US Ends Trade Privileges to Bangladesh Following Garment Factory Disasters

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that the US will end trade privileges with Bangladesh over concerns for safety and working conditions in factories.

The US will suspend Bangladesh from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which will increase tariffs on certain goods. The move, in response to recent garment factory disasters, will not directly affect the garment industry because they were not eligible for duty cuts under GSP.

The collapse of a Rana Plaza garment factory outside Dhaka on April 24 left over 1,100 people dead. A factory fire in November 2012 killed over 100 people.

Read on at PRI’s The World.

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Guerrilla film project changes boundaries of movie-going

A Drive-By Cinema screening (courtesy of the Pacific Arts Movement)

A Drive-By Cinema screening (courtesy of the Pacific Arts Movement)

The cargo in Pacific Arts Movement’s overhauled moving truck is a motley assortment: In front, a Wi-Fi hotspot, charger, chemical compounds and grease remover, a pack of cigarettes and DVDs. In the back there are three white lab coats, a coffee table and two rugs, a small white parasol, orange safety cones, and a generator (plus a custom-made padded box to muffle the sound of the generator).

Bryce Griffin, who holds the title “Electronics Wizard,” drinks a can of Monster before taking the wheel.

“It’s actually really physical and kind of mentally draining. I’m climbing up on the truck and jumping around and it’s crunch time to get everything set up before the time we’re supposed to start,” he said. “And the stress doesn’t really go away once we actually start because at any second everything can turn off I have to get it running again.”

Griffin is part of a small team called Drive-By Cinema. It’s a new initiative of the Pacific Arts Movement, a 12-year-old nonprofit arts organization best known for producing the San Diego Asian Film Festival. The truck is a hollowed out, painted-over U-Haul, tricked out to create cinematic experiences in unlikely places. Screens can go on any side of the truck—including on top where a modified scrap piece of sail becomes a two-sided projection screen so people can see films from either side of the street where the truck is parked.

Read on at Public Radio International.

 

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24 companies sign on to major safety agreement for Bangladesh clothing factories

Twnety-four major clothing retailers have now committed to a safety accord for garment factories in Bangladesh.

More than 1,100 garment workers were killed when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed outside of Dhaka last month and hundreds of factories were closed Monday across Bangladesh amid workers’ unrest over safety concerns.

H&M, Inditex, C&A, Primark, and Tesco agreed to the accord on Monday. Seven other companies, including Benetton and Mango, joined on Tuesday, while more followed suit by Wednesday. The agreement includes measures such as independent safety inspections and public reports, an increased role for workers and unions, and funding for repairs and renovations, according to the IndustriALL and UNI Global Unions that initiated the accord.

US company PVH (which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) and German retailer Tchibo agreed to sign the accord last year. Other US retailers such as Walmart and Gap, have not signed the agreement. Walmart is making a “solo effort” while Gap has maintained that it cannot be part of a legally-binding accord.

The deadline for companies to join the accord is the end of the day on May 15.

News of the agreement broke during a day-long chat about the garment industry hosted by The World on Facebook yesterday. The developments prompted questions during the chat about what moves large, international clothing companies to take action and how consumers can affect change in the industry.

Read more about the chat and the post I wrote yesterday.

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My $10 T-Shirt: A Conversation about Ethical Fashion

The death toll of the April 24 collapse of a garment factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, has passed 1,000 people, making it the worst industrial accident since the 1984 gas leak at a Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal. The Rana Plaza complex collapsed just one day after an engineer declared it unsafe.

Britain’s Primark and Canadian company Loblaw, have admitted that their clothing was manufactured at Rana Plaza and offered to compensate victims of the disaster.

One question on my mind this week has been: Is it possible that the T-shirt I bought yesterday was made by one of the workers killed in that factory?

It is a disconcerting thought for a shopper’s conscience. But figuring out what we as consumers can do to help workers in the garment industry is not an easy task.

Join us Monday on Facebook for a day-long chat about how we might be able to shop more responsibly for our clothes. Click here to RSVP and post your comments and questions to the wall.

Read more at PRI’s The World.

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Chinese Characters at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Jeffrey Wasserstrom and I, co-editors of  will be at the legendary Los Angeles Time Festival of Books at USC on Sunday, April 21. Come to roam the festival and find us at 3:30pm in Seeley G. Mudd (SGM 124).

Nonfiction: People & Place
(Conversation 2084)
Mark Binelli (Detroit City is the Place to Be)
Bill Boyarsky (Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times)
Angilee Shah and Jeffrey Wasserstrom (Chinese Characters)
Moderator: Orli Low (Black Clock)

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Digital Storytelling: A Symposium

I’m excited an honored to be speaking next week at UC Irvine at day-long event that is mouth-watering for anyone who loves to write. The Digital Storytelling Symposium features some of the most innovative people in long form writing today including, well, Longform folks themselves. The Atavist, Byliner, Equire, Noir Magazine, Matter and the Los Angeles Review of Books will all be represented. Here’s more information about the roundtable I am on and the whole event.

DIGITAL STORYTELLING: A SYMPOSIUM
THURSDAY, 18 APRIL 2013
11 A.M.-6:30 P.M.
UC IRVINE SCHOOL OF HUMANITIES

11-12:00 “The Future of Digital Publishing”: A Roundtable
Humanities Instructional Building 135
Moderated and introduced by Kavita Philip (UCI History)

Featuring:
Tom Lutz, Founder and Editor, LA Review of Books; Professor, UC Riverside Department of Creative Writing
Angilee Shah, Social Media Strategy, Public Radio International
Mark Bryant, Editor-in-Chief of Byliner.com
Nancie Clare, Founder and Editor of Noir Magazine (noirmagazine.tumblr.com)
Mike Sager, Writer-at-Large for Esquire and founder of digital publishing imprint The Sager Group (www.thesagergroup.com)

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#WorldGender Conversation: What is the Role of Men in the Fight for Women’s Safety?

Women’s outcries for safety became more audible in the aftermath of the gang rape and subsequent death of a young woman in Delhi last December. Increasingly, male voices are entering the discussion as well.

Take Ali Shahidy, for example. He initially wrote an essay about becoming a feminist in Afghanistan under a pseudonym. As “Salim Hussaini,” he wrote candidly for the Women Under Siege website:

Growing up in Afghanistan, I had already watched my father beat my mother—but that was seen as just another part of daily life. Then the cycle of violence continued when I myself became an abuser. I began to beat my sisters and harass girls in the street. I restricted my sisters’ movements, how they looked, and who they spoke to. Afghan customs taught me that the honor of my family was more important than the physical and psychological well being of my own siblings. I was following accepted cultural norms without shame.

Confronted with his sister’s abusive marriage, however, Shahidy changed his mind:

To help my sister, I had to fight with mullahs and our elders; I had to struggle with practices, beliefs, and values that filled my life since birth… After helping Soraya, I knew I had a responsibility to fight for women’s rights in a larger way.

PRI’s The World is hosting a discussion with Shahidy and a panel of people in the thick of the movement about the roles of men when it comes to movements for women’s safety.

Join this conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #worldgender. Then join producer Jeb Sharp, guests and me in a live-stream conversation on Thursday, April 11 at 10AM EST.

More at PRI’s The World.

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How has the web changed coverage of Asia?

Next week in San Diego, I’ll be on a “late breaking” news panel at the Association for Asian Studies’ annual conference. I’ve started to think about how to explain the many ways that connectivity — social media, VOIP, chat clients — have really colored how I think about news and story telling about the region. From telling stories using curation to the essential reading of bloggers on Global Voices, international news has been drawn in a lot closer to audiences in the United States. Journalists can no longer write or produce news with the expectation that the subjects of stories will not be able to see or comment on how they’ve been portrayed. Local feedback is instantaneous. But what does this mean for politics across Asia? How do things change when people in Asia can directly communicate with people anywhere else in the world, and vice versa?

These are the questions I’m looking forward to addressing. The panel has a great lineup and no doubt there will be some exceptional minds in the room, so I think it will be a lively conversation. If you have any thoughts or ideas that I might share with the group, I’m all ears. Email me or comment here.

If you’re in San Diego, you can join the event for free. Here are the details:

Digital Debates and Digital Divides: How the Web has Changed Politics in and Coverage of Asia

 

FRIDAY, March 22, 10:45 am – 12:45 pm, Manchester Grand Hyatt, Manchester Ballroom A

Discussants:

Jeff Wasserstrom, University of California Irvine (Moderator)
Nguyen Giang, Editor, East Asia Hub and Vietnamese Service, BBC World Service/London
Kaiser Kuo, Director of International Communications for Baidu, (China’s largest search engine).
Emma Larkin, Freelance Writer, Bangkok
Angilee Shah, Journalist and Blogger, Public Radio International

This panel is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation

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China Stories

If Chinese Characters is about telling the stories of everyday life in China, China Stories is explicitly a way to think about how we tell and hear those stories. Historian Jeffrey Wasserstrom and I teamed up again to curate and edit this e-book volume of reviews and analyses for the Los Angeles Review of Books. The cover art is by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, who figures in the collection alongside some others who have shaped how we see China and how people in China see themselves.

The ebook was available first to LARB supporters, but is now on Amazon for everyone. I hope you enjoy the collection!

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#worldgender: Women’s Right to Safety

At Public Radio International and PRI’s The World, we’ve been covering women’s rights and protests since the rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi in December sparked large and prolonged protest. We don’t have the resources of a wire service or massive media organization, but we still wanted to give prominence to what people around the world are doing and saying about women’s roles and rights in societies. So I’ve been working with our team on a project to look at movements for women’s rights — could this be a Feminist Spring? as Viji Sundaram wrote — and keep a light shined on the subject over time. We’ve used RebelMouse as our platform, incorporating our own reporting, others’ stories, but most importantly the comments and stories of individuals. RebelMouse gives us the ability to be network-neutral; I’ve pulled in tweets and links, videos and images, but also text from emails and quotes that I can customize to tell the story as best I can. We’ve also been able to categorize the story into navigation that makes sense turning a huge list of information into manageable chunks. I would say, the only thing missing is the ability to search all the posts for keywords. Here’s a taste, but to see it completely with navigation etc., you’ll need to go to RebelMouse.

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