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Ford’s Toxiclegacy.com


One block from the White House, on 15th Street, embedded in the sidewalk, in front of The Old Ebbitt Grill, is a bronze medallion honoring the life of Booker T. Washington.

The medallion has a picture of Booker T. and reads:

“As an influential African American, living in a time of escalating segregation, Booker T. Washington negotiated a course between accommodation and progress in advocating greater civil rights for blacks. His philosophy of ‘request’ not ‘protest’ allowed him to gain the respect of presidents and politicians, but sometimes alienated those of his own race. Washington believed education was a cornerstone for the advancement of blacks and his efforts to raise money for his beloved Tuskegee Institute helped secure its well-deserved reputation as a leading educational institution for African Americans.”

“My life work is the promotion of education of my race.” — Booker T. Washington.

Sponsored by Ford Motor Company.

The Booker T. medallion is one of a growing list of American volunteer pioneers being honored by the Points of Light Foundation.

Ultimately, the medallions will form a mile-long pathway in the heart of Washington, DC.

There are now 20 medallions embedded on the sidewalks of 15th Street and G Streets in downtown Washington.

The monument — known as The Extra Mile — was dedicated on October 14, 2005 with great fanfare in a ceremony attended by Former President George Bush and many extended family members of the honorees.

Each medallion is sponsored by a major American corporation.

So, for example, the one honoring, Millard and Linda Fuller, founders of Habitat for Humanity, is made possible by Whirlpool.

Our favorite — the one honoring Harriet Tubman, leader of the underground railroad effort to free the slaves — was made possible by the Washington Times (did anybody ask her descendants about this?).

The one honoring Cesar Chavez, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, was also made possible by Ford Motor Company.

His plaque reads in part: “Under his leadership of nonviolent protest, the UFW was able to secure improved wages and benefits, more humane living and working conditions, and better job security for some of the poorest workers in America.”

Let’s say right up front — for a Bush-led effort, not bad.

In fact, if you are ever in DC, make sure you walk the mile and check it out — and show it to the kids. (Or do the virtual tour at www.extramile.us)

Obviously, the company is no fan of Cesar Chavez — or Booker T. for that matter.

Ford is doing it to buff its image, as they say.

Why?

For one, officials in New Jersey are calling for an investigation of the company for environmental crimes.

It turns out that over a period of years, Ford Motor Company dumped millions of gallons of paint sludge into a now-residential area of northern New Jersey.

The paint sludge was from the Ford Motor Co.’s factory in Mahwah, once the largest auto assembly plant in the nation, according to an investigative report published this month in the Bergen Record.

The Record has put out a series of investigative reports on the dumping at www.toxiclegacy.com.

According to the series, before closing in 1980, the plant spat out six million vehicles and an ocean of contaminants — including enough paint sludge to fill two of the three tubes of the Lincoln Tunnel.

Millions of gallons of paint sludge was dumped in the remote section of Ringwood, which is now a residential area.

Children played in it.

Streams washed over it.

And early this year, New Jersey officials announced some cancer rates in the area are unusually high.

Tests commissioned by the Record found lead, arsenic and xylems in the sludge — some at 100 times the levels the government considers safe.

The Record found that Ford repeatedly dumped in poor communities and failed to clean up its mess.

Record reporters dug up documents showing that Ford executives knew as early as 34 years ago that its waste had contaminated a stream that feeds the Wanaque Reservoir.

The documents show that the company tried to evade responsibility by presenting tainted land as a “gift” to the state, the paper reported.

The Record interviewed truckers who hauled Ford’s waste — they say that mob-controlled contractors dumped anywhere they could get away with it.

They bribed, threatened, even murdered to maintain control of Ford’s trash, the paper reported.

Millions of gallons of hazardous waste vanished in their hands.

According to the Record, Ford says its dumping in Ringwood was legal.

Ford says others dumped in Ringwood and share responsibility for the pollution.

Well, let’s have a federal prosecutor decide.

There are points of light. (www.extramile.us)

And there are points of darkness. (www.toxiclegacy.com)

Getting cheap publicity by putting your name on a plaque is one thing.

Paying for the human and environmental wreckage you’ve caused in northern New Jersey is something else.

So, in honor of Booker T., we “request” that the U.S. Attorney in Newark take seriously this case and open a criminal investigation of the company.

By the way, which multinational is going to sponsor the plaque honoring Malcolm X?

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, . Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, . Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).

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