September 30, 2022

Private Manning of WikiLeaks Case Must Face Charges

But the judge, Col. Denise Lind, ruled that brig officials had improperly kept Private Manning on stricter conditions, including procedures designed to prevent potentially suicidal detainees from injuring themselves, for excessive periods. As a remedy, she granted Private Manning 112 days of credit against any eventual prison sentence.

That amounted to little more than a symbolic victory for Private Manning, whose supporters had rallied around claims that he had been tortured at Quantico. Prosecutors are pursuing charges, including aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act, that could result in a life sentence if he is convicted. His court-martial is scheduled to begin on March 6.

The ruling by Colonel Lind came after a long pretrial hearing last month that amounted to a miniature trial over whether military officials had subjected Private Manning to unlawfully harsh conditions over the roughly eight months he spent at Quantico in 2010 and 2011. His defense team had asked for the charges to be dismissed or for 10-for-1 credit for time served for the bulk of his time in Quantico, which could have shaved around seven years from any eventual prison term.

But Colonel Lind, who spent nearly two hours reading her opinion in a small courtroom on Tuesday afternoon, found for the government on most of the disputed facts. She recounted in great detail Private Manning’s sometimes erratic behavior and mental problems both before and after his arrest in Iraq in 2010, including suicidal gestures and comments that she said made his captors legitimately fear that he was dwelling on suicide and biding his time until an opportunity arose.

“There was no intent to punish the accused by anyone in the Marine Corps brig staff or chain of command,” she said. “The intent was to make sure the accused was safe, did not hurt himself and was available for the trial.”

Still, Colonel Lind found that some steps brig officials had taken were excessive. The government had already conceded that Private Manning should not have been kept on the strictest status, “suicide risk,” on two occasions totaling seven days, after a brig medical official said that status was no longer necessary. She agreed, awarding one day of credit for each of those days.

She also said that it eventually became excessive and effectively punitive for brig officials to keep him on “prevention of injury” status — a category that did not require a doctor’s assent — for a 75-day period starting in November 2010, when his behavior had been stable for a lengthy period, and ending when he had an anxiety attack.

And she also awarded 20 days’ credit for a period beginning in April 2011 until he was transferred from Quantico later that month, when brig officials kept him on an extra-strict version of “prevention of injury” status. That included removing his underwear nightly after a comment he had laughingly made to a guard in early March that he could kill himself with its elastic band if he wanted.

Finally, she awarded him 10 days’ credit for a period in which brig officials allowed him just 20 minutes of exercise a day instead of the full hour other prisoners were granted.

Colonel Lind’s opinion also at one point discussed events reported in two articles in The New York Times in March 2011, recounting the removal of Private Manning’s clothing at night: a reaction, it is now clear, to his comment about killing himself with his underwear.

The first article said Private Manning had stood naked during inspection one morning in early March and cited his lawyer, David E. Coombs, as saying his client had been “forced” to do so. But Judge Lind portrayed the event as more ambiguous than an order: Private Manning, lacking clothes, had covered himself with a blanket, and a guard asked if that was how he stood at attention. He reacted by dropping the blanket.

The second article, published the next day, cited a Marine brig spokesman as saying that Private Manning would be required to stand outside his cell under similar conditions each morning. But starting the next day, she found, guards began giving Private Manning his clothing back each morning before inspection, and she said there was no evidence he had stood outside his cell rather than inside it.

Also on Tuesday, the judge began hearing arguments on a pair of motions by prosecutors seeking to restrict the ability of Private Manning’s defense team to call witnesses and introduce other testimony related to his motivation and whether the documents were overclassified.

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The iEconomy: Apple’s iPad and the Human Costs for Workers in China

When workers in the cafeteria ran outside, they saw black smoke pouring from shattered windows. It came from the area where employees polished thousands of iPad cases a day.

Two people were killed immediately, and over a dozen others hurt. As the injured were rushed into ambulances, one in particular stood out. His features had been smeared by the blast, scrubbed by heat and violence until a mat of red and black had replaced his mouth and nose.

“Are you Lai Xiaodong’s father?” a caller asked when the phone rang at Mr. Lai’s childhood home. Six months earlier, the 22-year-old had moved to Chengdu, in southwest China, to become one of the millions of human cogs powering the largest, fastest and most sophisticated manufacturing system on earth. That system has made it possible for Apple and hundreds of other companies to build devices almost as quickly as they can be dreamed up.

“He’s in trouble,” the caller told Mr. Lai’s father. “Get to the hospital as soon as possible.”

In the last decade, Apple has become one of the mightiest, richest and most successful companies in the world, in part by mastering global manufacturing. Apple and its high-technology peers — as well as dozens of other American industries — have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history.

However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.

“If Apple was warned, and didn’t act, that’s reprehensible,” said Nicholas Ashford, a former chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, a group that advises the United States Labor Department. “But what’s morally repugnant in one country is accepted business practices in another, and companies take advantage of that.”

Apple is not the only electronics company doing business within a troubling supply system. Bleak working conditions have been documented at factories manufacturing products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and others.

Current and former Apple executives, moreover, say the company has made significant strides in improving factories in recent years. Apple has a supplier code of conduct that details standards on labor issues, safety protections and other topics. The company has mounted a vigorous auditing campaign, and when abuses are discovered, Apple says, corrections are demanded.

And Apple’s annual supplier responsibility reports, in many cases, are the first to report abuses. This month, for the first time, the company released a list identifying many of its suppliers.

But significant problems remain. More than half of the suppliers audited by Apple have violated at least one aspect of the code of conduct every year since 2007, according to Apple’s reports, and in some instances have violated the law. While many violations involve working conditions, rather than safety hazards, troubling patterns persist.

“Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost,” said Li Mingqi, who until April worked in management at Foxconn Technology, one of Apple’s most important manufacturing partners. Mr. Li, who is suing Foxconn over his dismissal, helped manage the Chengdu factory where the explosion occurred.

“Workers’ welfare has nothing to do with their interests,” he said.

Some former Apple executives say there is an unresolved tension within the company: executives want to improve conditions within factories, but that dedication falters when it conflicts with crucial supplier relationships or the fast delivery of new products. Tuesday, Apple reported one of the most lucrative quarters of any corporation in history, with $13.06 billion in profits on $46.3 billion in sales. Its sales would have been even higher, executives said, if overseas factories had been able to produce more.

Executives at other corporations report similar internal pressures. This system may not be pretty, they argue, but a radical overhaul would slow innovation. Customers want amazing new electronics delivered every year.

“We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,” said one former Apple executive who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. “Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice.”

“If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years?” the executive asked.

Gu Huini contributed research.

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Shell Gets Tentative Approval to Drill in Arctic

The move confirms a willingness by President Obama to approve expanded domestic oil and gas exploration in response to high gasoline prices and continuing high levels of unemployment. It comes as the issuing of drilling permits in the gulf is quickening, including the granting on Thursday of a permit for a Shell floating drill rig for a 4,000-foot-deep well. That means that that all five of the company’s rigs will be back at to work after a long drilling halt.

The decision to tentatively approve Shell’s plan to drill four exploratory wells in the Beaufort Sea off the North Slope of Alaska represents a major step in the company’s efforts to exploit the vast oil and gas resources under the Arctic Ocean, although some hurdles remain. The company has spent nearly $4 billion and more than five years trying to win the right to drill in the frigid waters, against the opposition of many environmental advocates and of Alaska natives who depend on the sea for their livelihoods.

Opponents say the harsh conditions there heighten the dangers of drilling and make cleaning up any potential spill vastly more complicated than in the comparatively benign waters of the gulf.

Administration officials cautioned that the company must win a number of secondary permits before it can begin punching holes in the seabed. The plan approved on Thursday, considered the overarching one, contains detailed information on how the company would respond to any blowout and spill.

“We base our decisions regarding energy exploration and development in the Arctic on the best scientific information available,” said Michael R. Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which oversees offshore drilling. “We will closely review and monitor Shell’s proposed activities to ensure that any activities that take place under this plan will be conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.”

    Shell enthusiastically welcomed the decision. “We feel very good about it,” said Pete Slaiby, Shell’s vice president in Alaska. “It’s one of the road marks we wanted to see. It makes us very happy.”

But the announcement only partly smooths the rocky relations between the administration and the oil industry, with the president remaining committed to repealing $4 billion in annual oil company tax breaks. The administration has also been wary of encouraging the industry’s aggressive plans to drill in shale oil and gas fields across the country because of concerns about potential drinking water contamination.

“This strikes me as a shift back to the track that the administration was on prior to last year’s oil spill,” said Michael Levi, an energy and environment fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It seems the lesson that the administration took is that offshore drilling needs to be regulated better and done better, not that it shouldn’t be done at all.”

The plan is almost certain to face legal challenges.

“No drill bits are going to hit the Arctic sea floor until at least one and probably several courts have reviewed this plan,” said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is already suing to stop drilling in the Chukchi Sea west of Alaska. “From the perspective of ocean drilling and climate, it’s hard to see a difference between this administration and the last one.”

Shell still needs to win approval of its drilling plan for the Chukchi, which is west of the Beaufort Sea and more remote.

The company has proposed drilling four wells iat a depth of approximately 160 feet of water about 20 miles from shore in the Beaufort. The BP well that exploded in the gulf in April 2010 was at a depth of more than 5,000 feet and 40 miles from the Louisiana coast. The accident killed 11 workers and spilled nearly five million barrels of oil into the gulf.

Energy experts and industry executives said the move on Thursday reflected a partial warming of relations between the oil industry and Obama administration since the BP disaster.

“I don’t know if I would call them friends yet, but I look at this as a step in the right direction,” said Craig T. Castille, operations manager for deepwater projects at Stone Energy, who added that the permit process in the Gulf of Mexico remained slower than the industry would like.

Shell has spent years trying to convince federal regulators and several courts that it can drill safely in the Arctic, and every year one hurdle or another has stood in its way.

Shell has already invested nearly $4 billion on its 10-year offshore leases and preparations for exploration in the forbidding Chukchi and Beaufort seas,. Its current plan is to drill up to 10 exploratory wells in the two seas, potentially leading to production by the end of the decade.

 Shell has been obliged over the years to tighten its spill response plan, especially since the BP accident at the Macondo well in the gulf. It is proposing to use two drill ships in the Arctic, each capable of drilling a relief well for the other; put an extra set of shears on its blowout preventers; and keep emergency capping systems near drill sites to capture any leaks.

The Alaskan Arctic may hold 27 billion barrels of oil, enough to fuel 25 million cars for 35 years. But environmentalists warn that a spill in the Arctic would be more catastrophic than the Gulf of Mexico accident was because the Alaskan waters are dark and inaccessible, and because they are vital breeding grounds for many aquatic species that are endangered or at risk.

Marilyn Heiman, director of the Pew Environment Group’s Arctic program, said that the region was the harshest area in the world in which to drill for oil, as well as a sensitive habitat for a variety of sea mammals. The proposed well sites are subject to fierce winds and high seas in the fall and lie hundreds of miles from the nearest Coast Guard stations.

“Hard questions need to be asked about any oil company’s ability to mount a response to a major oil spill in hurricane-force winds, high seas, broken and shifting sea ice, subzero temperatures and months of fog and darkness,” Ms. Heiman said in an e-mail from Alaska.

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