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by Kevin Coupe

Perhaps it is because enough time has passed since Steve Jobs died. Perhaps it is because Apple continues to generate ever-greater sales and profit numbers.

But the cost of the products that are generating these sales and profits increasingly is coming under scrutiny, with experts saying that CEO Tim Cook may be forced to do something to improve both the reality of how Apple’s products are built and the perception of the company’s human rights record.

Here is how the New York Times frames the story:

“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.”

To be sure, Apple is not the only company profiting because of such conditions. And, the company says it has made efforts to improve conditions an, as the Times notes, it often is the first place to report transgressions.

But that does not excuse what often are deplorable conditions, and the conflict at Apple headquarters - executives there are said to be concerned about conditions, but not so much so that they want to do anything to disrupt an efficient and cost-effective supply chain - rings hollow when you read the story (A HREF=http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/business/ieconomy-apples-ipad-and-the-human-costs-for-workers-in-china.html?hp > here.

As a diehard Apple user, I have to say that this is distressing. Not so distressing that I will turn in my MacBook Pro, iPhone, iPod, iPad, Apple TV and various other products for other models. But as a devotee of the company’s technology efforts, I expect more of Apple, and I suspect I am not alone. Attention will be paid.
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