CALAMITY HOWLER/A.V. Krebs
When Carl Lindner Talks, People Listen
In a surprising development the Cincinnati Enquirer published a front-page
"apology" to Chiquita International after the paper had published
an 18-page report accusing the company of improper land dealings overseas,
involvement in a bribery scheme in Colombia and putting public health at
risk with chemical poison use on Central American banana farms.
Formerly notorious as the United Fruit Company, Chiquita also received a
settlement from the Gannett-owned paper, which agreed to pay Chiquita $10
million to settle possible claims.
At the same time the paper fired lead reporter Michael Gallagher, saying
he had illegally obtained Chiquita employees' voice-mails in pursuit of
the story. Subsequently, Chiquita sued Gallagher in federal court, accusing
him of defamation and stealing thousands of voice-mails with the help of
three current or former Chiquita employees. Gallagher has declined to comment.
In its apology, published for three days on the Enquirer's front
page as part of the Chiquita agreement, the paper said that it renounced
the articles and that they "created a false and misleading impression
of Chiquita business practices." The statement and the paper's settlement
before a suit had been filed by Chiquita left the newspaper's own employees
both bewildered and confused.
"We still don't even understand if the paper is saying the charges
are untrue or not," an Enquirer employee told the New York
Times on condition of anonymity. "The whole thing just leaves everyone
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Post has reported that FBI agents have
been investigating the case for about a month, focusing on whether anyone
violated wiretapping laws in obtaining Chiquita employees' voice-mail messages.
Likewise, the Hamilton County sheriff also has been investigating for about
a month, and special prosecutor Perry L. Ancona was appointed to look into
the matter on June 1. Ancona has been working with a grand jury, which heard
testimony from at least one former Enquirer reporter.
Harry M. Whipple, president and publisher of the Enquirer, has declined
to comment. Chiquita spokesman Joseph Hagin also would not comment on the
investigation, but said the newspaper had wired Chiquita the settlement,
Reporter Gallagher was not part of the paper's settlement. In addition to
being sued he has been subpoenaed by the special prosecutor. The lawsuit
accuses Gallagher of posing questions to company representatives, then eavesdropping
on the voice mail of Chiquita lawyers and executives as they prepared their
The Post also reported on July 9 that the judge who assigned himself
to the case of whether private voice mail messages were stolen from Chiquita
received campaign contributions from people connected to the investigation,
including Lindner and Ancona, the special prosecutor working with the grand
What makes the Enquirer/Chiquita case even more curious is the fact
that prior to the Enquirer being sold to the Gannett Company, the
chief stockholder in the company that owned the paper was Carl H. Lindner,
Chiquita's current CEO.
And as Dr. Robert Steele, director of the ethics program at the Poynter
Institute, a group in St. Petersburg, Florida that studies journalism practices,
told the Times, Mr. Lindner is a man of considerable power in Cincinnati.
"When he talks, people listen."
Nobody Here But Us Chickens
In a 1995 meeting with U.S. Attorney General Reno and her top aides Independent
Counsel Donald C. Smaltz sought to expand his probe of former U.S. Agricultural
Secretary Mike Espy to include an allegation that officials of Tyson Foods,
the nation's leading poultry producer, had delivered cash to then-Arkansas
Gov. Bill Clinton. Smaltz, however, claims he was blocked from doing so
by the Attorney General.
"We were not investigating the president. But if Tyson did give cash
to public officials, then that would be relevant to our investigation,"
Smaltz said in an interview broadcast on a PBS Frontline documentary
dealing with the role of the Independent Counsel
Smaltz implied Reno had succumbed to political pressure in the matter. "My
sense was that Tyson was putting a lot of pressure on the Justice Department,"
he said. He claimed that the Arkansas poultry company got Rep. Jay Dickey
(R-Ark.) to go to the department to block his probe.
"First of all we had Dickey running around, saying I'm crazy. . . .
Now we have the attorney general allegedly saying I can't investigate anything
about Tyson, all right? Now you add those things up and you try and bring
witnesses forward. It doesn't work."
Smaltz first testified about his dispute with the Justice Department at
a congressional hearing last December. While attributing his problems not
to politics, but to the department's desire to "rein in" the independence
of the outside prosecutors, he declined to discuss the Tyson matter. A few
weeks after the hearing, however, Tyson pleaded guilty to giving $12,000
in gifts to Espy and agreed to pay a $4 million fine and $2 million to cover
Smaltz's investigation of Espy has generated controversy ever since his
appointment in September 1994. Yet, he has won 10 convictions and millions
of dollars in fines. Espy was indicted last August on charges of soliciting
gifts worth more than $35,000 from companies he was supposed to be regulating,
including Tyson. The trial has been delayed while Smaltz appeals a judge's
decision to dismiss four of the counts.
Smaltz, in expressing concern over the manner in which the Attorney General
has blocked his investigation alleged that she "wouldn't even touch"
an allegation his probe turned up about President Clinton.
Recently Smaltz, was once again blocked in an attempt to expand his probe
beyond specified alleged wrong-doing involving former Secretary Espy. A
three-judge federal panel ruled against Smaltz in a case that has been placed
under seal. The Justice Department says it is looking into the matter on
In his weekly Progressive Review editor Sam Smith, who also is a
columnist for The Progressive Populist, relates Smaltz apparently
wanted to look into alleged transfers of cash from Tyson Food to the Arkansas
governor's mansion reported by a former Tyson pilot.
"It is not known what is at stake here," Smith writes, "but
it may be that Smaltz wanted to peer behind Arkansas' white and green wall
of cocaine and money laundering that has repeatedly stumped serious criminal,
congressional and journalistic investigators looking into the Clinton scandals.
Smith goes on to note that "although there is no known connection,
Smaltz' request came two days after the Fayettesville, Arkansas, police
filed murder charges against two brothers in the 1986 death of Mitchell
D. Abel, a cocaine dealer and University of Arkansas architecture student.
Abel's shooting had been followed a few days later by the mysterious death
of Randall Tyson, a Tyson Foods VP and half brother of Don Tyson. The medical
examiner said Tyson had choked to death on a cookie, but there was speculation
that the deaths of Abel and Tyson were somehow connected."
Ceding the "Monster"
Within what critics and opponents of the rapidly expanding agribusiness
biotech industry have labeled "terminator" technology, the Monsanto/American
Home Products' "Monster" recent acquisition of Cargill's international
seed business for $1.4 billion is being viewed as an ominous sign.
Particularly alarming is the fact that the purchase measurably strengthens
the "Monster's" position in South America, namely Brazil and Argentina
where the addition of Cargill's assets gives Monsanto a massive market share
to deploy a technology that is being called anti-farmer and anti-poor by
farmers' groups and non-governmental organizations around the world.
As Hope Shand, research director for the Rural Advancement Fund International
(RAFI) explains, this newly patented "terminator" technology (US
#5,723,765) sterilizes and renders useless farm-saved seed by irrevocably
halting a plant's reproductive process. "Providing no agronomic benefit,
the Terminator's sole goal is to force farmers to return to the commercial
seed market every year and thereby fatten industry profits," she notes.
It was the newly acquired Monsanto subsidiary, Delta and Pine Land Co. which
patented the Terminator in March 1998. It was immediately after Delta &
Pine was swallowed up whole by Monsanto for $1.76 billion that Monsanto
announced a mega-merger with American Home Products (AHP) for $33.5 billion.
Since 1996, Monsanto has spent a staggering $8.1 billion buying seed companies.
"After this binge," Shand stresses, "the seemingly insatiable
`Monster' is approaching monopoly market share in several major food crops.
But anti-trust matters should be a secondary concern now. The real threat
is to global food security."
By purchasing Cargill's international seed operations Monsanto has now established
itself as a major player, if not a dominant one, in its ability to insert
its proprietary seed technologies into overseas markets. While Cargill,
this nation's largest private corporation with annual sales of $56 billion
in fiscal 1997, has not been a major player in the U.S. seed market it handles
seed abroad everywhere from China to Tanzania with breeding operations in
24 countries and selling seed in 51 countries.
Monsanto estimates that the potential for its genetically modified crops
at 275 million acres, compared with 160 million acres in North America.
According to the June, 1998 AgBiotech Reporter Cargill's maize and
oil seeds business is especially strong in Latin America and Asia where
it dominates tropical maize seed sales. Through other acquisitions, Monsanto
already controls about a third of the Brazilian maize seed business and
half of the Argentinean market. With Cargill's 2,200 seed subsidiary employees
scattered about the globe, the "Monster" is now a serious rival
to Pioneer Hi-Bred International. Pioneer continues to be the world's largest
seed enterprise and (until now) the unchallenged leader in maize breeding.
Since early May, Monsanto has acquired two of the world's top ten seed companies
with combined global sales of about $688 million. The "Monster's"
purchase of Holden's Foundation Seeds last year, combined with this year's
takeovers of Dekalb and Cargill, have taken the St. Louis, Missouri headquartered
company from nowhere to number two in global maize seed sales.
When Monsanto's other seed company acquisitions are added up, the "Monster"
may now occupy the number two position in the sale of all crop seed worldwide.
The merger with AHP in June also instantly created the world's largest crop
Who Writes the Rules?
In a remarkable piece of journalistic analysis Chicago Tribune reporter
R.C. Longworth has authored an in-depth article that explores who is writing
the rules that will govern the world economy into the 21st century. Within
Zurich to Hong Kong secret conferences, in Singapore, Paris, London and
New York legal chambers and in government offices in Washington and Tokyo
small groups of global planners are indeed making just such plans.
In addition, since most of these rules carry an American stamp, the United
States is in effect exporting its laws and regulations to the rest of the
But, Longworth emphasizes, with the explosion of the global economy into
"a $400-trillion-a-year behemoth" which has created whole new
arenas for business, beyond the reach of governments, all this work has
two things in common.
"First, little of it protects workers or communities, or reins in the
power of global markets. Instead, it is aimed at making the markets safer,
more efficient and, hence, more powerful. Second, it is taking place virtually
unnoticed and not debated by voters, politicians or the media. To a great
degree, the rules are being written by experts and technicians, with no
Since the market's power has increased, Longworth notes, so have efforts
-- some governmental, some private, some both -- to wrap it in the rules
and regulations that have long controlled all the major national economies,
including the American one.
Some of the examples he cites include:
(ogonek) Increasingly, global business disputes are settled not in courts
but in private tribunals run by arbitrators chosen by the litigants and
dominated by American lawyers. The proceedings are secret and the results
never published resulting in a private justice system, closed to the public
but much more "efficient" than normal trials.
(ogonek) In Paris, negotiators from 29 nations have been meeting in secret
for nearly three years to write rules governing investment around the world
by multinational companies, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI),
the fastest-growing segment of the global economy aimed at "more, easier
and safer investment in other countries."
(ogonek) In Montreal, work is under way on accounting standards for companies
that want to register their stock on global stock markets. The rules will
dictate how much these companies must tell the public and how honest they
(ogonek) In Basel, Switzerland, the Bank for International Settlements,
which coordinates the world's central banks, has issued new "core principles"
guiding bank examiners in all countries. The principles are not binding
but could determine which countries get access to global money markets and
which do not thus attempting to prevent a repeat of the Asian crisis by
forcing Third World countries to clean up corrupt banking systems and "make
the world safer for global investors."
A. V. Krebs is editor/publisher of The Agbiz Tiller Online at
http://ea1.com/tiller or write him at P.O. Box 2201, Everett, WA 98203;
News | Current Issue
| Back Issues | Essays
About the Progressive Populist | How
to Subscribe | How to Contact Us
Copyright © 1998 The Progressive Populist