Vauxhall and BMW among car firms linked to child labour over glittery mica paint

Glittery mica paint used by car makers including Vauxhall, BMW, Volkswagen and Audi linked to illegal mines in India reliant on child labour and debt bondage.

Many of these children work in mines alongside their parents and siblings, for whom the mine is the only source of income. Many families are bonded to the mines by large debts owed to local moneylenders or mine owners who charge up to 200% annual interest.

Glittering clouds of tiny mica particles swirl around 13-year-old Dharini* as she carries rocks of mica from the mineshaft to where groups of younger children are sorting through piles on the ground.

She says she has worked at mines, carved out of the mountainous hillside, for as long as she can remember and has never gone to school.

“I’ve been helping my mother here at the mine every day because they need my help for the money,” she says. Along with her mother, Dharini gets paid about £5 a week for six days of work.

Her mother, Basanti, has also spent her life working at mines. “Every evening we feel ill after work with nausea and it is difficult to breathe because of the dust but we have no choice, this is the only work.”

When asked if her child goes to school, she said: “My daughter works with me because we need the money to keep the family going.”

A few hours away, at another mine, more children are working alongside their families. Simitra, a 45-year-old mother of two, says the family are all working simply to try to cover the interest on a £200 loan they took out in 2014 after her husband contracted tuberculosis.

None of the families who work here know where the mica they scrape from the rock walls ends up, nor that they are the first link in multiple complex global supply chains stretching around the world.

“Natural mica goes into numerous products without anyone realising, since it is not listed as ingredient in car paints, decorative paints, plastic products, hairdryers, toasters and much more. Child labour is a part of our everyday life but no one knows about it,” said Aysel Sabahoglu, children’s rights officer of Terre des Hommes Netherlands, a Dutch NGO that works to protect children’s rights.

Campaigners say it is impossible to differentiate between mica from legal mines and from the hundreds of small-scale illegal mines in northern Jharkhand and southern Bihar.

Read the full article on The Guardian web site here.

Amazon deletes my picture ebooks for children

Amazon notified me today they removed my picture ebooks for children. My picture ebooks for children all contained coloring book type images of characters or scenes at the end of the ebook which could be printed out. I felt this was a chance for a child to practice coloring. Amazon obviously disagrees as it bans coloring ebooks too.

Amazon has pretty much eliminated my ebooks for Kindle devices as most of my ebooks on Amazon are picture ebooks for children and puzzle ebooks. No prior notification from Amazon,just this notice indicating permanent removal of ebooks.

Amazon provided a link to their author support email system in case I wanted to question their decision.

There are two things I can do. One, use Amazon CreateSpace to create a POD book of each deleted title and suffer the indignity of next to zero sales popular with POD sales on Amazon and its affiliates. Or, two, I can ask Amazon to allow republish of my works minus the pages of coloring book images at the end of an ebook for children.

It’s too bad Amazon makes it hard for readers to have access to inexpensive ebooks for children.

Any Kindle owner can simply download the ebook from Smashwords or any other retailer to their desktop/laptop. Then use Calibre to convert the file to PDF for easy printing.

Or download the PDF version of any of my ebooks here.

Here is a small part of the notification from Amazon:

... content such as coloring books, puzzles, or apps are not allowed. 
As a result, the following books have been removed permanently 
from sale on Amazon.

*Title Name Bubble Trouble 
*Title Name If I Had A Car 
*Title Name A Christmas Tree For Santa 
*Title Name Doug's Big Idea
*Title Name Icky Foods Make Me Sick 
*Title Name If I Had A Tattoo 
*Title Name Nestor Nose Falls Asleep 
*Title Name Thelma and Ziggy 

2016 Big Mac Index from The Economist

THE Big Mac index is a lighthearted guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level. It is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the notion that global exchange rates should eventually adjust to make the price of identical baskets of tradable goods the same in each country. Our basket contains just one thing, a Big Mac hamburger. From The Economist magazine, updated July 2016.

To view the interactive map on The Economist magazine web site click here.

User guide:

The ‘select base currency’ button allows you to choose from five base currencies: the yuan, the euro, the yen, sterling and the US dollar. You can also choose to see the index in its original ‘raw’ form, or adjusted for GDP per person. By default, the panel at the bottom displays a scatter chart plotting the local price of a Big Mac (expressed in the current base currency) against GDP per person in that country. Select individual points for details.

As you explore the map, the scatter chart will be replaced by a line chart plotting the highlighted country’s under- or over-valuation against the current base currency over time. You can select a country on the map to ‘freeze’ it (with the exception of Internet Explorer), allowing you to mouse-over/tap the line chart and see detailed indicators for your selection over time. To ‘unfreeze’ the map, click/tap on the highlighted country again.

The Economist magazine article on the dividing of America has this to say:

America is shrouded in a most unAmerican pessimism. The gloom touches race relations, which—after the shooting of white police officers by a black sniper in Dallas, and Black Lives Matter protests against police violence, followed by arrests, in several cities—seem to get ever worse. It also hangs over the economy. Politicians of the left and right argue that American capitalism fails ordinary people because it has been rigged by a cabal of self-serving elitists. The mood is one of anger and frustration.

America has problems, but this picture is a caricature of a country that, on most measures, is more prosperous, more peaceful and less racist than ever before. The real threat is from the man who has done most to stoke national rage, and who will, in Cleveland, accept the Republican Party’s nomination to run for president. Win or lose in November, Donald Trump has the power to reshape America so that it becomes more like the dysfunctional and declining place he claims it to be.

Reshaping politics

The damage would be greatest were he to win the presidency. His threats to tear up trade agreements and force American firms to bring jobs back home might prove empty. He might not be able to build his wall on the border with Mexico or deport the 11m foreigners currently in the United States who have no legal right to be there. But even if he failed to keep these campaign promises, he has, by making them, already damaged America’s reputation in the world. And breaking them would make his supporters angrier still.

The most worrying aspect of a Trump presidency, though, is that a person with his poor self-control and flawed temperament would have to make snap decisions on national security—with the world’s most powerful army, navy and air force at his command and nuclear-launch codes at his disposal.

Betting markets put the chance of a Trump victory at around three in ten—similar to the odds they gave for Britain voting to leave the European Union. Less obvious, but more likely, is the damage Mr Trump will do even if he loses. He has already broken the bounds of permissible political discourse with his remarks about Mexicans, Muslims, women, dictators and his political rivals. It may be impossible to put them back in place once he is gone. And history suggests that candidates who seize control of a party on a prospectus at odds with that party’s traditional values tend eventually to reshape it (see article). Barry Goldwater achieved this feat for the Republicans: though he lost 44 states in 1964, just a few elections later the party was running on his platform. George McGovern, who fared even worse than Goldwater, losing 49 states in 1972, remoulded the Democratic Party in a similar fashion.

One lesson of Mr Trump’s success to date is that the Republicans’ old combination of shrink-the-state flintiness and social conservatism is less popular with primary voters than Trumpism, a blend of populism and nativism delivered with a sure, 21st-century touch for reality television and social media. His nomination could prove a dead end for the Republican Party. Or it could point towards the party’s future.

When contemplating a protest vote in favour of tearing up the system, which is what Mr Trump’s candidacy has come to represent, some voters may ask themselves what they have to lose. (That, after all, is the logic that drove many Britons to vote for Brexit on June 23rd.) But America in 2016 is peaceful, prosperous and, despite recent news, more racially harmonious than at any point in its history. So the answer is: an awful lot.

Read the complete article on The Economist here.

Canadexit: how to escape the clutches of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage

 Want to migrate to Canada? Hop on a canoe with prime minister Justin Trudeau. Photograph: Sean Kilpatrick/AP

Want to migrate to Canada? Hop on a canoe with prime minister Justin Trudeau. Photograph: Sean Kilpatrick/AP

Google searches for “how do I move to Canada” spiked in the UK following the Brexit vote, in inverse correlation to the value of the pound. Trump has already begun challenging his critics to make the move, perhaps anticipating the gulags (fabulous gulags, the best gulags) he will establish in our frozen north.

Though frequently cited as an empty threat, it’s not unreasonable for Brits and Yanks anticipating a future transatlantic summit between God-Emperors Trump and Farage to contemplate a move to Canada. Many have come before.

Our first wave of disgruntled immigrants crossed the Bering Land Bridge into North America some 40,000 years ago, although history doesn’t record the identity of the neanderthal real estate tycoon they were fleeing. Their First Nations ancestors were later displaced by Americans, loyal to the British crown, who fled the Revolutionary War. During the 19th century, somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 escaped slaves made their way to Canada on the Underground Railroad.

In the early 1900s they were followed in turn by the Doukhobors, a pacifist Russian sect who fled oppression in their homeland and resettled in the prairies of western Canada. Upon experiencing the reality of life in the prairies of western Canada, the Doukhobors regretted their decision, and devised a plan to return to Russia: they would force the Canadian government to repatriate them by stripping naked and setting fire to their own houses. Canadians are a patient people, but only to a point. The most devout of the Doukhoubors now live in Azerbaijan.

Where should Trump-Travellers live in Canada nowadays? Here are two cities compared.

Vancouver
Canada’s only beautiful city has already been rendered unaffordable by the same borderless capital flows whose panicked stampedes are about to devastate London. Suitable for aspirational fregan employees of weed dispensaries and 17-year-old Lamborghini-driving daughters of Chinese Communist Party officials.

Toronto
Canada’s largest city is now best-known for the antics of its late mayor, beloved domestic abuser and crack addict Rob Ford. His brief reign so ashamed Torontonians that they promptly elected a man so boring that his name is actually “John Tory”, and whose soporific public persona might be particularly reassuring to Trump/Johnson refugees.

As for those of us already here, I think I’m safe in saying that we are conflicted by Canada’s status as a refuge for the politically dissatisfied. On one hand, we would prefer that control of the US and UK governments not fall into the hands of populist demagogues. On the other, periodic influxes of liberals are an electoral bulwark against their rise in our own country. On behalf of Canada, let me assure you that you’re welcome here, but politely suggest that you consider standing and fighting.

  • From Monday 4 July, Guardian Cities is devoting a week to exploring all things Canada. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and join the discussion

All of the above is taken from a very interesting and very well written article in The Guardian newspaper web site. You may read the complete article here.

Camping for free in British Columbia, Canada

people camping

Why pay scalper prices for a campsite when you can camp for free in thousands of locations in British Columbia?

Recently, news reports of individuals and companies buying a full season at a campsite or buying blocks of campsites during long weekends has raised the ire of some campers.

Why pay when you can camp for free? For years I went camping for free with the family all around BC. In those days most of the free sites didn’t have cut firewood, but that may have changed now. In my day the sites were simply referred to as Forestry Campsites because the BC Forest Service maintained them. Yes, they weren’t deluxe sites. Heck, I was camping. But most campsites I visited were in beautiful locations, quiet, and somewhat remote.

Check to see if a similar service is available where you want to go camping.

The BC government has a website titled Recreation Sites and Trails operated by the Ministry of Forests. I’ll provide the link in a minute. Some BC forsestry campsites may charge a fee nowadays. Check their web site for details on the campsite of your choice.

PLANNING YOUR TRIP

CHECK THE RECREATION SITES & TRAILS listed on their website for current conditions or possible closures due to fires or other events.

For the latest info on CAMPFIRE RESTRICTIONS and FIRE PROHIBITIONS in your desired camping region check the BC WILDFIRE SERVICE WEBSITE

During times of high fire risk, be prepared and bring a portable stove for cooking.

Here is the link to the BC Ministry of Forests Recreation Sites & Trails.

Those incredible flying machines- Drone Helicopters

Drone Helicopter

Unlike most helicopters, hovering drones use multiple rotors. Many drones are based on a design called a quadcopter, which employs four rotors on arms set 90 degrees to each other. Each rotor is directly driven by an electric motor. By turning two of the rotors clockwise and two anticlockwise it counters the twisting effects of torque produced by a single-rotor helicopter (without a tailrotor to push against the torque, a helicopter would spin hopelessly round and round). Moreover, whereas a helicopter needs to vary the pitch of its blades (the angle at which they attack the air) in order to manoeuvre, the multiple rotors on a drone have a fixed pitch. The drone instead manoeuvres by independently changing the speed of one or more of its rotors under computer control. As this set-up requires fewer and less complex moving parts than a helicopter, it makes drones simpler, cheaper to build and maintain, and potentially more reliable.

Ascending Technologies, a German dronemaker bought earlier this year by Intel, a giant chipmaker, gave e-volo a hand with the electronic systems that control them (the craft contains more than 100 microcontrollers). The greater number of rotors provides both more efficiency in lift and higher levels of redundancy in the event of a failure. And, just in case of a big emergency, there is also a parachute—one that will gently carry to the ground the entire drone with its passengers remaining in their seats.

The VC200 gained permission to fly from German authorities earlier this year. It has an all-in weight of 450kg and, in its present form, a flight duration of 30 minutes. After completing a series of flight tests the VC200 should be fully certified by 2017 in a category of aircraft known as an “ultralight”. The company have taken this route because it will get the VC200 into the air sooner and allow valuable flight experience to be built up while discussions continue about creating a possible new class of aircraft for passenger drones.

A rather different approach is being taken by Malloy Aeronautics, a British company. It is developing a drone you can sit on like a motorbike. The Hoverbike is now in its third incarnation, having begun with two rotors, one at the front and another at the rear, but progressing to four. However, it does not look like a typical quadcopter. Instead, it has a pair of rotors at the front and another pair at the back. Each is slightly offset and partially overlapping. So far, the company is carrying out test flights of the craft as an unmanned drone in order to develop its software and systems fully before fitting a seat and handlebars to produce a passenger version. Malloy has, though, flown a one-third scale remote-controlled prototype with a dummy pilot (see picture below).

Drone Helicopter2

The idea behind the Hoverbike is to produce a rugged and simple air vehicle which, because it is oblong rather than square, would be more easily transportable in vehicles or other aircraft, and would be able to operate and land in difficult surroundings, such as on the side of a mountain, says Grant Stapleton, a Malloy director. The company is also working with America’s Army Research Laboratory on the Hoverbike concept. It would have basic controls, such as a throttle grip for the right hand—as on a motorbike—with the handlebars used to provide other commands.

The above is from an article in The Economist magazine. Read the full article here.