(en)Project Censored 1996: Top Ten Censored Stories

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Project Censored 1996 Story 1

RISKING THE WORLD: NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION IN SPACE

Sources:

COVERT ACTION QUARTERLY Date: Summer 1996 Title: "Risking the World: Nuclear Proliferation in Space" Author: Karl Grossman

PROGRESSIVE MEDIA PROJECT Date: May 1996 Title: "Don't send plutonium into space" Author: Karl Grossman

While much press coverage was devoted to the failed Russian space probe that crashed into the South Pacific in November of 1996--along with its payload of 200 grams of plutonium-238--virtually no attention has been paid to the 1997 launch of NASA's Cassini probe which will be carrying 72 pounds of the same deadly substance. This will not be the first United States space mission that has involved plutonium-238.

There have been at least two other missions--neither of which received any major press coverage at the time of their launches--the Galileo space probe, which went up with 49.25 pounds of plutonium in 1989, and the Ulysses space probe which went up with 25.6 pounds in 1990.

The plutonium in the Cassini probe will sit atop a Lockheed Martin-built Titan IV rocket, which has been subject to a series of mishaps including a 1993 explosion which destroyed a $1 billion spy satellite system and sent fragments falling into the Pacific Ocean.

The Cassini does not have the propulsion power to get directly to Saturn, so NASA plans a "slingshot" maneuver in which the probe will circle Venus twice and hurtle back at Earth. It will then buzz the Earth in August 1999 at 42,300 miles per hour just 312 miles above the surface. After whipping around the Earth and using its gravity, Cassini would have the velocity to reach Saturn.

The problem occurs if the probe enters the EarthUs atmosphere during the fly-by. If Cassini comes in too close, it could burn up in the atmosphere and disperse deadly plutonium across the planet. According to the NASA Environmental Impact Statement "approximately 5 billion of the estimated 7 to 8 billion world population at the time of the swingbys could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure" if there is an inadvertent reentry of the probe.

According to author Karl Grossman, plutonium-238 is not a necessity for the mission to succeed. The plutonium-238 will be used to "generate 745 watts of electricity to run instruments--a task that could be accomplished with solar energy." Indeed, within five years, the European Space Agency (ESA) could have solar cells ready to power a space mission to Saturn. Even with this knowledge, however, the Department of Energy (DoE) insists on sticking with the nuclear energy on the Cassini probe.

SSU Censored Researchers: Brant Herman Eric Woodward

Project Censored 1996 Story 2

SHELL'S OIL, AFRICA'S BLOOD

Sources: SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN Date: 2/7/96 Title: "Shell Game" Author: Vince Bielski

TEXAS OBSERVER Date: 1/12/96 Title: "Shell's Oil, Africa's Blood" Authors: Ron Nixon and Michael King

EDITOR & PUBLISHER Date: 3/23/96 Title: "Rejected Ad Flap" Author: M.L. Stein

WORLD WATCH Date: May/June 1996 Title: "Dying for Oil" Author: Aaron Sachs

Date: Jul/Aug 1996 Title: "Eco-Justice in Nigeria" Author: Chris Bright

BANK CHECK Date: February 1996 Title: "IFC Pulls Out of Shell Deal" Author: Andrea Durbin

In the wake of Nigeria's execution of nine environmental activists, including Nobel Prize winner and leader of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ken Saro-Wiwa, evidence has indicated that Shell has fomented civil unrest in Nigeria, contributed to unfair trials and failed to use its leverage to prevent the unjustified executions. The executed activists were involved in massive protests against Royal Dutch/Shell Group because of the environmental devastation it has caused--particularly in Southern Nigeria's Ogoniland.

Since the executions, Shell has also managed to keep the United States media from informing the public of its actions.

Nigeria's government, under the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha, derives 90 percent of its foreign revenue from oil exports. The United States, home of Royal Dutch's subsidiary Shell Oil Company, located in Houston, Texas, imports almost 50 percent of Nigeria's annual oil production.

In October 1990, Nigerian villagers occupied part of a Shell facility demanding compensation for the farm lands which had been destroyed by Shell. A division manager at Shell Petroleum Development Company called the Nigerian military for help. The military forces then fired on the villagers killing some 80 people and destroying or badly damaging 495 homes. A Nigerian judicial inquiry later concluded that the protest had been peaceful. The MOSOP was formed after the massacre to continue protests against Shell. And while Shell has denied having anything to do with the recent executions, Dr. Owens Wiwa, Ken Saro-Wiwa's brother, reported that on three occasions Brian Anderson, the managing director of Shell Petroleum Development Co. in Nigeria, offered to make a deal with Wiwa: Shell would try to prevent the executions if the activists would call off their protests. Wiwa refused, and Shell did not intervene.

After international pleas for Shell's intervention, Shell claimed that it was not--and would not--become involved in Nigeria's political affairs. Internal documents uncovered by journalists and human rights groups contradict this claim. According to a report by Andy Rowell in the Village Voice (11/21/95), there is evidence that Shell has been bankrolling Nigerian military action against protesters and that two key prosecution witnesses admitted in sworn affidavits that they were offered bribes by Shell to unjustly incriminate Saro-Wiwa in his trial.

In response to these allegations, Shell has mounted an international media campaign to combat negative publicity. Amnesty International USA said the Houston Chronicle refused to run an ad which questioned Shell's stance on human rights violations in Nigeria and that three billboard companies, including Gannett Outdoor Co. Inc., also declined to sell space to the human rights organization.

SSU Censored Researchers: James Hoback Anne Stalder

Project Censored 1996 Story 3

BIG PERKS FOR THE WEALTHY HIDDEN IN MINIMUM WAGE BILL

Source: THE NEW REPUBLIC Date: 10/28/96 Title: "Bare minimum: Goodies for the rich hidden in wage bill" Author: John Judis (Reprinted in Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 10/13/96)

On August 20, 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996, ostensibly geared to aid small business owners and their employees. The publicized intent of the bill was to raise the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.15 an hour. However, according to John Judis, senior editor of the New Republic, the minimum wage bill included at least ten other significant provisions aimed at neither small business owners nor their employees. Indeed, Judis charges, these unpublicized provisions may negate whatever good the bill may do.

Among the lowlights:

* The bill reinstates tax incentives which encourage leveraged buyouts (LBOUs): In a moment of temporary sanity, Congress put into the 1986 tax reform bill a measure preventing firms that engage in LBOUs from claiming a tax deduction for the exorbitant fees they pay investment banks and advisors. However, this yearUs minimum wage bill once again makes these fees deductible and does so retroactively, creating a billion-dollar-boon for companies that contested the 1986 ruling.

And in the case of employee LBOUs, generally thought to be favorable, Congress slipped into the minimum wage bill a provision that would eliminate a special incentive that allowed banks to exclude half of the interest payments they received on loans for employee buyouts; discouraging employee LBOUs of otherwise doomed companies.

* Incentives for multinational corporations: The new minimum wage bill has successfully protected American multinationals from paying taxes on unrepatriated foreign income, a long-standing tax loophole for overseas corporations. In ClintonUs 1992 Presidential campaign, he vowed to do away with these tax incentives; however, in 1993 his administration backed down, merely requiring overseas firms to reinvest their unrepatriated profits in foreign plants and equipment rather than banking them. Under the new minimum wage bill, however, this yearUs Congress rescinded even that.

* Weakened retirement and pension protection: The bill does away with a requirement that companies must offer the same benefits to lower-wage employees as they do to higher-wage employees, and effectively reverses the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which states that if an insurance company takes too much in fees or invests in risky ventures they can be sued.

Additionally, the bill does away with a surtax on luxury car purchases and diesel fuel for yachts, ends a surtax on one-year pension withdrawals over $150,000 (a boon for the ultra-rich), and allows newspaper publishers to treat their distributors and carriers as independent contractors rather than employees in order to avoid paying their Social Security and unemployment compensation.

SSU Censored Researchers: Brooke Hale Mark Lowenthal

Project Censored 1996 Story 4

DEFORMING CONSENT: THE PR INDUSTRY'S SECRET WAR ON ACTIVISTS

Sources: COVERT ACTION QUARTERLY Date: Winter 1995/96 Title: "The Public Relations Industry's Secret War on Activists" Authors: John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton

EARTH ISLAND JOURNAL Date: Winter 1995-1996

Title: "Public Relations, Private Interests" Authors: John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton

This article exposes the multi-million dollar clients of major public relations firms that are behind the creation of false non-profit organizations, which target activists and proposed legislation that threaten big business. Most of these organizations focus on environmental, consumer and labor issues. The strategies of these powerful media manipulators include the defamation of activists, their ideas, and the deception of American citizens.

Through the PR industry and the enormous financial resources of their corporate clients, these organizations mobilize private detectives, lawyers and undercover spies; influence editorial and news decisions, launch phony "grassroots" campaigns and use high-tech information systems to influence and manipulate public opinion and policy. With its array of sophisticated persuasive weaponry, the PR industry can out-maneuver, overpower and outlast citizen reformers.

In one recent--and high-profile--example, the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA) not only supported but created the Coalition for Health Insurance Choices (CHIC) to defeat the Clinton administration's attempt at health care reform. They utilized public opinion polling and lobbying strength to pinpoint its campaign against mandatory health alliances.

"Greenwashing" is the term now commonly used to describe the ways that polluters employ deceptive PR to cultivate an environmentally responsible public image while covering up their abuse of the biosphere and public health. "Astroturf lobbying," a term coined by Lloyd Bentsen, is another new concept which Bentsen describes as the "synthetic grassroots movements that now can be manufactured for a fee." Campaigns & Elections magazine defines "Astroturf" as a "grassroots program that involves the instant manufacturing of public support for a point of view in which either uninformed activists are recruited or means of deception are used to recruit them".

These anti-public-interest campaigns generate the false impression of public support in the name of "citizen activism" to promote the ideas and pursue the goals of corporate clients. Consequently, dissenting voices have been muffled, scientifically proven unhealthy chemicals and practices have been legalized, and public opinion has been profoundly, yet quietly influenced.

SSU Censored Researchers: Diane Ferr James Hoback

Project Censored 1996 Story 5

WHITE-COLLAR CRIME: WHITEWASH AT THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Source: COVERT ACTION QUARTERLY Date: Summer 1996 Title: "White-Collar Crime: Whitewash at the Justice Department" Author: David Burnham

While white-collar crime costs America 10 to 50 times more money than street crime, the Justice Department continues to show little interest in taking the problem seriously.

And while the statistics persistently underscore this contradiction, business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers continue to claim the federal government restricts business with unnecessary and heavy-handed regulations--and implore Congress to scale back environmental, health and safety laws.

Based on the centralized records maintained by the Department of Justice (DoJ), the data shows that when it comes to white-collar crime, the federal government almost never brings criminal charges against businesses. Of the more than 51,000 federal criminal indictments in 1994, only 250--less than one-half of one percent--involved criminal violations of the nation's environmental, occupational health and safety, and consumer product-safety laws. Given the huge number of corporations, the private admissions by business lawyers that their organizations often break the law, and a well-documented record of repeated violations, the minuscule number of federal criminal allegations hardly squares with the corporate view of business as the victim of a federal government run amok.

The small number of individuals charged with criminal violations is only one indication of the pro-business bias revealed in the DoJ's own data. Even though Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) in 1970, the actual impact of the law was greatly reduced by the insertion of hard-to-enforce regulations and insufficient funds to provide an effective force of well-trained and well-managed investigators. And in spite of the law, the DoJ has almost always protected businesses from criminal charges--even those with corporate executives who have knowingly exposed workers to conditions that resulted in death. In 1987 alone, 50-70,000 workers died prematurely from on-the-job exposure to toxins--roughly three times the 21,500 people murdered in the same year. In the years between 1970 (when OSHA was created) and 1992, 200,000 Americans died at work, a significant number of which resulted from known negligence by the employer. Nonetheless, in those 22 years, OSHA has referred 88 criminal cases to the DoJ, which prosecuted 25 and sent one executive to jail. He served 45 days.

According to Barry Hartman, who was first deputy and then acting assistant attorney general for the DoJUs environmental and natural resources division, "environmental crimes are not like organized crimes or drugs...There you have bad people doing bad things. With environmental crimes you have decent people doing bad things. You have to look at it this way."

SSU Censored Researchers: Brooke Hale Deborah Udall

Project Censored 1996 Story 6

NEW MEGA-MERGED BANKING BEHEMOTHS = BIG RISK

Source: MULTINATIONAL MONITOR Date: June 1996 Title: "The Making of the Banking Behemoths" Author: Jake Lewis

1995 was a record year of bank mergers. Chase Manhattan and Chemical bank combined to create the nationUs largest bank, with $300 billion in assets--while on the west coast, the merger of First Interstate and Wells Fargo created a new giant with over $100 billion in assets. The massive consolidation of the nationUs banking resources has resulted in 71.5% of U.S. banking assets being controlled by the 100 largest banking organizations, representing less than 1 percent of the total banks in the nation.

Under the Bank Merger and Bank Holdings Company Act, the Federal Reserve is required, before approving any application of a merger, to test how well the convenience and needs of the public are being met by the merger. Critics charge that the Federal Reserve Board is doing a disservice to the American public by not applying this "public convenience and needs" test to the wave of banking mergers--as required by the Bank Merger and Bank Holding Company Acts. In light of this, analysts are concerned that the growing giants of the banking industry will "shift insurance risks to taxpayers, cost jobs, lead to increased rates for bank customer service, make it harder to get loans and lessen community access to bank branches."

The trend toward bigger banks is creating a system whereby giant banking institutions are taking on "too big to fail" status. Indeed, a failure of any one of these new giants would have a devastating effect on the nationUs financial health. And with the Federal Reserve capping the amount that financial institutions have to pay into the governmentsU bank insurance fund at $25 billion, just 1.25 percent of deposits are now insured. Consequently, any bailout of one of these new megabanks would come directly from the pockets of taxpayers.

Studies have also found that banks in concentrated markets tend to charge higher rates for certain types loans, and tend to offer lower interest rates on certain types of deposits than do banks in less concentrated markets. A 1995 study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Center for Study of Responsive Law showed that fees on checking and savings accounts increased at twice the rate of inflation from 1993 to 1995 as bank mergers moved forward.

Finally, the trend toward megabanks is closing out community access and making it harder to get loans. In 1995, the Justice Department ordered Wells Fargo to divest itself of 61 branches it acquired through its merger with First Interstate to preserve competition for certain types of lending. But the 61 branches that Wells Fargo divested itself of, are being sold to Home Savings and Loan of Los Angeles, which recently decided not to continue its affordable housing lending. In a community where affordable housing is vital to its stability, the decision of Home Savings and Loan is very disturbing.

SSU Censored Researchers: Latrice Babers Jeffrey Fillmore

Project Censored 1996 Story 7

CASHING IN ON POVERTY

Sources: THE NATION* Date: 5/20/96 Title: "Cashing in on Poverty" Author: Michael Hudson

THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE* Date: 7/15/96 Title: "Bordering on scandal what some pay for credit" Author: Michael Hudson

* excerpted from the book, "Merchants of Misery: How Corporate America Profits From Poverty," Edited by Michael Hudson (Common Courage Press, 1996).

Corporate America is in the poverty business and making huge profits from the destitute in the United States. Sixty million poor people without bank accounts or access to competitive-rate loans must instead use pawn shops, check-cashing outlets, rent-to-own stores, finance companies and high-interest mortgage lenders. These businesses generate yearly revenues of $200 to $300 billion and are increasingly owned or subsidized by Wall Street giants such as American Express, Bank America, Citibank, Ford, NationsBank, and Western Union.

While affluent credit card holders can pay as little as six to eight percent annual interest, low-income people are paying as much as 240% for a loan from a pawnbroker, 300% for a finance company loan, and even an amazing 2,000% for a fast RpaydayS loan from a check-cashing outlet. Large corporations use sophisticated marketing strategies to lure in new customers and increase their business. The overall number of check-cashing outlets in this country has nearly tripled to 5,500 since the late 1980s, and rent-to-own stores have skyrocketed from 2,000 to 7,500 in the same period. With a typical loan rate of 200%, Cash AmericaUs chain of pawn shops has quickly grown to 325 in the United States and expanded abroad with thirty-four outlets in the United Kingdom and ten in Sweden.

The main investor in AmericaUs $4.5 billion rent-to-own market is Thorn EMI PLC, a British conglomerate. American Express finances ACE Cash Express, a national chain of 630 check-cashing outlets. Charges average three to six percent of each checkUs value. Cash America, the countryUs largest chain of pawnshops, is bankrolled by NationsBank and traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Even though many of us think of Ford Motor Corporation in terms of its automobile sales, their Fortune 500 status has actually been achieved through financial services holdings. In 1993, three-fifths of FordUs earnings came from car loans, mortgages and consumer loans. Associates Corporation of North America is a Ford subsidiary targeting low-income, blue-collar and minority consumers. In 1994, it financed $18.5 billion in mortgages and consumer loans and earned just under $1 billion in pre-tax profits. Stock analysts estimate that used-car loans for people with shaky credit now top $60 billion a year. Non-bank finance companies like Ford and defense contractor Textron make small loans at rates as high as 300% in some states.

Along with astronomically high charges, many low-income consumers are also victimized by additional hidden fees, forged loan documents, and harassing collection tactics. And unless there is increased government protection for the destitute or a growth in alternative non-profit financial institutions, big business will continue to expand these practices.

SSU Censored Researchers: Jody Howard Anne Shea

Project Censored 1996 Story 8

BIG BROTHER GOES HIGH-TECH

Sources: COVERT ACTION QUARTERLY Date: Spring 1996 Title: "Big Brother Goes High-Tech" Author: David Banisar

INSIGHT Date: 8/19/96 Title: "Access, Privacy and Power" Authors: Michael Rust and Susan Crabtree

Date: 9/9/96 Title: "New Surveillance Camera Cheers Police, Worries ACLU"* Author: Joyce Price (*Reprint from Washington Times)

George Orwell's prediction concerning government surveillance in his science fiction novel 1984 is rapidly becoming reality in the "free world." Information on individuals in the developed world can now be obtained by governments and corporations using new surveillance, identification, and networking technologies. These new technologies are rapidly facilitating the mass and routine surveillance of large segments of the population--without the need for warrants and formal investigations.

In Britain, nearly all public areas are monitored by over 150,000 closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV). Equipped with a powerful zoom lens, each camera can read the wording on a cigarette packet at 100 yards. These cameras can track individuals wherever they go--even into buildings. In the U.S., Baltimore announced plans to put 200 cameras in the city center. The FBI has also developed miniaturized CCTV units it can put in a "lamp, clock, radio, duffel bag, purse, picture frame, utility pole, coin telephone, and other [objects]" and then control remotely to "pan, tilt, zoom, and focus."

Another type of surveillance camera currently in development boasts the equivalent of X-ray vision, and can penetrate clothing to "see" concealed weapons, plastic explosives or drugs. Known as the passive millimeter wave imager, it can also see through walls and detect activity. And while neither is expected to be available until 1997, the manufacturer has been flooded with calls from law enforcement agencies around the globe. The camera has also prompted suggestions that it is in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.

Additionally, new biometric technologies which use sophisticated computer-scanning to measure personal characteristics--including fingerprints, retinal patterns, and the geometry of the hand--are already being tested by U.S. immigration authorities at JFK, Newark, and Vancouver airports in place of passports.

Other emerging fields of surveillance include Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) which track the movements of all people using public or private transportation. Such systems are linked to ordinary bank accounts and can generate records that show a driverUs name and address, and the exact time and place where tolls have been charged. Nine states in the U.S. already use similar systems to track over 250,000 vehicles every day, and 12 more states will soon put their own systems on-line.

While technologically dazzling, such advances threaten to render privacy vulnerable on a scale never seen before--without providing accountability for those who may misuse it.

SSU Censored Researchers: Richard Henderson Stacey Merrick

Project Censored 1996 Story 9

U.S. TROOPS EXPOSED TO DEPLETED URANIUM DURING GULF WAR

Sources: MILITARY TOXICS PROJECT'S DEPLETED URANIUM CITIZENSU NETWORK Date: 1/16/96 (release of report) Title: Radioactive Battlefields Of The 1990s: A Response to the Army's Unreleased Report on Depleted Uranium Weaponry Authors: Pat Broudy, Grace Bukowski, Leonard Dietz, Dan Fahey, John Paul Hasko, Cathy Hinds, Damaica Lopez, Dolly Lymburner, Arjun Makhijani, Richard Ochs, Laura Olah, Coy Overstreet, Charles Sheehan Miles, Judy Scotnicki, and Nikki F. Bas Edited by Rebecca Solnit

MULTINATIONAL MONITOR Date: Jan/Feb 1996 Title: "Radioactive Ammo Lays Them to Waste," Author: Gary Cohen

SWORDS TO PLOWSHARES Date: 11/7/95 (presentation) Title: Depleted Uranium: Objective Research and Analysis Required Author: Dan Fahey

THE VVA VETERAN Date: March 1996 Title: "Depleted Uranium: One ManUs Weapon, Another ManUs Poison" Author: Bill Triplett

NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER Date: 1/19/96 Title: "Depleted Uranium, First Used In Iraq, Deployed in Bosnia" Author: Kathryn Casa

Depleted uranium (DU) weapons were used for the first time in a war situation in the Persian Gulf in 1991 and were hailed as a new and incredibly effective weapon by the Department of Defense. Since the Manhattan Project of World War II, numerous government studies have indicated that while DU weapons are highly effective, they are still extremely toxic and need to be handled with special precautionary tools and protective gear.

Although army training manuals were written in the 1980s to warn tank crews and commanders of the dangers associated with DU rounds, the Pentagon failed to warn Gulf War troops of the dangers. The Defense Department did circulate a memo to Gulf War commanders that contained three key points: any vehicle or system struck by a DU penetrator can be assumed to be contaminated; personnel should avoid entering contaminated areas; and, if troops must enter contaminated areas, they should wear protective clothing. Unfortunately, this memo was written on March 7, 1991, eight days after the firing of weapons ceased in the Persian Gulf.

Without this knowledge, and without the necessary protective clothing, the 144th Army National Guard Service and Supply Company was allowed to perform DU battlefield cleanup for three weeks in Kuwait and southern Iraq, where the U.S. Army fired at least 14,000 rounds (or 40 tons) of DU ammunition.

The Department of Energy possesses over 500,000 tons of DU that has been accumulating since the Manhattan Project. Billions of dollars have been spent by the U.S. government to find a final dumpsite for the radioactive waste, but other nations and communities in Maine and New Mexico have resisted the efforts to dump the DU waste in their area. The use of this weaponry in the Persian Gulf, then, served two purposes. It eliminated enemy troops and weapons and disposed of tens or even thousands of tons of the radioactive DU on the Persian Gulf battlefields.

The effects of depleted uranium exposure, however, are just beginning to be known. DU has now been linked to many illnesses, including the mysterious "Gulf War Syndrome." Despite widespread concern among Gulf War vets and in U.S. communities about the dangers of DU weapons, the Pentagon, Department of Energy and military defense contractors are all excited about the sales potential of DU weapons as well as the transfer of DU to allies for their own weapons production. According to Nuclear Regulatory Commission shipment records, steady transfers--amounting to several million pounds of DU--have been flowing to U.S. allies over the past decade, with Britain, France and Canada being the largest recipients.

SSU Censored Researchers: Aaron Butler Deborah Udall

Project Censored 1996 Story 10

FACING FOOD SCARCITY

Sources: WORLD WATCH Date: November/December 1995 Title: "Facing Food Scarcity;"

Date: May June 1996 Title: "Japanese Government Breaks With World Bank Food Forecast" Author: Lester R. Brown

The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture released projections in late December 1995 which show a doubling of world grain prices by 2010. The world prices for wheat and rice will exceed 2 times that of the base year of 1992. Around the same time, World Watch published an article, "Facing Food Scarcity," which supports the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture claim, and according to the World Agricultural Outlook Board, the world's stock of rice, wheat, corn, and other grains have fallen to their lowest level in two decades. These projections differ sharply from that of the World Bank, which has stuck with its projection of continuously declining grain prices over the same period. The Japanese analysis, along with the World Watch article take into account past experience with biological growth in finite environments, (examples include soil erosion, increased population, and land dehydration) while the economists who are responsible for projecting supply and demand of agriculture commodities for the World Bank and at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) do not.

As the world population continues to grow, more and more water must be diverted from crop irrigation to cities for direct consumption. This, along with the loss of agricultural land to housing, creates a drastic imbalance between the amount of people, and the food production necessary to feed them. The economically integrated world of the late nineties is moving into uncharted territory, facing a set of problems quite different in nature from those faced in the past.

The food shortage will become even more acute in light of the conclusions of the recent World Food Summit in November 1996. Convened by the FAO, the first summit in 22 years decided that poor countries will be responsible for feeding their own people, without the aid of wealthier nations. But while population is soaring, especially in poor nations, food aid to poor countries is dropping by about half, and the number of hungry people will continue to grow (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/18/96).

With the World Bank and FAO continuing to project surplus capacity and declining real prices, it is difficult to mobilize support for continued investment in agriculture or for the kinds of social services such as family planning that could help stabilize population growth.

SSU Censored Researchers: Amy S. Cohen Jeremy Lewis Stacey Merrick

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