5 Products You Own (That Were Made By The Worst People)
We all have some horrible stuff in our homes. Yes, even you. We know about that box under your bed. But the worst is when you think a product is totally chill ... until you stumble upon an article all about how your favorite video game was programmed by child workers, or how your trusty toaster is actually made from the bones of endangered animals or something. Surprise! This is that article!
Tons Of Healing Crystals Come From Unethical Mining Operations
Gwyneth Paltrow may be rapidly transitioning from acting to her true passion: counter-suing elderly skiers who say that she broke their bones. But she still finds time to peddle healing crystals through her online snake oil empire. She's not alone, either. Crystals are now a billion-dollar business. So where do all those allegedly magical rocks that "promote your well-being," "create positive energy," and even "help you with colon cancer" (disclaimer: no, they don't) come from? It's difficult to track down the sources of the crystals, and most sites selling them do their level best to avoid mentioning where they come from.
The reason for this is simple: You get gemstones by mining them. Some of the crystals make their way to the market through comparatively environmentally friendly specialized small-scale mines, or even the occasional random hippie who just picks a spot and starts digging. But a significant portion are byproducts of the heavy mining industry, which is infamous for a generally laissez-faire approach to environmental standards and worker's rights. The gems are then smoothed, polished, and sold at trade shows to vendors who might have no idea where they came from and presumably treat these trips like a kindergarten teacher heading to Vegas to buy a truckload of meth from a sleazy biker gang.
You can imagine how this image might stain the Earth-friendly fresh karma of a $90 energy crystal a bit.
Medical Companies Might Have Funded Terrorism
Chances are that without antibiotics, you would be dead right now. It's no surprise that drug companies jack up prices and do all sorts of other shady stuff because they know they have you by the T-cells, but we have to admit that we did not see "accessory to terrorism" coming.
Lo and behold, at least three major medical companies -- Johnson & Johnson, Roche Holding A.G., and AstraZeneca -- have recently come to the attention of the U.S. Justice Department for their contracts with the Iraqi government in the 2000s. It turns out that these companies agreed to provide free medicine and supplies in exchange for the right to do business in the country. Doesn't sound so bad, right? Well, do you remember what was going on between the U.S. and Iraq during that time?
What those companies may or may not have known (and which the Justice Department is currently trying to determine) is that the supplies they donated were then sold on the black market by rogue health ministry officials to fund activities like roadside bombings that killed U.S. soldiers. In fact, the contracts came to light when the families of those soldiers filed a lawsuit against those companies in 2017, and the Justice Department was like "Hey, we should probably be involved in this too." The investigation hasn't reached a conclusion yet, but in the meantime, feel free to make it one more thing to be mad about when you pick up your extremely overpriced insulin.
Your Cosmetics Might Be Made By A Creepy Religious Commune Using Child Labor
Not many people associate hippies with cleanliness, but there is, in fact, a whole hive of them living in Upstate New York, making a living manufacturing and selling high-end soap.
The Twelves Tribes community in Cambridge, a small town in the hinterlands of the Empire State, live in what many call a commune, but which can probably more accurately be described as a messianic cult. They established a company called Common Sense Farms to produce skincare products in partnership with cosmetics behemoth Estee Lauder. It was a lucrative contract for the freewheeling, ponytailed, Yahshua-loving group, until they were accused of making little kids do a significant amount of the labor.
Estee Lauder terminated their contract with Twelve Tribes after a 2001 inspection revealed children working in the facility used to make the Origins line of products. (Yes, the one every beauty magazine was pimping at the time.) The accusations of child abuse were immediately denied and waved off as kids innocently helping their dads out. The New York Department of Labor didn't find much evidence, so not much was done ... until an undercover investigation in 2018 revealed children as young as nine working on assembly lines making the popular Acure and Savannah Bee products sold in Walmart, Target, and Whole Foods stores across the country.
They also found bamboo rods ominously hanging on the walls of the commune, where "beatings are a way of life," according to the reporter. The authorities have launched another investigation, and in the meantime, Acure has severed ties with the factory, Walmart has taken its products off shelves, Target is considering doing the same, and Whole Foods had ... um, no comment. Child labor is technically organic?
Uniqlo Clothing Is Brought To You By Abused Workers Wallowing In Sewage
You're probably somewhat aware in the back of your mind that your jeans might not have been made by happy seamstresses wearing quaint do-rags and receiving fantastic 401(k) matches, but Uniqlo, a Japanese casualwear giant, manages to go above and beyond with the whole "evil" thing. Not only do they use Chinese suppliers that casually abuse their impoverished factory workers, but those factories even let sewage flow freely on the floors while the workers do their level best to whip together your skinny jeans.
This nightmarish situation was uncovered in 2015 by a bunch of activists who went undercover. Apart from the usual awful management, unsafe working conditions, and lack of platform to express their concerns, the workers were so underpaid that they had to work overtime just to make a living, which wasn't helped by the fact that overtime wages had a tendency to be miscalculated. The ventilation of the workspace was abysmal, the temperatures were high, and the air was full of cotton dust -- not that you wanted to breathe in particularly deep, because again, sewage. So if you're rocking Uniqlo slippers right now, all we ask is that you pause for a moment to feel a bit gross about it.
Your Old Video Game Systems Spurred War Atrocities
You've probably heard of "blood diamonds," but you probably didn't know that the old PlayStation sitting in your closet is the same thing. A BloodStation, if you will. In the early 2000s, the demand for the PS2 absolutely skyrocketed. Sony had to start mass-producing the parts for the console -- in particular, new capacitors that were extremely heat-resistant. They found their solution in a material called tantalum, which is a highly refined version of a natural mineral called coltan. But there was a catch: Nearly 80% of the world's supply of coltan sat unearthed under the Democratic Republic of Congo.
With huge amounts of money to be made and a politically unstable situation in the DRC, the fight for control of the coltan mines became a bloody eight-sided international conflict. It was colloquially referred to as "the PlayStation War," and any summary of it reads like a Game Of Thrones episode: enslavement, forced child labor, horrendous working conditions, mining deaths, human trafficking, and general violence and bloodshed over control of the mines and borders.
In fact, coltan mining was so profitable that it almost singlehandedly funded the Rwandan occupation of the DRC, which is the only reason it's called the DRC instead of Zaire now. Did we mention that the Second Congo War -- the war that conflict resources like coltan financed -- was the deadliest conflict since World War II, with roughly 5.4 million deaths between 1998 and 2002? Yep. Sorry to Crash your Bandicoot, but literally everything you do makes you a monster!
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