Aug 292017
 
CULTUREASIAN FILM Film lays bare ‘toxic’ impact of our dependence on tech gadgets A new documentary from American filmmaker Sue Williams, Death by Design, holds up a mirror to modern consumers, exposing the environmental and health costs of our reliance on devices that have depressingly short lifespans “I could have made it (the film) about plastic bottles or blue jeans, but I wanted to take something that everybody feels really attached to.” Williams tells Asia Times. “I think it’s a powerful way to make people think about how they consume.” A screenshot of the Death by Design website homepage. Photo: Ambrica Productions Documentaries about the environment and technology are not new. But Williams’ 73-minute production takes things up a notch, tying up multi-faceted concerns with its focus on indispensable gadgets in our modern lives such as smartphones and computers. The project started off as a profile of Ma Jun, a Chinese environmentalist and one of the main characters in the film. He has done groundbreaking work on electronics companies’ environmental violations in China. “I actually never even thought about [electronics being unclean],” says Williams, who after some research and trips to Silicon Valley and China realized the subject lent itself to much more than a story about one person or community. “It became very clear that as I learnt more about it that [Ma] is one valuable part of a very big global problem.” Referring to the industrial transfer from the US to China that began in the late 1970s and 80s, William says: “It’s very important to know what the industry knew before they went to China.” The film first takes us inside US factories back in the 1980s. A former IBM employee who worked on a US semiconductor production line at the time, while pregnant, later gave birth to a brain-damaged son. She had not been informed about the toxicity of the materials with which she worked every day. IBM workers in purportedly ‘protective’ clothing. Photo: Ambrica Productions Workers were provided with protective clothing, but “that was to protect the products, not the people”, says the woman in the film. The film uncovers an internal IBM database that shows extremely high incidence of cancer among retirees. From there, Williams’ lens shifts to the Taiwanese manufacturer, and Apple’s biggest supplier, Foxconn, whose workers have also suffered health problems. Low-paid Chinese workers on a production line. Photo: Ambrica Productions/ Death by Design’s Facebook page In 2010, (more…)
Aug 282017
 
Role of landfill pollution in global warming matrix August 28, 2017  When issues of pollution are discussed, reported and presented, it’s normally the discourse of air pollution that supersedes that of landfills. Without undermining the role of air pollution in the global warming matrix, I’m convinced that landfills are equally demonic in nature, scope and content. So many people are engaged in pollution activities, consciously and unconsciously. Issues of pollution are experienced, day in and day out. Why nations tend to give prominence to air pollution without taking into account land pollution is still a mystery. guest column: Peter Makwanya Both air and land pollution are strange bad fellows and agents of destruction of high proportions. Landfills are sites designated for dumping rubbish, garbage and other sources of solid waste, while air pollution is a result of burning fossil fuels, bushes and garbage. Normally, when many people don’t see any smoke, to them there is no pollution. They need to see chunks of grey matter caressing the skies for them to actually ascertain the presence of pollution without taking into account activities of landfills comprising solid and liquid waste, garbage, market waste, obsolete electronic products and mine dust. For quite some time, landfills were the most common means of disposing solid waste, especially in urban areas but currently, due to overpopulation of urban centres and the broken down of service delivery systems and poor governance by municipalities, mainly in the developing countries, landfills have become more of a sore-sight. When one looks at the large amounts of garbage and industrial waste (solid and liquid), deposited into human lifelines and sources of livelihoods like streams, rivers, dams and lakes, one would usually pose a question on whether the municipal correspondences or reporters are still available in developing countries. Of course, one cannot deny the fact there is accelerating air-pollution as a result of burning bushes, like what is currently obtaining during this time of the year, complemented by fossil fuel mining, thermal power production and burning garbage. But the activities that take place on and under the ground due chemicals and industrial waste as well as decomposition of materials that release toxins, land pollution should not be ignored as well. As many local authorities struggle with issues of bad governance, increased urbanisation, population growth, urban wetland farming and poor service deliveries, waste disposal systems are poorly managed, leading into the damage (more…)
Aug 252017
 
GreenFire is happy to announce its choice for project crowdfunding, Next Level Africa – NLA The crowdfunding platform for the future. Welcome To The Most Unique Crowd Funding Platform On The Internet For Humanitarian Projects Only “Crowd Funding is the best way to get funds for your project, and also earn and receive the best products available from Nextlevelafrica while doing so. Start your project today and watch it explode! You may simply support other crowd funding projects by piggy backing on a project program available to all members.” Nextlevelafrica (NLA) is unique, in that it is the only “bank” backed, “cash” backed cryptocurrency in the world. This currency is backed by 76 SWIFT enabled banks. Today an account with NLA is FREE (see below for link). Get your account NOW. Since this is a CROWDFUNDING platform on which you may list your project for funding. The minimum funding for a HUMANITARIAN project is $100 million. GreenFire and the Children of the Landfill require over that amount and so is a premiere project on NLA. That said, all humanitarian projects will be funded. If your project is not that large, NLA will bundle projects together to meet that criteria or you may “Piggyback” on the GreenFire project and receive associated benefits. I was introduced to the owner of NLA, Noel Adams, several years ago, he and I became friends through many hours of conversation.. I have watched him deal with the struggles and the starts and stops that come with massive global software development, I have done a little of this myself. Regardless, it is my great pleasure to know this man and be part of the success of NLA. Noel was the first to recognize the far reaching benefits of GreenFire and immediately donated the best of NLA services to the GreenFire and Children of the Landfill projects. My great thanks. To Get Your Crowdfunding Platform is $15 Per-Year. You keep 100% of the money you raise. Once you signup for free, you can login to your back office to upgrade to the Project Platform. (Coming in the next few days) Once completed, you have access to your crowdfunding page where you can choose an already existing project (cost: $5) or, create your own project. You have complete control of the crowdfunding webpage so you can get with your "web guy" to create the look and feel you want (more…)
Aug 232017
 
A Tsunami Hits the Recycling World, and We’ll All Feel it Soon  August 22nd, 2017  David Baggs Whether you felt it or not, the earth shaking actions that unfolded recently will ultimately have an impact on every one of us. Late last month, China notified the World Trade Organization that by the end of 2017 it will ban imports of 24 types of rubbish as part of a campaign against "foreign garbage" and environmental pollution. Anyone who cares for the planet or is a ratepayer or who relies on kerbside recycling or a reliable supply of commonly recycled plastics for manufacturing will likely sooner or later be affected by the additional costs and environmental burdens that this recent decision by China will create in the short to medium term while the developed world waste processing and manufacturing industries change gears and re-establishes recyclate reprocessing for use in their products. The decision creates massive  policy and physical challenges for all levels of government and industry. The official announcement to the WTO foreshadowed that China will forbid the import of four classes and 24 kinds of solid wastes, including plastics waste from living sources, vanadium slag, unsorted waste paper and waste textile materials. The major China HS categories being banned include the following types of materials: Scrap or waste plastic Waste of wool or of fine or coarse animal hair, including yarn waste but excluding garnetted stock (garnetted textiles are typically waste materials that have been reduces to a fibrous state for reuse in textile manufacturing) Garnetted stock of wool or of fine or coarse animal hair Cotton waste (including yarn waste and garnetted stock) Waste (including noils (short fibres), yarn waste and garnetted stock) of man-made fibres Used or new rags, scrap twine, cordage, rope and cables and worn out articles of twine, cordage, rope or cables, of textile materials Slag, dross (other than granulated slag), scalings and other waste from the manufacture of iron or steel Ash and residues (other than from the manufacture of iron or steel), containing arsenic, metals or their compounds ‘Other’, including unsorted waste and scrap. The five types of waste plastics that China is banning have China HS individual codes as shown as below: 3915100000 – Ethylene polymer scrap and waste 3915200000 – Styrene polymer scrap and waste 3915300000 – Vinyl chloride polymer scrap and waste 3915901000 – Polyethylene terephthalate 3915909000 – Other related waste (more…)
Aug 232017
 
What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)? A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is used primarily for the purposes of remote access and protection of confidential data. In particular cases, it can be imperative for a small business to use a VPN to cut costs and save time. A VPN allows users to send information privately on a public network like the internet and have remote access to other devices.  How does a VPN Work? In simple terms, a VPN establishes a point to point connection between two points and allows a user to access another computer from their own, usually using tunnelling protocols. In order to protect your data and to stop other users from intercepting the data during transmission, the traffic is often encrypted with cryptographic network protocols like SSH or IPsec. In the past, encryption ciphers were simpler, but as computers have advanced to generate complex ciphers, it is difficult for humans to manually decode them. Levels of complexity in the encryption vary depending to what level a user wishes to protect their data, but usually a simple SSH tunnel allows remote and protected access from one device to another.  Why Would a Small Business Want a VPN? Businesses often use a VPN as an auxiliary tool to support certain aspects of the company: A VPN can be used to protect private company data, like company records or client information, using traffic encryption, to stop hackers from stealing information like client numbers or identities. Remote access could be used in many different ways; an employee working from home can remotely access a company computer using a VPN. If a member of the business is travelling, they could use the VPN to connect to work or home computers while they are travelling, so they don’t have to stop working. If a business has various sites that all use LAN networks, a VPN allows remote access between these sites, so that a worker in one site can access data from the networks in various sites, which is faster than asking someone to send them data. Setting up a VPN There are various ways to establish a VPN connection: Manually using configuration software like Putty to make a secure point to point connection that can be used repeatedly. On mobile devices, apps like OpenVPN can be used to keep searches anonymous by encrypting traffic. Commercial software can be purchased from (more…)
Aug 212017
 
Sunday, August 20, 2017 TM, Trash ‘Mafia’ and Lack of Responsibility People all over Iran have long witnessed waste pickers going around cities carrying huge, filthy bags on their backs, diving in bins to salvage whatever they can sell or reuse. Though dirty, it is a well-paid job for bin divers and a lucrative business for those who run the show behind the scenes. Urban waste pickers operate legally in the developed world as their activities are monitored and their contribution to urban sanitation and lowering municipal costs cannot be denied. In fact, in 2008, they held the First World Conference on Waste Pickers in Bogota, Colombia, to facilitate global networking. The term “waste picker” was adopted then. However, waste picking is not at all monitored in Iran, allowing few people to run the business behind the scenes without dirtying their own hands. Officials have often expressed concern and sometimes laid out plans to tackle the problem. All words, no action. Acknowledging the problem, Mohammad Javad Haqshenas, member of the Tehran City Council, told Ensafnews that “mafias” operating in the shadows employ young children to do their bidding. Last week, Mozafar Alvandi, secretary of the National Body on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, revealed that waste pickers— 60% of whom  ostensibly are refugee children — have special cards issued by Tehran Municipality which allow them to search the trash bins! The cards, which surprisingly bear the stamp of TM, cost the holder 3 million rials (about $78.5) per month. This shocking statement means that city officials are not only aware of the hands behind the scenes, but also their activities, despite touting measures to tackle the problem. However, whenever the matter is brought up, TM absolves itself of any responsibility and blames contractors. Assuming city officials are right and there are contractors with no direct link to municipalities, another question comes up: Aren’t municipalities and local councils responsible for collecting and segregating waste in the first place? Or, should contractors not be monitored? Waste pickers, young and old, put their lives at risk by working in unsanitary environments and are deprived of a normal life so that a handful of greedy people line their pockets. Those who misuse children, whether contractors or municipal officials, must be stopped. For that to happen, legislators must reform a law that allows children to work only in workshops with fewer than (more…)
Aug 212017
 
Sunday, August 20, 2017 TM, Trash ‘Mafia’ and Lack of Responsibility People all over Iran have long witnessed waste pickers going around cities carrying huge, filthy bags on their backs, diving in bins to salvage whatever they can sell or reuse. Though dirty, it is a well-paid job for bin divers and a lucrative business for those who run the show behind the scenes. Urban waste pickers operate legally in the developed world as their activities are monitored and their contribution to urban sanitation and lowering municipal costs cannot be denied. In fact, in 2008, they held the First World Conference on Waste Pickers in Bogota, Colombia, to facilitate global networking. The term “waste picker” was adopted then. However, waste picking is not at all monitored in Iran, allowing few people to run the business behind the scenes without dirtying their own hands. Officials have often expressed concern and sometimes laid out plans to tackle the problem. All words, no action. Acknowledging the problem, Mohammad Javad Haqshenas, member of the Tehran City Council, told Ensafnews that “mafias” operating in the shadows employ young children to do their bidding. Last week, Mozafar Alvandi, secretary of the National Body on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, revealed that waste pickers— 60% of whom  ostensibly are refugee children — have special cards issued by Tehran Municipality which allow them to search the trash bins! The cards, which surprisingly bear the stamp of TM, cost the holder 3 million rials (about $78.5) per month. This shocking statement means that city officials are not only aware of the hands behind the scenes, but also their activities, despite touting measures to tackle the problem. However, whenever the matter is brought up, TM absolves itself of any responsibility and blames contractors. Assuming city officials are right and there are contractors with no direct link to municipalities, another question comes up: Aren’t municipalities and local councils responsible for collecting and segregating waste in the first place? Or, should contractors not be monitored? Waste pickers, young and old, put their lives at risk by working in unsanitary environments and are deprived of a normal life so that a handful of greedy people line their pockets. Those who misuse children, whether contractors or municipal officials, must be stopped. For that to happen, legislators must reform a law that allows children to work only in workshops with fewer than (more…)
Aug 202017
 
A girl plays with her brother as they search for usable items at junkyard near the Danyingone station in the suburbs of Yangon, Myanmar, in 2012. Photo by Damir Sagolj/Reuters Worldwide, more than 340,000 children under age 5 died from diarrheal diseases in 2013 due to a lack of safe water, sanitation and basic hygiene. That’s 1,000 deaths a day, according to the UN’s statistics. What’s more, the No. 1 killer of children between the ages of one month to 5 years, pneumonia, can also be spread through a lack of hygiene. Although much improvement has been made in the past decade to aid children across the globe, there are still alarming numbers who do not have access to clean water, proper sanitation or even just a way to clean their hands — especially after coming in contact with waste and feces. “A gram of feces can contain ten million viruses,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, Programme Division at UNICEF. “Many diseases are transmitted by pathogens going from feces to food and fingers and so on, making children ill.” A boy swims in the polluted waters of the Sabarmati River to dive for offerings thrown in by worshippers in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in 2010. Photo by Amit Dave/Reuters One of the most basic hygiene problems that haunt developing communities is lack of adequate toilets. Around the world, about 2.5 billion people do not have proper toilets. Among them, 1 billion people defecate in the open — in fields, bushes and bodies of water — putting themselves and their community in danger of fecal-oral diseases, like hepatitis, cholera and dysentery. Children are especially susceptible to these diseases when their home and “playgrounds” are overrun with rubbish and human waste. In countries throughout Asia, children can be seen swimming in polluted stagnant waters, digging through trash and playing amid toxic substances at landfills. “When you have children running around barefeet, then coming in contact with excrete, it’s really easy to catch the worms and this of course impacts their development and growth,” said Dr. Aidan Cronin, Chief of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program at UNICEF Indonesia. A child jumps on the waste products that are used to make poultry feed as she plays in a tannery at Hazaribagh in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2012. Luxury leather goods sold across the world are produced in this slum area (more…)
Aug 192017
 
Op-Ed: Don’t forget the woman worker this August ANNIE DEVENISH SOUTH AFRICA 17 AUG 2017 11:45 (SOUTH AFRICA) This August the media will focus on women as consumers, as beneficiaries of state services, and as victims, in a much needed effort to bring attention to gender-based violence, but it is important that we don’t forget women as workers, because it’s precisely the invisibility and undervaluing of women’s labour that plays a key role in reinforcing gender inequality. By ANNIE DEVENISH Xolisile Mhlongo is already setting up stall by the time Durban’s mynah birds begin chirping on a weekday summer morning. She arrives at Warwick Junction, a busy transport hub near Durban inner city, at 4.30am every day to prepare the meat and dumplings she sells to passing customers. Across South Africa, in urban and rural centres, at taxi ranks and pedestrian thoroughfares, traders like Mhlongo are setting up shop for the day ahead. They are part of the more than 530,000 street traders recorded by the South African Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), 70% of whom are women. Mhlongo works six days a week, commuting from her family home in KwaMashu, a township about 20kms from the city centre. Working long hours, often without adequate toilets and storage facilities, and sometimes in hostile environments facing theft or police harassment, these women generate vital income to support their families and their children’s education. This August the media will focus on women as consumers, as beneficiaries of state services, and as victims, in a much needed effort to bring attention to gender-based violence, but it is important that we don’t forget women as workers, because it’s precisely the invisibility and undervaluing of women’s labour that plays a key role in reinforcing gender inequality. According to Stats SA there are 9,438,000 economically active women in the labour force as of 2015, which means that they constitute almost 50% of the nearly 21 million economically active South Africans. The term economically active includes both people who are working, and those who want to work, but are unemployed. Like Mhlongo, more than a third – 39 % in fact – of employed women work in the informal sector, compared to 29% of employed men. Statistics South Africa’s definition of informal employment includes all workers in the informal sector. Employers, own-account workers and unpaid family workers are defined as being in the informal sector if the (more…)
Aug 112017
 
The silly season continues. Speculators are piling into the cryptocurrency space in the hopes of–sometimes very literally–making money fast. As I write this Ethereum’s value has halved since June but is still 20x since January. Litecoin is up 12x since then. Even Bitcoin has tripled, again. It seems like everyone now has an opinion on, and a position in, cryptocurrencies. View image on Twitter    Follow Adam Ludwin @adamludwin http://Coinmarketcap.com  is now more popular than http://WSJ.com      And hey, if you want to speculate, and casinos seem too sedate and controlled to you, then more power to you, jump right in. But for those of us who are interested in the technology, not the money — who think that blockchains are primarily interesting because, unlike most modern technology, they decentralize power — so far this has actually been a mostly disheartening year. This has been the year of the ICO, in which an astonishing amount of money has been raised by the issuance of new cryptocurrencies in exchange for existing ones, the value of which is then inevitably measured in… US dollars, which says something. Tezos, which is basically “a more flexible Ethereum” (just as Ethereum was, to vastly oversimplify, “a more flexible Bitcoin”) raised ~$230 million. Bancor, which “enables anyone to create a new type of cryptocurrency,” raised ~$150 million. Status, “an open source messaging platform and mobile browser to interact with decentralized applications that run on the Ethereum Network,” raised $95 million. TenX, “Making Cryptocurrencies Spendable Anytime Anywhere,” raised ~$80 million. Do you notice anything that these massive fundraises have in common? That’s right; they’re projects which benefit cryptocurrencies which manipulate and/or hope to supersede other cryptocurrencies. Much, if not most, of the big-money high-profile ICOs this year have been self-referential Crypto Inception. They’re built on the (often unquestioned) assumption that decentralized blockchain apps will be widespread and enormously valuable, and therefore, blockchain tooling and infrastructure will be as well. That implicit assumption sounds nice; it even sounds plausible, if you squint the right way and accept a few uncomfortable assumptions; but — uh — tooling and infrastructure for what, exactly? Bitcoin has fought its way into a valuable and important niche as a widely recognized, fairly widely used, decentralized currency and alternative to gold, which is remarkable… although as pointed out by Adam Back, CEO of Blockstream, crypto OG, and generally extremely perspicacious guy, the rise of other cryptocurrencies is arguably a threat to the whole notion of blockchains-as-currency. When (more…)