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Land of Oagodas and Pimps

                                 In These Times

                       March 31, 1997  /  April  13, 1997

SECTION: ET CETERA; Vol. 21; Pg. 9

HEADLINE: Land of Pagodas ... and pimps;
Trouble brewing


   In their quest for hard currency,  Burma's  military dictators ARE trying to 
exploit another natural resource--the country's virgins. A recent issue of
Today, a tourist magazine published by the Burmese tourism office, features the 
story "Land of Virgins and Restful Nights." According to the story, recently
excerpted in Might magazine, "Myanmar has long been known as the Land of
Pagodas, but very few persons, if any, seem to be aware that it has also been a 
Land of Virgins." 
   "Fine smooth facial skin free from blemishes" is the Burmese virgin's
"trademark," the story continues. And trade--skin trade--is what this subtle
come-on is all about: "Myanmar girls and young women go about flaunting their
virginity. Of course, there may be a few imposters among them. ... [B]ut most
[visitors] go away highly satisfied with their visit to the Land of Pagodas
and--now that you know--of Virgins, too. ... May they retain [their virginity]
as long as they can or should!"

   The next time you plunk down $ 1.25 for a Starbucks "Coffee of the Day,"
consider this: You've just spent the equivalent of a day's wages for one unlucky
family of Guatemalan peasants that picks beans for the company. That's according
to staff members of the U.S./Guatemala Labor Education Project, who in February 
interviewed workers at a plantation from which Starbucks buys coffee. Some of
the plantation's workers did better than that family, but they all earned much
less than the $ 8 (a Rumba Frappuccino and a Mocha Valencia at Starbucks) that a
Guatemalan family requires to meet daily basic needs.

   Two years ago, the Labor Education Project spearheaded a campaign to force
Starbucks to use its buying power to establish minimum labor standards for
coffee growers. In October 1995, the company unveiled a "framework for a code of
conduct," entitled "Starbucks Commitment ... To Do Our Part," in which it
resolved to set wages and benefits at levels that "address the basic needs

workers and their families." For these kind words, the Council on Economic
Priorities, a New York-based group that promotes "corporate responsibility,"
gave Starbucks its 1996 Corporate Conscience Award for International Human
Rights. The Labor Education Project, however, is looking for deeds. It will
resume leafleting at the coffee chain's outlets in late April.


LOAD-DATE: March 21, 1997