In Brief

PR Firms in death makeover scandal

Congratulations to PR giant Bur son-Mars teller (BM) on winning the contract to improve the image of the genocidal Indonesian government. BM has plenty of experience in this field. It 'reassured' the public about Union Carbide after their pesticide factory killed thousands in Bhopal. It deflected criticism of Babcock and Wilcox after the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. It painted the Exxon-Valez oil spill as, ahem, not that bad really. "When is a disaster not a disaster? When it turns into a business opportunity", according to Marketing Week, which adds, "with good crisis management, a company can even ride the bad publicity of multiple deaths and come out smelling of roses."

Phallacy of Free Market is revealed

'Free Market' capitalism was exposed as the century's biggest lie this morning with the revelation that just 500 companies control 70% of the world's trade. A spokesperson for the world's oppressed claimed that this was to be expected, "the rise of monopolies as the result of the concentration of production is a general and fundamental law of the present stage of capitalism". This is the global empire of monopoly capitalism, which plunders the world's resources to stuff the bank accounts of Western billionaires.

Meanwhile, a third of the world's population are living in absolute poverty.

Spilling The Genes

A direct action protest outside an Islington supermarket last Saturday, highlighted the need for consumer awareness about the genetic manipulation of Britain's foods. This year, an estimated 60% of processed foods entering the country will contain a new form of Soya which has been genetically tampered with by large multinational conglomerates, such as Monsanto.

The fact is this, nobody wants or needs to consume genetically engineered products. But it is clear from investment patterns that business views it as a potential profit bonanza.

Monsanto - the agrochemicals firm currently forcing genetically engineered Soybeans onto the European market in order to sell more of its herbicide - spends $120 billion a year on research. It recently paid over $1 billion to purchase three seed companies. Corporate money is pouring into universities and crop research centres.

PPL Therapeutics, who funded the creation of Dolly the Sheep, recently launched on the stock market for 100 million.

Integral to the market creation strategy is the removal of choice from the consumer. Monsanto and Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis) have fought to prevent the labelling of their products on supermarket shelves. Evidently, their biggest fear is that fully-informed consumers would boycott their products and reduce profits.

It is crucial for consumers to recognise that genetic engineering and the patenting of new life forms by biotechnology companies, represents a global strategy by big business to secure control over the world's food markets. There has been a recent rash of corporate mergers as pharmaceutical, agribusiness, chemical and food companies join forces in order to enjoy the profits of the new biotechnology era.

Monsanto, Novartis, SmithKline Beecham, Hoescht and Boehringer are already monopolising the sale of seeds and chemicals to a new generation of farmers.

A Global Week Of Action on genetic engineering is planned from April 21-26.


Evading Standards

COMMENT

Groucho Marx once said "humour is the first retreat of the cynic". But as optimist we devoted only our front page to humour.

The election is the defining moment of our so called democracy . Ever more hideous it confronts us like a huge advertising war between Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Both claim to be the real thing and as the campaign piles farce upon farce it becomes clear that if our problems have solutions they lie outside the parliamentary fray.

Martin Bell standing against Sleaze", summed up feelings felt by a lot of us "There's been a poison in the democratic system, which means the democratic system is unable to operate." There are many poisons in the democratic system - the whole notion that democracy is about representation and not direct participation for one.- and that putting a cross on a piece of paper every five years is the limit of our democracy are poisons enough - but another poison has emerged, one that eats at the heart of the concept of democracy, the fact that power is rapidly shifting away from our locally "elected representatives" towards unaccountable bodies such as TNCs and financial institutions.Bodies who exist to replicate money and to maximise their profit at any cost, and who have no other interests. Democracy has been sold to Corporate culture and we and the ecosystem are all paying the heavy price.

West's hidden famine

Every year, 150,000 American women starve to death - voluntarily. Over 10% of the UK's female population have eating disorders and a recent survey by Swansea University revealed that 25% of 5-7 year old girls considered themselves "too fat". When women gained the vote eating disorders were a rarity. As the fashion, beauty and diet industries flood the media with a fictitious ideal of female beauty, 'deaths from dieting' have increased in proportion to advertising spend. So, why does the media continue to glorify the thin, wasted and often falsely created? Maybe it's because it keeps us buying more and more useless products in a bid to resemble an ideal only available with the help of an airbrush or the surgeon's knife.

MP's in Sun shadow

Wednesday 26 March and for the first time in the ten day old election campaign the Tories seem to be making some impression on the opposition as Labour head into trouble in its campaign over the issue of trade union rights.

The next day The Sun publishes its revelations about the sexual misconduct of Piers Merchant MP, information it is believed to have known since February. The result? The Tory campaign is knocked into a swamp of sleaze for another week and Labour is left with a much needed 'window' of time in which to regroup itself.

Coincidence or yet another example of the transnational media abusing its influence to insure its own omnipotent position in any future power structure?

Political parties, governments and corporations have long realised the awesome power of the transnational media to sway public opinion, summed up by The Sun in its own infamous headline "It's the Sun wot won it!" after the 1992 general election.

The political allegiance of the Media giants is a potent weapon for any political party and is too valuable to sacrifice for such principles as the rights of the citizens of this country to an independent, free and democratic press.

It is clear that since his meeting with News Corp executives in Australia in July 1995, Tony Blair has reassured Murdoch that any Labour government will refrain from legislation which would threaten Murdoch's grip on the British newspaper industry. Nor will Labour undermine with regulation, the monopoly that Murdoch's BSkyB holds in the UK.

Blair might now have the political backing of the most widely read newspapers in the land, but he must remember that the Media Moguls are highly skilled opportunist and the same power which could take him to No 10 could also be used to devastate his government if the Tories suddenly seem a better deal.


NATIONAL DISASTERS        WORLD HEALTH         GLOBAL WARMING
Since 1950 - the world economy has expanded 5 fold. What this means is that in each of the five decades since 1950 we have added more things to the planet (dug more mines, built more cars, houses, roads, hospitals, airports drilled more oil, made more objects, more packaging, more computers, more telephones, more supermarkets and on and on) than we had from the moment the first stone axe was carved around 30000 BC right up to 1950! Every 10 years we have added more stuff than in the last 32000 years! As a "Healthy" economy is one whose only aim is growth, then there is no stopping this process until the planet reaches its limits, which according to most scientific studies will be some time within the next 30 years.

DRY FACTS: This spring has been the driest since records began, 230 years ago. The Thames was so low this week that pleasure boats could not sail up to Hampton Court. .

Thames water loose 38% of its water through leakages - thats 396 litres per day for every household in the region!

World demand for water will double in the next 21 years.

CORPORATIONS AND NATIONS: 50 of the top 100 economies in the world are actually Transnational corporations.

This includes British Petroleum, whose turnover is greater than that of Portugal and Shell, which has a greater turnover than Greece and the Czech Republic combined.

Power no longer resides with government or nation states but with large transnationals and banks.

Climate Change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and gas will get worse - within the next few years 36 countries will be covered by water and 100 million people forced to leave their homes.

Over 100 billion is spent every year to subsides power stations that add to Global warming. Only 34% of the energy potential of electricity generating fuel is transmitted to the customer

Political parties cannot solve the ecological and social problems we face. The good news is that there's a world wide movement which is reafirming the local and is utterly opposed to the Dollar measure of life. From the workplace struggles against casualisation to the millions of Indian farmers protesting against G.A.T.T. From anti-roads campaigns to fights against hospital closures people are fighting back. Tomorrow, March for social justice and Never Mind The Ballots.

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