The Michigan Militia Corps'

Weekly Update
Internet Edition

Volume 5, Issue 21

Week of June 22, 1998



WAS it a favor for China?

Everyone in America knows that the Clinton administration has a special place in its heart for the Chinese. The government of China has, after all, paid a lot for Washington's attention.

So was Washington really doing a favor for Japan earlier this week when it took a lead role in a massive intervention to prop up the yen? Or, was Beijing really the target of Washington's largesse?

"This is takeout for Beijing," contends Richard Whalen, a long-time Republican political consultant. "It's mainly to keep morale up in Beijing."

The Democrats, of course, would say that Japan needed a little help from its friends at a time when the country seems to have lost control over its economy. Simple enough. And clearly not politically motivated. But President Clinton next week will start a lengthy stay in China yet won't even pay Japanese Prime Minister Hoshimoto a courtesy call.

The Japanese could certainly use a visit from any powerful, smiling American. The country is in a near depression. And even with interest rates near zero percent, Japanese citizens are resisting the urge to borrow, spend and get the economy going again.

In other words, there is no room left for any action by the Bank of Tokyo that might get the Japanese economy off the skids. It's time for extraordinary measures - like a visit from the president and intervention in the currency markets.

But until this week, Washington was all talk and no action. Then suddenly the Chinese - not the Japanese - started making noises about the problems in Tokyo. And that's when Washington acted.

On June 16, for instance, Chinese Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng wrote in the People's Daily that Japan needed to show the "courage and wisdom" to halt the yen's slide. Within hours, the U.S. was spearheading a multi-billion dollar intervention to boost the yen and whack the dollar. And from the looks of it, the move didn't come as a total surprise to Wall Street's biggest traders, the hedge funds, since the yen's strength mysteriously started a day earlier than the U.S. acted. And not only was it a very large intervention, but it was also a noisy one - intended no doubt to get as much bang for the buck as possible. Washington wanted everyone to know that it was riding to the rescue of the Chinese - er, make that the Japanese.

What is the intervention on behalf of the yen really going to do?

Not much long term, although it obviously gave Wall Street reason to celebrate on Wednesday that something was being done about Japan. But in reality, the weak yen is what would be most helpful to Japanese industry. With their own consumers too afraid of layoffs and debt to even borrow money at zero interest, Tokyo must rely on exports to keep its factories humming.

And the cheaper the yen goes, the easier it is for Japanese companies to sell overseas.

The problem, of course, is that we don't want the Japanese to solve their problems that way. Detroit is already complaining about the increase in Japanese exports. And if Japan decides to export its way out of its problems, Tokyo will be exporting the problems elsewhere.

The U.S. economy is already feeling pressure from Japan's problems. A move to export more products here would multiply our trouble.

So instead of allowing the Japanese this way out, Washington took the intervention route. China was appeased. And Japan is probably adequately insulted that the United States came to its rescue.

The yen will rebound for a while. But even the U.S. and Japan don't have enough money to rig the massive currency markets forever. The yen will sink again.

The rescue of the yen this week doesn't signal the end of the Asian crisis. It merely is a testament to just how desperate the situation has become.

Condemnation of Homosexuality as Sin Sparks Fierce Debate among Politicians

The White House mixed it up with the Republican leadership in Congress yesterday on the theological fine points of whether the practice of homosexuality is a sin.

Sen. Trent Lott, the majority leader in the Senate, and Rep. Dick Armey, the majority leader in the House, said yes, it is.

Michael McCurry, the president's press secretary, called Mr. Lott "backward" in his views and suggested his opinion was irrational.

The Republican leaders cited Bible verses. Mr. McCurry appeared to rely on a vote by the American Psychiatric Association, as well as his boss's view that the subject is no longer a matter for conscience, but for science.

Mr. McCurry said the president in the past has acknowledged that views on matters such as homosexuality are a matter of conscience. But, he said, "this is a case in which, contrary to fact, contrary to statements of the medical community and those who are expert, the majority leader has taken an incorrect view that homosexuality is a disease." Mr. Lott fired back, telling Mr. McCurry that he was not qualified to tell the public what's right or wrong in matters of conscience.

In a statement at day's end, given to reporters by Susan Irby, his communications director, Mr. Lott said: "Mr. McCurry's experience within this White House does not qualify him to tell the American people what is right and wrong. What he considers to be backward are the views and the values of the great majority of Americans who understand and are concerned about the grave social and ethical questions our country faces."

Mr. Lott had said in a television interview earlier that homosexual practices should be treated like alcohol or sexual addictions.

When talk-show host Armstrong Williams asked him whether he believed homosexuality to be a sin, the senator replied: "Yeah, it is. ... You should still love that person. You should not try to mistreat them or treat them as outcasts. You should try to show them a way to deal with that problem, just like alcohol ... or sex addiction ... or kleptomaniacs.

"There are all kinds of problems, addictions, difficulties, experiences of things that are wrong, but you should try to work with that person to learn to control that problem."

Mr. Armey agreed, and yesterday cited several verses from the Bible.

"The Bible is very clear on this," Mr. Armey replied to reporters questioning him about Mr. Lott's remarks. He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket on which he had written several Scriptural references, I Corinthians 6:9-11, and verses 18 and 20. "I do abide by the Bible."

When a reporter pointed out that the Bible declares homosexuality to be a sin, he said, "Yes, it does."

The verses cited by Mr. Armey, in the King James translation which is the most widely used translation of the Bible, warn that the "unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God" and single out "fornicators," "adulterers," "drunkards," "effeminate" men and "abusers of themselves and mankind," among others, as examples of the unrighteous.

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest homosexual-rights lobby, called the remarks by the Republican leaders a ploy to shore up their base of support among religious conservatives. "Armey's comments, as with Senator Lott's comments, are further evidence that the extreme right has the leadership of Congress in their back pocket," said David Smith, a spokesman.

"Nobody is saying that Mr. Lott or Mr. Armey should not be able to hold those beliefs. The problem is when those beliefs start infringing on public policy."

He cited as one such instance the nomination of James Hormel, who identifies himself as homosexual, to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg. Earlier this month Mr. Lott said for the first time that he opposes the Hormel nomination because Mr. Hormel aggressively advocates the homosexual lifestyle.

"The president," said Mr. McCurry, "thinks the American people understand how difficult it is to get business done in Washington sometimes when you're dealing with people who are so backward in their thinking. For over 25 years, it's been quite clear that sexual orientation is not an affliction, it is not a disease, it is something that is a part of defining one's sexuality."

Mr. McCurry apparently referred to a vote of its members by the American Psychiatric Association, taken more than two decades ago, to rescind its earlier definition of homosexuality as a disease.

Why are children going beserk?

Last Thursday, a skinny 15-year-old whose self-described hobbies included "sugared cereal [and] throwing rocks at cars," fired 51 shots into a crowded high school cafeteria in Oregon. Two students died, and 22 were wounded. The suspect, Kipland P. Kinkel, also was accused of killing his parents.

TV broadcasts and newspapers were full of the story. The New York Times ran it for three straight days on the front page. President Clinton used his Saturday radio address to decry the "changing culture that desensitizes our children to violence." He asserted that these schoolhouse shootings "are more than isolated incidents."

So they seem. Since last October, 14 teachers and students have been murdered.

Let's stipulate that these killings are sickening and that it would be an enormous benefit to humanity to prevent the shooting of a schoolchild from ever happening again. But let's also put these murders into perspective.

First, the truth about violence in America is that it is falling, not rising. In fact, the single biggest story since the fall of the Berlin Wall is the decline in serious crime -- a true man-bites-dog tale. After climbing at a seemingly inexorable pace since the 1970s, crime has dropped -- suddenly and broadly, and for reasons that still are unexplained.

From 1993 to 1996, the number of murders fell 20 percent, and just four days before the Oregon shootings, the FBI announced preliminary figures for 1997 that found both murders and robbery down another 9 percent and overall crime off for the sixth straight year. Murders in New York City fell a stunning 22 percent in 1997; in Los Angeles, 20 percent.

"It's hard to think of a social trend of greater significance," wrote Gordon Witkin of U.S. News & World Report in a cover story last week. He's right. As crime rates have declined, cities -- most significantly, New York, where the murder rate is lower than in Kansas City and Charlotte -- have revived. Burglary and car-theft rates are now higher in Britain and Sweden than in America.

Government, at last, is beginning to accomplish its most important function, which is to protect us so we can pursue happiness in our daily lives.

Second, while the killing of any young person is appalling, a sense of proportion is necessary. The United States has 38 million children between the ages of 10 and 17 and 20,000 secondary schools.

In 1994, there were no school shootings in which more than one person was killed; last year, there were four; this year, two. In 1995 (the latest statistics), 319 kids aged 10 to 14 were murdered; the homicide rate for seniors aged 70 to 74 is 50 percent higher.

Again, the real story about kids is the opposite of the portrait of chaos and anguish painted in the press. A new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that young people are "getting happier" while "older Americans, by contrast, indicated little change in their degree of happiness."

You have to wonder about the claims of pop psychologists and of the president himself when he says, as he did Saturday, that the rising tide of murders and mayhem on TV, in movies and on video games is turning kids into killers. Indeed, U.S. News noted that "juvenile murder arrests declined . . . 14 percent from 1994 to 1995 and another 14 percent from 1995 to 1996." Clinton is going to have to think of a phenomenon other than video gore on which to blame the shootings.

Here's one idea: the inordinate play these stories get in the press. Children like Kipland Kinkel are bombs waiting for detonation, and the media, by blaring their exploits on the front pages and the nightly news, may be helping to light the fuse. I'm not in favor of suppression, but I am opposed to obsession, which is what we have now.

Why? Well, one answer may be a crime shortage. At a Harvard symposium recently, one panelist pointed out that local TV news shows have to import violent footage now that local criminals aren't turning out enough products (there were only 43 murders in Boston last year, the fewest since 1961).

Another reason is a news shortage. In an era of peace and prosperity, the press finds little to excite the imagination -- and prey on the fears -- of its audience.

In such an atmosphere, one choice for the press would be to examine larger, long-range problems, such as how to fix Social Security, or why crime rates are falling. Another is to blow individual incidents in small towns in Oregon into national crises.

This is an especially irresponsible approach because most people practice a kind of social synecdoche -- they believe that the part equals the whole, that a single shooting (or even four in a year) can mean that child murderers are rampant and some new solution is required. The press consistently fails to put events into context, even when statistics show what's happening in the aggregate.

So, what's the meaning of the schoolhouse murders? Frankly, not much. The meaning of the hysteria over them . . . now, that's worth looking into.

Tainted Chicken still Sold, Despite Rules, Officials say

WASHINGTON --Despite new rules to reduce fecal contamination in food, the Agriculture Department continues to allow Tyson Foods Inc. and other poultry processors to salvage chicken tainted with excrement and sell it to the public.

The Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service once required poultry known to be contaminated with bacteria-laden feces to be trimmed away and discarded. Current procedures allow processors to rinse it in chlorinated water or cook it without even washing it first.

Officials say these measures prevent contaminated food from reaching America's dinner tables.

But consumer advocates say Agriculture Department food safety rules are so ineffective that most raw chicken at a supermarket has evidence of fecal contamination. They point to a recent Consumer Reports study that found bacteria linked to feces on 71 percent of the raw chicken purchased in stores.

The Agriculture Department's own studies show an even worse situation. In a 1994 study, government scientists discovered that 88 percent of the chicken carcasses they tested from major poultry producers had been contaminated with bacteria found in excrement.

Bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter, which are found in fecal contamination, are estimated by government scientists to sicken more than 4 million people each year and cause more than 3,000 deaths.

Part of the problem, says Jack Leighty, a retired high-ranking Agriculture Department scientist, is that using chlorinated water to disinfect chicken -- is "essentially worthless."

The procedure was approved by Carol Tucker Foreman, sister of former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. Tucker resigned after his fraud conviction in 1996. Foreman, an Arkansan, was then assistant secretary for Food and Consumer Services.

Though there's no suggestion that Foreman acted improperly, the procedure did benefit poultry processors, including Tyson, Arkansas' largest industrial employer and the world's largest poultry-processing firm.

Earlier this year, the Agriculture Department began phasing in a new inspection system called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. In the first phase, 312 of the largest meat and poultry plants were required to operate under Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points rules.

The new inspection program turns over many of the traditional inspection functions of government to private industry while at the same time requiring companies to use various scientific measures to quickly locate and correct production problems.

But government records show that the new inspection system has done little to change the practice of salvaging contaminated chicken.

Agriculture Department documents obtained by Cox Newspapers detail how between January and March of this year Tyson Foods used salvage procedures on approximately 29 tons of chicken from two of its plants. Both plants are subject to the new Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points rules.

Some of the chicken came from a Tyson plant in Waldron, Ark., that had the worst inspection record of any plant in the United States during 1996, the most recent year for which government records are available.

During that year, federal inspectors cited the plant for 1,753 critical violations. A critical violation is one that federal inspectors believe is certain to result in adulterated or mislabeled food reaching the consumer.

On Jan. 14, the plant was temporarily closed for the first time in its history by the federal government. At the time it was closed, federal officials said there were numerous sanitary violations, including fecal contamination, at the facility.

What the Agriculture Department did not disclose at the time it announced the closure was that it allowed the company to salvage chicken that had been in the plant production line when it was forced to shut down.

A government form that tracks product moved between plants shows that on Jan. 16 a truckload of chicken from the plant was sent to another Tyson plant in Berryville, Ark., which prepares various cooked chicken products. The form bears a notation that chicken on the truck was "to be cooked only" because of sanitary violations.

Agriculture Department officials in Washington said department inspectors never directly inspected the chicken when it arrived at Berryville because both the Waldron plant and the Berryville facility were operating under the new Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points regulations. Instead, the inspections were done by plant employees.

However, Bill Smith, assistant deputy administrator for District Inspections and Operations at the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service, said federal inspectors approved how Tyson handled the chicken. And while they filed no written reports, Smith said he was sure there was no problem.

While Smith initially said there was a "100 percent inspection" of all suspect chickens, he later said Tyson inspected a random sample of chickens that arrived in Berryville from the Waldron plant. The random sample meant there was a 95 percent chance there was no visible fecal matter on the product, Smith said.

Government officials, who monitored the process, said the company then cooked the chicken at 160 degrees. Agriculture Department regulations treat cooking as a "kill step," which will destroy any harmful bacteria.

It is not clear what happened to the cooked chicken after it left the Berryville plant.

While the Berryville plant processes chicken sold at fast-food restaurants, Tyson officials declined to say where the chicken was sold, saying such information was proprietary.

Critics also dispute government and industry claims that cooking fecally-contaminated chicken will render it safe.

"Cooked filth is not the definition of wholesome," argues Felicia Nestor, a food safety expert at the Government Accountability Project, a consumer group in Washington.

Nestor said it surprised her that the government allowed any chicken to be used from a plant that had to be shut down for sanitary violations.

"If they are producing products in a process that is out of control enough that they are going to shut a plant down," Nestor said, "what confidence can you have in the products that were produced in that plant?"

The federal government allowed the Waldron plant to reopen a few days later after the company said it had made various reforms. But Tyson Foods, whose motto is "Feeding you like family," was in trouble again in April. Agriculture Department officials closed the plant for several days, saying management "does not have the ability ... to prevent contamination or adulteration of product at this time."

While cooking was used to make the poultry from the Waldron plant safe to eat, Tyson used a chlorinated rinse at its plant in Clarksville when it found fecal contamination there on March 13, a practice allowed under Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points.

The Agriculture Department and Tyson officials insisted in interviews that all the chicken at the plant was closely checked and found to be wholesome.

"If we find fecal material, it is removed. Let me be very clear about that," Smith said.

Just as adamant was Archibald Schaffer III, a vice president of Tyson Foods, who said "none of the product in question was found to be contaminated with fecal material, and we trust that your reporting will not say or imply that it was."

Schaffer is under federal indictment for allegedly giving gifts to former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy and then lying about it. Last year, Tyson Foods pleaded guilty to giving Espy $12,000 in favors.

Five years ago, the Agriculture Department stopped keeping track of how much salvaged chicken is sold to consumers. But Jacque Knight, a department spokesman, estimated the total last year at as much as 800 million pounds -- about 2 percent of all chicken processed in the United States last year.

Fecal contamination in a poultry-processing plant typically occurs when a machine that scoops internal organs out of chicken carcasses unintentionally punctures the digestive tract, releasing feces onto the carcass.

The Agriculture Department requirement that poultry producers either throw away chicken with visible fecal contamination or trim away the fouled area, was discarded after a 1977 study that concluded that washing carcasses was as effective as trimming them.

For her part, Foreman, the USDA official who approved allowing chicken to be washed and put back into production, now says that decision was a mistake.

"It was a bad decision," Foreman said in an interview. "The study was questionable. Nobody has defended it to this day."

She said she also regrets the decision because the earlier policy of forcing companies to throw away contaminated carcasses was "a penalty that made the plants take greater care."

Caroline Smith-DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, cautioned that removing any visible signs of fecal contamination is not the only concern.

"Washing if off will remove visible signs of fecal contamination, but it may not remove the bacteria," she said.

"The bacteria may be on the carcasses even if there [aren't] visible signs of contamination."

To kill that bacteria, poultry processors rinse chicken with chlorinated water at a government-recommended level of 20 parts per million.

Although the government describes chlorinated water as "an anti-microbial agent," Jack Leighty, who held several high-ranking positions in the Food Safety and Inspection Service, including chief of the laboratory branch, says that using chlorinated water to decontaminate chickens is ineffective.

He cited one study done in 1984 that found concentrations of 200 parts per million -- 10 times the mandated level -- had no effect on fecal bacteria. If poultry processors used chlorine concentrations above 200 parts per million, Leighty said, the chicken would be unpalatable.

Bonnie Emswiler-Rose, an author of the study that Leighty cited, said the concentrations of chlorine in the laboratory were much higher than they would have to be in a commercial application because of the nature of her experiment.

However, she said she never did another study to determine what would constitute effective chlorine levels in a poultry-processing plant.

Dr. Ken Petersen, a veterinary medical officer at the Agriculture Department, cited two studies that he said showed the effectiveness of chlorinated water.

However, one study he showed reporters used tap water. It was the same study used by Foreman in 1977 when she decided to allow salvaging chicken. It was also the study Foreman later said was based on questionable science and which she said is considered unreliable.

The second study offered by Petersen showed that bacteria on chickens with visible contamination was approximately the same after being sprayed with a chlorine rinse as on birds that were not contaminated. However, the study did not measure the bacteria levels on birds that had been contaminated but not sprayed.

Nevertheless, Petersen contended that the study showed the effectiveness of using chlorinated water.

Asia on brink of depression: World Bank

The World Bank warned yesterday that Asia was plunging into depression and that a global economic slump could be just months away.

Amid widespread calls for Japan to act to help the region out of its economic nose dive, the bank's senior regional official, Jean-Michel Severino, said Asia was on the threshold of a long depression.

"We are probably at the end of the first cycle of the crisis and we are entering a deep recession, or you could even use the term depression," he told the Australian Summit trade and investment conference.

"This depression could be very long-lasting if it is not handled very, very carefully."

Mr Severino, the bank's vice-president for East Asia and the Pacific, said later that the Asian crisis could spread. "The risk is there and probably we are counting in months rather than years."

He forecast growth rates for the region this year in the range of minus two to minus 15 per cent.

"The depression is being exported from one country to the other and everybody is going down at the same time," he said.

Speaking at the same meeting in Melbourne, Tung Chee-hwa said recovery was not expected for two to three years.

Responding to the recent slump in the stock market, the Chief Executive said a revival in the economy would only be in sight when external factors stabilised.

He expressed confidence, however, in the fundamentals of the region, with its high savings rate and thirst for infrastructure.

"Once we begin our recovery over the next two or three years, Asia can become one of the world's largest capital providers, borrowers as well as the largest consumer markets," he said.

Mr Tung warned that the recovery in Asia would not occur as early as many expected, and repeated his call for Japan to act urgently to stabilise the value of the yen.

"We are obviously concerned over the weakening yen," he said. "But Japan has tremendous savings and external assets. The Japanese authorities with the right policy will be able to revive her economy in due course and help stabilise the Asian region."

Mr Severino also expressed particular concern about the yen's historic weakness and warned Tokyo it must play its role as Asia's economic engine. "One has to have a dynamic Japanese economy. It's absolutely critical," he said.

Mr Severino said international central banks were co-operating in defending the yen, but the solution to the currency's woes lay in a convincing response by Tokyo.

Another speaker, Thai Commerce Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi, warned that a continued plunge in the yen could spark a second Asian currency meltdown and global recession.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim accused Japan of economic "foot-dragging" and called on the United States to show the same leadership in Asia it did when it helped Mexico out of its economic morass.

"The weakness of the yen and Tokyo's slowness in putting its economy in order, particularly its foot-dragging, is threatening the fragile banking system and making the regional situation gloomy indeed," he said in Kuala Lumpur. "We shudder to think where we will be if the yen continues to slide."

If you would like to submit an editorial, commentary, or news story from your perspective on something you have been keeping an eye on, please e-mail it to and it will be evaluated for entrance. Thanks.

To subscribe to the Weekly Update, put out weekly by Michigan Militia Corps 5th Division command, simply send a message to with the phrase "subscribe militia" in the BODY of the message. The Weekly Update is archived at the Michigan Militia Corps web page at: