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


Names In the News

TV News Con Job

Fake TV news segments have infiltrated stations across the United States. That's the conclusion of a study released in April by the Center for Media and Democracy.

The report found that 77 local television stations had slipped corporate sponsored "video news releases" (VNRs) into their regular news programming. VNRs are fake TV news segments that promote commercial brands and products.

More than 80 percent of the stations identified in the report as using fake TV news segments are owned by large conglomerates, including Sinclair Broadcast Group, Clear Channel Communications, News Corp/Fox Television, Viacom/CBS Corp and Tribune Company.

The Center, along with a group called Free Press, filed a petition in April calling on the Federal Communications Commission to stop the widespread dissemination of fake TV news broadcasts.

The Center's John Stauber says that fake TV news segments represent "a breach of the trust between local stations and their communities."

"By disguising advertisements as news, stations violate both the spirit and the letter of their broadcasting licenses, which obligate them to serve public interest," he says.

Among the Center's findings:

  • In three instances, TV stations not only aired entire VNRs without disclosure, but had local anchors and reporters read directly from the script prepared by the broadcast PR firm. KTVI-2 in St. Louis had their anchor introduce, and their reporter re-voice, a VNR produced for Masterfoods and 1-800 Flowers, following the script nearly verbatim. WBFS-33 in Miami did the same with a VNR produced for the "professional services firm" Towers Perrin. And Ohio News Network did likewise with a VNR produced for Siemens.
  • JV-28 in South Bend, Indiana, introduced a VNR produced for General Motors as being from "FOX's Andrew Schmertz," implying that Schmertz was a reporter for the local station or the FOX network. In reality, he is a publicist at the largest U.S. broadcast PR firm, Medialink Worldwide. Another Medialink publicist, Kate Brookes, was presented as an on-air reporter by four TV stations airing a VNR produced for Siemens.

McWane: Guilty Again

For the fifth time in the last two years, a McWane plant has been found guilty of federal crimes.

In April, a jury found New Jersey cast iron pipe manufacturer Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co., a division of McWane, and four company officials guilty of committing flagrant abuses of environmental and worker safety laws.

The federal investigation was triggered by an investigative series published in the New York Times in 2003.

The charges involved, among other abuses, regularly discharging of oil into the Delaware River, concealing serious worker injuries from health and safety inspectors, and maintaining a dangerous workplace that contributed to multiple severe injuries and the death of one employee at the Phillipsburg, New Jersey plant.

"As a multiple offender, McWane has time and again shown a disturbing indifference towards the health and safety of their workers and a blatant disregard for the natural environment we all share," says Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Make Your Blood Boil?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) advisory committee on cardiovascular and renal drugs is chaired by and dominated by industry connected scientists, charges the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

In a letter to FDA commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, CSPI called for a postponement of the first meeting of the panel, held in April, to give the staff of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation Research time to identify panelists who are free of conflicts of interest, and who could bring balance to the panel.

CSPI's Merrill Goozner says that a balanced panel would at least have some members with expertise on how hypertension can be treated with diet and lifestyle changes.

The National Institute of Health's Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure, or JNC-7, found that weight reduction, adoption of the low-sodium Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, physical activity and moderation of alcohol consumption are "critical" for prevention of high blood pressure and "indispensable" for managing it.

CSPI points out that FDA did not include any of the non-conflicted scientists who served on JNC-7, or on another important government-funded trial, the Antihypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT).

"American hospitals and medical school faculties are filled with experts on preventing and treating high blood pressure, and it is simply not the case that all of them have financial relationships with drug makers," says Goozner, director of the Integrity in Science Project at CSPI.

The FDA panel is chaired by University of Colorado professor William Hiatt, who has conducted blood pressure research on behalf of Bayer Pharmaceutical.

- Russell Mokhiber

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