Flotsam & Jetsam
Weapons Inspectors Arrested in US, Civilizations Clash at the Check-out Counter, The Gulp War: Soda's Saudi Sales Soar, Mecca Cola: The Cause that Refreshes,Totalitarian Information Awareness Shorts Out, Big Math Bugs Big Mac, and more..
February 28, 2003
Weapons Inspectors Arrested
|Weapons Inspector Keith McHenry is stopped at the gates of Raytheon's Tucson plant shortly before being placed under arrest.|
USA - On February 14, 50 weapons inspectors wearing yellow hard hats and conspicuous armbands reading "UN" attempted to gain entrance to a suspected weapons manufacturing site. When they were denied entry, eight of the inspectors attempted to enter the facility and were promptly arrested.
The suspected site was the Raytheon Missile Systems plant near Tucson, Arizona. The "inspectors" were members of a peace group called United Neighbors.
United Neighbors claims that they wished to interview "scientists and inspect documents and production facilities for evidence of illegal weapons production."
"We are here to enforce international law," stated Keith McHenry, before he was arrested. "We want to verify that no weapons of mass destruction are here."
The eight protesters, including three women and one man who were in their 70s, were cited for second-degree criminal trespass and released. They face trial in March.
William Moeller, one of the eight arrested inspectors, explained that he supported the UN inspection teams in Iraq and believed it was "hypocritical of the US to demand others stop producing weapons of mass destruction when the US is the biggest producer of such weapons in the world."
Raytheon spokesperson Sara Hammond insisted that her company did not produce weapons of mass destruction. "Our weapons are tactical and precision-guided," she said.
Raytheon's weapons include the Bunker Buster, the Tomahawk cruise missile and the Stinger missile. The Stinger is a shoulder-held missile and the Bunker Buster is a projectile that uses depleted uranium to penetrate and ignite dense structures. The Tomahawk is a computer-guided weapon that is fired from US combat ships or submarines by booster rockets. The Tomahawk carries a 1,000-lb warhead or a cluster of 166 soda-can size "bomblets." Tomahawks also have the ability to carry a 220-kiloton nuclear warhead, ten times more powerful than the uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
For more information: http://www.lovolution.net/nukesite/raytheon/raytheontucson.htm.
Civilizations Clash at the Check-out Counter
MIDDLE EAST - George W. Bush once claimed to be a "uniter." While his foreign policy has divided the USA, his reign has succeeded in uniting the Arab world against all things American.
Lebanon's Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadallah, Saudi Arabia's Sheikh Omar bin Saeed al-Badna and Qatar's Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi are among the leaders who have encouraged their followers to abandon US products in favor of European and Asian goods.
The multinationals feeling the sting of rebellion include McDonald's, KFC, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Marlboro, Pampers, Hasbros, L'Oreal, Johnson & Johnson, Heinz and Starbucks.
The worldwide Arab boycott of US goods has cut foreign earnings of US corporations by as much as 40 percent. A third of the McDonald's outlets in Jordan have been shuttered for lack of customers while sales in Oman's capital have fallen by 65 percent.
The Gulp War: Soda's Saudi Sales Soar
IRAN - When Israel staged a massive attack on Palestinian settlements in the West Bank in March, anti-US demonstrations erupted across the Middle East. In Bahrain, demonstrators not only hurled rocks and gas-bombs at the US Embassy; they also started drinking hundreds of gallons of Zamzam Cola.
Zamzam (which is named after a holy spring in Mecca and is brewed in Iran as a local alternative to Coca-Cola) has seen its popularity blossom across the Middle East, driven by growing anti-US and anti-Israel sentiment. Last August, four million bottles went on sale in Saudi Arabia - and sold out in one week. To meet the unexpected demand, the Al-Majarah Soft Drinks Co. now plans to build a bottling plant in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia's neighbor.
Zamzam is all the rage in Pakistan, Iraq and several African countries (where its closest competitor is the soda veteran, AfriCola). Meanwhile, the Danish daily Politiken reports "a flood of inquiries" from potential distributors in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Canada. Last October, Denmark became the first country to start selling Zamzam inside Europe.
Zamzam, which comes in a variety of flavors including cola, orange, lemon and mango, was heralded as the "unofficial drink" of February's massive pilgrimage to Mecca.
Ironically, Zamzam's plants used to be owned by Pepsi Cola. Pepsi cancelled its contract in 1979 following Iran's Islamic Revolution. Now, with a production capacity of 2.5 billion cans annually, Zamzam has become one of Pepsi's biggest competitors in the region.
Mecca Cola: The Cause the Refreshes
FRANCE - People from Europe to the Middle East are loosing their taste for US foreign policy and chucking bottles of Coke and Pepsi for a politically-and-spiritually correct soft-drink alternative - Mecca Cola. This PC soda is brewed in France by Franco-Tunisian radio journalist Tawfik Mathlouthi, who explains that the drink's success lies in linking great taste with "a means of fighting against American hegemony."
Bottles of Mecca Cola [http://www.mecca-cola.com] carry the French catch-phrase: "Stop drinking stupid: Drink with commitment." Mathlouthi explains that he is not "anti-American," he is only opposed to one particular American, George W. Bush. "What I condemn," he says, "is the double-handed policy of the United States."
In addition to building a new distribution plant to service Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan and Libya, Mathlouthi is also selling more than a million bottles of Mecca Cola a month to fans in the European Community.
While some fundamentalists have deplored Mathlouthi's use of the name of Islam's holiest city, part of the soda's appeal lies in Mathlouthi's pitch that 20 percent of Mecca Cola's profits will go to charities that support Palestinian children and the cause of Palestinian independence.
"Saudi Arabia has already ordered five million 1.5-liter bottles," Mathlouthi boasted to the Times of India. Annual sales are projected to soar to 200 million bottles. As the Times of India observes, "no one denies how easy it is for consumers to express their politics by simply switching brands."
On the downside, cultural critic and soda maven Remy Chevallier dings the designers of Mecca Cola for their "carbon-copy knock-off of the Coca-Cola logo" and notes that "you never get anywhere in business by copying other productsEGeneric CokeEblurk!"
In Chevallier's estimation, the Middle East cola warriors are missing out on a sure bet. "There is another 'true' Middle Eastern drink that out-sells Coke and Pepsi all over the Middle East. It's called Jallab and it's made from date syrup. If they had half-a-brain, they would be bottling Jallab for the US market and hit us where it hurtsEWhy? Because Jallab actually tastes terrific."
Totalitarian Information Awareness Shorts Out
US - The Bush administration's Office of Total Information Awareness (OTIA) wants to know what every citizen is watching, reading, and purchasing. But will the OTIA's snoops know what kind of underwear people are wearing?
Thanks to Cafeshops.com, unmentionables are about to become politically unspeakable. The all-seeing eye atop the pyramid that comprises the logo of John Poindexter's super-snooper agency will soon be peeping out on a new line of shorts, briefs, boxers and thongs. Cafeshops plans to donate profits from the sales of these inconspicuous consumables to the American Civil Liberties Union. www.cafeshops.com.
Big Math Bugs Big Mac
UNITED KINGDOM - A British ad agency came up with a big campaign for McDonald's, claiming that customers could enjoy "40,312 Possible Combinations" from variations on its eight McChoice menu items. Unfortunately the ad agency couldn't add. As many math-minded readers pointed out, there are only 256 permutations of eight items.
When critics (armed with a support statement from one of Britain's most eminent mathematicians) brought a "false advertising" claim to the Advertising Standards Authority, an embarrassed McDonald's tried to argue that it believed that "a coke and fries" and "fries and a coke" constituted two different choices.
The ASA (which is supposed to assure that all ads are "Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful") showed its pro-industry bias by ruling that McDonald's had not violated the law. When the ASA offered to let McDonald's restate its case, the corporation argued that there were actually 16 McChoices, if you included all the "flavour variants." (This argument ignored the fact that the print ads clearly showed only eight menu items.)
One critic was so incensed at the ASA's decision that she appealed the ruling (knowing in advance that only 14% of requests for reviews are accepted and that, of these, only 8% result in any action). The ASA paused ever so briefly to reconsider its ruling and concluded, "the number quoted [40,312]Ewas not so necessarily exaggerated." (McD's number was more than 157 times larger than the correct sum.)
McDonald's critics lambasted the ASA's response as "full lunacy" that "contravened at least two codes of advertising practice" and "a classic demonstration of why the advertising industry should not be trusted to self-regulate."
Bush's Media Strategy: Freeze Speech
USA - At the same time that Colin Powell's son, Michael, is promoting the corporate consolidation of radio, television and newspaper ownership, the Bush budget is calling for a reduction in support to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
Bush's proposed $2.2 trillion budget would cut CPB's funding by $10 million, a cut that CPB President Robert Coonrod claims would "seriously compromise out ability to deliver the services we are required by law to provide to the American people."
Adding to the CPB's fiscal migraines is a federal deadline that requires public broadcasters to complete a costly transition to digital broadcasting by May of this year. But "without additional funding," Coonrod notes, "we cannot build an entirely new, federally mandated, technological infrastructure while also delivering the public services required of us."
Under new legislation written by the White House, any noncommercial public broadcaster that fails to make the costly digital switch by 2006, would have to start paying the FCC up to $500 million a year to continue broadcasting on the existing "analog" system.
It's not just the CPB that's feeling squeezed. The National Association of Broadcasters has gone on record opposing Bush's punitive tax. "Broadcasters should not be saddled with an unfair spectrum tax," NAB President Edward Fritts insists. ""The timetable for the transition to digital television will be determined by consumer acceptance and not by arbitrary government dictates."
Treasury Department Threatens Website
USA - Since Thomas W. Warner is the Secretary of the Cuba Friendship Committee in Seattle, Washington, he didn't think it was a big thing when he posted a notice about an upcoming US-Cuba Sister Cities Association conference in Havana, Cuba on his website [http://www.seattlecuba.org]. But the lawyers at the US Department of the Treasury apparently thought otherwise.
On October 16, 2002, the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) notified Warner that his posting was in violation of US "trading with the enemy" laws and threatened him with a $20,000 fine. The OFAC also told Warner to hand over "Contact information for all organizations that were involved in the organization of this conference, as well as a description of the type of involvement by such entities" and "All records (memorandums, e-mails, expenditure reports, receipts, etc.) that are relevant to this conference."
Warner, a 77-year-old WWII vet, now claims that he holds "the dubious honor of being the first person who has been attacked by the Bush administration for using the Internet to oppose the policies of the government."
Fortunately, Warner's plight came to the attention of a redoubtable attorney named Lynne Wilson who subjected the T-men to a merciless judicial drubbing.
"I have reviewed the federal regulations that were referenced in your letter," Wilson informed Treasury Department officials, "and do not see that forwarding information to an Internet site about a conference in Cuba in any way is prohibited [as a]Eprohibited financial transaction covered by the Treasury Department's regulations.
"Mr. Warner possesses certain First Amendment rights, as well as rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 18, 19, & 22, to freedom of speech and freedom of association." In addition, Wilson scolded, Treasury has "no authority under the US ConstitutionEto interfere with someone's rights to post information on the Internet about a conference in Cuba."
Wilson reminded the T-team that "there are a variety ofEregulations which authorize travel to Cuba" including humanitarian, artistic, athletic and educational visits.
As to Treasury's request for information, Wilson rebuked Treasury for presuming to "interfere with Mr. Warner's, and others, rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and due process of law protected under US Const. Amends. 1 & 5."
"Moreover," Wilson concluded, "because it is apparent that you searched the Internet specifically looking for people who posted opinions about travel to Cuba, your agency may have violated the First and Fifth Amendments by political targeting and computer surveillance."
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