May 25, 2010

Oh, Intel

You guys, I have had the privilege to be a part of something really amazing over the last week. I have said many times on this blog that great things can happen when people unite together to fight for a cause. If you are not a person as submerged in DRC activism as we are, then maybe you don't know Lisa Shannon. Okay- I don't "know" her personally, but she is kind of a goddess in the world of DRC activism right now. She is the author of the phenomenal book A Thousand Sisters and is the founder of Run for Congo Women which raises sponsorships for Congolese women to get started in their own businesses, care for their children and be self sufficient. Because we all know that when you empower a woman, you change the world. When I think of the work that Lisa and others are doing, I can't help but think of my sons' birth mother. If she had had an advocate, Miles may never have had to be an orphan.

At the heart of the problem in DRC is the battle over mineral mines. All the little components in our computers and cell phones make war lords who control mineral mines in DRC tons and tons of money. They control these mineral mines and the trade routes by which they are smuggled out of Congo by using terror: rape, mutilation, and destruction to force the populations to work in the unsafe environments, and support the work of these rouge militias. They use the millions of dollars they make in the trade of these minerals to buy more guns. More guns, more violence, more terror...the cycle continues. (You can click HERE to see a video of how conflict minerals get from Congo into your phones.)

Recently, the House and Senate have been taking notice that just maybe it is not a good idea to allow these conflict minerals into our electronics. The senate passed a bill to help eliminate conflict minerals. They have proposed HR 4128 which will force electronics companies to be transparent about where their minerals are coming from. It will call for companies to show their supply chain. This will keep companies, like Intel, Nintendo, Sony and dozens of others from being able to get away with using conflict minerals. The bill is on it's way to the House. In the process, there are countless numbers of ways that the bill could get weakened and rendered inefficient, unless we step up and say we want the bill passed as it is. Earlier in the week, some internal documents were leaked from electronics giant, Intel, showing that they were orchestrating a back door lobbyist campaign to try to weaken the bill. They wanted all the parts of the bill that actually held them accountable for their supply chain stricken from the bill. Lisa Shannon got wind of this and began orchestrating a "takeover" of Intel's facebook page. Hundreds of us wrote on Intel's facebook wall that we wanted them to support the bill as it is written and go conflict free. For some crazy reason, Intel absolutely freaked out and stopped allowing us virtual protesters to leave comments on their public space, in some cases, they actually deleted our posts. They later apologized, but will not agree to meet with anyone associated with the protest or stop their attempts to weaken the bill. Through these actions, Intel employees and fans of Intel were educated about conflict minerals- and education here is key. The crazy part of all of this is that INTEL HAS ADMITTED THAT IT WILL COST THEM LESS THAN 1 PENNY PER PRODUCT TO USE ALL CONFLICT FREE MINERALS, yet somehow they still will not do that. They are showing the world that human life is not worth one penny. The latest campaign is to send pennies directly to Intel. Obviously, they need the money. If you have some pennies and a stamp lying around, I urge you to make a huge statement by mailing your pennies to Intel. Here is what mine looked like. (You can click to enlarge.)

You can mail your pennies to Intel at:
Intel Corp.
c/o Suzanne Fallender
2200 Mission College Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA 95054-1549

Show them that their consumers think it is worth a penny to save lives! Emailing is great, but the power of a letter goes for miles. If you want to send a letter with photos- here is my permission to use pictures from my trip to Africa to mail to them. If we are facebook friends, there are also tons of pictures on there.

The fight is on to reach out to other giants in the electronics industry, too. Today the target is Nintendo. If you are a facebooker, go to Nintendo's wall and urge them to go conflict free. The power of this movement is huge! Companies are on the defensive here. If we can keep up the momentum, they will know we mean business! If you want to keep up with which companies are being targeted each day and do your part to ensure that the computers and cell phones you buy in the future won't be tainted with Congolese blood, you can visit my girl Monica's blog Letters To Congo. It is an all activism site designed to orchestrate the masses in a targeted movement to eliminate the crisis in Congo. Some other great resources are the Enough Project, and Lisa Shannon's A Thousand Sister's Blog.

If you are even reading this blog, you are using conflict minerals in your computer. The good news is, that since we are all guilty, we can ALL do something to stop it. Thank you all for caring!

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