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Froma Harrop - Bangladesh and us

You know a corner's been turned when someone in a legion of foreign sweatshop workers is given a face. That's happened in Bangladesh, home of hideous factory conditions — as seen in the ruins of Rana Plaza, a former eight-story work warren. Death toll: over 600.
And the face has been given a name, Shaheena. Deemed unworthy at birth of a last name, Shaheena became a national symbol of endurance. The world watched as her body, trapped but alive for several days, finally gave out in the smoke set off by rescuers trying to free her.
Sensitive Americans now reconsidering their purchase of an $8 made-in-Bangladesh T-shirt should think carefully. They should first hear Shaheena's story.
Age 38 and sole provider for her son, Shaheena moved in with her sister's family. She needed $25 for her share of the advance on rent in a new, cheaper apartment — no easy feat for one making $100 a month toiling till midnight. So she worked all the time in dismal surroundings. She worked past warnings that the factory building had developed dangerous cracks.
A brutal life, it sounds to us. But this factory job gave Shaheena the wherewithal to leave an allegedly abusive husband while pregnant. And as awful as the pay and working conditions seem to outsiders, these jobs were a step up for the many women whose only other option was rural destitution — all day outside, scratching the soil for even less money. In this poor, mostly Muslim country, women factory workers have become labor leaders. Theirs are the first female voices being raised.
Bangladesh is home to 3.5 million garment workers, most of them women. Other Asian countries started off as sweatshop nations, then moved onward and upward. Taiwan, South Korea and China are examples. Their low-wage advantage fueled their economic growth, eventually empowering the workers themselves.
Today, the millions of Chinese emerging from poverty tend to live in the manufacturing coastal cities. The rural interior remains dirt poor. Rising wages in China are now prompting some manufacturers to leave for cheaper places, such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh.
If Bangladesh follows this pattern, its workers' status will rise. But what might consumers do in the meantime? Should we be buying preppie polos and Western jeans — sold at Wal-Mart, Sears, H&M and Gap, among other retailers — made under these horrible circumstances?
After all, we'd be helping a government that has neglected to enforce the most basic labor and safety laws — laws already on its books. This government has ignored harassment, even murder, of workers trying to unionize. Factory owner families apparently control 10 percent of the seats in Bangladesh's parliament.
But if we don't buy products from Bangladesh, we send workers like Shaheena No-Last-Name back to non-personhood.
Change must come at the hands of Bangladeshis, and a series of workplace tragedies already has them in the streets. When arrested, Rana Plaza's owner needed a human shield of guards and a police helmet. Otherwise, angry crowds might have torn him apart. A Bangladeshi court has seized his money.
Still, it's not without qualms that one goes through the stores, seeing fashion carefully marketed to avoid the place of manufacture. You see labels saying "styled in France" or "fabric from Italy." Or you see local logos and Americana prints. I spotted a retro apron, with a down-home print and made-in-China label. It was being sold in, of all places, Whole Foods.
But this sort of trade is what moves countries and their people out of economic misery. In the end, it creates better lives for them and new consumers for us. No one said progress was pretty.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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In the beginning was the Word, before that the fossil evidence is clear

To the editor,
Thank you for publishing Mr. Hanley's recent letter. It was certainly an extraordinary one. It's quite reassuring that the editor is open to and willing to publish all different points of view, no matter how extraordinary.
Some of us are old enough to remember having prayed in public school and know first hand as to why it was a really bad idea. Darwinism is alive and thriving in the modern world. If you had attended the LHS 2009 commencement ceremony you could have heard the valedictorian give a very chilling to the point assessment as to the Darwinian world her fellow students were launching off into. So maybe Mr. Hanley has some valid point as to faith and hope being part of the human experience. In the beginning was the Word. Before that the fossil evidence is quite clear. On the basis of the content of his letter it seems Mr. Hanley may at some point be eligible for a nomination for a Darwin Award of his very own.
Timothy Sullivan
Gilford

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 09:35

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12 times Sanbornton voters have rejected SB-2 – let’s make it 13

To the editor,
Although Sanbornton voters have chosen not to adopt SB2 12 times, we are being asked to vote on it again this year.  It seems they don't respect the fact that the majority have made it clear 12 times that they want to retain our Town Meetings. 
A letter written last week found fault with the suggestion that there might be problems under SB-2, such as the lone voter in the voting booth, faced with a long list of warrant articles, might become confused or frustrated and just vote no all down the line just to get it over with. Not only is it possible but can also occur when the voter has to read the long list of warrant articles. That 15 or 20 minutes or more in the booth isn't the only problem there either. Taking far longer than our current quick in and out of the booth, there may even be waits to get into the booths while other are working their way done the warrant one issue at a time.
In his letter he also stated that if someone couldn't or didn't attend Town Meeting meant they forfeited their rights.  No, their choice or ability to participate was not exercised but their right to participate was never taken from them.
He then goes on to compare Town Meeting to Nazi Germany and North Korea.  I find that insulting, and shameful and I think the writer owes the people of our community an apology!  He then goes on to talk about "freedom of choice", as he apparently thinks Town Meeting in some way takes that away.  That's not so. Many who do not attend Town Meeting are exercising their "freedom of choice"!
Here are some other problems with SB-2.  In each of the 20 years since it has been in existance there has been a great deal of legislation filed to make changes in SB-2 in one way or another because of it's many flaws. Like solving the problem of the warrant article that  was amended at a Deliberative Session and, as amended, ended on the ballot as just "To see".  I wonder if the ballot vote on "To see" was yes or no.
Those who feel that the 150 or more who attend Town Meeting is too small a group to decide the business of the town are ignoring the fact that a much smaller group, about 50, will make the real decisions under SB-2.  The ballot vote will only say yes or no to what the 50 may or may not have amended.  You can't amend in the voting booth.  You can vote yes or no on articles such as "To see", or articles that may have been amended so they have money amounts that aren't great enough to purchase the intended item.
Please vote "NO" to SB-2.  Don't become complacent because we have won 12 times!  We need you all to vote "NO SB-2" so we can send the message again. 
Evelyn Auger
Sanbornton

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 09:31

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Fields lost clerk’s post because of repeated lack of professionalism

To the editor,
In last Thursdays paper there was an article that stated, "State Representative Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton), ... was recently voted out of his position as Belknap County Delegation clerk". But I'm not sure that this is a balanced assessment of what took place. In actuality Rep. Fields would still be clerk if a re-vote out of an abundance of caution had not been taken and to dispel any appearance of impropriety. I believe that in the re-vote there was demonstrated a loss of confidence in Rep. Fields as a result of his repeated lack professionalism. I have to agree with Don Walker who wrote in Friday's edition, "For me, the most egregious (charge from Rep. Fields) was the threat that he had to "toe the line" or be removed from his clerk post. He was not removed from his post, he simply lost the opportunity to continue as clerk through the circumstances that surfaced by the lawsuit and by losing the respect of his peers.
Rep. Stephen Holmes
District 5
Alton

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 09:21

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Lead sinkers are cheap for fishermen but very costly for loons

To the editor,
I am writing to urge broad support for SB-89 to be voted on shortly by the N.H. House. The bill would prohibit the use of certain smaller toxic lead jigs and sinkers in fishing tackle. It would protect loons by restricting the use lead fishing sinkers weighing one ounce or less. This fishing tackle is by far the largest source of documented adult loon mortality and has had a significant negative impact upon our state's small loon population.
This legislation sponsored in the State Senate by Senator Jeanie Forrester will have minimal effect upon fishermen, but a huge effect upon loons and other wildlife that feeds upon the bottom of NH fresh water lakes. The use of a non-lead sinker or jig that is not poisonous will have no effect upon catching fish.
Please keep in mind that loons do not reproduce until their sixth year of life or later, and loon pairs have an average of only one surviving chick every two years. Thus, survival of adult loons is the most important factor in assuring the continued viability of our state's loon population. Unfortunately, New Hampshire lost 124 adult loons to ingested lead sinkers and jigs between 1989 and 2011. These deaths have had a significant negative impact on our state's small loon population.
Sinkers and jigs are inexpensive for anglers. If they are lead, they are very expensive for loons. Substitute non-lead sinkers and jigs are of nominal expense to fishermen and the proposed restriction on the use of small lead sinkers under one ounce should have no adverse affect upon sportsmen and women who enjoy fishing. I urge passage of this common sense legislation.
Eric Taussig, Treasurer
Loon Preservation Committee
Moultonborough

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 09:12

Hits: 420

 
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