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CBS recently exposed one American firm for illegally shipping toxic electronics waste overseas. This practice has taken a severe toll on the health of locals in communities which the trash is shipped to.  (Source: Greenpeace)
American firm found to be illegally transporting tech trash to China, transforming a town in southern China into a toxic wasteland

There's little doubt that China is heavily polluted.  This was showcased at the Beijing Olympics, which were held under constant fear of smog.  The country is also the world's largest CO2 emitter. 

China and the U.S. have long played the blame game over who is to blame for the other's pollution.  NASA studies have shown that as much as 15 percent of the U.S. air pollution is simply smog blown over from China.  The Chinese, however, say that it’s Western demand that is fueling the production and pollution.

However, the worst pollution problems for China may not be high up in the sky, but much closer to Earth, with the soaring problem of e-waste.  DailyTech was among the first in the tech community to chronicle the growing problem of tech trash

The U.S. and other industrialized nations are fueling this problem by shipping countless tons of electronics trash overseas to the lowest bidder.  This trade occurs despite laws trying to stop it and the efforts of many large American electronics firms to stop the practice.

CBS News' "60 Minutes" is the latest to take an in-depth look into the epidemic.  Its report focuses on China, perhaps the nation with the worst tech-trash importing problem.

In China, the deluge of tech trash has led to gang-controlled electronics wastelands characterized by massive landfills, toxic water supplies and low laying clouds of choking gases.

Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist and authority on waste management at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and contributor to the report, describes the situation stating, "Lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, polyvinyl chlorides. All of these materials have known toxicological effects that range from brain damage to kidney disease to mutations, cancers.  The problem with e-waste is that it is the fastest-growing component of the municipal waste stream worldwide."

Many of the chemicals which help make electronics less likely to burn, malfunction, or otherwise go awry, according to the medical community, can cause serious side effects on the human body, if improperly disposed.  And with 130,000 computers thrown out every day in the U.S. and 100 million cell phones thrown away annually, it’s easy to see where China gets its tech-trash.

Many citizens in America are eager to help and endure long lines to submit their old electronics for recycling.  However, understanding of what happens to these components is hazy at best.  Says one man, waiting in line to recycle a computer, "Well my assumption is they break it apart and take all the heavy metals out and then try to recycle some of the stuff that's bad."

It turns out many recycling companies are shipping the trash overseas to make a quick profit, at the expense of polluting the environment, and exposing people in countries like China to deadly health problems.

The "60 Minutes" special looked at Executive Recycling, of Englewood, Colorado, which claimed to recycle all its tech trash in the U.S.  Its CEO Brandon Richter stated of shipping tech trash overseas, "Well, you know, they've got low-income labor over there. So obviously they don't have all of the right materials, the safety equipment to handle some of this material."

Well it turns out that Mr. Richter and the company -- despite its assertion that "Your e-waste is recycled properly, right here in the U.S. - not simply dumped on somebody else" -- were guilty of outright lies.  "60 Minutes" tracked shipping containers leaving the companies facilities, which it inspected and found to be full of cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors, which can have large amounts of lead and other chemicals.  The company was shipping the containers to Hong Kong, a common stopping point before smuggling the containers into China.

The show tracked the electronics to a town in southern China known as Guiyu, which CBS calls a "sort of Chernobyl of electronic waste".  The town was overrun with corrupt officials, who tried to fool the reporters with a faked shop and then forced them out of town with a police escort.  Risking life and limb and returning to the town, the reporters found people melting boiling lead off components, inhaling massive amounts of lead vapor.  Others were using a gold-extracting acid recipe not used in the western world since the Middle Ages, due to its toxic effects. 

Perhaps it is unsurprising, though very sad that Guiyu, which has the world's highest concentration of cancer-causing dioxins has six times the miscarriage rate as normal.  And seven out of ten children in the town have higher than acceptable lead blood levels, something that has been causing severe mental problems and loss of fertility.  Says a CBS reporter, "These people are not just working with these materials, they're living with them. They're all around their homes."

Mr. Hershkowitz explains, "The situation in Guiyu is actually pre-capitalist. It's mercantile. It reverts back to a time when people lived where they worked, lived at their shop. Open, uncontrolled burning of plastics. Chlorinated and brominated plastics is known worldwide to cause the emission of polychlorinated and polybrominated dioxins. These are among the most toxic compounds known on earth.  We have a situation where we have 21st century toxics being managed in a 17th century environment."

After getting jumped by thugs, hired by the local mayor, CBS narrowly escaped with evidence of the dire situation in hand.

Back in the states, the reporters confronted Executive Recycling, stating, "This is a photograph from your yard, the Executive Recycling yard.  We followed this container to Hong Kong."

Mr. Richter responded, "Ok."

CBS followed, "And I wonder why that would be?"

Mr. Richter responded, "Hmm. I have no clue."

Several emphatic denials later, Mr. Richter stated, "I know this is your job.  But, unfortunately, you know, when you attack small business owners like this and you don't have all your facts straight, it's unfortunate, you know?"

The facts remain indisputable, though -- CBS had solid video evidence that Executive Recycling was illegally smuggling tech trash overseas for a quick profit.  And in a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study, a sting set up with Chinese officials, confirmed this.  It also found 42 other major tech recycling firms from all across America, more than willing to do the same thing.

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RE: 60 Minutes
By MadMan007 on 11/10/2008 1:10:23 PM , Rating: 2
Yea 60 minutes is pretty cheese as far as news but when they do hardcore investigating like this that shows them being chased and threatened they get a big thumbs up.

RE: 60 Minutes
By nah on 11/10/08, Rating: -1
RE: 60 Minutes
By Spuke on 11/10/2008 1:57:32 PM , Rating: 2
capitalism in full flow..or is it mercantilism--a rose by another other name would still smell--
Yes! We REALLY need to rid ourselves of capitalism. It just destroys everything.

RE: 60 Minutes
By Ringold on 11/11/2008 12:41:35 AM , Rating: 1
Is that an implied connection between capitalism and mercantilism, as if they're the same thing?

If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times: I know history is not actually taught in government schools any more, but capitalism came about as a reaction against mercantilist thought and doctrine. To say that capitalism is another name for mercantilism would be not dissimilar from saying capitalism is not unlike communism.

Capitalism is actually inherently more humanitarian than mercantilism; if we were a mercantile state, we'd probably be doing far less trade with the under developed world, thus.. keeping them under developed. In capitalism, we instead recognize both sides can benefit, and instead of impenetrably high protective tariffs, we work through the WTO to lower barriers to trade.

Not that mercantilism is dead, or that developing countries can't make some protectionist arguments (infant industry theory, for example), but still, you sound like you're veering away from reality in to lefty-wacky-land.

RE: 60 Minutes
By nah on 11/11/2008 2:37:50 AM , Rating: 1
you sound like you're veering away from reality in to lefty-wacky-land.

this is your most promising argument when nothing else fails--for some one who had no training as an economist--you seem remarkably free with assertions of 'economic truths'--for the record--as anyone who's read the basic text --Economics, or similar books--this is by Paul Samuelson--the Nobel Prize winner of the first Nobel Prize in Eco-the Mercantilists were the forebearers of Adam Smith--the granddaddy of capitalism or laissez faire systems. Get a degree in Economics and then maybe we'll talk

RE: 60 Minutes
By gsellis on 11/11/2008 7:39:18 AM , Rating: 1
I have a degree in economics and a bunch of post-grad work for a degree in Econometrics.

I find your post to be infantile.

RE: 60 Minutes
By nah on 11/11/2008 8:25:12 AM , Rating: 1
I find your post to be infantile.

We've all done post-grad work--I've been consulting for the last 8 years and lecturing--perhaps you could deign to give me the reasons--in any event the post wasn't aimed at you--hopefully you could read that part

RE: 60 Minutes
By Ringold on 11/11/2008 3:25:20 PM , Rating: 2
I like how you assume I have no training, I have a degree, though not the post-grad work of the other guy.

If you want to quote books like a bloody noob, then so be it. I never resold any econ book, so here I go. I assume you know what I mean when I say liberal in the context of economics.

A History of Economic Theory and Method, Robert Ekelund and Robert Hebert, pg 61 "Transition to Liberalism ... From a doctrinal standpoint mercantilism broke down because it lost intellectual respectability. In the century prior to 1776, liberal criticism of mercantilism reached a high pitch." pg 68 "By the end of the century ... sharp reactions to the regulatory state emerged in France and Spain, where mercantilism was firmly entrenched. ... And in France, an expatriate from Ireland, Richard Cantillon, to economics to new heights in the pre-Adam Smith era. Because they were transitional figures [this group] contain a mixture of liberal and mercantilist elements, particularly on money..."

Notice that Ekelund clearly distinguishes between liberal thought (capitalist) and mercantilism. It also talks about Boisguilbert, 1646-1714 on pg 77, a Physiocrat, who attacked the mercantile system. I can't find a direct quote, but just looking at the titles of sections, and phrases Ekelund uses, it's abundantly clear capitalism was a reaction to mercantilism -- they're not at all the same! Free trade versus free trade, government control versus maximum individual liberty, etc. pg 99 "Smith's chief concern was economic development. His ideas had a twofold effect: they discredited mercantilism as an economic creed..." How can mercantilism be capitalism by another name if one was created to discredit the other? Sure, capitalism was influenced by mercantilism, but again, Marx was also influenced by liberal thought.

Similarly, Meier's Biography of a Subject on development econ doesn't, if I recall, even talk about mercantilism -- it starts right off talking about Smith and Pigou. In Daniel Fusfeld's "The Age of the Economist," pg 17, it starts talking about the tenents of liberal economic thought in a section called "Opposition to Mercantilism," and states the phrase "laissez faire, laissez passer" originated with a harsh mercantilism critic, Vincet de Gournay.

So anyway, please, tell me where you got your wonderful degrees. I'm already aware of a few universities with Marxist's for faculty who thus produce useless graduates, I'd love to expand my list.

RE: 60 Minutes
By nah on 11/11/2008 10:23:51 PM , Rating: 3
my first post said that capitalism and mercantilism were roughly equivalent--I never said that they were functionally equal. I stand by remarks that Mercantilist thought eventually morphed into capitalist thru Adam Smith--who remains the granddaddy of capitalism

It's strange that a liberal(according to you)like me would attack a liberal system (like capitalism) when all I meant to do was to point out that unchecked capitalism was just as bad as mercantilism- -which was my argument to begin with--

I like how you assume I have no training, I have a

This was simply in reaction to your personal attacks--perhaps you could be more to the point in the future

If you want to quote books like a bloody noob,

It's a sad day when quoting the most well respected and influential Eco book in the US makes one a noob

RE: 60 Minutes
By Penti on 11/12/2008 10:52:09 PM , Rating: 2
That's why your confusing liberalismen as a leftish socialist ideology. Sure it was leftish in the 19th century in contrast to the conservative parties back then.

But in most of the world liberalism is for socialists or leftish social democrats as much a swearword as it is for the neoconservatives in the US but with a different meaning as a representation of the right. The liberal economics and unquestioned loyalty to the free markets, the laissez-faire economics, deregulation and other modern laissez-farie and neoliberal policies. And that is also what liberal parties over here stands for much of the time. Both democrats and republicans are rightist parties in international standards. Of course both has liberal traits. Both believe in free trade. If you don't you aren't really a liberal democratic party voter, somebody like Obama come of as conservative over here. Not a neoconservative though.

With neoliberalismen all that stuff from the Chicago school and Friedman comes along with it and Reagan's and Thatchers experiments too.

Of course there is also many people who believe that economic freedom is much more important the political freedoms. Some of the countries that rank highest in economic freedoms are often an almost total dictatorship and are essentially none free countries. Countries with unfair elections. Sweden which ranks highest in freedom of democracy ranks pretty low in economic freedoms for example, but did you know what? Sweden do rank higher in private property rights then the USA any way. Sweden has less corruption and more privacy too. Less willing to pay bribes and a much better press freedom-ranking too. Those people described in the beginning of the paragraph are liberals. They vote liberal-conservative. And of course does the liberal voters want lower taxes. Most liberals believe in economic liberalism in Europe. And as an example from the US Bill Clinton was a neoliberal too. So his voters more or less support it also.

RE: 60 Minutes
By Ringold on 11/11/2008 3:40:58 PM , Rating: 3
Aha, I just realized the flaw in my argument. Like any good liberal, when pushed, you changed your own argument to one that is far more difficult to attack. Instead of stating again in your second post that capitalism was mercantilism by another name, you said instead mercantilism lead to capitalism. Obviously. And again, capitalism/liberalism lead to Marxism and Keynesian views. But just because one leads to another doesn't mean they are equivalent.

-this is by Paul Samuelson--the Nobel Prize winner of the first Nobel Prize in Eco

You were even wrong about Paul Samuelson; a quick Google reveals that he got the award in 1970, when the first was given in 1969 to Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen. Samuelson was the first American to bag the award, not the first one to receive it.

Time to put up or shut up instead of dodge, "nah." Prove the equivalence between tight state control of the economy, a limited view of trade and the free market, free enterprise, individual liberty view of capitalism.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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