Apple: Crown Jewel of Technology or Human-Rights Abuser and Tax Cheat?

Excerpted from “Three Strikes against Apple” at Other Words.

In college, I considered my Apple laptop a faithful, effective, and occasionally even fun machine. A year past graduation, this constant companion to late nights spent studying, working, or wasting time has aged into a decrepit device. Like the old Windows hourglass, its colorful pinwheel cursor consistently heralds interminable delays.

Similarly, my prehistoric mobile phone frequently freezes, drops calls, or prematurely runs out of battery power. Even in those treasured moments when it operates at capacity, it lacks the touch screen, email, and Internet capabilities today’s savvy consumers supposedly demand. By all indications, I’m ripe for an upgrade to a new MacBook, iPhone, or iPad.

Here’s why I’m taking a pass.

Apple, like most other electronics companies, makes liberal use of an ore called columbite-tantalite — widely known as coltan — whose electrical retention properties improve the battery lives of electronic devices. While Australia is the world’s largest coltan producer, suppliers for Apple and its competitors often prefer to buy their coltan at lower cost from mining operations in war-ravaged eastern Congo.

The money from these transactions rarely reaches the miners themselves. Rather, it’s funneled to Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed rebel groups inside the Congo who control the mines and use the revenues to fund their operations in the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II.

Read the rest at Other Words.