(A sampling of recent news stories and features that should interest progressive populists. For full story and additional details see publication or URL address.)
In a ruling on Feb. 14 handed down by the Court of Appeal of the Florida Second District the court in essence said technically it is not against any law, rule or regulation to deliberately lie or distort the news on a television broadcast.
The three judge panel thus reversed the previous $425,000 jury verdict in favor of journalist Jane Akre who charged she was pressured by Fox Television management and lawyers to air what she knew and documented to be false information concerning the widespread use of the Monsanto manufactured rBGH hormone. See www.foxBGHsuit.com
(Jake Henshaw, Ventura County Star, Feb. 25, 2003, California farm groups filed their anticipated lawsuit against a new labor bill that forces mandatory mediation on growers and farmworkers when contract negotiations stall. Western Growers and the California Farm Bureau challenged the law as unconstitutional in the suit filed in Superior Court. The law was signed in September. (www.visaliatimesdelta.com/news/stories/20030225/localnews/1055719.html)
(Associated Press, Feb. 28, 2003) The City Council approved an ordinance requiring businesses and nonprofit organizations to pay workers a minimum $8.50 an hour. Scores of local governments around the country have set their own minimum wages for the employees of businesses that win government contracts, but the Santa Fe ordinance goes farther: It covers all workers not directly employed by the government and businesses and nonprofit groups with 25 or more workers. It will go into effect in January. (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14038-2003Feb27.html)
(Gregory Crouch, Jennifer Bayot, New York Times, Feb. 26, 2003) The Netherlands, Feb. 25 &emdash; The accounting scandal at Royal Ahold has left thousands of its Dutch employees in debt to the company. In the 1990s, rising stock markets bolstered the idea that employees and companies alike could benefit by encouraging workers to own significant stakes in their businesses. The idea spread in the United States and across the Atlantic.
Ahold, the global grocery company, created a program that encouraged workers in the Netherlands not only to buy stock but allowed them to borrow money to do so. Some 3,500 workers at Ahold and its Dutch subsidiaries, including the supermarket chain Albert Heijn, took out company loans in the last decade to buy shares of a fund that invested in Ahold stock, debt and other obligations. Since the company disclosed accounting problems on Monday, the company's stock and bonds have plunged in value. (www.nytimes.com/2003/02/26/business/26PLAC.html)
(Tina Rosenberg, New York Times, March 3, 20003) In January, campesinos from all over the country marched into Mexico City's central plaza to protest. Thousands of men in jeans and straw hats jammed the Zócalo, alongside horses and tractors. Farmers have staged smaller protests around Mexico for months. The protests have won campesino organizations a series of talks with the government. But they are unlikely to get what they want: a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, protective temporary tariffs and a new policy that seeks to help small farmers instead of trying to force them off the land.
The problems of rural Mexicans are echoed around the world as countries lower their import barriers, required by free trade treaties and rules of the World Trade Organization. When markets are open, agricultural products flood in from wealthy nations, which subsidize agriculture and allow agribusiness to export crops cheaply. European farmers get 35% of their income in government subsidies, American farmers 20%. American subsidies are at record levels, and last year, Washington passed a farm bill that included a $40 billion increase in subsidies to large grain and cotton farmers.
(Lee Hockstader, Washington Post, March 3, 2003 SANTA FE, N.M. &emdash; It is doubtful that any other American movie ever inspired such official harassment and outright intimidation as "Salt of the Earth," the saga of striking Mexican American miners written and directed by blacklisted Hollywood filmmakers during the Red Scare. During the course of production in New Mexico in 1953, the trade press denounced it as a subversive plot, anti-Communist vigilantes fired rifle shots at the set, the film's leading lady was deported to Mexico, and from time to time a small plane buzzed noisily overhead.
"Salt of the Earth" was completed eventually, only to be so thoroughly suppressed on its release in 1954 that some film historians call it the only blacklisted American movie. (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A31353-2003Mar2.html)
A.V. Krebs is director of the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project, PO Box 2201, Everett, WA 98203. He publishes a free e-mail newsletter, The Agribusiness Examiner; email firstname.lastname@example.org; web site www.ea1.com/CARP/