Inside the system
THE MULTINATIONAL companies which dominate chocolate production have been caught out over their claims playing down allegations of child slavery on African cocoa plantations.
Their trade body, the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionary Alliance (BCCCA), responded to recent revelations about conditions on the African plantations by claiming any slavery was "only in isolated pockets". The BCCCA counts Cadbury, Nestl and Mars among its members, and the three multinationals between them account for three quarters of Britain's chocolate. The three get much of their raw material, cocoa, from plantations in Africa. Mars, for example, gets three quarters of its cocoa from Ivory Coast in West Africa.
When recent press stories underlined the way children were used as slaves in the West African plantations, the firms pushed out a report by the academic sounding Natural Resources Institute. Yet now it has emerged that the "researchers" from this consultancy never left Chatham in Kent, where their offices are based. They sent no researchers to Africa to check any of the allegations.
This was astonishing, as New Labour Foreign Office minister Brian Wilson agreed that his information from British government sources in Africa showed that slavery was "common". Even the Financial Times commented, "The news is a blow to the credibility of UK chocolate makers."
CLOTHING BOSS John Mato knows how to do the dirty. He pocketed 160,000 of public money then sacked his 65 workers. Mato is head of Wolverhampton-based Grasshopper Babywear, which had a plant in Stranraer in Scotland.
He managed to get publicly funded Scottish Enterprise Dumfries and Galloway to stump up 130,000 to back the Stranraer development, and then got another 30,000 from the local council on top. But last week 65 stunned workers were given ten minutes notice that the factory was shutting and they were all sacked. Mato then jetted straight off on holiday.
ISRAEL'S militaristic obsession knows no bounds. It is entering a soldier in next month's Miss Universe contest, due to take place in Puerto Rico.
Miss Israel, soldier Haunt Levy, has even incorporated a bulletproof army-style flak jacket into her outfit. But designers have at least adorned the jacket with floral designs and encrusted diamonds for a "softer look".
WHO WANTS to be a millionaire? Duncan Whyte, for one. The fat cat boss was sacked last summer as chief executive of the Weir engineering group, but that didn't stop him pocketing a near 1 million payoff, it was revealed last week.
Whyte presided over a disastrous slide in the company's fortunes during his 14 months in charge. Weir's stock market valuation fell by 152 million, almost a third under Whyte's leadership. That roaring success was rewarded when he got booted out of his job. But he's not crying. Whyte walked away with 858,957 for just 401 days employment.
PUBLIC FUNDS are paying up to 375,000 a year for security on a plush coastal holiday home for former Tory prime minister John Major. Major bought the luxury Norfolk bungalow last year but has never actually stayed in it!
The government already pays 1.4 million a year for 24-hour security at Major's Huntingdon home.
HARD ON the heels of telling thousands of its workers across Europe that they face the dole, Marks & Spencer is now hitting its retired workers.
Staff who retired from the firm with 35 years service have traditionally received a 40 voucher each Christmas. Not any more. "It's been abolished," says one pensioner. "Many of us depended on it at Christmas."
A MAJOR new study has shown that the antibiotics routinely used in agriculture are endangering human health, reports the New Scientist magazine. Agribusiness routinely feeds antibiotics to animals to promote quicker growth and fatter profits.
Over 70 percent of all antibiotics produced in the US are used for this. Campaigners have long warned that this practice could risk spreading antibiotic resistance to the animals, the wider environment and to humans. Such resistance could make it more difficult to treat lethal bacterial infections.
Now scientists at the University of Illinois have confirmed that such fears are justified. They found that resistance to the important antibiotic tetracycline was developing in bacteria in the guts of pigs fed the drug to boost their growth. Worse still, the resistance genes had also been passed on to bacteria living in groundwater in the area that was used to supply drinking water for people.
The study also found that these bacteria could pass the resistance on to bacteria in humans who drank the water. The researchers say the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in livestock should be banned.
Things they say
"THE DANGER is that loss of patents in HIV alone could destroy the global HIV market. The bigger danger is that the broader loss of patents in South Africa could be the thin end of the wedge which smashes patent protection for the industry. And if that happens, then frankly the entire economic base of the pharmaceutical industry is destroyed."
- DAVID EBSWORTH, head of pharmaceuticals at Bayer, one of the 39 companies which last week dropped their court case in South Africa
"I HAVE been asked by ministers, ordinary people and businesspeople whether our policies have worked, and I really have to admit that we have failed."
- ROGIER VAN DER BRINK, World Bank representative in Zimbabwe
MUSSOLINI'S ideas were 99 percent good, 1 percent maybe questionable."
- GUIDO MUSSOLINI, grandson of Benito Mussolini, the Italian Fascist leader during the Second World War. Guido Mussolini is now campaigning to be mayor of Rome
"MAY DAY rioters will be fighting for us all."
- Columnist SUZANNE MOORE in the Mail on Sunday
"EVERY TIME my husband and I return to Ablington he asks me, 'Whose village is this?' and I say, 'It's our village.' When we get to the house he says, 'Whose house is this?' and I say,' 'This is our house in the middle of a field'."
- TV presenter ANNE ROBINSON on her and her husband's journey from their 1 million house in London to their 2 million mansion in Ablington, Gloucestershire
"IT'S very important for folks to understand that when there's more trade, there's more commerce."
- GEORGE BUSH puts the case for more free trade in Quebec