Copyrighted material 404: Information Missing From Your Daily News

Summaries of under-reported news, short updates on previous Monitor stories

+ EPA Boondoggle   It's just a single sheet of paper folded over three times, but it cost a cool $500 thousand and took more than a year to produce. And although it was intended to warn consumers about pesticides on food, the final version presents a pro-industry message that presents organic vegetables as somewhat exotic. What is it? Why, it's the Environmental Protection Agency's brochure "Pesticides and Food."

Of course, the original title was "Pesticides on Food," and that was part of the message that the food industry didn't like. While an early draft said that pesticides can cause "birth defects, nerve damage, cancer and other toxic effects," the final version states only that "some pesticides cause health problems at certain levels of exposure." A section suggesting that consumers might consider buying "certified organic" food was changed to, "your grocer may be able to provide you with information about the availability of food grown using fewer or no pesticides."

According to the Dec. 30 New York Times, seven food, farm and pesticide industry groups pressured the Clinton Administration last August to eliminate any references to organic foods and to make other changes. The groups thought that the pamphlet was too negative in using the word "harmful," for example. Instead of phrasing like, "Are pesticides harmful?" the Grocery Manufacturers of America and others the brochure should read "Are pesticides safe?" to make it sound more positive.

"Fundamentally, EPA took what could have been a really good brochure and turned it into a propaganda piece for the food industry, which has always denied that there is a problem with pesticides on food," Jeannine Kenney, a policy analyst for Consumers Union told the newspaper.

Kudos for the Times as the only paper in America to cover the story. But Consumers Union, which publishes the magazine Consumer Reports, fed the story to them, providing essential background info and a pre-release copy of the brochure. This isn't the first time that a consumer group has done all the research for a Times story. As we reported last April, National Environmental Trust provided all the investigative research to the NY Times about a fraudulent group opposing global warming. Why is America's leading newspaper relying upon non-profit organizations to do their work? (January 26, 1999)

+ Indonesia Army Rapes   After revolution swept Indonesia last May, gruesome tales of brutal sexual violence began to emerge. As reported in the Monitor, the worst rumors said that there was a campaign by Suharto's army to attack Chinese women. Familes claimed that girls as young as ten were gang-raped by organized groups of men that were apparently soldiers in civilian garb.

And now a United Nations investigator has confirmed that yes, there were mass rapes by the military. Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN special rapporteur on violence against women, told Reuters in an interview, "There was mass rape and they were all Chinese [women]. We met many victims and it was clear it was conducted in a widespread manner. Secondly, it seems to have been conducted in an organized manner."

A commission appointed by the Indonesian government had previously found that 52 women were raped by soldiers, but her team agreed with citizen's groups that claimed the final toll will number several hundred. "So many victims we spoke to had not made complaints to the police," she said. Coomaraswamy will submit her report to the UN Human Rights Commission next month.

As before, the U.S. media ignored this story, with only one daily (Chicago Tribune) mentioning it at all. But in Asia, the story is explosive. The same un-uniformed soldiers that raped the women often also led looting and arson attacks on Chinese stores. Comparisons have been made with these racist attacks and Hitler's attacks upon Jews before WWII. And with the same Indonesian military leaders still in control -- and still denying any rapes happened at all -- it's likely that there will be new attacks in the future, again under cover of domestic strife. (January 12, 1999)

+ Fill'er Up!   First, the good news: As every car owner knows, gasoline is pretty cheap right now. Often below a buck per gallon, it's actually the lowest price on record when adjusted for inflation, according to the Department of Energy. But it's long been known that the consumer price only pays a fraction of the true cost; in 1994, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment extimated that a gallon would cost about $5.00 if all price supports were removed. A new estimate by a public interest group is far higher: $15.14 is the true cost of a gallon of gas, according to the International Centre for Technology Assessment.

The Federal government and the states spend as much as $1.69 trillion per year to support the petroleum industry, including tax breaks and industry regulation. According to the group, up to $114.6 billion is spent directly in subsidies. Also a freebie is help from the U.S. military, which spends between $55 billion and $96 billion annually protecting oil rigs in places like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. (January 28, 1999)

+ Mad Cow in Your Blood   A pattern emerges: Health officials swear that there's no danger of a mad cow disease epidemic, then quietly make a policy change that suggests real concern. As we described in a 404 item last August, England announced that it will be importing all plasma, plus filtering every drop from 2.5 million annual U.K. blood donations to remove white blood cells, all at great expense. All this while it's unknown if the disease can pass from human - to - human through blood.

Then in December, Canada said it was dropping its policy of recalling blood products containing plasma from donors with CJD (Creutzfeld-Jakob disease). But at the same time, it will still recall blood products made from plasma of donors suffering from mad cow. Huh? Isn't CJD the same as mad cow? Not anymore; mad cow is "new-variant CJD," and treated differently.

Now an FDA advisory committee has voted that anyone living or even having travelled in Britian since 1980 should be screened out as a blood donor. They also recommended a study on impact on the nation's blood banks.

Concern about transmission of CJD diseases through blood was heightened in the United States in December when a Utah man with CJD was found to be a plasma donor. The man had no connection with England but had hunted deer and elk, animals that have been closely watched in both the U.S. and Canada. Batches of plasma that included his blood were voluntarily recalled.

Although it's claimed that there are only about 250 cases of CJD in America each year, that number could be inaccurate because there's no requirement to report CJD. The numbers come from death certificates, and it's believed that a significant number of CJD cases are misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's, which it closely resembles. (January 29, 1999)

+ Godfathers of Hate   When that 1995 bomb exploded in Oklahoma City, the mainstream press scrambled to discover something about the terrorist militia movement. Quickly the media settled upon a simplistic and reassuring angle: That Timothy McVeigh and his pal Terry Nichols were errant fanatics among the oddballs and misfits who liked to play soldier. In the years since, stories about militia activity have been few and often played for laughs. Thus it's not really a surprise that almost all newspapers ignored an important Associated Press story that appeared in December -- an article that revealed that revealed a pair of millionaire white supremacists are now sinking big money into the movement.

Vincent Bertollini and Carl Story, two retired Silicon Valley executives, spent about $30,000 on a mailing to northern Idaho households last September. Sent was a colorful and slick 6-foot tall poster showing "The Adamic Race Pure Blood Seedline." It states that Eve and Satan produced a "hybrid, mongrel, bastard and soul-less child," Cain, from whom Jews and people of color are descended. The poster ends with predicting Armageddon because of the UN and that the U.S. Constitution has been "destroyed by Jewry influence of the Supreme Court."

Just two papers in the nation (Chicago Trib and Buffalo News) presented the story at all, and only the LA Times understood its true significance and followed up with its own report.

Hate-group experts at the Southern Poverty Law Center told the LA Times that they were surprised at the quality and sophistication of the mailings. "The problem of the white supremacist movement for decades has been financing," researcher Mark Potok said, telling the newspaper that it took Timothy McVeigh half a year to raise the $10,000 to buy the materials for the Oklahoma City bomb. The emergence of Bertollini and Story, and their money, is "terribly important," Potok said.

Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler -- called "the eye of the white supremacist storm" by Klanwatch -- told the Times that Bertollini and Story's contributions were important. "We've been operating on a shoestring for so long that it was nice to get to do something the other side gets to do all the time. Don't forget, the Jews control the newspapers, they control the radio, they control the TV." The pair paid for a mass-mailing of a videotape of Butler explaining his philosophy. The white supremacist group showed its appreciation by sending still more thousands of the costly "Adamic" poster to people on its mailing list.

Bertollini and Story, now respectively 59 and 65 years old, grew rich as the semiconductor industry boomed in the 1970's. Story was an executive for fast-growing companies that controlled key technologies for making computer chips. He was also convicted in 1977 for conspiracy for trying to sell $900,000 worth of manufacturing equipment to the Soviet Union. The government charged that Story and another man were trying to illegally export components for building missle guidance systems that were labeled as exported washing machines and commercial ovens. Story was fined $10,000.

The men cashed out their two multimillion-dollar businesses in 1995 and resettled in the northern Idaho town of Sandpoint, in the heart of the white separatist region most famous for nearby Ruby Ridge. There they began calling themselves "The 11th Hour Remnant Messenger," funding the poster and Aryan Nations through the group.

While groups like Aryan Nation are considered extremist even by many on the far right for their views (such as the belief that blacks are non-human "mud people"), there is concern that Bertollini and Story seem to be encouraging a new movement that mixes deep racism with the rhetoric of the militias. Recently they sponsored a two-day anti-government seminar held at one of the area's Christian Identity churches.

"That's what scares them," an Aryan Nations spokesman told the LA Times. "Before [Bertollini and Story], we were just the Nazis who were poor."

The Spokane Spokesman-Review obtained the only interview with either of the hate benefactors when Bertollini appeared at a community meeting to defend his mailings to local residents. "Is there anything in our literature that says anything about hate?" Bertollini asked. "No. It just says we white people are different. Our intent is to bring truth to a world that believes a lie. It's a burden, a burden on my heart, and it's Carl Story's burden, too." Nonwhites, he said, "have a special place on this planet," but white people "are caretakers of the world."

"Don't you see that?" Bertollini asked. "Isn't that simple? Isn't it obvious?" (January 31, 1999)

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