WTO PROTEST ANNIVERSARY. On the anniversary of the protests against the World Trade Organization Nov. 30-Dec. 2, activists are invited back to the streets of Seattle. Organizations such as Jubilee 2000 Northwest, No to WTO/People's Assembly, King County Labor Council, Citiaction, Sustainable Fisheries Alliance, Seattle Food Not Bombs, Tibetan Rights Action Coalition, Global Action Seattle, Your Mother's Army, Socialist Alternative, Basement Nation, IAM Productions, Seattle Black Cross Health Care Collective, and others are mobilizing for many different aspects of N30 week. "Last year we got the message out about the destructive and exploitative practices of the WTO. Today, we need to get the message out that the WTO is still a threat to our communities and that the IMF, World Bank, and other global institutions and transnational corporations are still busy at work undermining our democracy. (Did somebody say Free Trade Agreement of the Americas?) We have a lot of work to do, educating, organizing, community building, revolutionizing," according to a statement by Citiaction, a campaign against Citigroup which is one of the sponsors of the gathering. Call 206-505-1554 ext. 1396 for help finding housing. Many other communities also are organizing local solidarity events. Check out www.scn.org/wtocal/ for a list of Seattle events for the week of N30.
FOOD RADIATION OK'D. Government officials and corporate executives from around the world have decided that the food supply can be "treated" with any dose of radiation. They rebuffed concerns of Public Citizen, which urged that chemicals formed by high-dose irradiation be studied to determine the harm they might cause the public. During a three-day meeting in November that was closed to the public at the World Health Organization, the International Consultative Group on Food Irradiation (ICGFI) decided that the maximum radiation dose for food could be eliminated without posing additional hazards to people. The current international radiation limit is 10 kiloGray -- the equivalent of 330 million chest X-rays, or 2,000 times the fatal radiation dose for humans.
The ICGFI reasoned that some food has to be irradiated at high levels to kill certain microorganisms, but it ignored evidence that food irradiated at high doses is nutritionally deficient and may be harmful. The ICGFI, which met Nov. 1-3, effectively barred a Public Citizen staff person from entering the meeting room. US government officials invited the staff person to join their delegation, but under ICGFI's rules, doing so would have made the organization a de facto supporter of US food irradiation policies. Therefore, Public Citizen declined the invitation.
Public Citizen is challenging several recent decisions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including this year's rulings to legalize the irradiation of eggs and sprouting seeds.
WORKING FAMILIES PARTY BEATS GOAL. More than 3,000 volunteers worked to get out more than 102,000 votes for progressive candidates endorsed by the New York Working Families Party on election day. "From ACORN members hitting the projects in Central Brooklyn to UAW members talking to swing voters in Cheektowaga, from the telephone workers in the Bronx to the Citizen Action folks in the Capitol District, we had a terrific operation," said party organizer Dan Cantor. The vote total was more than double what WFP got in 1998, he noted. In moving from eighth to fourth place among the political parties, he said, "we have established the WFP as an important player in next year's city and county elections all across the state."
Cantor noted that the Conservative Party was down 50%, the Independence/Reform Party was down 85%, Right-to-Life down 75% and Liberals showed no change, but only the Conservatives and the WFP topped 100,000 votes in the 2000 Senate race, where it endorsed Hillary Clinton. The party also helped elect Pat Eddington, a registered WFP member from Suffolk County, to the State Assembly, the first enrolled member of a minor party to sit in the State Legislature in more than 45 years. The party also helped Liz Krueger, a Dem/WFP/Green candidate who appeared to oust longtime Republican incumbent Roy Goodman in a hotly contested State Senate race on Manhattan's East Side. The 1600-plus votes she received on the WFP line provided more than her margin of victory, if she holds on, Cantor noted. New York is the only state that allows "fusion voting" where parties cross-endorse nominees of other parties. Contact WFP at 718-222-3796 or see www.workingfamiliesparty.org.
ALABAMA OK'S RACE-MIXING. One little-reported aspect of the general election was Alabama's decision to remove the ban on interracial marriages in its state constitution, with ratification by 60% of voters. Philip A. Klinkner, Associate Professor of Government at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., noted in a posting to the Left Business Observer email discussion list that exit polls showed the Alabama electorate was 73% white and 25% black. "Assuming that blacks gave 90% support to the resolution (about the same level of support for Gore), then whites split just about evenly on the measure. In other words, even in the 21st century, at a best, only a bare majority of white Alabamans were willing to eliminate this Jim Crow relic from their state constitution."
JOBS FOLLOW ENVIRONMENT. States with the best environmental records also offer the best job opportunities and climate for long-term economic development, according to a study by the Institute for Southern Studies. "In the 2000 elections, political leaders were still debating about whether protecting the environment will cost jobs," says Chris Kromm, a co-author of the report and Director of the Institute, a non-profit research center in Durham, N.C. "What this study finds is that the trade-off myth is untrue. At the state policy level, efforts to promote a healthy environment and a sound economy go hand-in-hand."
The study, entitled "Gold and Green 2000," ranks each state's economic performance and the stresses on the environment. Vermont, Rhode Island and Minnesota ranked among the top six on both economic and environmental health. Other "top performers" with high marks on both scales are Colorado, Maryland, Maine, and Wisconsin.
Conversely, 10 states -- mostly in the South -- are among the worst 15 on both lists. For example, Louisiana ranks 48th on economic performance and 50th on the environment. Others in the cellar are: Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky, and South Carolina.
The study is an update from a 1994 study. Since then, only two states managed to escape from the bottom of the barrel: Ohio and Oklahoma. The list of top performers -- those with high environmental and economic scores -- has seen more turnover, with Rhode Island and Maine adding themselves to the honor roll. While New Hampshire and Massachusetts continue to post strong economic numbers, greater environmental threats removed them from the top of the list. Similarly, the strong environmental records of Hawaii and Oregon could not offset sub-par economic performances.
The study comes at a time when bitter battles have broken out over the supposed conflict between jobs and the environment. In June of this year, national African-American and Latino labor leaders released a widely-reported study -- commissioned by the coal industry-backed Center for Energy and Economic Development -- opposing the Kyoto global climate treaty due to a perceived threat to "Black and Hispanic jobs." Across the country, local conflicts have pitted environmentalists against logging businesses, chemical companies, and other industries, who in turn raise the specter of job losses due to environmental standards.
Gold and Green 2000 joins a growing chorus of experts who argue that, while businesses may invoke the "jobs versus the environment" trade-off to resist regulation, the myth is unfounded. Environmental regulation comes at a small cost.
"Even in the most highly regulated industries, the cost tops out at two to three percent of total operating costs," says Dr. James Barrett, environmental economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "Clearly, when industry says its going to shut down or move, it's not the environmental laws that are causing this."
Barrett also observes that steps can easily be taken to prevent economic dislocation. When environmental standards impact industry -- most frequently, companies that are already in decline -- the answer is not to prolong the life of polluting or unsustainable businesses, but to ensure a "just transition" of workers to new jobs. He notes that the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, enacted in the 1960s to assist workers laid off due to trade agreements, has been little-used by workers, mostly because it provides no income support to supplement the training it offers to employees seeking new jobs -- an oversight that could be easily fixed.
For Gold and Green rankings, state-by-state profiles, and annotated sources, visit www.southernstudies.org. Copies of "Gold and Green 2000" are available for $35 by writing: ISS Reports, PO Box 531, Durham, NC 27702.
AG'S CONCERNED ABOUT 'GE' CORN. Attorneys' general from 16 states wrote the manufacturer of the genetically engineered StarLink corn calling for assurances regarding financial compensation for farmers, grain elevators, consumers and others. The Nov. 14 letter was signed by attorneys general from Iowa, Alabama, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy had sent a letter to attorneys general in seven states on Nov. 9 calling for immediate action to protect farmers from economic harm related to StarLink corn, which was found to have entered the human food supply despite its approval only for livestock feed. For more information see the IATP web site: www.sustain.org.
RUCKUS LEADER 'VINDICATED'. An activist felt vindicated Nov. 15 after prosecutors dropped charges against him for allegedly leading hundreds of demonstrators on a night of mayhem during the Republican National Convention, the Associated Press reported. A prosecutor said there was insufficient evidence against John Sellers, director of the Berkeley, Calif.-based Ruckus Society, who had been held on $1 million bail for 14 misdemeanor counts. "We said all along that these charges were fraudulent," Sellers said. "The city was pursuing us to silence our dissent rather than because of the activities we were engaged in."
A second protest leader, Terrence McGuckin, 19, of the Philadelphia Direct Action Group, was found guilty of disorderly conduct and disrupting a highway and received three months' probation.
INSTANT RUNOFF HEADED FOR ALASKA BALLOT. Petition organizers delivered 35,000 signatures to state authorities Oct. 26 to put an instant runoff election initiative before Alaska voters in 2002, the Associated Press reported. The instant runoff system would allow voters to rank their preference for candidates so that a winning candidate for a state office would receive more than half the votes, even in a multiparty election. The initiative wouldn't apply to the governor's race because Alaska's constitution mandates that the candidate receiving the greatest number of votes becomes governor and the state constitution can't be amended by initiative. In 1990, Democrat Tony Knowles was elected governor with 42% of the vote after the Independence Party and Republican Party candidates split conservative votes.