Demo Debate Shapes Up

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt shook up the White House December 2 with a speech in which he criticized the focus on "small ideas" from unnamed politicians. He called for a more populist Democratic Party that address issues such as the growing gap between the rich and poor and the erosion of America's industrial base. [See the text on page 14.]

White House officials boycotted a meeting with congressional Democrats the next day and President Clinton refused to take a call from Gephardt, according to the New York Times. Gephardt reportedly is preparing another run for President in a race where Vice President Al Gore generally is conceded to be the frontrunner and Clinton is doing all he can to enhance Gore's chances.

Sen. Paul Wellstone is another progressive Democrat considering a race for President. He recently traced the steps of the late Robert F. Kennedy with a tour of low-income communities from rural Minnesota to the Mississippi Delta, coal mining Harlan County, Ky., and inner-city neighborhoods in East Los Angeles and Baltimore.

[See his earlier speech, "The Unfinished Agenda: Race, Poverty and Gender in America," in the March 1997 Progressive Populist.]

In Austin for a conference on bringing together labor, academics and the community, Wellstone said progressives can win if they focus on populist, standard-of-living issues, such as universal health care, quality education and fair trade laws that ensure jobs at living wages.

Wellstone added that progressives need to get back to organizing people at the grassroots, as he did in his re-election effort that turned out 65 percent of registered voters and won by 9 points against a fierce Republican air attack that sought to brand him as "embarrassingly liberal" in part because he voted against the welfare deform bill.

Between Gephardt and Wellstone, progressive Democrats may yet get a chance to challenge the pro-corporate "centrism" of the party.

'Food Slander' Trial Set

OPRAH WINFREY and Howard Lyman of the Humane Society of the U.S. will stand trial Jan. 5 in Amarillo, Texas, on complaints of "food slander" for criticizing the feeding of rendered animal parts to beef cattle, which some scientists believe could spread Mad Cow disease. Texas is one of 13 states that have authorized agribusinesses to sue for food disparagement, and two cattlemen sued Winfrey and Lyman, a former cattle rancher turned vegetarian food activist, for discussing the threat of Mad Cow disease to American beef.

Winfrey reportedly plans to move her popular TV show to Amarillo during the state court trial, which could last several weeks. Winfrey said the food slander laws pose a threat to First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of the press. "I maintain my right to ask questions and to hold a public debate on issues that impact the general public and my audience," she said.

For more information on Mad Cow disease find Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?, a book by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, published by Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine.

GOP Greenhouse Gasbags

REPUBLICANS PLAN TO make political hay out of the Kyoto agreement to reduce greenhouse gases even as they promote more trade agreements. The New York Times reported that Republicans already are testing anti-Kyoto rhetoric. Steve Forbes, of all people, recently called the accord, which calls on the United States to reduce its emissions by 7 percent from 1990 levels, "an unprecedented government seizure of American freedom and sovereignty." He doesn't seem to mind that the Multilateral Agreement on Investments would open the U.S. Treasury to the dictates of international courts in trade disputes. [See Editorial, page 2.]

FDA Promotes Nuked Food

On November 21, President Clinton signed into law Senate Bill 830, the so-called Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997. The bill was designed primarily to speed up approval of drugs and medical devices, especially cancer and AIDS drugs. But factory farm and multinational food interests managed to insert a "Trojan Horse" labeling provision that called on the FDA to approve the irradiation of beef to kill bacteria and prolong the shelf life of meat.

However, given the fact that 77% of the American public recently declared their opposition to irradiated foods in a September poll by CBS News, congressional supporters of food irradiation weakened current U.S. laws which require relatively clear labeling of foods (but not spices or ingredients in processed foods) which have been irradiated. Under the new law, after food manufacturers have nuked a food product, they will be required only to divulge this fact in tiny letters on the back of the food package. Restaurants and institutional food providers (schools, hospitals, company cafeterias) are not required to notify consumers at all.

Even this was not enough for some industry lobbyists, who stressed that the word "nuclear irradiation" should not appear at all on irradiated foods -- but rather should be replaced by more reassuring terms such as "cold pasteurization" or "pico waved."

-- From Ronnie Cummins, Pure Food Campaign USA; phone 218- 226-4155; email: alliance@mr.net.

MAI Book in Print

THE FIRST BOOK-LENGTH analysis of the proposed treaty to give foreign investors the right to challenge domestic laws is available. MAI: the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the Threat to Canadian Sovereignty, by Tony Clarke and Maude Barlow (206 pages, $15.95), is published by Apex Press of New York. Although written for a Canadian audience, Ward Morehouse, president of Apex Press, said "this trenchant and hard-hitting book is equally relevant to Americans -- and indeed to persons everywhere committed to resisting corporate rule and restoring democracy." Also availalble is Silent Coup: Confronting the Big Business Takeover of Canada, by Clarke (273 pages, $17.50). To order either book, call 1-800-316-APEX.

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