Friday, June 11th, 2010


THE Israeli raid on the Free Gaza flotilla has generated an outpouring of clichés from the usual suspects. It is almost impossible to discuss the Middle East without resorting to tired accusations and ritual defenses: perhaps a little house cleaning is in order.


No. 1: Israel is being/should be delegitimized

Israel is a state like any other, long-established and internationally recognized. The bad behavior of its governments does not “delegitimize” it, any more than the bad behavior of the rulers of North Korea, Sudan — or, indeed, the United States — “delegitimizes” them. When Israel breaks international law, it should be pressed to desist; but it is precisely because it is a state under international law that we have that leverage.
Some critics of Israel are motivated by a wish that it did not exist — that it would just somehow go away. But this is the politics of the ostrich: Flemish nationalists feel the same way about Belgium, Basque separatists about Spain. Israel is not going away, nor should it. As for the official Israeli public relations campaign to discredit any criticism as an exercise in “de-legitimization,” it is uniquely self-defeating. Every time Jerusalem responds this way, it highlights its own isolation.


No. 2: Israel is/is not a democracy

Perhaps the most common defense of Israel outside the country is that it is “the only democracy in the Middle East.” This is largely true: the country has an independent judiciary and free elections, though it also discriminates against non-Jews in ways that distinguish it from most other democracies today. The expression of strong dissent from official policy is increasingly discouraged.
But the point is irrelevant. “Democracy” is no guarantee of good behavior: most countries today are formally democratic — remember Eastern Europe’s “popular democracies.” Israel belies the comfortable American cliché that “democracies don’t make war.” It is a democracy dominated and often governed by former professional soldiers: this alone distinguishes it from other advanced countries. And we should not forget that Gaza is another “democracy” in the Middle East: it was precisely because Hamas won free elections there in 2005 that both the Palestinian Authority and Israel reacted with such vehemence.

No. 3: Israel is/is not to blame

Israel is not responsible for the fact that many of its near neighbors long denied its right to exist. The sense of siege should not be underestimated when we try to understand the delusional quality of many Israeli pronouncements.

Unsurprisingly, the state has acquired pathological habits. Of these, the most damaging is its habitual resort to force. Because this worked for so long — the easy victories of the country’s early years are ingrained in folk memory — Israel finds it difficult to conceive of other ways to respond. And the failure of the negotiations of 2000 at Camp David reinforced the belief that “there is no one to talk to.”

But there is. As American officials privately acknowledge, sooner or later Israel (or someone) will have to talk to Hamas. From French Algeria through South Africa to the Provisional I.R.A., the story repeats itself: the dominant power denies the legitimacy of the “terrorists,” thereby strengthening their hand; then it secretly negotiates with them; finally, it concedes power, independence or a place at the table. Israel will negotiate with Hamas: the only question is why not now.


No. 4: The Palestinians are/are not to blame

Abba Eban, the former Israeli foreign minister, claimed that Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. He was not wholly wrong. The “negationist” stance of Palestinian resistance movements from 1948 through the early 1980s did them little good. And Hamas, firmly in that tradition though far more genuinely popular than its predecessors, will have to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

But since 1967 it has been Israel that has missed most opportunities: a 40-year occupation (against the advice of its own elder statesmen); three catastrophic invasions of Lebanon; an invasion and blockade of Gaza in the teeth of world opinion; and now a botched attack on civilians in international waters. Palestinians would be hard put to match such cumulative blunders.
Terrorism is the weapon of the weak — bombing civilian targets was not invented by Arabs (nor by the Jews who engaged in it before 1948). Morally indefensible, it has characterized resistance movements of all colors for at least a century. Israelis are right to insist that any talks or settlements will depend upon Hamas’s foreswearing it.


But Palestinians face the same conundrum as every other oppressed people: all they have with which to oppose an established state with a monopoly of power is rejection and protest. If they pre-concede every Israeli demand — abjurance of violence, acceptance of Israel, acknowledgment of all their losses — what do they bring to the negotiating table? Israel has the initiative: it should exercise it.

No. 5: The Israel lobby is/is not to blame


There is an Israel lobby in Washington and it does a very good job — that’s what lobbies are for. Those who claim that the Israel lobby is unfairly painted as “too influential” (with the subtext of excessive Jewish influence behind the scenes) have a point: the gun lobby, the oil lobby and the banking lobby have all done far more damage to the health of this country.
But the Israel lobby is disproportionately influential. Why else do an overwhelming majority of congressmen roll over for every pro-Israel motion? No more than a handful show consistent interest in the subject. It is one thing to denounce the excessive leverage of a lobby, quite another to accuse Jews of “running the country.” We must not censor ourselves lest people conflate the two. In Arthur Koestler’s words, “This fear of finding oneself in bad company is not an expression of political purity; it is an expression of a lack of self-confidence.”


No. 6: Criticism of Israel is/is not linked to anti-Semitism


Anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews, and Israel is a Jewish state, so of course some criticism of it is malevolently motivated. There have been occasions in the recent past (notably in the Soviet Union and its satellites) when “anti-Zionism” was a convenient surrogate for official anti-Semitism. Understandably, many Jews and Israelis have not forgotten this.

But criticism of Israel, increasingly from non-Israeli Jews, is not predominantly motivated by anti-Semitism. The same is true of contemporary anti-Zionism: Zionism itself has moved a long way from the ideology of its “founding fathers” — today it presses territorial claims, religious exclusivity and political extremism. One can acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and still be an anti-Zionist (or “post-Zionist”). Indeed, given the emphasis in Zionism on the need for the Jews to establish a “normal state” for themselves, today’s insistence on Israel’s right to act in “abnormal” ways because it is a Jewish state suggests that Zionism has failed.

We should beware the excessive invocation of “anti-Semitism.” A younger generation in the United States, not to mention worldwide, is growing skeptical. “If criticism of the Israeli blockade of Gaza is potentially ‘anti-Semitic,’ why take seriously other instances of the prejudice?” they ask, and “What if the Holocaust has become just another excuse for Israeli bad behavior?” The risks that Jews run by encouraging this conflation should not be dismissed.

Along with the oil sheikdoms, Israel is now America’s greatest strategic liability in the Middle East and Central Asia. Thanks to Israel, we are in serious danger of “losing” Turkey: a Muslim democracy, offended at its treatment by the European Union, that is the pivotal actor in Near-Eastern and Central Asian affairs. Without Turkey, the United States will achieve few of its regional objectives — whether in Iran, Afghanistan or the Arab world. The time has come to cut through the clichés surrounding it, treat Israel like a “normal” state and sever the umbilical cord.

Tony Judt is the director of the Remarque Institute at New York University and the author, most recently, of “Ill Fares the Land.”


By Tony Judt (NYT), June 9, 2010

The mystery of an Iranian nuclear scientist who Iran says was kidnapped and tortured last year by American agents deepened Tuesday, as Iran publicized what it called a videotaped statement from him that proved its claim. That videotape was contradicted by a second videotape posted on the Internet in which a man who identified himself as the same scientist said he was studying happily in the United States.

The rival videos that claimed to show the scientist, Shahram Amiri, 32, emerged on the eve of an expected United Nations Security Council vote on a new set of American-backed economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Iran has accused the United States of extracting information about its program from Mr. Amiri.


In preparing for the vote, the Obama administration has been offering classified intelligence briefings to members of the Security Council. In these sessions, American officials have used new evidence to revise previous conclusions about whether Iran has suspended efforts to design nuclear warheads, according to foreign diplomats and some American officials.


It is not clear whether information from Mr. Amiri contributed to these revised assessments.


The United States government has never acknowledged Mr. Amiri’s existence, much less admitted to having any role in his disappearance. But one United States official, declining to speak on the record about an intelligence matter, said the very fact that the video released by Iran showed someone talking over an Internet connection would suggest that he was not being held under duress.


“The United States doesn’t force people to defect or hold them here if they do,” the official said. “That’s ridiculous. It’s ultimately their decision.”
The official added: “Does anyone really believe that someone supposedly held captive has Internet access and the ability to make and send videos? That doesn’t make any sense.”

Mr. Amiri, whom Iran has described as one of the country’s top nuclear scientists, vanished during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia a year ago. He worked at Iran’s Malek Ashtar University, an institution linked to the country’s powerfulRevolutionary Guards.


ABC News reported on March 30 that Mr. Amiri had defected to the United States, citing current and former C.I.A. officials.


But Iranian authorities said Tuesday that the video it publicized was the first document that proved Mr. Amiri had been abducted. The Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador in Tehran to press a formal complaint, the ISNA student news agency reported.


The Swiss handle American interests in Tehran because Iran and the United States severed diplomatic ties after the 1979 revolution.
“In the meeting with the Swiss envoy, Iran emphasized that America is responsible for the life and well-being of Mr. Amiri,” the ISNA report said. “It stressed that his abduction was against international laws and human rights.”


The report said Iranian officials also submitted other documents to the Swiss ambassador that they said proved their claim of Mr. Amiri’s abduction, and also that of a former Iranian deputy defense minister, Alireza Asgari, who disappeared during a trip to Turkey in 2007.


In the Iranian video of Mr. Amiri, which was broadcast on state-run television, an announcer identified a young man, in a blurry video wearing a T-shirt and talking in Persian through a computer phone hookup, as Mr. Amiri. He said he had been kidnapped in a joint operation involving the C.I.A. and the Saudi intelligence service in Medina on June 3, 2009. He said that he was taken to a house in Saudi Arabia, that he was injected with a shot, and that when he awoke he was on a plane heading to the United States.


He said he recorded the video on April 5 in Tucson, Ariz. The announcer said that he could not disclose how the video was obtained. The second video, which was released shortly afterward on YouTube, showed a young man, slightly more overweight than the man in the first video, wearing a suit in a well-decorated room, who also identified himself as Mr. Amiri. He said in Persian that he was free and safe in the United States and was working on his Ph.D. He also demanded an end to what he called faux videos about himself, saying he had no interest in politics or experience in nuclear weapons programs.
“My purpose in today’s conversation is to put an end to all the rumors that have been leveled at me over the past year,” he said. “I am Iranian, and I have not taken any steps against my homeland.”


The rival videos emerged as Iranian officials in Tehran denied some speculation that they would be willing to swap three American hikers, who have been in jail there since last summer, for Mr. Amiri.


Ramin Mehmanparast, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in Iranian government news accounts that it was not Iran’s practice to “exchange people whose cases are still with the judiciary,” referring to the cases of the three hikers, who are accused of entering Iran illegally and spying.
“The two cases are not comparable,” Mr. Mehmanparast said. “Iran will use legal channels to secure the release of Mr. Amiri.”
David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington.


By NAZILA FATHI (NYT), June 8, 2010

Israel faced intense international condemnation and growing domestic questions on Monday after a raid by naval commandos that killed nine people, many of them Turks, on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza.

Turkey, Israel’s most important friend in the Muslim world, recalled its ambassador and canceled planned military exercises with Israel as the countries’ already tense relations soured even further. The United Nations Security Council met in emergency session over the attack, which occurred in international waters north of Gaza, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was flying home after canceling a Tuesday meeting with President Obama.
With street protests erupting around the world, Mr. Netanyahu defended the Israeli military’s actions, saying the commandos, enforcing what Israel says is a legal blockade, were set upon by passengers on the Turkish ship they boarded and fired only in self-defense. The military released a video of the early moments of the raid to support that claim.

Israel said the violence was instigated by pro-Palestinian activists who presented themselves as humanitarians but had come ready for a fight. Organizers of the flotilla accused the Israeli forces of opening fire as soon as they landed on the deck, and released videos to support their case. Israel released video taken from one of its vessels to supports its own account of events.


The Israeli public seemed largely to support the navy, but policy experts questioned preparations for the military operation, whether there had been an intelligence failure and whether the Israeli insistence on stopping the flotilla had been counterproductive. Some commentators were calling for the resignation of Ehud Barak, the defense minister.


“The government failed the test of results; blaming the organizers of the flotilla for causing the deaths by ignoring Israel’s orders to turn back is inadequate,” wrote Aluf Benn, a columnist for Haaretz, on the newspaper’s Web site on Monday, calling for a national committee of inquiry. “Decisions taken by the responsible authorities must be probed.”
The flotilla of cargo ships and passenger boats was carrying 10,000 tons of aid for Gaza, where the Islamic militant group Hamas holds sway, in an attempt to challenge Israel’s military blockade of Gaza.


The raid and its deadly consequences have thrown Israel’s policy of blockading Gaza into the international limelight; at the Security Council on Monday voices were raised against the blockade, and the pressure to abandon it is bound to intensify.
Israel had vowed not to let the flotilla reach the shores of Gaza, which Hamas, an organization sworn to Israel’s destruction, took over in 2007.
Named the Freedom Flotilla, and led by the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement and a Turkish organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi, the convoy had converged at sea near Cyprus and set out on the final leg of its journey on Sunday afternoon. Israel warned the vessels to abort their mission, describing it as a provocation.


The confrontation began shortly before midnight on Sunday when Israeli warships intercepted the aid flotilla, according to a person on one boat. The Israeli military warned the vessels that they were entering a hostile area and that the Gaza shore was under blockade.
The vessels refused the military’s request to dock at the Israeli port of Ashdod, north of Gaza, and continued toward their destination.
Around 4 a.m. on Monday, naval commandos came aboard the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, having been lowered by ropes from helicopters onto the decks.
At that point, the operation seems to have gone badly wrong.

Israeli officials say that the soldiers were dropped into an ambush and were attacked with clubs, metal rods and knives.
An Israeli official said that the navy was planning to stop five of the six vessels of the flotilla with large nets that interfere with propellers, but that the sixth was too large for that. The official said there was clearly an intelligence failure in that the commandos were expecting to face passive resistance, and not an angry, violent reaction.


The Israelis had planned to commandeer the vessels and steer them to Ashdod, where their cargo would be unloaded and, the authorities said, transferred overland to Gaza after proper inspection.
The military said in a statement that two activists were later found with pistols taken from Israeli commandos. It accused the activists of opening fire, “as evident by the empty pistol magazines.”
Another soldier said the orders were to neutralize the passengers, not to kill them.
But the forces “had to open fire in order to defend themselves,” the navy commander, Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, said at a news conference in Tel Aviv, adding, “Their lives were at risk.”


At least seven soldiers were wounded, one of them seriously. The military said that some suffered gunshot wounds; at least one had been stabbed.
Some Israeli officials said they had worried about a debacle from the start, and questioned Israel’s broader security policies.
Einat Wilf, a Labor Party member of Parliament who sits on the influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that she had warned Mr. Barak and others well in advance that the flotilla was a public relations issue and should not be dealt with by military means.
“This had nothing to do with security,” she said in an interview. “The armaments for Hamas were not coming from this flotilla.”
The fatalities all occurred aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish passenger vessel that was carrying about 600 activists under the auspices of Insani Yardim Vakfi, an organization also known as I.H.H. Israeli officials have characterized it as a dangerous Islamic organization with terrorist links.
Yet the organization, founded in 1992 to collect aid for the Bosnians, is now active in 120 countries and has been present at recent disaster areas like Haiti and New Orleans.


“Our volunteers were not trained military personnel,” said Yavuz Dede, deputy director of the organization. “They were civilians trying to get aid to Gaza. There were artists, intellectuals and journalists among them. Such an offensive cannot be explained by any terms.”
There were no immediate accounts available from the passengers of the Turkish ship, which arrived at the naval base in Ashdod on Monday evening, where nearly three dozen were arrested, many for not giving their names. The base was off limits to the news media and declared a closed military zone.
The injured had been flown by helicopter to Israeli hospitals. At the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv, relatives of injured soldiers were gathered outside an intensive care unit when a man with a long beard, one of the wounded passengers, was wheeled by, escorted by military police.
Organizers of the flotilla, relying mainly on footage filmed by activists on board the Turkish passenger ship, because all other communications were down, blamed Israeli aggression for the deadly results.


The Israeli soldiers dropped onto the deck and “opened fire on sleeping civilians at four in the morning,” said Greta Berlin, a leader of the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement, speaking by phone from Cyprus on Monday.
Israeli officials said that international law allowed for the capture of naval vessels in international waters if they were about to violate a blockade. The blockade was imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007. Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, said Monday that the blockade was “aimed at preventing the infiltration of terror and terrorists into Gaza.”
Despite sporadic rocket fire from the Palestinian territory against southern Israel, Israel says it allows enough basic supplies through border crossings to avoid any acute humanitarian crisis. But it insists that there will be no significant change so long as Hamas continues to hold Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured in a cross-border raid in 2006.


The Free Gaza Movement has organized several aid voyages since the summer of 2008, usually consisting of one or two vessels. The earliest ones were allowed to reach Gaza. Others have been intercepted and forced back, and one, last June, was commandeered by the Israeli Navy and towed to Ashdod. This six-boat fleet was the most ambitious attempt yet to break the blockade.
Reporting was contributed by Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul, Dina Kraft from Tel Aviv, Rina Castelnuovo from Ashdod, Fares Akram from Gaza and Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations.


By ISABEL KERSHNER (NYT), Jerusalem, May 31, 2010

SHENZHEN, China — There were bows and an apology from Terry Gou, one of the richest men in Asia and chairman of Foxconn Technology.

With about 800,000 Chinese employees, revenue of about $60 billion a year and a reputation for military-style efficiency, Foxconn is possibly the world’s biggest electronics maker. It is now also the focus of criticism and troubling questions about a wave of suicides among its workers at a pair of factories here that serve as major suppliers to global brands like Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
Sensing a public relations fiasco and facing questions from Foxconn suppliers, Mr. Gou traveled here Wednesday from Taiwan on what company executives said was an emergency trip. As part of a hastily assembled, carefully orchestrated news conference and tour led by Mr. Gou, Foxconn executives defended their labor practices, even as they vowed to do everything possible to prevent more young people from taking their own lives.


The company also presented a panel of mental health professionals to discuss the likely causes of suicide in China generally. At least one of the panelists placed the blame on social issues in the country beyond Foxconn’s control.
And perhaps in a sign of desperation, the company said it had even begun putting safety nets up on factory buildings to deter suicide attempts. (Not soon enough in at least one case, apparently. Hours after the news conference, another Foxconn employee fell to his death from one of the complex’s buildings, according to the official news agency Xinhua. It was not immediately known whether the death was an accident or suicide.)

“We’re reviewing everything,” said Mr. Gou, whose Taiwanese company controls Foxconn Technology, which operates two sprawling factories here with about 420,000 employees.
“We will leave no stone unturned and we’ll make sure to find a way to reduce these suicide tendencies,” Mr. Gou said.
Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, whose own corporate images are at risk from the suicides, say they, too, are now investigating conditions at Foxconn.
Mr. Gou, the 59-year-old founder of Foxconn and its parent company, the Hon Hai Group, sought to calm growing concerns that Foxconn’s labor practices and highly regimented operations were to blame for the rash of suicides on its two Shenzhen campuses this year.
The most recent confirmed suicide took place early Tuesday, when a 19-year-old employee fell to his death here. It was the ninth suicide this year at one of Foxconn’s two Shenzhen campuses, police said. Another two workers survived suicide attempts but suffered serious injuries.
In an interview Wednesday, Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, said that his company was “saddened and upset” by the suicides and that Apple was determined to ensure that Foxconn workers were treated with respect and dignity. Apple, whose popular iPod is among the products made by Foxconn, has conducted labor audits of the company in the past and sought improvements.


But questions about Foxconn’s labor practices have lingered. At a separate news conference late Wednesday, Shenzhen city officials suggested that the company was partly to blame for the accidents, although they offered few details.
And several labor rights groups are calling for an independent investigation into the deaths and labor practices at Foxconn. Workers are paid about $32 for a regular 40-hour workweek, which is above minimum wage in the area, and often seek to work large amounts of overtime.
“Foxconn’s production line system is designed so well that no worker will rest even one second during work; they make sure you’re always busy for every second,” says Li Qiang, executive director of the China Labor Watch, a New York-based labor rights group. “Foxconn only values the enterprise benefits but totally ignores the social benefits.”


Those claims have been bolstered in recent weeks by some of China’s state-run newspapers, which have published a series of sensational reports about the suicides, alongside exposés detailing what they claim are the harsh conditions inside Foxconn factories.
Some articles have described the company’s authoritarian management style, the heavy burdens workers face in trying to meet Foxconn production quotas. Others say the company has cramped dormitories that sometimes house 10 to a room.
But at Wednesday’s press conference, Foxconn executives extolled Shenzhen campus amenities that they said included modern dormitories, swimming pools and other recreational facilities. The company also said it had regularly passed stringent social audits conducted by Apple and other major customers, although some of those audits have cited labor infractions.


And while executives acknowledged a sharp rise in the rate of suicides on the Shenzhen campuses this year, they said there was no single or clear-cut cause. They insisted that personal problems and social ills, like the nation’s rising income gap, were largely to blame for the deaths — not the company’s management style.
“There is a fine line between productivity and regimentation and inhumane treatment,” said Louis Woo, a Foxconn executive. “I hope we treat our workers with dignity and respect.”

Foxconn executives say they have invited several groups of sociologists and mental health experts here to study the suicides and offer advice about how to prevent additional deaths.
Jing Jun, a sociology professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing and one of the experts Foxconn invited here, dismissed the idea that the company’s labor practices were to blame. He said the victims were young people, ages 18 to 24, almost all of whom had recently moved to Shenzhen from rural areas. He said he believed they struggled with personal problems and the challenges of adjusting to factory life.


Professor Jing also offered a theory that widespread reports about the earlier suicides at Foxconn this year had created a contagion of copycats, particularly after rumors spread about the high compensation the company was paying some of the victims’ families. Some families had received about 100,000 renminbi, or a little more than $14,600, according to several Foxconn employees.
“We don’t know everything yet, but this almost seems like an infectious disease,” Professor Jing said. “And paying high compensation to some may have played some role.”


Health experts say the suicide figures from Foxconn, while troubling, actually remain far below the national rate of about 14 per 100,000 in China, as calculated by the World Health Organization — a figure that compares to about 11 per 100,000 in the United States. Some independent studies, though, say suicide rates in China are higher than reflected in the health organization’s figures.


In any case, Foxconn has drawn growing scrutiny with the sudden surge in suicides at a pair of factories here that company executives say recently hired about 100,000 workers to help meet growing demand for electronics.
Last year, a 25-year-old worker killed himself after he was accused of stealing an iPhone prototype. In e-mail and text messages to friends, he said he had been beaten by the company’s security officers.
Mr. Gou rarely grants interviews and almost never allows journalists onto the Foxconn campus. But Wednesday he made an unusual show of concern, bowing several times at the news conference and apologizing for the tragedies.


And he promised to scrap recently announced plans to have all employees sign a form acknowledging that their relatives would get only basic, government-mandated compensation — and nothing more generous — if they took their own lives.
The company said it originally released the form, which has been widely criticized here, after consulting with the government, because it was worried that rumors about high compensation was a contributing factor in some of the suicide attempts.
Mr. Gou even led dozens of journalists on a tour of Foxconn’s campus, visiting dormitories, a campus hospital, a production line and a center meant for helping employees with personal problems.


And he appealed to the media to be careful in its coverage of the suicides at Foxconn, which he said could fuel even more suicide attempts.
“I’m appealing to the press to take social responsibility: do not sensationalize this,” he said. But he also said the company was re-examining its own operations. “We can be a better company.”

By DAVID BARBOZA, May 26, 2010
Bao Beibei contributed research.

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Some comments:

This is why pure capitalism doesn’t work! Pure communism doesn’t work and neither does pure socialism. Is there something so wrong with us that we can come up with these philosophies but it’s totally beyond us to use elements of them together to create a more workable solution to globalization. We need to insist that countries that treat their employees inhumanely not be allowed to sell their products in the U.S. Don’t give me cheap anything that’s built by tragically desperate and inhumanely treated people. I don’t want young people suiciding so that I can have cheaper computers. If that’s the choice, I want America to be the country that says “NO” to those companies. And this is why we have unions here in America. The unions that are touted to be socialistic, as if that’s a dirty word. Pure capitalism breeds greed. We need government protection against our own selfish inclinations. Our own country, nay the world, is suffering now because of a lack of oversight against this rampant greed. This is the adolescence of humanity. I hope we can make the leap to maturity before we destroy ourselves.

Shouldn’t the finger be pointed towards the west? Don’t we demand cheap goods? There is always a price to pay, and that price is poverty and misery for the majority of the worlds population…. It’s called Capitalism.
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“There is a fine line between productivity and regimentation and inhumane treatment,” said Louis Woo, an aide to Mr. Gou at Hon Hai

This is an unbelievable thing to say with regard to human beings. There are fine lines between many virtues and vices but not productivity and inhumane treatment!

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Americans have to realize that the relatively low-priced things they heavily consume like electronics and clothes, etc., are financed, in large part, by the misery of workers on the other side of the world existing in near slave-like conditions. Would people of the Western world really rest any easier if many of these workers simply continue to live in sub-human, slavery rather than committing suicide?

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I have studied and taught suicide prevention in China for the past five years. What is special about China and suicide is not the overall rate but the fact that it is high among young people (16-30 years old) and especially among young women. There are some cultural artifacts that influence this but the pace of industrialization and urbanization has introduced new elements to the mix. Compounding the problem is the lethal means used in China (jumping off of buildings, stepping in front of a train, pesticides) and the likelihood that attempts will be completed.

With all that, Fox Conn is a definite evil in all this, interviews with workers there document harsh and inhumane conditions, mandatory overtime (sometimes working 12 hour days for 28 days a month), and failure to make proper payments of wages and social welfare benefits. Taiwanese, Hong Kong and Korean owned factories have the worst reputation for these sorts of abuses and the government and its lackey trade union turn a blind eye, favoring economic growth.

Steve Jobs is a leading victimizer here and any notion of third party certification to protect these workers is fantasy. There are well documented abuses here and Mr. Jobs and all those who idolize his sleek, hip products have blood on their hands. No one can say, “I didn’t know!”

Seven years ago, the Havasupai Indians, who live amid the turquoise waterfalls and red cliffs miles deep in the Grand Canyon, issued a “banishment order” to keep Arizona State University employees from setting foot on their reservation — an ancient punishment for what they regarded as a genetic-era betrayal.
Members of the tiny, isolated tribe had given DNA samples to university researchers starting in 1990, in the hope that they might provide genetic clues to the tribe’s devastating rate of diabetes. But they learned that their blood samples had been used to study many other things, including mental illness and theories of the tribe’s geographical origins that contradict their traditional stories.


The geneticist responsible for the research has said that she had obtained permission for wider-ranging genetic studies.


Acknowledging a desire to “remedy the wrong that was done,” the university’s Board of Regents on Tuesday agreed to pay $700,000 to 41 of the tribe’s members, return the blood samples and provide other forms of assistance to the impoverished Havasupai — a settlement that legal experts said was significant because it implied that the rights of research subjects can be violated when they are not fully informed about how their DNA might be used.
The case raised the question of whether scientists had taken advantage of a vulnerable population, and it created an image problem for a university eager to cast itself as a center for American Indian studies.


But genetics experts and civil rights advocates say it may also fuel a growing debate over researchers’ responsibility to communicate the range of personal information that can be gleaned from DNA at a time when it is being collected on an ever-greater scale for research and routine medical care.
“I’m not against scientific research,” said Carletta Tilousi, 39, a member of the Havasupai tribal council. “I just want it to be done right. They used our blood for all these studies, people got degrees and grants, and they never asked our permission.”


Researchers and institutions that receive federal funds are required to receive “informed consent” from subjects, ensuring that they understand the risks and benefits before they participate. But such protections were designed primarily for research that carried physical risks, like experimental drug trials or surgery. When it comes to mining DNA, the rules — and the risks — are murkier.


Is it necessary, for instance, to ask someone who has donated DNA for research on heart disease if that DNA can be used for Alzheimer’s or addiction research?


Many scientists say no, arguing that the potential benefit from unencumbered biomedical research trumps the value of individual control.
“Everyone wants to be open and transparent,” said Dr. David Karp, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who has studied informed consent for DNA research. “The question is, how far do you have to go? Do you have to create some massive database of people’s wishes for their DNA specimens?”


The Havasupai settlement appears to be the first payment to individuals who said their DNA was misused, several legal experts said, and came after the university spent $1.7 million fighting lawsuits by tribe members.
Even as the Havasupai prepared to reclaim the 151 remaining blood samples from a university freezer this week, Therese Markow, the geneticist, defended her actions as ethical. Those judging her otherwise, she suggested, failed to understand the fundamental nature of genetic research, where progress often occurs from studies that do not appear to bear directly on a particular disease.


“I was doing good science,” Dr. Markow, now a professor at the University of California, San Diego, said in a telephone interview.
Edmond Tilousi, 56, a cousin of Carletta Tilousi and the tribe’s vice chairman, can climb the eight miles from his village on the floor of the western Grand Canyon to the rim in three hours, when he is in a rush. Horse or helicopter are the other ways out, and Mr. Tilousi is increasingly rare among the tribe’s members in his ability to make the hike. Beginning in the 1960s, an extraordinarily high incidence of Type 2 diabetes led to amputations, even among the younger members, and forced many to leave the canyon for dialysis.


In late 1989, Mr. Tilousi’s uncle Rex Tilousi approached John Martin, an Arizona State University anthropologist who had gained the tribe’s trust, to ask if he knew a doctor who could help. “I asked him, ‘How can we prevent this from spreading?’ ” the elder Mr. Tilousi recalled.
Professor Martin approached Dr. Markow. A link had recently been reported between a genetic variant and the high rate of diabetes among Pima Indians. If a similar link was found among the Havasupai, it might point to an important risk factor.


The two professors received money from the university to study diabetes in the tribe. Dr. Markow was interested in schizophrenia research as well, and in the summer of 1990, with a grant from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, she and her graduate students began collecting blood samples in Supai. Women here remember being happy to see her in those days, an athletic figure who talked to them about how to be more healthy. Working out of the health clinic in the center of the village, Dr. Markow recruited tribe members to ask others to give blood. To the Havasuapi, blood has deep spiritual meaning.


“I went and told people, if they have their blood taken, it would help them,” said Floranda Uqualla, 46, whose parents and grandparents suffered from diabetes. “And we might get a cure so that our people won’t have to leave our canyon.” Roughly 100 tribe members who gave blood from 1990 to 1994 signed a broad consent that said the research was to “study the causes of behavioral/medical disorders.”
The consent form was purposely simple, Dr. Markow said, given that English was a second language for many Havasupai, and few of the tribe’s 650 members had graduated from high school. They were always given the opportunity to ask questions, she said, and students were also instructed to explain the project and get written and verbal consent from donors.


Dr. Markow examined several genes that were thought to have medical relevance, including for schizophrenia, metabolic disorders and alcoholism, she said, but found little to pursue. The Havasupai did not, it turned out, share the gene variant linked to diabetes in the Pima.
But a few years later, a graduate student using new technology came up with a way to discern variations in the Havasupai DNA, which was stored in a university freezer, and he wrote a dissertation based on his research.
Carletta Tilousi, one of the few Havasupai to attend college, stopped by Professor Martin’s office one day in 2003, and he invited her to the student’s doctoral presentation.


Ms. Tilousi understood little of the technical aspect, but what she heard bore no resemblance to the diabetes research she had pictured when she had given her own blood sample years earlier.


“Did you have permission,” she asked during the question period, “to use Havasupai blood for your research?”
The presentation was halted. Dr. Markow and the other members of the doctoral committee asked the student to redact that chapter from his dissertation.
But months later, tribe members learned more about the research when a university investigation discovered two dozen published articles based on the blood samples that Dr. Markow had collected. One reported a high degree of inbreeding, a measure that can correspond with a higher susceptibility to disease.
Ms. Tilousi found that offensive. “We say if you do that, a close relative of yours will die,” she said.


Another article, suggesting that the tribe’s ancestors had crossed the frozen Bering Sea to arrive in North America, flew in the face of the tribe’s traditional stories that it had originated in the canyon and was assigned to be its guardian.


Listening to the investigators, Ms. Tilousi felt a surge of anger, she recalled. But in Supai, the initial reaction was more of hurt. Though some Havasupai knew already that their ancestors most likely came from Asia, “when people tell us, ‘No, this is not where you are from,’ and your own blood says so — it is confusing to us,” Rex Tilousi said. “It hurts the elders who have been telling these stories to our grandchildren.”
Others questioned whether they could have unwittingly contributed to research that could threaten the tribe’s rights to its land. “Our coming from the canyon, that is the basis of our sovereign rights,” said Edmond Tilousi, the tribe’s vice chairman.


Many members are still suffering from diabetes and say they were never told if researchers had learned anything that could help them. The classes on nutrition that Dr. Markow had sponsored with grant money have since petered out.
Ms. Uqualla, who had recruited blood donors, said she felt shamed by the news that it had been used for research that could potentially damage the tribe. “I let my people down,” she said.


The money from the settlement will be divided among the 41 tribe members. Ms. Uqualla, for one, hopes to buy a horse trailer.
But Stephen F. Hanlon, a lawyer who has represented the tribe members without charge, said the resources the university agreed to provide, including scholarships and assistance in obtaining federal funds for projects like a new health clinic, had the potential to transform the tribal village at the bottom of one of the world’s most famous natural wonders.


On Tuesday, Ms. Tilousi cried as a university official unlocked the freezer in the nondescript storage room in the Tempe campus where the blood samples had long been stored. Wearing protective glasses, gloves and a lab coat, she and a delegation of tribal members sang in Havasupai as they saw the blood that had been taken from them and from their relatives, now dead.
On the box inside the freezer was scrawled the name, “Markow.”


By AMY HARMON; NYT, april 2010

Medical screening tests are a great way to keep on top of your health. Think of them as basic maintenance, just like checking the oil and tire pressure to keep your car safe on the highway. To keep it simple, we’ve compiled a list of the most important medical tests every man should have—along with what age to start and how often to repeat. Here’s to routine maintenance for your health.


1. Cholesterol screening/lipoprotein profile
Cholesterol is a type of fatty protein in your blood that can build up in your arteries, so knowing how much cholesterol is present is a good predictor of your risk for heart disease. There are two kinds of cholesterol: HDL, or high-density lipoproteins, and LDL, or low-density lipoproteins. Confusingly enough, HDL is “good” and protects against heart disease, while LDL is “bad” and poses a risk to your heart.
Your total cholesterol reading combines the measures of both and is used as an overall reading; 220 is the magic number that you want to stay beneath. In addition, the profile measures triglycerides, which are fats in the blood that can also block arteries; you want them below 150 milligrams per deciliter.
What Are the New Cholesterol Tests?
What it is: A blood test for cholesterol, measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dl); usually measures triglycerides at the same time
When to start: Age 20
How often: Every five years. If testing reveals your levels are high, your doctor will recommend retesting every six months to one year. If you have risk factors for heart disease in your family, the regular cholesterol test may not be specific enough; ask your doctor for an additional test called the lipoprotein subfraction test. It’s more sensitive and checks the size of the cholesterol particles as well as the amount.


2. Blood pressure check

It seems simple, but checking your blood pressure regularly is one of the most important things you can do to protect your present and future health. One in every five adults, totaling 50 million people, has elevated blood pressure, also known as hypertension. When your blood pressure readings are higher than the cutoff of 140/90, it puts stress on your heart, leaving you at risk for heart attack and stroke. Many experts believe 120/80 is a healthier target to shoot for.
What it is: A physical reading using an arm cuff
When to start: Any age; best to begin during childhood
How often: Once a year if readings are normal; your doctor will recommend every six months if readings are high or if you’re taking medication to control hypertension.


3. Diabetes screening
To check your risk for diabetes, doctors check your tolerance for glucose absorption, which means how readily your body digests sugar.
What it is: A blood draw performed after drinking a sugary drink; a fasting glucose tolerance test requires you not to eat for nine hours prior to the test.
When to start: At age 45 if you have no risk factors or symptoms. If you’re significantly overweight, have high blood pressure, or have other risk factors for diabetes, such as family history of the disease, it’s a good idea to get tested younger. If your insurance doesn’t cover it, free testing is available at most major chain drugstores.
How often: Every three years


4. Bone density test
The loss of bone strength, called osteoporosis, afflicts nearly 10 million people every year, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Surveys show that men see osteoporosis as a “woman’s disease,” but this is a misconception. After age 50, 6 percent of all men will break a hip and 5 percent will have a vertebral fracture as a result of osteoporosis. As we age, minerals such as calcium begin to leach from bones, weakening them and leading to osteoporosis, which literally means “porous bone.”
What it is: A specialized X-ray called a DXA (dual-energy X-ray) screens your spine, hips, and wrists as you lie on a table.
When to start: At age 65, everyone should have a DXA. But men who have risk factors for bone loss, such as being thin, taking corticosteroids, or having a history of fractures, should talk to their doctor about being screened now.
How often: Every five years


5. Vitamin D test
Recently, doctors have realized that vitamin D is a key nutrient that helps maintain strong bones and protect against cancer, infection, and other health conditions. For example, a study last year found that men with low levels of vitamin D had a higher incidence of heart attack. Most men have no idea if they’re D-deficient or not, though a simple blood test can tell. If you live in a northern climate, work indoors, or don’t drink a lot of milk, chances are your vitamin D level is low. If so, your doctor will recommend taking a vitamin D supplement.
What it is: A blood test, often done along with the cholesterol and lipid panel, to check the level of vitamin D in your blood. You want your reading to be between 30 and 80 nanograms per milliliter, though some experts argue that 50 nanograms should be the lowest level considered normal. Many experts recommend the 25(OH)D3 test as providing the more accurate measurement.
When to start: Age 40; sooner if you have signs or risk factors for osteoporosis. As we age, our bodies become less efficient at synthesizing vitamin D from the sun, so after the age of 40 it’s more likely that you’ll become D-deficient. Also, if you have any signs of low bone density, such as a fracture, your doctor will want to test your vitamin D along with your bone density.
How often: Although vitamin D testing isn’t yet required or listed on the official schedule of recommended tests, more and more doctors are recommending it as an annual test after age 45.


6. Colonoscopy or
sigmoidoscop
y
Colorectal cancer, which is cancer of the lower part of the intestines, is curable in 90 percent of all cases—as long as it’s caught early. And screening tests that look inside the colon, called colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy, are the secret to catching it early.
Unfortunately, this still isn’t happening as often as it should. Currently, 39 percent of cases are already stage III or IV when discovered. This test is considered so lifesaving that news anchor Katie Couric allowed hers to be presented on live TV as an educational campaign to raise awareness after her husband died of colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death from cancer for men, after lung and prostate cancer, so it’s important to take it seriously.
What it is: An examination of your colon using a tiny scope and camera, which are inserted through the rectum. A colonoscopy can see the whole colon, while a sigmoidoscopy can see only the sigmoid, or lower section of the colon.
When to start: Age 50 for those with no risk factors. If, however, you have a first-degree family member who’s had colon cancer before the age of 50, begin colonoscopy screening when you’re 10 years younger than the age at which your family member was diagnosed. If a family member was diagnosed at 45, for example, you should have your first screening at 35.
How often: Flexible sigmoidoscopies should be repeated every five years, and a colonoscopy should be repeated every 10 years. A computerized imaging technique called virtual colonoscopy is gaining popularity at some medical centers, but many doctors still consider it experimental and some insurers, including Medicare, don’t cover it.


7. Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)
Although it sounds otherworldly, the word occult simply refers to the fact that this test checks for blood in the stool that’s not visible to the eye. This is the least invasive screening tool available. A chemical solution is used to test a stool sample for the presence of blood, which can indicate intestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, or colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer still strikes more men than women—more than 50,000 men are diagnosed with the disease every year.
What it is: A stool sample test that looks for blood in the stool using a chemically treated pad that turns blue in the presence of blood. Three stool samples are collected on consecutive days, since cancer and other conditions may not bleed consistently.
When to start: At age 50; your doctor may suggest it earlier if there’s cause for concern about intestinal conditions.
How often: Yearly after age 50


8. Skin cancer screening
Skin cancer, while less deadly than some, is the No. 1 cancer diagnosed among Americans. And men are at higher risk for skin cancer than women, something most men don’t know. While most types of skin cancer are easily treated, one type, melanoma, can be deadly. Skin cancer is relatively easy to detect as long as you bring any suspicious areas to the attention of your doctor.
What it is: An examination of your skin, particularly moles, lesions, or other areas that are changing or growing.
When to start: Any age
How often: Experts recommend conducting a personal “mole check” once a month in the shower to look for unusual growths or changes to existing moles. If you notice anything suspicious, call your doctor. Many communities offer free skin cancer screenings, usually held at drug stores or clinics. They’re often held in May, just as the summer season begins and people start to expose more skin.


9. Eye exam and vision screening
Whether you have problems seeing at a distance or close up, you need regular eye exams as you age to check the overall health of your eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says that by the year 2020, 43 million Americans will have some type of degenerative eye disease, yet surveys show that more than a third of adults fail to get regular eye exams.
What it is: A vision screening tests how well you can see; an eye exam checks for glaucoma, macular degeneration, retinopathy, and other eye diseases. Make sure you’re having both kinds of exams.
When to start: Age 18
How often: Every one to three years between the ages of 18 and 61, says the American Optometric Association; after that, as often as your doctor thinks is necessary depending on what’s happening with your vision. If you have diabetes, you’re at much higher risk for eye problems and should be checked more often.


10. Hearing test (audiogram)
Fourteen percent of adults between ages 45 and 64 have hearing loss, and by the age of 60 one in three adults is losing hearing. Men are at highest risk for all types of noise-induced hearing loss, the most common type. Yet many men go years before getting tested, primarily because hearing tests are voluntary. You and your doctor have to decide that you need a hearing test and request one.
If you notice problems following conversations, missed social cues, or an inability to distinguish people’s speech from background noise, ask for a referral to an otolaryngologist to check the condition of your ears, and an audiologist to check your hearing.
What it is: A series of tests to assess different aspects of hearing. Tone tests are used to measure your overall hearing, while additional tests check inner- and middle-ear function and evaluate your ability to register speech.
When to start: When you or others notice problems
How often: Hearing tests are voluntary, but the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends hearing tests every 10 years for adults up to the age of 50. After that, experts say, you should have a hearing test every three years.


11. Thyroid test
The thyroid, a small gland in your neck, regulates your body’s metabolic rate. If your thyroid is overactive, a condition known as hypothyroidism, your metabolic rate is too high. Symptoms include insomnia, weight loss, and overactive pulse. If you’re hypothyroid, it means your thyroid is underactive and your metabolism will be slow and sluggish. This usually leads to fatigue, constipation, and weight gain. While more women than men are hypothyroid, that doesn’t mean men can’t be—and in men, hypothyroidism can cause some upsetting side effects, such as erectile dysfunction, low sex drive, and ejaculation problems.
What it is: The most common test, the TSH test, is a blood test that measures the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone. The desired level is between 0.4 and 5.5. However, many experts believe testing thyroxine (a hormone made by the thyroid) directly with what’s called the T4 test is a more accurate way to assess thyroid function.
When to start: Age 35
How often: Once a year, says the American Thyroid Association. Other doctors don’t recommend a thyroid test for midlife adults unless you have symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. After the age of 60, thyroid testing is usually conducted annually.


12. Screening for metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a group of symptoms that put you at increased risk for both diabetes and heart disease. The screening involves checking for a list of issues and, if they’re present, recommending additional tests. Doctors consider men to have metabolic syndrome if three of the following five risk factors are present:
Waist circumference greater than 40 inches
Low “good” cholesterol (below 40 mg/dL)
Elevated triglycerides (greater than 150 mg/dL)
Blood pressure higher thasting glucose above 100 mg/dL
If three or more of these apply, ask your doctor for an additional screening test called the C-reactive protein (CRP), which many experts think is the best way to monitor heart health risks.
What it is: A blood test that measures an inflammatory marker for plaque buildup
When to start: Age 50
How often: Every three to five years, along with cholesterol and diabetes screening


13. Testicular cancer screening

Lance Armstrong brought testicular cancer to national attention, but many men still don’t know the signs of this disease. With early detection, a man’s chances of survival go up by a whopping 90 percent, so it pays to be vigilant. While testicular cancer is rare, it’s the most common type of cancer in younger men, ages 15 to 34.
What it is: A self-exam or doctor’s exam for tumors in the testicle. The doctor (or you) rolls each testicle slowly between thumb and forefinger, looking for any hardened areas or lumps and checking to make sure there haven’t been changes in size.
When to start: All ages
How often: The Livestrong Foundation recommends that all men do a self-exam every month for testicular cancer. Sometimes a man’s partner is the first to notice signs of testicular cancer. At the first sign of concern, call your doctor and ask for an examination. Your doctor may also recommend an ultrasound or a blood test for tumor markers that can indicate testicular cancer.


14. Prostate cancer screening
Not the favorite of most men, the digital rectal exam is a lifesaver because prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, affecting one in six men. A second test, called the PSA test, is used to look for elevated levels of prostate-specific antigen. While the PSA test has come under fire for producing a high number of false positives, it’s still the best first-line blood test for prostate cancer.
What it is: A digital rectal exam in which the doctor inserts a finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland, and a blood test that measures the level of prostate-specific antigen.
When to start: Age 50, according to the American Cancer Society, unless you have symptoms such as difficulty with urination. In that case, see your doctor for a prostate cancer exam at age 45.
How often: Every year


15. Bladder cancer screening
Men, particularly Caucasian men and men who have a history of smoking, are at an elevated risk for bladder cancer. In the early stages, bladder cancer can be symptomless, and in these cases a test is the only way to detect it. There’s a good reason to be vigilant about bladder cancer: If caught while still localized, it has a cure rate of 95 percent. While routine bladder cancer screening is not yet recommended, talk to your doctor if you’re Caucasian and a smoker.
What it is: A urine test that looks for small amounts of blood in the urine not visible to the eye
When to start: Age 50, if you have a history of smoking
How often: When your doctor recommends it. Another test recently introduced checks the urine for a marker called NMP22; this test is expected to come into wider use in the next few years.


* By Melanie Haiken