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The New York Times declared yesterday “Opening day.” The new iPhone 4 arrived on shelves, and all the broadcast cable networks are doing the predictable, nay requisite, stories showing eager techies snapping up their new phones.

Blah.

Blah.

Blah.

Congratulations.  So happy for you all.  I would love to write something akin to a review of the new phone.  But I can’t.  I don’t have one.  I wanted to write something earnest, palatable and inspiring.  But I can’t.  Because what bothers me about the big debut of the iPhone 4 – is how millions upon millions of dollars were spent to market it, like most cell phones, laptops, mp3 players, and many other electronic devices that make our lives immeasurably better and more convenient.

Unfortunately, the iPhone 4 and almost every other device contains conflict minerals.  Tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold are most prominent.  They hold the electric charge, make it vibrate, coat the wiring and other technical details I can’t possibly comprehend.

I know what you’re thinking…another guilt-trip about being a Westerner.  No, that’s not it at all. This isn’t about guilt.  It is about awareness and the obfuscations the multi-million dollar ad campaigns make possible. For one penny more per iPhone (and every other phone, device, laptop) – conflict minerals wouldn’t be necessary.  We the people, We the consumers could make a huge difference in the lives of innocent people being violently exploited in pursuit of one penny per product.

Companies like Apple, Hewlett Packard, Intel and many others do not want you to know just how bloodsoaked their products are.  Americans are good people. Our counterparts throughout Western civilization are too.  If we KNEW that 1,500 people a day are dying in the Congo because of conflict mineral mines there – we would demand to pay that one penny to prevent it.  Everyone wants the diamond in their engagement ring to be certified by the Kimberly process – to be certain it isn’t a “blood diamond.”  If more of us were aware that 45,000 people die every month in the Congo, we wouldn’t put up with it. (Statistics from a 2007 report by TheIRC)

If more of us knew that thousands of women are brutally raped, only to be left for dead as they suffer from fistula, we would demand real answers – and action – from the tech companies, and our government.

You can make a difference. One woman, Lisa J. Shannon, decided to do just that.  She has dedicated her life to helping the women in Congo, and if you can spare a few moments or pennies…please do so.

I took a few moments – emailed Steve Jobs on May 15th.  I’ve never heard back from him.  No big surprise, as he tends to be arrogant.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s the man. But removing porn from the iPad doesn’t make him a moral man.

—Media Lizzy

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For more on the Congo:    EnoughProject