51% Show #1337 (repeat #1326)

Mar 6, 2015

On this week’s 51%, we’ll speak with a filmmaker who walked the wards of Chinese hospitals to speak with young workers poisoned by the chemicals that went into making our cell phones. Plus, we’ll hear about a program to entice women into coding. And, sure, the cookies may be good, but the Girl Scouts want to be known for a lot more than that.

Over the summer, Apple announced it was eliminating benzene and n-hexane in the manufacture of its iPhones and iPads. A filmmaker says her unreleased documentary depicting the toxic chemicals’ toll on young Chinese workers had something to do with it. Award-winning non-profit executive and researcher Heather White had released on You Tube and Facebook scenes from her unreleased film, Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics, mobilizing activists to pressure the tech giant. Her film profiles injured and chemically poisoned young Chinese workers who were laboring in factories that manufacture the world’s leading electronics brands. Several of her subjects have been discarded by their factories after being diagnosed with leukemia from exposure to benzene – a solvent commonly used in polishing cell phone and tablet screens. Others suffered debilitating accidents from faulty machinery. White, previously a MacArthur Foundation and Ford Foundation grantee for her human rights work, filmed a large portion of the documentary with hidden cameras in Chinese hospitals. I asked her why she decided to make the film. 

That was Heather White, producer and co-director of the yet-to-be-released documentary Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics. Scenes can be found on YouTube, and Facebook.

When you think of a computer programmer, who comes to mind? A white guy in a hoodie and jeans? Maybe, for some. Well, a new Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit called Code for Progress is trying to change that. They’re working with a cross-section of people traditionally left out of the tech world — women, minorities and people with disabilities to name a few — to teach them how to code. Lauren Ober sits in on a class to see the new faces of tech. 

One place you’ll see a lot of female faces is the Girl Scouts, which continues to guide and educate young women on leadership. In this Focus on Education report, WBFO's Eileen Buckley visited the Girl Scouts of Western New York headquarters, where the organization serves 20,000 girls across the region.  

And that’s our show for this week. Thanks to Katie Britton for production assistance. Our executive producer is Dr. Alan Chartock. Our theme music is Glow in the Dark by Kevin Bartlett. This show is a national production of Northeast Public Radio.