Multinational Monitor

JUL/AUG 2001
VOL 22 No. 7


Toxics on the Hudson: The Saga of GE, PCBs and the Hudson River
by Charlie Cray

Global Management By Stress
by Robert Weissman

Penny Pinching the Retirees at GE
by Vincent Lloyd

GE: Decades of Misdeeds and Wrongdoing
by Monitor Staff


Slowing the Race to the Bottom
an interview with
Ed Fire

Dignity and Defiance
an interview with
John Hovis

“Any Cost” is Too High
an interview with
Thomas O’Boyle

Unfair Access
an interview with
Jeff Cohen

GE Can Be Beat
an interview with
Kathryn Mulvey


Behind the Lines

You Don’t Know Jack

The Front
Spoiled Lunch - Deadly Drilling in Aceh

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News


Behind the Lines

Free the Sciences

Nearly 25,000 scientists from 165 countries have signed an open letter calling for a free central electronic archive of published scientific literature, and are threatening to boycott journals that don’t agree to release their articles six months after publication.

“Since the time of the great library of Alexandria, scholars have recognized the value of central repositories of knowledge,” Richard Roberts and other scientists wrote in the journal Science. “Bringing all of the scientific literature together in a common format will encourage the development of new, more sophisticated and valuable ways of using this information.”

Although the Internet has the potential to speed up the retrieval of obscure research from electronically archived journals, scientists say they are increasingly frustrated by journal publishers’ insistence on charging exorbitant fees for access to back issues at the same time that they do not pay scientists for their work.

While some publishers of scientific journals support putting journals into an online archive six months to a year after publication, others caution that it could expose them to losses in online sales and advertising revenues that pay for peer review of articles and other editing work.

The editors of Science say free online access may also result in lost subscriptions from academic libraries which provide an economic “floor” that guarantees financial sustainability, especially for specialized journals.

But proponents of online archives say a six-month “lease” on original research reports should allow the publishers to recover their costs and make a profit. “Few scientists who currently subscribe to journals would want to wait six months to read about the latest results in their field,” say Patrick O. Brown and Michael Eisen, the coordinators of the Public Library of Science.

Chad Oil Update

The World Bank announced a $100 million loan in June for the controversial Chad-Cameroon pipeline project despite continued doubts about the Chadian government’s commitment to human rights.

The Bank first approved the project, which involves developing oil fields in Chad and construction of a 670-mile pipeline and offloading facility on the Atlantic coast of Cameroon, in June 2000 [See “Fueling Strife in Chad and Cameroon” Multinational Monitor, May 1997].

The main multinationals involved in the project include ExxonMobil (with a 40 percent equity stake), Malaysia-based Petronas (35 percent) and Chevron (25 percent).

“The project represents a pioneering effort by the World Bank to create an unprecedented framework to transform oil wealth into direct benefits for the poor, the vulnerable and the environment,” says Ludwina Joseph of the World Bank.

The Bank loan requires the government of Chad to spend 70 percent of the project’s expected $2 billion 25-year revenues on health care, education, agriculture and other infrastructure.

But doubts about the Bank’s ability to control misuse of funds were fueled last year when $3 million of the first loan disbursement was used to buy weapons observers say are intended for use against Chadian citizens.

Chadian President Idriss Deby, who came to power in a bloody military coup in 1990, was re-elected on May 20. Shortly after the election, one opposition supporter was killed, six opposition candidates thrown in jail and two newspapers shut down.

“World Bank statements about the oil project’s role as a catalyst for sustainable development and improving the lives of the poor are at best naive,” says Delphine Djiraibe, a spokesperson for the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights.

The Sweaties

While the Retail Council of Canada was presenting its “Excellence in Retailing Awards” in June at its annual conference inside the Toronto Convention Center, members of the Canadian Maquiladora Solidarity Network (MSN) and Oxfam held a mock awards ceremony outside, where they announced the winners of this year’s Sweatshop Retailer Awards — also known as “the Sweaties.”

Based on an on-line tally of 3,000 consumer votes, the “Sweatshop Retailer of the Year” award was given to Disney. Disney received the most votes based on a report by the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee which documented sweatshop abuses in 12 Disney supply factories in China. The report charges that young women making Disney clothes and toys are forced to work up to 16 hours a day, six or seven days a week for wages as low as $60 a month.

Wal-Mart, last year’s winner, received this year’s “Smokescreen Award” for the company hiding the most from its customers. Meanwhile, the company was barely edged out for the “Socially Responsible Retailer” award from the retail industry.

Liz Claiborne received a “Transparency Award” from the activists for agreeing to make public a highly critical report on factory conditions by the Guatemalan independent monitoring group COVERCO. “While Liz Claiborne is far from sweat-free, accepting independent monitoring and disclosing critical reports are important steps in the right direction,” says MSN’s Bob Jeffcott.

Transparency is the theme of this year’s “No Sweat” campaign, which is demanding changes in Canadian regulations to require retailers to publicly disclose production locations for all apparel products sold in Canada.

— Charlie Cray


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