National / International News

Growth of fair trade brings benefits for artisans

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-18 02:00

Since ancient times, the women of Guatemala’s indigenous communities in the western highlands have used hand-dyed thread to made clothes on back strap looms. Now, they are using those same techniques to make clothes and accessories for Nordstrom, J. Crew and other mainstream brands.

Yolanda Calgua Morales, 45, leads a group of weavers is the remote mountain community of Quiejel, near Chichicastenango.

Growing demand for traditional handmade textiles has changed Morales’ life. She’s been able to build a house and educate her two children.

Morales learned to weave when she was seven. She has taught her daughter, nieces and cousins. 

“I teach them to weave because I don't want them to lose the culture,” Morales says. “I love the work and I don't want it to disappear.”

Morales says her grandmother passed down designs using four colors. Now, the Quieiel community uses 12 colors and new designs, many of them created by Morales. “I always think about what needs to change and how to improve,” she says. “When it's ready I give it to the group; that's why they call me the representative.”

Morales and the other Quiejel weavers work with a non-profit organization called Maya Traditions, which helps them sell their work for a fair price.

"We’re providing a product people want to buy with a story they support,” says Alison Wandschneider, director of sales and marketing for Maya Traditions.

Maya Traditions works with about 120 weavers from six areas in Guatemala, including Quiejel. There are many nonprofits like it, especially in Panajachel, a beautiful and touristic town of about 12,000 that anchors the indigenous villages around Lake Atitlán.

The nonprofit organizations court customers like Piece & Co., a Chicago-based for-profit company with a mission to improve artisans’ lives around the world “by partnering with leading fashion and retail brands,” according to its website.

“We're the link between the artisan groups and these mainstream brands,” says Danielle Huffaker, the company’s Guatemala representative. “There’s all sort of expectations that brands have that artisan groups may not be accustomed to working with.”

On a recent Monday, Huffaker brought her laptop to the offices of Maya Traditions. She had a long list of questions Piece &Co. uses to vet artisan groups all over the world. Among them: How often do you meet with your artisans? How old are they? What is your bank? How do you define living wage? How many Guatemalans are on staff? How do you certify dyes are chemical-free?

Maya Traditions has answers to many of the questions, but some still need to be figured out. For instance, the industry talks about fabric in yards. But what comes off a back strap loom is not a yard. It’s the width of the weaver’s waist; more like 20 inches than 36. It’s called a lienzo. As Huffaker looks at the intricate product samples from Maya Traditions, she thinks out loud:

“There's advantage to us in the sizes being in yards so we can compare prices between different countries,” she says. “We can definitely do this in lienzos as long as it’s really clear what unit we’re measuring so we can do conversions on our end.

The women say shoppers want fair trade products in mainstream stores. And consumer demand is driving both retailers and artisans to change the way they do business. For Piece & Co.'s customers, the goal is predictable high-quality supply. Sellers like Maya Traditions want to get a fair price and keep traditional ways while growing an export business.  

“We have had a lot of tough conversations and missed some deadlines,” Wandschneider says. “But I think it's all at this very interesting point of tension and out of it will come something really awesome.”

Back in Quiejel, Marisol Morales Calel, program coordinator with Maya Traditions, is explaining this year’s contract to 18 weavers in K’iche, an indigenous language. Some weavers don’t speak Spanish, some will sign with a thumb print. The deal spells out deadlines and deliverables; it promise fair pay and benefits. It may turn out to be a binding agreement between the past and the future.









Postal Service wants a redesigned mail truck

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-18 02:00

Representatives from auto companies and the U.S. postal service meet in Washington D.C. on Wednesday to discuss replacing the postal service's fleet of mail trucks.

The trucks, manufactured by a fighter jet maker, were designed to last but not for 30 years. They are guzzling fuel, are requiring too much maintenance, and aren't big enough for the postal service's growing e-commerce package business.

The contract for a new fleet of trucks could be a $6 billion bonanza for the winning manufacturer, but it also has its challenges.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Who is Goliath?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-18 02:00

Today on our From the Hills to the Valley series, we take a look at internet piracy and whether or not tech companies are doing enough to stop illegal downloads.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which represents six of Hollywood’s biggest studios, including Sony, Warner Brothers and Walt Disney, believes Silicon Valley can do more.

“We believe that the whole ecosystem should engage in voluntary measures to prevent online theft and distribution,” says Mike Robinson, who is the head of content protection at MPAA. The internet, says Robinson, is vital to Hollywood, not least for marketing and distributing content.

But the MPAA and Silicon Valley are still at loggerheads with each other over piracy. In fact, leaked emails during the hack on Sony Pictures suggested that the MPAA and several Hollywood studios had identified a “super enemy” in their piracy battle. It was rumoured that the enemy, referred to as Goliath, was Google. Is Google “goliath?” Robinson wouldn't say.

Meanwhile, the MPAA is watching a court case involving the International Trade Commission (ITC) in which the ITC is pushing for a mandate to stop pirated content at the United States border. “It’s an interesting proposition, whether or not those singles coming to the U.S. should be subject to some form of blocking,” says Robinson. However, he says, he would rather everyone involved, including Silicon Valley, voluntarily come up with a joint plan to beat piracy.

“Thats our desire with ISPs and folks from Silicon Valley, to find ways that work for all of us.”


Unemployment falls to 99,000

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:58
The number of people unemployed in Wales falls to 6.7%, with 3,000 more people in work between July and September last year.

Ohuruogu criticises IAAF chief

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:57
Christine Ohuruogu criticises the head of world athletics for saying the sport faces a "crisis" over doping allegations.

Boy died after abuse case 'failings'

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:41
A boy died from a severe head injury after authorities failed to act while he suffered years of abuse, a serious case review finds.

Can you be part-time at the top?

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:34
Do you have to work a five-day week to be the boss?

Greece will request loan extension

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:33
Greece will request a six-month extension of its loan agreement on Wednesday, a Greek government official confirms.

Chinese New Year by the numbers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:30
2.8 billion

That's how many trips the Chinese government estimates citizens will make for the holiday. Bloomberg points out that dwarfs Thanksgiving in the U.S., which AAA projected spurred just 46.3 million Americans to travel. More than six times that many will travel in China by train alone.

21.5 million

Speaking of the impressive number of Chinese citizens traveling for the holiday, larger metropolitan cities turn into ghost towns as people leave the city for the new year. For example, Beijing, which normally boasts a population of 21.5 million people, becomes largely empty. Over at Quartz, they've collected some of the haunting pictures taken by people who stayed in the city and are enjoying some peace and quiet.

942 stores

Fireworks are a big part of the Chinese New Year celebration, but they can also be hazardous to people's health. Chinese officials worried that this year's mild weather may mean that pollution from fireworks would stick around as opposed to being blown away. As reported by the IBT, the city of Beijing has allowed just 942 stores to sell fireworks this year, down at least 100 stores from last year.

260 million

The approximate number of migrant workers in China, according to the Washington Post. Those workers are flooding out of China's biggest cities to return home to their families, and search engine Baidu is charting many of their trips. "It's not just the world's biggest human migration," a company spokesman told the AP. "It's the biggest mammalian migration."

100 tons

That's how many live lobsters will be exported from Canada to China each week at peak this year. Spurred by concerns about domestic seafood, Chinese demand for the luxury shellfish is so high that Canadian exporters are having trouble keeping up, the New York Times reported.

20 percent

The increase in C-section births one doctor reported in the lead up to the new year, mostly by mothers wanting to give birth in the current year of the horse instead of the upcoming year of the goat. The International Business Times reports that uptick is reflected throughout China and elsewhere in Asia. C-sections were up 35 percent in Singapore, for example.

Further fall in UK unemployment

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:23
The number of people out of work in the UK fell by 97,000 to 1.86 million in the three months to December, official figures show.

Fewer A&E patients waiting longer

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:21
The latest figures show 82.3% of patients in Wales were seen within four hours in accident and emergency - the Welsh government target is 95%.

VIDEO: Public Accounts Committee

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:20
MPs take evidence on the tax planning industry and the fairness of tax collection by HMRC.

Ex-prison staff held in payments probe

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:19
Two ex-prison officers have been arrested in Suffolk, as part of an inquiry into corrupt payments to officials, police say.

Scottish unemployment down by 15,000

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:16
Unemployment in Scotland fell by 15,000 between October and December and now stands at 149,000, according to official figures.

Prisoner 'may be en route to UK'

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:15
It is understood that a prisoner who escaped from custody in the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday may be trying to get to Britain through Northern Ireland.

Tanzanian albino boy found mutilated

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:12
The body of an albino boy who went missing on Sunday is found in Tanzania with his limbs hacked off in what appears to be a witchcraft killing.

NI unemployment continuing to fall

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:11
Unemployment continued to fall in Northern Ireland in January, according to the latest official figures.

Oborne calls for Telegraph inquiry

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 01:02
The Daily Telegraph's former chief political commentator Peter Oborne calls for an independent review of the newspaper's guidelines over its HSBC tax scandal coverage.

Brian the horse fails police trial

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 00:58
A horse called Brian, whose proposed name change caused anger among his namesakes, fails his police trial.

'Priceless' coins found off Israel

BBC - Wed, 2015-02-18 00:52
Scuba divers inadvertently discover the largest trove of gold coins ever found off Israel's Mediterranean coast.