The Hightower Report

Giving away Appalachia; and cancel Camel No. 9

GIVING AWAY APPALACHIA

Boy, things are hectic inside the Bush regime these days! The clock is ticking, and Corporate America is rushing to get all the favors it can before Bush & Co. closes down in 2009. Sure enough, the Bushites are delivering.

It received little media attention, but the giant coal operators (which have been reliable funders for George and the GOP) recently got a huge goodie handed to them: Bush gave them Appalachia! His Office of Surface Mining quietly issued a new regulation that would allow King Coal to ravage the ancient mountains, glorious forests, and pure streams of Central Appalachia at will.

The action was necessary, say the Bushites, to "clarify" existing laws governing a greedy, ruthless, and abhorrent mining process called mountaintop removal. This process decapitates the mountains, exploding the tops of them, then savagely shoving the trees, topsoil, wildlife, and other rubble down the mountainsides, burying the valleys and streams below. This is a corporate rape and environmental mutilation – but, hey, it produces quick profits for the industry, which had been pushing since George took office to have it legalized.

Their stumbling block has been a 1983 environmental rule that prohibits mining activity within 100 feet of a stream. That's only 30 yards – hardly a harsh restriction – but mining barons want to bury streams, not fuss with buffer zones. So, the gift-wrapped Bush rule explicitly states that the old prohibition does not apply to hundreds of miles of streams coveted by coal corporations. Instead, the companies only would have to respect the buffer zone "to the extent practicable" – which is to say, not at all.

Grassroots groups are fighting this outrage in the regulatory process, in the courts, and in Congress. To help, contact the Appalachian Center for the Economy & the Environment at www.appalachian-center.org.

CANCEL CAMEL NO. 9

It's sleek and sexy in design, packaged in a shiny black box with an elegant accent of teal or fuchsia, and it's advertised in women's magazines with the alluring slogan of, "Light and luscious."

Is it lingerie, chocolate, perfume? No, it's a box of cancer sticks. Specifically, these are Camels, the longtime, deadly brand of cigarettes put out by R.J. Reynolds – though these have been rebranded specifically for women under the evocative name of Camel No. 9. You know, like "Love Potion No. 9," only without the love.

Quick – what's the No. 1 killer of women? Breast cancer, you say? Wrong. Lung cancer, by a large margin. More than 400,000 Americans – almost half of them women – die each year from diseases caused by smoking.

Yet, here comes Big Tobacco with another PR push to entice more people to get hooked on nicotine. And, like all of the industry's advertising pushes, a pack of Camel No. 9s comes with a pack of corporate lies about how they are only being marketed to adult women who already smoke. "What we're about," says a Camel spokeswoman, "is giving adult smokers a choice."

Horse hockey! The new brand is being hyped as chic and fashionable, appealing directly to impressionable teens and young women through ads in Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and other magazines that reach the youth market. Indeed, tobacco companies are dependent on constantly hooking youngsters in order to replace older smokers who die or quit.

In fact, 80% of new smokers are under the age of 18 – and a third of them will die from smoking. Still, the corporate spokeswoman gushes that Camel No. 9 is part of R.J. Reynolds' plans to "focus on products that are 'wow,' that add fun and excitement to the category."

Yeah – nothing says "wow" like cancer. Call Susan Ivey, chairwoman of R.J. Reynolds, and tell her to stop this cynical effort to addict girls and young women: 336/741-5000.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

George W. Bush, Appalachia, mining, Appalachian Center for the Economy and Environment, Camels, R.J. Reynolds, Camel No. 9, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Susan Ivey

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