Airspace would like to take a moment of silence in memory of all the victims callously butchered in metropolitan New York last year at the hands of Philip Morris.

What? You were expecting someone else?

In 2001, the three biggest killers in New York were Philip Morris (16,000 New Yorkers slaughtered), R. J. Reynolds (8,000 slaughtered), and Brown & Williamson (5,000 slaughtered). Together, the three tobacco companies kill more Americans every three days than Osama has in a decade of attacks.

On this side of the 49th parallel, the tobacco industry's product kills more Canadians every year than all six years of World War II combined, a number Osama couldn't touch even in his wildest dreams.

And even though Philip Morris's corporate headquarters are a mere 40 blocks north of Manhattan's Ground Zero, don't expect George Bush to launch air strikes on it anytime soon. To the contrary, the WTC ruins were still on fire when U.S. tobacco companies were cashing in on it by trying to amend the new U.S. anti-terrorism law to stop Canada and other countries from suing them in U.S. courts.

Although the amendment was approved by the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on October 17, 2001 the Democrat-controlled Senate removed it on Oct. 23. Had it passed, it would have immediately killed Canada's multibillion-dollar lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds for smuggling billions of dollars of Canadian-made cigarettes back into Canada in the early 90s, as well as similar lawsuits from the Euro. Union and Columbia.

And despite Philip Morris's massive advertising blitz boasting about its charitable contributions (a blitz costing many times more than the contributions themselves), Philip Morris has given up trying to shake its reputation as the world's biggest mass murderer, and instead announced on Nov. 15 that it will change its name later this year to Altria, apparently due to the word's similarity to "altruism".

Altruism? Stop chuckling.

On December 6, letters were made public in which a tobacco executive admits he "authorized the destruction of close to one million individual pages in my seven years at the TDC" and that "The aim of the document destruction exercise was to identify and remove all documents which could be viewed as 'problematic,' damaging, or useful to plaintiffs in any ongoing industry litigation." The letters were written in 1998 by Ron Tully just after he quit his job as the Chief Executive of the Tobacco Documentation Centre, a UK-based trade group run by tobacco giants including Philip Morris and R. J. Reynolds.

The letters amount to a list of reasons why he quit, and detail the company's involvement in antitrust violations, perjury, bribery of government and UN officials, suppression of information on the health effects of smoking, and efforts to discredit anti-tobacco activists. Despite describing all this, the letters indicate the main reason he quit was disgust over expense-account fraud, which he itemizes in excruciating detail. The letters are online at: http://www.tobacco.org/resources/documents/980925tully.html.

So much for altruism.

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