chicago, mob violence, death, yawning cops, 16, poverty, olympics, everyday


WARNING: graphic video

Where were the police when a gang of kids murdered 16-year-old Derrion Albert outside Chicago's Fenger High School?

A squad car was two blocks away. When what you see on the video happened, officers knew about the disturbance and decided not to respond, not to do anything at all.

The two cops were scared or didn't care. Probably the latter. The disturbance you see on the video or similar was a near-daily event, to be anticipated and prevented (see Fenger beating death: Violence, tension had been building over years). Get it, cops? Crime prevention. Where were you?

Why is no newspaper angry at the police? Why no editorials about this?

Where are the police this morning, two days later?

A TV reporter (the local Fox affiliate) at Fenger High School since 6 a.m. today reports at 8:30 that he hasn't seen a single cop car at the school.

. . .

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Sexism: Olympics Style. Part Deux.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

Last year I explored the International Olympic Committee's exclusion of women's ski jumping for the Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010. Not that there is anything new about sexism in the Olympics, but this case, and its recent conclusion demonstrates it in a way that is quite outrageous.

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A Post Olympic Look at China and Wal-Mart: Product Safety

w-m-olympic.gifThis is the second entry in a series of posts looking at China as it relates to Wal-Mart in the aftermath of the Olympic games.

Today, we'll take a look at product safety.

Wal-Mart's business model is based on low prices. That means both how much they pay for a product, and how much they sell a product for. In the first post in this series, we looked at how this frenzied urge to reduce labor costs drove manufacturing to China. Today, we look at how Wal-Mart, based on the same desire for cheap goods, is responsible for a myriad of dangerous products.

When Wal-Mart goes looking for the cheapest products, or forces their vendors to do so, they don't consider things like safety, treatment of workers, or labor violations. They are looking for the lowest price, period. And as they pit factories against other factories to get the cheapest price, factories start to cut corners in order to keep their prices down and make an acceptable profit.

This has resulted in an astounding list of unsafe products reaching consumers, often with terrible consequence. Pet food sold at Wal-Mart, for instance, sickened or killed what could be thousands of pets. Wal-Mart had Aqua Dots on their top toys for Christmas list, but it turns out that when kids ate the little plastic pieces they went into a coma. Wal-Mart sold lead laced Christmas lights and Christmas trees and Key Chains. Wal-Mart was also selling salmonella tainted snack food that was made in China. This is just a small sample of the dangerous products sold at Wal-Mart. You can see a full  list of recalled products here.

The problem got so bad that it was announced just a few days ago that the United States would be posting product safety inspectors in three Chinese cities.

This is great news in terms of products coming from China. In the future, products coming from that country will likely be less dangerous. Unfortunately, as mentioned in the last post of this series, China is swiftly becoming a more expensive option for manufacturing, and this will only serve to make it more expensive. That means major companies like Wal-Mart will simply move to other countries with lax guidelines and cheap labor. It means Wal-Mart will continue to put its consumers at risk by manufacturing and selling dangerous goods.

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A Post Olympic Look at China and Wal-Mart: Manufacturing

w-m-olympic.gifFor the last few weeks, all eyes have been on China. They hosted a stunning Olympic games and won tons of gold medals to boot. It is understandable, then, that there would be a renewed focus on China in the media and in the minds of the American people. We thought we'd take a look at China too. Over the next few days, we'll look at China as it relates to Wal-Mart.

Today, we'll look at the role of China in manufacturing.

If you've followed our campaign you undoubtedly know that more than 70% of the goods Wal-Mart sells come from China. If Wal-Mart were a country, it would be China's 8th largest trading partner ahead of Canada, Russia and Australia. They are responsible for roughly a tenth of the US imports from China, and import almost twice as many products from China as any other company.

Wal-Mart has a long history of forcing it's suppliers to accept low prices for its goods. Suppliers typically accept these prices because of the number of products Wal-Mart can sell. But when they aren't making quite as much as they should be, they have to make up the difference somehow, and that means looking for cheap labor. Wal-Mart pits its vendors against one another to look for the cheapest labor, creating a race to the bottom. Recently, looking for cheap labor means going to China, and that is just what many Wal-Mart vendors have done.

But with China's rapidly modernizing economy, there has been quite a bit of speculation recently that China will no longer be the cheapest source of labor anymore. Today's Kansas City Star had an article about manufacturers looking elsewhere for cheap labor and speculating that Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and others were set to become major centers of manufacturing in the future.

As manufacturing shifts from China to other countries, Wal-Mart and its vendors are sure to follow. It is important to remember that it is not China that is the problem. Rather the problem stems from a system that takes advantage of workers to benefit large corporations like Wal-Mart. The labor in these countries is cheap because factories cut corners on safety, and are not regulated and can demand long hours of workers and pay them little.

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Americans Need to Tear Down THIS WAll

by Walter Brasch

           The "star" of the Olympics may not be multiple medalists but the Great Wall of China. Every TV network covering the Olympics took the world to see the Wall. It seemed as if almost every newspaper and magazine reporter also visited the Great Wall.

           But, the Great Wall, which was built and rebuilt many times over its 22 century history, eventually was a failure. Although formidable, and one of the world's greatest engineering feats, the wall by the 16th century could no longer protect China from neighboring armies.

           The Maginot Line, which France thought could protect it from Germany and Italy in the decade leading up to World War II, was largely a failure.

           The Berlin Wall, at first barbed wire and then concrete, was built not to keep others out but East Germans in. But, there were more than 5,000 escapes during its 28 year history before the wall finally came down in 1989.

           As we now know, poorly-constructed levees in New Orleans didn't keep the flood waters of Katrina from destroying the city.

           And now the U.S. is building its own wall. The Bush Administration is putting up about 700 miles of fencing and other barriers along the U.S./Mexico border by the end of the year. The cost just to build that barrier is about $2-$3 million per mile. But, in certain places, the cost far exceeds that. This week, the government began excavating an area near San Diego. When the three and one-half mile fence is finished, the cost will be about $57 million. That's about $16 million a mile.

           Most illegal immigrants pose no problems. They don't receive American benefits, contrary to a lot of Internet gossip. Most try to avoid getting into trouble, since their purpose of being in America isn't to get noticed by the police. And, for those who think putting up a wall will keep terrorists out of the country, reflect upon this: The 9/11 hijackers had American-issued visas to be in the U.S.

     Like the great Wall, the Maginot Line, the Berlin Wall, and the levees, this wall will also fail, as persons desperate to enter the U.S. will find many other ways to cross the border. But, Americans will have spent more than $2 billion for that lesson.

[Walter Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, a syndicated columnist, and author of 17 books. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available through amazon.com and other stores. You may contact him at brasch@bloomu.edu, or through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]

 

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