Multinational Monitor

JAN/FEB 2005
VOL 26 No. 1


Don't Mourn, Organize: Big Business Follows Joe Hill's Entreaty to U.S. Political Dominance
by Robert Weissman

Wall Street Ascendant
by Doug Henwood

Slow Motion Coup d'Etat: Global Trade Agreements and the Displacement of Democracy
by Lori Wallach

Every Nook and Cranny: The Dangerous Spread of Commercialized Culture
by Gary Ruskin and Juliet Schor

Profits of War: The Fruits of the Permanent Military-Industrial Complex
by William Hartung

Wal-Mart: Rise of the Goliath
by Liza Featherstone

Monster Banks: The Political and Economic Costs of Banking and Financial Consolidation
by Jake Lewis

Grand Theft: The Conglomeratization of the Media and the Degradation of Culture
by Ben Bagdikian


Do We Not Bleed? Flower Workers and the Struggle for Justice
an interview with Olga Tutillo and Ricardo Zamudio


Letters to the Editor

Behind the Lines

Reflections on 25 Years

The Front
Philippines to be Drilled - Nuke Power Deal Put to Rest

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News


Behind the Lines

Baddies and Falsies

January was awards season for bad-acting corporations.

On the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, the Berne Declaration and Pro Natura presented the first “Public Eye Awards” for irresponsible companies. The laureates of the “Public Eye Awards” are: Dow Chemical, Royal Dutch/Shell, Wal-Mart and KPMG International. The Public’s Award was awarded to Nestle.

Dow won recognition for its refusal to accept responsibility for the world’s largest chemical disaster in Bhopal, India, which has caused more than 20,000 casualties since 1984. Royal Dutch/Shell Group won the environment award for betraying promises to stop gas flaring in Nigeria. The labor award was bestowed on Wal-Mart for the “intolerable” working conditions prevailing at the firm’s clothing supply factories in Africa and Asia. KPMG took the award in the tax category, for its work in promoting tax avoidance mechanisms. And Nestle grabbed the “Public’s Award,” in recognition of its aggressive marketing methods for baby food, which jeopardize breastfeeding, and other abuses.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the Center for Media and Democracy, the publisher of PR Watch, issued the first annual “Falsies Awards,” for deceptive and notable public relations and lobbying tactics.

Among the honorees:

  • Video news releases from government agencies and corporations. VNRs are designed to be indistinguishable from traditional TV news and are often aired without the original producers and sponsors being identified and sometimes without any local editing. One prominent VNR came from the Department of Health and Human Services. Touting the controversial Medicare reform law, it ended with, “In Washington, I’m Karen Ryan, reporting.”
  • Guerrilla marketers. These subtle marketing campaigns are designed to look like spontaneous expressions of individuals’ preference for, or experience with, a product. Example: A fictional blogger, invented by an ad agency, posted blog entries claiming that a new Sega video game caused him to suffer blackouts and uncontrollable fits of violence. (This was supposed to be a good thing.)

South African Nuke Delay

A South African court in January dealt a blow to the country’s state-owned utility’s effort to construct a pebble-bed nuclear plant.

The Cape Town High Court decided in favor of the environmental group Earthlife Africa, which had challenged the way in which the environment ministry had approved the environmental impact assessment submitted by Eskom, the state utility, for the project.

ESKOM is seeking to construct a demonstration model 110 Mega Watt class Pebble-Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) at the site of the only existing nuclear plant in South Africa, near Cape Town. Based on Eskom’s environmental impact assessment, the environment ministry gave the go-ahead to the project in June 2003.

Earthlife Africa had argued that the ministry was obliged to afford the group a fair hearing before deciding to grant the authorization and failed to, that it failed to properly address the problems posed by nuclear waste or to consider safety issues by deferring to the national nuclear regulator. The group also had argued that the environmental impact report on which the ministry based its decision contained a substantial number of documents that were not previously made available to the public.

The judge in the case agreed that Earthlife Africa needed to be afforded an opportunity to comment on the final draft version of the environmental review, and be given a meaningful opportunity to affect the final governmental determination.

“We believe that the PBMR will now be exposed for what it is — a white elephant where Eskom planned to use the people of Cape Town as guinea pigs to test a dubious technology,” says Liz McDaid, a spokesperson for Earthlife Africa.

Kraft Caves

Responding to mounting public concern about childhood obesity and junk food marketing, Kraft announced in January that it will stop advertising its least healthy foods to children under the age of 12.

The company announced a phase out of advertising to kids of products that do not meet its “sensible solution” criteria. Kraft provides this label to foods that offer specific benefits (such as providing protein or fiber at nutritionally significant levels) or that meet specifications for “reduced,” “low” or “free” in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar or sodium. Ads targeting kids under 12 for foods not meeting these criteria will be phased out completely by 2006, around the world, the company announced.

The phase-out will cover products such as regular Kool-Aid beverages, Oreo and Chips Ahoy! cookies, several Post children’s cereals, and many varieties of Lunchables lunch combinations.

The company will continue advertisements to children for products such as sugar-free Kool-Aid and 1/2 the Sugar Fruity Pebbles cereal. Calling Kraft’s move a significant step forward, Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, says, “The next step should be to strengthen its sodium standards, limit advertising to kids 12 to 17, and extend its marketing guidelines to cartoon characters on packages, ‘advergames’ on the Internet, contests and other forms of marketing.”


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