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PR Watch: The Weekly Spin (March 1, 2006)

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1. Bad Data, and Compromised Limits, on Chromium
2. DP World Seeks Many PR Ports in Political Storm
3. Virtual Marketing Realities
4. Old-Style Repression under 'New Maldives' Makeover
5. A Crude Attempt To Gain LNG Support
6. TIA's Different Names, Same Spy Games
7. Finding a Chemical Harmless, For a Fee
8. Oil for Food, Lobbyists, and Corporate Profits
9. Is Fair Trade Coffee a Quick Corporate Fix?



1. BAD DATA, AND COMPROMISED LIMITS, ON CHROMIUM,1,7640474.story?coll=la-news-a_section
"This was a 10-year campaign to shape the science to fit the
industry's agenda rather than shape the regulation to fit the
science," Professor David Michaels said of industry attempts to
avoid lower exposure limits for hexavalent chromium. In 2004, the
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed
reducing the exposure limit set in 1943 more than fifty-fold.
Michaels and other researchers "obtained internal documents through
an industry foundation's bankruptcy proceedings that showed the
industry representatives were aware in 2002 of an elevated cancer
risk." They found that a study commissioned by the industry group
Chrome Coalition, and carried out by ENVIRON, manipulated data to
hide increased cancer risks at all but the highest exposure levels.
Some 380,000 U.S. workers are exposed to chromium. An executive at
the company Elementis Chromium denied an "orchestrated effort to
hide anything," but said the data "may have not been handled well."
OSHA finally set the new chromium exposure limit at one-tenth the
old limit.
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, February 24, 2006
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Even as the United Arab Emirates-owned company DP World (Dubai Ports
World) requested a 45-day "further review of its deal to buy
management rights to terminals at major U.S. ports," it's building a
massive public relations team to support the $6.8 billion deal. To
"tamp down Congressional criticism," DP World hired the firm Clark &
Weinstock, according to O'Dwyer's. The firm's Vin Weber, a former
Republican Congressman, will head the account. (PR Week is reporting
that firm partner Davis Weinstock said they "represent the embassy
of the United Arab Emirates," not DP World.) DP World has also
retained the Albright Group, which is headed by former Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright; Alston & Bird, which counts former Senator
Bob Dole among its lobbyists; and the Downey McGrath Group, which is
headed by former Congressmen Tom Downey and Ray McGrath. Downey "is
a good friend of New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who has been
spearheading opposition" to the ports deal. DP World's lead PR firm
is the Britain-based Bell Pottinger.
SOURCE: O'Dwyer's PR Daily (sub req'd), February 24, 2006
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In April 2005, "a breakthrough in television advertising debuted
without fanfare" -- a new technology that allows product placements
to be digitally added, after scenes are filmed. The technology,
called Digital Brand Integration (DBI), was developed by Marathon
Ventures, as part of "an unprecedented marketing deal with CBS." DBI
has added brands like Kellogg's to the sitcom "Yes, Dear," and
StarKist and Chevrolet to "CSI" and "How I Met Your Mother."
Marathon "expects to unveil a new pact soon with the Fox network,"
reports Reuters. But "virtual product placement" dates back to at
least 1999, when "images of several brands, including Coca-Cola and
Blockbuster video, were digitally spliced into an episode of the
now-defunct drama 'Seven Days.'" "According to Nielsen Media
Research, network placements in prime time last year numbered
108,261, up more than 30 percent from 2004."
SOURCE: Reuters, February 26, 2006
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A Maldives news service criticizes the 'New Maldives' project
launched by President Gayoom in October 2005 as "nothing more than
an image make-over for an unpopular and authoritarian regime." The
editorial notes that the opposition political party, the Maldivian
Democratic Party (MDP), has highlighted contradictions between the
government's words and actions, including "government rhetoric over
judicial reform while MDP Chairperson Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) is
refused a fair trial" and "assertions over press freedom, while the
Police Chief harasses foreign-based journalists." For several years,
the PR firm Hill and Knowlton has promoted tourism to the Maldives,
on behalf of the government. Hill and Knowlton plays a "seemingly
central role" in the 'New Maldives' project and "remain [a] close
advisor to the 'reform ministers'," according to the editorial.
SOURCE: Minivan News (Maldives), February 22, 2006
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"Controversy over LNG [liquid natural gas] terminals is growing as
demand soars," reports the Boston Globe. There are four proposals
for new LNG terminals in Massachusetts -- and one has its own
astroturf group. The Coalition for an LNG Solution, which describes
itself as "a grass-roots neighborhood organization," supports new
LNG terminals on Boston Harbor islands. But the phone number for the
coalition "is a line to Regan Communications, a powerful public
relations firm that has been hired by AES Corp. of Arlington, Va.,
the company that wants to build the Boston Harbor terminal on Outer
Brewster Island." An AES spokesperson referred calls to Regan,
saying the firm does "grass-roots and community organizing, and we
rely on them to respond to questions and coordinate those
activities." One Boston-area activist, John Vitagliano, has
addressed neighborhood associations on behalf of the coalition.
Vitagliano said "he receives no compensation" from Regan or AES.
SOURCE: The Boston Globe, February 24, 2006
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The U.S. Defense Department's Total Information Awareness (TIA)
program, "which developed technologies to predict terrorist attacks
by mining government databases and the personal records of people in
the United States," was not ended, as lawmakers directed in 2003,
but merely moved and renamed. While "it is no secret that some parts
of TIA lived on," the National Journal reports details of how TIA
continued. Two key programs moved to the Advanced Research and
Development Activity (ARDA), at the National Security Agency. One, a
$19 million contract given to Hicks & Associates "to build the
prototype system," was renamed "Basketball." The other is a $3.7
million contract given to SAIC, "to help analysts and policy makers
anticipate and pre-empt terrorist attacks." That work, initially
called "Genoa II," was renamed "Topsail." Whether these programs are
still active is unclear. ARDA itself is being moved to National
Intelligence Director John Negroponte's office and renamed the
"Disruptive Technology Office."
SOURCE: National Journal, February 23, 2006
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In a April 2003 pitch to DuPont, The Weinberg Group proposed a
strategy to help defuse the growing controversy over the health
impacts of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a compound used to make
Teflon. Weinberg's Vice-President of Product Defense, P.Terrence
Gaffney, said, "DuPont must shape the debate at all levels." One of
his suggested strategies was to facilitate the "publication of
papers and articles dispelling the alleged nexus between PFOA and
teratogenicity as well as other claimed harm." (Teratogenicity is
used to describe the damaging effects of an agent on a fetus.)
Gaffney also proposed to "develop 'blue ribbon panels' of thought
leaders on issues related to PFOA" and to "coordinate the publishing
of white papers on PFOA, junk science and the limits of medical
monitoring." DuPont confirmed to reporter Paul D. Thacker that they
had hired the Weinberg Group to help with "scientific third party
experts," probably on PFOA issues.
SOURCE: Environmental Science and Technology, February 22, 2006
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Prior to the October 2005 release of Paul Volcker's report on
violations of the United Nations' Iraq oil-for-food program, the
Australian wheat exporter AWB Limited hired the Washington DC
lobbying firm The Cohen Group, which is headed by former U.S.
defense secretary William S. Cohen. AWB paid approximately $A300
million in trucking fees on its wheat contracts to a Jordanian
company, Alia, which owns no trucks. The funds were funnelled to
Saddam Hussein's government, according to information given to an
Australian government-appointed Royal Commission. Last week, AWB
Middle East Marketing Manager Chris Whitwell mentioned The Cohen
Group when asked about diary entries related to "develop[ing] a
communications strategy." Whitwell said "Chalabi - link to Alia"
referred to Ahmed Chalabi, as "he and Alia have some issues."
Stanley McDermott, a partner in the law firm DLA Piper Rudnick Gray
Cary, which has a "strategic alliance" with The Cohen Group, has
also advised AWB.
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald, February 22 2006
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Writing in the newsletter of the Minneapolis-based Wedge Co-op,
Rodney North warns that the token use of fair trade certification
can "prematurely undermine the public pressure for real change."
North points to a web-based survey by U.K.-based Baby Milk Action,
which asked supporters what they thought of the fair trade
certification of Nestlé's Partners Blend coffee. Two-thirds of 500
survey respondents, of whom 79% are currently boycotting Nestlé,
thought the certification meant the whole company had been audited
for fair trade practices. "The truth is the Fair Trade certification
system examines only the individual products bearing the seal, and
not companies," he writes. North points out that fair trade coffee
accounts for just 0.1% of Nestlé's annual coffee imports, and has
no effect on numerous other commodities the company buys.
SOURCE: Wedge Co-Op Newsletter, February/March 2006
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