Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"Labor Dept. Is Rebuked Over Pact With Wal-Mart" (Steven Greenhouse)

The Labor Department's inspector general strongly criticized department officials yesterday for "serious breakdowns" in procedures involving an agreement promising Wal-Mart Stores 15 days' notice before labor investigators would inspect its stores for child labor violations.
The report by the inspector general faulted department officials for making "significant concessions" to Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, without obtaining anything in return. The report also criticized department officials for letting Wal-Mart lawyers write substantial parts of the settlement and for leaving the department's own legal division out of the settlement process.
The report said that in granting Wal-Mart the 15-day notice, the Wage and Hour Division violated its own handbook. It added that agreeing to let Wal-Mart jointly develop news releases about the settlement with the department violated Labor Department policies.

The above is from Steven Greenhouse's "Labor Dept. Is Rebuked Over Pact With Wal-Mart" in this morning's New York Times.

Wal-Mart, the 'family' story, can comply with existing child labor law . . . provided they're given a 15 day notice before an inspection and provided they're found in violation they get one of those Harriet Miers "redo"s and are given ten more days to come into compliance with the law.

Gordon S. Heddell (inspector general) calls it a violation and it is. So why isn't the Times front paging it and why is Wal-Mart seen as a 'family' store? A work camp, sure. But a 'family' store?
That the most profitable, most powerful retail store on the globe needs an exception to on the book laws tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the greed involved and the 'family' nature of the store.

It also underscores the lack of interest (some might say "scorn") that this administration has for the public. This isn't something the Times can cluck over and deem "partisan" so instead they bury the findings of this report inside the paper instead of front paging it.

On the front page you can find nonsense by Michael Barbaro ("A New Weapon for Wal-Mart: A War Room") that plays the usual "some say" and "but others say" and never touches on any issue at length with the exception of stock value and the market:

Once a darling of Wall Street, Wal-Mart's stock price has fallen 27 percent since 2000, when H. Lee Scott Jr. became chief executive, a drop that executives have said reflects, in part, investors' anxieties about the company's image. Sales growth at stores open for more than a year has slowed to an average of 3.5 percent a month this year, compared with 6.3 percent at Target. And Wal-Mart is facing growing resistance to new urban stores, with high- profile defeats in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

At no point in the article does Barbaro take a moment to discuss the p.r. bait and switch (reported by the Times last week but maybe he was too busy being amused by the "war room" to pick up a paper) of their "insurance" plan ("scam"?). This isn't journalism. This is a p.r. report on . . . public relations and the Times should be embarrassed to front page it. But the paper of record has gotten away with passing off press releases as reporting for so long, they probably aren't capable of being shame faced at this point. Barbaro found the Wal-Mart "war room" amusing. At least he got something out of the article. That's more than can be said for readers of it.

While the Times fluffs, Billie wonders where their story is on Nicholas Carranza's trial? From Thomas Fawcett's "Salvadoran colonel charged for abuses commited 20 years ago" (The Daily Texan):

Colonel Nicolas Carranza, a top military official in El Salvador in the early 1980s, will face charges of torture and human rights abuses in a Memphis, Tenn. court today.Carranza's case represents one of the few trials conducted in the United States against former Salvadoran military officials accused of killing thousands of unarmed civilians to maintain military control over the country. Legal technicalities only allow for civil charges to be filed and due to amnesty laws in El Salvador, these cases can only be tried in other countries. "Carranza was involved in the training of death squads, terror squads and lots of other atrocious things," said UT journalism associate professor Mercedes de Uriarte. "100,000 unarmed civilians were killed in El Salvador during that time." Uriarte added that these events occurred in the context of the U.S. government's effort to stamp out communism in Central America in the 1980s. Several Latin American countries elected left-leaning socialist governments during this time. The U.S. responded by funding often brutal military dictatorships in an effort to prevent the spread of communism, such as the Salvadoran military government, according to de Uriarte.

Well it doesn't have the feel good spin of yarns from the "war room" so they leave it to the Associated Press to cover in the only story they've provided on the case, "Torture Suit Begins for Salvadoran Officer." From that article:

A civil lawsuit filed against Nicolas Carranza, 72, accuses him of crimes against humanity. A 10-member jury was seated Monday afternoon, with testimony scheduled to begin Tuesday.
''This is a first opportunity for our clients to finally have a chance to say what happened to them, to explain to a jury and to the world,'' Matthew Eisenbrandt, a lawyer for the Center for Justice and Accountability, said in advance of Monday's court session.
Carranza, who has declined talking about the specific allegations, denies wrongdoing. He became an American citizen and has lived in the Memphis area since 1985.
The lawsuit, filed by five current or former Salvadorans, says Carranza commanded military and police units that took part in a ''deliberate reign of state terror'' with the ''widespread and systematic'' use of torture and murder.

That's the New York Timid. Zach e-mails to note Norman Solomon's "The Press Acquits Itself" (CounterPunch):

Many people have become aware that news articles by Judith Miller and other Times reporters -- often splashed on the front page -- were conduits for the administration's deceptive claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The New York Times has portrayed itself as a victim of misinformation, as though a conveyor of falsehoods has scant responsibility.
But bogus news reporting was not the only way that the Times helped to push the United States into invading Iraq. Despite its reputation as a strong opponent of going to war, the paper's editorial voice capitulated when it was needed most.
Let's reach down into the Orwellian memory hole and retrieve what the New York Times had to say -- in an editorial headlined "The Case Against Iraq" -- the day after what Frank Rich now calls Colin Powell's "notorious presentation."
The Times declared that Powell "presented the United Nations and a global television audience yesterday with the most powerful case to date that Saddam Hussein stands in defiance of Security Council resolutions and has no intention of revealing or surrendering whatever unconventional weapons he may have."

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