Saturday, June 11, 2005

Panel Chairman Leaves Hearing

After repeated criticism of the Bush administration, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday gaveled a hearing to a close and walked out while Democrats continued to testify -- but with their microphones shut off.

The hearing's announced topic was the USA Patriot Act, which granted broad new powers to federal law enforcement after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Republicans had presented several witnesses at earlier hearings who supported the administration's call for reauthorizing the legislation. But yesterday, when four witnesses handpicked by the Democrats launched into a broad denunciations of President Bush's war on terrorism and the condition of detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) (Photo) showed his pique.

C-SPAN2 (Available Now: Video - Entire House Hearing) continued televising the proceedings for six minutes after Sensenbrenner had departed, with lettering on the screen explaining the strange circumstances.

One of the witnesses then began giving impromptu testimony. James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said he thought the turn of events was "totally inappropriate -- no mike on, and no record being kept."

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

How web of activists gives Coke problems in India

Amit Srivastava doesn't own a car or a house. He runs a nonprofit, activist organization in California that has only one full-time employee -- himself. But he has been helping shake up one of the world's biggest corporations, Coca-Cola Co., thousands of miles away in India.

Speaking on a tour of U.S. college campuses in April, he accused Coke of egregious offenses in India: stealing water, poisoning land and selling drinks laced with dangerous pesticides. "It is destroying lives, it is destroying livelihoods and it is destroying communities all across India," the pony-tailed, 39-year-old college dropout told dozens of students at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. "That is the story of Coca-Cola in India."

Coca-Cola, which considers India a crucial element in its plans for global growth, wasn't invited to Smith to tell its version of the story. But the Atlanta-based soft-drinks giant is well aware of Mr. Srivastava's activities. Coke acknowledges he is a central figure in a burgeoning global campaign by nonprofits -- commonly known abroad as nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs -- that has cost it millions of dollars in lost sales and legal fees in India, and growing damage to its reputation elsewhere.

Mr. Srivastava and the NGOs have flagged some serious issues, such as Coke's onetime practice of giving away waste material to local farmers that some studies later showed contained toxic materials. But amid the heated rhetoric, there have been some dubious claims as well. Mr. Srivastava, for example, has compared Coke's environmental practices to the industrial accident at Bhopal, which killed thousands.

By Steve Stecklow, The Wall Street Journal