Multinational Monitor

MAR/APR 2006
VOL 27 No. 2


Plague and Profit: Business, Bureaucracy and Cover-up in the Spread of Avian Flu in Asia
by Mike Davis

Fowl Play: The Role of Agribusiness in the Avian Flu Crisis
by Devlin Kuyek

Migratory Birds as Scapegoats: The Role of Wild Birds in Spreading Avian Flu
by Dr. Leon Bennun

Questions and Answers on Bird Flu from the CDC


Preventing Pandemic: The Global Strategy to Stop a Bird Flu Pandemic Before It Starts (Or Control It, If It Does)
An Interview with David Nabarro

At Risk: The dangers of an Eroded Public Health System
An Interview with Irwin Redlener

The Sky May Not Be Falling: An Eminent Scientist's Cautious View on Bird Flu Anxiety
An Interview with Edwin Kilbourne

Stopping Spread Among Poultry
An Interview with Alex Theirmann

The Tamiflu Manufacturing Controversy
An Interview with Yusuf Hamied


Behind the Lines

The Political Economy of Bird Flu

The Front
Great Bear Rainforest Story - Dirty Halliburton

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News


The Front

Changing Forestry in B.C.

Culminating a decade-long campaign to protect British Columbia’s ancient woods from unsustainable logging, environmentalists, logging company representatives and indigenous leaders arrived at an historic February agreement that promises to preserve 5 million acres of the Canadian province’s temperate rainforest.

“This signals a change in the way that forestry is done in British Columbia, and it presents an opportunity for a global model in sustainability,” says Stephanie Goodwin, forest campaigner for Greenpeace Canada.

The agreement makes one third of the 15.5 million acre Great Bear Rainforest off-limits to loggers and imposes lighter-touch logging standards on the remaining two thirds. It also stipulates that the First Nations indigenous communities that populate the area will have greater decision-making power over their traditional territory and that the provincial government will work with them to pursue environmentally sustainable economic development.

Environmentalist and government sources will funnel funds into the development of an Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) model for forestry, as well as conservation-based economic development, such as ecotourism. Environmental groups have raised a total of $60 million for this effort, and the provincial government and Canadian federal government have each pledged $30 million.

The Great Bear Rainforest, named after its rare white-coated Kermode Bear, is the largest temperate rainforest in the world. Stretching along British Columbia’s north and central coast, the area’s heavy rainfall prevents forest fires, allowing trees to grow for hundreds of years. The rainforest is the home of 25 Canadian First Nations indigenous communities. Most of it is not accessible by car.

Over 10 years ago, environmental groups called international attention to the devastating and widespread practice of old growth logging in the region. Campaigners chained themselves to logging equipment, staged local demonstrations and spearheaded international boycotts against companies that sold wood and paper products made from local trees.

Hurting from the pressure, logging companies agreed to negotiate with environmentalists. Both sides consented to a ceasefire; while discussions took place, companies stopped logging and environmentalists suspended their publicity campaigns.

Out of these talks came an agreement to create an impartial scientific body to research an EBM model of forestry. Both sides raised considerable funds for this endeavor, and the provincial government also lent a helping hand.

“Social expectations were our biggest motivation for compromising,” says Lyn Brown, at Catalyst Paper Corporation.

In the meantime, the provincial government and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) encouraged First Nations tribes to come together and devise their own EBM models. The Turning Point coalition of First Nations was created, and it embarked on a separate and parallel effort to combine traditional knowledge with conservation science.

With these pieces in place, the provincial government called for a two-track negotiating program. One track was composed of “public stakeholders” and included the coalition of environmental groups and logging companies. The other track was composed of First Nations communities. Both tracks were to independently create land-use agendas and then come together to negotiate a solution, with the provincial government representing public stakeholders and First Nations representing themselves. Out of this process came the February agreement.

However, some First Nations communities felt that their interests were not fairly represented by this process. While the public stakeholders’ track was well-funded by the provincial government, First Nations communities were left more to their own devices. “The province did not give us the resources we needed to understand what was going on,” says Eric Joseph, chairman of “The Four Tribes,” a coalition of four First Nations communities that chose not to sign the agreement.

Other tribes, however, viewed these negotiations as an opportunity to gain what leverage they could over their region. “They soon realized that if they did not participate, the government would implement certain processes that were adverse to what they wanted,” says Ross Wilson, Heiltsuk Chief.

There is no doubt that the February agreement marks an unprecedented collaborative effort between diverse interest groups. Signatories included 18 out of the area’s 25 First Nations communities, as well as all of the major companies that log in the area.

However, aspects of the agreement are vague and incomplete.

While the agreement stipulates First Nations’ involvement in land-use decision-making in their territories, the terms of this involvement are unclear. First Nations will participate in “government to government” negotiations on land-use decisions, but “the provincial government will have the ultimate say,” says Pat Bell, Minister of Agriculture and Lands for British Columbia.

Also, there is not yet a clear implementation plan for EBM and conservation-based development, and the details of fund distribution are not yet chiseled out.

In light of these grey areas, the parties to the agreement are optimistic, but not equally satisfied.

Companies expressed unbridled enthusiasm. This agreement, “was a long time coming and a tremendously important resolution to 10 years of negotiations,” says Lyn Brown of Catalyst Paper Corporation.

The provincial government lauded the agreement as the product of compromise and cooperation. “All of the stakeholders — First Nations, forest industry, other industrial interests, environmental organizations and governments — all recognized that you have to give a little,” asserts Mike Morton, press secretary for BC Premier Gordon Campbell, a key political player in the negotiation of the agreement.

First Nations representatives are more restrained. “There is a lot of cautious optimism about the future. None of us are overjoyed,” says Dallas Smith, chair of KNT First Nations of the Central Coast and signatory to the agreement, citing the agreement’s lack of clarity about the role of First Nations in decision-making.

While environmental groups acknowledged First Nations’ concerns about the future, they were thrilled with what had been accomplished so far.

“This is a dream come true. It has been almost a decade of work,” says Todd Paglia, forest campaigner for ForestEthics, a San Francisco-based environmental organization that played a key role in securing the agreement.

“We have to make sure that protected areas remain protected, that EBM is implemented, and that funds are properly vested to coastal communities. When an agreement is this cutting edge and this comprehensive, we will have to keep a close eye on a lot of things.”

Greenpeace’s Stephanie Goodwin echoes this attitude, asserting, “It has been a challenging road to get to where we are today, and it will be equally challenging going forward.”

— Sarah Lazare

Dirty Halliburton

“Everyone knows that drinking or washing with poop is bad for you,” Jeffrey K. Griffiths, MD, Professor of Public Health and Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, told the U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) in April. “The reasons are so obvious we consider them common sense,” he said.

But “common sense” is not always a virtue at Halliburton, if whistleblowers and military personnel in Iraq are to be believed.

The DPC hearing aired allegations that Halliburton and its KBR subsidiary have knowingly exposed thousands of U.S. troops at Camp Ar Ramadi, located 70 miles west of Baghdad, to hazardous levels of unhealthy water from the Euphrates River, including human fecal matter. The allegations, made by current and former Halliburton employees involved in water quality maintenance, were first disclosed by HalliburtonWatch last September.

Captain Michelle Callahan, M.D., a U.S. army surgeon in Iraq with the 101st Sustainment Brigade, told the committee in an e-mail message that water containing human fecal matter and other human waste was being re-circulated by Halliburton back into the non-potable water supply used by the troops for showering, brushing teeth, shaving, washing clothes and preparing food and coffee. According to Callahan, “concentrate reject was being used to fill the water tanks.”

After finding coliform bacteria and e-coli in the water, Callahan said a Halliburton official informed employees that, “there’s not a problem with it.”

Callahan also stated that, after discovering KBR was filling the water with wastewater concentrate, the same official informed employees that, “This was the way KBR always treated the water.”

“I had a sudden increase in soldiers with bacterial infections presenting to me for treatment,” Callahan told the committee in her email. “All of these soldiers live in the same living area and use the same water to shower. I had four cases of skin abcesses, one case of cellulitis, and one case of bacterial conjunctivitis,” she said.

An internal Halliburton report leaked to the committee and authored by the company’s Iraq water quality manager admitted that, “No disinfection to non-potable water was occurring [at Camp Ar Ramadi] for water designated for showering purposes. This caused an unknown population to be exposed to potentially harmful water for an undetermined amount of time.”

“This event should be considered a ‘NEAR MISS,’” the Halliburton report warned, “as the consequences of these actions could have been VERY SEVERE resulting in mass sickness or death” [emphasis in the original]. The report added, “The deficiencies of the camp where the event occurred is [sic] not exclusive to that camp; meaning that country-wide, all camps suffer to some extent from all or some of the deficiencies noted.”

So far, Halliburton management has denied a problem exists and declined to appear at the DPC hearing.

After reviewing Halliburton’s internal water report, Dr. Griffiths told the committee that the source water used at Ar Ramadi was “highly polluted” and “highly likely to make [the troops] sick.” He said the troops “would have been better off with water [taken] directly out of the Euphrates River,” which the doctor described as an “open sewer.” That’s because Halliburton’s non-potable water was not chlorinated or filtered to remove parasites, amoebas and viruses that cause various illnesses including dysentery, an inflammatory disorder of the lower intestinal tract that causes fever, severe diarrhea, vomiting and often “pooping of blood.” Dr. Griffiths pointed out that “in many if not most wars, dysentery has killed more soldiers than has combat.”

KBR instructs the troops not to drink the non-potable water, but claims it is safe for showering. But Dr. Griffiths said showering with KBR’s untreated water is still dangerous because ingestion of diseases can occur through the mouth and skin.

Halliburton sent a second internal report to DPC Chair Senator Byron Dorgan, D-South Dakota, the night before the hearing, which contradicted the first internal on-site report and purportedly “exonerates” (as Dorgan put it) the company. But this second report admits that, “KBR [Halliburton’s subsidiary] lacked an organizational structure to ensure that water was being treated in accordance with Army standards in its contractual requirements.”

Nevertheless, both Halliburton and the Pentagon have denied that a serious problem exists.

“This is really pretty unbelievable to me,” Dorgan said in response to denials by Halliburton and the Pentagon. “I understand no one wants to take responsibility. No one ever wants to be accountable for anything,” he said. “We now know that those denials were wrong and Halliburton and the Pentagon would have known them to be wrong.”

After initially resisting calls for an investigation into the matter, the Pentagon in March announced that it will conduct a formal inquiry.

— Jim Donahue
coordinates HalliburtonWatch


The March/April Lawrence Summers Memorial Award* goes to Bayer, the maker of the antacid Alka-Seltzer. Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, a Bayer accountability group based in Germany, reported in April that Alka-Seltzer sponsored last year’s U.S. Open of the International Federation of Competitive Eating Inc., which organizes eating contests around the world. Soon after, Bayer announced it would not repeat the sponsorship, which it said was arranged by the U.S. marketing staff.

The whole idea of such a competition is an obscenity,” says says Hubert Ostendorf, a Coalition against Bayer Dangers spokesperson. “Paradoxically, Bayer offers diabetic remedies, to cure the diabetes that is often caused by the very events they are sponsoring.”

Source: Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, news release, April 21, 2006; Angela Cullen,”Bayer Cuts Ties to Speed Eating,” Bloomberg, April 21, 2006.

* In a 1991 internal memorandum, then-World Bank economist Lawrence Summers argued for the transfer of waste and dirty industries from industrialized to developing countries. “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs (lesser developed countries)?” wrote Summers, who went on to serve as Treasury Secretary during the Clinton administration and is the outgoing president of Harvard University. “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that. ... I’ve always thought that underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly under polluted; their air quality is vastly inefficiently low [sic] compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City.” Summers later said the memo was meant to be ironic.

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