Big box bully: Wal-Mart has threatened a Carnegie-Mellon student who made a website poking fun at the Wal-Mart Foundation, the community development branch of the big box retailer. While the parody, by junior Daniel Papasian, seems like a clear case of fair use, Wal-Mart's lawyers sent a cease-and-desist order, which shut down the site. Says Papasian, "The site was a form of 'identity correction,' in which I used a parody to highlight real problems with companies like Wal-Mart. My site was designed to get people thinking about the consequences of importing goods from countries with poor labor laws, the environmental effects of big-box stores, and whether Wal-Mart is as benign as some would like us to believe. The site was designed to look like a page belonging to the real Foundation, but I can't imagine anyone who read the site didn't realize it was a parody."

What's interesting is that term "community development": some 70% of Wal-Mart's products are not made in America, but in China, according to just-launched website WalmartWatch.com. And while the company is hugely successful (as the world's largest retailer, they bring in $20,000 per minute with profits last year topping $10 billion), it can't seem to pay a living wage: it's average full-time worker makes $17,114.24 a year, well below the 2005 federal poverty level of $19,350 for a family of four. And because of such stingy pay and benefits, many of its employees are forced to seek out food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing, leaving US taxpayers to pay the "Wal-mart tax"—$1,557,616,500 per year. As NOW reported in 2003:
According to The Institute for Labor and Employment at the University of California/Berkeley, in 2002, Wal-Mart workers in California relied on 50% more taxpayer funded health care per employee than those at other large retail companies. Put another way, taxpayers subsidized $20.5-million-worth-of medical care for Wal-Mart in California alone.
No wonder the company's a bit sensitive about how it's "community development" is perceived.

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