Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 18th, 2012

Kissinger blurted it: “US strategy in Middle-East is denying dominion to any State…”

This statement of Henry Kissinger, State minister during Nixon in the 70’s,  and who opened the door to dialogue with China Mao and planned the civil war in Lebanon, is not an earth shattering news: It has always been the case in the Middle East since antiquity for an emerging power to try to occupy the entire land in the Near East.

The strategies of France and England since the 18th century was to deny any country in the Middle-East to dominate the region…The Roman Empire had the same strategy. Russia and China adopt the same strategy in the Middle-East…Why this strategy never changes?

The history of the Middle-East is a succession of invasion by nascent young powers to dominate the entire region from the Babylonian, the Assyrian, the Persian, the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Greek, the Roman, the Arabic Empires, the Ottoman Empire, the mandated powers of France and England, and lately the USA… Current Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and even Syria (during the first Omayyad Arabic Empire) were dominant powers through antiquity during different periods…

The Middle-East is the carrefour for trading between the east and west Europe, and all caravans had to pass by this region, one way or another.  The successive nine Crusade military campaigns were meant to occupy Egypt and circumvent paying to every conceivable city-state the price of passage of the spices and aromatic products coming from the far east islands and Yemen…

Lately, England thwarted the ambitions of Mehmet Ali of Egypt in the 19th century to dominate the region after he conquered the Arabic Peninsula, Sudan, and Syria…England supported the radical Wahhabi obscurantist Emirs in the Arabic Peninsula (the family of Saud) since the 19th century, in arms and finances in order to keeping the Peninsula in a state of insecurity…and displaced the “legitimate” emirs in Mecca (the Hashemite) for the Saudi Arabia monarchy in order to maintain the deals on oil production and rob the “Arabs” of any archaic legitimate leader who could unify them after WWI.

The creation of the Zionist State of Israel was within the objectives of the superpower to keeping this region in constant disequilibrium and unrest.  The Zionist ideology was a continuum of the European ideology of nationalism and it suited well England and France to having a mercenary organization willing to gather the Jews in Palestine and die for their masters in colonial Europe.

After 1967, it suited the USA well that Israel was willing to wage its strategy for maintaining this region in a state of instability and division. Israel is basically a land air carrier with mercenary soldiers willing to fight the US strategy in return for supporting the archaic religious ideology of the Elite specie…

During WWII, the US decided that it was about time to expand its dominion to the Middle-East and thwarted the attempt of Iran to becoming a self-autonomous power in the 50’s and brought back the Shah of Iran from exile. The US thwarted Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser ambitions to unifying politically the Arab States and armed Saudi Arabia and fomented alliances against Abdel Nasser.

Saddam Hussein of Iraq ambitions were checked by encouraging him to invade Iran under the pretence of recuperating “Arabic lands” and then by encouraging Saddam to invade Kuwait as another Iraqi provence…Bush Junior made the blunder of occupying Iraq that was already on its knees since 1991, and dilapidated most of the US resources during the 8 years of occupation of Iraq.  What can you do when Bush Junior claimed that his decisions emanated from God, and the US citizens responded by “Hail to the messenger of God?”

After the Arab Spring and the dissemination of a rejuvenated spirit in the Arab World, only Syria in the Near East exhibited the status of a unified, powerful enough, and economically self-sufficient State. The latest troubles in Syria are not meant to dislodge the Al Assad regime, but to weaken the society and reduce it to an unstable entity.  After all, if the regime in Syria was maintained for over 40 years it was mainly by the explicit support of the US: Syria was given mandated power over Lebanon for 20 years…

There are only two regional States that think they can dominate the Middle-East: Turkey and Iran.  Turkey made the strategic “faux pas” of alienating Syria after exposing itself as the model for power transitions in the region and opened the way for cessation tendencies within Turkey (Kurds, Alawits, “Arab tribes” in south Turkey…)

So far, only Iran has demonstrated that it is a homogeneous society and has plans for self-autonomy of the western powers, with or without the bombing of its nuclear facilities.

It is no mystery that the US has started in urgency the exploitation of its oil and gas resources and is now 50% self-autonomous in the production and consumption of these resources…Is that a policy in preparation for another long protracted war? Iran is too big a fish to chew on, within this fragile state in the world economy and finance, and problems in oil transportation is the last cataclysm to facing at this stage…

Does the US care if the Middle-East people will experience wild upheavals for years to come? Not a chance. As long as oil production and distribution are secured by mercenary leaders in the region, the entire population can go to hell…The US has no great economical trade with this region, except oil..but Europe has a big stake here…

The US main economical interests have refocused to China, Far East Asia, and India, and in 20 years the entire Middle-East region can go to oblivion, and the US will never bat an eye…

Part 3. Fashion industry, Garment industry: Causes of the mass fainting…

If you care to read Part 1 first

China was the main producer of cloth in the last two decades. China garment manufacturing is being displaced gradually by Cambodia, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, and India where labor is becoming far cheaper, of about a single dollar per hour.

I read a couple of days ago that the young syndicate leader for garment industry in Bangladesh was assassinated.

Anne Elizabeth Moore published an extensive report in Truthout on April 4 “The Fashion Industry’s Perfect Storm: Collapsing Workers and Hyperactive Buyers”.

This is the third of four parts.

Causes of the frequent recurrence of mass fainting in the garment industry

Part of the story is that garment factory faintings aren’t news. Many factories admit to as many as between one and five per week and the Phnom Penh Post reported 20 workers had fainted at M&V before these incidents started occurring, on September 23, 2010.

In November 2011, at a Kampong Cham high school, school officials intended to quell concerns about the ongoing incidents around the country. The Post reported that 136 students in attendance lost consciousness. It’s a hot country, with not a lot of wind. People faint.

The weekly Time isn’t buying it – it was among the only major US media outlets to acknowledge the mass faintings at all. Noting only seven of the nine incidents that had taken place by the article’s appearance on September 20, 2011, Andrew Marshall described them as mass hysteria, “a bizarre yet surprisingly common phenomenon that is increasingly recognized as a significant health and social problem,” and wrote the incidents off as “psychogenic fainting.”

Marshall’s unresearched pronouncement smacks of privilege, misogyny and racism – look what those crazy brown women are doing now! This is problematic: Marchall doesn’t account for a single environmental factor suggested by eyewitness accounts.

The Fair Labor Association noted “There is a strong possibility that the fainting and illness reported are due to the type of chemicals used in the factory and the way they are used. While there are a large number of ventilation fans, these do not appear to be effective … [and] a chemical was found that, according to the producers’ website, contains toxic toluene.”

Use of toxic toluene – the chemical at work in “huffing” – is a violation of Puma’s supplier factory regulations. The US Environmental Protection Agency claims the solvent damages the central nervous system. Low levels of toluene can cause dizziness, and at moderate levels a loss of consciousness.

While toluene wasn’t found at each site – an athletic shoe manufactory will have a different set of environmental factors than garment plants – Greenpeace released a commissioned report called “Dirty Laundry 2” on August 23, 2011, that could point to the use of other toxins. The report stated that nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), banned in the UK, are being found in clothes from top labels – including H&M and Puma, as well as others that buy goods produced in Cambodia, like Gap, Adidas and Nike.

NPEs are likely applied as surfactants during production and subsequently break down to form toxic nonylphenol, a persistent chemical with hormone-disrupting properties, hazardous even at low levels. Nonylphenol is an active ingredient in detergents, pesticides and spermicide, but is not currently regulated in Cambodia.

While the FLA findings hint at how quickly such chemicals can impact workers under insufficient ventilation, a Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) report from January 2012 went a step further. BFC, a project of the International Labour Organization, monitors factories with registered export licenses to gauge compliance. The 2012 report, focusing on factors that could contribute to fainting, looks at 169 of the 300 registered factories.

BFC found acceptable heat levels in only 38 percent of plants. A drop in adequate ventilation systems in 13 percent more factories than the previous year, a 6 percent drop in factories properly labeling chemicals in Khmer and a 5 percent drop in factories properly storing chemicals in a separate area of the work place.

In other words: 104 factories of those monitored were unacceptably hot (or if we extrapolate, approximately 186 of the 300 registered factories) and increasing numbers of plants were failing to label, store or properly disperse chemicals during and after use.

In combination with the simple facilities issues BFC reported – 46% do not provide dust masks to workers, 71% do not have chairs located near workstations to provide rest areas, 97% do not maintain sufficient lighting – it becomes clear how quickly a tiny chemical leak might impact workers in the hundreds or more.

Very relevant: 68% of the factories inspected did not have medical staff working the legally required number of hours. If workers feel ill there are few options besides falling to the floor.

Yet, BFC also tracked worker hygiene, health facilities, working hours and factors that contribute to strained managerial relationships – stress, in other words. It found that 52% of the factories monitored didn’t have enough soap, water or working toilets for laborers and that the maximum allowable overtime was regularly exceeded. Working hours, under Cambodian law, are 48 per week maximum, 8 hours per day, 6 days per week. Overtime is to be offered on an exceptional and voluntary basis, for urgent work only and for no more than two hours per day. This law was adhered to in only 16 percent of the factories monitored.

The law on working hours also stipulates that overtime be paid at 150 percent normal rate (usually  0.29$ per hour), unless the work is on a Sunday, when it is to be paid at 200 percent. In the factories monitored, Sunday work was common and 70 percent of the overtime offered appeared to be both voluntary and exceptional. However, a full 95% of factories monitored did not limit overtime hours to exceptional work; and 84% did not limit overtime to two hours per day.

Overwork is common, but stress increases if workers are not properly compensated. Because BFC monitors only during scheduled visits, planned with managerial staff and owners in advance, the organization tracks overtime compensation elliptically, by mandating the use of a single payroll ledger, a rule only 58% of the factories complied with – a 16 percent drop over the previous year. Multiple payroll ledgers can mean overtime hours worked are kept from monitors.

Additionally, management failed to engage workers in occupational health and safety committees or shop steward elections in half the factories monitored and interfered in union activities – 4 percent discriminated against them entirely and 5 percent interfered in workers’ rights to assembly.

Of course, general worker nutrition and the lack of a morning meal are common and were noted in the BFC report as contributory causes to the mass fainting incidents.

Those are the on-the-books violations. Things also fall through the cracks. Although the Ministry of Commerce requires BFC registration for export licenses, the organization tracks some plants without export licenses. While these licenses may be in process, Cambodia’s reputation for corruption is significant.

Black factories, therefore, happen: plants that employ workers, fill orders, even export goods illegally. Often laborers aren’t aware they work in what is essentially a criminal enterprise. Comparing BFC employee counts to those provided by the Ministry of Commerce gives us a difference of about 20,000 potential employees of such factories.

Of the plants at which fainting incidents occurred, neither Shingly Garment Factory nor Chime Ly Garment Factory are currently listed on either the GMAC web site or the BFC’s list of monitored factories. Huey Chuen and Nanguo are also unlisted with the BFC (although as a sports shoe factory, Huey Chuen may not be eligible under the BFC’s current garment-focused initiative).

Consequently, some factories aren’t being monitored. Those that are provide a long list of potential causes of a mass disaster – although not a dramatic list. Each single failure to comply with a minor legal code simply increases the likelihood of trouble – although better a series of mysterious faintings than another Triangle Fire.

Yet, ask a garment worker, organizer or factory monitor why around 3,000 women fainted on the job over the last year and you’re going to get a sympathetic look that means, “That’s just the fashion industry.”

Who is the culprit?

BFC’s most damning statement  is: “The occurrence of the fainting incidents has coincided with a growth in the garment industry. Garment exports from Cambodia rose by 34 percent over 2010, to $3.47 billion in the first 10 months of 2011 – roughly the same period that saw a 7.5 percent increase in the number of active factories and only a 3.6 percent increase in the number of workers (using Ministry of Commerce numbers)”.

Note: A few months ago in 2013, a huge garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing over one thousand young female workers

Part 2. Fashion industry, Garment industry: Who is being sacrificed? Eye-witness accounts of mass fainting

If you care to read part 1 first

China was the main producer of cloth in the last two decades. China garment manufacturing  is being displaced gradually by Cambodia, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, and India where labor is becoming far cheaper, of about a single dollar per hour.

Anne Elizabeth Moore published an extensive report in Truthout on April 4 “The Fashion Industry’s Perfect Storm: Collapsing Workers and Hyperactive Buyers”. This is the second of four parts.

The Domino Effect

A few months after these mass, failed protests, huge numbers of workers started falling to the ground. Coverage of mass faintings in the press began with an incident on April 9 and 10, 2011, as 300 employees of the Huey Chuen garment factory and, next door, 500 employees of Universal Apparel Co. Ltd., fainted, according to both Reuters and The Guardian UK.

Deutsche-Press Agentur originally claimed 200 workers fell that day; Agence France-Presse listed only 101. These discrepancies were later attributed to counts based on hospitalized, instead of injured, workers, at two distinct sites.

On June 15, The Guardian UK reported that 200 more employees experienced “a bad smell” before collapsing at King Fashion Garment, also in Phnom Penh.

The next day, according to the same paper, another 100 fell. On July 25, Fashion-industry news site notes that 49 more workers were hospitalized after another incident at Huey Chuen garment factory, a story confirmed by Deutsche-Press Agentur.

That same day, around 100 workers fainted at Hung Wah Textiles in the capital city, reported VOA Khmer. Reuters claims 300 workers fell in July, but does not provide a date, while other sources claim a mass fainting incident took place on July 21. Neither were confirmed by other sources.

On August 24, 85 more workers fainted after complaining of unusual odors at the M&V International Manufacturing, Ltd. plant in the central Kampong Chhnang province, according to The Associated Press, which reported nearly 200 more workers collapsing at the same factory the next day.

On August 26, Radio Free Asia (RFA) told of 20 workers losing consciousness at the Shingly Garment Factory in the capital. Four days later, the station reported, more than 100 workers had collapsed on the job at the Chime Ly Garment Factory in the Kandal province in southern Cambodia. More smells were reported there; this time, guards outside factory doors fainted, too.

On August 31, more than 50 workers fell at Heart Enterprise Garment Factory in southern Kandal province, according to RFA.

For a time, the faintings were eclipsed by the big-name brands rushing to look into them. Swedish clothing retailer H&M, which buys garments from the M&V and Hung Wah plants, investigated over the summer. In a July 22 email to Reuters, H&M company stated: “Worker’s health and safety in our supplier factories is of high priority to H&M. Accordingly, we have immediately started investigations …”

German sportswear company Puma, the sole purchaser of shoes made in the Huey Chuen factory, had the Fair Labor Association (FLA) draw up a report.

Findings were mixed: H&M, the world’s second-largest clothing manufacturer, concluded their investigation by the end of August. No “plausible causes” had been discovered for the faintings, reported.

The FLA, a non-profit organization funded by affiliate clothing, footwear and consumer goods companies, boasts a mission to promote adherence to national and international labor laws. Although the organization stands accused of deep conflicts of interest that cast shadows over all findings – releasing glowing reports of Foxconn factories in China paid for by Apple, for example – even it noted clear violations of domestic labor law and Puma’s contractor code of conduct, as well as worker malnutrition at the Huey Chuen plant. On July 26, reported only that hypoglycemia had been diagnosed.

The Cambodian government got into the act, too. Following the Heart Enterprise incident, the ministers of industry, labor, social affairs and health portfolios inspected the factory and condemned it for unhygienic conditions and overcrowded workspaces.

Factory management, however, wrote the incident off as having been caused by “spiritual possession,” RFA reported on August 31. Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturing Association of Cambodia, or GMAC, theorized that:  “since many incidents of mass fainting in Cambodian factories have occurred on a Monday … workers may have become over-involved with social activities on the weekend before returning to work…”

A brief pause, then more mass faintings.

On October 24, RFA listed a remarkable 1,000 workers fainting and the Australian Broadcasting Company, or ABC, reported 136 workers fell ill at the Anful Garment Factory – another producer for H&M – in southern Kampong Speu Province, according to Reuters. The factory closed for two days – claiming to give workers time to rest, although foul smells from an insecticide sprayed on shirts on Sunday had been reported – and when the factory opened again on October 27, over 200 more workers fainted. (ABC listed 100.)

Toward the end of 2011, reports of mass faintings become more sporadic and fewer are confirmed by multiple sources. On December 8, China Daily reported 59 workers collapsed at the Sportex Industry factory in Phnom Penh.

On January 24, 2012, the Cambodia Daily reported 60 workers fell at the Taiwanese-owned King First Industrial Co Ltd. in the capital. RFA reported 300 workers fainted at Nanguo Garment Co. Ltd. in Sihanoukville, southwest of the capital, on February 14. The Phnom Pehn Post confirms only 200 faintings that day. On March 6, the Post reported 46 more workers fell at the same factory.

The stories conflict and at times contradict. While exact numbers of fainted – as opposed to ill, hospitalized or fallen – workers are disputed, that a record numbers of faintings took place was never questioned.

Causes were offered. Plausible, comprehensive explanations were not.




April 2012

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