Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tom Shales's Latest, Plus a Look Back at His Greatest.

I really don’t a rat’s nether anatomy to this subject, but based on Tom Shales' killer headline in the Washington Post today, simply HAD to read his review:

Paris Hilton, Free To Speak Her Mind (Such as It Is)
(Read the whole piece here.)

I really miss the days when Tom Shales did movie reviews for Morning Edition. Even when he completely trashed a flick - or maybe, especially when he trashed it - he was so funny. I'm sure people headed to the theaters just to see how bad those movies could be. In fact, I went to see "Species" after his Friday morning review had me laughing so hard I became lightheaded. (It was really THAT bad.)

This got me thinking about some of his writing that I've enjoyed very much.

Chief among them would HAVE to be his annual reviews of Kathie Lee Gifford's five Christmas specials.

Here, in its entirety, is the one from 1998.

Kathie Lee? Bah Humbug!

What's the difference between the 24-hour flu and a Kathie Lee Gifford Christmas special?

Twenty-three hours.

You wouldn't want to catch either one if you could help it.
But when CBS refused to make this year's edition of the agonizing event available in advance to TV critics, one such critic, instead of being grateful for the unintentional kindness, was tempted to tune in anyway to see how, or if, things have improved.

He should have known better.

Big mistake.

The special had more aura de horror than holiday glow and proved punishingly similar to previous efforts. In other words, it might have been called "I Saw What You Did Last Christmas." And the one before that.

The actual title for this year's exercise in false piety, faked sentiment and aerobic grinning was "Kathie Lee Gifford: Christmas Every Day," an appalling prospect any way you look at it. This is the kind of television to be watched not from the couch, as it were, but while peering out from behind it and using it as a shield, as if perhaps an air raid or some other sort of massive bombing were in progress.

You try to give it your wholehearted attention, but that isn't easy with a halfhearted production.

Gifford does, of course, give the impression of throwing herself into the project. With a vengeance, some might say. And yet there's always the sense of the cut-rate about the show. This year's version, which aired at 10 p.m. Friday on CBS (an odd hour for a family-oriented show) and was taped in Beaver Creek, Colo., featured the U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chorale and the Denver Young Artists Orchestra as Gifford's accompaniment.

What do these two groups have in common? They work cheap. They're composed of amateur or semipro musicians who probably do not have union cards.

The cast also included, naturally, Gifford's two children, the fidgety but cute little girl Cassidy, 5, who hardly got to say one word, and the brightly polished Cody, 8, who was reluctant to shut up during a session of questions from the Bible about, yes, the "real meaning" of Christmas.

There's nothing like being lectured about the real meaning of Christmas by a heavily coiffed Vegasy diva wearing a bare-shouldered black evening gown and braying into a hand-held microphone. Said guest Pam Tillis, accurately, to Gifford: "You are bad. Look at you."

Tillis's face bears at least a slight resemblance to Hillary Rodham Clinton's, an appropriate name to drop since both Gifford and Clinton have suffered the public embarrassment of hubbies who famously philandered. Gifford's husband, Frank -- rolled out onto the stage in his usual quasi-mummified state -- was videotaped in a hotel room with a 46-year-old former flight attendant in 1997. He's sported a sappy sheepishness ever since.

Now, we are to believe, Frank's been forgiven and the marriage is stronger than ever. Or at least Kathie Lee is stronger than ever. She looks like she could bench-press a horse. The woman is tough. The woman's got grit. When Kathie Lee attacks a song, she takes no prisoners, and the victim's always left lying lifeless on the stage.

You have to admire her tenacity. If not her audacity.

Hiring Tillis was a good idea, since her singing may actually be more irritating than Kathie Lee's. It's that there hawg-callin' kind. Tillis sang a medley of those sacred tunes "We Three Kings," "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" and "My Favorite Things." Oops. How'd that last one get in there? With great difficulty. At one point Tillis actually sang, "We three kings of our favorite things . . . ."

The bill also included 'N Sync, one of those teenage boy groups that flit by every so often, except its members actually range in age from 17 to 27. Their clothes don't fit, and they don't project the sexual aggressiveness of Backstreet Boys or Boyz II Men or any of the more popular such aggregations, so they were apparently pure enough for Gifford's audience. One fellow had his hair flat-topped and braided in such a way as to make it look like one of Mamie Eisenhower's old hats.

Having shopped for Christmas cards at "our favorite stationers" and finding them not Christmasy enough, Gifford told the audience, she decided to write a song: "And so I sat down and the words came to me: May our heart become a manger for His love.' . . . And I went home and couldn't get those words out of my mind. And so, I wrote some more words." And the rest, thank Heaven, is history, because after Friday night's performance, no one else is likely ever to sing Kathie Lee's original song again. With the possible exception of Kathie Lee.

Gifford tenses all her muscles to sing, it seems, as if her whole body is grimacing. And so one wonders: If it hurts her so much, why does she do it? It's not as if we couldn't live without it. After she sang "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," the same song popped up in a commercial for Glade air freshener -- except Glade's version was more emotionally affecting.

Tepid, torpid and tripy, the special trundled on, losing momentum rather than gaining it. Where oh where is a cable outage when you really need one? At least Gifford gave fair warning. She was out there singing from the very beginning, a medley of "Sleigh Ride" and "Let It Snow."

Please, one might have prayed, in the name of all that's holy: Let it stop, let it stop, let it stop.


Here's Shales' review for the 1996 special:

Ain't She Sweet: Kathie Lee Gifford's Christmas show comes but once a year. Thank God.

Oh, all right, since you begged so's a snippet:

"Gifford burst from the wings at the outset braying the opening notes of "The Christmas Waltz," and when she finished the song, the first shot of the audience was of her lumpy husband Frank sitting in an aisle seat and applauding. Like he had any choice.

In a brief monologue, Gifford said Christmas was, among other things, the one time of year when we think about "how much we have to be grateful for." What about Thanksgiving? Ah, of course: At Thanksgiving we get to be grateful that Kathie Lee doesn't do a Thanksgiving special."


If you'd like to read any of his other Kathie Lee reviews, you'll have to pay - but worth it, I think. Find them at theWashington Post.

If you can't get enough Tom Shales, read his blog for TV Week.

China insists its exports are safe

Audra Ang of the Associated Press reports today:

BEIJING - China insisted Thursday that its exports are safe, issuing a rare direct commentary as international fears over Chinese products spread.

Wang Xinpei, a spokesman for the Commerce Ministry, said China "has paid great attention" to the issue, especially food products because it concerns people's health.

"It can be said that the quality of China's exports all are guaranteed," Wang told reporters at a regularly scheduled briefing.

The statement was among Beijing's most public assertions of the safety of its exports since they came under scrutiny earlier this year with the deaths of dog and cats in North America blamed on Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine.

The full article can be read at the Boston Globe.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Even As China Cracks Down on Food Safety, Recall is Issued for Chinese-Made Tires

From the New York Times:


SHANGHAI, June 27 — After weeks of insisting that food here is largely safe, regulators in China said Tuesday that they had recently closed 180 food plants and that inspectors had uncovered more than 23,000 food safety violations.

The nationwide crackdown, which began in December, also found that many small food makers were using industrial chemicals, dyes and other illegal ingredients in making a range of food products, everything from candy to seafood.

(T)he government has moved aggressively in recent months to enforce the nation’s food safety regulations and to crack down on fake and counterfeit foods.

But Tuesday’s announcement, which appeared on the web site of the country’s top quality watchdog, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, has added fuel to concerns about rampant fraud in the food industry here.

Regulators said 33,000 law enforcement officials combed the nation and turned up illegal food making dens, counterfeit bottled water, fake soy sauce, banned food additives and illegal meat processing plants.

“These are not isolated cases,” Han Yi, director of the administration’s quality control and inspection department told the state-run media.

China Daily, the nation’s English language newspaper, said industrial chemicals, including dyes, mineral oils, paraffin wax, formaldehyde and malachite green, had been found in everything from candy, pickles and biscuits to seafood.

Regulators said they also learned that sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid were being used to process shark fin and ox tendon.

These industrial chemicals are often toxic or corrosive and can be used in everything from drain cleaners, detergent and fertilizer to surfboard wax.

These types of findings have become all too common in China. For instance, in 2005, officials in south China found a company repackaging food waste and shipping it to 10 other regions. And just last week, officials said a company in Anhui province, not far from Shanghai, was selling a two-year-old rice dumpling mix as fresh, according to the state-controlled media.

Experts here say the problem is that the country’s food regulations are not being enforced and small businessmen feel they need to go to extraordinary lengths to make a profit.

Read the entire article on the New York Times.

In other news of substandard products: a New Jersey company announced a recall of hearly half a million tires made in China. But Foreign Tire Sales says it can't afford to pay for the recall and tire replacements, so it's asking the federal government for help.

The defective tires, used on light trucks and SUV’s, have been sold under the names of Westlake, Telluride, Compass and YKS. The problem: tire separation.

Lawyers say these tires are responsible for at least one fatal accident last year .

(Listen to Adam Davison's report broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition today.)

This tire recall follows several other recalls of Chinese-made products recently, including toothpaste containing a poisonous chemical, contaminated pet food, and Thomas the Train Engine toys decorated with lead paint.

The New York Times's David Barboza also wrote about the defective tires, and reports:

"They were supposed to include a gum strip between the steel bands that prevented them from separating. Mr. Lavigne said the gum strip cost less than a dollar a tire to install.

"But in October 2005, officials at Foreign Tire Sales became suspicious that the tires were made without the strips.

"Nearly a year later, in September 2006, Hangzhou Zhongce [the Chinese manufacturer]officials acknowledged that they had “unilaterally” decided to omit the gum strip, according to a report by Foreign Tire Sales for federal regulators."

You can read the whole article here.

RELATED: John Frisbie, president of the U.S.-China Business Council, says Chinese companies are not adhering to international safety standards. Frisbie talked about whether recent bad news has changed American business interests in China on NPR's Morning Edition today.

Listen to the interview here .

Monday, June 25, 2007

Smarty-Pants Lawyer Loses His Suit (and Trousers)

Did you hear the one about the lawyer who claimed the drycleaner lost his trousers?

He sued HIS pants off the cleaners.

To the tune of 54 million dollars.

Thank goodness he's not going to get one penny of it.

Some pants.

Some lawyer.

Wait, wait….that was a cheap shot at lawyers. Let me correct myself.

Roy L. Pearson is a judge. Who should be upholding the law, not perverting it for personal gain.

Two years ago, Pearson took several suits to his drycleaner in Washington for alterations. When he came to pick them up a couple of days later, one pair of trousers was missing.

The drycleaners said they found the missing trousers a few days later and tried to return them, but Mr Pearson insisted they were not his. Pearson complained to the Chungs, the South Korean family that owns and operates Custom Cleaners in the District of Columbia.

In his first letter, Pearson sought $1,150 for a new suit. Two lawyers and many legal bills later, the Chungs offered Pearson $3,000, then $4,600 and, finally, $12,000 to settle the case.

But that didn’t satisfy Pearson. Peek into the hundreds of pages of legal wrangling and you will find the heart of his heart of his complaint. Custom Cleaners at that time had two big signs on its walls. One said "Satisfaction Guaranteed," and the other said, "Same Day Service."

He was not satisfied. And he did not get his pants back on the same day or, for that matter, on any day.

This, he says, amounts to fraud, negligence and a scam.

Being a lawyer/judge, Pearson sued.

The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher reports: “The District's consumer protection law provides for damages of $1,500 per violation per day. Pearson started multiplying: 12 violations over 1,200 days, times three defendants” (i.e. three members of the Chung family)

Pearson’s lawsuit also included a bill for 1400 hours he says he spent preparing the case. (What kind of an incompetent lawyer needs that much time to ask for a pair of stupid pants? That said so much more about Pearson than it did about the Chungs!)

Poor baby.

The judge says he deserves millions for the damages he suffered by not getting his pants back, for his litigation costs, for "mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort," for the value of the time he has spent on the lawsuit.

But wait – there’s more! Pearson also added the cost of renting a car every weekend to enable him to drive to an alternative dry-cleaner's for the next 10 years. Why should the drycleaner pay Pearson $15,000 so he can rent a car every weekend for 10 years?

Pearson’s reason: as a result of poor service, he must find another cleaner. And because he doesn’t have a car, he says he will have to rent one to get his clothes taken care of.

Incidentally, the original alteration work on the pants cost $10.50.

This idiocy came to an end today.

DC Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled that Pearson is entitled to precisely: nothing. Why? He had one year to prove his claims of common law fraud with clear, convincing and unequivocal evidence. “He has not proven those claims by a preponderance of the evidence, let alone by that higher standard. Judgment therefore will be awarded to the defendants, as well as their costs." (Source: Emil Steiner of the Washington Post)

The Chungs’ lawyer, Chris Manning, said that the protracted case had transformed the family's American dream into "the American nightmare." It has cost them tens of thousands of dollars to defend this case.

In a closet of a lawyer's office in downtown Washington, there is a pair of gray wool pants, waiting to be picked up by Roy Pearson.

"We believe the pants are his," says Manning. "The tag matches his receipt."

Miscellaneous: Custom Cleaners has a legal defense fund.

A Google search shows many calls to disbar Pearson.

You can read some opinions on this case at Overlawyered. Read comments on Marc Fisher's article here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I'll Give My Life To My Country, But Not To Protect Corporations.

On June 19, 26 year old SPC Eli Israel put himself at great personal risk.

He decided to refuse further participation in the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Eli told his commanding officer and sergeants that he will no longer be a combatant in what he calls an "illegal, unjustified war."

“I have told them that I will no longer play a ‘combat role’ in this conflict or ‘protect corporate representatives,’ and they have taken this as ‘violating a direct order.’

"Corporate representatives?" Who are these people?

Apparently, there are lots of them.

By one estimate, as many as half the Americans in Iraq are working for private contractors.

Investigative journalist Dina Rasor, co-author with Robert Bauman of "Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War" (Palgrave) was on The Diane Rehm Show on Monday, June 18th, explaining why she thinks privatization of the Iraq war undermines U-S troops and threatens national security. Eli Israel made his stand the next day.

Bauman and Rasor are sponsors of the Follow the Money Project. According to their website, the project investigates "where the money appropriated for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is going -- especially money that should be going to the Troops."

Bauman and Rasor are old hands at investigating government fraud. In their new book they claim private contractors have put the lives of countless American soldiers on the line while damaging our strategic interests and our image abroad. They "give the inside story on troops forced to subsist on little food and contaminated water, on officers afraid to lodge complaints because of Halliburton's political clout, on millions of dollars in contractors' bogus claims that are funded by American taxpayers. Drawing on exclusive sources within government and the military, the authors show how money and power have conspired to undermine our fighting forces and threaten the security of our country."

Eli Israel is stationed at Camp Victory in Baghdad with JVB Bravo Company, 1-149 Infantry of the Kentucky Army National Guard. You can read more on Eli at Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Awful, But still - It's Free Advertising

We all know that fashion houses will push freebies on to most any celebrity, but especially the A-listers. One red carpet picture, and sales of a dress, a purse, shoes, earrings - will skyrocket.

But what about a dreadful picture such as this?

When Lindsay Lohan partied too hard over Memorial Day weekend, some lucky papparazzi got shots of her passed out in a car and obviously made LOTS of money. But so did American Apparel, maker of the gray hooded sweatshirt she was wearing. The New York Times reports the company posted the picture its blog, "at, and at least one store in Manhattan pasted the Daily News front page near a display of the $40 “flex fleece” sweatshirts, causing a run."

Eric Wilson goes on to say:

So the national obsession with celebrity culture has come to this. Even at their worst, hot young actresses can move product, and fashion companies that in the past would have shied away from provocateurs are less reticent to embrace them. And last week came this media alert from a Los Angeles dress designer: “Nicky Hilton Wearing Kate & Kass to Visit Paris in Prison.

It's official, people. Herd mentality has overtaken America. Or, maybe, a lack of mentality of any sort.

What hot products will the next infamous pictures spawn?

Let's speculate, shall we? Let's see....

A picture of Nicole Richie barfing sends sales of designer wet wipes through the roof!

Secret shots of her ex-buddy Paris behind bars spurs Banana Republic to make fashionable orange jumpsuits, which even at $200 a pop, BR cannot keep in stock!

Any suggestions?

You can read the whole article detailing this sorry scene here.

Happy Solstice!

Druids and others celebrate the summer solstice at Stonehenge this morning (photo: BBC)

In Wiltshire in southwestern England, about 24,000 people welcomed the sun today it rose above the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge on the longest day of the year. Dancers writhed to the sound of drums and whistles as floodlights colored the ancient pillars shades of pink and purple. Couples snuggled under plastic sheets.

Solstice celebrations were a highlight of the pre-Christian calendar. Bonfires, maypole dances, and courtship rituals linger on in many countries as holdovers from Europe's pagan past.

In more recent years, New Age groups and others have turned to Stonehenge to celebrate the solstice, and the World Heritage Site has become a magnet for men and women seeking a spiritual experience -- or just wanting to have a good time.

Stonehenge, on the Salisbury Plain 80 miles southwest of London, was built between 3,000 B.C. and 1,600 B.C., although its original purpose is a mystery. Some experts say the monument's builders aligned the stones as part of their sun-worshipping culture.

Read more in this article from the Associated Press in the New York Times.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Wild Animals Without Fear.

We did not lure this chipmunk with food. It scampered up to my teenager, who was sitting on a rock at the summit of Mount Howard. As we watched, the 'munk walked right into his hand.

That was not our only close encounter with wildlife on the mountain.

We stepped off the Wallowa Lake Tramway and started exploring the 2-and-a-half miles of groomed trails atop Mount Howard. There were still some patches of snow defying the June sun.

Barely a hundred yards away from the tram terminal, we noticed little burrows in the grass, and all of a sudden a little creature popped out of one. Quite unafraid, it scampered toward us.

Of course the kids let out squeals of delight. My slow camera missed the next shot, of the creature crawling over my son’s shoe! We were really astounded at their boldness.As there were so many burrows, I initially thought this was a prairie dog town. But on closer inspection, these were ground squirrels.

Reluctantly, we left the burrow area and followed the trail to take in the sweeping views of the Wallowas and Snake River areas - rugged canyons, stark cliffs, snowy peaks.

As we went by some sparse patches of trees, the sound of chittering caught our attention. The chipmunks were out, and spring was clearly on their minds as males chased little females all over the place.

Some of the critters had their cheeks fully puffed with food! It was absolutely enchanting the way they ventured to the trail, completely without fear.

At the mountain overlook, we sat down to take in the view, and got to see just how unfraid the chipmunks were.

There were other distractions on Mount Howard. Big nutcrackers flew about, too fast for my clumsy efforts with the camera.

And of course, wildflowers. They were much smaller than those at lower elevations. Could these little white blossoms be the famed edelweiss, I wondered?

Then, there was this little cultural observation to round out our little walk before we took the tram back down to our car.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Out of Joseph and Up into the Clouds.

As we drove out of the lovely town of Joseph toward Wallowa Lake, we stopped to see the Monument of Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph the Elder . Originally buried in the nearby town of Wallowa, his remains were moved to this spot in 1926.

Old Chief Joseph is not as well known as his son and namesake, whose image is well known to many Americans, especially in the Northwest.

Born Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt (“Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain”) in 1840, Joseph the Younger led the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce “during General Oliver O. Howard's attempt to forcibly remove his band and the other "non-treaty" Indians to a reservation in Idaho. For his principled resistance to the removal, he became renowned as a humanitarian and peacemaker.” (More from this Wikipedia article)

This is Joseph Canyon, one of the winter homes of the Nez Perce. It’s believed Chief Joseph was born in a cave here.

We drove by the pristine morainal lake as we headed for the Wallowa Lake Tramway, which would take us on a very steep 4000-foot climb to the top of Mount Howard.

The ride costs $20 for adults, and takes 15 minutes to get up to the 8150-foot summit.

I have a few phobias, and of course, one of them is for heights. I clung tightly to the support pole in the middle of the gondola and did my best to keep my eight-year old from dashing from side to side. I had limited success as his enthusiasm and exuberance fueled his movements. The the little vestibule rocked, and sent me into palpitations. At that moment, I decided to NEVER get on a ski lift.

My teenage son, who adores skiing, rode with my daughter and her friend in a separate gondola. Far more composed than me, he took this picture of the lake through the slightly scratched windshield. (Still a pretty good shot, though!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Taking in the Wallowa Magic.

View of the Wallowa Mountains from the summit of Mount Howard

Last week, my children and I took a short trip to the breathtaking Wallowa Lake and Mountains of northeastern Oregon. It's about a three-hour drive south (and a little bit east) of Moscow - a scenic drive that took us up and down through many hairpin turns.

We began our trip in Idaho, crossed the Snake River into Washington state, where we proceeded south through Asotin, and the little hamlet of Anatone, where a 4-H sign announces the area's statistics.

Fine with me - when I go somewhere to get away, I'd much rather not deal with crowds of people!

True, few people live along that stretch. But what it lacks in population, it compensates with majestic scenery: the Snake River, Hells Canyon, the Wallowa Whitman National Forest. There were lots of oohs and aahs and "look at that!"-s emanating from our car.

Through the entire drive, were all sorts of wildflowers. Blue, yellow, purple, white, pink and orange. Most were at their peak.

It was also a great opportunity to spot wildlife - lots of deer and even a pair of wild turkeys.

We spent the night in lovely Enterprise. This whole area is called the "Switzerland of Oregon," for good reason.

Part of the town was barricaded. Apparently, early that morning a big fire destroyed an apartment building that was nearly a century old.

Northwest Public Radio was coming in strong on our translator at 100.9FM. It never ceases to amaze me how our signal spreads out so far from our Pullman studios, sometimes into pretty remote areas.

Next morning, we headed out on the road to Wallowa Lake, which took us through one of Oregon's most picturesque towns, Joseph.

Named for Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph, this is a very artistic town. Its renowned foundry, Valley Bronze of Oregon, casts sculptures of all sizes. In fact, the town is lined with full-size bronze sculptures of animals and people, such as this one.

This was situated in a little square, but most of the sculptures line the main street and are thus set against a magnificent backdrop of snow-capped mountains. (Sorry, I don't have any of those to share at this time - not without forcing you to view family vacation pictures, at any rate!)

After strolling through this charming town, we went on to Wallowa Lake, and took the tram on a steep four thousand-foot climb up to the summit of Mount Howard.

We'll pick up that part of our trip in the next post.

And Now, For Something Completely Different!

My current favorite CD is "Betcha Bottom Dollar" by the Puppini Sisters, a British trio that sings in the Big Band style of the 1940s. I first heard about them on NPR's Morning Edition in May (here's the NPR interview) singing their big-band style version of the Gloria Gaynor disco hit (and anthem!) "I Will Survive."

Watch the Puppini Sisters performing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" here:

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Death Sentence for China's Head of Food and Drug Safety

The BBC reports on a drastic solution to China's serious problem with food and drug safety, with the ultimate penalty for the director of their version of the FDA.

"Zheng Xiaoyu used to be one of the most trusted men in China. He was in charge of making sure his country's food and drugs did not kill anyone.

"But, on Tuesday morning in Beijing, a court found that he had failed - badly. He was found guilty of accepting bribes and of lowering safety standards.

"For his failure, he will be shot dead."

Zheng was in charge of the food and drug administration from its creation in 1998 to the time he was fired in 2005. But it was in 2002 that he saw his power rise dramatically: that's when the the government required all drugs be approved by the agency. With the new ribbon of red tape, the approval of new drugs and food products became very slow. Some manufacturers decided to expedite the process with bribes for officials, including Zheng.

The Associated Press reports (read it on MSNBC China’s Health Ministry found almost 34,000 food-related illnesses in 2005. "According to The Outlook Weekly, a magazine published by the Chinese government’s news agency, a survey by the quality inspection administration found that a third of China’s 450,000 food production companies had no licenses. Also, 60 percent of the total did not conduct safety tests or have the capability to do so."

Zheng was sentenced on May 29, 2007.

The BBC article goes on to say:

"China has promised to get rid of its supply of fake and contaminated drugs. It carries out periodic raids, and calls in cameras to take pictures of its hauls. But the outside world is sceptical. This year alone, there have been reports of contaminated Chinese drugs ending up in Panama, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.

"The Chinese Communist Party now realises it has a huge problem - fake drugs made in [their] country kill people."

But will the execution of Zheng Xiaoyu be enough to scare counterfeiters away from huge profits?

Counterfeit Blood Protein Revealed in China

Does counterfeiting know no bounds?

From the BBC:

"Chinese investigators say nearly 60 hospitals and pharmacies in north-eastern China have been using fake blood protein in patients' drips.

"Albumin, or plasma protein, is used to treat patients suffering from shock and burns and during open-heart surgery.

"Experts suggest that the fake product could be life-threatening for those already in a serious condition.

"The scandal is the latest to expose weaknesses in China's regulation of food and drug standards.

"The food and drug administration in the north-eastern state of Jilin found 18 hospitals and more than 30 pharmacies sold or were selling false batches of the albumin.

"'There was no element of protein, so it could not perform its intended function,' said the administration's deputy director, Xu Fei.

"'These were out-and-out fakes,' he added.

"Officials did not say whether anyone had died or fallen ill through using the false protein, though one Chinese newspaper said it had led to one death.

"China Central Television cited an official saying those making the false albumin were making a 300% profit, assisted by shortages of the genuine product.

"The administration said its investigations had 'effectively cleaned up the market'.

You can read the whole article on the BBC website.


Here are links to my earlier blog entries on the subject of China's counterfeit practices in food and medical products:

Is ANYTHING safe from China these days?

Food Safety: So Much More Than E. coli

Another Tale of Food Safety Challenges in China

Deadly Industrial Chemicals from China Landing Up Cough Syrup and Other Products

Trail to Chinese Food Producers Turns Cold


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Just a few more pics of imitations.

Why counterfeit a few purses when you can try and copy the whole store?

All four pictures on this post are on, which shows more Chinese fakes. The store above is in China. I imagine that if most of the population is not accustomed to reading English often, they could mistake the store name for the real Prada.

Same principles at work in the next few examples:

I've had a lot of fun looking up counterfeits on the web!

Tip Your (Knockoff) Hat to Imitations and Counterfeits!

The problem of counterfeit goods has been turned into a fashion statement by the Dutch/Brazilian designer Bea Correa. She first drew attention for her knockoff Louis Vuitton purses with the word 'FAKE' stenciled across them. Correa said she was surprised at the enthusiastic public response - even people who already owned the real thing wanted one. (Source)). If you want one of these hot items, you'll have to make a fake, as they're no longer available. (Just buy a knockoff LV and stencil "FAKE" on it!)

Correa's next big statement was a line of T-shirts called Fakewear.

Then again - it's not entirely clear WHAT exactly, is being declared as fake!

Want to see more imitations? You're in luck. People are more interested in this than I realized!

Germany has the Museum Plagiarius in the city of Solingen. (be sure to check out the slideshow). Proves it's not just the Chinese who pull imitations.

In fact, a 1992 article in the International Herald Tribune about the Museo del falso in Salerno, Italy, makes it clear that all the Chinese practices we've heard about in recent times may have originated in Europe!

Is this the ultimate irony - Chinese imitating European imitations?

Thailand is home to the Tilleke and Gibbins Museum of Counterfeit Goods established in 1989. Some of the pictures of the fakes are incredible!

And in Paris, visit the Museum of the Counterfeit.

And finally, make sure you check out a photolog tracing a fried chicken fakery gone wild in New York City: Satan's Laundromat. It's unreal! (Sorry. I couldn't resist it.) When you're done with that, go to another post on the same photolog for Colonel Sanders wannabes.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

It's not just China faking stuff.

Seen in Irbil, Iraq (Source):

And this was in Siem Reap, Cambodia (Source):

More Counterfeiting Tales from China

Y'all know those fake Prada and Fendi goods are from China, right? Those Louis Vuitton and Gucci bags and purses, those Rolexes sold off street tables in many big cities - all from the Middle Kingdom, no?

Counterfeiting is big business there. But designer goods are just the tip of the iceberg. Think pirated DVDs and CD - all the way up to laptops and cellphones.

In these cases, manufacturers and those who hold the patents are the main losers. But Chinese counterfeiting has expanded into areas that cause harm, and even death. Fake brake pads that fail in an emergency. Fake formula with barely any protein - babies fed this stuff were seriously malnourished, and some died. (See this earlier post) Cheap diethylene glycol sold under the guise of glycerin syrup for use in cough syrup, fever medication, injectable drugs - these caused permanent damage to some people and killed others. (Read this earlier post).

At the heart of this massive problem is this question: why are these fraudulent practices so widespread in China, and why aren't their authorities getting it under control?

The New York Times tackles that issue in the article, When Fakery Turns Fatal.

According to the story, "cutting corners or producing fake goods is not just a legacy of China’s initial rush toward the free market three decades ago but still woven into the fabric of the nation’s thriving industrial economy. It is driven by entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of a weak legal system, lax regulations and a business culture where bribery and corruption are rampant."

After living in deprivation under decades of Communism, are some Chinese willing to go to any lengths to turn a bigger profit? Seems that way, doesn't it?

"For decades," writes David Barboza, "small entrepreneurs have started out counterfeiting in emerging industries in China, seeking an early advantage and their first pot of gold.

"Often, they try to get around regulations, or simply believe small-time cheating that involves adding cheap substitutes or low-grade ingredients will not cause much harm.

Barboza notes:

"Dozens of Chinese cities have risen to prominence over the last two decades by first specializing in fake goods, like Wenzhou, which was once known for selling counterfeit Procter & Gamble products, and Kaihua in Zhejiang province, which specialized in fake Philips light bulbs."

One of those counterfeiting capitals is Wudi, home of the company that sold melamine-contaminated wheat gluten to American pet food manufacturers. Some pets fed with those products were sickened, and some died.

Did the buyers of the contaminated wheat gluten and other products visit the manufacturing plant to observe production practices and note their standards? No - and if they had tried, they might have found ramshackle outbuildings or shuttered facilities instead of the modern factories pictured on these companies' websites.

As Barboza says, corruption - at many levels of Chinese government - only serves to make the deception easier.

The wheat gluten company, Binzhou Futian, "shared a building with the county government’s cereal and grains bureau, an indication of its close ties to the government. "Futian didn’t have any actual factory here,” said a guard who works at the Binzhou headquarters. “They hung a banner here because they wanted to look good in front of visitors. They had countless suppliers from the countryside.”


Just how far can this fraud go?

"Last year....pirates were caught faking an entire company, setting up a “branch” of the NEC Corporation of Japan, including 18 factories and warehouses in China and Taiwan."

It's a scary thought. These guys could easily fake a "Made in the USA" label if they wish, if they haven't done it already.

Here again, is the NY Times story.

NPR's Louisa Lim reported last year that Chinese authorities tried to crack down on counterfeiter, but that failed to stem the tide of knockoffs.

Read my post, Is ANYTHING from China Safe These Days? (And how do we know what's from China, anyway?)

Want to flaunt a purse with a Coach logo at a fraction of the price? Here's a story on the hidden costs of buying counterfeit goods.