Multinational Monitor

MAR/APR 2009
VOL 30 No. 2


A New Life for the IMF: Capitalizing on Crisis
by Robert Weissman


Burden of Proof: The Precautionary Principle
an interview with Peter Montague

A Carbon-Free Future
an interview with Arjun Makhijani

Green Stimulus
an interview with Robert Pollin

The Green Chemistry Revolution
an interview with Paul Anastas

A Bias to the Local: The Subsidiarity Principle
an interview with Jerry Mander


Behind the Lines

Big Ideas to Save the Planet

The Front
Global Job Meltdown - Prosecution Prognosis

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Greed At a Glance

Commercial Alert

Names In the News


Names In the News

Sugar Water

Coke markets its VitaminWater line of beverages as a healthful alternative to soda by labeling its several flavors with such health buzz words as "defense," "rescue," "energy" and "endurance."

The company says its drinks variously reduce the risk of chronic disease, reduce the risk of eye disease, promote healthy joints, and support optimal immune function.

Not true, says a lawsuit filed in January that asserts Coke's claims are deceptive.

Nutritionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) say the 33 grams of sugar in each bottle of VitaminWater do more to promote obesity, diabetes, and other health problems than the vitamins in the drinks do to perform the advertised benefits listed on the bottles.

CSPI's litigation department is serving as co-counsel in the class action lawsuit, filed in a U.S. federal court in California. VitaminWater contains between zero and 1 percent juice despite product names such as "endurance peach mango" and "focus kiwi strawberry."

"When I bought VitaminWater, frankly I thought I was doing myself a favor health-wise," says the plaintiff in the case, San Francisco, California, resident James Koh, who used to purchase and drink VitaminWater after working out at the gym. "I was attracted by the prospect of getting extra vitamins. But I had no idea that I was actually getting almost a Coke's worth of sugar and calories. There's no way I would have spent money on that, had I known."

Wall Street's Inauguration

President-elect Barack Obama banned corporate and lobbyist funding for his historic inauguration, but that did not keep special interests from picking up the tab, according to a Public Citizen analysis.

Nearly 80 percent of the $35.3 million raised through January by the Presidential Inaugural Committee came from just 211 individual "bundlers."

"Bundlers" are well-connected fundraisers, frequently corporate executives, who collect checks from colleagues or other associates, deliver them to a fundraising committee and receive credit for raising the money.

Obama has voluntarily banned direct contributions for his inaugural committee from corporations, lobbyists, political action committees and unions.

But the committee is accepting individual contributions of up to $50,000 and bundled amounts of up to $300,000.

Obama's 211 inaugural bundlers account for $27.6 million of the $35.3 million raised to date.

Many prominent Wall Street executives bundled large amounts for the inauguration, including: Louis Susman of Citigroup ($300,000); Mark Gilbert of Lehman Brothers ($185,000); Robert Wolf, chair and CEO of UBS Americas ($100,000); and Jennifer Scull of Goldman Sachs ($100,000).

"It's no wonder that Wall Street is pouring so much money into this inauguration," says David Arkush, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division. "The executive branch has given bailouts worth trillions of dollars to Wall Street firms and is considering trillions more. Wall Street has a lot at stake."

De-regulatory Czar

President Obama's apparent choice of Professor Cass Sunstein to direct OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) - the so-called "regulatory czar" - likely means that the Obama administration will embrace many of the mechanisms by which the Bush Administration delayed, weakened and scuttled vitally needed regulations protecting health, safety and the environment, according to a new report from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR).

"Cass Sunstein is a progressive on many issues and is well-respected for his scholarship," says CPR President Rena Steinzor, one of the report's co-authors.

"But the hard truth is that he's a committed advocate of the very methods that the Bush Administration and some of its predecessors have used to bottle up much-needed regulatory protections for health, safety and the environment. The record on cost-benefit is clear: it has repeatedly failed to assess fairly the benefits of proposed regulations, while consistently overstating the costs. It has become a tool for bottling up needed protections. That's exactly why many anti-regulatory advocates support it."

The CPR report raises concerns about Sunstein's views on regulation, including his:

  • Support for cost-benefit analysis as a primary tool for assessing regulations, despite what CPR says is its imprecision and the ease with which it is manipulated to achieve preferred policy outcomes;
  • Support for such cost-benefit approaches as the widely condemned "senior discount" method for undervaluing the lives of seniors in cost-benefit analyses, an approach even the Bush Administration was forced to disown;
  • Writings suggesting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration may be unconstitutional; and
  • Rejection of the "precautionary principle" as a basis for regulating, thus ensuring that dangerous pollutants and products will be given the "benefit of the doubt," rather than well-grounded concerns about health and safety.

- Russell Mokhiber


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