Mislead Over and Over

Greetings from Philadelphia, where I’m spending a few days with good friends.

Upon my arrival in the US this month, I did notice a reasonable amount of buzz in the media and the occasional conversation about toys that had been discovered to have dangerously high levels of lead. Manufactured in China, these toys made the news and toy companies carried out what is called a re-call; requesting that people who have purchased them please return them as they could be dangerous.

My favorite shop on earth for buying food is Trader Joe’s, it is the first place I go when I arrive in the US.  The thing I most like is that I can look at the ingredients of anything, and read the short list.  Normally the ingredients are words that I know and never is there artificial colors or preservatives of any kind.  The thing that is strange, is that Trader Joe’s is considered “Alternative” in many ways.  Normal supermarkets have the big commercial products that have a long list of ingedients many of which start with the prefix poly or mono.  That is considered standard, and many people use those products all their lives.

Whether it is toys, food, or other products that we use regularly in our lives, it seems to me one of the mostparadoxical realities of this society we’ve created in much of the world; we sell each other goods made from materials that can ultimately poison someone, often times while tasting good or smelling good or bringing some short term joy.

Not that I’m against the joy of a nice cookie or a children’s toy. But it seems perposterous that in regular mainstream thought, you buy the cookies or the toys made by the big manufacturer that has uses some really questionable, incomprehensible ingredients to produce them.

How did the world get this way? Why didn’t the masses cry foul and take these producers to court or simply demand they clean up their act? Why is it that even in 2007, with all the experience and time that has passed that humans exist on this earth, that asking for a product made from healthy and simple ingredients is considered somehow alternative or “different”.

Just to add one more thought to all my semi-rhetorical questions today, many people will point to the new kinds of supermarkets and alternative companies that are emerging like the body shop that do things in a sustainable and healthy way. I would agree this is a positive development and a sign of some sort. But what still baffles me is that these companies are so small in terms of the big picture.. so once again.. too little and for many people suffering from the health problems this type of consuming has brought, too late.

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Textiles and the Future

Over the weekend, while Max and Stacy were over for soup and podcasting, I popped in Shafiur’s documentary about the garment workers of Bangladesh. Probably should have said this earlier but it is a very good film, with excellent information and images mixed with testimony that are VERY telling about what is happening with the textile manufacturing industry there, and tying it back to the very clothes we are purchasing in shops around the world.

MaxAt one point in the film, they mention their fears of the big changes that will come once Europe elimates tarrif’s on Chinese textiles. They didn’t say exactly when this would happen, but Max mentioned that the authority of the European Union on trade has long been going back and forth on actually doing this. Which means it may not be soon… but it could very well be.

In all the images of the textile workers, you get the very clear feeling that their quality of life is not what it should be… it is below what any reasonable person could call humane living conditions. Yet they work for brands, as much of the world has come to know, that charge big money for their prestigious label.

So what if we add another complication to the equation. A country of a few billion people who can do everything for even cheaper, outbid, underprice, and out produce Bangladesh. What will happen to people already walking the tightrope of poverty and death? People who have scraped out a living, even in conditions that make it seem unlikely to be able to do so?

I’m yet to do more extensive research into this topic.. but Im curious to learn about the proposed rules.. or lack of rules.. that the free trade proponents want to adopt. Instead of running around shopping for new clothes for cheap prices, the European public should already be asking their retailer — who made this? Where is it from? And how are workers treated? But after learning these answers, they must take the next step.. and NOT buy those items until basic demands are met for a living wage and human rights for workers, regardless of where they are, are respected.

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China Given the Red Carpet

Anyone who is paying any attention knows a bit about how China is bankrolling the ballooning US debt, on a government and individual citizen level. If this somehow shocks you I can recommend a dose of Karmabanque Radio, who cleverly titled their recent program Mao-santo… hahah.

Then of course we hear about China’s role, bankrolling the genocide in Darfur in their mad rush to buy up enough oil for their newborn hyper consumer economy.

Yesterday I noticed the Chinese state’s latest push to control Europe’s money, buying a chunk of shares in Barclays Bank in order to get in on its acquisition of ABN-AMRO. (Stay with me here)

ABN is a huge bank in Europe, owning lots of little ones under different names in different countries. My money is in that dam bank, all be it probably the tiniest account they’ve got. And so now I see how the world works, my money is now funding a genocide in Darfur, the stealing of organs from prisoners in China, the murder of Falun Gong, the raping of the environment around the world. All with the help of my checking account. And soon.. yours too.

Obviously my money has gone to evil before. Things I’ve consumed and probably still consume, but this is one of those I hope to avoid… as long as possible. Though I know it would have no effect, I should write a letter to the European Trade Commissioner urging him, as my respresentative and a HUMAN that respects the rights of people to live a proper life and not be exterminated-en-masse, to NOT allow China to take control of European banks… and my little bank account.

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bm209 Olympic Boycotts and China’s Role in Darfur

Using a wide range of strategies, human rights activists around the world are calling on China to stop funding the genocide in Darfur. Their most important tool- the Olympic Games in 2008. While some experts and activists call for a boycott in the tradition of boycotting olympics to make a political statement, others are proposing different strategies.

My Guest is Jonathan Zimmerman, Director of the History of Education Program, Steinhardt School of Education, NYU.
(you can read some of his op-eds on China and Darfur, here and here)

We Discuss:
-China’s role in Darfur
-Resources and the need for resources
-Historical olympic boycotts
-Leading public figures who won’t take a stand against China
-Beyond Boycott

In the second part of the program you hear excerpts from a press conference launching the Olympic Dream for Darfur campaign. Audio includes Mia Farrow, Eric Reeves and Jill Savitt

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