Welcome to the weekly roundup of great articles, facts and figures. These are the weekly finds that made our eyes pop.
China iPhone Manufacturer Foxconn's Horrific Working Conditions
Think the iPhone is made in America? Like most things these days, manufacturing is offshore outsourced to China. Out comes another report on the terrible working conditions at the iPhone/iPad factory.
The report says that workers are usually subjected to 50 to 80 hours of overtime a month. In the Chengdu facility — where Foxconn employees put together the iPad — staff could expect a grueling 80 to 100 hours of overtime, on top of the 174 regular work hours.
Staff members interviewed said that working overtime was voluntary, but making up the extra hours was necessary to earn a regular salary.
A typical day for a worker at Chengdu consists of waking up at 6:45 a.m. for a 7:40 a.m. start at work assembly, before working all day until 8:00 p.m. Staff is often bullied into moving directly from regular work into overtime hours without a break, and workers are often punished if they don’t.
Staff members — who aren’t allowed to talk, carry a mobile phone or even sit down — are not just punished if they mess up: They’re humiliated. “If they made [a] mistake, they had to write a confession letter and hand it to the supervisor,” the report says. “If the mistake is serious, the worker has to read the confession letter in front of his other colleagues.”
Some labor productivity huh? Wired is doing a Foxconn watch and the reports are so bad, every time you use that fancy touchscreen, looks like you have blood on your hands.
Fannie Mae Wants Another $8.5 Billion from Taxpayers
Mortgage finance giant Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB) on Friday said it would ask for an additional $8.5 billion from taxpayers as it continues to suffer losses on loans made prior to 2009.
The largest U.S. residential mortgage funds provider reported a net loss attributable to common shareholders of $8.7 billion, or $1.52 per diluted share, in the first quarter.
Including the latest request, the firm has taken about $100 billion from the U.S. government since it was seized in 2008, though it has also paid about $12.4 billion to taxpayers in interest.
Calculated Risk has more on Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac REOs and Q1 reports.
Ireland's Woes & Geithner
Naked Capitalism compares Geithner's blocking an IMF deal to give Ireland a break on debt to the Treaty of Versailles after WWI, which destroyed the Germany economy.
This is What Austerity Brings
We've written much on the IMF's forced austerity to pay for Banker's follies on nations. The New York Times reports the consequences of such gun to the head deals:
With unemployment at 14.7 percent, thousands of young Irish people continue to leave the country to find work. Those who have good, secure jobs here are thankful, but even they worry about the future and are rationing spending. Household savings surged to 11 billion euros in 2009 from 3.5 billion euros in 2008, and net disposable income fell.
There are glimpses of renewal. Exports from multinational companies like Intel, Pfizer and smaller manufacturers are surging as wages become more competitive and help to lower production costs, giving hope for future growth.
Wages is Ireland are now competitive. Like China's Foxconn? Welcome to the new serfdom, brought to you by the Banksters.
Greece, Prepare To Be Repo'ed
Zerohedge sums up the austerity situation in Greece with this headline, EU To Greece: "We Want To Help You Help Yourself"... And We Want To Own You After You File For Bankruptcy:
the EU just told Greece to prepare for Debtor in Possession loan issuance. Basically should Greece default, and it will, the Parthenon will go to Germany, Santorini will go to Luxembourg, Piraeos will likely end up in IMF hands, and the Chinese will own the rest. Welcome to sovereign debt restructurings for the 21st century.
Will the repossession be broadcast on a faux paus, Jerry Springer style reality show, complete with cat fights while the tow truck leaves with the Parthenon?
The Profits of BlueCross BlueShield Nonprofits
According to a report by Carl McDonald of Citi Investment Research and Analysis, last year was the most profitable year in history for the Blues plans, which enjoy significant tax advantages because of their claim to be nonprofit and terrific community citizens. Collectively, the Blues reported more than $5.5 billion in net income in 2010.
One of the ways the Blues have been able to amass such fortunes is by avoiding paying for care in exactly the same way the big for-profit companies do. They are rapidly moving their policyholders into high-deductible plans and spending far less on medical care -- and far more on overhead -- than they have in the past.
The Effect of U.S. Oil Drilling on Prices
Angry Bear compares oil rigs, oil production in the United States and it's affect on prices:
The relationship between the price of oil and the number of oil rigs, and how that relationship has changed over the last couple of decades or so. Oil rigs, of course, are the machines that dig oil wells; once a well is completed and has begun production, the rigs are removed and either go into storage or move on to drilling another.
This week silver took a nosedive of 27% as did other commodities. Wall Street Pit gives some insight on what's happening. The big question is speculation affecting the dramatic rise in commodities? MarketWatch:
A former top Commodity Futures Trading Commission official is calling for further margin requirements on a wide-variety of commodity transactions in the wake of Thursday’s plunge in commodities.
“I think there needs to be more activity in terms of margin increases in commodity markets,” said Michael Greenberger, a former Commodity Futures Trading Commission chief of the Division of Trading and Markets. “These prices do not reflect market fundamentals.”