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Posts Tagged ‘corporations’

Where there is smoke there is fire

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

By Madeline McInTyre

smokeMark takes a drag on his cigarette, the ember flares momentarily between his fingers. ‘Aaaah’ he sighs, the relief is instantaneous as his body eagerly receives its nicotine hit. It is freezing, a sharp wind is sweeping in from Wellington’s harbour, but he and the other teen smokers brave the cold for the long-awaited lunchtime smoke break. Sucking back over 4000 chemicals with every drag, Mark is inhaling products that can be found in floor cleaner (ammonia), car batteries (cadmium), gas chambers (hydrogen cyanide) and rocket fuel (methanol). With every inhalation, Mark’s life expectancy is being cut shorter and shorter. Smoking is killing him.

He isn’t the only one - far from it. Over one billion people smoke on a daily basis and around 80,000 to 100,000 children under the age of 18 start smoking every day. Tobacco use kills 5.4 million people a year and this number is increasing. Sadly, smokers aren’t the only victims of the powerful international tobacco industry known as ‘Big Tobacco’. As Mark slowly burns his life away, another person, perhaps the child who picked the tobacco leaves that are in Mark’s cigarette, is being slowly poisoned by nicotine.

Growing Pains
Tobacco is grown throughout the world. The industry claims that some 33 million people are involved in tobacco farming world wide. Originating from the Americas, the majority of tobacco is now grown in China, which produces 40 percent of the global tobacco crop every year. More and more tobacco is being grown and exported from majority world (developing) countries such as India, Indonesia and Malawi.

Tobacco plantation

Tobacco plantation

These countries often have bigger or more pressing problems than opposing or regulating the tobacco industry. In fact, tobacco companies are often actively - or at least tacitly – encouraged to continue to expand. In countries where poverty is rife and where people exist at a subsistence level, some governments welcome tobacco companies because of the potential employment and income they bring. Tobacco giants find it easy to take advantage of the fact that people are desperate for work. They have little difficulty employing cheap labour, and often this is child labour.

As in most areas of agriculture in the majority world child labour is prevalent in the cultivation of tobacco. Children, often working alongside their families, are used in many areas of production such as sowing new seedlings, fertilizing and watering crops, weeding, and plucking tobacco leaves. Often, they are expected to operate heavy machinery within factories and roll hundreds of cigarettes every day.

In Malawi, the world’s fifth largest producer of tobacco, children working in tobacco fields are expected to work from first light until dark. The humid weather means that residual moisture on the tobacco leaves helps nicotine to be absorbed into the skin more quickly, making the threat of nicotine poisoning a daily concern. Otherwise known as green tobacco sickness (GTS), these children are exposed to the equivalent of 50 cigarettes a day, causing nausea, headaches, abdominal pain and breathlessness. No one knows yet what the long term effects will be.

New horizons, new smokers
It seems that as well as capitalising on child labour, the tobacco industry is also targeting young people in the majority world for the consumption of tobacco products. Smoking rates in the minority world (developed) are on a downward slide, largely due to better information about the dangers of smoking, the success of anti-smoking campaigns, and laws aimed at restricting cigarette smoking. So Big Tobacco has turned its attention to easier targets. They have set their sights on the majority world, not only as a cheap and easy place to set up production, but also as a booming new market.

Boys selling cigerettes in Indonesia

Boys selling cigerettes in Indonesia

To get life-long customers it helps to target youth. Adolescents are impressionable and want to grow up quickly. Research has shown that when smoking is promoted as a cool ‘adult’ activity, young people will be drawn to it.  For example tobacco companies spend millions of dollars every year having their branded tobacco products featured in films (Hollywood, Bollywood and even Wellywood!), on clothing and associated with rock icons such as Alicia Keys, whose tour of south-east Asia was promoted by a tobacco company (much to her disgust when she found out!).

Tobacco companies use subliminal methods to promote smoking to the youth market and cleverly tap into the youth subculture. They sponsor free rock concerts and sporting events. In majority world countries where such events are perhaps rare or rarely available to the poor, such treats make a huge impact on young people.

Despite their website claims that they are ‘responsible’ and ‘don’t want children to smoke’, the programmes tobacco companies have set up to prevent young people smoking have been shown to be weak at best. British American Tobacco, for example, say that they work with retailers as “a front line in the battle against under age smoking” but this is an empty gesture. Retailers make their living from selling. They have no incentive to not sell cigarettes.

So, what is being done?

cigarette-buttTobacco Treaty
Five years ago the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Treaty came into force. It is the world’s first and only public health treaty and 168 countries have signed up to it. The treaty obliges governments to protect their people from exposure to tobacco smoke and reduce demand through high prices and taxes, regulating packaging and labeling and also by restricting advertising and sponsorship. This was a huge step in the fight against Big Tobacco. Despite this, World Health Organization director-general Dr. Margaret Chan estimates only slightly more than five percent of the world’s population is protected by national smoke-free laws.

It seems that while Big Tobacco’s influence is retreating in minority world countries such as Aoteoroa New Zealand, with smoking rates being at an all time low, it is on the march across the new frontier of the majority world. The already vulnerable populations are easy targets for the tobacco giants as they dominate the largely unregulated markets and take advantage of the cheap child labour on offer. Whether they are working in the tobacco fields or buying cigarettes in the market place, children in the majority world are at a greater risk of falling victim to the poisonous influence of Big Tobacco.

TAKE ACTION

  • Sign up to www.ash.org.nz and help work towards an Aoteoroa New Zealand that is free from the harm caused by tobacco.
  • Check out the websites www.notourfuture.co.nz or www.quit.org.nz for facts on smoking and help on quitting.
  • Insist that your school is a smokefree environment (www.smokefree.co.nz) and support smokefree events such as the annual Smokefree Rockquest.
  • Sign up to international organisations such as ECLT (Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing). www.eclt.org


LEARN MORE

www.tobacco.org
www.stopcorporateabuse.org/tobacco-campaign
www.tobaccoatlas.org
www.who.int/topics/tobacco/facts/en/index.html
www.smokefree.co.nz
www.tereomarama.org.nz


Glossary

Majority world – The developing world is increasingly being defined as the majority world. It refers to countries that make up the majority of the world’s population, but have limited access to the world’s resources.

Minority world – The developed world is increasingly defined as the minority world. It refers to the countries that make up the minority of the world’s population but utilize the majority of the world’s resources.

This article was originally published in the Global Focus pages of Tearaway Magazine.


Changing the world one word at a time

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Global Bits - Issue 16 (24 Pages)

Global Education Centre

cover-art-issue-161This Global Bits offers readers a chance to look inside the heads of our future leaders – and to understand the issues and passions that drive them. Open to all 12-18 year olds, 10 young people were picked for this programme for the first time in 2008. In this issue these creative and savvy new authors relate history to global politics. They unravel subjects such as international guidelines for human rights the difference between actual and relative poverty, and just how democracy works.

Watch this space for our new group in 2009!

Download PDF 5.44MB

You can also join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

Te Reo Marama

Friday, February 20th, 2009

te_reo_newmasthead

www.tereomarama.co.nz

What do they do?
Since 1998, Te Reo Mārama has been dedicated, on behalf of the Auahi Kore-Tupeka Kore community and the wider Māori community, to tobacco resistance. The main role undertaken is to advocate evidence-based positions on tobacco-related issues at a local, national and international level in order to achieve the vision of a Maori nation free of the deadly toll of tobacco.

How can I get involved?
As of November 2008, the main way to be involved with Te Reo Marama is by donating or simply by taking up their call to action in your local community.
However, in 2009 Te Reo Marama will be holding a training summit for young leaders to take the cause back to their schools and communities. Watch this space!

(red): Selfish giving?

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Part one of a two part series by William Zhang

A giant global initiative’ aimed at you…
If I told you that some of the largest multinational corporations in the world have joined together to form a giant global initiative’ which is targeted at you, the consumer, what would you think? With names including Microsoft, Apple, Motorola, Hallmark, Converse, Gap, Emporio Armani, and even American Express, you’d probably think it must be some sort of a marketing conspiracy by the most powerful companies in the world to get us all to spend more money and boost their profits.

What if I told you that these companies are not after your money for their profit, but to help the fight against AIDS in Africa — would you believe me? That these enormous companies, with a combined profit exceeding the GDP of many small nations, are committed to fighting the ongoing struggle against AIDS. And that so far, $100 million has already been contributed by this initiative. That we’re not talking about simple donations and charity, but something much bigger and more sustainable.
red-ipod
Don’t believe me? Just walk down to an electronics store and look for a red coloured iPod. That’s right — a red iPod. Trust me, there’ll be one there. This little red iPod is proof that these huge multinational companies are not all about sales and profit.

What’s so special about a red iPod?

The answer is PRODUCT(RED). PRODUCT(RED) is a global initiative in which some of the world’s largest companies are working together to promote their unique PRODUCT(RED) branded items. What makes these products special is that up to 50% of the profit from their sales is given to the Global Fund, an organisation established to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa. The PRODUCT(RED) range includes iPods, laptops, credit cards, watches, shirts, shoes and even birthday cards. Usually, there’s little or no difference in price between a PRODUCT(RED) item and a normal one.

aids ribbonAccording to its website, PRODUCT(RED) is neither a charity nor a campaign, but an “economic initiative that acts to deliver a sustainable flow of private sector money to the Global Fund.” The key word here is sustainable. Rather than simply asking these corporations to donate a chunk of money to the Global Fund, a sustainable and longer lasting flow’ of money is created through giving a percentage of the profits from consumer purchases. Sounds good right? Before we can dig any deeper into this issue though, we need to know what exactly holds together the PRODUCT(RED) initiative.

What does the initiative rely on for its success?
While on the surface it may appear that the ultimate aim is to help AIDS victims in Africa, once we look a little closer it becomes clear that all three groups involved (consumers, companies and the Global Fund) are in it for themselves. Ultimately, PRODUCT(RED) is based on the premise that our actions are usually motivated by personal gain.

As consumers, we think that we are getting a great product, while at the same time supporting a great cause and making a statement about our values. In effect though, our actual motivation is the feeling of generosity and satisfaction from knowing that part of our purchase is going towards helping AIDS victims in Africa. It’s this feel good’ sensation which motivates consumers. We’re encouraged to think: “Why not? I’m going to buy this anyway, so why not do some good if it doesn’t cost me much extra?”

The companies involved are also motivated by self-interest, concealed behind the mask of good will’ or charity’. Ultimately, they hope their image and reputation will be enhanced, which will have a positive impact on their profits. After all, profit is the primary goal of private sector business. These corporations are aware that as consumers become more ethically minded, lab-workthey’re more likely to buy products which give them the feel good’ sensation.

Finally, the Global Fund is obviously motivated by the boost to their finances, allowing them to build more treatment centres, research facilities and improve medical supplies in Africa, especially for women and children.

What’s wrong with a bit of self-interest?
Although there is a tendency in society to see self-interest as selfish and egotistic, it is the key factor holding together the PRODUCT(RED) initiative. Like it or not, in this case at least, philanthropy is only a mask for self-gain.

For instance, if the companies involved did not gain from PRODUCT(RED), it’s unlikely that they would have even taken part and the initiative would never have gotten off the ground. In a survey by The Conference Board, a business research organisation, 77 % of businesses said that the needs of the business itself is the most critical factor to affect their giving’ to charity, campaigns or initiatives). This pretty much confirms that corporate philanthropy is a myth.

Likewise, if consumers were not motivated by the feel good’ sensation, the PRODUCT(RED) label would become just another brand among the ranks of Ralph Lauren, VISA and Sony Ericsson. This feel good’ sensation is the major point of difference’ for the PRODUCT(RED) brand — it lets you be both consumeristic’ and socially conscious’ at the same time!

A win-win situation for everyone?

By now, you’re probably thinking: Great! I get an awesome feel good’ product, the companies enjoy some promotion and the Global Fund is able to do more to combat AIDS in Africa. If only it were that simple.

If you read a little more about PRODUCT(RED) on the internet, you’ll find several articles where it is quite savagely attacked . For example, check out Spending to save, (Product)Red: help or hindrance?, or the Buy (Less) Crap campaign, which questions whether shopping really is the answer. Before you make up your mind though, read on to my next article and see why I really think it is worthwhile to support PRODUCT(RED).

TAKE ACTION!
red girl

LEARN MORE

Give (red) a chance!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Part two of a two part series by William Zhang

red paint brushIf you went over to your local hospital with a group of friends and volunteered to clean and repaint the entire children’s ward, only to demand afterwards that you all be shown on the 6 o’clock news so that the entire country can see what great people you are, would this be considered socially acceptable? No, of course it wouldn’t be.

So, is it ok that a group of huge multinational companies are actively promoting their contribution to the Global Fund, a foundation set up to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria? If you’ve read through any of the articles I listed in Part One, your answer will probably be an outright NO WAY!’ Before I tell you why I think it really IS worthwhile to support PRODUCT(RED), let’s take a closer look at the issue from the critics’ perspective.

Who benefits most?
Essentially, the argument is about whether the multinational corporations are benefiting more from their increased sales and improved corporate image than the AIDS victims are benefiting from the improvements in medical care, treatment and research centres.
Many of the critics point to the reasons why companies choose PRODUCT(RED) over alternative ways to contribute to “worthy” causes.
Bono
The first reason is the initiative’s visibility. With backing and support from celebrities such as U2’s Bono, Giorgio Armani, Julia Roberts and The Killers, any association with the PRODUCT(RED) brand in the media and with youth culture is likely to hugely benefit the image, prominence and reputation of the companies involved.

The second reason is PRODUCT(RED)’s ability to mask the actual extent to which the companies are contributing to the initiative. All of the companies are made to look equal, despite the Red mobiledifferences in the amount they actually contribute and the small proportion of the retail cost which actually finds its way to the fund. For instance, one percent of all spending on American Express’s (RED) card goes to the Global Fund as does fifty percent of the net profit from the sale of Gap (RED) items, and just $8.50 from the sale of a Motorola (RED) Motorazr. In effect, companies are contributing relatively little while being portrayed through PRODUCT(RED) marketing as giving generously to the cause.

What’s the problem?
Is PRODUCT (RED) the most effective way support the cause? A more transparent option would be a direct campaign set up by the company itself, meaning that a set amount of money would be given to a specific cause.

Another aspect of the PRODUCT(RED) initiative which has been brutally criticised is the amount spent on advertising and promoting the brand compared to the amount actually raised for the Global Fund. In its March 2007 issue, the Advertising Age magazine reported over $100 million had been spent on advertising, but only $18 million raised as a result. They make the argument that the Global Fund could have received that $100 million if the money was directly donated rather than channelled through PRODUCT(RED).

Some reports even go on to say that based on these figures, the companies have purposely chosen PRODUCT(RED) because it allows them to spend the difference between the $100 million and the $18 million on promoting their own corporate image and improving their sales and profits!

The crucial flaws to this argument are…
These critics have completely forgotten the other benefit of the PRODUCT(RED) initiative — not financial support, but simply bringing the issue of AIDS and poverty in Africa under the public spotlight. For example, some consumers would have had little awareness of the growing AIDS crisis in Africa had it not been for the PRODUCT(RED) advertising campaigns. You sure can’t beat an ad during the half-time break of the American Super Bowl watched by 90 million people!

CashMany critics have also ignored a crucial statistic which blows their argument into tiny fragments: the amount of money raised for the Global Fund is now over four times more than the amount the private sector had contributed prior to the establishment of PRODUCT(RED). An increase of over four times their original funds! Surely you can’t say that PRODUCT(RED) is just an attempt by companies to improve their corporate image if they’ve managed to quadruple the finances of the Global Fund within a two year period?

The reason why the arguments against PRODUCT(RED) are flawed is that they insist on focusing on what the companies are getting out of it by comparing it to alternatives, such as giving set amount directly to a cause, rather than looking at the initiative in terms of the beneficial changes it has made to the lives of the victims of AIDS, disease and poverty in Africa. The truth is, it IS a win-win situation for everyone involved, even if some groups (such as the multinational corporations) appear to win’ more than others. Some people are upset that the companies are even benefitting from PRODUCT(RED) at all!

These people forget that in a world driven by self-interest and personal gain, this imbalance is crucial to holding the entire initiative together (see Part One). Ironically, in attacking the imbalances of PRODUCT(RED), such critics are actually affirming the very principle which PRODUCT(RED) relies on for its success!

My (RED) soapbox:
Global Fund LogoWhatever the motivation of PRODUCT(RED) companies, the initiative has undeniably made a real difference to the medical treatment of AIDS victims in Africa. Does it really matter that the companies are in it for themselves or that only a tiny proportion of the funds are actually going to the Global Fund? No. I don’t think that’s the important thing.

“When I was going to medical school a few years back, we would see patients and send them home knowing they were going to die without medication … I don’t feel that way now. The money we got from (RED) through the Global Fund is helping to save lives. That’s the important thing.”

Dr. Asiimwe, Managing Director for the Treatment and Research AIDS Centre, Kigali.

The important thing is that lives in Africa are being saved. The important thing is that we need to stop this argument against PRODUCT(RED) because while we argue, lives are being lost. PRODUCT(RED) needs your help, not your criticism. So buy (RED). Save lives. Has there ever been a better reason to shop?

LEARN MORE:
Visit joinred.com to find out more and check out all the cool stuff you can buy to support PRODUCT(RED)

And find out more about The Global Fund
Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) The main advocate for global action on HIV/AIDS that aims to strengthen and support the response to the epidemic

The Who, What, and Why of Tuberculosis.net

Unicef on malaria

TAKE ACTION:
red girl
What do you think? Have your say on the forum!

Join the PRODUCT(RED) campaign

Help to spread the word

Mapuche, the people of life

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

By Gonzalo Garcés
Translated by AJ McDougall

Mapuche CeremonyThe Mapuche, are a people originally from the south of Latin America, whose name means “people or persons of the earth”, and whose worldview has been intimately connected to the natural environment. It is said that “Mapu à‘uke”, or Mother Nature, has given the Mapuche culture and society the knowledge they possess. This knowledge is transmitted through conversation in sacred places of the natural world linking Mapuche to the earth and to family.

SnakeEvery part of the natural world, including human beings and the dead, possess a spirit. Amongst them there are caring and guiding spirits of nature. For example, stones and serpents have an important role in the Mapuche way of life. Even now, the Mapuche ask permission to pass through certain places that are considered sacred. On such occasions, the Mapuche people take time to appreciate these places and ask for the protection of the earth and their families, as part of their attempts to overcome the unfortunate realities for their people.

The sacred places, such as the paliwe and the nguillatuwe, are spaces where the Mapuche pray, give thanks, and share with the spirits their desire to see them respected and to see the Mapuche culture survive.

The history of the Mapuche people is a history full of battles in defense of the earth. These battles have continued for more than 500 years, since the attempted takeover of the area by the Inka and the Spanish, and later the battles against the genocide attempts of Chilean and Argentinean governments at the end of the 19th Century. These attempts have not ceased, and Mapuche FarmlandChile and Argentina have increased their efforts to transform their culture into spitting images of Western society. Big business has also appeared on the scene. These businesses have claimed — and continue to claim — to those same governments that Mapuche land would be better utilised through the development of economic projects such as single-crop forestation. Yet they do so without planning nor providing for the harmful effects on both human and environmental health.

Historically a system of private property did not exist on “Mapuche territory”. There weren’t any fences nor were there extensive plantations of single-crop forestation like that which exists today, but instead the people were free to roam. They could take freely whatever was needed for the continued sustenance of Mapu à‘uke.

Mapuche DanceThe Chilean government has, throughout history, pushed through “social integration policies” which have attempted to destroy the unique customs of the Mapuche people, and in this way the Mapuche social organisation has been twisted and modified through the imposition of unknown and destructive social models. These politicians, who are not part of the Mapuche culture or way of life, do not understand or value the traditional lifestyles of the Mapuche people, instead imposing new lifestyles upon them.

This is but a brief snapshot of the relationship the Mapuche people have with the state and big business.

There currently exists a situation which is worrying. Seven Mapuche political prisoners are on a hunger strike that has recently reached 42 days. The strikers are our Mapuche peà±i (brothers) and lamgnen (sister). They are striking for: the freedom of all Mapuche political prisoners throughout various Chilean jails; demilitarisation and an end to the oppression of various roaming Mapuche communities so that they can exercise their political and territorial rights; and an end to the political-judicial conspiracies against Mapuche organisers and leaders.

Mapuche ManTo speak of Mapuche political prisoners, and to speak of their ethnic, political, and territorial demands, has been criminalised by the Chilean government, placing the interests of big business over and above those of the Mapuche communities involved. Because of these events, Chile has received international condemnation and many recommendations to end the criminalization of the Mapuche people. One such recommendation came from the UN’s Rodolfo Stavenhagen.

Mapuche men and women are not the violent people they are made out to be by the government through their utilisation of the media. The continued struggle of our Mapuche brothers and sisters tells us that they are not ready to renounce that which is most precious and beautiful to them: the earth, la mapu.

LEARN MORE & TAKE ACTION

You can find more information on how to support the Mapuche cause at:
http://aespo-arica.blogspot.com
www.mapuche.info

You can sign a petition to President Michelle Bachelet and the Chilean Government led by at
www.mapuche-nation.org

Gonzalo Garcés is from Chile and is an Oxfam International Youth Partner. He recently attended Kaleidescope in Sydney, check out Pip Bennett’s article on her experience at this event.

All photos are from www.mapuche-nation.org

The anti-vitamin bill

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Anna Wu

There is currently a bill before Parliament that could significantly change the way all natural health products are regulated. Virtually everyone has used, uses or will use a range of therapeutic products and medicines in their lives. The Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill has had minimal media attention, but it is likely to affect more of us than the Anti-Smacking Law ever will.

Many people are opposed to the bill, but there have been recent attempts by the government to try and find a compromise.

What’s the Bill proposing?
NZAussieThe bill looks at creating a joint trans-Tasman (Australian and New Zealand) regulatory scheme for the regulation of natural health products products. Standards will be set to control their quality, safety, efficacy (whether the product does what it says it does) and performance. The manufacture, supply, import and promotion will also be monitored.

Who’s finding this Bill hard to swallow?
The National Party, ACT New Zealand, Greens, Maori Party and Independent Taito Philip Field are all against the Bill. In fact, in December last year the Bill’s first reading scraped through by only one vote. The public has also voiced their concern with several nation-wide marches this year organised and attended by 100s of people who oppose this legislation.

What are they worried about?Vitami8n
The Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill has been nicknamed the “Anti-Vitamin Bill.” Opponents believe the future of natural health products will not be so peachy if the Bill is passed into law. They feel that the interests of New Zealanders will be denied under a joint agency as we have different needs to Australians and products for use in our country would be required to comply with the standards set for the Australian market.

Small businesses in the country’s natural health industry will be at risk. Multi-national corporations may find it easy to meet the new compliance costs but NZ-owned businesses could suffer. If local businesses close down it could reduce the range of products available to consumers and threaten innovation, as competition is reduced. Overall, the prices of therapeutic products and medicines will rise.

National: Health Spokesman Tony Ryall, “Every day New Zealanders are taking supplements. Every day they are trying to protect and improve their health. We want New Zealanders to know that the regime is low cost, not restrictive, and that their choices will be protected. But this legislation does the complete opposite.”

Another major concern is that the proposed trans-Tasman regulatory agency “will undermine the sovereignty of our Parliament.” Regulation will be transferred to an authority headquartered in Canberra “with an office in Wellington”. Because Australia took on patent obligations under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, the Bill incorporates these obligations. New Zealand will inherit’ this whether or not it reflects our interests.

Green Party: Sue Kedgley, “It’s a sinister piece of legislation that would involve the New Zealand Parliament handing over its authority to an off-shore agency, set up under Australian law, headquartered in Australia and staffed mainly by Australians.”

VitaminFinally, opponents say natural health products are being unfairly targeted with no justification as they are actually extremely low-risk. The Government hopes the Bill will protect New Zealanders from dodgy medicines. Health Minister Pete Hodgson claimed that between 1996 and 2007, three deaths resulted from natural health products. However it was found that coroners in each case ruled the cause of death could not be attributed to natural health products taken.[1] In addition it was it pointed out that during this same period 8000 deaths were attributed to the adverse effects of pharmaceutical drugs, with a further 16,000 permanently disabled!

ACT NZ: Leader Rodney Hide, “It’s nuts.”

Who will benefit?
While supporters of the bill believe regulation will benefit the consumer, the Bills sceptics think its big business that will win out. When the 26 submissions on the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill were heard, the 7 that supported the Bill were from pharmaceutical industry based organisations and large Australian-linked companies with financial interests. A United States survey found most people held big Pharma (top-earning pharmaceutical companies in the world) in the same low esteem as tobacco firms.

The Anti Vitamin Bill gets sugar coated: Will that help it go down ?
Because the original bill did not have enough political support, the Government is in the process of consulting other parties about a compromise - a joint agency with Australia will still be established, but makers of New Zealand-based natural health products may choose to be regulated. Those opting out will have to be regulated under a domestic regime and are limited to producing within our shores. To expand business into Australia, they would have to comply with the trans-Tasman agency. This would allow small businesses and producers of traditional medicines to continue operating as usual.

Chinese medicineAccording to Hon. Annette King (Minister of State Services), opponents have been “peddling misinformation” and earlier this year, before the compromise was made, she claimed “the preparation of therapeutic products as part of the traditional practice of medicines will be exempt from the regulatory scheme.” She also denied that “complimentary ingredients or finished products…will be subject to pharmaceutical style regulation.” If that was true, it is ironic that the “compromise” is proposing precisely what the minister was peddling in the original bill.

If you want to learn more or keep up-to-date with what’s happening with the Bill check out the links below.

Reference articles:
Bill risks medicine price rise” by Sarah Meads and Thomas Faunce
Big Pharma not always Beautiful” by Richard Wachman
Sugar coating for contentious medicines and therapeutic products bill” by Audrey Young

LEARN MORE & TAKE ACTION!

www.nzhealthtrust.co.nz
www.greens.govt.nz

UPDATE
Annette King and Minister of Health Pete Hodgson have announced that the Government is not proceeding, at this stage, with the legislation enabling the establishment of a joint agency with Australia to regulate therapeutic products. But the Therapeutics Products and Medicines Bill will remain on the Order Paper to be revisited when sufficient parliamentary support is available… So if you are opposed to this Bill keep taking action!

Read the full press release.

Eco-prisoners: From the US to the Pacific

Friday, May 18th, 2007

By Cameron Walker
WaterworldMany of the world’s environmental problems have been caused by multinational corporations and states in their constant drive for profit and control of humanity. Across the globe there have been many brave acts of resistance against those exploiting both humanity and the environment. Unfortunately as global awareness of environmental issues increases so does repression of those brave enough to stand up.
Jeff free’ Luers, currently serving a 22 year 8 month sentence in Oregon, USA, is one of these eco-prisoners. On June 26th 2000 he decided to take part in “an act of resistance designated to raise awareness and draw attention to a problem that affects every human being, every animal, every plant, and every form of life on this planet. I am speaking of global warming air, soil and water pollution” 1

SUVs SUVs SUVsLuers torched three SUVs at a Chevrolet dealership. The damage to the SUVs was so slight that they were later repaired and sold. Luers’ harsh sentence was entirely political. His support website has a large list comparing his sentence with those handed down to people convicted of shocking crimes, such as murder and rape. One man, who had previously served time for murder, was convicted, of raping several young girls and sentenced to 13 years prison by Karen Tracey, the same prosecutor in Luers’ case. On the 14th of February 2007 the Oregon Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Jeff Luers will be remanded back to court for resentencing. Hopefully his sentence will be shortened. To keep informed about this see Jeff Luers’ website below.
Since the election of the Bush Administration there has been growing repression of radical ecological and animal rights activists. In 2002 the FBI declared the Earth Liberation Front’ (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front’ (ALF) the nation’s biggest domestic terror threats, despite the fact that they’ve never hurt people. Many activists have been arrested and imprisoned for frivolous reasons, in what is being described as the green scare’.
Grasberg MineAcross the majority world large numbers of people have been imprisoned for daring to stand up to multinationals destroying the environment. In West Papua, which has been the scene of violent Indonesian Military operations since 1962, there has been large scale repression against students protesting the operations of US mining company Freeport McMoRan. Every day Freeport’s Grasberg copper and gold mine dumps 700,000 tonnes of mining waste into Papua’s rivers. According to the New York Times this has destroyed nearly 90 square miles of wetlands, which were once ‘one of richest freshwater habitats in the World’. This has angered many indigenous West Papuans, so Freeport pays the Indonesian Military to provide security. The Military has murdered many mining opponents.
West PapuaOn March 16th 2006 university students set up blockades in Papua’s capital, Jayapura, demanding the closure of the Freeport mine. The Military and Brimob (paramilitary police) violently attacked the demonstrators, leading to clashes in which three policemen and one soldier died. Brimob entered the university arresting scores of students, who were then beaten, tortured and forced to admit to taking part in the killings. Students’ families were also targeted. One student, who has since fled to Papua New Guinea, told an Australian human rights activist “After the March 16 clashes Intel [Brimob] arrested my mother, then took her from the house to the university. They wanted to kill her in front of the university but she was struggling and shouting hard, and so they took her to POLDA [Police Station] and tortured her, burned her with cigarettes and beat her up for three days at the gaol”.2 Some of the students have since been given lengthy prison terms, even though no evidence to suggest they took part in the killings was produced. Hundreds are still in hiding.
The New Zealand Government have been accused of not doing enough to expose the crisis in West Papua and could be seen as complicit in the destruction of West Papua. The NZ Super Fund invests taxpayer money in Freeport McMoRan. On May 14th 2007 an Indonesian Military officer started a 7 month NZ Defence Force Command Staff course at Trentham Army Camp, near Wellington. During the occupation of East Timor, Indonesian soldiers used to learn counter-insurgency’ skills from the NZ Defence Force. Human rights activists have called for NZ not to repeat the mistakes of the past by cutting all NZ military ties with Indonesia.
As young people we need to ask ourselves do we aspire to join the big corporations and governments destroying our world or will we stand in solidarity with Jeff Luers, the Papuan students and all those bravely resisting the destruction of our planet?
Take Action

Free Jeff Luers

Write a letter of support to Jeff in prison:
Jeffrey Luers, #13797671
Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP)
2605 State Street
Salem, OR 97310

Join his support campaign’s email list to receive updates about the case, writings from Jeff and ideas to support. Sometimes the campaign does a shout out for supporters to do little things, like buy Jeff a book. If you have spare money you can always donate to his legal fees fund.
Freeport and West Papua

Get in contact with one of the group’s protesting against the NZ Super Fund’s unethical investments.

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee in Auckland has been campaigning for the NZ Super Fund to dump all its Freeport shares. Check out the IHRC Press Release.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of Auckland held a demonstration in March against the Super Fund’s investments in arms companies and Freeport. See the report.

Get in contact with Students For Justice in Palestine

Write a letter to the NZ Super Fund calling for it to dump Freeport McMoRan:
NZ Super Fund
P O Box 106607
Auckland 1143
New Zealand

Join the campaign to cut all NZ military ties with Indonesia.

Contact Indonesia Human Rights Committee in Auckland. Peace Action Wellington have also called for NZ Military ties with Indonesia to be cut.
Learn More
www.freefreenow.org/
www.infopapua.org/
Report - Protest and punishment: political prisoners in Papua, Human Rights Watch, February 2007
Protest Punishment
References
1 http://freefreenow.org/whois.html
2 http://freewestpapua.com/node/78?

Image of Grasburg Mine from Canada’s West Papua Action Network

What’s up with coke? Part two

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Environmental Destruction in India

Water BottleCoca Cola has bottling plants the world over, allowing the company to take advantage of very low labour and production costs in certain countries, as well as decreasing the bill for the shipping of its products to its customers. One might think this makes the company more environmentally friendly, through reducing emissions caused by the transportation of goods around the world. However there are some who would tell you differently, very differently. These are the people who live on the doorsteps of the Coca Cola bottling plants all over India.

It is an often bemoaned fact that it is in fact cheaper to buy a bottle of sugar filled Coca Cola in New Zealand than it is to buy a bottle of water. Luckily, however, we have the option of turning on the tap and filling our glasses with potable water for very little money. In many Asian and African countries the severe shortage of available, clean, safe drinking water is a huge problem for inhabitants. India is one such country. The Indian village of Plachimada obtain all their drinking water from wells which tap into groundwater around the village. The locals began to notice that they were not the only ones tapping into the groundwater in the area. Coca Cola were also using the ground water, in much vaster quantities than the inhabitants of the area, in the production of their soft drinks.

Fetching WaterVillagers all over India have found themselves in a similar situation, with Coca Cola bottling plants helping themselves to precious life-giving ground water and causing their wells to drop by, in some cases, up to fifty feet (about 15 metres). Lax environmental regulations in the country did nothing to prevent this from occurring. Villagers have been forced to travel large distances in search of adequate drinking water, while the water once readily available to them is now only available in the form of a caffeinated, sugary carbonated drink, bought in planet-polluting plastic bottles.

To add salt to the wound, it has been found that aside from removing drinkable water from these communities, Coca Cola has also been pumping waste water indiscriminately back into the communities, litres and litres of contaminated water flow into the fields and rivers of India, polluting not only the soils, but the small amount of groundwater that remains for the villagers. Areas where this water has been discharged have been signposted by the authorities as water unfit for human consumption, while farmers were sold the solid waste of the Coca Cola factories to use as fertiliser. Tests of the waste found two dangerous substances (cadmium and lead) in the “fertiliser” which mean that in effect it is toxic waste.

The communities of India have thus been hit threefold by the damage Coca Cola has inflicted to their environment through the bottling plants dotted throughout its provinces. The country relies heavily on its agriculture and the devastating mixture of water shortages and polluted soils is having huge repercussions for many of the nation’s poor. However the Indian people are not only being hurt indirectly by the company through the destruction of their farming land, tests of bottled Coca Cola in India have found that the drink contains inordinately high levels of harmful pesticides such as DDT. We all know that Coca Cola isn’t good for us, but the little bit of sugar and caffeine found in the Coca Cola which we drink in New Zealand pales in comparison to the toxic cocktail of chemicals drunk in India. The long-term effects of these chemicals on the human body is as yet unknown, but the cumulative effect of the poisoning of the land along with the poisoning of the body leaves a very undesirable outlook for many of the people of India. And in a country of over one billion souls, that is a lot of unhappy futures.

Coke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottles

What can you do?
Still wanting to enjoy the Coke side of life? If not there are several groups of protestors who have set up websites which you can check out:
•www.cokewatch.org
•www.killercoke.org

And of course there is the option of making the decision not to drink Coca Cola on moral grounds. If everyone does it the company will have to sit up and listen, or face a fate even worse than that they have inflicted on their workers in India and around the world.

Resources:
www.indiaresource.org
www.corpwatch.org/article

Sweet as sin

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

By Nicole Mathewson

PebblesMmmm. A sugar rush. You can’t beat it eh? But how much sugar do we consume? A lot more than just what we add to our tea or cereal. What about all those fizzy drinks, lollies and cakes? And it doesn’t end there - sugar is a staple ingredient in most processed foods including savoury ready-made meals. Globally, sugar consumption increases by about 2% per year, and is currently around 150 million tons!

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down?
With so much sugar, you’d be forgiven for not being able to imagine a life without it. But did you know humans evolved without ever using it? The only kinds of sugar we need to remain healthy are lactose (found in milk) and fructose (fruits, vegetables and anything naturally nutritious). The kind of sugar we’ve come to know and love, though, is sucrose (aka sugar, refined from sugar cane or beet).

Sucrose was gradually introduced to our taste buds over time. It began innocently enough in the 1700s with a teaspoon or two in tea, but by the end of the century consumption had more than trebled. It has continued to increase worldwide ever since.

We have become so used to sugar that many people forget sucrose is just “empty calories” — it has no nutritional value. Medical problems associated with over-consumption of sucrose include obesity, increased chronic fatigue, anxiety, irritability and possibly serious mental conditions. [1] Scary huh? And this isn’t just happening in rich countries — it is also occurring in the developing world, and faster than ever.

“The consumption of sugar still goes up despite all the fanatical attacks from health cranks,” smugly says Sir Saxon Tate, boss of British sugar giant, Tate and Lyle.

A less than sweet industry
Sugar Cane HarvestingAs well as being terrible for our bodies, and almost addictive, sugar also widens the gap between the world’s rich and poor.

From the beginning, the sugar industry has not been nearly as sweet as the product. Sugar production was a big part of the slave trade, funded the expansion of European empires and put much of the original capital into capitalism.

Inequality is still rife today. For example, British Sugar’s majority shareholders, the Weston Family, receive NZ$76,700 a day from their shares, while Bekele, a typical sugar cane cutter in Ethiopia, earns less than NZ$3 a day. [2]

The power of the sugar giants
In the 1970s some companies in the sugar industry, and some which heavily used sugar in their products (e.g. soft drinks manufacturers) banded together and established various foundations’ and institutes’ which used their influence to undermine or silence any reports linking sugar with health problems. [3]

“The sugar industry has learned from the tricks of the tobacco industry,” says Professor Philip James, chairman of a national dietary guidelines committee in the UK. “Confuse the public. Produce experts who disagree. Try to dilute the message.” In the same way that oil companies deny climate change sugar companies try to persuade us that their product is not damaging.

And in New Zealand we can see the influence of these companies. Plans to remove full-sugar drinks from secondary schools have been criticised because the agreement between the Government and two of the biggest beverage companies won’t come into effect till 2009 and still allows diet drinks which can contain caffeine and artificial sweeteners which are hardly healthy. Green MP Sue Kedgley sees it as a public relations move. Children will still be exposed to “nutritionless, enamel-destroying soft drinks with addictive and controversial additives in them”, she said. [4]

Environmental concerns

Sugar plantations are harmful to the environment, being to blame for the loss of huge areas of fertile land (which could be used for growing food for local people, rather crops for export) and reducing water levels. After sixty years of sugar production in Pakistan there has been a 90 percent reduction of freshwater available. Pesticide spraying is also a problem, with twenty five million cases of serious chemical poisoning each year.[5]

It’s not all bad though. You’ve heard of Fair Trade chocolate and coffee, but you might not know you can get fairly-traded sugar too from Paraguay, available from Trade Aid stores. And it’s organic too, so no nasty pesticides were used. The most obvious way to escape from being caught in the sugar trap is to simply eat more fresh fruit and vegetables! You’ll gradually regain control over your appetite and eventually realise you don’t really need sugar at all — but if you must, try to make it fairly traded. Sweet!

Brown SugarBrown Sugar

Did you know?
A can (330ml) of regular soft drink contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar.

  • We are the 11th biggest soft-drink consumers in the world.
  • Worldwide, about a billion people are chronically overweight and, on the flip side, a billion are chronically hungry.
  • Ethanol is a sugar-based fuel produced by fermenting cane juice. It is clean burning and can be used to fuel vehicles on its own, or mixed with petrol or diesel. Brazil has saved hundreds of millions of dollars by using ethanol rather than importing fuel, and other countries could do the same.
  • Mauritius in the Indian Ocean generates nearly half its electricity from bagasse (the crushed stalks of the sugar cane plant, after cane juice has been extracted for sugar production), and other countries, including Pacific islands such as Fiji could potentially do the same.

Learn more:
Read the New Internationalist magazine on The Sugar Trap

Take Action:

  • Join Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign
  • Be aware of what you’re eating and where it came from.
  • Encourage others to take notice too.
  • Write to your local supermarket to ask them to stock Fair Trade sugar.

References:

[1] http://live.newint.org/issue363/perilous.htm
[2] http://www.maketradefair.com/en/index.php?file=sugar_pr06.htm
[3] http://live.newint.org/issue363/keynote.htm
[4] http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10414952
[5] http://environment.guardian.co.uk/columnist/story/0,,1932189,00.html

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A version of this article was originally published in JET magazine.