Sunday, October 29, 2006

Over 9 Billion Sold

Not (no pun intended) Big Macs:

EUFAULA, Ala. — In Eufaula, Alabama's condom production has survived an onslaught of Asian competition, thanks to the patronage of straitlaced members of Congress from the Bible Belt state.

Behind the scenes, the politicians have ensured that companies in Alabama won federal contracts to make billions of condoms over the years for AIDS prevention and family-planning programs overseas, though Asian factories could do the job at less than half the cost.

In recent years, the state's condom manufacturers fell hundreds of millions of condoms behind on orders, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) began buying them from Asia. The use of Asian-made condoms has contributed to layoffs scheduled for next month.
But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has quietly pressed to maintain the unqualified priority for U.S.-made condoms and is likely to prevail if the past is any guide.

"What's wrong with helping the American worker at the same time we are helping people around the world?" asked the senator's spokesman, Michael Brumas.

....Alabama's members of Congress have long preserved several hundred factory jobs in the state by insisting that USAID buy condoms made in Alabama, though most have done so discreetly.

....The U.S. government, the world's largest donor of condoms, has bought more than 9 billion of them in the past two decades. Under President Bush's global AIDS plan, which dedicates billions of dollars to fight the pandemic, one-third of the money for prevention must go to promoting abstinence.

But that leaves two-thirds for other programs, so the federal government's distribution of condoms has risen, to more than 400 million a year.

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