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.]
Demo Debate Shapes Up
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
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
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;
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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