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As the Fair Labor Association inspectors interview Foxconn employees about working conditions at iPad plants, early reports coming our way are a bit ambiguous and a tad confusing. First FLA president told Reuters that plant floors are spotless, then Bloomberg published an article claiming the organization found “tons of issues,” and finally those two video teasers (here and here) from ABC Nightline’s ‘iFactory’ documentary added ambiguity as the producers apparently “didn’t find any egregious violations.”

According to AI, Foxconn hid underage workers before FLA inspectors arrived for audits. Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior project officer Debby Sze Wan Chan told the publication that “All underage workers, between 16-17 years old, were not assigned any overtime work and some of them were even sent to other departments.” Foxconn is putting on a show, Chan added:

Most of the time, the workers are aware of the presence of Apple’s representatives inside the factories. It is not the problem that Apple doesn’t know the real problems at their suppliers. They know, but it is only because they do not care.

Chan attempted to deliver reports, documentaries and petition cards personally to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif.-headquarters, but she was shown the door as “a security guard tried to disperse us and he promised that he would hand the materials to someone in charge, but I haven’t heard from them since then.”

For example, another worker told Chan her employee approved three breaks a day during the inspections versus just one a day before the FLA audits. Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct only approves of underage workers if they are legally allowed to work, and in China this means 16-year-olds. The whole Foxconn mess, as you will recall, actually erupted after big media piggy-backed on an episode of the popular radio program This American Life that adapted Mike Daisey’s highly acclaimed monologue “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”

Daisey’s show was the first to expose the controversial working conditions at Foxconn’s Shenzhen, China factory in a big way, creating a major public relations problem for Apple, which in years past was facing constant accusations of questionable labor practices in Chinese sweatshops. If you are eager to learn more about Daisey’s monologue that started it all, you can now download a PDF transcript of the entire episode free. Furthermore, Daisey released the transcript under an open license so that anyone and anywhere may perform it.

In related news, according to BGR, a couple of workers are claiming they were poisoned by toxins in a Suzhou, China factory while assembling iPhone touchscreens, and they wrote a letter pleading consumers to demand reform. SumOfUs released the letter in an email this afternoon as part of an Ethical iPhone Campaign petition. Former factory workers Guo Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan begged consumers to sign SumOfUs’s petition. They want Apple’s manufacturing/supply partners to improve conditions at Chinese factories to prevent future injuries:

“It has been over two years since many of us were hospitalized and treated but our debilitating symptoms continue. Rui-Qiang still can’t find work because he can no longer stand for the long hours most jobs require. Jing-Chuan has to spend nearly $100 a month on health supplements. But with all of us working together to pressure Apple to change, we can make sure what happened to us doesn’t happen to others too.”

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6 Body Parts That Hid From Science In Plain Sight

The human body has just upped its official organ count. Researchers have recently proposed that the mesentery, a membrane in the digestive system, deserves to be considered an organ in its own right.

This means that humans are stuffed with a total of 79 organs.

To earn the title of organ, a body part must be self-contained and perform a critical function. Scientists have long thought the mesentery—which anchors the gut in place, connecting it to the wall of the abdomen—was made of multiple pieces (although Leonardo da Vinci sketched it as a single structure, because apparently he just had to be good at everything).

But in 2012, surgeons at the University of Limerick in Ireland found the mesentery to be one continuous fold of tissue after all, making it eligible for true organ status. The team compiled more evidence and has made the case for the mesentery’s upgrade to organhood in the November 2023 issue of The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

Now that researchers have a better picture of the mesentery, they can learn more about what it does and how it might be involved in disease. This could lead to less invasive abdominal surgeries.

But your belly isn’t the only source of mysterious organs. From the brain to the genitals, our bodies host bits that have remained hidden or misunderstood for much of history. Here are five other body parts we’ve only recently started to grok:

Anterolateral ligament (knee)

A part of the knee that medical science ignored for nearly a century might be involved in a common sports injury. Back in 1879, French surgeon Paul Segond noticed a “pearly, resistant, fibrous band” in the knee. This particularly ligament (a kind of tough tissue that hold bones together) was mostly forgotten until the 1970s, and then was mentioned only rarely, its form and purpose hazy. Deciding to clear up “the mystery surrounding this enigmatic structure,” surgeons in Belgium finally investigated and properly identified the perplexing ligament in 2013. They found that the band—now called the anterolateral ligament or ALL—lies on the front of the knee, connecting the thighbone and shinbone, and is distinct from the four other ligaments that help stabilize the joint. The ALL might help protect the knee as we twist and change direction. Some people have trouble recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), an injury that often befalls athletes in sports that involve a lot of pivoting, like soccer or football. The surgeons who described the ALL suspect that this is because this fifth, poorly-understood knee ligament is often injured in tandem with the ACL. When patients don’t respond well to treatment, it could be that their ALL is still torn.

Vertical occipital fasciculus (brain)

Yet another body part that history forgot was revived several years ago. In 2012, researchers spied a fiber pathway in the brain that seemed to be involved in reading, but couldn’t find any descriptions of it in modern medical literature. After hitting the library, they finally tracked down its discoverer: German neurologist Carl Wernicke, famous for identifying Wernicke’s area (which helps us understand language). But apart from Wernicke’s drawings in an 1881 brain atlas, the team found only rare mentions of the brain area, now called the vertical occipital fasciculus (VOF). The VOF’s disappearing act might have been spurred by a disagreement between Wernicke and his mentor, neuroanatomist Theodor Meynert. Meynert believed that neural pathways traveled from front to back through the brain, but the VOF moves up and down. Whether because the bundle of nerve fibers contradicted his beliefs or simply because of lack of interest, Meynert ignored the new discovery. The VOF might also have been a victim of bad communication; a few other scientists noticed it but called it something else, which made it difficult for researchers to gather a growing body of knowledge on the structure. After rediscovering the VOF, Jason Yeatman of the University of Washington and his colleagues pinpointed its location with MRI scans. “It connects the regions of the brain that are important for perceiving forms—like recognizing a friend’s face or reading a word—with the regions that help you move your eyes and focus on a particular place in space,” he told the Washington Post. This link is pretty important—people who sustain damage to the VOF can lose the ability to recognize words and read, according to case studies from the 1970s.

Dua’s layer (eye)

Your body isn’t exactly a trove of secret organs. But every now and again scientists do stumble upon a previously unknown body part. One was found hiding in the cornea—the clear, dome-shaped tissue that protects your eyeballs and focuses light—in 2013. The newly-identified Dua’s layer is tough but only 15 microns thick, and joins five previously known layers in the cornea. Harminder Dua of the University of Nottingham in England and his colleagues found the tissue by simulating corneal grafts and transplants in donated eyes. The team injected air bubbles into the corneas to lift the layers apart so they could be scanned with an electron microscope. Dua’s layer might be involved in diseases that affect the back of the cornea. And understanding this tiny piece of the eye may make surgeries simpler and safer. Since Dua’s layer is stronger than other parts of the cornea, injecting air bubbles near it during surgery might be less likely to cause damage.

Brain lymphatic vessels


This agent of female sexual pleasure is one of the body’s most misunderstood organs. We now know that there’s much more to the clitoris than meets the eye. The sensitive nub, or glans, with its “generous supply” of nerve endings, is only the outer part; most of the clitoris is internal, with tiny legs up to five inches that hug the vagina. But the clitoris has long been shrouded in confusion (and the clitoral hood, which covers the glans). As the Huffington Post chronicled, the clitoris was maligned as “the devil’s teat” on witches (in 1486) and a site of immature orgasms (by Sigmund Freud, who believed that it must yield its pleasure-making status to the vagina after puberty). Over time, the clitoris’s function and full structure have been discovered, lost, and then found again. “What constituted the clitoris, what it was called, what characterized normal anatomy and whether having a clitoris at all was normal were controversial issues,” urologist Helen O’Connell and her colleagues wrote in 2005. Only recently has the clitoris started getting some love from science. Biologist Alfred Kinsey and sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson began investigating its role in the latter half of the 20th century. Though sketched by anatomists centuries earlier, the extent of the clitoris wasn’t revealed until O’Connell and her team undertook dissections in 1998, and it got first 3D ultrasound in 2009.

Foxconn Contrite After New Production Exposé

Foxconn contrite after new production exposé

Manufacturer Foxconn has again come in for criticism after an undercover reporter described dire working conditions in one Chinese facility, with the OEM promising an immediate investigation into the claims. The report by the Shanghai Evening Post (translated by M.I.C. Gadget) revealed unhygienic dormitories, poorly maintained leisure facilities, and frantic overtime as Foxconn pushed to produce sufficient iPhone 5 units to meet expected demand, with workers subjected to strict punishments for dropping the pace.

The undercover reporter was apparently put to work on the part of the Tai Yuan plant producing iPhone 5 back panels, applying masking tape and plastic stoppers to sections of the plate – such as the earphone jack – which are not to be painted. He calculates that he must mark five iPhone plates every minute in order to keep up with the production line:

“I have to pickup the back-plate and marked [sic] 4 position points using the oil-based paint pen and put it back on the running belt swiftly within 3 seconds with no errors. After such repeat action for several hours, I have terrible neckache and muscle pain on my arm. A new worker who sat opposite of me gone [sic] exhausted and laid down for a short while. The supervisor has noticed him and punished him by asking him to stand at one corner for 10 minutes like the old school days” Wang Yu, Shanghai Evening Post

Meanwhile, Foxconn’s on-site accommodations also come in for criticism, with dormitories unclean and other facilities, such as the games center and theater, said to be in a poor state of repair.

“The first night sleeping at Foxconn dormitory is a nightmare. The whole dormitory smells like garbage when I walked in. It’s a mixed of overnight garbage smell plus dirty sweat and foam smell. Outside every room was fully piled up with uncleared trash. When I opened my wardrobe, lots of cockroaches crawl out from inside and the bedsheets that are being distributed to every new workers are full of dirts and ashes” Wang Yu, Shanghai Evening Post

Unsurprisingly, Foxconn has reacted quickly to the public criticisms, promising an internal investigation and swift rectification of any problems uncovered. In a statement provided to The Next Web, it conceded that it “is not perfect” but insists that it is “making progress everyday”:

“Foxconn takes our responsibility to our employees very seriously and we work hard to give our over one million employees in China a safe and positive working environment and compensation and benefits that significantly exceed government-mandated rates and that are competitive with all of our industry peers in each location where we operate. We also work hard together with the local government and third parties to provide housing, dining, recreational and other facilities that meet the needs of our employees and we are committed to a process of continuous improvement in those and other benefits.

We do this to ensure that we continue to attract the best workers in the industry. Foxconn is not perfect, but we are making progress everyday and we continue to lead our industry in meeting the needs of the new generation of workers in China. Anything, such as the report in question, that indicates that the high standards set by our company are not being followed is immediately investigated and addressed.”

Not all of the bad press in recent months has been accurate, either. This American Life was forced to retract a controversial “exposé” of poor working conditions at Foxconn, after it was revealed that its creator had blended no small amount of fiction with the facts, making up interviews and fabricating other details.

Google Reportedly Turning Youtube Into A Shopping Site

A report from Bloomberg indicates Google is in the early stages of transforming YouTube into a shopping site.

This would enable consumers to directly purchase items they see in product review videos, unboxing videos, tutorials, and so on.

YouTube is already a shopping destination of sorts, as 55% of consumers use videos to make purchase decisions.

However, when consumers decide to purchase a product after watching a video, they have to go to another site to place the order.

Google wants to make it so users can directly buy the products they see in videos without leaving YouTube.

Bloomberg reports Google is already making moves to turn this plan into a reality by gathering information about products featured in videos.

To collect this information, YouTube creators are being asked to tag and track products shown in their clips.

A YouTube spokesperson confirms to Bloomberg that product tagging features are being tested with a limited number of channels.

According to the spokesperson, creators will have control over which products are tagged in their videos.

It’s noted that the YouTube spokesperson referred to this project as an “experiment.”

Google is also in the process of testing an integration with Shopify to sell products through YouTube.

Bloomberg credits “people familiar with the situation” with providing the information.

It’s not clear how Google will make money from this endeavour. Presumably Google will make a percentage off of each transaction.

There’s no mention in the report of whether there’s a financial incentive for creators to tag the products in their videos.

On one hand, this can open up another revenue stream for YouTubers if they make a commission when viewers buy tagged products.

On the other hand, it could compromise the authenticity of creators’ content if they’re suddenly making money from products they feature.

Hopefully YouTube finds a solution that benefits creators while also not swaying the direction of their content.

YouTube + Shopping = An Ideal Match?

This is not the first time Google has tried to integrate shopping features into YouTube.

Last year, YouTube partnered with Merchbar to sell official YouTuber merchandise underneath videos.

This offered a way for YouTube creators to promote their merchandise, but transactions still had to be completed on Merchbar’s site.

Also last year, Google rolled out Shopping Actions in YouTube. This feature assists viewers with buying products shown in videos, but it’s still necessary to visit another site to complete the transaction.

To date, Google has not offered a way for consumers to buy products directly on YouTube. Although there are many signs indicating that’s the direction the company is headed in.

“When you think about things like unboxing and product reviews, those are a natural home for transactions as well.”

We’ll see how natural a fit this ends up being. Perhaps this feature could make an appearance in time for holiday shopping?

Anonymous Social Network Whisper Reportedly Tracking Your Location

A new report from The Guardian has claimed that the anonymous social network Whisper isn’t as anonymous as it claims, saying that it tracks the locations of its users, including those who have specifically opted out of geolocation tracking. It also shares user information with the US Department of Defense.

The Guardian says it witnessed the practice during a three-day visit to Whisper headquarters as part of their efforts to start a journalistic relationship with the company.

What is Whisper

For those who are not in the know, Whisper is an application that lets you share your deepest secrets, desires, or confessions with others without revealing your identity, or so it claims. The app, which is available for both Android and iOS, gets more than 3 billion page views a month and has millions of users – 70 percent female, mostly aged 18 to 24.

The way Whisper works is you write a message (could be a confession, question, feeling … anything) and the app suggests a relevant image over which the message is superimposed. Following this you can post the message, known as a whisper. Those who find your message interesting can either send you open replies or chat with you in private. The point here is that people talking to you don’t know anything about you and you do not know anything about them, allowing you to speak your mind and heart anonymously.

As you can see in the screenshot displayed below, the app categorizes whispers into three categories: Popular, Nearby, and Latest. There’s also a big + icon at the bottom centre which you can tap to create a whisper.

As you can see in the screenshot below, someone with the handle ‘Stoned_Smith’ answered my question in detail (my replies are in purple):

Not everyone was polite enough; I received some quite nasty replies too, which is understandable, as the app is bound to attract all kinds of people, thanks to the anonymity it claims to provide.

What the report claims

The Guardian report claims that Whisper has developed an in-house mapping tool that enables its staff to filter and search GPS data and even pinpoints messages to within 500 meters of where they were sent. The news site also claims that the app is capable of tracking an individual user’s movements over time and even extracts their rough location from IP data emitted by their devices, something which is done on a targeted, case-by-case basis.

The Guardian also says that the company is cooperating with the US Department of Defense, sharing user data with researchers investigating the frequency of mentions of suicide (or self-harm) from hand-held devices like smartphones that Whisper knows are being used from US military bases.

What Whisper has to say

Whisper has refuted the allegations, saying that there’s no truth in the article.

Whisper does not collect nor store any personally identifiable information from users and is anonymous. There is nothing in our geolocation data that can be tied to an individual user and a user’s anonymity is never compromised. Whisper does not follow or track users. The Guardian’s assumptions that Whisper is gathering information about users and violating user’s privacy are false.

The company said the above in a statement to TechCrunch, adding that The Guardian has made a mistake by publishing the story and they will regret it.

What do we think

Considering the fact that the allegations are made by a reputed publication like The Guardian, it’s a bit hard to believe Whisper’s claims that they are complete lies. Although nothing is proven yet, if the publication’s allegations are true, it only proves that users shouldn’t blindly believe the anonymity claims made by these kind of apps, and should think twice before sharing information about their personal or professional lives.

Himanshu Arora

Himanshu Arora is a freelance technical writer by profession but a software programmer and Linux researcher at heart. He covers software tutorials, reviews, tips/tricks, and more. Some of his articles have been featured on IBM developerworks, ComputerWorld, and in Linux Journal.

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Optimizing Remote Work: Ways To Keep Remote Workers Focused

You may trust your remote workers to stay focused on the job, but it’s always nice to help people along.

Remote work is definitely on the rise. There’s no way to reverse that trend, so employers must adapt.

Fighting or criticizing the revolution doesn’t help. The best thing to do is to keep remote workers focused on the job. The good thing is that there are steps you can take to make this a reality for your business.

Also read:

How to Calculate Your Body Temperature with an iPhone Using Smart Thermometer

Breaks are Vital

Keeping remote workers focused doesn’t mean they need to be glued to their screens. That hurts productivity and focus.

You want to schedule more breaks to ensure workers can finish their assignments effectively. You know that remote workers want a better work/life balance. Prioritize that, and they’ll appreciate it.

Schedule in family time, alone time, lunches, brunches, and a walk or exercise. Do this and you’ll see how focused your employees will be.

While it may feel odd to promote breaks, it gives remote workers structure.

Check-In Tools

There are a number of tools, like an employee tracking system. Find one that works best for your employees.

Using tracking tools may seem off-putting to some employees, so make sure you are transparent about this.

Let workers know they can use tracking data to ask for promotions or verify paid time, so it’s not only for employers.

Try to Limit Meetings

Many employers are guilty of using online communication tools too much.

This may be done to keep employees engaged and focused, but this normally has the opposite effect.

While it’s good to update your employees regarding overall goals or updates for projects, it’s not good to schedule needless meetings.

This won’t sit well with your employees. These useless meetings will be a waste of time, and it’ll make employees feel like you’re wasting their time.

This can also hurt productivity and enthusiasm for the job.

Also read:

Top 10 Programming Languages for Kids to learn

Expecting the Right Amount

Some employers make the mistake of demanding more from employees than they should. This is especially true concerning remote workers.

Employers expect more because they know workers don’t have to commute to the office.

The problem is that there are many distractions at home, even if employees have a designated work area. Assigning a larger workload to keep employees engaged is a bad idea.

Studies show that productivity and focus suffers if remote workers are overworked.

What you need to do is scale things back a little, and be sure to assign the normal workload to each employee, nothing more.

Inject Some Motivation

Find ways to motivate employees, even if you aren’t there. You can do this in several ways.

You can gamify some of the assignments if not all of them. You can introduce little contests among your employees to spark competition from time to time.

You could also reward employees. A reward can be public recognition, but it could also be gift cards or maybe group gifts once projects are complete.

Showing gratitude makes a difference, and it motivates employees to be better and more focused. Just make sure you offer quality gifts to your workers.

Show Appreciation Often

This was alluded to earlier, but it’s important to mention it again. You have to show appreciation.

Showing gratitude or appreciation should help improve engagement and focus among employees because it shows them that you care.

When you care for your employees, they can’t help but care about you and your business. This also promotes loyalty and employee retention. Being good to employees isn’t hard to do.

You can do things like offer rewards, which was mentioned earlier, but you could also listen to their concerns and address them. You could be flexible with their schedules when they ask for free time.

The more you address their concerns and make them feel like they matter, the more productive they’ll be.

Now, you know what you can do to ensure focus among your remote workers. It’s possible to achieve this. All it takes is a few adjustments.

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