Inside the system

Cops buy up sound ray anti-protest cannons

Police around the country have been adding controversial sound-ray equipment to their arsenals. Police forces in Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland have all admitted to buying the technology, along with the Federal Police. Northern Territory and New South Wales police declined to comment when questioned by the ABC’s Law Report.

The Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) have been used to disperse protests in the US. The acoustic cannons indiscriminately emit a piercing sound frequency that is unbearable to the human ear. The technology disperses crowds by inducing nausea and disorientation, but has also caused long-term hearing damage.

LRAD cannons have been purchased in large numbers by the Chinese Government, the US Navy and US law enforcement. The Chief Executive of LRAD Corporation, Tom Brown, boasted of a spike in sales to US police forces following the mass protests against police brutality that began in Ferguson in 2014. The devices can blast frequencies reaching 152 decibels. Permanent hearing loss begins with exposure to any sound above 90 decibels. University Professor Karen Piper was left with permanent hearing damage after the acoustic cannons were deployed at the Pittsburgh G20 protest in 2009. After taking legal action against the City of Pittsburgh she settled for damages of $98,000. Her hearing will never recover.

WA communities given poison water

Aboriginal people living in remote WA communities are increasingly relying on bottled water to survive after an Auditor-General’s report released in May 2015 found that their drinking water was contaminated.

The report found that more than a dozen of WA’s 271 remote communities had so much nitrate in their water that it could cause a condition called “blue baby syndrome” that can kill infants. The report also found that 76 communities had their water contaminated with potentially fatal E. coli or Naegleria microbes and four communities had uranium in their tap water. Pandanus Park, 120 kilometres east of Broome, is one of the communities where nitrate in the water is at potentially fatal levels. Community leader Patricia Riley said:

“It made me concerned because I was using the tap water and I could have been killing my grandson and I didn›t even know about it, that I could actually suffocate his body.” She pleaded, “Just fix our problem please. We’re not animals, we’re humans. We want to drink healthy water, and clean, pure water.”

Sent home for not wearing heels

A receptionist at finance company Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) in London has been sent home without pay after refusing to wear high heels. Nicola Thorpe was employed via an outsourced reception firm. The 27-year-old arrived at work in flat shoes, but was told to go and buy shoes with a “2 inch to 4 inch heel”.

She told BBC radio, “I said, ‘If you can give me a reason as to why wearing flats would impair me to do my job today, then fair enough’, but they couldn’t. I was expected to do a nine-hour shift on my feet escorting clients to meeting rooms. I said I just won’t be able to do that in heels.” She also criticised the company’s sexism, noting the rules only applied to female employees. After publicising her case Thorpe found many other women had been treated similarly and started an online petition to make it illegal for employers to force female employees to wear heels. It now has over 140,000 signatures.

Economic crisis caused 500,000 cancer deaths

A study published in the Lancet medical journal has found that the Global Financial Crisis led to around 500,000 cancer deaths worldwide between 2008 and 2010. The figures were calculated by looking at the observable rise in cancer deaths that coincides with every drop in healthcare spending and every increase in unemployment. According to study author Mahiben Maruthappu, “the economic crisis was associated with over 260,000 excess cancer deaths in the OECD [group of rich nations] alone, between 2008–2010”.

“This suggests that there could have been well over 500,000 excess cancer deaths worldwide during this time.” Healthcare cuts and skyrocketing unemployment in the EU caused an estimated 160,000 extra deaths. For the US the estimate was 18,000. Dr Maruthappu said, “We found that increased unemployment was associated with an increased cancer mortality, but that universal health coverage protected against these effects. This was especially the case for treatable cancers including breast, prostate and colorectal cancer.”

Phillip Ruddock bust in kids’ playground

Parramatta Council has voted to install a commemorative bust of Howard-era Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock in a children’s playground. Children playing in the park, renamed the “Phillip Ruddock water playground” last year, will be gazed at by a stone effigy of the man responsible for implementing the so called “Pacific Solution”. From 2001 the policy began the brutal imprisonment refugees, including children, in offshore camps on Manus Island and Nauru.

Chicken workers forced to wear diapers

Giant agricultural corporations operating in the US have been scorched in a recent Oxfam report that exposes the heinous working conditions in the chicken processing industry.

Workers have been denied bathroom breaks to the point that they have resorted to wearing diapers on the processing line at plants run by major companies like Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms and Sanderson Farms. A worker named Dolores who worked at a plant in Arkansas said, “I had to wear Pampers, I and many many others.”

The report reveals that workers have urinated or defecated themselves on the line because they can’t hold on any more. Managers responded by telling workers to eat and drink less. Corporations are reaping mega-profits by constantly increasing line speed at processing plants. The upper limit on line speed has increased from 70 birds per minute in 1979 to 140 today. In order to inflict this inhuman squeeze on workers, chicken plants tend to operate in southern states with strong anti-union laws and systematically employ vulnerable groups like migrants and prisoners. As well as being denied bathroom breaks, chicken plant workers suffer repetitive strain injuries at ten times the average rate for US workers.

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