News Release Archive - 1999

Y2K Dangers?

MARY BETH BRANGAN
Brangan is U.S. co-coordinator for the World Atomic Safety Holiday Campaign, an international network of 50 groups. She said: “It’s absurd that while major oil pipelines are being shut down as a precaution, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is relaxing normal safety rules in order to keep the reactors running during the rollover.”
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LLOYD J. DUMAS
Author of “Lethal Arrogance: Human Fallibility and Dangerous Technologies” and professor of political economy at the University of Texas at Dallas, Dumas can assess potential Y2K technical problems as well as the millennial activities of religious cults.

EDWARD S. HERMAN
Co-author of “The Real Terror Network” and “The ‘Terrorism’ Industry,” Herman said: “Although the terrorism threat is being hugely inflated and its prospective casualties are hardly likely to reach the level of holiday traffic deaths in California alone, it makes dramatic copy. The government likes it because its warnings show how caring the government is, besides which the ‘threat’ helps justify the enormous military-intelligence budget that both major parties support. There is a terrorist threat, probably more domestic-based than foreign, but the media are not interested in why such threats exist and the domestic and foreign policy roots of terrorism. For them, it is irrational and exciting.”

SIMONA SHARONI
Visiting scholar at the University of Washington’s Center for International Studies in Seattle, Sharoni said: “How can we celebrate the new millennium without an enemy? In many ways the Algerian man who tried to cross into the U.S. from Canada allegedly carrying bomb-making materials may have given the U.S. foreign policy establishment a present they seem to have been longing for since the end of the Cold War: a new threat.”
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SAM HUSSEINI
Communications director at the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini said: “Apparently we have nothing to fear but the future itself. Our government has spent much of the century creating a virtual empire and — in the decade since the Berlin Wall fell — continuing its military dominance. Spawning a cycle of dependence, this ‘big government’ is now supposed to be our savior from those whose resentment of its policies may lead them to heinous criminal acts against us. We have so lowered expectations that in what should be a time of great hope, it seems we’re just hoping to get by.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

Y2K Hopes And Fears: Interviews Available

LLOYD J. DUMAS
Author of “Lethal Arrogance: Human Fallibility and Dangerous Technologies” and professor of political economy at the University of Texas at Dallas, Dumas can assess potential Y2K technical problems as well as the millennial activities of religious cults.

JOHN J. SIMON
Albert Einstein has just been named Time magazine’s “Person of the Century.” In 1949, Einstein wrote the essay “Why Socialism?” for the premier issue of Monthly Review, a magazine on whose board Simon now serves. [Einstein’s essay is on the above web page.] Simon, a retired book publisher, said today: “Einstein was a lifelong socialist and a committed anti-fascist. He was opposed to the anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1940s and ’50s and helped found the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee because the ACLU refused to represent alleged communists. He was a Zionist who supported a bi-national state for both Jews and Arabs; he was a pacifist, nonetheless later supported the struggle against Hitler. He worked to have nuclear energy under the control of the United Nations, and was generally a strong opponent of U.S. Cold War policies.”
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KRYSS CHUPP
This week, the Christian Peacemaker Teams will maintain a vigil and conduct actions in front of the International Monetary Fund building in Washington, calling on the IMF to cancel debts of the poorest nations. Chupp, training coordinator for the Christian Peacemaker Teams, says: “This is a Holy Jubilee year — the Biblical concept of Jubilee calls for the wiping out of debts, the release of slaves, rest for the earth and the return of land to those dispossessed.” She adds: “We call on the IMF to cancel the unpayable debts of the world’s poorest countries. For example, a child born today in the Philippines inherits a $700 debt.”
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CHUCK COLLINS
Co-director of United for a Fair Economy and co-author of a recently released study, “Divided Decade: Economic Disparity at the Century’s Turn,” Collins said: “Ten years ago, there were 66 billionaires and 31.5 million people living below the poverty line in this country. Today, there are 268 billionaires and 34.5 million people living below the official poverty line — about $13,000 for a three-person family.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

Russian Elections and Chechnya

DAVID KOTZ
Co-author of “Revolution from Above: The Demise of the Soviet System” and professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Kotz said Tuesday: “The war in Chechnya revived the political fortunes of pro-Yeltsin parties in the election to Russia’s relatively powerless Duma, as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s ‘strong hand’ proved popular with voters. However, the real contest will be the June-July 2000 election to select a successor to President Yeltsin… By June the war might turn into one more political liability for the power bloc behind the Yeltsin regime, in addition to the economic and social disaster inflicted on Russia by eight years of neo-liberal policies.”

DAVID JOHNSON
Senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information, Johnson edits a daily email list on Russia. He said: “It’s questionable that the pro-Kremlin regime of the oligarchs should be perceived as a vehicle for real ‘reform.’ The pro-Kremlin parties were successful in this election through their pursuit of the war in Chechnya and their control of most of the media… My view is that the war was manufactured to save the Yeltsin regime, and it worked. They deliberately fanned it so that most Russians believe that they’re just fighting terrorists.”
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LYNN NELSON
Co-author of “Radical Reform in Yeltsin’s Russia,” professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University and senior researcher at the Institute of Reform Studies in Moscow, Nelson said: “Russia’s fledgling democracy remains alive, although it is hardly thriving. Talk of a ‘reform’ victory paints an overly bright picture; Kremlin leaders have demonstrated again and again that economic reform which could strengthen normal market relations is the farthest thing from their minds. But the elections were taken seriously by candidates and voters alike. The fact that they happened at all is reason for hope.”
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FRED WEIR
Moscow correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and In These Times, Weir is co-author of “Revolution from Above: The Demise of the Soviet System.” He said: “Russia is a deeply polarized society — the pro-Kremlin party did well, but so did the Communists… The campaign did not debate any serious issue, so the country is headed blindly into what happens next… The war is horrific, I was there a month ago. The bombing campaign is making the Chechens hate the Russians for the next thousand years. If it hadn’t been for the NATO war in Yugoslavia, there wouldn’t be a Chechen war now. The Russian population is sick of the collapse of their country, and they’ve focused on Chechnya… The only existing pipeline from the Caspian runs through Chechnya, so the race for Caspian oil is definitely a factor.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

Campaign Finance Reform?

NANCY SNOW
Executive director of Common Cause in New Hampshire and assistant professor of political science at New England College, Snow was set to attend the meeting that got underway this morning in Claremont between Bill Bradley and John McCain. (Claremont is the site of the handshake between President Clinton and then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995, when they agreed to work for campaign finance reform.) She said: “Bradley and McCain are both going after the independent voter. In our primary, independents can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary… In the current system, ordinary citizens are reduced to whispering while large corporations have megaphones. The First Amendment problem can be overcome since limits on campaign spending are voluntary.” [Snow’s question, about how many of her students see Bradley and McCain as grandstanding, was carried live by CNN at 11:45 this morning.] More Information

ANNE CAMPBELL
Campaign manager for Money Watch 2000 (a project of Iowa Citizen Action Network Education Foundation and New Hampshire Citizens Alliance), which works to increase public dialogue about the need for comprehensive campaign finance reform, Campbell was scheduled to be at the meeting in Claremont. She said: “It’s great that McCain and Bradley are pushing for this initiative to eliminate ‘soft money,’ but they both need to go further… The $60 million that George W. Bush has raised is hard money and would not be affected.”
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ELLEN MILLER
Executive director of Public Campaign, Miller said: “It’s important to recognize that campaign finance reform is much broader than just a ‘soft money’ ban… Even if soft money was banned, there would still be hundreds of millions in private dollars determining who runs for office, effectively who wins and what interests they protect after election day. Two-thirds of Americans — of all political persuasions — favor a full public financing system along with a soft money ban.” Public Campaign examines how money in politics explains much of our political system. On trade, while most Americans are opposed to the current policies, most contributors back those policies; all the major candidates mirror the latter, not the former.
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PETER EISNER
Managing director of the Center for Public Integrity, Eisner said: “While McCain says that he advocates campaign finance reform, a juxtaposition of his work on the commerce committee and the then-pending acquisition of Media One by AT&T shows that he is not immune to questions about corporate influence. Within weeks after action which all but ensured AT&T’s success, he received contributions of $10,000 from employees (and their spouses) of the telecommunications giant. McCain may say there was no quid pro quo, but AT&T — one of his largest career patrons — certainly benefited from his actions.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

Mideast Peace Process?

Today, the UN Security Council is scheduled to vote on a proposal regarding sanctions on Iraq. On Wednesday, talks begin between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syria’s foreign minister, Farouk al-Sharaa. These are among the analysts available for interviews:

RANIA MASRI
Founder of the Iraq Action Coalition, Masri said: “A year ago, UNSCOM head Richard Butler pulled the weapons inspectors — which the U.S. had used for espionage — out of Iraq just before the U.S. began Desert Fox…. The continuation of sanctions against the people of Iraq — as well as the continued U.S. bombings — further erode the possibility of democracy, human rights or genuine stability in Iraq. The British-Dutch UN proposal does not, as many have claimed, provide for the lifting of sanctions on Iraq — merely for their potential suspension. The proposal disregards the extensive work already achieved by the inspectors, and the head weapons inspector will not have to follow the recommendations of the inspectors on the ground. Even if all goes well with this proposal, the soonest that the sanctions would be suspended is a year from now, so it’s a death sentence for 60,000 Iraqi children under the age of five, since UNICEF reports show that approximately 5,000 children die every month as a result of the sanctions.”
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BARBARA LUBIN
Founder of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, which has supported a clinic in Majd al-Shams, a village in the Golan Heights, Lubin said: “Good friends like Bassam Shakir, former mayor of Nablus, who had his legs blown off 18 years ago by Israeli agents, are now under house arrest by Yaser Arafat. When Arafat started making dubious deals with Israel, he didn’t give a second thought to the Syrians, the Jordanians or anyone else. Now the Palestinians are left in a lurch… The Golan Heights is not about Israeli security, it’s about the taking of the land and very much about water. There has been substantial resistance to the Israeli occupation there…. The Golan is a place where children have to be careful where they play since villages are surrounded by Israeli land mines.”

ALI ABUNIMAH
Vice president of the Arab-American Action Network, Abunimah said: “The conventional wisdom is that Syria and the Palestinians are being played off each other by Israel. But the real issues remain to be resolved — Israel has the power to squeeze the Palestinians, but the question is whether it has the strength to make a just peace… An Israeli withdrawal from the Golan would be good news for the tens of thousands of Syrians who would be able to go back to the towns and villages that they were forced from in 1967. That would be a very good precedent for the Mideast, particularly the Palestinians — to show that being a refugee is not a permanent condition.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

Perspectives On Clinton News Conference

NASEER ARURI
Professor at the University of Massachusetts, former board member of Amnesty International and author of “The Obstruction of Peace: The U.S., Israel, and the Palestinians,” Aruri is among over 1,000 who signed a petition against Yaser Arafat’s November 28 jailing of scores of political dissidents. Aruri commented today: “Clinton said he stood against those who are opposed to the current agreements between Yaser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Barak. That seems to be a tacit backing of the extraordinarily repressive measures taken by Arafat against those who are noting that the agreements are exceedingly unfair to the Palestinian people. Clinton also gave the impression that Barak pledged to stop demolishing Palestinian homes and cease building illegal settlements; but Barak did no such thing. A just-released Amnesty International study found that demolitions of Palestinian homes by Israeli forces continue unabated.”
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KEVIN DANAHER
Co-founder of Global Exchange, Danaher said: “Clinton’s pointing to the NAFTA labor and environmental side agreements gives hypocrisy a bad name. The side agreements are worse than nothing, because they create an illusion that something is being done for the environment and labor, when in fact they are procedural dead ends. We work with the people on the border with Mexico who are trying to deal with these issues and all they report is frustration with the ineffectiveness of these side agreements. The real effect of the side agreements is to allow U.S. corporations to continue their polluting with a fig leaf of verbal concern for the environment with no implementation power.”
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LARRY BIRNS
Clinton referred to extradition by the president of Colombia of drug dealers to the U.S. as well as a Cuban boy pending in U.S. courts. Director of the Council for Hemispheric Affairs, Birns, who just returned from Colombia and Miami, said: “The Colombian president does not have serious power over the Colombian military, which — with its paramilitary allies — is responsible for 80 percent of the human rights abuses that have taken place in the past decade. The U.S. is looking at further militarizing the anti-drug effort in Colombia, but that can only increase human rights abuses as the violence in the country broadens and deepens. The problem is compounded by the fact that the military is more the problem than the solution of the current drug trafficking.” On the issue of the Cuban boy, Birns said: “The administration would be foolish to jeopardize its all-important 1994-95 immigration accord with Havana just to pander to its own partisan electoral self-interest.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

Beyond Seattle: Now What?

ROBERT WEISSMAN
Editor of Multinational Monitor and co-author of “Corporate Predators: The Hunt for Mega-Profits and the Attack on Democracy,” Weissman said: “The protests in Seattle contributed significantly to the failure of the WTO negotiations, dealing a major blow to the ambitious corporate agenda of expanding the trade agency’s reach. The challenge before public interest activists now is to develop institutions, mechanisms and rules to rein in the corporate activity that has been plundering the planet under the banner of economic globalization. The delegates from the poorer countries were emboldened by the protesters and for virtually the first time resisted the arm-twisting by the industrialized nations.”
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NORMAN SOLOMON
Executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and author of “False Hope: The Politics of Illusion in the Clinton Era,” Solomon said: “What has emerged is a pro-democracy movement. And it’s global. The vibrant social forces that converged on Seattle — and proceeded to deflate the WTO summit — are complex, diverse and sometimes contradictory. Yet the threads of their demands form a distinct weave: We want full democratic rights for all people.”
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MEDEA BENJAMIN
Executive director of Global Exchange, Benjamin said: “We have to blast through the myth that workers in developing countries don’t want their labor rights protected. It’s U.S. corporations that benefit from violations of labor rights and pit workers in different countries against each other. There’s a recognition that we need to bring the bottom up — and who at the bottom would not want to come up? We need to push this mass movement into the political scene — there is no politician on the national stage representing it. We’re sophisticated enough not to be mollified by rhetoric, like Clinton’s johnny-come-lately talk about openness in the WTO.”
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DAVID BACON
An independent labor analyst and writer, Bacon said: “We need rules for international trade, but enforcement can’t be in the hands of the WTO. The whole purpose of the WTO is to increase the power of the transnational corporations; so giving it more authority over labor standards is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Rules should be based on democratic processes through organizations that respect workers. The U.S. continues to refuse to sign international labor rights treaties, so Clinton’s professed concern about labor standards is a sham. Our basic problem is the global economic inequality between the haves and the have-nots.”

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

NORMAN SOLOMON
Executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and author of “False Hope: The Politics of Illusion in the Clinton Era,” Solomon said: “What has emerged is a pro-democracy movement. And it’s global. The vibrant social forces that converged on Seattle — and proceeded to deflate the WTO summit — are complex, diverse and sometimes contradictory. Yet the threads of their demands form a distinct weave: We want full democratic rights for all people.”
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Globalization Without Representation?

The following analysts, many in Seattle, are available for comment on the World Trade Organization:

LORI WALLACH
Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Wallach said: “President Clinton’s PR stunt on the child labor treaty is the height of hypocrisy, given he knows that absent major WTO changes – which he has refused to demand – countries are explicitly forbidden from prohibiting child labor products from entering their markets.”
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MICHAEL ALBERT
An editor at Z Magazine, Albert said: “Politicians quite generally say one thing, for appearances’ sake, and then do other things, for the sake of their true constituencies – in Clinton’s case, corporate capital.”
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PAIGE FISCHER
Fischer is director of the Trade and Forest program of the Pacific Environment and Resources Center, which recently won a lawsuit against the U.S. government for violating federal law by barring environmental groups from consultation on the Global Free Logging Agreement. She said: “Clinton just proclaimed that he would make environmental concerns central to the WTO; but on the same day, the U.S. government told environmental groups that they would not include them on equal standing with industry groups in negotiations.”
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NEIL TANGRI
On the 15th anniversary of the Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, a consortium of groups is releasing a report, “Beyond the Chemical Century.” Neil Tangri of Essential Action said: “Bhopal was a harbinger of corporate globalization. Union Carbide moved its operations to India to cut corners, cut safety measures and cut costs. It resulted in 16,000 dead, hundreds of thousands injured and a community destroyed. This is the kind of globalization the WTO is promoting.”
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LARRY DOHRS
The public education director for the Free Burma Coalition, Dohrs said: “Massive use of forced labor caused the International Labor Organization to suspend membership of the Burmese junta last June. Burma’s continuing membership in the WTO brings forced labor and ‘free trade’ under the same umbrella.”
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JOSHUA KARLINER
Director of Corporate Watch, Karliner said: “The WTO’s corporate agenda is advanced through trade advisory groups appointed by the U.S. government which are almost exclusively composed of business representatives and entities like the Seattle Host Organization, which is run by Microsoft and Boeing.”
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HANNA PETROS
Founder and executive director of Ustawi, which fosters alternative economic and environmental solutions in Africa, Petros said: “Undemocratic institutions like the WTO, World Bank and IMF are forcing privatization on poorer countries, and that is having a horrible effect on the lives of millions of people.”
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STEVEN KULL
Director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes and author of the recent study, “Americans on Globalization,” Kull said: “A majority of Americans feel that the process of globalization is something positive. But a strong majority feel that the way it is developing advances business interests at the expense of the environment and workers in this country and abroad.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (206) 770-9544 or (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Clinton and Protests in Seattle

JUDITH BARISH
An editor of the World Trade Observer and former communications director for the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, Barish said: “In 1994, Clinton promised not to support the establishment of the World Trade Organization unless it addressed labor standards, but that was forgotten. Now the administration is again talking up labor standards. But their proposals don’t measure up – for example, giving the International Labor Organization only observer status in the WTO. Of the seven ILO conventions supporting workers’ rights, the U.S. has signed just one. This argues that the Clinton-Gore administration is only paying lip service to workers’ rights to get political support of union members.”

KATHERINE OZER
Executive director of the National Family Farm Coalition, Ozer said: “Trade liberalization is hurting family farmers and peasants throughout the world, while the corporate food industry reaps record profits.”
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DEAN BAKER, MARK WEISBROT, ROBERT NAIMAN
These analysts with the Center for Economics and Policy Research are available for interviews.
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PAMELA SPARR
Part of an international planning team on gender, trade and development questions, Sparr works with the United Methodist Church. Among the voices she can direct reporters to are Gigi Francisco of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era from the Philippines (www.dawn.org.fj), who said the WTO’s “trade policies have led to more insecurity for women in the global South”; and Njoki Njehu from Kenya, director of 50 Years Is Enough (www.50years.org), who said: “The IMF, World Bank and WTO are forcing poor countries to pay foreign banks rather than invest in human needs.”
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KEVIN DANAHER
The public education director for Global Exchange, Danaher was detained briefly by police on Tuesday. He said, “The police made a strategic decision when protesters conducted civil disobedience: the police used violence. That brought out the worst elements of the city and drove many nonviolent protesters away. Some of these thug elements attacked peaceful protesters.” The police shot a Global Exchange volunteer, Brian Neuberg, in the chin with a rubber-coated bullet.
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SANJAY MANGALA GOPKL
Co-coordinator of the National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements of India, a coalition of 125 movements and organizations, Gopkl said: “The WTO is a global government driven by the profit motive of the transnational corporations, run by unelected officials without regard to the participation of people or sustaining the environment. This creates havoc in the lives of millions of people in India: farmers, fisher folks, laborers, and tribal people. The battle against the WTO is the battle for our survival.”
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PAUL LOEB
Author of “Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time” and associate scholar at Seattle’s Center for Ethical Leadership, Loeb has written extensively on why some citizens get involved in the larger issues of our time, while others abstain. He said: “Tens of thousands of people marching in Seattle were able to translate seemingly remote economic issues into concrete examples of how institutions like the WTO erode democracy.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (206) 770-9544 or (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

WTO vs. Democracy?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH
A letter to President Clinton initiated by Rep. Kucinich (D-Ohio) and signed by 113 House Democrats says: “The WTO infringes on the sovereignty of nations to enforce worker rights. A proposed bill to ban products made with child labor is WTO-illegal…” Speaking to World Trade Watch, a daily national radio program co-produced in Seattle this week by the Institute for Public Accuracy, Kucinich stressed “how important it is for the people to stand up for their rights.” The congressman said that a basic issue is citizens’ “control over civic institutions and over their own government… that people can make decisions about clean air, clean water, human rights, better health care, better retirement. If private interests are simply running things, then that means that people are at their mercy… The market is not going to be parceling out democratic rights.” Kucinich warned of “sacrificing human existence on the altar of the great dollar bill.” He specifically criticized the Clinton administration’s plan for a working group on labor conditions as “simply window-dressing” that lacks real substance or power.

LAURA LIVOTI
Managing director of the National Radio Project, Livoti was interviewing activists and onlookers on the corner of 6th and Union in Seattle on Tuesday morning. As the police began massing in full riot gear, Livoti – wearing her WTO press credentials – was telling a police officer that she was a journalist. Still, a policeman [badge number 4409] hit her in the back with a baton. She was then sprayed directly in the face with pepper spray and was blinded for 15 minutes until an activist medic treated her. Said Livoti: “Despite the fact that the officer clearly knew that I was a working member of the press, he attacked me.”
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DEBORAH TOLER
A researcher with the Institute for Public Accuracy and specialist in global political economy, Toler said today: “The activists in Seattle are reclaiming democratic decision-making that has been eroded by the WTO and its two sister organizations, the World Bank and the IMF. The transnational-controlled policies from these organizations are increasing human misery and destroying the environment, resulting in global protests.”

MARTIN KHOR
Director of the Third World Network, Khor said: “There is a lack of democracy and transparency within the WTO – the whole decision-making process is shrouded in secrecy. The U.S. objects to any vote being taken, and wants decisions to be made by ‘consensus.’ But in reality what this means is that decisions are made by the major powers, and others are threatened and cajoled into going along.”

CAROL DANSEREAU
Executive director of the Washington Toxics Coalition, Dansereau said: “We do not oppose trade, we simply won’t sit by as democratic rights are trampled in the name of ‘free trade’… When only representatives of chemical corporations are allowed to serve on a government advisory committee on chemical trade policy, something is terribly wrong.”
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MARK WESTLUND
Rainforest Action Network communications director, Westlund said: “The WTO does not take nature or human rights into account in its policies and that has to stop. Until it does, it lacks any legitimacy.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (206) 770-9544 or (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167