| Friday March 30th
2007 | Issue 582
WAKE UP!! WAKE UP!! IT'S YER BOOT UP THE SYSTEM...
Version - Download, Print, Copy and Distribute!
Story Links: Sili-Con
Job | Crap Arrest Of The Week | Banana
Smoothies | 3-In-1 Oil | 21st
Century Dane Law | Party & Protest
| Skanska Rapped | ...and finally...
SchNEWS HACKS INTO THE
DARK SIDE OF HI-TECH CONSUMERISM
Is there such a thing
as a fair trade computer or iPod? International attention
has been focussed on the appalling labour conditions required to
produce our clothes and many brands now boast their fair-trade
credentials. But the same scrutiny doesnt apply to the many
other types of manufactured goods which are coming out of similarly
dire sweatshops in east Asia.
Microsoft recently released
its new operating system, Vista. It will only run on
the latest computers, prompting millions of people to upgrade. This
cycle of forced obsolescence caused by new generations
of technology is the engine that drives the consumer electronics
industry. Environmentally the cost is huge with large scale mineral
extraction using toxic and resource-heavy processes during production
- for products which are on average used for three years before
becoming e-waste, filling holes in the ground with lead,
cadmium, copper, gold, chromium, tin, zinc, antimony, coltan, plastics
and more. The West then ships some 50 million tonnes of e-waste
to dump in China each year.
The next time you ogle
over an iPod, think about whos dainty little hands have put
it together: Apple builds them in a mega factory in southern China
which employs 200,000 people, crammed 100 at a time into dormitories,
eating factory-provided food, for £25 a month. Most workers
do over 60 hours a week, including hefty voluntary overtime.
The iPod plant, in Longhua, Shenzhen, is run by Taiwanese company
Hon Hai, the worlds biggest contract manufacturer (annual
turnover- $30 billion) working for companies including Hewlett-Packard,
Nokia and Sony.
Shenzhen has become a
city of 12 million, mostly made up of peasant economic migrants.
90% work illegally, which means they dont get any health care,
education or social security. Chinese workers are not represented
by trade unions and factories clamp down on worker solidarity, sacking
Workers can be on their
feet amidst excessive noise for over 11 hours a day, handling dangerous
chemicals, petroleum products, paints and solvents and breathing
in metal dust and soldering smoke. They suffer from ailments ranging
from rashes to breathing difficulties, bone and spine problems,
eye, ear and hand damage. There is no health & safety, little
in the way of protective clothing, masks etc. and jobs are grindingly
repetitive - in a keyboard factory a worker will put six keys into
a keyboard 300 times an hour for over fifty hours a week. With the
pressure to perform, workers are punished, humiliated or fined for
production errors. If the workers dont go at it hard enough
they are threatened with globalisations main weapon - the
factory will simply move somewhere cheaper, leaving a trail of displaced
and unemployed workers behind them.
The production of the
silicon chips used in all computery stuff is extremely resource
intensive. While silicon itself is very abundant, it is extracted
in destructive sand mining around the world, and the refinement
process requires heating to 1900 degrees, then treating with nitric,
sulphuric and hydrofluoric acids and arsenic. And its thirsty
work: a UN study found that the production of a complete computer
and monitor takes 240kg of fossil fuels, 22kg of chemicals, 1,500
litres of water and thats before packaging and long
China has been hit with
the environmental costs of such large scale manufacturing. In November
2005, a chemical accident in Jilin, north east China, saw 100 tonnes
of benzene and nitrobenzene spill into the Songhua River, causing
an 50 mile carcinogenic slick to flow down the river. Millions were
left without drinking water for days with a deadly legacy for generations
to come. Meanwhile BASF (the largest chemical company in the world
and inheritors of Nazi collaborators IG Farben) has opened a $2.9
billion plant in Jiangsu to produce 600,000 tonnes of ethylene for
plastic production annually as well as 1.1 million tonnes of other
chemicals, in a country where acid rain falls on 30% of the country,
and 70% of its lakes and rivers are polluted.
While the whole computer
industry is a million miles from ethical sustainability, some firms
are worse than others. Smug Apple Mac users may have to Think
Different after a recent Greenpeace report placed Apple amongst
the worst manufacturers for their environmental policies, using
hazardous substances abandoned by others and strictly keeping to
the regulatory minimums.
Dell might have recently
committed to a full take back recycling scheme, and
offers to plant a guilt-cleansing tree for customers paying an extra
$2 (How PC!), but these petty gestures of mild corporate green one-up-man-ship
do not compute. Hundreds of millions of computers have been chucked
out over the last few years the vast majority of which would
have still been in working order and around 90% of them have
gone straight into landfill. A not insignificant three billion consumer
electronic units are expected to become obsolete by 2010.
What do you do about
it? If you have a computer - and even the anarcho-primitivists
we know do - then the best advice from SchNEWS is... Direct Inaction.
Do nothing. Dont upgrade, if it aint broke dont
fix it and if it is - get it repaired. Windows XP will be updated
for several years, and as we said in SchNEWS
560, free Open Source software - headed by the operating
system of Linux, Open Office, Firefox and others - offers free,
direct equivalents for the software Microsofts monopoly rides
on. And they are slowly gaining ascendency across the world, particularly
in Latin America, Asia and some European countries. As Open Source
improves and becomes more common, and M$ anti-piracy software increases,
pretty soon it will be the only viable option.
So think about that when
yer next sitting with your laptop in a groovy right-on wi-fi cafe
sipping a fair trade mochaccino listening to mp3s...
* For advice about Linux see
* If you are chucking
an old PC, donate it to a charity instead of landfilling it.
** Aid Convoy regularly do humanitarian trips to the Ukraine
taking computers for schools, as well as other aid to Kosovo and
Albania, see www.aidconvoy.net
** In Bristol a group is taking computers, digital cameras and other
IT gear to Palestine for community use, see www.bristolcomputers4palestine.co.uk
* Read the CAFOD report
on working conditions in electronics factories at www.cafod.org.uk/policy_and_analysis/public_policy_papers/private_sector
Arrest Of The Week
.An eighteen year-old
German was nicked earlier this month for making the wrong sort of
a deposit in front of a cash machine in the southern German town
of Eggmuehl (pretty much how it smelt according to nose-witnesses).
Out to prove it's defecation
that you need, he had apparently dumped his load by the hole in
the wall eight times and was only caught when CCTV was installed
to film him in action (now presumably a smash hit on www.pooinpublicfetish.con)
Whether or not he was
making some kind of protest at the shitty world of banking remained
less clear than his bowels and he now faces charges of vandalism.
Time for a nice ripe
reminder of how capitalism works. Global banana merchant Chiquitas
long history of supporting paramilitary forces was confirmed earlier
this week as the company agreed to pay a £15m out of court
settlement to the Colombian government. It admitted that company
bosses had bunged over £1m to the right-wing United
Self Defence Forces (AUC) since 1997 well anything
to keep those ripe profits flowing. Never mind that the AUC militia
are heavily involved in the cocaine trade and responsible for some
of the worst civilian massacres the country has seen. Despite this,
the firm were not forced to reveal too much about their role in
smuggling 3,000 assault rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition
as part of their community outreach programme.
And just what shade of
shady people you pay to keep business booming doesnt matter:
Chiquita had been paying the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC) between 1989 and 1997! All this is topped, of
course, by their dodgy past under the previous brand name of United
Fruit especially their involvement in a CIA-backed coup that
overthrew a democratic government in Guatemala in 1954.
But cheap fruit must
continue flowing to our supermarkets, so whilst outraged Colombians
were calling to extradite the US-based company executives responsible,
Chiquita was busy portraying itself as a victim of Colombian violence.
A bunch of Wall Street analysts quickly declared the matter closed,
and made reassuring noises which led to a juicy rise in share prices.
* Unpeel some history
by reading Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup
in Guatemala by Stephen Schlesinger (Anchor Books, 1990).
oil pipeline agreement has now been signed by the governments
of Russia, Bulgaria and Greece. Last month Bulgaria, Macedonia and
Albania signed a similar agreement for the construction of the Burgas-Vlora
pipeline. Both pipelines are supposed to solve the 'Bosphorus problem'.
The problem being that those pesky environmental laws are getting
in the way of rampant profiteering. Turkish authorities limit the
amount of crude oil that can be loaded on tankers to protect the
Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits from oil spills. The new shiny
pipeline solves this 'problem' because a few leaks from a damaged
pipes is a lot less of an issue at least to company bosses.
Women of the Idheze community
in the Niger Delta beg to differ. They have again shut down oil
facilities of the Nigeria Agip Oil Company alleging failure to pay
compensation for damages caused by chemical waste fluid the firm
flushed into the their community. Back in December last year the
women occupied facilities following Agips failure to implement
an agreement about entrances into their land.
Its now 18 years
since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and the company has still
not paid the damages it owes to the victims of one of the biggest
environmental disasters ever to occur (See SchNEWS
205). The disaster destroyed livelihoods and decimated wildlife
in Alaska. Instead of coughing up, Exxon Mobil has dragged thousands
through years of litigation by appealing every guilty verdict its
been given since 1994!
* Therell be an
Expose Exxon Day with 24 hours of protest outside the companys
(Esso) HQ. From 5pm on Thursday 5 April through Good Friday there
will be demonstrations with a climate victims vigil, a mass
action on Friday followed by a Fat Cats Party. See www.campaigncc.org
for more info.
CENTURY DANE LAW
Following two days
of rioting in Copenhagen, 800 people have now been nicked. Since
the Ungdomshuset social centre eviction (and demolition) earlier
this month (see SchNEWS 579), 5,000 have
been involved in demonstrations. The final tally of
arrests remains unknown and a considerable number of those nicked
were young kids. Nor does anyone know how many foreigners have been
deported or refused entry to Denmark. 230 people were kept in prison
for at least 10 days. Of the 35 arrested inside the house, 21 have
been released (mainly foreigners and some Danes), with the remaining
14 remanded for another four weeks.
After the raid, cops
took all those arrested in Ungdomshuset into the basement, handcuffed
them and removed their gas masks before closing the doors and shooting
tear-gas into the enclosed space. As a result, one person nearly
died and was rushed to hospital. In addition Danish TV2 reported
that during the riots the police had been shooting tear-gas grenades
intended to penetrate doors and walls into crowds and at individuals
on the streets. The gas, Ferret-40, is stronger than normal tear-gas;
luckily no-one was killed.
All those arrested have
been charged under the notorious Para 134a a
law that presumes youre guilty if youve been in an area
where there are mass disturbances (see www.blackcross.dk/134a-en.pdf).
The first cases are ready to be heard in a court without trial by
jury. Instead the hearing is presided over by one judge and two
lay judges, who have to be members of Danish political parties (were
not making this up). There is no legal aid for defendants if they
lose their case. And whilst the state pays the lawyers fees,
the defendants have to repay the state every month if they
miss a payment the state can then take 15% of their monthly wage.
Social democracy? No thanks!
Actions and protests
continue on a daily basis, not just in Denmark but all over the
world. There are too many to mention see www.modkraft.dk,
and Bundskruen, a magazine in English and Danish available from
If you're in Copenhagen,
visit Folkets Hus in Folkets Park, Stengade 50, Norrebro for info
(open 3-10pm everyday). Demos to support the remaining prisoners
go from Blagardsplads, Norrebro to Vestre prison every Thursday
at 5pm. Large demo this Saturday 31 March in support of Christiania
and Ungdomshuset leaving from Carl Madsen Plads, 2pm. In addition,
the 1 May demo in Copenhagen is planned to be very big and lively.
The Danish Anarchist
Black Cross urgently need donations to help support the remaining
prisoners. Prisoners would also like to receive letters and cards.
to find out how.
Warning: As a foreigner
in Denmark be careful on demonstrations as the police are quick
to arrest and deport any they suspect of being involved or potentially
involved in political activities. Use your common sense on crossing
the border into Denmark try not to go in large groups and
- March 31st
April 5th is a week of legal chicken liberation, with Brighton
Animal Action. They are saving 13,500 chickens from the slaughter
house, and need your help - crates and pet carriers to take the
hens away, transport and some holding barns in the midlands or
the north where they travel to their new lives. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
tel 07779 128239. www.brightonanimalaction.org
- April 1st - Manor
Garden Alloments are holding a Spring Party, the day before
the official eviction date. These allotments have provided food
for more than 150 families for nearly 100 years, being a focus
for the diverse community in East London, but are to be turned
into a footpath for the 2012 Olympics. (See SchNEWS
574) There will be music, food, digging, Easter eggs and more.
Call 07956890825 web www.lifeisland.org
- April 12th - Grand
National Demonstration at Aintree (part of Horse Racing Awareness
Week 7-14 April). 12 noon opposite the main entrance to the Racecourse
on the A59 (by railway station entrance). For more see: www.veggies.org.uk/event.php?ref=995
- ** For full Party
& Protest listings, see www.schnews.org.uk/pap/guide.htm
Local residents locked
the gates and hung banners at the Skanska yard in Sutton, near Mansfield
on Monday. Protesters were registering their disgust at Skanska
for their role in widening the M1 to four lanes in each direction
between the M25 and Luton (See SchNEWS 575).
Skanska will be joined by fellow tree-huggers Balfour Beatty after
winning a £289m Joint Venture contract. Chief Executive of
Skanska, David Fison, used to be the Managing Director of Balfour
Beattys rail and civil engineering businesses. Jobs for the
boys an all that.
The usual spiel about
combating congestion offered by the official version, hides a cash
wielding exercise in lining the pockets of two companies renowned
for winning Private Finance Initiative contracts, while
laying the environment to waste. £300m nicker would be better
spent on public transport. Better still would be if we binned the
commute and shopped and worked (or not) locally.
For more on the campaign
Need to purge bad debt?
In the Ukraine, one heating company has hit on a hard leftfield
solution. A red bill is rapidly followed up by the Red Tsar. The
company has terrified thousands of punters into coughing up with
the image of Comrade Stalin.
Posters of the Soviet
dictator were put up around the city of Donetsk with the words:
Comrades! This not the cinema, this is real life. Anyone who
does not pay their heating bill will be punished. Bosses from
the state-owned Donetsk Heating Company said: It was the nearest
we could get to intimidating people without sending round the heavy
mob, and it has worked. Deputy-director Alexandra Semchenko
added: Most people associate Stalin with order and discipline.
This campaign will force them to think about the consequences of
being behind in their Five Year repayments plans.
SchNEWS wonders how long
before British Gas start dusting off pictures of Maggie...
SchNEWS warns all readers
to upgrade your mind not your gadgets...Honest!
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