Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 25 January 2013

Child labour uncovered in Apple's supply chain - Internal audit reveals 106 children employed -

Child labour uncovered in Apple's supply chain - Internal audit reveals 106 children employed - 

Apple has discovered multiple cases of child labour in its supply chain, including one Chinese company that employed 74 children under the age of 16, in the latest controversy over the technology giant's manufacturing methods.

An internal audit found a flipside to the western consumer's insatiable thirst for innovative and competitively priced gadgets. It uncovered 106 cases of underage labour being used at Apple suppliers last year and 70 cases historically. The report follows a series of worker suicides over working conditions at Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that assembles must-have products such as the iPad and iPhone, and lethal explosions at other plants.

Apple's annual supplier report – which monitors nearly 400 suppliers – found that children were employed at 11 factories involved in making its products. A number of them had been recruited using forged identity papers.

The report uncovered a catalogue of other offences, ranging from mandatory pregnancy tests, to bonded workers whose wages are confiscated to pay off debts imposed by recruitment agencies. They also found cases of juveniles being used to lift heavy goods, workers having their wages docked as a punishment and one factory dumping waste oil in the toilets.

One Chinese supplier, a circuit board component maker called Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics, was axed by Apple after 74 children under the age of 16 were recruited to work on its production lines. According to Apple, the children had been knowingly supplied by one of the region's largest labour agencies, Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources. Its investigators found that the agency conspired with families to forge identification documents. Apple did not disclose the ages of the children involved, but its code of conduct states it will not employ workers under the age of 15, or under the legal working age in any jurisdiction – which is 16 in China.


Brazil puts bar codes on sidewalks; Give Tourist info... -

Brazil puts bar codes on sidewalks; Give Tourist info... - 

Rio de Janeiro is mixing technology with tradition to provide tourists information about the city by embedding bar codes into the black and white mosaic sidewalks that are a symbol of the city.

The first two-dimensional bar codes, or QR codes, as they're known, were installed Friday at Arpoador, a massive boulder that rises at the end of Ipanema beach. The image was built into the sidewalk with the same black and white stones that decorate sidewalks around town with mosaics of waves, fish and abstract images.

The launch attracted onlookers, who downloaded an application to their smartphones or tablets and photographed the icon. The app read the code and they were then taken to a web site that gave them information in Portuguese, Spanish or English, and a map of the area.

They learned, for example, that Arpoador gets big waves, making it a hot spot for surfing and giving the 500-meter beach nearby the name of "Praia do Diabo," or Devil's Beach. They could also find out that the rock is called Arpoador because fishermen once harpooned whales off the shore.

The city plans to install 30 of these QR codes at beaches, vistas, and historic sites, so Rio's approximately 2 million foreign visitors can learn about the city as they walk around.

"If you add the number of Brazilian tourists, this tool has a great potential to be useful," said Marcos Correa Bento, head of the city's conservation and public works.

Raul Oliveira Neto, a 24-year-old visitor from the Southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, was one of the first to use the icon and thought the service fit well with the way people live now.

"We use so much technology to pass information, this makes sense," he said, noting he'd seen QR codes on tourist sites in Portugal, where they were first used for this purpose. "It's the way we do things nowadays."

Locals - used to giving visitors directions - also approved the novelty.

"Look, there's a little map; it even shows you where we are," said Diego Fortunato, 25, as he pulled up information.

"Rio doesn't always have information for those who don't know the city," he said. "It's something the city needs, that it's been lacking."


AT&T Warns Cellphones Can Easily Spread Flu -

AT&T Warns Cellphones Can Easily Spread Flu - 

AT&T’s chief medical officer is warning that cellphones can easily spread the flu because they’re one of the few devices that regularly come in close contact with the face.

Dr. Geeta Nayyar is urging people to clean and disinfect their phones regularly, use hands-free headsets and avoid taking out their phones in restrooms.

She says cellphones make a convenient delivery device for viruses because of how often people shake hands, turn doorknobs and use railings before touching their phone.

She is also recommending other basics for avoiding the flu: getting a flu shot, washing hands and avoiding anyone who is sick.


German Soldiers Growing Breasts Because Of Gun Drills -

German Soldiers Growing Breasts Because Of Gun Drills - 

German Soldiers Growing Boobs
These German soldiers aren't boobs, so why are they growing them?
A new military report published in the German Medical Science journal and obtained by the German Herald finds that dozens of soldiers in the Wachbataillon unit have developed the condition because the drills they perform stimulate male mammary glands.

The director of plastic surgery at the military hospital in Berlin, Professor Bjorn Krapohl, said it's likely the repeated slapping of the soldiers' rifles on the left side of their chests during drills stimulates the glands to produce hormones, which creates the one-sided-boob effect.

At least 35 soldiers have been stricken with the condition, called one-sided gynecomastia, which has prompted German military officials to consider changing the way in which the battalion performs drills.

That's not exactly comforting news to Jezebel's Katie Halper:

Are they waiting for every single member of the unit to grow breasts before they actually change their drill practices? Maybe, in the mean time, they could at least switch it up a little and alternate the side of the chest that they hit so the men can at least grow a symmetrical rack.
The Week tracked down footage, shown above, of the Wachbataillon performing their drills and, they do indeed appear to hit their chests very hard and very frequently.


Resolve… to try at least one of these 7 cancer-busting tips -

Resolve… to try at least one of these 7 cancer-busting tips - 

Cancer is in Sarah Jamieson’s DNA. She was just six when her mother was diagnosed with Stage 1 cervical cancer and made the decision to have a full hysterectomy. “My grandmother had breast cancer, and my aunt had bowel cancer,” she says. “It’s just always been in my family.”

Four years ago, the 33-year-old from Vancouver had her own cancer scare. “The last three or four years I’ve had abnormal cell formation in my cervix, and every time I have my yearly physical it comes back as being abnormal. So, it is definitely at the forefront of my mind.”

After the excess of the holidays, and the beginning of the New Year, many people consider turning over a new leaf and taking better care of their bodies. It’s a great time to start eating right and exercising – two things that help cancer prevention.

Preventing cancer is paramount, says Jamieson. “We tend to live in a modern society where there is treatment and diagnosis, and prevention is something that falls off the radar.

“Eating healthy is one of the biggest things you can do to stay healthy, as is exercise and being physically active – not only for your body but also for your brain.”

Jamieson makes sure she is active every day, doing strength training, endurance training and spin classes; and she also takes time to meditate. She eats plenty of super foods, juices and “clean” foods like organic meats and fresh fruit and vegetables.

“I stay away from a lot of processed foods, and if I do have breads and starches it’s usually from a local dealer who makes it in-house,” she says. “So that way I know it has not been heavily processed or added [to].

“If I have meat it’s going to be organic and is not going to have hormones. It’s about making better choices.”

About 35 per cent of cancers can be prevented by being active, eating well and having a good body weight, says Ed Kucharski, MD and regional primary care lead for the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network, Cancer Care Ontario.

Kucharski suggests these top tips for staying healthy:

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

“Prioritize dark-green vegetables and orange vegetables like tomatoes,” he says. “There is also talk of the cancer-fighting effects of cruciferous vegetables, things like broccoli and cauliflower. I recommend at least five servings of fruit and veg a day.”

Eat less red meat.

“If you are choosing to eat red meat, choose a leaner variety,” says Kucharski.

“This can also help with your weight and keep your cholesterol low. If you have increased dietary cholesterol, it’s thought that can increase bile and may lead to cancer-forming agents in your digestive system.”

Try to have a meatless meal once a day or once a week.

Increase the amount of fibre in your diet.

Eat less processed meat.

“If you can avoid eating processed meats like hot dogs or luncheon meats, that can help reduce your risk for developing cancer as well.”

Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.

“The general recommendation now is 30 minutes a day,” he says. “You don’t have to go out and start training for a marathon or do ultimate sports or rock-climbing. Walking is great.”

Finally, avoid alcohol.

“Drinking as little alcohol as possible can likely decrease your risk of cancer. No more than two standard drinks in a day for a total of 14 a week for men and nine for women.

“And no, you can’t save them up!”

For Jamieson, her body is the number-one thing allowing her to reach her goals.

“Take the time to set the intention of what you want in the world and what you want to accomplish. Your health is fundamentally the foundation to help you achieve those goals. If you don’t have your health, it is going to be exceptionally hard to move forward in life.”


Scientists Create Star Trek-style 'tractor beam'... -

Scientists Create Star Trek-style 'tractor beam'... - 

A real-life "tractor beam", which uses light to attract objects, has been developed by scientists.

It is hoped it could have medical applications by targeting and attracting individual cells.

The research, published in Nature Photonics and led by the University of St Andrews, is limited to moving microscopic particles.

In science fiction programmes such as Star Trek, tractor beams are used to move much more massive objects.

It is not the first time science has aimed to replicate the feat - albeit at smaller scales.

In 2011, researchers from China and Hong Kong showed how it might be done with laser beams of a specific shape - and the US space agency Nasa has even funded a study to examine how the technique might help with manipulating samples in space.

The new study's lead researcher Dr Tomas Cizmar, research fellow in the School of Medicine at the University of St Andrews, said while the technique is very new, it had huge potential.

He said: "The practical applications could be very great, very exciting. The tractor beam is very selective in the properties of the particles it acts on, so you could pick up specific particles in a mixture."

Usually when microscopic objects are hit by a beam of light, they are forced along the direction of the beam by the light photons. That radiation force was first identified by the German astronomer Johannes Kepler in 1619 when he observed that tails of comets always point away from the Sun.

Dr Cizmar's team's technique allows for that force to be reversed which he said some people might find counter-intuitive.

"It's surprising," he said. "Only when we looked in detail at the process did we see the reversal. It's quite a narrow field it occurs at."

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