Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

25 July 2002 Edition

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War crime in Gaza


"It was one of our greatest successes", claimed Ariel Sharon, after Tuesday's air-raid during which Hamas leader Saleh Shahade and 16 others were killed when an F-16 fighter dropped a two-ton bomb in the Mashahreh district of Gaza City.

The intended target was considered the head of Ezzedin al Kassam, the armed wing of the Islamic movement Hamas. "The IDF regrets the damage done to property or people but this is the result of terrorism, as they use civilians as human shields,"was the Israeli Army's curt response to the slaughter it had caused.

Shahade's wife, their three children and a bodyguard were killed by the huge explosion which flattened a dozen houses. The bodies of two infants and four children under the age of ten as well as three adults were initially retrieved from the all familiar piles of rubble the IDF has created throughout the Occupied Territories.

Even the Israeli President, Moshe Katsav, was moved to issue a statement deploring the raid, although there was no such squeamishness from Ariel Sharon. He appeared elated at the elimination of a man regarded by the Israelis as the first among 48 names of "most wanted terrorists". And it doesn't matter how many civilians, in particular children, will have to be sacrificed and murdered.

Palestinian children are killed daily as a political and military deterrent but the news barely reaches the papers. Children of a lesser God, second class human beings on their own land, killed by the Israeli war machine (20% of the 1,600 Palestinians killed in the Intifada are under the age of 16) or by the apartheid (lack of food, water and medical supplies) imposed on them by Sharon.

The timing of the Gaza attack was crucial and forms part of the Israeli premier's plan for the annexation of the Territories. Hundreds of Islamic militants have been "removed" in an open campaign of extra-judicial executions since September 2000. With total impunity. Shahade's killing purposely breaks three weeks of a relative calm and shatters any prospect of progress. Palestinian and Israeli officials had just resumed premiliminary peace-talks and only last Sunday Ahmed Yassin, the charismatic leader of Hamas, had suggested that in the event of an Israeli withdrawal from the Territories, the movement may decide to suspend the suicide-bombers' attacks in Israel. But each time there's a new chance of a political approach, Sharon sheds Palestinian blood to prevent it.

In a rare appearance in Gaza only a few weeks ago, Shehade had reiterated his position: "We don't fight the Jews because they are Jews but because they occupy our land. Not for their religion but because they have stripped us all of every right". Regarded as an intellectual, founder of the Izzedin al Kassam Brigades and strong supporter of the martyrs campaign, Shehade was also the leader of a rational current within his movement.

Although he was one of the strongest opponents of the peace and stability approach of Yasser Arafat, he was also willing to go an extra mile. He had also a political mindset - that's why he was feared by his enemies. That's why so many martyrs will now try to avenge his death.

Nigerian women claim victory over Chevron-Texaco

"I give one piece of advice to all women in all countries: they shouldn't let any company cheat them," said Anunu Uwawah, spokesperson for 250 women who staged what looks like a successful protest at the southeastern Nigerian Escravos ChevronTexaco's main oil terminal.

The peaceful ten-day occupation of the company's Escravos terminal - which finished on Thrusday 18 July - crippled the oil giant's Nigeria operations but for the women it won an unprecedented company pledge to build modern towns out of poor villages.

The all-woman protest was a departure for the oil-rich Niger Delta, where armed men frequently use kidnapping and sabotage to pressure oil multinationals into giving them jobs, protection money or compensation for environmental damage. Hostages generally are released unharmed.

The success of the Escravos occupation appeared to have inspired copycat protests by women from a rival tribe, who captured several smaller oil facilities earlier in the week.

Chevron-Texaco's Nigeria spokesman, Wole Agunbiade, said on Thursday 18 July that officials would soon begin talks with hundreds of women who still held four pipeline flow stations. The women's representatives said they were in control of five facilities, although Agunbiade could not confirm the fifth.

The Escravos terminal raid was launched by women from six surrounding communities who said they were trying to draw attention to the grinding poverty in their villages. The Niger Delta is one of the poorest places in Nigeria, despite its oil wealth. Nigeria is the world's sixth-largest exporter of oil and the fifth-largest supplier to the United States.

After days of negotiations, company executives agreed to build schools, clinics, town halls, electricity and water systems in villages of rusty tin shacks. The company also agreed to give jobs to at least 25 residents and help build fish and chicken farms.

The takeover began on 8 July when 100 women stormed a company ferry, grabbed the radio and ordered the driver to take the boat to take them to the terminal. The women spread out across the massive concrete and steel complex and blocked the docks, the airfield, the gas plant and the tank farm.

Corporate collapse

On Sunday 21 July, WorldCom filed for bankruptcy, the largest in US history, becoming the latest corporate giant to collapse amid an accounting scandal. With $107 billion in assets reported in its filing, WorldCom's bankruptcy was nearly twice as large as the Enron Corporation's record-setting filing last year. WorldCom's filing detailed liabilities totalling more than $65 billion. Given the number of corporate scandals that have emerged in recent months, including Global Crossing Ltd. and Adelphia Communications, virtually everyone now agrees that the problem is not "a few bad apples" but a broad systemic crisis.

Meanwhile, US president George W Bush talks tough: "My administration will do everything in our power to end the days of cooking the books, shading the truth, and breaking our laws." His main objective is to restore "confidence" - a word he used 13 times in his speech on Wall Street and nine times at a press conference on the previous day.

However, Charlie Cray and Lee Drutman, director and communications director, respectively, of the Campaign for Corporate Reform at Citizen Works, a Washington DC-based organisation dedicated to building democracy and citizen power, say Bush's Corporate Responsibility plan lacks any real bite. It is "not what you'd expect from a president desperate to keep the current crisis from becoming a major political liability for his party and his own presidency", they said.

Taking as an example the Executive Order establishing the Corporate Fraud Task Force, Cray and Drutman point out that there's no additional funding or staff, "just a directive that a bunch of government agencies talk to each other more often about securities fraud, mail and wire fraud, money laundering and tax fraud". The Los Angeles Times reported last May that Bush reduced the number of FBI agents on the corporate crime beat by 59, redeploying them for the anti-terrorism effort.

Cray and Drutman also criticise Bush's call to increase the Securities and Exchange Commission's budget by $100 million as insufficient as a pittance compared to what SEC observers say is needed. In fact, they say, Bush's increase barely matches a request made in March by SEC Chair Harvey Pitt to increase the commission's staff and pay, a request that was denied.

Cray and Drutman find that the most telling aspects of the Bush administration proposal are the kind of actions that are being left out. "Although Bush says he wants the issuance of options approved by shareholders, he doesn't say he wants them expensed. Allowing stock options not to be expensed essentially means allowing companies to continue issuing stock options to top executives without telling investors of the cost, cutting into profits to enrich the top brass while diluting shareholder value. Stock options are what many business analysts say is the key motivator behind all sorts of executive end-of-quarter accounting shenanigans, which were intended to raise stock value so they could cash in. It seems Bush missed the most obvious thing that needs to be addressed."

The plan does not support corporate whistleblower protections, a valuable tool to prevent corporate crime -a provision that has strong support in Congress. The Republican administration also fails to use one of the greatest deterrents against corporate crime: exclusion. The federal government can refuse to do business with companies that are serious and/or repeat lawbreakers.

The President has challenged every CEO in America to describe in the company's annual report - prominently, and in plain English - details of his or her compensation package, including salary and bonus and benefits." The CEOs are challenged but not required to do so. The average CEO is paid 531 times the pay of the average worker. If the minimum wage had risen between 1990 and 2000 at the same rate as the rise in CEO pay, Cray and Drutman reveal, it would now stand at $25.20 an hour.

Bush's plan also fails to address companies reincorporating in offshore tax havens to cheat the US public out of tax dollars. Nor does the Bush plan address the fact that some of the same companies that have been restating earnings have been committing human rights and other violations overseas. The Asia Times reported on 10 July that Xerox, the office equipment giant that said it would have to restate five years of earnings in June, is now admitting that its Indian subsidiary, Xerox ModiCorp, paid up to $700,000 in graft to secure government contracts.

1999 CEO Salary and Stock Options of Major Apparel Companies (AFL-CIO: Executive Pay Watch)

Gap Inc.

CEO Millard Drexler: $16.9 million, and unexercised stock-options of $685 million from previous years.

Nike Inc.

Chairman, President, and CEO: Philip Knight: $3.5 million.


CEO David D. Glass: $12.2 million, and $50 million unexercised stock options from previous years.

J.C. Penney

Chairman and CEO James E. Oesterreicher: $5.2 million.

Federated Department Stores

Chairman and CEO James M. Zimmerman: $26.2 million, and $10.9 million in unexercised stock from previous years.

How Long Sweatshop Workers Must Work to Make the 1999 CEO Pay (Years) Assuming a 48-hour work week


Gap workers in El Salvador: 11,500

Nike workers in Indonesia: 14,000

Wal-Mart workers in China: 21,000

J.C. Penney workers in Nicaragua: 9,000

Federated workers in Philippines: 35,000

Corporate Power

In 1970, there were 7,000 transnational corporations (TNC) worldwide. By 1999, this number grew to 63,000 (Jim Yong Kim, Joyce Millen, Alec Irwin, John Gershman, Dying for Growth)
Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations; only 49 are countries (based on a comparison of corporate sales and country gross domestic product). (Sarah Anderson and John Cavanagh, "Top 200: The Rise of Corporate Global Power")
In 1983, Wal-Mart's sales were $4.7 billion. In 1999, the retail giant had sales of $166.8 billion, making it the second largest corporation in the world. Wal-Mart is wealthier than countries like Norway, Indonesia, South Africa, and Portugal (Top 200)
Between 72 and 82 percent of US citizens agree that "business has gained too much power over too many aspects of American life" (Business Week/Harris Poll, September 2000, quoted in Top 200)

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