February 13, 2008

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 7

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Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“The governments, frankly, in both countries are so heavily aligned with, particularly, the chemical industry, that the word amongst the bureaucracies is that they really do not want any evidence of effect or injury to be allowed out there.”

— Canadian biologist Michael Gilbertson on a new U.S. government report on Great Lakes pollution (see “Top Stories,” below).

CONTENTS:

*Top Stories*
Great Lakes toxics data suppressed?
New York targets nonprofit fraud
Housing crash takes down renters, too

*Economy & Labor*
Shoemakers walking away from South China

*Media*
Black and white and read all over … in Asia, anyway


TOP STORIES

* Great Lakes Toxics Data Suppressed?

A scientist who pushed the government to publish a major report on toxics in the Great Lakes has been demoted, and the study he led remains under wraps seven months after its conclusion.

The Center for Public Integrity reports that Dr. Christopher De Rosa, a federal toxicology researcher, told his superior that delays in releasing the report has the “appearance of censorship of science … regarding the health status of vulnerable communities.”

However, in a letter to De Rosa, Dr. Howard Frumkin of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote that the study’s quality is “well below expectations.”

A Canadian researcher who peer-reviewed the study told the CPI that the findings have been suppressed due to government links to industries that may be liable for industrial pollution in the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Among the report’s major findings is that more than nine million people in metropolitan areas such as Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee may face elevated cancer, infant mortality and other health risks due to pollutants such as dioxin, PCBs, lead and more.

Source:

“Great Lakes Danger Zones?”
Center for Public integrity, February 2008

* New York Targets Nonprofit Fraud

New York City investigators are looking into more than 30 cases of potential nonprofit fraud, the New York Post reports.

The investigations follow a 2006 scandal at the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club, in which two executives confessed to misappropriating $1.2 million.

The new inquiry will review $3.8 billion in 2007 city contracts with nonprofit health and human services organizations.

Rose Gill Hearn, who spearheaded the new investigation, told the Post that fraud typically has involved executives asking their staff to create invoices for projects that didn’t take place, or to approve checks for home improvements and other personal expenses.

She blamed lax oversight by nonprofit boards of directors, and said all the investigations could lead to criminal prosecutions both in New York City and at the state level.

Source:

“Uncharitable Charities”
The New York Post, February 10, 2008

* Housing Crash Takes Down Renters, Too

Among the 11,000 San Francisco Bay Area homes repossessed in 2007 is a hidden statistic — the number of renters quickly evicted following their landlords’ fall from grace.

No one knows how many renters have been shown the door, but the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the number is “high.”

One housing counselor told the newspaper that it has become a “common problem,” while the Oakland city attorney’s office has heard “a ton of anecdotes” about such evictions, according to a neighborhood legal advocate.

Efforts to strengthen tenants’ rights have been stymied at the state level.

Meanwhile, some lenders are said to speed up the eviction process by telling tenants in foreclosed properties that they no longer have to pay rent — and then serve them eviction notices for nonpayment several months later.

New legal remedies are in the works, but advocates say tenants need to learn about their rights if they are to successfully hold off eviction.

Source:

“Foreclosures leave renters in the lurch”
San Francisco Chronicle, February 7, 2008


ECONOMY & LABOR

* Shoemakers Walking Away from South China

More than 1,000 shoe factories in southern China have closed in the past year — half of them just in the past 12 weeks — and many more will be shutting down in the coming months, according to news reports.

Hong Kong’s Asia Times reports that about 10,000 factories of different types are expected to close in the region this month, as wages increase and environmental and employment regulations tighten.

About half the companies leaving Guangdong are moving to other provinces of China, according to Hong Kong’s Asia Times.

At least 25 percent of them are moving to other Asian nations such as Vietnam, where labor is cheaper and regulations looser, according to the newspaper.

China’s new Labor Contract Law, which was implemented last month, is seen as a major factor in the mass exodus of industry.

Leung Ka-yiu, a factory manager in Guangdong, was quoted by Asia Times as saying, “The labor law can be said to be the last push for me to leave. If the law is strictly followed, my factory’s labor cost will increase by 20 percent, which many shoe factories like mine can not afford, given our profit margin of about eight percent.”

In an entirely different take on the situation, Britain’s Daily Mail reported that labor costs are going up because China’s migrant workers will no longer put up with low wages and poor working conditions.

“In the past, workers would just swallow all the insults and humiliation they suffered,” said workers’ rights activist Jenny Chan, according to the Daily Mail. “Now they resist and there are a lot of innovative ways for them to fight back.”

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Last call for Guangdong shoemakers”
Asia Times, February 5, 2008

“The day China’s sweatshop workers rose up in mutiny and looted the plant”
Daily Mail, February 9 2008


MEDIA

* Black and White and Read All Over … in Asia, Anyway

Newspapers in the United States may be shrinking, losing circulation and laying off employees at an alarming rate, but times have never been better for the daily press in Asia.

Seven of the 10 best-selling daily newspapers worldwide are in Asia, according to a Yahoo News story, and circulation there rose 3.6 percent in 2006, compared to a two percent drop in the United States.

“The media has never been as powerful, or as pervasive, as it is in Asia right now,” said Shelia Coronel, director of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University.

Rising literacy and economic expansion have created strong demand for news in the region, experts say.

And, while online readership is growing rapidly in advanced countries such as South Korea and Taiwan, demand for print is growing in the industry’s three biggest markets, China, India and even tech-savvy Japan.

Advertising revenue for newspapers has been equally impressive — with revenues rising 85 percent in India between 2001 and 2006.

Some Southeast Asian nations still lack a free press, but Indonesia, where official censorship was lifted only 10 years ago, has some of the strongest press freedom in the region.

The government has even instituted a program to try to boost newspaper readership.

Still, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono asked the press to exercise “self-censorship” in a speech marking National Press Day on Feb. 9.

Citing the example of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published cartoons deemed offensive to Muslims, Yudhoyono called for the press to publish only news that is “appropriate.”

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Newspapers thriving? Yes — in Asia.”
Yahoo News, January 24, 2008

“SBY asks press for self-censorship”
The Jakarta Post (subscription), February 11, 2008

“Media Self Censorship”
Indonesia Matters, February 9, 2008


Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain

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