China Chokes on a Coal-Fired Boom

December 31, 2006

In regards to global warming, take my word for this: the end-game is China. What China does (or does not do) is what will shape the rest of the world in the years to come.

China, with its enormous economy, is a net-energy importer. As such, they are making deals hand-over fist with literally anyone who can supply them with energy, even if they are far away from them, i.e. Canadian tar sands.

Given the above scenario, it’s no wonder that China has horrible environmental problems:

Toxic cloud of progress can be seen from space

A great coal rush is under way across China on a scale not seen anywhere since the 19th century.

Its consequences have been detected half a world away in toxic clouds so big that they can seen from space, drifting across the Pacific to California laden with microscopic particles of chemicals that cause cancer and diseases of the heart and lung.

Nonetheless, the Chinese plan to build no fewer than 500 new coal-fired power stations, adding to some 2,000, most of them unmodernised, that spew smoke, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere.

They have a toxic cloud so big that it can even be seen from space, and what to they do? Build more power plants, specifically coal-powered plants, which are even more toxic. Coal is used because it is cheap and plentiful (thus far that is) but as mentioned it is horribly toxic. It is used because oil is peaking throughout the world, and China – along with the rest of the world – is in a frantic scramble for oil.

Of course, there are consequences from all this coal-burning:

China had a hot and disastrous year in 2006, with average temperatures the highest since 1951, state media reported Sunday.

Xinhua News Agency said temperatures were on average 1 degree higher than in normal years. Meteorological officials were quoted as saying there was less rain than normal, down 16 millimeters (half an inch) from an average year.

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Bratz dolls just stopped being cool…

December 30, 2006

Ok, and with this posting I acknowledge I may stop being “cool” with plenty of readers that bought those cute Bratz dolls over Barbie dolls for Christmas. While Barbie dolls are still more popular, and profitable, than Bratz dolls, many people buy them for a myriad of reasons – such as their ethnic diversity, or because they just party and shop and nothing else – but unfortunately, like many toys, they are manufactured under the worst conditions possible:

The pouty Bratz dolls so popular as Christmas presents are made at a factory in southern China where workers are obliged to toil up to 94 hours a week, among other violations, a labour rights group said in a report released Friday.

The report by U.S.-based China Labour Watch and the National Labour Committee details allegations of harsh working conditions, especially during peak delivery months, and of violations of workers’ rights to injury and health insurance.

That’s 94 hours of work a week! And as you can guess, none of these workers has a trust fund. In fact, they get paid 51.5 cents an hour.

The report by China Labour Watch and the National Labour Committee is available here and let me tell you, it is more damning than a sperm-stained blue dress. They included everything, and I mean everything in the report – including pictures of the “cheat sheets” given to the workers in order to fool labor monitors!

And what about the workers? Well, they are definitely protesting, but unfortunately their bosses are not listening:

There was already a strike in June 2006, when workers who had more than ten years employment at the Hua Tai factory walked out demanding that the management pay their health insurance and pension as is required by law. The workers wanted to march to the local labor bureau to present their just demands, but were blocked and prevented from doing so by the Nanling Village public security forces.

[…]Now management is demanding that every worker quit and wait out one month before returning as a “new” worker, who will be given a temporary contract limited to less than eight months. Already some workers are being kept on month-to-month contracts.

There’s going to be another strike on January 2007, so watch this space.

By the way, does that sound like Wal-Mart, keeping all workers as temps and not paying them their full benefits? If you guessed “yes”, give yourself a pat on the traps. There are reasons they are keeping their mouth shut:

There is another dirty little secret behind the Bratz dolls—a secret that MGA, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us do not want us to know: It’s that the workers in China are paid just 17 cents for each doll they assemble, and that the total cost to produce the doll is $3.01. When the Bratz dolls enter the U.S., the companies mark the price up by 428 percent—another $12.88—and retail the dolls for at least $15.89. It’s a good deal for the companies and a very bad deal for the young workers in China, and—for more than one reason—for parents and children across the United States and Europe.

The National Labour Committes does some outstanding work, so please support them if you can.

They even made a video of Bratz Yasmin and Cloe discussing their life at the factory, which is hilarious (note I said hilarious, and not “professional” but then again making videos is not in their job description)

All work and no play would make a Bratz doll, well, not a Bratz doll. But if Bratz could speak, they would sing the Sweatshop Blues:

* Routine 13 ½ to 15 1/2 –hour shifts, seven days a week.
* Workers at the factory 94 ½ hours a week.
* Paid just 51 ½ cents an hour and $4.13 a day.
* Workers denied work injury and health insurance, in direct violation of China’s law.
* Taking a sick day results in loss of three days’ wages.
* Workers failing to meet their production goals must remain working—unpaid—until the target is met.
* Workers are not allowed paid days off to get married.
* Ten workers share a small dorm room, sleeping on metal bunk beds. There is no shower or TV.
* If a worker breaks a doll, she is docked five hours’ wages.
* Before the gullible Wal-Mart auditors arrive, the workers are provided a Cheat Sheet with a list of the “correct” answers, which they must memorize.
* Now the factory wants to fire every worker and then bring them back as temporary workers with contracts limited to just one to eight months—which will strip them of any legal rights they have. The workers are planning to strike in January 2007.
* The workers are paid just 17 cents for each Bratz doll they assemble.
* The total cost of production for a Bratz doll made in China is $3.01. When the doll enters the U.S., the companies mark up the cost by another 428 percent, adding $12.88, for a retail price of $15.89.

Don’t let these assholes get away with this. Drop them a note and tell ’em who sent you while you are at it.

Company contact information:

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Lee Scott, CEO
702 SW 8th Street
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716
Phone: 479-273-4000
Email Wal-Mart 

Toys R Us, Inc.
Gerald L. Storch, Chairman and CEO
One Geoffrey Way
Wayne, New Jersey 07470-2030
Phone: 973-617-3500
Email Toys R Us

MGA Entertainment
Isaac Larian, CEO
16380 Roscoe Blvd., Suite 200
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Phone: 818-894-2525
Email MGA


What we shouldn’t do anymore, anywhere, to women.

December 17, 2006

China, this is NOT how you help women. This is straight out of the Middle Ages:

SHANGHAI, Dec. 12 — For people who saw the event on television earlier this month, the scene was like a chilling blast from a past that is 30 years distant: social outcasts and supposed criminals — in this case 100 or so prostitutes and a few pimps — paraded in front of a jeering crowd, their names revealed, and then driven away to jail without trial.

The act of public shaming was intended as the first step in a two-month campaign by the authorities in the southern city of Shenzhen to crack down on prostitution.

This is a picture from the “event”:
What we shouldn’t do anymore, anywhere

Here’s more:

But the event has prompted an angry nationwide backlash, with many people making common cause with the prostitutes over the violation of their human rights and expressing outrage in one online forum after another.

So-called rectification campaigns, or struggle sessions, like these were everyday occurrences during the Cultural Revolution, which officially ended in 1976.

[…]Another asked, “Isn’t this a brutal violation of human rights?” Likening the parading to an act out of the Middle Ages, he added, “Shenzhen’s image has been deeply shamed.”