Christopher Moraff

Christopher Moraff covers national politics, social justice and consumer issues for a number of publications. He writes a weekly column for Philadelphia magazine's blog “The Philly Post” and is a contributing writer for In These Times, where he serves on the Board of Editors.

 

Recent Articles

Safety First

On March 13, Kim Witczak stood before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and recounted the death of her husband, Tim. Known to his friends as Woody, Witczak hung himself from the rafters of the couple's Minneapolis garage in 2003 just five weeks after being prescribed Zoloft by his family physician. He was 37 years old. According to his wife, Woody was given the drug for insomnia and had no history of mental illness or depression. "From the beginning," she testified, "something didn't add up about Woody's death." In fact, increased risk of suicide had been identified as a possible side effect of anti-depressant drugs like Zoloft as far back as the 1980s, during preliminary trials. But it wasn't until 2004 that drug companies were forced to issue a warning about the side effect, and then only for patients under 18. Thus, the Witczaks were never informed of the risks. The Senate committee Witczak addressed was gathering testimony as part of an ongoing...

Star Wars

Timing is everything. The Bush administration declassified the text of its new National Space Policy on October 6, 2006, just a week before the topic of preventing a space arms race was scheduled to come up before the United Nations. The document the White House unveiled marked the first time in nearly ten years that the U.S. government has updated its official space policy. It makes homeland security a primary component of the new strategy. Another cornerstone: complete rejection of the international consensus on the use of space. Among other things the policy states: "The U.S. will oppose the development of new legal regimes … that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of outer space." Sure enough, on October 25 the United States was the only country to vote against a draft text on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) at the United Nations General Assembly's annual First Committee on Disarmament and International Security. "We see no value in proposals...

Along Came a Spider

When representatives from more than 100 nations gathered in Geneva late last month to celebrate a decade of international cooperation to rid the world of landmines, the United States was conspicuously absent. Indeed, the United States has always opposed those international efforts -- and it is now on the cusp of actively reviving its own use of landmines. In 1997, U.S. president Bill Clinton shocked his allies and the world by refusing to sign on to the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty -- arguing that its parameters were too restrictive -- despite the urging of such senior military advisers as General Norman Schwarzkopf, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General David Jones, and former Supreme NATO Commander General John Gavin to sign. The treaty -- which by 2006 has been ratified by 151 countries -- prohibits the use, production, stockpiling or exportation of antipersonnel landmines and mandates that countries clear their territories of mines and destroy stockpiles. In 1999, when...

Spills of War

For the past four weeks a mass of black sludge composed of between 15,000 and 35,000 tons of medium/heavy grade oil has been creeping unhampered up the Mediterranean coast of Lebanon. International environmental groups are calling the mid-July destruction of Beirut's Jiyyeh Power Plant -- and the massive oil spill that resulted -- one of the worst environmental crises in the region's history. On July 13, Israeli bombs destroyed the plant -- 20 miles south of Beirut -- setting fire to five fuel tanks and sending thousands of gallons of oil into the Eastern Mediterranean. The Lebanese Ministry of Environment estimates the total spill could rival the Exxon Valdez catastrophe of 1989. In addition to the oil, the burning tanks sent black clouds of toxic smoke into the sky over Beirut that were visible from as far as 30 miles away. By the start of August, the oil spill had already polluted more than 90 miles of the Lebanese coastline -- destroying Beirut's once pristine beaches in the...

Let's Play Monopoly

A few weeks after announcing a renewed push to loosen broadcast ownership restrictions, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) met yesterday in Washington to seal Time Warner and Comcast's acquisition of Adelphia Cable. Meanwhile, some 2,000 miles away in Sun Valley, Idaho, Time Warner's Chief Executive Officer Richard Parsons joined representatives of the media elite for a little whitewater rafting, skeet shooting, and empire building. From July 11 to July 16, as it has each summer for the past 24 years, the Allen & Co. conference descends on the bucolic Idaho resort -- just a stone's throw from where Hemingway spent his last days. The conference brings together the most powerful names in corporate media, entertainment and, more recently, technology, for five days of recreation, relaxation, and collusion. Hosted by investment banker and media consolidator extraordinaire Herbert A. Allen Jr., the secretive annual event serves as a sort of pre-game huddle, where deals are...

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