Multinational Monitor

SEP/OCT 2007
VOL 29 No. 4


Ecuador's Oil Change: An Exporter's Historic Proposal
by Kevin Koenig

Fueling Another Debt Crisis
by Neil Watkins

The Best Congress Oil Could Buy
by Steve Kretzmann

A Call for Global Economic and Energy Transitions

Sin and Society II
by Edward Alsworth Ross


Bolivia Asserts Oil Sovereignty
an interview with Carlos Villegas

Causes of Soaring Oil Prices
interviews with oil industry analysts

Can Big Oil Adapt to Climate Change?
interviews with oil industry analysts


Behind the Lines

Independence from Oil

The Front
CAFTA and the Politics of Fear - Whistleblowers Betrayed

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Greed At a Glance

Commercial Alert

Names In the News


Behind the Lines

Air Time Inequality

There are 37 million people living below the poverty line in the United States. They are all but invisible on the nightly news, according to a September study by the media watchdog group FAIR.
The study found that between September 2003 and October 2006, only 58 stories dealing with poverty were broadcast on the three leading U.S. TV networks — ABC, CBS and NBC. In contrast, one of Michael Jackson’s law suits merited 69 network stories.
“Media is increasingly produced by the powerful and wealthy, and media is increasingly produced for the powerful and wealthy,” says Steve Rendall, FAIR senior analysis and co-author of the study. “People who don’t have power get very little attention.”
Even in 2005, the year that Hurricane Katrina brought many issues of inequality and poverty to light, the networks only aired 22 stories on poverty. There were twice that many stories on Michael Jackson.
CBS, which aired 22 stories on poverty over the 38-month period scrutinized, had no comment on the FAIR study. “We don’t have enough information to participate,” says Jennifer Farley, CBS spokesperson.
ABC aired only 11 stories concerning poverty, the least of the three stations. “The income disparity in this country continues to grow,” says Natalie Raabe, spokesperson for “World News with Charles Gibson,” “and poverty is an important issue that warrants attention — both nationally and on a local level.” ABC would not comment further on its limited coverage of poverty.
Representatives from NBC did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Partial Progress on Poverty

The world has made piecemeal progress toward reducing the worst forms of poverty, according to a July United Nations progress report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While clear progress has been made on some of the goals — which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education — the report stressed the need for political leaders to follow through with commitments made in 2000.
The MDGs are a set of global development goals meant to act as a universal blueprint for helping the world’s poorest people. July 2007 marks the halfway point to the 2015 target date.
“There is a clear need for political leaders to take urgent and concerted action, or many millions of people will not realize the basic promises of the MDGs in their lives,” writes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his forward to the report. “The MDGs are still achievable if we act now.”
Some of the main achievements listed in the report include:

  • The proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from nearly a third to less than one fifth between 1990 and 2004. If the trend is sustained, the MDG poverty reduction target will be met for the world as a whole and for most regions.
  • Enrollment in primary education in developing countries grew from 80 percent in 1991 to 88 percent in 2005.
  • Women’s political participation has made incremental progress. As of January 2007, women represented 17 percent of single and lower houses of parliament globally, up from 13 percent in 1990.
  • Child mortality rates declined globally, due to the effective use of life-saving interventions against some of the main child killers, such as measles.

Key challenges identified in the report include:

  • Over half a million women still die each year from treatable and preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Half the population of the developing world lacks basic sanitation. If trends since 1990 continue, the world is likely to miss the MDG target of halving that number by almost 600 million people.
  • At current rates, the target of halving the proportion of underweight children will be missed by 30 million children, most of those living in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The benefits of economic growth in the developing world have been unequally shared, especially in Eastern Asia, where the share of consumption of the poorest people declined dramatically between 1990 and 2004.

Hormone-Free Foam

That $4 Starbucks no-fat, no-sugar, no-whip latte will also be no-hormone starting in 2008. In late August 2007, Starbucks announced it would make all of its milk, half and half, whipping cream and eggnog BGH-free by January 2008.
The announcement from Starbucks comes after nearly six years of campaigning by the Minnesota-based Organic Consumers Association and the Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch, whose Hold the Hormones campaign asked consumers to demand that Starbucks buy better milk.
“Our work has paid off,” says Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “American consumers have made their voices heard. We want safer and healthier milk. We congratulate Starbucks for rising to the occasion.”
Recombinant bovine growth hormone, or BGH, is a genetically engineered hormone used to make cows produce more milk. The hormone may lead to increased rates of colon, breast and prostate cancer and is banned in Canada, Japan, Australia and all 25 countries of the European Union.
Food & Water Watch chose Starbucks as the target of its BGH-free campaign because “we wanted a national company that used lots and lots of milk so consumers nationwide could get involved,” says Hauter. “We want to change the way dairy procurement is done.”
Commercial milk distributors pool milk from many different dairies, and being required to provide BGH-free milk to a large customer like Starbucks will “begin to de-commercialize BGH and change the way consumer processors think,” says Hauter.
Other nationally known brands to have banned the hormone include Tillamook cheese, Safeway’s Lucerne milk, Lactaid milk and Stonyfield Farm yogurt.


Cancel the debt, invest in health. That’s the essence of a new program launched by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in September. Through debt relief, the Debt2Health program aims to free up domestic resources in developing countries that can then be invested in the country’s health sector. The Global Fund is a multilateral agency created in 2001 to mobilize resources against three of the world’s most devastating diseases.
As part of a pilot program, the German and Indonesian governments signed an agreement by which Germany will forgive 50 million Euro (about $73 million) of Indonesia’s debt on the condition that Indonesia invests half that amount into Global Fund-approved health programs.
“Debt2Health is a win-win situation for all,” says German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul. “It increases predictability for the Global Fund to do its important work; Indonesia strengthens the health system in the country; and Germany lives up to its responsibility in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.”
Germany has committed a total of 200 million Euros (about $137 million) over four years to the Debt2Health program. Other beneficiary countries that will enter the Global Fund’s pilot program in 2008 include Kenya, Pakistan and Peru, according to Robert Filipp, head of innovative financing at the Global Fund. The goal of the pilot phase is to convert up to $250 million of debt in the four pilot countries, generating $125 million in additional resources for those countries.
The Global Fund is working with several other potential donor countries, but “no concrete name can be announced at this stage,” says Filipp.
“Debt2Health goes beyond traditional development financing,” says Global Fund Executive Director Dr. Michel Kazatchkine. “Debt2Health makes it possible for a country to receive economic relief while its citizens benefit from health services.”

Colombian Suit Derailed

The Alabama-based coal company Drummond is not liable for the 2001 murders of three union leaders at its La Loma mine in Colombia, a U.S. federal jury found in July.
Lawyers for the families of the union leaders say the outcome of the trial may have been different had the jury heard the eyewitness testimony of four men with first-hand knowledge of the connection between Drummond and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC, after its Spanish acronym) — the paramilitary group that carried out the assassinations — and have appealed the decision.
The slain union leaders’ families and the Sintramienergetica union, which represents workers at Drummond’s La Loma mine, first sued Drummond in 2002 under the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act. The suit charged that Drummond had supplied paramilitary groups with fuel, vehicles and shelter in exchange for the murder of the union leaders. Two witnesses, who were not permitted to testify, claim they saw money passed from Augusto Jimenez, the president of Drummond’s local subsidiary, to a representative of paramilitary commanders to pay for the killings.
A Sintramienergetica union official testified that Jimenez also made regular threats to employees not to talk, warning that “a fish that swims with its mouth open soon dies.”
In a statement, Drummond maintained that it “has not nor will it make any payments, agreements or transactions with illegal groups and emphatically denies that the company or any of its executives has had any involvement with the murder of the three labor union leaders.”
Terry Collingsworth, of the Washington, D.C.-based International Rights Advocates and lead counsel for the union leader families, believes the four witnesses who were not allowed to testify would have provided the jury with the “missing link” in the case. “Every one of [the four witnesses] could have said they knew Drummond paid the AUC to kill those guys,” says Collingsworth. Judge Karon Bowdre rejected inclusion of the witnesses because they were all submitted as potential witnesses to the court after the discovery deadline passed.
All three of the murdered union leaders had appealed to Drummond, as well as Colombia’s Minister of Labor and the Attorney General’s office, for protection from paramilitary groups because of death threats against them and others. No action was ever taken.    

— Jennifer Wedekind

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