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May 15, 2000 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2000-05-15

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, May 15, 2000
Edited and managed by GEOFF GAGNON PETER CUNNIFFE
students at the 46 Editor in Chief JOSH WICKERHAM
University of Michigan JEditorial Page Editors
a Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the
420 Maynard Street naJoritsv of the Daily's editorial board. All other articles, letters and
Ann Arbor, Ml 48109 cartoons do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Dail.

A t what point does the cost of escalating
US efforts to eradicate drugs by force
eclipse the benefit? Many would argue that
the toll on our own population, from an
exponentially increasing prison population,
to a multi billion dollar "War on
Drugs"engaged to combat the expansive
black market has done little to curb drug use.
After three decades of fighting drugs with
force, thousands of Americans still dealwith
addiction and face death because the govern-
ment refuses to consider reasonable and
viable alternatives to a costly, all-out assault
on substance abuse. In addition to annual
budgets of $17.9 billion federally and $20
billion from states, the Senate is considering
supporting drug czar Barry McCaffrey's
goal of "supply reduction" abroad by using
questionable herbicides and fungal agents to
wipe out crops of illegal plants.
"Fifty-two thousand Americans die every
year from drugs'" Clinton said in a speech
May 2nd, pushing a $1.6 billion aid package,
which would provide arms, resources, and
capital to Colombia's democratic govern-
ment in their war with guerrillas and drug
cartels. Called "Aid Colombia," the package
would also step up US efforts to eradicate
cocaine and opium by spraying herbicides

Fungicidal feds
Drug war expanding to ecological attack

and fungal agents on Colombian coca and
poppy farms. Because 90% of US cocaine
comes from Colombia, reducing the amount
of coca grown in that region is the main goal
under the current drug elimination plan.
But according to a study by the conserv-
ative RAND Corporation, treating cocaine
users is 23 times more effective, dollar for
dollar, than eliminating coca at its source.
The Senate, as it debates the amount and
terms of this aid package, should consider
allocating less to the eradication of drugs and
more to providing treatment. Drug eradica-
tion may temporarily cut cocaine flow, but for
how long and at what cost environmentally?
The environmental concern stems from
an amendment to the Aid Colombia pro-
gram, which requires Clinton and the
Colombian government to agree to "imple-
menting a strategy to eliminate Colombia's
total coca and opium poppy production"
with, in addition to herbicides, "tested, envi-
ronmentally safe mycoherbicides."

According to Mother Jones' News Wire,
abundant evidence shows that the only
mycoherbicide, or plant-killing fungus,
being considered is Fusarium oxvspoi-um,
which Florida refused to test for its own drug
eradication efforts after warnings from a
state official that it could mutate, spread
rapidly and kill other plants. With a fragile
ecosystem and an economy based largely on
rural agriculture, using oxvsporum may be
devastating to the long-term stability of the
Colombian environment and its farming
economy. In addition, this fungus may cause
lethal infection in humans with weak
immune systems in certain circumstances.
Another effect of the US-sponsored her-
bicide use to eradicate coca and poppy fields
is a threat to the stability of the farming pop-
ulation as well. The New York Times report-
ed this month that many of the-planes cur-
rently spraying Colombian coca and poppy
farms are hitting legitimate crops as well,
having the opposite effect on the level of

cocaine production. While the US denies
these allegations, farmers who agreed to
grow legal crops may have little choice but to
plant cash crops like coca when faced
devastating financial losses from crops hitby
herbicides.
It is becoming ever clearer that the pre-
sent "war" is a misappropriation of
resources. It is apparent that such militaristic
efforts are incapable of producing significant
change in the flow of drugs in this country.
These heavy-handed tools of social manage-
ment are eating capital and threatening the
environment with the futile hope of eliminat-
ing illegal drugs instead of addressing the
human side of the issue. With the numbe*
deaths from drugs in the thousands, the
United State's willingness to funnel more
money into draconian interdiction initiatives
instead of sane programs of drug education
and rehabilitation ignores the reality of the
situation.
Involvement in supply reduction pursuits
is dangerous to the environment and pro-
duces scant long-term benefits. Hope'
our government can learn from past mistas
in the War on Drugs and will not engage in
such unwise interdiction efforts in
Colombia.

icro ft's money

Safer SUV's

Quick resolution would benefit consumers Ford admits safety, environmental problems

W ith the a federal court's m-ve into the
penalty stage of the Microsoft antitrust
case, it has become clear that Microsoft
should be appropriately disciplined for its
monopolistic behavior, such as lessening
consumer choice, fixing prices, eliminating
competition and stifling innovation. With
state and federal prosecutors pushing to
break the company into two distinct entities,
one producing operating systems and the
other manufacturing all other software pro-
grams, Microsoft faces an intense legal bat-
tle to remain a united company.
Last week Microsoft announced an alter-
native settlement plan, which includes a
number of insufficient rules of conduct,
designed to protect it from the threat of
breakup. Although the federal court and 17
states - including Michigan - that brought
the antitrust charges upon the software giant
may reveal a counterproposal as soon as this
week, Microsoft promises to tie up disagree-
able alternatives to their demands with
lengthy court proceedings and legal recesses.
To benefit consumers and keep the Microsoft
juggernaut in check, a compromise must be
reached, because a long period of debating
Microsoft's penalty only stifles innovation
and prolongs its Windows monopoly.
While a breakup may be the best alterna-
tive, the software industry moves too quick-
ly for this to be a viable solution. Microsoft
and its army of lawyers are prepared to hold
out. By perpetuating a slow process of
appeals and counterproposals, Microsoft
would ensnare the courts, thus lessening the
effectiveness of any actions the Justice
Department eventually takes in punishing

the company.
If Microsoft is allowed to maintain its
power over consumers and PC manufactur-
ers for any longer than necessary, consumers
will continue to pay too much for Windows.
Microsoft will also continue to release
unnecessary upgrades on Windows and
Office, instead of allowing cheaper
"updates" that are designed for compatibili-
ty with new technology. Windows 2000, for
example was promised to run on more stable
"NT" technologies, but is instead still based
on decades old DOS code as were Windows
95 and 98, confounding the logic of 2000 as
an upgrade. Without competition in the field,
consumers will be forced to use often-out-
dated Microsoft technology and settle for
incompatibility among competitor's operat-
ing systems and office programs.
Unless the Justice Department imposes
some form of restraint on Microsoft, many
new technological innovations may be stifled
as Microsoft moves in to dominate. Already
suffering from Microsoft's extension into
new markets is Real Video technologies, for
example, the streaming audio and video
maker, forced to license Microsoft technolo-
gy to remain viable. Palm Computing faces
competition from Microsoft's Windows CE
technology for personal digital assistants.
While Microsoft argues that a breakup
would ultimately hurt consumers, it should
be remembered that this is the rhetoric of any
monopolist. The Justice Department must
act swiftly but work directly with Microsoft
on a compromise if the rulings in this trial
are to have any effect on promoting innova-
tion and benefiting consumers.

F ord's unexpected admission last week
that its sport utility vehicles are heavy
polluters, dangerous to the environment
and dangerous to the drivers and passen-
gers of normal cars was a welcome and
encouraging sign that the auto industry
may be beginning to take issues of social
responsibility more seriously. However,
while acknowledging some of the safety
and environmental problems with SUV's,
Ford, maker of the Excursion - one of the
largest and most heavily polluting con-
sumer vehicle ever produced - did not
announce any immediate plans to fix these
problems.
Ford's Chairman, William C. Ford, said
in a report to stockholders that the compa-
ny would try to find technological solu-
tions to the environmental and safety con-
cerns regarding SUVs, but would continue
to produce them unchanged in the mean
time.
While it would have been more hearten-
ing to hear Ford announcing methods by
which it intended to reduce the emissions
and increase the safety of SUV's, the mere
admission of the dangers posed by the
company's most profitable products is
important. It is likely a sign that Ford is
taking these concerns seriously and not just
paying lip-service to safety and environ-
mental issues, as the auto industry has
done for so many years.
Car-makers have a poor record of
adopting new safety features, as evidenced
by their years of resistance to seatbelts and
airbags. In the past, the only time auto
companies would adopt new safety or

emissions-reducing features was w r
forced to by laws and regulatios
Hopefully, Ford's decision not to wait foi
regulators to address the problems wit
SUV's and take action themselves is sig.
naling the end of the era when car-makers
fought tooth and nail against anything thal
could cut into their profits.
The safety of everyone on the road and
the necessity of protecting the environmen
are obviously more important than sag
some extra money on each car.
To explain this development, some crit
ics pointed to Bill Ford's apparent fear tha
environmental and safety groups will even
tually do to auto-makers what has beeI
done to the tobacco industry, suing then
over those harmed by SUV's and for envi
ronmental damage. This may be true, bu
even if fear is the only motivating factor, i
is still important that something has moti
vated Ford to start cleaning up its act
However, Bill Ford has talked a*
making Ford more environmentally friend
ly for some time and while potential law
suits may have been one factor in this deci
sion, he appears genuinely concerned witl
the social responsibilities of his compan3
and should be commended for trying U<
move Ford in a safer and greener direction
Hopefully other car-makers will follov
Ford's lead in the near future. It is certa
ly possible to have cleaner and more A.
efficient cars and auto-makers should b(
working harder to make them a reality.
Ford's admission is only a first step, bu
it is undoubtedly a big one and we ar(
happy to see it.

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