NEWS BYTES

Tax dollars for phantom work

The government is again investigating itself with a Public Works probe into the scandalous dispensing of taxpayer dollars to ad agencies that have over-billed and under-produced. The six-month investigation has targeted 126 files that were flagged by previous audits as having inflated invoices, some missing even basic documents. Public Works Minister Ralph Goodale says $3.5 million is being withheld from the ad agencies that manage the $40 million federal program until everything is "ironed out."

Costs outpace rewards for farmers

A farmer who purchased a new tractor in 1971 for $20,000 was quoted $100,000 for the same model today. He says it would be okay if wheat prices has increased proportionately, turning the 1971 price of $1.76 for wheat into $8.80 today. Unfortunately, farmers only get $2.66 for their wheat today. And therein lies a major problem.

Things worth doing are worth doing...

Taxpayers will again bear the burden of fixing what chould have been done right, at comparatively less cost, in the first place. North Bay's Merrick Township has a landfill site that is leaking a noxious chemical soup of garbage just four years into its 20-year expected life. The leachate is threatening the plants and water table surrounding the site, as well as the fish and habitat in the Little Sturgeon River and Lake Nipissing. North Bay is already having to treat leachate from a now-closed, leaking landfill site -- a lesson that should have taught them to line the new site with clay up front, when it would have had a reasonable price tag. Now they are faced with spending $10 million to line the new site, working around four years of garbage.

Mutant plants worse than biotech foods

Biotech plants involve the manipulation of a few genes, but radiation treatment involves thousands of genes, making them potentially far more dangerous. The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency has revealed that, since 1963, 2,252 new plant varieties, including Italian durum wheat, have been created using radioactive substances such as cobalt and X-rays. The report also says that "mutations today cover 70 per cent of the area under cultivation." Mutation breeding has been used on wheat, barley, oats, rice, soybeans, string beans, navy beans, potatoes, onions, cherries, apples, grapes and numerous other plant types -- for disease resistance and improved quality, yield and adaptability.

First and foremost, it's cash, dollars, profits

If the exemption on SUVs from U.S. fleet mileage standards was ended and fleet gas mileage was to increase by just three miles per gallon, the U.S. would no longer need to import any oil from the Middle East. But the larger the car, the larger the profits for both the oil and the auto companies (whose lobbies pass out millions in Washington, D.C.) And now that the airwaves have been sold to corporate interests, political campaigns guzzle cash like SUVs guzzle gas.

Canadian companies on the wane

Since it was instituted in 1985, Investment Canada has recorded the takeover of 9,948 Canadian companies, valued at more than $457 billion. Investment Canada does little more than rubber stamp foreign takeovers. According to Royal Bank CEO Gordon Nixon, 62 of Canada's largest companies have disappeared through mergers and acquisitions since the start of the year 2000. Of these, more than half were acquired by foreign firms, mainly American.

Students forced to watch TV commercials

Two Ohio teenagers were whisked away to the local Juvenile Detention Centre when they refused to watch TV in their school classroom. Channel One is a television program with commercials which is shown in schools across America. The students had a whole day to consider their crime. Two national anti-media groups took up the cause and wrote to the state governor, "When the government sends children to a juvenile detention centre because they don't want to watch advertising, that is both Orwellian and more than a little sick. The public schools ought to be a sanctuary from the noxious aspects of commercial culture."

Soon more pigs than people in Canada

There are a little more than 30 million people in Canada. This year, the pig population here will exceed 28 million. And the industry is growing rapidly. Environmental problems from factory hog farms include chemical and bacterial soil and water pollution, as well as fumes that creates health problems for workers in the area. Industry rep Janet Honey says if farmers would adapt to livestock farming, 20 million hogs could be put in Saskatchewan -- with its large farms and small population -- with no one even noticing.

U.S. experts not permitted to give evidence

Two leading experts on combat stress, summoned from their U.S government jobs to give evidence at the high court in London, were prevented from doing so by the Pentagon last spring. The case was brought against the British Ministry of Defence by 254 former servicemen suffering post traumatic stress disorder. They are veterans of combat in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Gulf and Bosnia.

Order a battle-ready Barbie for your child

JC Penney is offering a Barbie-style forward command post doll house for your child (age 5 and up) to re-enact war scenes. Replete with an American flag and weapons, this toy is the complete package. The product caption goads your child to "Take command of your soldiers from this fully outfitted battle zone." But the "battle zone" looks just like a remodelled Barbie Dream House.

Britain and U.S. developing secret weapons

According to the Nov. 3 issue of The Observer in London, Britain and the U.S. have been meeting secretly for the past two years, seeking to develop lasers that blind and stun the enemy and cut through metal to disable vehicles, and microwave systems that cook the skin of human targets.