Usually it's a foreign sweatshop that makes the news. You know, little kids making your Jordans or some other piece of clothing that makes people want to boycott companies that love cheap labor.

Well, something else is happening with Asian manufacturing these days. Something that is a bit more disturbing. You see, kids can be rescued, but the workers at South China's Foxconn electronics plant apparently cannot. The company, which makes products for Apple, Dell, HP, as well as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, has had 11 worker suicides . . . this year alone. The latest story involves Yan Li, a worker who collapsed in his home after, the family contends, he worked a 34-hour shift.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs insists the plant isn't a sweatshop, and Apple and other companies whose products are manufactured there have sworn that a full investigation is under way.

Look, I don't know if this place is a sweatshop or not but a lot of people related to that workplace are dying. It will be interesting to see if there is the same groundswell of condemnation that has arisen in the past because of deplorable working conditions. Do all of those iPod/Pad, video-game console, PC owners have the gumption to keep their money in their pockets if these work conditions are as bad as they seem?

Hulu, say you?

E3 is only a couple of weeks away, and the word is that Microsoft is about to add another feather to its Xbox 360 multimedia capabilities. The company was the first to offer Netflix on its console, the Xbox 360. Now, the tech-toy site Gear Live is claiming that a very reliable source has informed it that Microsoft will reveal the addition of the streaming TV service to its Xbox Live service at the expo. While a subscription will be required for the service, it is hard to deny the advantages of having Hulu played on your TV instead of your computer screen. This could make some people ditch their cable/satellite packages altogether.

nolead begins

Not an EA, but Backbreaker is a good start

I am surprised by the number of gamers who don't realize that NaturalMotion's football game, Backbreaker, was released this week. Many of us have seen the animations of this game for the last couple of years, each time making only the slightest effort to dab the drool from the sides of our mouths. The game, using the Euphoria graphics engine (Grand Theft Auto IV), has all of its animations rendered in real time (no more seeing the same tackle a million times a game) and it looks absolutely stunning.

Well, as stunning as a football game can look without an official license from the NFL. Yeah, EA still has a choke hold on the player/uniforms/stadium license until the end of the 2012 season. That said, I would suggest you check out Backbreaker developer diaries on YouTube. If I were EA, I would try and lock up that license for another couple of years. Honestly, if the NFL goes the nonexclusive video-game license route after 2012, umm, well, just check out the videos and I think you would agree, EA could be in serious trouble. These cats will have a couple of years of refinement by then.