Administration…. I have no intention of normalizing relations with him.”
  • January 12, 1995: While inspections were taking place, Ambassador Madeleine Albright said the U.S. was “determined to oppose any modification of the sanctions regime until Iraq has moved to comply with all its outstanding obligations.” She specifically cited the return of Kuwaiti weaponry and non-military equipment.
  • March 26, 1997: Albright, in her first major foreign policy address as Secretary of State: “We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted. Our view, which is unshakable, is that Iraq must prove its peaceful intentions…. And the evidence is overwhelming that Saddam Hussein’s intentions will never be peaceful.”
  • November 14, 1997: Clinton: [When Iraq broke the inspections regime] “What he has just done is to ensure that the sanctions will be there until the end of time or as long as he lasts.”
  • November 14, 1997: National Security Adviser Sandy Berger: “He can’t be in compliance if he’s thrown the UNSCOM people out. So it’s a necessary condition. It may not be a sufficient condition.”
  • December 16, 1997: Clinton on Hussein’s actions: “I think that he felt probably that the United States would never vote to lift the sanctions on him no matter what he did…”
  • August 20, 1997: Ambassador Bill Richardson: “Sanctions may stay on in perpetuity.”
  • September 15, 1998: Martin Indyk, Assistant Secretary of State, claims “the Security Council resolutions provide in very specific terms for the lifting of sanctions when Iraq has fully complied with all the Security Council resolutions.”
  • November 10, 1998: State Department spokesperson James Rubin states that sanctions will not be altered until after Iraq complies with U.N. resolutions “…including on Kuwaiti prisoners, Kuwaiti equipment, and, in short, demonstrating his peaceful intentions…” Later, Rubin states: “The Security Council has set out a very simple path to resolve this situation. And all it requires is him doing what he agreed to do, cooperating with UNSCOM…”

Experts available on the current Iraq crisis and the sanctions:

BARBARA LUBIN
Executive director, Middle East Children’s Alliance
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EDMUND GHAREEB
Ghareeb is co-author of War in the Gulf 1990-91: The Iraq-Kuwait Conflict and its Implications (Oxford University Press, 1997)

LAURIE KING-IRANI
Editor, Middle East Report
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HUSSEIN IBISH
Media director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
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DR. PETER PELLETT
Professor of Nutrition at University of Massachusetts; team leader for several Food and Agricultural Organization missions.
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RICHARD GARFIELD
Professor of clinical international nursing at Columbia University; chairperson of the human rights committee of the American Public Health Association. He has studied the effects of the sanctions on Iraq.

Iraq timeline

For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Environmentalists Urge Clinton to Live Up to Rhetoric

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With the Earth’s climate on the table as delegates from more than 160 nations gather in Buenos Aires for a global climate summit, some U.S. specialists are voicing concern that the White House is not honoring its promises. Among those available for comment:

ROSS GELBSPAN
Gelbspan, author of The Heat Is On: The Climate Crisis, the Cover-Up, the Prescription, just returned from the summit. “While the talks in Buenos Aires move at a snail’s pace, the warming-driven instability of the climate is gathering a fearful momentum,” he said. “From January’s ice storm, through the fires in Brazil, Mexico and Florida, killer heat waves in Texas, the Middle East and India, and the record flooding in Bangladesh, China and Central America, the message of the global climate system is: ‘Look out the window. Time’s up.'”
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DAPHNE WYSHAM
Coordinator of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, Wysham said: “Organizations like the World Bank are investing in fossil fuels in developing countries, laying the foundation for continued reliance on fossil fuels. The Bank is now proposing to help ‘jump start’ the market in carbon emissions trading. Although earmarked for sustainable development and poverty relief, nine out of ten World Bank fossil fuel projects benefit transnational corporations based in the wealthy countries — many of which are members of the Global Climate Coalition that actively opposes any action on climate change.”
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JOHN PASSACANTANDO
Executive director of Ozone Action, Passacantando said: “Only the Clinton administration could get expectations so low that when they finally sign a weak agreement, people mistake it for leadership. So far, the United States has not lived up to its responsibility as the world’s leading emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. In order to leave the children of the world a safe and healthy environment, and protect threatened species, it is time for the U.S. to lead by example. When the Clinton administration stops grinning about the election results, they should take heed of their own rhetoric on the environment.”
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JOSHUA KARLINER
Karliner, executive director of the Transnational Resource & Action Center, commented: “The big oil, coal, utility and auto companies are not only responsible for a great deal of the global greenhouse emissions, but they have sunk millions into an advertising campaign which attempts to cast blame on developing countries — nations whose contributions to the climate problem often pale when compared with their own.”
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For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Victories for Campaign Finance Reform in Two States Likely to Inspire Grassroots Efforts Nationwide

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Statewide ballot measures for campaign finance reform won approval Tuesday in Arizona and Massachusetts. Activists say those victories will inspire a groundswell of efforts around the country to clean up the elections process at the grassroots.

“This sends a message nationwide,” said Kaia Lenhart, political director of Arizonans for Clean Elections. “There’s no doubt about it.”

While Arizona voters were narrowly approving a campaign- reform provision Tuesday, voters in Massachusetts were passing a similar measure by a wide margin.

Leaders of both campaigns are available for interviews:

KAIA LENHART
The political director of Arizonans for Clean Elections, Lenhart said: “We received remarkable support for the clean elections initiative here in Arizona. Legislation to clean up campaign financing never got out of committee in the legislature, so people got the signatures to put it on the ballot and we survived several legal challenges.” Lenhart added: “This is a comprehensive model of public campaign financing which is voluntary. If a candidate agrees, there’s an absolute cap on spending; to receive money from the clean elections fund, the candidates have to demonstrate broad public support by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people. The clean elections fund is financed from a 10 percent surcharge on civil and criminal penalties, an increase in the fee levied on lobbyists, and a voluntary tax checkoff.”
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DAVID DONNELLY
The campaign manager for Mass Voters for Clean Elections, Donnelly commented: “Voters overwhelmingly said no to a special- interest-driven system, and yes to Question 2 and clean elections. They said that they want special-interest money out of politics and they want good people to be able to run for office without relying on big money.”
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For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan (541) 484-9167

Election Issues That Weren’t

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As the 1998 campaign nears its end, some observers contend that key realities of American society have remained out of focus. Several policy analysts are available for interviews on subjects they say have gone largely overlooked during this campaign season:

JOHN C. BERG
Director of Graduate Studies at the Government Department of Suffolk University, Berg said: “This election day, many voters will find no real choice on their ballots. Candidates not acceptable to big business have already been eliminated in the ‘wealth primary’ — the scramble to raise enough money to run a campaign. But change is coming. Congress failed to act on campaign finance reform this year, but the clean elections movement is going directly to the voters through ballot questions. Maine and Vermont have already adopted ‘clean elections’ laws to get big money out of politics. Now voters in Massachusetts and Arizona will have a chance on election day to override their legislatures and pass reform laws directly.”

ANDREA DURBIN
Director of the International Program at Friends of the Earth, Durbin said: “While the world’s economy is on a downturn, candidates are not addressing the underlying causes of this meltdown. The international financial institutions failed to maintain economic stability, increased income disparities and impoverished communities. It’s crucial for international trade policies to address environmental and social needs. The U.S. has tremendous influence in shaping trade policy. The U.S. is promoting an anti-environment agenda through institutions like the World Trade Organization and that can lead to the unraveling of domestic environmental regulations.”
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LARRY AGRAN
Executive Director of City Vote and former Mayor of Irvine, California, Agran said: “Where is the discussion of child poverty in America? At a time when the president and others are claiming daily that this is the best economy in a generation, why aren’t responsible political leaders addressing the scandal of child poverty in America? There are over 13 million children officially regarded as poor — inadequate food, shelter, clothing, the essentials of what we call a decent standard of living.”

FRAN TEPLITZ
Policy Director at the PeaceAction Education Fund, Teplitz commented: “Most candidates have avoided making military spending an election-year issue. Congress just passed an extra $8.3 billion give-away to the military…. The new budget deal contains the largest peacetime increase in military spending since Reagan’s presidency. Pentagon pork goes untouched while social services are slashed.”
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For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan (541) 484-9167

Social Security: Economists Call for Realism

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Three economists issued statements Friday warning against unrealistic scenarios for privatizing Social Security. The researchers took aim at a new book put out this week by the Cato Institute (Common Cents, Common Dreams) which argues for privatization. They are available for interviews on Social Security policy options.

RICHARD Du BOFF
Professor of Economics at Bryn Mawr College, Du Boff commented: “If no changes are made in the structure of Social Security taxes and benefits, the system will still be able to pay 75 percent of Social Security retirement benefits due in the year 2032. This potential gap can be closed by small adjustments in taxes and benefits phased in over the next 34 years. And this scenario is based on the pessimistic assumption that U.S. economic growth over the next 75 years will be less than half of our historical rate of 3 percent per year. A ready solution to the Social Security financing problem is at hand: taking the cap off earned income subject to FICA taxes. Currently, FICA taxes of 6.2 percent are applied to earned incomes up to $68,400 — meaning, for example, that Bill Gates probably stops paying FICA taxes sometime during the first week of January. Extending the tax to all incomes without limit would do the trick.”

DIANA ZUCKERMAN
Zuckerman, co-author of a study titled “The Impact of Social Security Reform on Women,” said that Cato touts “a drastically changed Social Security system consisting of private accounts that are too good to be true. And they are. The report focuses on the strengths of the private system it describes, and ignores all the problems. Cato says almost nothing about the insurance that Social Security currently provides to those with the greatest need, the lowest income workers, divorced women who were formerly full-time homemakers, and individuals who are mentally or physically disabled. If everyone gets a personal account based on their earnings, some will not have any accounts, and some will run out of money years before they die.”
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DEAN BAKER
An economist with the Economic Policy Institute, Baker said: “Cato should be credited for using the word ‘dreams’ in describing their privatized Social Security system. They have the country switching to a privatized system with no transition taxes whatsoever. In fact, such costs will be substantial. Second, their system would have administrative costs. The administrative costs in their model, the Chilean system, have been approximately 15 percent of annual contribution. If the same cost ratio were applied to a privatized U.S. Social Security system, it would mean that workers would waste more than $50 billion a year lining the pockets of Wall Street financial houses. By comparison, the current system costs less than $3 billion a year to administer.”
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For more information, contact Sam Husseini at the Institute for Public Accuracy; (202) 347-0020.

Pinochet Arrest Raises New Questions in Washington

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WASHINGTON — The arrest of former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet has focused new attention on the record of his regime, which remained in power for 17 years after the 1973 coup that toppled Chile’s democratically elected government. Some pointed questions are being raised about the Washington-based Cato Institute’s current embrace of Jose Pinera, who was Chile’s Minister of Labor and Social Security from 1978 to 1980 and is now co-chair of the prominent think tank’s Project on Social Security Privatization.

“Pinera was the Pinochet dictatorship’s labor minister at a time when the country’s trade union movement was suffering one of its worst periods of repression,” said Larry Birns, a former senior public affairs officer for the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America in Santiago, Chile. Birns recalled that “workers were seeing the dismantling of their rights.”

Birns added: “Pinera was a vital cog in the Pinochet dictatorship’s ability to implement a draconian labor code. It is simply outrageous for the Cato Institute to have him as co-chair of its Social Security privatization effort. This is an example of crime without punishment and reflects the conservative organization’s contempt for the suffering imposed on Chile’s population during the Pinochet era.”

The London Sunday Times yesterday cited documentation that 3,197 people “were murdered for political reasons” by Pinochet’s regime “and more than 1,000 are still unaccounted for. Tens of thousands were imprisoned or exiled, but often Pinochet’s assassins would follow them.”

For further background on Pinera and his role in the Pinochet dictatorship, please contact:

LARRY BIRNS
Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs based in Washington, D.C.
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JOSE PINERA
Co-Chair of the Project on Social Security Privatization, the Cato Institute, Washington, D.C.

For perspectives on Pinochet’s regime and human rights in Chile, please contact:

KATHLEEN VICKERY
A longtime researcher on politics and human rights in Chile, where she lived from 1989 to 1995.

CLAUDIO DURAN
A former political prisoner in Chile during the Pinochet regime and currently a Ph.D candidate at Stanford University.

GLORIA LOYOLA BLACK
A Chilean living in the U.S. who worked for the Organization of American States for 18 years.

For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167