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Apple To Release List of Companies That Build Its Products Around the World

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the knowing-the-source dept.

Businesses 164

mathfeel writes "Indulge me in some post hoc reasoning here: After last week's episode of This American Life 'Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,' a very interesting show, Apple announced that 'For the first time, Apple has released a list of companies that build its products around the world. In another first, the company also announced that it will allow an independent third party to check on working conditions at those factories, and to make its findings public.' But before you celebrate Apple's gesture (or complain about the potential increase in electronic price): 'It doesn't appear that Apple's partnership with the FLA will increase transparency in this regard either. The FLA will audit 5% of the factories that make Apple products, but like Apple, it will not name which ones it checks or where it finds violations.'"

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a very interesting show (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706952)

a very interesting show

a very interesting comment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707300)

a very interesting comment

Re:a very interesting comment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707320)

And a more interesting reply! [painolympics.info]

Re:a very interesting show (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707976)

a very interesting faggot

Re:a very interesting show (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38708360)

Hi everyone, I'm afraid Bonch couldn't be with us today but in his absence I'd just like to assure everyone that Google factories are much much worse than Apple ones - in addition to inhuman working conditions the factory drones have to watch ads all day long, have to give up all their personal info and, worst of all, don't get a seamless experience. That's right, no seamless experience with Google. Hope that clears everything up. Bye.

Then what? (3, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706956)

They will check working conditions and...then do what when they find violations? Is there any reason to think that Apple will stop doing business with factories that mistreat workers? Is this going to be another sham like Apple's treatment of the conflict minerals situation (where Steve Jobs basically threw his hands up and said that Apple could do nothing about it)?

Re:Then what? (4, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706994)

Look, we live in a world now of Capitalism.
There is no give and take where Capitalism and socialism melded together to form a better world for us all.
Instead, it is all about the money and not about those that get trampled on in that endeavor.
So, if you want to placate the masses, you offer empty gestures and convoluted solutions to problems that will never go away in a Capitalistic society.
Dont even think about "voting with your wallet", as there is no competition anymore. Patenting everything from taking a shit to clicking a button took care of that.

Re:Then what? (4, Insightful)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707078)

Doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

The world may be royally screwed up; as individuals, we may not have a whole lot of power to do anything about the Way Things Are (tm), but that shouldn't stop us from striving. If nothing else, there is intrinsic value in the attempt. And who knows - enough individuals exerting pressure may, if not radically change the nature of man and the world, at least mitigate the damage of some of the worst that we do.

Re:Then what? (2)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707190)

I am not saying dont try, I was responding to the current state of affairs that brought us to this point.
Perhaps public pressure will do it, but then again public pressure over 2 years evolved into this retort by Apple.
Perhaps "voting with your wallet" will do it, but then again it will take a long time, an expensive effort, and people caring to make it happen.
Perhaps voting in people that will take these issues seriously will be the ticket, but then again... read above.
So yes, change can happen, but in our ADHD, 30 second outrage world, how long will it take? What will be the key? Perhaps a vendor setting themselves on fire?

Re:Then what? (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707238)

Perhaps "voting with your wallet" will do it, but then again it will take a long time, an expensive effort, and people caring to make it happen.

Unfortunately, nobody cares enough. Did people even reduce their purchases of new electronics when they learned about the conflict minerals situation, or did they forget about the war the minute they saw a new cell phone on the market? Did people stop buying sneakers when they found out that children were being forced to work to produce the shoes? People in America simply do not care about the troubles of other countries, as long as they can continue to live comfortable high-tech lives.

If people were willing to do something like this, we could affect change:

http://library.thinkquest.org/26504/ [thinkquest.org]

Re:Then what? (1, Troll)

jaymz666 (34050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707428)

do the sheeple in line at the apple store on release day of the next igadget even give a crap, as long as they can be cool by association and get the new shiny object on release day?

Re:Then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707450)

Using words like "sheeple" make your argument lose all credibility. Maybe if you could form a sentence, using real words, you might have have an effect on someone.

Re:Then what? (0)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707656)

do the sheeple...

Stopped reading here.

Maturity is an important part of debate.

Re:Then what? (2, Insightful)

jaymz666 (34050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707756)

It conveys the sentiment. Unthinking masses of people who only want to be trendy and follow the herd. Sheeple.

Re:Then what? (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707874)

It conveys the sentiment. Unthinking masses of people who only want to be trendy and follow the herd. Sheeple.

Problem is, "unthinking" also applies to the one using the Apple/sheeple meme. It's just a knee-jerk response that doesn't add anything to the conversation. It's basically a smug way of stating one's own (perceived) superiority while conveniently ignoring the wider problem - the fact that this is a wider issue that touches most all tech-related companies we do business with, not just Apple.

Re:Then what? (3, Insightful)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707886)

It's immature and a sweeping generalisation, but you know that.

In the same way that not all Linux users are unwashed, friendless nerds living off hot pockets, rent-free in their parents' basements, not all Apple users are "sheeple".

To use it as your primary argument just smacks of immaturity and a lack of a real argument.

I really don't mind debating the pros and cons of Apple, and wider technology stories as a whole, but I've got to have something to go on. If you're just going to stand there and tell me I have silly hair then I'm just going to find an adult to talk to instead.

Re:Then what? (1)

jaymz666 (34050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707982)

I didn't say all apple users were sheeple now, did I? I'd argue that most everyone in line at the store on release day are in fact nothing more than sheep.

Re:Then what? (1)

Kenshin (43036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38708116)

And they're not really all that different than all the fandroids who click "buy" the very minute the latest (for that week) Android phone goes on sale online. The only real difference is one group leaves their house to buy it, and thereby gets noticed, and the other group doesn't.

Re:Then what? (1)

jaymz666 (34050) | more than 2 years ago | (#38708436)

No argument here.

Re:Then what? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38708640)

It doesn't convey the meaning of "unthinking masses" but "thinking masses who choose differently than me". Sheeple isn't a description, it's an emotionally charged word designed to insult, not describe. It's the "unthinking" people who buy Android, because for the same price as my HTC, you can get a 4S with similar specs and "better" user experience. Thinking people buy Apple. It's the knee jerk anti-Apple people who are unthinking. But they are few enough (aside from the hoards on Slashdot) that nobody bothers to try to insult them. Just because you don't like a popular trend doesn't make you better than everyone else. Laptops over desktops are a trend as well, so if you own a laptop, you are a sheeple as well. So, any laptops in your stable of computers?

Re:Then what? (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707432)

Well, while it's quite probable that very, very few people actually took conscious action based on their knowledge, that knowledge is the sort of thing that impacts sales.

Advertisers and marketing firms are very aware of the importance of perception and image. People are rarely completely consciously aware of all the factors that play into a buying decision, but if it's in their mind that oil company X spilled oil and never cleaned it up, they're reasonably likely to drive on by that company's gas station to company one belonging to company Y. Same goes for this scenario; we've seen it with various other products (in particular, clothing and shoes come to mind), but given the ubiquitous of personal electronics, I'm thinking that it'll have a perceptible impact here.

So - at some levels, you're correct. There is a level of apathy out there that at some levels seems impossible to overcome. At other levels, though, awareness does have an impact.

Re:Then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707614)

The children sweatshop situation with Nike, you unfortunately have to admit was better than the family the kid supports starving. Terrible, but there's not much yanks can do about foreign conditions short of a complete boycott of the brand. With globalization, just Americans boycotting one company does little when all the other countries do not.

Behold the power of social networking. Getting the word out when a big company does evil, is now a lot more easy to do, but getting people to care is hard. Just look at SOPA. All the smart nerds and pirates are up in arms over it, but the average person doesn't give a damn unless you frame the question right. "Do you care that Apple buys from companies who purchase materials that people were murdered for?" versus "Apple products contain conflict minerals. Do you care?"

As it is, Apple is probably doing this because of Dodd-Frank, not out of the goodness of their heart.

Re:Then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707620)

"If people were willing to do something like this, we could affect change:"

That's "effect", you moron.

Re:Then what? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707544)

Look, we live in a world now of Capitalism.
There is no give and take where Capitalism and socialism melded together to form a better world for us all.

Yes there is, thankfully. As a rule of thumb it can be found in anything that extreme libertarians grumble about. If you look around this site you may find one or two. Try here [slashdot.org] for starters.

Re:Then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707588)

Dont even think about "voting with your wallet", as there is no competition anymore. Patenting everything from taking a shit to clicking a button took care of that.

*me scuttles off to patent clicking a button to take a shit*

Re:Then what? (4, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707060)

You mean this statement:

Yes. We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict few materials. But honestly there is no way for them to be sure. Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it’s a very difficult problem.

Apple can ask their suppliers to use conflict free minerals (which they do). But technically Steve is correct; To guarantee that the minerals were 100% conflict free (indirectly through suppliers' suppliers) is an impossible task that even Dell acknowledged [dell.com] .

The mining of these minerals takes place long before a final product is assembled, making it difficult, if not impossible, to trace the minerals' origins. In addition, many of the minerals are smelted together with recycled metals, and at that point it is virtually impossible to trace the minerals to their source.

The problem is hard enough for conflict free diamonds and each of those gems can be uniquely identified and separated. How do you identify the source of every single particle in a product that is smelted with other materials?

Re:Then what? (0)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707128)

How about not using tantalum?

http://www.digikey.com/us/en/ph/Panasonic/tantalum.html [digikey.com]

I suppose Apple's R&D team might not have been up to the task of finding alternatives to tantalum, but with all the billions of dollars Apple has at their disposal (and all the profit they made on iProducts, which were all made using conflict minerals) they could have set up some research teams and labs. Assuming that they actually cared about the issue, which I would not be so quick to assume (to be fair, Apple's investors and customers never cared, they just wanted to see profits and have sleek looking toys).

As for Steve Jobs' statement, why not apply it to working conditions as well? After all, Apple must have its factories in other countries, just like they must use conflict metals, so how are they supposed to ensure that the factories are not mistreating workers? Dell does it too, right?

Re:Then what? (3, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707258)

How about not using tantalum?

That isn't what was asked. Jobs was asked whether they use conflict minerals and he answered truthfully that is impossible to guarantee 100% that they don't as they can only really control a few levels of manufacturing. Your solution to replace tantalum which only addresses one of the many minerals that are in question. That doesn't really solve the whole problem. Also, since the main source of tantalum [wikipedia.org] is Australia which isn't a conflict region, all that really does is take away a legitimate source.

As for Steve Jobs' statement, why not apply it to working conditions as well? After all, Apple must have its factories in other countries, just like they must use conflict metals, so how are they supposed to ensure that the factories are not mistreating workers? Dell does it too, right?

Well, Apple asks that their suppliers follow humane working conditions but can they control every aspect of the supply chain? Can they guarantee that their suppliers' suppliers do the same? No company can and for the record, Dell (and many other companies) uses the same manufacturers as Apple. For instance Foxconn [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Then what? (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707262)

How about not using tantalum?

So what about communities who mine the stuff, doing everything completely by the book. Do you think they should end up in poverty because bad things happened in a completely different place in the world? This problem is destroying honest people's livelihood right now, you want to make it worse?

Re:Then what? (0)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707312)

So all those people producing tantalum alternatives should be in poverty, because we chose to use tantalum? This is a non-argument. You might as well complain about how stage coach drivers all lost their jobs.

Re:Then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38708544)

noone is arguing that everyone should 'not use tantalum alternatives' if they have a use for those minerals, go right ahead.

Re:Then what? (1)

AgNO3 (878843) | more than 2 years ago | (#38708582)

Stage coach drives lived in an economic environment where they had other alternatives for income. Places that mine Taltalum usually don't and the tantalum mining is the only thing that brought the out of extreme poverty to begin with. While is is not true of say Brazil or Australia is very true of the central African mines.

Re:Then what? (2)

Guy Harris (3803) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707354)

(and all the profit they made on iProducts, which were all made using conflict minerals)

Presumably you're saying that for some reason more than just "they contain tantalum capacitors", as tantalum isn't ipso facto a conflict mineral, unless you're counting Australian rules football and capoeira matches as "conflicts" [indexmundi.com] . E.g., perhaps most or all of the tantalum used in capacitors comes from those countries, or perhaps most or all of the tantalum used in capacitors used in Chinese factories comes from those countries, etc..

Re:Then what? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707394)

This is fair, but in reality the only way to ensure that none of the money spent making electronics finds its way to Congo would be for electronics makers to buy the tantalum (and other minerals) directly from countries like Australia or buy old electronics for recycling and ship the raw supplies to the appropriate places. I am not so sure that would be an infeasible thing for a company like Dell or Apple to do, although it might be more expensive (which is all that really matters, and which is why these sorts of things won't happen).

Really, tech companies could do a lot of things. They could stop using conflict minerals and rely on alternatives. They could hire workers in countries with labor protections instead of China. They are not doing these things, because they do not really care about being socially responsible, only about appearing to be socially responsible (or not even that -- Apple is one of the few that even bothers to put on a show of auditing its suppliers).

Re:Then what? (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707568)

This is fair, but in reality the only way to ensure that none of the money spent making electronics finds its way to Congo would be for electronics makers to buy the tantalum (and other minerals) directly from countries like Australia or buy old electronics for recycling and ship the raw supplies to the appropriate places.

Only if the source of the material is pure. In your example if a capacitor company buys pure, raw tantalum from Australia directly yes; however, if they buy recycled material, how can you tell where it came from? The recycler may not know as it they get their material from a variety of sources. If you can identify with isotope dating or some other means it might be technically possible however I know of no means to separate every single material by origin in this manner. Then when these materials get mixed in a smelt the origin gets muddled even further. The only way to do so is to never use recycled material. But then people can accuse them of being not ecologically responsible.

I am not so sure that would be an infeasible thing for a company like Dell or Apple to do, although it might be more expensive (which is all that really matters, and which is why these sorts of things won't happen).

Since Dell or Apple do not manufacture every single component in their products, yes, this is an infeasible thing to do.

Really, tech companies could do a lot of things. They could stop using conflict minerals and rely on alternatives.

If you can provide these companies with technologies that allow them to do so, I think they would love to hear from you. All you need to do is provide electronic materials that don't use gold, iron, tin, manganese, niobium, and tungsten.

Re:Then what? (4, Informative)

Guy Harris (3803) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707586)

(and all the profit they made on iProducts, which were all made using conflict minerals)

Presumably you're saying that for some reason more than just "they contain tantalum capacitors", as tantalum isn't ipso facto a conflict mineral, unless you're counting Australian rules football and capoeira matches as "conflicts" [indexmundi.com] . E.g., perhaps most or all of the tantalum used in capacitors comes from those countries, or perhaps most or all of the tantalum used in capacitors used in Chinese factories comes from those countries, etc..

Actually, in 2009, Australian production dropped significantly [usgs.gov] ("The Government of Western Australia reported that tantalite production was 105 t of contained tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5) in 2009 compared with 680 t of contained Ta2O5 in 2008 (Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines and Petroleum, 2010, p. 23)."), due to a mine suspending operation due to market conditions ("Talison Minerals Pty. Ltd. suspended production at the Wodgina Mine, the world’s leading producing operation of tantalum ore, owing to the global financial downturn and greater market share going to central Africa, where tantalum minerals were mined under conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses [northeastern regions of Congo (Kinshasa)]."). So the chances that the tantalum in a capacitor was conflict tantalum went up substantially in 2009. Dunno what's happened since then. (See the Wikipedia article on coltan [wikipedia.org] for summary tables.)

Re:Then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38708382)

Nobelium caps anyone?

Not like they use a lot of tantalum caps these days as the newer smaller and higher capacity ceramic caps are available. That's what happened when there was a shortage of tantalum and enough economic push for an alternative.

Ghandi, Apple Spokesman (2)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707214)

a few other things that are impossible:

taking egghead computer theories and making them into products for children

ripping out the guts of BSD and putting it into a consumer phone

working out deals with the music industry, a notoriously insular, backwards, conservative, static industry, to distribute its product over a whole new channel and create a new type of industry.

making a 8 inch 'pad' that works like a computer and people will buy

bringing back a nearly bankrupt, listing disaster of a corporation and turning it into one of the biggest companies in the world.

all these things were impossible. all these things were accomplished.

Re:Ghandi, Apple Spokesman (3, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707294)

There is technically impossible and realistically difficult. All these things you mentioned were difficult but achievable through work and determination. Technically can you identify the origin of single particles in a smelt? In the world of Star Trek, all it takes is a tricorder but technically in the real world how do you do so? If you have theories please list them here or better yet, tell Apple and Dell and Panasonic (and all the electronic manufacturers). They would like to know.

Re:Ghandi, Apple Spokesman (0)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707348)

Was there some reason that Apple had to use conflict minerals in the first place? Oh, right, otherwise iProducts would be too big and ugly, or worse yet, Apple would have been forced to do the research that other people did on alternatives.

Realistically, the conflict minerals problem can only be solved by ending the war. Did Apple pay any lobbyists to push for the US to actually get involved? Did Apple pay for people to learn about the problems in Africa? Did Apple so much as stop selling its products for one day to raise awareness?

OK, fine, I will not bash Apple -- if they stopped selling their products for a day, their competitors will just scoop up the lost business, and their competitors are just as guilty. My point is not that Apple is the only guilty company here, it is that they are not some shining star -- they put on a great show about auditing their factories and demanding conflict-free minerals, but at the end of the day those antics accomplish nothing except scrubbing Apple's public image. Why should we care about Apple's public image?

Re:Ghandi, Apple Spokesman (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707436)

Was there some reason that Apple had to use conflict minerals in the first place? Oh, right, otherwise iProducts would be too big and ugly, or worse yet, Apple would have been forced to do the research that other people did on alternatives.

What? Apple like many other companies probably did not source their materials to the original source. They simply were not required to or may not known. As they identified, it's very hard to tell. They can only control so many levels of manufacturing. You treat it as if Apple and Dell and others made it a choice to get negative PR from using conflict materials. Where they can control it, they won't use such materials but realistically they can't guarantee 100%.

As a side note, do you know where every single food item on your dinner plate came from? Was everything organic or humanely killed/harvested? If you were conscientious, maybe you did. Most people don't know and can't know unless they spend a great deal of time tracking. The farmer where I get my organic tomatoes, can I be sure he didn't use his children to help him harvest them (that's child labor violations!) unless I went out to the farm that day of harvest and personally inspected it. Multiply that by every single food item. I don't have that kind of time.

OK, fine, I will not bash Apple -- if they stopped selling their products for a day, their competitors will just scoop up the lost business, and their competitors are just as guilty. My point is not that Apple is the only guilty company here, it is that they are not some shining star -- they put on a great show about auditing their factories and demanding conflict-free minerals, but at the end of the day those antics accomplish nothing except scrubbing Apple's public image. Why should we care about Apple's public image?

Um, by posting, it seems you care more than you are willing to admit. Apple has stated their position and listed their suppliers. That in itself isn't much of a news item but your stance that Apple should do more when it may be impossible puts Apple in a different class than others.

its not impossible (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707600)

its just highly improbable.

and Apple gets the shit dumped all over it, because they are the ones who put Ghandi in their advertising.

many people said it would be impossible for India to become a democracy and throw out the British. he did it. and Apple used his image to sell their products --- but more than that, to sell the idea that thinking and creativity are penultimate. Einstein's image they also have used - and he would say similar things. it is only impossible if you accept what exists currently as inevitable - but it almost never is.

Re:its not impossible (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707670)

Again: If you can list a technical method of identifying particle by country of origin that will work in this case, please do so. Otherwise you saying it's possible when practically all of the manufacturers including Apple say it's impossible is just talk.

Re:Then what? (0)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707336)

Did you notice how they said "Conflict few" not "Conflict free"?
Few and Free have different meanings

Re:Then what? (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707132)

Then what? Then they will see if people actually care enough to stop using Apple products. They will find that they dont, and life will go on.

Re:Then what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707286)

And what made-in-the-USA alternative computers and cell phones are they going to buy instead?

This isn't just an Apple issue - it is a tech manufacturing issue. I haven't heard about Dell, HP, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, or LG auditing their manufacturers.

Re:Then what? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707454)

And what made-in-the-USA alternative computers and cell phones are they going to buy instead?

If we begin with the premise that we need computers and cell phones -- and I think living in modern American society does necessitate that -- then we should talk about not replacing electronics until they are broken beyond repair. How many times have you seen people upgrade a perfectly functional computer, for no reason other than that something a little faster is on the market? How many times have you seen someone throw out a cell phone that works just fine, because a new model came out? How many times have you seen a computer get thrown out because it has too many viruses?

I am using a computer that is more than 6 years old to write this post. Is there some pressing need for me to replace it? The keyboard is starting to show some age, but even that is not very urgent and it certainly doesn't justify buying a brand new laptop. An outright boycott is not necessary here; just cut the amount of buying you do in half and you'll send a message.

Re:Then what? (5, Informative)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707212)

They will check working conditions and...then do what when they find violations? Is there any reason to think that Apple will stop doing business with factories that mistreat workers? Is this going to be another sham like Apple's treatment of the conflict minerals situation (where Steve Jobs basically threw his hands up and said that Apple could do nothing about it)?

1. Apple actually _has_ stopped doing business with companies in the past due to mistreating workers and other reasons. Apple has also in the last year made companies repay $3.3 million in fees that workers paid to agencies to find jobs.

2. The situation with "conflict minerals" is actually a lot more difficult than you think. There are plenty of honest and hard-working communities losing out at the moment because nobody knows what paperwork would have to be filled out to be allowed to buy their products.

Re:Then what? (2, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707298)

The situation with "conflict minerals" is actually a lot more difficult than you think. There are plenty of honest and hard-working communities losing out at the moment because nobody knows what paperwork would have to be filled out to be allowed to buy their products.

  1. We do not have to use tantalum. There have always been alternatives, and now there are alternatives that meet or exceed tantalum's characteristics.
  2. How much did Apple invest in research on tantalum alternatives, while they were busy "wowing" people with devices built using tantalum (and by extension, financing the war)?
  3. The problem with conflict minerals is simple: people are committing war crimes in Africa while fighting over mineral deposits. That is not an acceptable situation and mineral suppliers should be refusing to ship minerals that were obtained in that region; if the mineral suppliers cannot be trusted not to ship central African tantalum, then all the tantalum producers will have to suffer until the conflict in Africa is over.

Really, all of these arguments apply to working conditions. Why does Apply have to make use of factories in countries with poor labor laws? Why not hire some American, Canadian, or European workers to produce electronics? It would eat into profits and drive up prices? So would switching away from tantalum and other conflict minerals.

Re:Then what? (5, Insightful)

gutnor (872759) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707866)

Why not hire some American, Canadian, or European workers to produce electronics? It would eat into profits and drive up prices?

You know, in a free(-ish) market, this is not a choice. You must use the cheapest, most profitable method that is available. The reason is that if you don't, somebody else will, and they will eventually drive you out of business.

The real question is not why Apple do not hire American, it why people do not want to buy american. If the consumer does not care about what/who made his gadget, the condition, moral, social impact, ... then they will get the cheapest possible standard for all those criteria. Consumers drive the show.

Actually, the fact that Apple is even looking at the problem, means that there is pressure coming from the consumer. This is a good thing. Save your energy bashing Apple and use it instead to inform the consumer.

Re:Then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707388)

As a response to no.1

Considering the high asking prices and immense profit margins Apple has on their products they should have kept labour in the USA where it belongs. And hence divide earnings amongst US-workers (whom are their primary market in the first place). Whether apple take actions against one or another chinese factory doesn't mean shit when yet another American factory-worker is standing in the unemployement line.

Fuck them all.

Re:Then what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707924)

Considering the high asking prices and immense profit margins Apple has on their products they should have kept labour in the USA where it belongs.

Jobs tried that. How many Next cubes did you buy? Yeah, I thought so. You and all of the US had that opportunity, you didn't actually care and bought slightly cheaper, lower quality computers made overseas. Jobs learned his lesson and kept Apple manufacturing overseas when he took over the company again. Why would Apple retry this failed experiment?

Re:Then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707794)

They will check working conditions and...then do what when they find violations? Is there any reason to think that Apple will stop doing business with factories that mistreat workers? Is this going to be another sham like Apple's treatment of the conflict minerals situation (where Steve Jobs basically threw his hands up and said that Apple could do nothing about it)?

1. Apple actually _has_ stopped doing business with companies in the past due to mistreating workers and other reasons. Apple has also in the last year made companies repay $3.3 million in fees that workers paid to agencies to find jobs.

2. The situation with "conflict minerals" is actually a lot more difficult than you think. There are plenty of honest and hard-working communities losing out at the moment because nobody knows what paperwork would have to be filled out to be allowed to buy their products.

They also do not employ that douchebag Steve Jobs any more.

Re:Then what? (-1, Troll)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707290)

Is there any reason to think that Apple will stop doing business with factories that mistreat workers?

Considering the on-going history of the Foxconn operations in China, I think it's pretty clear that Apple has absolutely no problem with companies that mistreat workers.

In fact, considering Apple continues to have strategic partnerships with Foxconn, one can assume that Apple seeks out companies that treat their workers the worst.

The story of what's going on at Foxconn should curl the hair of anyone in the developed world. Because it is a very clear picture of what corporations do in the absence of regulations. Foxconn is a model factory in the world-view of Mitt Romney types. You don't like unions? Well, Foxconn is our future without unions.

Re:Then what? (1)

Dupple (1016592) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707488)

Considering the on-going history of the Foxconn operations in China, I think it's pretty clear that Microsoft has absolutely no problem with companies that mistreat workers.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/11/foxconn_mass_suicide/ [theregister.co.uk]

Fixed that for you

Re:Then what? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707810)

.Considering the on-going history of the Foxconn operations in China, I think it's pretty clear that Microsoft has absolutely no problem with companies that mistreat workers.

No question about it. But this article was about Apple, so I pointed out Apple's part in the mistreatment of workers.

It's good that you bring up Microsoft. It underlines the point that the notion of Apple being a more enlightened and progressive company is simply myth. When it comes to destroying lives in pursuit of profits, there is not much difference.

Re:Then what? (5, Informative)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707634)

Actually yes, in Apple's most recent audit report they mention that they have actually stopped using some suppliers after finding continued violations of their working practices.

Joining the FLA just adds a further layer of third party oversight.

They've been releasing these audits publicly since 2007, but this time (presumably after Steve was out of the picture) they have decided more PR is required in response to all the "suicide iPad factory zomg!" stories.

Like any large company that outsources labour, they are not going to have a spotless record.

The summary, in obvious slashdot fashion, is doing the best it can to make this announcement as negative as possible, but the fact of the matter is the audits themselves being public is not new (although the supplier list is), and that the FLA's role is one of third party auditing and they have access to the whole of Apple's supply chain - that they'll only audit a small percentage each time (of their choosing) is more an indication of their manpower and the vast size of Apple's operations than anything else.

one down, one to go (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706986)

Now if they will just stop their big-brother view of computing, censoring political satire (http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/04/apple-bans-satire/), locking down root access from their devices, then maybe I'll considering buying some of their stuff. They actually make good quality products, they're just evil in driving the uneducated masses towards living in golden cages, a direction the world world seems intent on going to its own eventual regret. When a few big players control everyone's computing experience, only then might the majority wake up and realize concentrating power in such few hands is a bad idea. Maybe some in the middle east have already realized it...

Until then.. no Apple, no matter how good their shit might be otherwise.

Apple Should Be Commended (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706988)

Look. Almost EVERY company that makes almost EVERYTHING in your home participates in the awful near-slave manufacturing that goes on in China and other third world countries.

Their motivation aside, Apple is by far one of the best and most responsible manufacturers, simply by doing the (very very) little that they do. Singling out Apple is just Apple hate.

Re:Apple Should Be Commended (1, Flamebait)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707016)

You are correct. Apple themselves are not obnoxious, their users [financialpost.com] are.

Re:Apple Should Be Commended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707022)

If there are lots of slave-owners but one of the biggest slave-owners treats his slaves well then we still single the latter out for being one of the biggest slave-owners.

If you are a socialist then you believe in global workers' rights.

If you are a capitalist then you believe in individual liberty regardless of government.

I am not sure what sort of beast thinks that it is morally acceptable to treat humans to some standard in your own country but that it's OK to profit from labour in other countries which do not grant that same standard of treatment. It simply makes no sense beyond "it's far away and we can't really see what's going on" - an international version of the apocryphal story of Victoria pulling down the shutters when the Royal Train passed through the poorer areas of the north of England.

Re:Apple Should Be Commended (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707340)

The point is that under this situation that large slave owner is still a slave owner. Slavery is a pretty right or wrong issue, either you have slaves or you don't. Treating slaves poorly is just a bad business decision the same way that bashing the copy machine is. In the end people are still being treated like property.

Re:Apple Should Be Commended (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707416)

If you are a capitalist then you believe in individual liberty regardless of government.

Not necessarily. If you are, say, a "classical liberal" or a libertarian, you probably would believe that, but if you're only out for profit you might not care.

Re:Apple Should Be Commended (1)

AgNO3 (878843) | more than 2 years ago | (#38708594)

Then why are you owning any electronics made in china? ANY. you are a slave promoter. You KNOW they are treated not so wonderful in some factories yet you still buy the products. YOU, YES YOU are as responsible as APPLE, DELL, HP for the factory conditions every time you buy a product. FYI the Suicide rate at the Foxconn Factory is HALF the rest of China and Lower then most states in the US. Seems like maybe they might be doing something right compared to the other factories and most US states. Whats it like Being a partial slave owner, know it and not doing anything about it.

Re:Apple Should Be Commended (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707026)

Very little? It's functionally nothing, and claiming that everyone else is doing it does not make it right.

Re:Apple Should Be Commended (2)

chinakow (83588) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707232)

I think that point is not to absolve Apple for their practices because they make a gesture. The point is that we should be looking at the whole of manufacturing industry and condemning them for their collective practices and looking at consumer culture that ignores these practices. Chastise those who perform and those who enable wrong actions. So yes, Apple does something wrong but if we focus on only Apple we are tacitly excusing the same action in Dell and Lenovo and HP, and really, which manufacturer ships more units, HP or Apple?

Re:Apple Should Be Commended (4, Insightful)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707412)

See, this is why most companies just say 'screw it, ignore the entire mess'

I doubt there is a single person on Slashdot who can honestly say that they don't own a single thing that was produced at some level using what is effectively slave labor. Apple is doing more than 99% of companies do to ensure that their workers are treated properly around the world. Not perfect, but better than most. And the reward for even acknowledging the problem is righteous condemnation from the peanut gallery while companies that brush it under the rug get a pass.

Re:Apple Should Be Commended (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38708258)

What I'm really getting out of this is that Apple is the 1%? And that's a good thing?

Re:Apple Should Be Commended (1)

jcreus (2547928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707088)

I must disagree. Even if *everyone* in the world steals/murders, it's not a good thing! On the other hand, I find calling "best and most responsible" Apple, taking into account their patents, and killing of innovation, inappropiate (though it's not worker-rights-related).

I don't know why ... (2)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707160)

Their motivation aside, Apple is by far one of the best and most responsible manufacturers, simply by doing the (very very) little that they do. Singling out Apple is just Apple hate.

I don't know why but that comment reminded me of this cartoon for some reason (NSFW).

http://www.oglaf.com/relief/ [oglaf.com]

Re:Apple Should Be Commended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707458)

This should be done by the government by default whenever something gets imported. For Apple right now, it doesn't really matter what they find or don't find, it's all for the image.

Re:Apple Should Be Commended (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707666)

actually I'm NOT singling out Apple. My former post really said 'Fuck them all'. All European companies parting with european labour-workers to fill their pockets through Chinese slave-work. The same with US-companies. In the mean time we (european/US citizens) have to ditch our welfare and social justice that our forefathers have fought for, to become second rate. We're redundant because we're not good enough consumers anymore.

It's thanks to western labourforce that all these CEO's today have a decadent luxurious lifestyle. It's about time they did something back.

As an example of my efforts not to single out Apple, below is my remark on the Nokia World 2011 clip posted on the interweb.
I've placed this remark on a well-known Nokia forum and on El Reg (http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/2/2011/10/26/nokia_world_quite_different/) --> see 2nd page. I dunno if the full keynote is still available online but parts of it can be found on Youtube.

Sorry for snipped syntax and grammatical errors (as English is not my native tongue)
-----
The only thing that really happened was a few non-Fin employees padding each other on the back.

Like that weird Indian woman talking about Carla and Vivien... WTF!!! And that shrieking monkey with his ESPN-app. That's gonna be available to any Samsung and HTC winphone device within minutes. Not to mention mr. beardman with his crap about social websites in one place?!?!? Nokia phones already have that! It's called Social and it ain't new. It's made by former-symbian employees and just ported to WinPhone.

In fact it's insulting to all the poeple whom worked for years on Symbian, OVI-maps, Social-app, the small-footprint webbrowser, the magnificent calender and contacts integration with OVI-maps and many other things that current Symbian owners take for granted, that these guys claim that he navigation app on the 800 is unique.

Apart from it's design there's nothing to differentiate Nokia's Lumia 800 (winphone crap) from other Windows phones. Pronouncing that this Lumia 800 is the first true 'Windows Phone 7-'phone is pure bollocks. There's nothing special about it. An off-the-shelf half backed feature-less OS embeded into the last-years design o/t N9 (which isn't even available this year unlike what Elop insinuate!). It's even WORSE, gone is that beautiful slide-UI, gone is that gorgeous swipe to homepage, gone are ALL the smart things that made the N9 a real unique phone. The N9 was the first true iPhone opponent from Nokia. What we get now is something that looks like an N9 and behaves like ANY cheap LG/Samsung winphone. The only thing that might grab some attention is that Carl Zeiss logo on the back.

Also it's insulting to current customers that these assholes openly tell us that WE aren't important enough for them. They only care about the 'emerging markets' because "hey, we wanna get another billion people connected". It's thanks to the Western World that these retarded assholes can play ball. We provided them with the big money and now we're "redundant"?

I really don't like this. And the weird thing is that NOBODY in that audience even stood up and called against this! They even applauded this insulting 'sing and dance contest'!

Oh... and why try these 'suits on stage' to impersonate Steve Jobs? It's just laughable. with their wrinkled shirts out of their pants trying to look 'cool'. It's not working, Dude!

I just couldn't bear myself to watch this thing through to the end. It's a joke! An insult to ALL the things Nokia has done in the past. They invented GSM for god's sake! They invented smartphones AGAINST Microsoft and now this charade!

AFAIC. Nokia! Go fuck yourself in 'the emerging markets'!

-----

Apple Should NOT Be Commended (2)

taniwha (70410) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707766)

Jan 1st the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act came into effect - Apple didn't do this because of This American Life, they've been brought kicking and screaming to this point by the politicians and public opinion in general

Labour standards (3, Interesting)

slackware 3.6 (2524328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706992)

A foreign country should not be able to sell goods in a country like the US (or any other) unless it follows the labour standards of the country it is selling its goods in.

Re:Labour standards (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707018)

Soooo flip that on end. Does that mean in the US we can follow the labor rules of china if we only sell to them?

And yes I am being a smart ass...

Re:Labour standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38708344)

He could have put it better and said "A foreign country should not be able to sell goods in a country like the US (or any ohter) unless it follows a minimum labour standards of the country it is selling its goods in.

Re:Labour standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38708542)

Unless you force people to work people in the US will not work for 15 cent an hour.

a few congressmen have tried to pass such a law (0)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707230)

there have been several attempts to pass such a law through congress--- it gets, basically, slaughtered, i.e. voted down by all the people who take bribes from corporations + hedge funds.

in fact i spent a day or two editing the article on wikipedia about this bill, but i cant even remember what the bill was called. lols. something about the fair labor competition act or something.

Re:Labour standards (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707332)

Totally agree. I've proposed this before, and it's really the only solution to the problems of globalism. The US and EU should be imposing import tariffs on anything imported from places with laxer worker rights and environmental protection.

Re:Labour standards (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707920)

Following this logic, short on Wal-Mart, immediately, their entire business is based on importing products that would be more expensive if they were made according to the labour standards of the US.

Hint:
China does NOT have to sell to you.

If you somehow managed to get the EU and the US to do a joint bill, it might maybe work.

But which rules would then apply? Aren't labour rules state rules in the US? (And Canada, and a a lot of other places except the EU, which has member states who have such rules)

Elk Grove (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707010)

Hint: Elk Grove, California.

How many steps? (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707066)

How many steps?

Like many on /., maybe, I've purchased bare LCD modules. You know the type, HM(whatever it was) protocol, in the olden days you'd have to provide offboard neg voltage to control contrast. Anyway the relevant point is there's about ten companies between my OEM LCD modules and some dude digging stuff outta the ground. One company does nothing but turn purified chemicals into glass. Another company runs the refinery that makes the resin that gets mixed by another company with fiberglass and has a sheet of copper stuck on to it to make bare PCB material. Another mixes ingots of lead and tin (in the past, anyway) and a couple other elements and casts ingots of solder for the wave soldering machine (since replaced by reflow process using paste). I might have a window into the LCD board stuffing assembly plant, but I have no idea whats going on at ye olde tin smelter or the other 99% of the people who built my LCD modules.

I know many apple products are mostly OEM devices. They hardly make their own accelerometers in their own silicon foundries. I'm not sure if its relevant to even bother watching the 1% of the population at the assembly plant... In fact the further you are from final assembly, the worse things seem to be, at least in my factory experience.

Re:How many steps? (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707146)

I believe you mean the hd44780 controller.

I too have a box of such LCDs, and wrote a few LCDproc modules back in the day.

You are quire correct about all the companies involved with the raw construction of the LCD, not to mention the HD chip itself was another addition made by a separate OEM company. These days there are plenty of additional controllers that can sit between that chip and either the LCD (to provide pixel based addressing commands) and the user (4 bit parallel? Too hard for most, so now there are serial converters, USB controllers, and higher level command sets in chips that drive the HD controller, etc)

You can pop over to MatrixOrbital(.com) and see this recent state of the art built around those LCDs. Each incremental improvement is likely an entire new OEM company between even what you were used to back then, and what is sold today.

Re:How many steps? (3, Informative)

ZigMonty (524212) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707608)

Sorta like a pencil [econlib.org] , taking it to the extreme.

I'm highly disappointed (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707124)

And here I thought Apple products were made high in the mountains of California by gnomes who sprinkled magic pixie dust on them before shipping.......

Re:I'm highly disappointed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707188)

I thought that was why they were so expensive.

no, but after long term exposure to n-Hexane (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707484)

they probably think they are gnomes sprinkling magic pixie dust.

the FLA (2)

mlc (16290) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707136)

The FLA was formed by the apparel industry as a front to make it look like they were doing something to protect the workers in their factories. Now the electronics industry may be joining, but there's no reason to suspect they'll suddenly gain a new appreciation for something other than PR.

Re:the FLA (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707452)

They'll gain an excuse to increase prices to consumers, on the illusion they are improving worker conditions and paying them more.

No good if they know when they're coming (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707314)


In another first, the company also announced that it will allow an independent third party to check on working conditions at those factories, and to make its findings public.'
...which will have to report favorable findings if it wishes to operate in that country.

Re:No good if they know when they're coming (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707688)

...which will have to report favorable findings if it wishes to operate in that country.

And you are an idiot. Read this here: http://www.apple.com/supplierresponsibility/ [apple.com] Trying to influence the findings in any audit is a sure way for a company to lose their business with Apple.

Interestingly (2)

Lucas123 (935744) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707324)

I don't see Anobit on that list of suppliers. And, considering Apple just acquired Anobit for its NAND flash ECC firmware, it makes me wonder why they'd do that without having even used its product first. Or could this list from Apple be only what it's willing to reveal?

Re:Interestingly (2)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707366)

Or it could be that, having acquired Anobit, Apple no longer considers them a separate company. Or perhaps Apple had not been dealing with Anobit directly, but rather through a third party who is on the list. Or that the list was compiled from sources that lag behind actual production by a number of months and Anobit will show up on the next update. Lots of possible reasons without having to stretch for a conspiracy.

Re:Interestingly (3, Funny)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707718)

I don't see Anobit on that list of suppliers. And, considering Apple just acquired Anobit for its NAND flash ECC firmware, it makes me wonder why they'd do that without having even used its product first. Or could this list from Apple be only what it's willing to reveal?

Anobit is an engineering company in Israel. If you are worried about their working conditions, shouldn't you be much more worried about the working conditions of software developers in the US gaming industry? Do you think they are subject to cruel treatment, like having to use Windows on a Dell computer?

Where is Corning? (1)

supremebob (574732) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707640)

I don't see Corning Corporation on the list, which puzzles me. I thought that Apple uses Gorilla Glass in a bunch of their products?

Re:Where is Corning? (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38708042)

I don't see Corning Corporation on the list, which puzzles me. I thought that Apple uses Gorilla Glass in a bunch of their products?

If so Corning may license the process to another manufacturer and not do the manufacturing themselves.

Capitalism this and that...boo hoo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707730)

Every time a story like this comes out people start complaining about the evils of money, capitalism, corporations, etc. etc. Let's just get one thing straight here: if these people in China didn't work in these almost slave-labor factories where else would they work? How would they get they're money? No one in China is forcing them to work there, regardless of what people claim about China's socialist structure. These people do it because they have to. It may not be fun, but its the only way the can get paid and support their family. So there. I said it. It's not evil, its life. If they didn't work at this shit-hole factory apple had, they'd probably work at a different shit-hole factory owned in part by another corporation that needs some new shiny product. And if it weren't for that, where would they be? Poor and on the streets, probably. So quit it with the high-horse criticisms about Capitalism being evil. It's just a system. It's done nothing to you.

Sure, we can say we need to change things, get people better lives and better working conditions. Yada yada. But the fact is there's always gonna be the haves and the have nots. Get over it.

Companies vs the law... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707868)

I'm not surprised by this. Apple is releasing something that looks good, to fight what they see as a potentially image-tarnishing meme. It has nothing to do with the law... where an impartial auditor that's not beholden to release his findings just doesn't cut it, especially if the company's choosing him. On the same side, they are acting on rumors of impropriety, not actual fact(it would cause a lot more to actually dig into the morass of international and local laws to actually find if there is a violation.

So they just release something for joe sixpack that sounds good with his donut, and go back to being the media darling that they've always been required to be, in order to survive. Their masterful use of media, lasts, because both they, and the media, acknowledge how beholden they are to the status quo.

The media suck at actually reporting technology except for apple's, and apple does much better in the court of public opinion than they would in almost every other field.

Win Win, don't rock the boat, here's your share for this month.

News! Corporation have no conscience. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707988)

The reality is Apple and all mega corporations could care less about their sub contractors and where or how they source their labour and materials. If the political climate and workforce demand better conditions that increase their costs too much using a particular supplier, then when the contract term expires the contract goes somewhere else cheaper. The viscous cycle of a mega corporation demanding cheap labour and materials is something which we have absolutely no control over. All Apple is doing is damage control by their PR department.

Bill and Melinda have a social conscience and like the Moguls at the end of the 19th century suddenly started putting back some of that which they hoarded.

A corporation which is controlled by a board room and the stock market could care less about the labour and political conditions where their supplies come from. When you see them suddenly project what seems like a social conscience you can bet it is just the PR people saying look out there is trouble on the horizon.

If a company wants to sell to Walmart then if their good labour practices and social conscience effect the price and their brand name is great to some extent because of their practices, Walmart could care less. Just see what they did to the American firm Rubbermaid and you will see what I am talking about. Apple is no different, image is everything so this latest PR stunt is just damage control.

(puts on Elvis glasses) (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38708010)

AAwwwOne For the money, Two For the show ..
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