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In 1851, a Maryland Farmer Tried to Kidnap Free Blacks in Pennsylvania. He Wasn’t Expecting the Neighborhood to Fight Back – Smithsonian.com

The muse for this story is a humble piece of stone, no more than an inch square. Sometime in the mid-19th century, it had been fashioned into a gunflintan object that, when triggered to strike a piece of steel, could spark a small explosion of black powder and propel a lead ball from the muzzle of a gun with mortal velocity.

Archaeologists often come across gunflints. Thats because during the 19th century, firearms were considered mundane items, owned by rich and poor alike. Gunflints, like shell casings now, were their disposable remnants.

But this gunflint is special.

In 2008, my students and I, working with nearby residents, unearthed this unassuming little artifact during an archaeological dig in a little Pennsylvania village known as Christiana. We found it located in what today is a nondescript corn field, where a small stone house once stood.

For a few hours in 1851, that modest residence served as a flashpoint in Americas struggle over slavery. There, an African American tenant farmer named William Parker led a skirmish that became a crucial flareup in the nations long-smoldering conflict over slavery.

Its been 160 years since the uprising, which for most of its history was known as the Christiana Riot, but is now more often referred to as the Christiana Resistance, Christiana Tragedy, or Christiana Incident. In taking up arms, Parker and the small band of men and women he led proved that African Americans were willing to fight for their liberation and challenge the federal governments position on slavery. Finding a broken and discarded flint offers a tangible piece of evidence of their struggle, evoking memories of a time when the end of slavery was still but a hope, and the guarantee of individual liberty for all people merely a dream.

The events at Christiana were a consequence of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, federal legislation passed in the wake of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. California, a key part of territory seized by the U.S. following that conflict, had rejected slavery in its constitutional convention in 1849 and sought entry to the Union as a free state. To placate white Southerners who wanted to establish a slave state in Southern California, Congress forged the Compromise of 1850. The Fugitive Slave Act, its cornerstone legislation, forced all citizens to assist in the capture of anyone accused of being a fugitive in any state or territory. A person could be arrested merely on the strength of a signed affidavit and could not even testify in their own defense. Any person found guilty of harboring or supporting an accused fugitive could be imprisoned for up to six months and fined $1,000, nearly 100 times the average monthly wage of a Pennsylvania farm hand in 1850.

In some places, alarmed citizens began pushing back against what they perceived to be an overreach of federal power. In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, however, the new law began fanning racial tension. Many whites in the area resented the movement of formerly enslaved people across the southern border, perceiving it as an invasion of destitute illegals that would depress wages in factory and field. Others were simply negro haters, as William Parker himself put it, all too happy to assist federal agents in sending African Americans back across the border. Some unscrupulous Pennsylvanians profited from illegally trafficking free African American men, women, and children south into slavery. A new and insidious slave trade blossomed in the border states. The price of an enslaved person in nearby Maryland, for instance, jumped an estimated 35 percent following the passage of the law, which made kidnapping free people increasingly profitable and common. One infamous Philadelphia kidnapper named George Alberti was indicted twice for selling free people into slavery, and eventually admitted to kidnapping some 100 people over the course of his notorious career. The governor of Pennsylvania would pardon Alberti after he served less than a year of a 10-year sentence for kidnapping an infant.

With white Pennsylvania ambivalent at best about the fate of African Americans, it wasnt shocking that someone decided to tell Maryland farmer Edward Gorsuch that two men who had escaped from his land two years before, Samuel Thompson and Joshua Kite, were hiding in William Parkers rented house near Christiana.

William Parker, a 30-year-old tenant farmer born in Maryland, had escaped slavery just a few years prior, and had found refuge, if not full acceptance, in this quiet corner of Pennsylvania. Despite encountering sympathy from the Quaker community, Parker still feared for his safety. He joined other African Americans in the area to form mutual aid societies to defend against kidnapping, and established networks of lookouts to keep track of the movements of known kidnappers and their allies. One such network tipped off Parker that Gorsuch and a small band of relatives and supporters, accompanied by a notorious Philadelphia constable named Henry Kline who had been deputized as a U.S. marshal for the occasion, were hunting for Thompson and Kite. The black community of Christiana was on high alert.

Gorsuchs armed posse crept through the rising mist at dawn on the morning of September 11, 1851, as Parker and his men waited at the house. Informed that kidnappers were about, but not knowing where they would strike, black neighbors for several miles around nervously waited for a distress signal calling out for help against the intruders.

Not knowing they had lost the element of surprise, Gorsuch and Kline attempted to storm the Parkers small stone house, only to be driven back down a narrow, winding stairway by armed defenders. Next they tried to reason with Parker, who, barricaded in on the second floor, spoke for the group. Parker refused to acknowledge Klines right to apprehend the men, dismissing his federal warrant as a meaningless piece of paper. As tensions mounted, Eliza Parker, Williams wife, took up a trumpet-like horn, and blasted a note out of an upstairs window. Startled by the piercing sound, the Gorsuch party opened fire at the window, hoping either to incapacitate Eliza with a bullet wound or frighten her into silence. Despite the danger, she continued sounding the alarm, which reportedly could be heard for several miles around.

Within half an hour, at least two dozen African American men and women, armed with pistols, shotguns, corn cutters and scythes, arrived to assist the Parkers. Several white Quaker neighbors also appeared at the scene, hoping to prevent a violent confrontation. Favored now by the strength of numbers, Parker, Kite, and Thompson emerged from the house to convince Gorsuch and Kline to withdraw. Kline, recognizing the futility of the situation, quickly abandoned his comrades and retreated. But an enraged Gorsuch confronted Thompsonwho struck Gorsuch over the head with the butt of his gun. Shots rang out. Within minutes, Gorsuch lay dead on the ground, his body riddled with bullets and lacerated by corn knives. His posse did their best to flee. Son Dickinson Gorsuch had taken a shotgun blast to the chest at close range, barely had the strength to crawl from the scene, and was coughing up blood. Thomas Pearce, a nephew, was shot at least five times. Joshua Gorsuch, an aging cousin, had been beaten on the head, and stumbled away, dazed. Gorsuchs body was carried to a local tavern, where it became the object of a coroners inquest. Despite their serious wounds, the rest of his party survived.

Retribution was swift. In the days that followed, every black man in the environs of Christiana was arrested on treason charges, as were the three white bystanders who had tried to convince Gorsuch to withdraw. The subsequent treason trial of Castner Hanway, one of the white bystanders, resulted in an acquittal. Despite the fury of both pro-slavery and compromise-favoring politicians, the prosecution, led by U.S. Attorney John Ashmead, moved to dismiss all charges against the other defendants, who were soon released. No one was ever arrested or tried on murder charges for the death of Edward Gorsuch, including the known principles at the Parker HouseKite, Thompson, Parker, Eliza and their familywho fled north to Canada and remained free men.

Over time, the black community of Lancaster County grew to remember the Christiana Riot as a tragic victory. The events significance was more complicated for the white community. In the short term, many Lancastrians followed the pro-slavery lead of James Buchanan, who lived in the community and was elected U.S. president in 1856. Thaddeus Stevens, an abolitionist politician who represented Lancaster in the U.S. House of Representatives and had assisted in the defense of the accused, lost his seat to a member of his own Whig party in 1852, spurned by constituents who could not tolerate his liberal views on racial justice. But after Buchanans election, Stevens was soon buoyed by growing anti-slavery sentiment and returned to Congress, and with the outbreak of the Civil War, Lancastrians both black and white rallied fully to the Union cause.

The Parker House, abandoned after the family fled for Canada, became a place of pilgrimage after the Union victory. Curious visitors from around the region sought out the abandoned Riot House and took pieces of it away with them as souvenirs. By the late 1890s the farmer who owned the land perceived the Parker House as a dangerous nuisance, and had it knocked down and plowed over. In the years to come, it became hidden in time, presenting as nothing more than a scatter of stone and debris in an otherwise unremarkable field.

That was how we found it when we visited the cornfield at the invitation of a group of community volunteers who were interested in rebuilding the house as a memorial to William Parkers struggle. Black and white descendants of the participants in the uprising joined us at the excavation, spellbound when we uncovered the first fragment of foundation wall, a remnant of a place that resonated with the power of ancestors who had risked their lives to prevent neighbors from being kidnapped into slavery.

Archaeologists know that communities create and preserve deep knowledge of their local history. Often, stories of the past help communities create an identity of which they can be proud. This was certainly the case at Christiana.

We can say with some confidence that the small, square piece of stone recovered during the excavation is an artifact of the famous conflict. The gunflint was discovered nestled into the cellar stairs, right below the window where Eliza Parker sounded her alarm. We know that Gorsuchs men fired at her from virtually this same spot, and that men in the house returned fire. By 1851, flintlocks were old-fashioned weapons, widely replaced by more modern and efficient firearms, but we know from records of the treason trial that the weapons William Parker and his associates wielded were old muskets. That suggests the flint we found may have fallen from one of their outdated guns.

The artifact gives us pause. The gunflint reminds us of the progress we have made in overcoming racial injustice in the United States, but also that the work to reconcile with the violent legacies of slavery is far from over. It reminds us that the cost of liberty is often steep, and that the events that have secured that liberty are often quickly forgotten. American stories like this one lie everywhere around us. They wait, mute, to be reconsidered, pointing to the past, and prodding us to tackle what yet is left to do.

James Delle is an archaeologist at Millersville University, in Millersville, Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Archaeology of Northern Slavery and Freedom.

This story was originally published on Zocalo Public Square.

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In 1851, a Maryland Farmer Tried to Kidnap Free Blacks in Pennsylvania. He Wasn't Expecting the Neighborhood to Fight Back - Smithsonian.com

Letter to the Editor: No polite time in U.S. history – Tulsa World

The phrase slavery was ended on the North American continent conflates the Emancipation Proclamation and the passing of the 13th Amendment. There is no mention of the exception to the 13th Amendment: slavery exists as punishment for crime.

The 13th protects for-profit prisons where inmates are forcibly moved across state lines and work for less than minimum wage, or even no wage at all.

The letter laments the division of our country, quotes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and wishes to return to a mysterious time when the U.S. had more agreeable standards. Which year has the polite order that we should return to?

Our country has systematically divided and oppressed certain groups of people since inception and hasnt stopped. Disorder is a consequence of this system.

Fighting this system, not lamenting disorder or division, requires MLKs radical view of justice.

I recommend a different MLK quote: The Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice.

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Letter to the Editor: No polite time in U.S. history - Tulsa World

Letters to the editor: In response … – Las Cruces Sun-News

Letters to the editor(Photo: iStockphoto)

These letters were published in the Jan. 19 print edition of the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Randy Lynchs op-ed, Minimum wage increases just dont add up,prompts me to respond with a bit of clarity.

First, a minimum wage law is a legal requirement established by the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. The question is not whether, but how.

Next, he segues into the bogus idea of government fixing things which is a ploy used by those who would reduce legal requirements to survival of the dominant.

Finally, he promotes the idea that business owners who are trying to keep their business in the black are victims. Since every business is subjected to the same minimum wage, those which create and operate the most effective enterprises will prosper. Isnt that the American business ideal?

Gordon Hill, Las Cruces

In her Sunday guest column, "My first year in Congress," Xochitl Torres Small bragged about what all she has done for her constituents in Congressional District 2.However, Small left out something big the elephant in the room.Of course, I'm talking about her vote to impeach President Trump.Unbelievably, the congresswoman madeno mention of the single most important act of her career, as well as her biggest mistake.

Small wrote, "I remain committed to putting in the work guided by all my constituents."Really?Then why did she ignore our wishes, and vote forimpeachment anyway?

In this column, Small toots her own horn about what she has done for the folks in her district, but is strangely silent about voting to impeach Donald Trump.I guess she's hopingwewill forget about this despicableactbeforethe next election. But like elephants, Republicanvotershave long memories.And in November we will make sure that this will be Xochitl Torres Small's last year in Congress.

Paul Hoylen, Deming

Mr. Heald says he voted liberal and then spends the rest of his article on Republican talking points.What doestruly high crimes and misdemeanors mean? The prez shoots someone?The prez gets into a barroom brawl?Fraud?Sexual assault?

The Government Accounting Office reviewed the presidents actions and stated that he committed a crime.Eighteenwitnesses corroborated each other regarding this crime.Trump committed extortion of the Ukrainians by withholding federal funds in trade for an announcement of dirt of Biden.That was the presidents sole purpose.This is typical behavior.Over 400 experienced federal trial lawyers said they could maintain a charge of obstruction of justice because the evidence in the Mueller report.Trump has certainly obstructed Congress.There are witnesses such as Mulvaney, Pompeo and Bolton who have first-hand information of Trumps innocence.Trump says no deal.Then there is the actual transcript of the entire conversation with Ukraine that Trump refuses to release because it proves his innocence.

What kind of stupid is required to not understand the nature of Donald Trump?He is corrupt.His charity was a fraud.His university was a fraud.He sold out the Kurds as a favor to a client, Mr. Erdogan, who supported a Trump Tower in Istanbul (2010). Trump wants another Tower in Moscow, which neatly explains his performance at Helsinki and since.

The only question remaining is how will Trumps corruption affect our country in the future.How bad will it get?If Trump loses the election, will he declare it a fraud?Claim the election was stolen?Look at his history.You tell me.

Andrew Wilson, Las Cruces

I'd like to respond to Rick Reynaud. The "right to work laws" have nothing to do with the right to work. They are instead "right to free legal representation" laws, designed to destroy unions. Union employees fought long and hard, and still do, for those wages and benefits that applicants for those jobs covet. Some of those applicants don't feel that they should have to pay the union dues that pays for the lawyers that negotiate their labor contracts and must, by law, represent them in grievance proceedings against the employer for violations against the contract and excessive punishment against the employee when mistakes or accidents happen.

There are many nonunion jobs available in every field the unions represent. If somebody does not wish to pay for their benefits then they should not be allowed in a workplace where others pay, or at least the union should not have to represent them in any work disputes. I paid union dues for 30 years and represented my fellow workers in many grievances for 29 of them. I never lost a grievance. I saved a number of people their jobs and others excessive punishment for infractions because in grievance proceedings the company lawyers agreed that management violated contract terms.

I also had much better health coverage, and enjoy a much better pension, than my managers, and when the company ceased operations in this region, got a much better severance deal than the employees in our nonunion shops. Do you believe that a mechanic should fix your car free, or a doctor should treat you free, or an accountant do your taxes free? Then why should union employees pay for nonunion workers' legal services?

Frederick Zentz, Chaparral

Recently the Sun-News has displayed a number of oil/gas industry op-eds praising the "financial benefits" of their operations in NM. True enough the state government receives substantial revenues from the industry.But it's not all roses.

One characteristic of civilized behavior is refraining from harming others.One characteristic of criminal behavior is harming others, particularly for financial gain.

There is little doubt that pollution of the air, soil and water by oil and gas operations is a danger to life.This health damage results in long term, recurring medical expenses, loss of employment, premature death and other costly side effects.When we deduct these costs, the financial benefits of the oil/gas industry diminish quickly.

Additionally, negligent disregard for human life is a crime.Poisoning is a crime.If the crime is committed by a private individual there are criminal charges filed, followed by severe punishment.If the crime is committed by management using a corporation, the criminal behavior is rarely punished and, if so, by a small fine that is tax deductible.

Not too sure about those benefits.As one executive said: "Keep your Sunday School lessons to yourself, this is a business".

Charles Clements, Las Cruces

It's easy to see why Trump supporters feel that he is "just like one of us." At his rallies when he calls people names or makes fun of them or lashes out at the Democrats, you cheer and applaud him.He loves that. He talks like one of the guys, using language you love hearing, some crude and demeaning.And he talks mostly about himself. No, he is not just like one of you; he's all for the honor and glory of Donald Trump.

If you're fine with him being a liar, bully, vindictive, crass, insensitive; unwilling to take responsibility for his actions or work with the Democrats; thinks he is king but acts and talks like a mob boss; demoralizes the institutions of our government; and feels he is above the law then you are not showing allegiance to the United States but to a cult personality.

And if you accept the fact that he is void of character, humility, compassion, warmth, morals and honor then you have every right to say "he's just like one of us."

For those of you who wear shirts that read: "I'd rather be Russian than a Democrat" be careful what you wish for.Putin is watching.Take a look into your souls and ask yourself: Is this who America is?

Theodore Roosevelt once said:"Character in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike."There is a resident of Las Cruces who once described Trump "as a breath of fresh air."I wonder if she really believes that now.

Carolyn Christy, Las Cruces

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Letters to the editor: In response ... - Las Cruces Sun-News

Labour rights abuse on the rise – The ASEAN Post

Labour rights violations in ASEAN are among the negative effects of an increase in production due to the United States (US)-China trade war which has resulted in a shift of some production from China to this part of the world. While the region is embarking on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, numerous industries in ASEAN still rely on labour-intensive factories. Unable or unwilling to invest in technological advances that would automate production and ease workloads, many factories across Southeast Asia are filled with migrant workers who have appeared in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Featuring more prominently in the headlines though is the US-China trade war which has seen the US and China impose tariffs on each others goods worth US$360 billion in 2018, slowing global growth and creating uncertainty in markets worldwide.

China is officially looking to move away from low-level manufacturing towards innovation and consumption, and while the worlds second largest economy will retain much of its manufacturing footprint in the coming years, brands will continue to diversify their supply chains and seek sourcing and production in new (cheaper) markets.

Shifting production

Supply chain auditing firm QIMA conducted a year end survey of more than 100 businesses across the globe last year. They found as many as three-quarter of them had already started sourcing suppliers in new countries as a result of tariff increases many citing ASEAN countries as alternative markets. Most companies already sourced ASEAN countries in the textile and apparel industry, but rising tariffs have accelerated this process as the uncertainty is making ASEAN a more attractive destination.

However, ASEAN is also an attractive destination for migrant workers - the influx has led to a wide range of labour rights violations being documented with numerous stories of overworked workers being underpaid and mistreated. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), among the most common labour rights violations include unsafe workplaces, excessive working hours, lack of overtime pay, wage theft and lack of freedom of association.

Speaking exclusively to The ASEAN Post, QIMAs CEO and founder Sbastien Breteau said that there has been an increase in workers rights violations in ASEAN countries that have seen shifts in production from China.

In many of the countries that employ migrant labour, such as Malaysia and Thailand, an uptick in instances of modern slavery that coincides with the sourcing shift has been observed, said Breteau. Generally speaking, most of the factories in ASEAN countries score lower in ethical compliance than those in China and have suffered more cases of critical non-compliance. As the number of audits being performed increases in the region, the issue is being amplified, he added.

It is important to note that ethical compliance issues were prevalent in ASEAN even before the shift and many of the recent high-profile modern slavery cases such as in Top Glove (Malaysia) and Bangkok Rubber (Thailand) were identified before the trade war. Breteau noted that factory compliance remains an issue across markets. Vietnam and Indonesia, for example, saw their average factory scores deteriorate by -5.1 percent and -3.2 percent year-on-year, respectively according to QIMAs Q1 2019 data.

With key consumer markets such as the US, UK, Australia and the Netherlands proactively passing legislation which holds companies accountable for cases of modern slavery within their supply chain, ASEAN will have to adjust accordingly to ensure their industries maintain ethical production standards and eliminate labour rights violations.

While the increase in Western buyers switching to new sourcing countries will have a positive impact on workers rights in the long term, in the short term, the shift does have some negative implications as rapid growth often does.

If you look back at China 20 years ago in regard to workers rights, you saw similar issues to what you are seeing in ASEAN. Thanks to the pressure to meet global trade requirements, working conditions in China have improved dramatically and we expect to see similar improvement in ASEAN countries over time, said Breteau.

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Can Industry 4.0 revolutionise manufacturing?

Trump, Xi agree to temporary trade war truce

ASEANs migrant workers live in fear

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Labour rights abuse on the rise - The ASEAN Post

Baltimore Is the Latest to Look to Ban Hair Discrimination and its Very Necessary – hiplatina.com

For years, people of African descent have been discriminated against and barred from jobs, schools, beauty pageants, modeling even from working in the army simply for how they choose to style their hair. Just think about that for a second. If you havent experienced it yourself, imagine losing a job, not being offered a job, or getting kicked out of school for wearing the hair that naturally grows from your scalp? Natural hair and natural hairstyles like locks, twists, or braids in other worse, black hairstyles have been considered unprofessional for years. This is why states like California, New York, and New Jersey have passed hair bans protecting the black community from hair discrimination and it looks like Baltimore might be next.

The city of Baltimore is around 63% African American and yet hair discrimination is still a norm. For many that discrimination looks like being pressured to straighten their hair which often means chemically relaxing in order to conform to more European standards of beauty, which is not only problematic on a number of levels but requires money and maintenance.

We might have made a lot of progress when it comes to embracing natural hair but the discrimination is still very much an issue. Just this past October, an 8-year-old black girl from Jackson, Michigan was forbidden from taking part in her school picture for having extensions in her hair. Lets not forget about the teenage black wrestler from New Jersey who was forced right on the spot by a white referee to either have his dreadlocks cut right there and then or forfeit his match. Gabrielle Union was even reportedly fired from NBC for being too vocal about the work environment but also because her hairstyles were deemed too black.

But like California, New York, and New Jersey, it appears that Baltimore is the next to take action. Baltimores Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement is currently collecting data on the hair-related discrimination complaints the city has been receiving in the past decade.

Once its codified into law, people will be better informed and start adjusting the cultural norms, Director of Baltimores Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, Darnell Ingram told NBC News. Will it end it full stop? Thatll take some time.

Just last month, lawmakers in Montgomery County passed legislation that prohibits discrimination against natural hairstyles, including braids, locks, Afros, curls, and twists. In fact, discrimination against these hairstyles can be fined up to $5,000 and upwards for violating the law. The bill would also add hair texture and style to the citys hair ban and would apply to everything from schools, workplaces, and even housing.

Black hair discrimination has been going on for centuries and dates back to slavery. Black people have been dealing with discrimination and various forms of microaggressions associated with the color of their skin, their hair and for just being black for as long as theyve been in the Americas and its toxic and harmful on so many levels. I cant wait for the day that the hair ban is passed in every single state in this country! Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness, respect, and basic human decency regardless of the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, or how they choose to wear their hair.

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Baltimore Is the Latest to Look to Ban Hair Discrimination and its Very Necessary - hiplatina.com

Rewriting the United States’ past (and future): The 1619 Project and its critics – People’s World

The New York Times' 1619 Project is forcing a rethinking of accepted U.S. history, placing the experience of slavery at the center of our story as a country. Here, a diagram of a slave ship shows the confined torture experienced by Africans on the Middle Passage, overlain by the flag of 1776. | Graphics public domain / Illustration PW

For generations, American schoolchildren have been taught tales of the heroic revolutionaries of 1776. The Founding Fathers, motivated by the ideals of freedom and independence, stood up to British colonialism and established a system premised on the principle that all men are created equal. The 1619 Project, initiated by the New York Times Magazine last August, is challenging this traditional origin story.

Instead of 1776, the projects contributors argue we must look to 1619 to really understand the history of the United States. Thats the year 20 African slaves were brought ashore in Virginia, initiating centuries of forced labor, oppression, and racism for Black people on this continent.

The project, which was launched and anchored by Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, upends the longstanding narrative that has portrayed slavery and the socioeconomic oppression and exploitation of Black people as merely regrettable episodes in an otherwise positive story of progress.

It consists of a series of essays, articles, and podcasts on a range of topicsfrom the myths surrounding U.S. independence and the slave plantation roots of modern American capitalism to theories about pseudo-scientific racial differences that still infect medical practice today and how the legacy of segregation continues to clog the streets of our cities with traffic jams, and more.

The common thread running through the contributions, which by design are written mostly by African Americans, is that they each place the Black experienceparticularly of slaveryas the core around which the story of the United States really unfolded. As the projects introduction states, No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed.

Since its launch in August, the project has set off a tidal wave of public discussion and debate, forcing millions to reconsider what they thought they knew about American history. With educational materials based on the essays of the 1619 Project being prepared and distributed to schools for use in their K-12 curricula, there is the potential that it could radically transform the way that the pastand presentis taught and understood in this country. Washington, D.C., Chicago, Newark, N.J., Brooklyn, and Buffalo, N.Y., are among the districts that have already signed on.

Many educators, journalists, and public figures have praised the project and its authors for prompting a mass re-thinking of not just the events of old, but the racial injustices of today, such as mass incarceration, unequal prosecution rates, poverty, health discrimination, and the still widening wealth and wage gap.

But the 1619 Project has not been without its detractors. From conservative quarters came charges that Hannah-Jones and others were out to delegitimize America, as argued by Benjamin Weingarten of the The Federalist magazine. The Wall Street Journal published an essay by conservative Black commentator Robert Woodson that claimed the Times series actually hurt Blacks because it wallows in victimhood and ignores success. A group of five white historians wrote a joint letter to the Times complaining about what they portrayed as an attempt to offer a new version of American history in which slavery and white supremacy become the dominant organizing themes.

The latter have been joined and supported by writers at an outfit that calls itself the World Socialist Web Site, an ultra-left page that has long peddled in sectarianism and proclaims itself the organ of the Trotskyist International Committee of the Fourth International. The WSWS, employing a crude, pseudo-Marxist lens, argues that the 1619 Project is a racialist morality tale that leaves out the history of the working class.

From this class reductionist viewpoint, to place the experience of slavery at the center of U.S. history amounts to toxic identity politics, an unwitting advocacy of race war, and a distraction from the struggle of wage labor against capital. Minimized to the point of non-existence are any notions of multiple layers and forms of exploitation beyond (and in conjunction with) the labor-capital relation. No attention is given to the concept of super-exploitation that has been pioneered by other, less dogmatic, Marxists.

Cynically, the whole project is denounced as one component of a deliberate effort by the Democratic Party to inject racial politics into the heart of the 2020 elections and foment divisions among the working class. In this shallow and absurd analysis, the viewpoints of 1619 Project contributors are even said to bear a disturbing resemblance to the race-based world view of the Nazis.

Conservative ideologues, establishment historians, and ultra-left sectariansit seems criticism of the 1619 Project has made for some strange bedfellows. Theyve coalesced to trash the project as a whole, but one statement by reporter Hannah-Jones seemed to galvanize all of them. In the introductory Times essay, she wrote:

Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.

For all the critics, challenging the accepted notion of why the American Revolution happenedand to argue that preserving slavery was a key factor for the establishment of the United Stateswas too much.

But one radical historian saw it coming. Dr. Gerald Horne says he was unsurprised that the Wall Street Journal, certain Ivy League scholars, and certain ultra-leftists seemingly burst a blood vessel in their brains when the 1619 Project was unveiled.Horne is the Moores Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston.

He says the re-examination of the American Revolution is part of a trend of second looks being given to past social transformations, starting with the Russian Revolution of just over a century ago.

It was inevitable, Horne says, that the sharp reappraisals of revolutionary processes, most notably in the USA and focusing particularly on October 1917, would lead to a reappraisal of 1776.

With a marked increase in the oppression of a range of peoples of color in the Western Hemisphere in the aftermath of the U.S. break from Britain, Horne says its difficult not to question the motivations of the founders of the new country. The dispossession of indigenes and the enslavement of Africans increased after the formation of the USA, he points out. Indeed, as an example, Horne draws attention to the fact that as early as the 1790s the U.S. had replaced Spain as the major carrier of enslaved labor to Cuba. Within 50 years, it was ditto for the largest market [for slave labor] of all:Brazil.

In fact, Horne has for some time been advocating a re-appraisal of the American Revolution not too dissimilar from that now being pursued by the 1619 Project. In one of his books published a few years ago, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, Horne makes the argument that in the years before the Declaration of Independence, Americas founders feared the clock was already ticking for slavery. Talk of abolition was advancing rapidly among policymakers in London, the imperial capital, but the even greater threat to the slaveholding colonial ruling elite was the danger of slave rebellion. It had already happened elsewhere in North America and the Caribbean.

Horne says that the widely feared possibility of a revolt by African slaves, coupled with external invasion, was the primary motivation for the colonial desire to break from Britain. Thus, in his viewpoint, 1776 amounted to a counter-revolution to preserve the right to enslave others.

If we want to understand how that conservative impulse to save slavery affects U.S. society today, Horne convincingly argues that we only need look at the legacy of white supremacy and anti-black racism that still persistson the job, in the courts, in the jails, in the schools, at the cashiers desk, on the streets, and everywhere else.

The debate over the nature of 1776 is thus not simply a matter of historians squabbling over what motivated George Washington or Thomas Jefferson to start a new country. It is a struggle to comprehendand changethe present by understanding how our society today is a product of those events and struggles of the past.

The 1619 Project is not just a story of how slavery shaped America; it is also the story of how the resistance and fights for liberation by Black Americans helped push the whole of U.S. society down freedom road. Reconstruction; fighting for desegregation in the armed forces, schools, businesses, and trade unions of the nation; the victories of the Civil Rights Movement, the protection of voting rightsjust a few moments among many.

The truth is, Hannah-Jones wrote, that as much democracy as this nation has today, it has been borne on the backs of black resistance. The Founding Fathers may not have actually believed in the ideals they espoused, she says, but black people did.

This key takeaway from the 1619 Projectthat the Black freedom struggle has been a driving force for the expansion of U.S. democracyis the one that its critics cannot accept. The reaction of the conservative guardians of the status quo is predictable. Any suggestion that there is something illegitimate about the prevailing capitalist and racist power structures is beyond the pale for them.

The attacks of the ultra-left writers of the World Socialist Web Site, formulated on the grounds of a faulty and narrow version of Marxism, are perhaps more regrettableespecially because they distort an analytical approach that holds the potential for better understanding and changing the world in which we live. The legacy of Black advocates of socialism whose work was characterized by an understanding of how the dynamics of race oppression were central to the functioning of capitalismfigures like W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Claudia Jones, William L. Patterson, Angela Davis, and many moreis lost or twisted in these sectarian screeds.

Its indeed true that the 1619 Project is not a fully formed socialist analysis of U.S. history or the political economy of chattel slavery. The projects value is found in the way it has forcefully reminded millions of Americans of (or, more likely, introduced many of us to) the reality that the past we share is not necessarily what we thought it was.

It is time to stop hiding from our sins and confront them, Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote. And then in confronting them, it is time to make them right. The new understanding of our story as a country being pushed along by the Times series will now become a shaper of future struggles and of the history that is yet to be written.

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Rewriting the United States' past (and future): The 1619 Project and its critics - People's World

Au Pairs: The Pros and Cons of Hiring One For Your Family – Fatherly

New Jersey mom of two Amanda was looking for a child care solution when she settled on hiring an au pair. An Italian-American who studied abroad in Italy, Amanda selected a woman from Milan as her first au pair in hopes of introducing Italian culture to her children.

Amanda says it was a great decision. Her au pair arrived with limited English skills but quickly picked up the language through daily interactions and immersion in an English-speaking culture. She watched Amandas kids, driving them to and from school, and performed light housekeeping tasks. After 12 months with her, Amanda says she feels like the Milanese woman will be part of their family forever.

Au pairs can seem like an elegant solution to the thorny problem of child care and often times they are. The cost of an au pair is relatively low: the minimum stipend is just under $200 a week, a bargain compared to the high cost of a full-time nanny or even most major metro area daycares. An au pair in America lives with the family, meaning theyre available in the off-hours when parents need the help most. Families hosting au pairs are encouraged to include them in activities. Its defined as a cultural exchange, not a job, so it seems less like childcare and more like having a cousin on an extended visit from overseas helping out with your kids.

But as with everything that seems too good to be true, issues can arise with au pairs. News reports and nonprofit investigations that quote au pairs comparing their treatment to slavery drain a lot of warmth and fuzziness out of the job description. In 2013, Bernie Sanders denounced the au pair program as a scam. Following a 2014 class action lawsuit from au pairs alleging wage theft, the Washington Post reported on an au pair whose host family forced her to work more than 60 hours a week. A 2017 Politico investigation found that host families refused to buy their au pairs staple foods like bread and that au pairs complaints routinely disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole. Shortchanged, a 2018 report authored by American Universitys International Human Rights Law Clinic and immigration and labor rights groups, found that structural deficiencies in the au pair program foster labor rights abuses.

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Most recently, in December 2019, a federal court ruled that Massachusetts labor laws protect au pairs. With the states $11 hourly minimum wage, host families had to pay about $17,000 more a year than before. Many opted to withdraw from the program.

Au pair supporters call the criticism overblown, saying it unfairly tarnishes a beneficial program. But civil rights advocates say the system can make even well-meaning families unwitting exploiters of vulnerable workers.

I tried to be clear that theyre here to do a job but also going to be part of our family and enjoy life and I want you to find that balance, Amanda says. Were very humane with au pairs. Other moms asked me if I paid our au pair to do more hours than the 45. I said absolutely not. Thats not part of the program. Thats not how it works.

The United States au pair program was founded in 1986 as a cultural exchange program intended to promote diplomacy and friendly international relations. Because au pairs are classified as cultural exchanges, they fall under the State Departments J-1 Visa program. While the program issues hundreds of thousands of visas to temporary foreign workers each year, it only has 30 employees far too few, critics say, to oversee the 18,000 people who travel to America each year to work as au pairs. Despite the general familiarity of the concept, the au pair programs relatively small in scale: the number of au pairs in America never exceed 20,000 and is largely clustered in New York, California, New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts.

Author and consultant Celia Harquail ran the blog and online resource Au Pair Mom for more than 10 years until stepping away from in October, 2019. Through the site, she connected with au pair host families and potential host families from across the country.

I say as a person who had 11 over the course of my kids childhood, having an Au pair can be really fun and joyful, she says.

Harquail says its gratifying to see au pairs learn about America through cultural immersion. We had these young adult women coming into our family with great enthusiasm about being in the United States and great excitement about learning English, she says.

According to State Dept. regulations, au pairs have to be between 18 and 26 years old. au pair placement agencies like Cultural Care have recruiting centers across the globe trying to entice people who are interested in new countries and new cultures. Harquil said that while theyre away from their families and countries of origins, au pairs often find comfort in their connection to their host families.

Generally, theres a lot of enthusiasm around making a connection with your kids as a big sister or a cousin and feeling part of your family, she says, adding that the family connection can make exploring a new country seem less daunting.

Amanda likens choosing an au pair from her service to using a car search or dating website. You can choose whatever criteria you want, she says. You say, I want this country, I want this language or I want someone thats this age, then you do all sorts of searches and search criteria and then you narrow down the field and you say, these few sound good.

When her au pair started, Amandas kids were in school full-time. As Amanda and her husband were both working in jobs requiring regular travel, the flexibility offered by a live-in au pair was invaluable.

Just having an adult there in my house is very helpful, she says. But theres also the flexibility in terms of hours. For the first three years, we had a nanny who would come to the house each day, but then she had to leave and I had to rush home at a certain time.

Still, the program comes with its fair share of scrutiny. In early 2019, a federal court ordered 15 au pair agencies to pay $65 million to 100,000 former au pairs in a class action suit brought on by about a dozen former au pairs accusing agencies of colluding to suppress wages and prevent them from seeking better working conditions.

Harquail, however, questions the suits findings, saying the cases central narrative doesnt accurately represent the au pair system.

There are always going to be people who abuse the system and take advantage of people, she says. But the idea that there are 17,000 families in the United States that are withholding food or not giving au pairs private bedrooms or not giving them time off or making them work 50 or 60 hours a week is to me almost absurd. Are there some people who do that? Im sure there are. Are they the norm? Absolutely not.

Harquail says the case elides the bad behavior that au pairs can engage in.

And what you dont hear about the au pairs who take the family car without permission and drive across state lines to go visit some guy that they met on Tinder, she says. You dont hear about the au pair who leaves in the middle of the night and then you go clean out her room and her closets full of Jagermeister bottles. And what you dont hear about is the au pair who leaves the kid in daycare and simply disappears.

Harquail adds: So I personally felt that the lawsuit was very ginned up and very, very unrepresentative of the program and how it works for au pairs or for host parents.

David Seligman, director of Towards Justice, a nonprofit Colorado-based law firm that represented the au pairs in the settlement, believes his clients experience was more the rule than the exception. The lawsuit began in 2014 when an au pair approached Towards Justice with complaints about her employer.

We investigated the issue and ended up determining that this really wasnt just about sort of this sort of one off mistreatment, but about broader systemic problems with the industry, Seligman says.

Seligman says the problems were driven principally by the sponsor agencies that place prospective au pairs with host families. Fifteen for-profit companies are designated as sponsor agencies by the State Dept. The sponsor agencies typically charge families for connecting them with au pairs and also collect a recruitment fee ranging from $500 to $3,000 from the au pairs.

The lawsuit accused the sponsor companies of working together to fix wages for au pairs they recruited. Host families are required to pay au pairs a minimum weekly stipend of $195.75 but, Seligman says, the stipend was often mischaracterized as a maximum.

au pairs can ask to be placed with different families but Seligman says the agencies make it difficult to be reassigned. As a result, theyre deprived of one of the most important tools that workers have to protect themselves in the labor market: the threat to find work elsewhere. And once you take that away, like you really like workers become, become quite vulnerable, Seligman says.

In several news stories, au pairs say agencies misled them about the responsibilities theyd have in their American jobs. They arrive believing theyre cultural ambassadors whod be able to travel and explore America and are shocked at the childcare expectations.

Sharon, a mother of two from Connecticut, hosted two au pairs and was disappointed by what she saw as a disconnection between the job what the agencies told families and prospective au pairs about the job. Both of her au pairs were frustrated that her central Connecticut town was much further from New York City than they expected.

I imagine that the girls who are placed in cities do the recruiting and tell tales of wild weekends of fun, she says.

Seligman says that many families inadvertently skirt laws regarding au pairs after being misled by au pair agencies. Historically, they have been deceived into assuming that the stipend for au pair was actually the maximum allowable wage and that there wasnt a free market in which au pairs could shop for better wages or treatment, Seligman said.

Seligman says the collusion between the sponsor agencies led many host families to unwittingly short their au pairs wages.

There are many stories of families who are seriously mistreating au pairs, but there are also families who are acting in good faith and are doing what their sponsor agencies tell them to do and think that theyre complying with the law and that theyre treating their au pair well, Seligman says.

The nature of the system, per Seligman, often obscures the employer-employee relationship between families and au pairs. I think that some families are led to believe that this isnt really isnt a work program, that this is merely a cultural exchange and that this person becomes a member of your family, he says.

Its crucial for families to understand the agreement. For Seligman, the confusion over whether an au pair is an employee or temporary family member creates a dangerous situation for both families and the au pairs.

I think the one key point is to recognize that this is a work program and that youre bringing someone into your home to work for you to be your employee, as a childcare worker, he says. And just like any other employee, these workers are allowed to negotiate for higher wages or for better treatment.

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Au Pairs: The Pros and Cons of Hiring One For Your Family - Fatherly

5 Ways To Help Fix The Food System Every Time You Grocery Shop – mindbodygreen.com

I'll cut right to the chase: Our food system in this country is brokenfor many, many reasons.

For starters, it is built on government subsidies on five crops: corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice. These monocrops provide an abundance of the wrong type of calories (sugar, starch, and refined oils) and form the building blocks of ultraprocessed foods that contribute to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, dementia, cancer, depression, sexual dysfunction, and more. Foods like these are responsible for an estimated 11 million deaths a year around the world.

The present food system doesn't just pollute our bodies. It pollutes our land, water, and air with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and contributes massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions every step of the way. Glyphosate, anyone? Or how about a burger raised on antibiotics, hormones, and chicken poop? No thanks.

Food is also a social injustice issue. Many of the over 20 million food and farmworkers in the U.S. are peopleof color who struggle to make a living wage while performing dangerous work. They're subject to harsh working and living conditions and exposed to toxic agricultural chemicals but lack adequate health care. In extreme cases, they can face modern forms of slavery, sexual harassment, and abuse.

While these are complex issues that won't be solved overnight, I believe that a healthier, cleaner, smarter food system starts at the end of your fork. All you have to do is make a few simple conscious decisions about what you put on it.

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5 Ways To Help Fix The Food System Every Time You Grocery Shop - mindbodygreen.com

Human extinction now imminent and inevitable? A report on the state of planet earth – NationofChange

There is a significant body of evidence that human extinction is now imminent; that is, it will occur within the next few years and possibly this year: 2020. There is also a significant body of evidence that human extinction is now inevitable; that is, it cannot be prevented no matter what we do.

There are at least four distinct paths to imminent (that is, within five years) human extinction: nuclear war (possibly started regionally), biodiversity collapse (already well advanced and teetering on the brink), the deployment of 5G (commenced recently) and the climate catastrophe. Needless to say, each of these four paths might unfold in a variety of ways.

In addition, it should be noted, there are other possible paths to extinction in the near term, particularly when considered in conjunction with the four threats just mentioned. These include the cascading impacts triggered by destruction of the Amazon rainforest (which is now imminent) particularly given its critical role in the global hydrological cycle, the rapidly spreading radioactive contamination of Earth, and geoengineering for military purposes (which has been going on for decades and continues).

Far worse, however, is the path to extinction that looms before us when we consider the impact of all seven of these paths in combination with the vast range of other threats noted below.

These interrelated threats have generated a shocking series of points of no return (tipping points) that we have already crossed, the mutually reinforcing set of negative feedback loops that we have already triggered (and which we will continue to trigger) which cannot be reversed in the short-term, as well as the ongoing synergistic impact of the various extinction drivers (such as ongoing extinctions because dependent species have lost their resource species) we have set in motion and which cannot be halted irrespective of any remedial action we might take. Hence, taking into account all of the above factors, the prospects of averting human extinction are now remote, at best.

Why has this happened?

Because long-standing dysfunctional human behavior, which we have not even begun to recognize as the fundamental driver of this extinction crisis, let alone address, has now trapped us between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, we are trapped by our grotesquely dysfunctional parenting and education models that mass produce individuals who are terrified, self-hating and powerless (leaving them submissively obedient while unable to seek out and consider the evidence for themselves and take powerful action in response) and who, as a result of being terrorized during childhood, are now addicted to chronic over-consumption to suppress their awareness of their deep (and unconscious) emotional pain. See Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War and Do We Want School or Education? with more detailed evidence in Why Violence? and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.

On the other hand, also as an outcome of our dysfunctional parenting and education models (as well as the political and economic systems these generate), we keep reproducing and remain trapped by the global elite, and its compliant international organizations (such as the United Nations), national governments and corporations, including its corporate media. This global elite is utterly insane (and, hence, devoid of such qualities as conscience, empathy, compassion and love) and intent on exploiting our desire to suppress awareness of our emotional pain by over-consuming in order to feed their insatiable desire for profit, power and privilege no matter the cost to humanity and Earths biosphere. See The Global Elite is Insane Revisited.

Hence, this article does two things.

First, in the hope of generating greater consideration of these two issues imminence and inevitability of human extinction I have presented in straightforward language and point form, a reasonable summary of the nature and extent of our predicament (which clearly indicates that we are on track for human extinction between now January 2020 and 2025), as well as citing the relevant scientific and/or other evidence that explains each problem in more detail.

And second, the article outlines a powerful series of actions and strategies that individuals, as well as community groups, neighborhoods and action groups, can take as part of a global effort to fight to avert human extinction even if, as mentioned above, it is now inevitable. See, for example, Extinction Foretold, Extinction Ignored in which the McPherson Paradox, which explains one key reason why we are doomed to extinction, is explained.

The obvious question, which you might well ask me, is this: If the overwhelming evidence that human extinction is now imminent and inevitable is incontrovertible, why are you suggesting that we fight to avert human extinction? And my answer is simply this: Because, as I have done for several decades, I am committed to trying to do this one key thing that feels worth doing. Moreover, I am also hopeful that a miracle or two might just occur if we humans commit ourselves fully to the effort. I am only too well aware that anything less than a full effort, as outlined below, will certainly fail. And we will virtually certainly fail anyway. But I would rather try, than give up. And you?

So, in noting the points below, each of which identifies one key way (or a set of related key ways) in which the Earth and its inhabitants were subjected to greater violence in 2019, it is painful to reflect that, as forecast this time last year and based on a clear understanding of the primary driver of human behavior fear that is generating this multifaceted crisis, 2019 was another year of vital opportunities lost when so much is at stake.

Because, in essence, whether psychologically, socially, politically, militarily, economically, financially, ecologically or in other ways, in 2019 humanity took more giant strides backwards while passing up endless opportunities to make a positive difference in our world.

Moreover, to highlight the dramatic nature of our failure, by the end of 2019, a substantial number of countries and regions of the world notably including the Amazon basin, Australia, several countries in Central Africa, many European countries, Indonesia, Siberia and North America had each experienced (and/or were still experiencing) a huge series of wildfires (or fires that were deliberately lit), many of them out of wildfire season and breaking records for their unprecedented destructive impact, demonstrating that the Earth is literally burning up. For just an overview, see NASAs Fire Information for Resource Management System.

But this very visible symptom of our crisis masks a vast quantity of evidence, in many domains, that is virtually unknown but far more damaging.

One acknowledgment of this crisis in Earths biosphere was the fact that the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists remains poised at just two minutes to midnight, the closest it has ever been to doomsday (and equal to 1953 when the Soviet Union first exploded a thermonuclear weapon matching the U.S. capacity and raising the spectre of nuclear war). See It is now two minutes to midnight.

This status reflects the perilous state of our world, particularly given the renewed threat of nuclear war and the ongoing climate catastrophe. It didnt even mention the massive and unrelenting assault on the biosphere (apart from the climate) and the rapidly accelerating biodiversity crisis nor, of course, the ongoing monumental atrocities against fellow human beings.

So let me identify, very briefly, some of the more crucial backward steps humanity took during 2019 and, far too easily, unfortunately, forecast what will happen in 2020.

1. The global elite, using key elite fora such as the Group of 30, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group and the World Economic Forum, and despite much rhetoric to the contrary, continued to plan, generate and exacerbate the many ongoing wars, deepening exploitation within the global economy, climate and environmental destruction, and the killing and exploitation of fellow human beings in a multitude of contexts, in pursuit of greater elite profit, power and privilege. See, for example, Who Is Really in Control of US Foreign Policy?, Giants: The Global Power Elite and The Global Elite is Insane Revisited.

2. International organizations (such as the United Nations, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund) and national governments and corporations used military forces, legal systems, police forces and prison systems see The Rule of Law: Unjust and Violent around the world to serve the global elite by defending its interests against the bulk of the human population, including those individuals and organizations courageous enough to challenge elite profit, power and privilege who are being killed in record numbers. (See more in point 35 below.)

3. $US1.8 trillion was officially spent worldwide on military weapons to kill fellow human beings and other lifeforms, and to destroy the biosphere. This is the highest official (because the figures are taken from open sources) annual military expenditure ever recorded and the second consecutive year in which an increase occurred. Apart from military spending, weapons transfers worldwide remained high and both the USA and Russia were on a path of strategic nuclear renewal. See SIPRI Yearbook 2019: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security; Summary.

However, as noted last year, so out-of-control is this spending that the United States government has now spent $US21trillion on its military in the past 20 years for which it cannot even account! Thats right, $US1trillion each year above the official U.S. national budget for killing is lost. See Army General Fund Adjustments Not Adequately Documented or Supported, Has Our Government Spent $21 Trillion Of Our Money Without Telling Us? and The Pentagon Cant Account for $21 Trillion (Thats Not a Typo).

There has been no progress reported in accounting for this lost expenditure during the past year.

4. Under the direction of the global elite (as explained above), the United States government and its NATO allies continued their perpetual war across the planet wreaking devastation on many countries and regions, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. See, for example, Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield and Understanding NATO, Ending War.

As a result, whether in the US-sponsored and supplied Saudi Arabian war against Yemen which the UNHCR characterizes as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world see The Cost of Feeding Yemen as War Rages On the result of the U.S. use of depleted uranium on top of its other extraordinary military destruction of Iraq over the past 29 years see Depleted Uranium and Radioactive Contamination in Iraq: An Overview or the complete dismemberment of Libya as a result of NATOs bombing of that country and the subsequent assassination of its leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 see Endless War and Chaos in Libya the United States and its NATO allies have continued their efforts to destroy entire countries (also including Afghanistan, among others), at staggering cost to their populations and environments, not because these countries posed a threat to security anywhere but in order to maintain geopolitical control and to facilitate the theft of their resources (mainly oil) at great profit to the global elite. See, for example, Hillary Emails Reveal NATO Killed Gaddafi to Stop Libyan Creation of Gold-Backed Currency.

Moreover, of course, the perpetually-profitable perpetual war, by definition, has no end. But it still isnt quite acceptable to say, too publicly and loudly, that The global elite has again used the United States military and its NATO allies to destroy Iraq/Afghanistan/Syria/ (or, as is now the case, to attack Iran) to make a profit so what can be passed off as an excuse must be manufactured and promulgated by the compliant corporate media. And, with a gullibly terrified human population disinclined to question authority, this isnt a problem. The same unconvincing formula invariably works each time. For a fuller and insightful explanation of this point, see Edward Curtins article The war hoax redux.

Of course, Iran has long been in the crosshairs of the global elite because of its prodigious (and thus hugely profitable) oil reserves as well as the clear inclination of its leaders (both before and after the US-installed Shah) to make decisions in the interests of Iranians, including foreign policy decisions such as those related to defense and the role of nuclear weapons. Thus, the global elite ensured that the U.S. Congress, via removal by the Senate of a provision explicitly not authorizing the Pentagon to wage war against Iran or assassinate its officials see America Escalates its Democratic Oil War in the Near East in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, effectively encouraged President Trumps recent assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, Irans head of the foreign arm the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), Irans elite military force and the key figure in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East, in clear contempt of international law. See Trumps assassination of Soleimani: Five things to know, With Suleimani Assassination, Trump Is Doing the Bidding of Washingtons Most Vile Cabal, Why U.S. assassinated General Qassem Soleimani and U.S. killing of Irans Qassem Soleimani an act of war.

This assassination, of course, raises a heightened possibility of war essentially, from the elite perspective, to achieve regime change and capture control of Irans oil in one or more guises possibly involving, as explained by Professor Michel Chossudovsky, the use of tactical nuclear weapons, acts of political destabilization, confiscation of financial assets, extensive economic sanctions, electromagnetic and climatic warfare, environmental modification techniques, cyberwarfare as well as chemical and biological warfare. See A Major Conventional War Against Iran Is an Impossibility. Crisis within the U.S. Command Structure and America, An Empire on its Last Leg: To be Kicked Out from the Middle East?

Hence, much will depend on the Iranian response to the insanity of those attacking it, which will unfold as this article is being published. For further thoughtful analyses of this crisis, see War With Iran, Iran vs. U.S. The Murder of General Qassem Suleimani and On the Brink of War?

5. Not content with the devastating impact of the military violence it is inflicting already, during 2019 the global elite continued to plan how to cause more destruction in future. Key initiatives included ongoing work to employ advances in autonomous systems and artificial intelligence technologies that will undermine nuclear deterrence and increase the likelihood of nuclear escalation see A Stable Nuclear Future? The Impact of Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence and the decision in the United States to create a Space Force, a sixth branch of the U.S. military forces, just two manifestations of this. See The Very Bad Space Force Deal and U.S. Making Outer Space the Next Battle Zone Karl Grossman.

In its turn, the Russian government has developed and just deployed a hypersonic weapon that travels at Mach 27 and which makes the U.S. missile defense installations in Europe obsolete. See Avangard changes everything: What Russias hypersonic warhead deployment means for the global arms race.

But other initiatives receiving renewed attention hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons onboard orbiting battle platforms with onboard nuclear reactors or super plutonium systems providing the power for the weapons also enhance the threat that Modern society would go dark in the words of Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell. Why? Because any war in space would be the one and only. By destroying satellites in space massive amounts of space debris would be created that would cause a cascading effect and even the billion-dollar International Space Station would likely be broken into tiny bits. So much space junk would be created that wed never be able to get a rocket off the planet again because of the minefield of debris orbiting the Earth at 15,000 mph. See Trump Signs Measure Enabling Establishment of a U.S. Space Force.

Of course, technological advances in weaponry reflect retrograde steps in policy with the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) which includes 20 B-2 stealth bombers, 76 B-52 bombers and 450 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles together capable of delivering thousands of nuclear warheads along with the U.S. Navys submarine-launched Trident ballistic missiles, are now capable of extinguishing essentially all life on Earth within a matter of hours. See The Air Forces Global Strike Command Is Preparing For A Delivery Of New Nuclear Weapons.

6. Following the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2002 and after withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal) and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (which limited the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear weapons) in 2018, the U.S. government further and unilaterally signaled its intention to dismantle the little that remained of attempts during the Cold War and since that time to contain the threat of nuclear war by further acting in violation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 see Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies and U..S Weaponizing Space in Bid to Launch Arms Race as explained in the point above, and demonstrating its disinterest in extending New START: the sole remaining restraint on U.S.-Russian nuclear arsenals that caps deployed offensive strategic nuclear weapons to no more than 1,550 each. See Russia says its already too late to replace new START treaty and Global Zero Urges Trump to Accept Putins Offer on Nuclear Treaty.

If you are in any doubt regarding the devastating consequences of nuclear war, you will find Professor Steven Starrs thoughts see Nuclear Darkness, Global Climate Change and Nuclear Famine: The Deadly Consequences of Nuclear War illuminating. In addition, the description by Lynn Eden in City on Fire (based on her book Whole World on Fire: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation) is compelling.

7. Another substantial proportion of global private financial wealth conservatively estimated by the Tax Justice Network in 2010 to already total between $US21 and $US32 trillion has been invested virtually tax-free through the worlds still-expanding black hole of more than 80 offshore tax havens (such as the City of London Corporation, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Nauru, St. Kitts, Antigua, Tortola, Switzerland, the Channel Islands, Monaco, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Liechtenstein). This is just financial wealth. Additionally, a large share of the real estate, yachts, racehorses, gold bricks and many other assets that count as non-financial wealth are also owned via offshore structures that make it impossible to identify their owners. See Tax Justice Network.

Tax havens are locations around the world where wealthy individuals, criminals and terrorists, as well as governments and government agencies (such as the CIA), banks, corporations, hedge funds, international organizations (such as the Vatican) and crime syndicates (such as the Mafia), can stash their money so that they can avoid laws, regulation and oversight and, very often, evade tax. See Elite Banking at Your Expense: How Secretive Tax Havens are Used to Steal Your Money.

Controlled by the global elite, Wall Street and other major banks manage this monstrous diversion of wealth under Government protection. Their business is fraud and grand theft. Tax haven locations offer more than tax avoidance. Almost anything goes on. It includes bribery, illegal gambling, money laundering, human and sex trafficking, arms dealing, toxic waste dumping, conflict diamonds and endangered species trafficking, bootlegged software, and endless other lawless practices. See Trillions Stashed in Offshore Tax Havens.

8. The worlds major corporations continued to inflict enormous ongoing violence (in a myriad of ways) in their pursuit of endless profit at the expense of living beings (human and otherwise) and Earths biosphere by producing and marketing a wide range of life-destroying products ranging from nuclear weapons and nuclear power to fossil fuels, junk food, pharmaceutical drugs (including health-destroying and sometimes life-destroying vaccinations: see, for example, Vaxxed-Unvaxxed The Science), synthetic poisons and genetically mutilated organisms (GMOs).

These corporations include the following: weapons manufacturers, major banks and their industry groups like the International Monetary Conference, asset management firms, investment companies, financial services companies, fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas) corporations, technology corporations, media corporations, major marketing and public relations corporations, agrochemical (pesticides, seeds, fertilizers) giants, pharmaceutical corporations (with their handmaidens in the medical and psychiatric industries: see Defeating the Violence in Our Food and Medicine and Defeating the Violence of Psychiatry), biotechnology (genetic mutilation) corporations, mining corporations, nuclear power corporations, food multinationals and water corporations. You can see a list of the major corporations in this article: The Global Elite is Insane Revisited.

9. More than two billion people continued to live under occupation, dictatorship or threat of genocidal assault often with the global elite sponsoring an oppressive national government or simply a local elite that exercises power irrespective of the government in office. See, for example, 500 Years is Long Enough! Human Depravity in the Congo.

10. 36,500,000 human beings (mainly in Africa, Asia and Central/South America) were starved to death in 2019.

Are we serious about ending these totally unnecessary deaths? Not even remotely, as thoughtfully explained by Professor George Kent in his article Are We Serious About Ending Hunger?

As Professor Kent notes: currently, around the world, around 800 million people suffer from hunger and that global efforts to end hunger have not been serious: There has been no substantial commitment of resources, no management group to control the process, no realistic timeline, and no means for mid-course corrections on the way to the goal. There [have been] no contracts with agencies that would work toward achievement of the goal. hoping for the end of hunger wont work. Hope is not a strategy. Moreover, The UN system offers little more than vague aspirations.

11. 18,250,000 children were killed by adults in wars, by starving them to death, by denying them clean drinking water, and in a large variety of other ways.

12. 8,000,000 children were trafficked into sexual slavery; executed in sacrificial killings after being kidnapped; bred to be sold as a cash crop for sexual violation, to produce child pornography (kiddie porn) and snuff movies (in which children are killed during the filming); ritually tortured and murdered as well as raped by dogs trained for the purpose. See Humanitys Dirty Little Secret: Starving, Enslaving, Raping, Torturing and Killing our Children.

13. Hundreds of thousands of individuals were kidnapped or tricked into slavery, which now denies 46,000,000 human beings (more than at any time in human history) the right to live the life of their choice, condemning many individuals especially women and children to lives of sexual slavery, forced labor or as child soldiers. Needless to say, the global elite continues to expand this highly profitable business while its compliant governments do no more than mouth an occasional objection to the practice while doing nothing effective to actually end it, as was patently evident following disclosures about high-profile public figures during the year. See The Global Slavery Index. For one recent account of the life of a modern slave, see My Familys Slave. And for an account of the involvement of public figures in sex slavery, see Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein: what you need to know and the other articles listed at the end of this one.

14. Well over 100,000 people (particularly Falun Gong practitioners) in China, where an extensive state-controlled program is conducted, were subjected to forced organ removal for the trade-in human organs. See Bloody Harvest and The Slaughter.

15. 15,768,000 people were displaced by war, persecution or famine. There are now 70,800,000 people, more that half of whom are children and approximately 10,000,000 of whom are stateless, who have been forcibly displaced worldwide and remain precariously unsettled, usually in adverse circumstances. One person in the world is forcibly displaced every two seconds. See Figures at a Glance.

16. Millions of people were made homeless in their own country as a result of war, persecution, natural disasters (many of which, including hurricanes/cyclones and wildfires, were actually generated by dysfunctional human behavior rather than nature), internal conflict, poverty or as a result of elite-driven national economic policies. The last time a global survey was attempted by the United Nations back in 2005 an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide. In addition, as many as 1.6 billion people lack adequate housing (living in slums, for example). See Global Homelessness Statistics.

17. Highlighting the unheralded biodiversity crisis on Earth, as a result of habitat destruction and degradation as well as a multitude of other threats, 73,000 species of life (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects, reptiles and microbes) on Earth were driven to extinction with the worldwide loss of many of these species and certainly including insects, birds, animals and fish now at catastrophic levels. Tragically, many additional species are now trapped in a feedback loop which will inevitably precipitate their extinction as well because of the way in which co-extinctions, localized extinctions and extinction cascades work once initiated and as has already occurred in almost all ecosystem contexts. See the (so far) five-part series Our Vanishing World. Have you seen a flock of birds of any size recently? A butterfly?

18. Separately from global species extinctions, Earth continued to experience a huge episode of population declines and extirpations, which will have negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization. We describe this as a biological annihilation to highlight the current magnitude of Earths ongoing sixth major extinction event. Moreover, local population extinctions are orders of magnitude more frequent than species extinctions. Population extinctions, however, are a prelude to species extinctions, so Earths sixth mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume. See Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines and Our Vanishing World: Wildlife.

19. Wildlife trafficking, worth up to $20 billion in 2019, is pushing many endangered species to the brink of extinction. Illegal wildlife products include jewelry, traditional medicine, clothing, furniture, and souvenirs, as well as some exotic pets, most of which are sold to unaware/unconcerned consumers in the West although China is heavily implicated too. See, for example, Stop Wildlife Trafficking.

20. 16,000,000 acres of pristine rainforest were cut or burnt down for purposes such as the following: acquiring timbers used in construction, clearing land to establish cattle farms so that many people can eat cheap hamburgers, clearing land to establish palm oil plantations so that many people can eat processed (including junk) foods based on this oil, clearing land to establish palm oil and soybean plantations so that some people can delude themselves that they are using a green biofuel in their car (when, in fact, these fuels generate a far greater carbon footprint than fossil fuels), mining (much of it illegal) for a variety of minerals (such as gold, silver, copper, coltan, cassiterite and diamonds), and logging to produce woodchips so that some people can buy cheap paper, including cheap toilet paper. One outcome of this destruction is that 40,000 tropical tree species are now threatened with extinction. See Our Vanishing World: Rainforests, Measuring the Daily Destruction of the Worlds Rainforests, Estimating the global conservation status of more than 15,000 Amazonian tree species and Half of Amazon Tree Species Face Extinction.

Another outcome is that the precious Amazon is teetering on the edge of functional destruction and, with it, so are we. How long do we have? The tipping point is here, it is now. Professor Thomas E. Lovejoy and his fellow researcher Carlos Nobre elaborate this point: Bluntly put, the Amazon not only cannot withstand further deforestation but also now requires rebuilding as the underpinning base of the hydrological cycle if the Amazon is to continue to serve as a flywheel of continental climate for the planet and an essential part of the global carbon cycle. See Amazon Tipping Point: Last Chance for Action.

21. Vast quantities of soil were washed away as we destroyed the rainforests, and enormous quantities of both inorganic constituents (such as heavy metals like cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc) and organic pollutants (particularly synthetic chemicals in the form of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides) were dumped into the soil as well, thus reducing its nutrients and killing the microbes and earthworms within it. We also contaminated enormous quantities of soil with radioactive waste. See Soil-net, Glyphosate effects on soil rhizosphere-associated bacterial communities and Disposing of Nuclear Waste is a Challenge for Humanity.

To briefly elaborate the evidence in relation to earthworms: Given recent reports of critical declines of microbes, plants, insects and other invertebrates, birds and other vertebrates, the situation pertaining to neglected earthworms was evaluated in an extensive investigation recently undertaken by Robert J. Blakemore. His research demonstrated an 83.3 percent decline in earthworms in agrichemical farms that is, those that use pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers compared with farms utilizing organic methods. Why? Because it is impossible to replace or artificially engineer the myriad beneficial processes and services freely provided by earthworms which includes extensive burrows in pastures enriched with soil organic matter that allow ingress of air & water and provide living space for other soil organisms. Moreover, given that ecological services overall have been given a median value of US$135 trillion per year, which is almost double the global economic GDP of around $75 trillion see Changes in the global value of ecosystem services and Valuing nature and the hidden costs of biodiversity loss Blakemore reaches an obvious conclusion: Persistence with failing chemical agriculture makes neither ecological nor economic sense. See Critical Decline of Earthworms from Organic Origins under Intensive, Humic SOM-Depleting Agriculture.

Given that this multifaceted destruction of the soil fundamentally threatens the global grain supply, when the ability to grow, store and distribute grains at scale is a defining element of civilization, as Professor Guy McPherson eloquently explains it: A significant decline in grain harvest will surely drive this version of civilization to the abyss and beyond. See Seven Distinct Paths to Loss of Habitat for Humans.

22. Despite an extensive and ongoing coverup by the Japanese government and nuclear corporations, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), vast amounts of radioactive waste were dumped into the biosphere from the TEPCO nuclear power plant at Fukushima in Japan including by discharge into the Pacific Ocean killing an incalculable number of fish and other marine organisms and indefinitely contaminating expanding areas of that ocean. See Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War: The Unspoken Crisis of Worldwide Nuclear Radiation, 2019 Annual Report Fukushima 8th Anniversary, Eight years after triple nuclear meltdown, Fukushima No. 1s water woes show no signs of ebbing and Fukushimas Three Nuclear Meltdowns Are Under Control Thats a Lie.

But the challenges to be overcome in safely handling and, ultimately, safely storing the radiation hazards (such as the three melted nuclear reactors and the spent fuel rods) and the radioactive waste from the Fukushima disaster are monumental, as touched on in this article outlining the 40-year plan that the Japanese government hopes will delude us into believing will deal with the many components of this perpetual radioactive nightmare. See Japan revises Fukushima cleanup plan, delays key steps.

In addition, one critical legacy of the U.S. militarys 67 secretive and lethal nuclear weapons tests on the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 is the eternally radioactive garbage left behind and now leaking into the Pacific Ocean. See The Pentagons Disastrous Radioactive Waste Dump in the Drowning Marshall Islands is Leaking into the Pacific Ocean.

Is other nuclear waste safely stored? Of course not! See, for example, NRC admits San Onofre Holtec nuclear waste canisters are all damaged, USAs Hanford nuclear site could suffer the same fate as Russias Mayak or worse and, for a more comprehensive report, The World Nuclear Waste Report 2019: Focus Europe.

Of course, the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in 1986 continues to inflict extensive damage on the biosphere which you can learn more about from the research by Professor Kate Brown, author of Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future Chernobyl Radiation Cover-Ups & Deadly Truth, UN and Western countries covered up the facts on the huge health toll of Chernobyl radiation and Unreported Deaths, Child Cancer & Radioactive Meat: The Untold Story of Chernobyl as well as the investigatory work of Alison Katz of Independent WHO: Chernobyl Health Cover-Up, Lies by UN/WHO Exposed.

23. Human use of fossil fuels to power aircraft, shipping and vehicles as well as for industrial production and to generate electricity (among other purposes) released 10 billion metric tons (10 gigatons) of carbon dioxide into Earths biosphere, a 0.6% increase over 2018, with Chinas monstrous CO2 emissions for 2019 totaling 2.6% greater than the previous year. See Global Carbon Budget 2019.

As one measure of their contempt for the utterly inadequate goals of the Paris climate agreement, and with government approval, over 400 of the 746 companies on the Global Coal Exit List are still planning to expand their coal operations. If built, these projects in 60 countries would add over 579 GW to the global coal plant fleet, an increase of almost 29%. See Companies Driving the Worlds Coal Expansion Revealed: NGOs Release New Global Coal Exit List for Finance Industry and Proposed Coal Plants by Country.

24. 72 billion land animals (mainly chickens, ducks, pigs, rabbits, geese, turkeys, sheep, goats and beef cattle) were killed for food. In addition, between 37 and 120 billion fish were killed on commercial farms with another 2.7 trillion fish caught and killed in the wild. See How Many Animals Are Killed for Food Every Day?

Apart from that, more than 100 million animals were killed for laboratory purposes in the United States alone and there were other animal deaths in shelters, zoos and in blood sports. See How Many Animals Are Killed Each Year?

In addition, according to Humane Society International, about 100 million animals (particularly mink, foxes, raccoon dogs and rabbits) were bred and slaughtered in fur farms geared to supplying the fashion industry. In addition to farming, millions of wild animals were trapped and killed for fur, as were hundreds of thousands of seals. See How Many Animals are Killed Each Year?

25. Farming of animals for human consumption released 7.1 gigatons of CO2-equivalent into Earths atmosphere; this represented 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. About 44% of livestock emissions were in the form of methane (which was 44% of anthropogenic CH4 emissions), 29% as Nitrous Oxide (which was 53% of anthropogenic N2O emissions) and 27% as Carbon Dioxide (which was 5% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions). See GHG Emissions by Livestock.

26. Human use of fossil fuels and farming of animals released more than 3.2 million metric tons of (CO2 equivalent) nitrous oxide (N2O) into Earths atmosphere. See Nitrous oxide emissions.

27. Despite largely successful efforts by the elite-controlled IPCC to delude people into believing that the global mean temperature has increased by only 1.0 degree celsius, in fact, since the pre-industrial era (prior to 1750) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have already caused the global temperature to rise by about 1.73 degrees celsius. See How much warmer is it now?

Among a lengthy list of adverse outcomes, this has caused the melting of Arctic permafrost and undersea methane ice clathrates resulting in an incalculable quantity of methane being uncontrollably released into the atmosphere, including during 2019, with the quantity being released getting ever closer to exploding. See Anomalies of methane in the atmosphere over the East Siberian shelf: Is there any sign of methane leakage from shallow shelf hydrates?, 7,000 underground gas bubbles poised to explode in Arctic, Release of Arctic Methane May Be Apocalyptic, Study Warns and Understanding the Permafrost-Hydrate System and Associated Methane Releases in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

In fact, the methane threat is already so extreme that the forecast El Nio event for 2020 could be the catalyst to trigger huge methane releases from the Arctic Ocean precipitating human extinction this year. See Very early warning signal for El Nio in 2020 with a 4 in 5 likelihood and Extinction in 2020?

28. Glaciers and mountain ice fields whether located in Greenland or other regions of the far north, the Himalaya, at the Equator, in southern latitudes or Antarctica are all melting at unprecedented and accelerating rates, losing billions of tonnes of ice in 2019. For a discussion of the details and the implications of this, see Our Vanishing World: Glaciers.

29. The ongoing destruction of Earths oceans continued unabated and accelerated in key areas.

An incalculable amount of agricultural poisons, fossil fuels and other wastes was discharged into the ocean, adversely impacting life at all ocean depths see Staggering level of toxic chemicals found in creatures at the bottom of the sea, scientists say and generating ocean dead zones: regions that have too little oxygen to support marine organisms. See Our Planet Is Exploding With Marine Dead Zones.

In addition, however, another problem that has been getting insufficient attention is the result of the expanding impacts of the rapidly increasing levels of ocean acidification, ocean warming, ocean carbon flows and ocean plastics. Taken in isolation each of these changes clearly has negative consequences for the ocean. All these shifts taken together, however, result in a rapid and serious decline in ocean health and this, in turn, adversely impacts all species dependent on the ocean including fish, mammals and seabirds. Moreover, on top of these problems is the issue of oxygen availability given that oxygen in the air or water is of paramount importance to most living organisms. As the recently released report Ocean deoxygenation: Everyones problem. Causes, impacts, consequences and solutions describes in some detail, oxygen levels are currently declining across the ocean, not just in dead zones.

And to elaborate the plastics problem briefly: at least 8 million metric tons of plastic, of which 236,000 tons were microplastics, was discharged into the ocean. So severe is the problem that there are now five massive patches of plastic in the oceans around the world covering large swaths of the ocean; the plastic patch between California and Hawaii is the size of the state of Texas. See Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean and Plastics in the Ocean.

30. Earths fresh water and ground water was further depleted and contaminated.

The depletion is a primary outcome of the ongoing deforestation of the planet and is manifesting in several ways including as localized droughts, which are becoming increasingly common as a number of cities and regions around the world can attest. According to the World Resources Institute, half of the surface water in some countries mainly in Central Asia and the Middle East was depleted between 1984 and 2015, with agriculture using an average of 70% of the water. 36 countries are extremely water-stressed and water is now a major factor in conflict in at least 45 countries. See 7 Graphics Explain the State of the Worlds Water.

Separately from depletion, freshwater was contaminated by bacteria, viruses and household chemicals from faulty septic systems; hazardous wastes from abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (of which there are over 20,000 in the USA alone); leaks from landfill items such as car battery acid, paint and household cleaners; the pesticides, herbicides and other poisons used on farms and home gardens; radioactive waste from nuclear tests (some of it stored in glaciers that are now melting); and the chemical contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in search of shale gas, for which about 750 chemicals and components, some extremely toxic and carcinogenic like lead and benzene, have been used. See Groundwater contamination, Groundwater drunk by BILLIONS of people may be contaminated by radioactive material spread across the world by nuclear testing in the 1950s and Fracking chemicals.

31. The longstanding covert military use of geoengineering spraying tens of millions of tons of highly toxic metals (including aluminium, barium and strontium) and toxic coal fly ash nanoparticulates (containing arsenic, chromium, thallium, chlorine, bromine, fluorine, iodine, mercury and radioactive elements) into the atmosphere from jet aircraft to weaponize the atmosphere and weather in order to enhance elite control of human populations, continued unchecked. Geoengineering is systematically destroying Earths ozone layer which blocks the deadly portion of solar radiation, UV-C and most UV-B, from reaching Earths surface as well as adversely altering Earths weather patterns and polluting its air, water and soil at incredible cost to the health and well-being of living organisms and the biosphere. See Geoengineering Watch, including Engineered Climate Cataclysm: Hurricane Harvey.

For a discussion of the military implications of geoengineering, see The Ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction: Owning the Weather for Military Use.

And for discussions of the research, and implications of it, by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt and Dr. Stephenie Seneff (Senior Research Scientist at MIT), which considers damage to the biosphere and human health caused by the geoengineering release of a synthesized compound of nanonized aluminium and the poison glyphosate that creates a supertoxin that is generating a crisis of neurological diseases, see World-Renowned Doctor Addresses Climate Engineering Dangers, Dr Stephenie Seneff, Autism Explained: Synergistic Poisoning from Aluminum and Glyphosate and Extinction is Stalking Humanity: The Threats to Human Survival Accumulate.

32. The incredibly destructive 5G technology, which a vast number of scientists (currently totaling more than 188,000 individuals and organizations from 203 nations and territories: see International Appeal to Stop 5G on Earth and in Space) are warning will have catastrophic consequences for life on Earth, is now being rapidly introduced without informed public consultation and despite ongoing protests around the world.

The following articles and videos will give you a solid understanding of key issues from the viewpoint of human and planetary well-being. See 5G Satellites: A Threat to all Life, 5G Danger: 13 Reasons 5G Wireless Technology Will Be a Catastrophe for Humanity, 5G Technology is Coming Linked to Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Alzheimers, and Death, 20,000 Satellites for 5G to be Launched Sending Focused Beams of Intense Microwave Radiation Over Entire Earth, Will 5G Cell Phone Technology Lead To Dramatic Population Reduction As Large Numbers Of Men Become Sterile?, The 5G Revolution: Millions of Human Guinea Pigs in Big Telecoms Global Experiment and 5G Apocalypse The Extinction Event.

33. As one outcome of our dysfunctional parenting model and political systems, fascism continued to rise around the world. See The Psychology of Fascism.

34. Despite the belief that we have the right to privacy, privacy (in any sense of the word) was ongoingly eroded in 2019 and is now effectively non-existent, particularly thanks to Alphabet (owner of Google). Taken together, Uber, Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Tinder, Apple, Lyft, Foursquare, Airbnb, Spotify, Instagram, Twitter, Angry Birds have turned our computers and phones into bugs that are plugged in to a vast corporate-owned surveillance network. Where we go, what we do, what we talk about, who we talk to, and who we see everything is recorded and, at some point, leveraged for value. Moreover, given Googles integrated relationship with the U.S. government, the U.S. military, the CIA, and major U.S. weapons manufacturers, there isnt really anything you can do that isnt known by those who want to know it. In essence, Google is a powerful global corporation with its own political agenda and a mission to maximise profits for shareholders and it partly achieves this by expanding the surveillance programs of the national security state at the direction of the global elite. But Google isnt alone and it isnt just happening in the USA. See Everybodys Watching You: The Intercepts 2019 Technology Coverage, Googles Earth: How the Tech Giant Is Helping the State Spy on Us, the articles by John W. Whitehead on Surveillance and the documentary The Modern Surveillance State.

35. The right to free speech, accurate information and conscience-based nonviolent activism was ongoingly eroded in 2019 as efforts, by governments and corporations particularly, to control speech, information and political action accelerated. Whether this took the form of censorship, restrictions on access or violent acts directed against those whose views or actions were seen as dangerous or wrong, Global Witness, Human Rights Watch and other organizations documented an endless series of setbacks for free speech and political activity in a wide variety of countries around the world with individuals and journalists imprisoned for telling the truth, nonviolent activists assaulted and killed, critics silenced by defamation laws or disappearance, and the closure of newspapers, television stations and the internet to prevent rapid promulgation of information, among other infringements. See, for example, Free Speech, The supply chain of violence, Environmental activist murders double in 15 years and Enemies of the State? How governments and businesses silence land and environmental defenders.

36. Believing that we know better than evolution, and following the birth in 2018 of the first gene-edited babies in China see Why we are not ready for genetically designed babies and Chinas Golem Babies: There is Another Agenda in 2019, further human gene-editing was done as well as gene-editing experiments intended to explore possibilities for more complex gene-editing of humans. Why? According to the authors of one report: To extend the frontier of genome editing and enable the radical redesign of mammalian genomes (emphasis added). This experiment allowed for the simultaneous editing of >10,000 loci in human cells. See Enabling large-scale genome editing by reducing DNA nicking.

Needless to say, at least some responsible scientists are well aware of the possibly horrific consequences of this technology in the hands of those without ethics and are calling for a moratorium of at least five years on heritable human gene editing to allow time to engage in proactive, rather than reactive, discussions about the future of such technology. Of course, despite the calls for caution, some researchers are forging ahead. See NIH Director on Human Gene Editing: We Must Never Allow Our Technology to Eclipse Our Humanity.

37. Incalculable amounts of waste of every conceivable kind including antibiotic waste, military waste, nuclear waste, nanowaste and genetically engineered organisms, including gene drives (or mutagenic chain reactions) were released into Earths biosphere, with an endless series of adverse consequences for life. See Junk Planet: Is Earth the Largest Garbage Dump in the Universe?

Not content to dump our junk on Earth, an incalculable amount of junk was also dumped in Space which already contains 100 trillion items of orbiting junk. See Junk Planet: Is Earth the Largest Garbage Dump in the Universe? and Space Junk: Tracking & Removing Orbital Debris.

38. Ongoing visible, invisible and utterly invisible violence against children see Why Violence? and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice ensured that more people will grow up accepting (and quite powerless to challenge) our dysfunctional and violent world, as described above.

39. The global elites corporate media, schooling and film/television industries continued to distract vast numbers of people from reality with an endless barrage of propaganda respectively labeled, depending on the context, news, education and entertainment ensuring that most people remain oblivious to our predicament, devoid of the capacities to investigate, comprehend and analyze this predicament as well as their own role in it, and to respond to this predicament powerfully. See, for example, Medias Deafening Silence on Latest from WikiLeaks about the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Fake Douma Report Blaming Syria, Do We Want School or Education? and The Most Important Free Press Stories of 2019.

40. Finally, as a direct outcome of these last two points but most tragically of all, virtually all of the individuals who self-identify as activists continued to waste their time begging the global elite (or their agents) to fix one or other of our crises starkly illustrated by those thousands of climate activists who traveled to Madrid, mostly using fossil fuels, and then complained when the outcome was, predictably, pitiful: see the powerless civil society Statement on COP25 despite the overwhelming evidence that the global elite will not take action to fix any of these crises. See Why Activists Fail. And, for more detail in two key contexts, see The Global Climate Movement is Failing: Why? and The War to End War 100 Years On: An Evaluation and Reorientation of our Resistance to War.

Moreover, even if it was inclined, the elite is now powerless to avert extinction given that, if we are to have any chance given the advanced nature of the crisis and the incredibly short timeframe, we must plan intelligently to mobilize a substantial proportion of the human population in a strategically-focused effort. Nothing else can work.

Highlights of 2019

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Human extinction now imminent and inevitable? A report on the state of planet earth - NationofChange

Ayala: San Antonio overcompensates for the sins of others with its MLK events – San Antonio Express-News

Throughout the United States, resisters pushed back on a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Some states made their point by holding out until the 2000s to establish a holiday signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

Other local governments found creative ways to minimize King by generalizing the holiday, so as not to name him, or creating a dual holiday, so the honor wouldnt be his exclusively.

Texas eventually got around to it, but it also has a Confederate Heroes Day that this year falls one day before MLKs.

San Antonio leaders wisely chose a different path, and San Antonio activists, ever resourceful, have overcompensated for the sins of others.

So, on Monday the city will put on one of the largest MLK marches in the country. Its the highlight of more than 1,000 events from Jan. 10-26 that are part of DreamWeek. Each day offers experiences that nudge us out of our comfort zones.

An event tonight will showcase a talk on wage equity thats listed as a demand, Pay Her What Shes Worth. The discussion is from 7 to 9 p.m. at the YWCA Olga Madrid Center on the West Side. Another event features a discussion of Kings legacy of resistance and what we can do when laws and law enforcement practices stifle protest. Its from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Travis Park Church downtown. Both events are free.

National holidays, when theyre relevant, give us a multitude of teaching moments and opportunities to cross self-imposed borders and meet people unlike us. Thats Kings legacy, too.

But the Student Leadership Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio gets the prize for its Civil Rights and Social Justice Experience, a bus tour of civil rights landmarks in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

At its most powerful, the tour drew a line from slavery to mass incarceration. Now in its ninth year, the tour ended by challenging a group of 45 students to connect what they learned on the trip to their leadership aspirations.

It was no coincidence the tour paid homage to the journeys of young Freedom Riders who in the 1960s boarded buses to Southern states, sat at whites-only lunch counters and faced violence from police and white mobs.

The bus got back Saturday. On Sunday, two of the students 21-year-old juniors Sydney Brown and Christopher Garcia met me at a coffee shop near the UTSA campus to digest their experiences.

It was Browns second trip and her first as a facilitator and part of the faculty. The return visit brought new experiences, especially at the Equal Justice Institute in Montgomery, Ala.

The institute has been much in the news thanks to a new movie, Just Mercy, that tells the story of its founder, Bryan Stevenson, and his work on mass incarceration. The group saw the movie there on opening day in an auditorium that was all their own.

Its also where the group visited one of the nations most compelling new monuments, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, dedicated to the victims of white supremacy. The memorial features 800 massive steel blocks that are suspended from the ceiling, each etched with the name of a county in which African Americans were lynched, and if known, the names of the victims.

Brown was moved by an exhibit at the Equal Justice Initiatives Legacy Museum, where people can pick up phones and hear the original testimony of the initiatives clients. She met Kuntrell Jackson there. At 14, he received a life sentence for a murder he didnt commit. The initiative won his release.

Garcia, a history major who wants to teach high school social studies, sought out the trip because he wanted to learn more about civil rights than what can be found in books.

He was struck by an exhibit of segregated classrooms and a sign that that read, No Blacks, No Dogs, No Mexicans from 1939 El Paso. He stood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., where marchers were beat up in whats known as Bloody Sunday.

Garcia took dozens of photos to document his experience. But at the 18th-century Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, he stopped clicking. The silence startled him.

A guide showed them various sites, including rusty cells used first for slave auctions and later to hold convicts and a memorial to slaves who participated in an 1811 revolt. Many of the slaves who were caught were executed and beheaded. The memorial depicts rows of decapitated ceramic heads mounted on steel rods burrowed into the ground.

There, Garcia stopped taking pictures, partly out of respect. It was also awe because what was meant as a warning to slaves didnt end the rebellions. For the future teacher, its a lesson that will stay with him for future lectures and future MLK Days.

Elaine Ayala is a columnist covering San Antonio and Bexar County. Read her on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | eayala@express-news.net | Twitter: @ElaineAyala

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Ayala: San Antonio overcompensates for the sins of others with its MLK events - San Antonio Express-News

The first decade in history – The Week

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I have many fond memories of the end of history. Not the bestselling book of that name by Francis Fukuyama, whose attempt at a Hegel for Dummies was published when I was 2 years old, but the actual historical and economic conditions he was describing. In the 1990s, you did not need to be a Harvard academic or a Davos attendee to understand that following the Cold War the United States had achieved a degree of peace and prosperity unknown in human history. You could see and hear and feel it: the clean, packed malls in which it was impossible to find a parking spot; the KMarts with row upon row of Nintendo cartridges in their stolid-looking cardboard boxes; the multiplying subdivisions in which all your friends seemed to live; the platinum-selling CDs that everyone owned, including ones that were meant to assist those displaced by history's very last war, which was happening far away in a place no one in particular cared about; the radio jingles promising even more wealth ("If you need a loan and own a home / Call First Finance / You could be sitting on a fortune!"); above all, the World Wide Web, which was going to make us all smarter, healthier, richer, and probably save the Amazon and plug the hole in the ozone layer too.

This sense that history itself had reached its fulfillment was not limited to these shores or even to world leaders. In the relentless glad-handing optimism of the late Pope (now St.) John Paul II, there was also the clear implication that after the upheavals of two world wars and the chaos of the years that followed the Second Vatican Council, even the Catholic Church, the world's most ancient institution, had arrived at a final synthesis.

Not everyone subscribed to this thesis. On the fringe continental left, a handful of postmodernists decried the hubris of mainstream political theorists who were not even conscious of the absurd premises underlying their arguments; much closer to home and from the opposite end of the political spectrum, Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot in their different ways argued that the future of abundance secured by globalized neoliberal hegemony was a mirage, beyond which lay more of the violence and immiseration from which human society is never more than a generation or two removed. Nor was this pessimism the exclusive province of maverick politicians and French philosophers. In the orgy of violence and rapine into which Woodstock '99 descended, one can see something like a definitive, if unwelcome, answer to "Peace, Love, and Music" from the children of those who had seamlessly transformed the revolution into an Apple commercial. (One could argue that earlier in the decade both West Coast gangster rap and grunge gained cultural currency precisely because they rejected an unquestioned optimism about race relations and the virtues of consumer capitalism, among other things.) In the Church, both traditionalist followers of Archbishop Lefebvre and antinomian liberals questioned the permanence of the John Paul II synthesis.

In world affairs the question of history's continuation was answered definitively on September 11, 2001. At the beginning of what would be 10 or so years of transition between the end of history and its revival, Osama bin Laden and his followers reminded the world that there were forces more powerful than neoclassical economics, atavistic ideologies more intoxicating than liberal democracy, and billions of people yet to be persuaded of the merits of either. For all his faults, George W. Bush understood this. The failures of his presidency were at the level of decision making, not of ideological disposition toward the reality of evil. In the Church, too, history would be revived almost single-handedly by Pope Benedict XVI, who, with a single phrase ("never lawfully abrogated"), not only restored the traditional Latin Mass but reconvened debates about ecumenism and the fundamental nature of Church-state relations that his predecessor insisted had been answered decades ago.

During his eight years in office, Barack Obama seemed unwilling to acknowledge that history was undergoing a not-so-soft reboot. Despite the rhetoric of world-historic transformation that defined his first presidential campaign, he seemed to govern as if the only thing that prevented America and the rest of the world from returning to the golden path was a minor technocratic fix here or an unenforceable arms control treaty there. While he lectured his opponents on the virtues of civility, decaying industries collapsed for good and seemingly robust ones were allowed to lay the seeds of their doom. Picture websites and an online bookstore became trillion-dollar concerns while heavy industry receded further into the economic horizon. Instead of a restored peace, the Middle East found room for more misery and destruction. Millions of us killed ourselves with drugs and alcohol, and many more became mentally ill. The Information Superhighway became a terrifying purveyor of misinformation fatal to democracy and a haven for terrorists both foreign and domestic.

Where does America and the world find itself at the end of this first decade in the newly revived history of the world? I am tempted to say in a position curiously similar to that in which it arrived. Instead of teeming malls and the latest Britney Spears disc, we have Amazon Prime and Billie Eilish on Spotify Premium, but otherwise we have succumbed again to the old delusions. The reality behind our techno-commercial republic of leisure is globalized wage slavery, addiction to pornography and drugs, and, if chiliastic prophets are taken at their word, the imminent doom of the planet itself. While we speculate about the NFL draft and gobble up recaps of our favorite prestige streaming dramas, history screams from the void into which we have attempted to banish it.

We cannot remain in this comfortable senescence. President Trump does not believe in the end of history. Nor do Xi Jinping, the prophet of a Chinese empire that spans from from Taiwan to Mauritania, or Narendra Modi, who dreams 10,000-year-old dreams of subjugation, or the leaders of the populist movements of both the left and the right who are destroying the last vestiges of Cold War-era Christian democracy in Europe. The late Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi obviously believed that history was far from over.

If we do not wish to see its second decade written by some (or any) of these figures, we must accept that they have been right all along about history.

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The first decade in history - The Week

A Cycle of Slavery Thrives Inside Jammu and Kashmirs Brick Kiln Industry – The Wire

New Delhi: On New Years eve, Bhuvneshwari, who is in her mid 20s, sits with her child in her lap in the lawns of Parabhatara hostel at the Institute of Social Service, in R.K. Puram, with 90 other people. These men, women and children mostly Dalits and Gond Adivasis hail from nondescript tribal villages in Chhattisgarh. Three days ago, on December 29, 2019, these 91 daily-wage labourers were rescued from brick kilns in the Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir.

He said we were sold to him for Rs 20 lakh, Bhuvneshwari said, referring to her maalik-thekedar or principal employer.

Enslaved for more than 500 days inside the campus area of Tiranga and BBK brick kilns in Rajouri, the daily-wage labourers were forced to work for more than 12 hours a day, often without breaks and proper meals. According to Bhuvneshwari, she and 90 others were duped by two men, Raju and Raja, who she claimed were zamindars from Chhattisgarh.

Their ordeal began last August. Even before they were forced into bonded labour in the brick kilns, the touts confiscated their cellphones and identification documents like Aadhaar cards. According to the labourers, they were often made to sign blank sheets or other papers, the purpose and contents of which they were not told about.

Daily-wage labourers at the Parabhatara hostel on December 31, 2019. Photo: Bhumika Saraswati

Manisha Bai, from Raveli village in Kabirdham district of Chhattisgarh, said that they first worked for seven months in Jammu. Later, they were taken to Srinagar for five months, followed by another five months in Rajouri. During this entire time, they received little or no wages.

Kishan Lal (27), who comes from the Janjgir-Champa district in Chhattisgarh, said that he would often plead for proper food with his employer. How will we work with an empty stomach, I used to tell him, said Lal. However, such pleas went unanswered. The living conditions were also deplorable, workers said. They had no access to clean drinking water or proper clothes, and were forced to live in shanties made of plastic and tins.

Also read: Modern-Day Slavery: How Dalits From Lalitpur Became Bonded Labourers in Delhi

As the temperature in Kashmir dropped to the sub-zero levels, many of the labourers, especially children, suffered. Laxmi, a 30-year-old mother of five, revealed that she managed to take her nine-month-old son to a nearby government hospital, only to find that he had been suffering from pneumonia. That was the only time she was allowed to leave, but not without a guard. In fact, guards and sometimes Durgesh, the landowner himself, would accompany the labourers everywhere they went sometimes even when they went to bathe, Laxmi and other women said.

Daily-wage labourers at the Parabhatara hostel on December 31, 2019. Photo: Bhumika Saraswati

Towards the end of 2019, a labourer, Amit Kumar, escaped and reached Delhi. Then, with the help of an activist, Nirmal Gorana, who is the convener of the National Campaign Committee for Eradication of Bonded Labour (NCCEBL), and the district magistrate of Rajouri, a raid was successfully planned and executed on December 26-27, 2019.

After being freed, all the rescued labourers reached Delhi on December 29, 2019. However, none of them received a release certificate an essential document that is needed to claim the rehabilitation package due by law, as mentioned in the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, and the rehabilitation scheme of 2016.

An Anti-Slavery International Volunteers for Social Justice report from September 2017 highlighted that 100% of brick moulders were from traditionally marginalised classes and castes and that children made up one-third of the total population in brick kilns making it the worst form of child labour under international law.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that in India, there is no understanding of the bonded labour system, Choudhary Ali Zia Kabir, an advocate with Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) organisation, said.

Daily-wage labourers at the Parabhatara hostel on December 31, 2019. Photo: Bhumika Saraswati

Anyone who is not being given the minimum amount as per The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 is a bonded labourer because he/she is being exploited by the employers, Kabir said. Nearly negligible conviction rates in such cases indicate that the courts and the administration, do not acknowledge it as a crime.

Watch | Bonded Labourers From Chhattisgarh Rescued in Srinagar, Demand Release Certificates

Lack of awareness problem is with the lower rung; it cant be the case with the cabinet secretaries, labour commissioner and labour ministry, they obviously know the law, but they dont keep the accountability, highlights Kabir. Apathy and the lack of accountability to hold the administration responsible continues to provide fertile grounds for the exploitation of hundreds, including minors.

Daily-wage labourers at the Parabhatara hostel on December 31, 2019. Photo: Bhumika Saraswati

Seven-year-old Arjun, playing with a punctured ball in the laws of Parabhatara hostel while the elders pass time chit-chatting, said, Khelte the toh thekedar marta tha. Marke-marke kam karwata tha, phir ham eith palti karte the (If we used to play, the employers would beat us up and force us to lift bricks).

While Arjun and 90 others pass time in Parabhatara hostel, activists and lawyers are reaching courts to seek their release certificates, which will help them receive some interim compensation to help them reach their villages and start anew. They are also planning to file a PIL in the Supreme Court.

Bhumika Saraswati is an independent journalist based in Delhi. She is currently pursuing her masters at AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia.

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A Cycle of Slavery Thrives Inside Jammu and Kashmirs Brick Kiln Industry - The Wire

Scapegoats to supply chains: Five aims for the anti-slavery fight in 2020 – Sight Magazine

02 January 2020 MOLLY MILLAR

London, UKThomson Reuters Foundation

With a decade for the world to meet a United Nations target of ending modern slavery, experts say anti-slavery efforts must be guided by survivors, supported by law enforcement and kept at the top of the global activism agenda.

About 40 million people globally are estimated to be enslaved - in forced labour and forced marriages - in a trade worth an estimated $US150 billion a year to human traffickers, according to the UN International Labour Organization.

Tea leaves are left to dry at a tea plantation at a mountain village in Nannuoshan in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China, on 12th July, 2019. PICTURE: Reuters/Aly Song

Here are five priorities for the global anti-slavery movement in 2020 as told to the Thomson Reuters Foundation by campaigners, civil servants, and migration and trade experts.

1. Let survivors leadSurvivors of modern slavery are increasingly being championed to inform and lead anti-trafficking efforts - from raising awareness to supporting victims and shaping policy.

"We must double our efforts to strengthen worker solidarity and survivor-led initiatives, and to open more platforms for meaningful worker participation in policy and practice," said Lucila Granada, head of the charity Focus on Labour Exploitation.

More than 220 survivors have signed up to the Survivor Alliance since its launch in 2018 as an online network that provides a forum, expert contacts and consulting opportunities.

"In 2020, the anti-slavery movement needs to put their investment behind survivor leadership, create scholarships for education, and create liveable wage employment opportunities," said Minh Dang, co-director of the Survivor Alliance.

2. Secure justiceFrom India to Britain and the United States, authorities and activists alike have voiced concerns about a lack of justice for trafficking victims despite fast-growing awareness of the issue.

Governments worldwide carried out 11,096 trafficking prosecutions in 2018 and won 7,481 convictions, according to the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons report.

Trafficking prosecutions have risen since 2012 - but hit a peak of 19,127 in 2015 - according to the compiled estimates.

Obstacles to securing convictions include persuading victims to speak out, tracking traffickers online and tracing their gains, and the complexity and length of cases, experts say.

"Slavery thrives when traffickers and slave-owners can brutally enslave people with little fear of any consequence," said David Westlake, head of International Justice Mission UK.

3. Protect migrantsUndocumented migrants are particularly vulnerable to slavery but are too often either demonised or overlooked, activists say.

"Migrant workers being scapegoated is just going to increase their level of vulnerability to human trafficking," said Neha Misra, anti-slavery specialist at US-based Solidarity Center.

More than 70 million people were uprooted last year by persecution and conflict in a record high, UN data shows, yet this figure does not include migrants seeking a better life.

Without the legal right to work or resettle, many migrants end up trapped in slavery and afraid to speak out or seek help.

The discovery of 39 dead Vietnamese in a truck near London in October spotlighted the illicit trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on risky journeys to the West.

"We need to create laws and policies - globally and in Britain - that would allow people to migrate for work safely," said Jakub Sobik, media manager at Anti-Slavery International.

4. Adjust attitudesFrom opinion polls showing limited public awareness to sensationalised images including handcuffs, chains and scars, modern-day slavery is widely misrepresented and misunderstood.

Traffickers rely far more psychological methods of coercion and the use of debts than on physical violence to trap their victims, found a recent study by Britain's Nottingham University, which researches the global ill.

Modern slavery is too often seen mainly as a criminal issue, according to experts who say this diverts focus from cultural factors such as caste, globalisation and the rise of informal work, and attitudes towards and policies around migration.

"The idea that modern slavery is somewhere 'out there' perpetuated by evil criminals is only true for a very small percentage of people subject to egregious exploitation and abuse," said Cindy Berman of the Ethical Trading Initiative.

"It's in our midst," said the head of modern slavery strategy at the organisation, which is a coalition of trade unions, companies and charities promoting workers' rights.

5. Maintain momentumWith a host of political and environmental issues demanding the world's attention, some advocates fear that slavery might fall down the agenda as a crime that mostly occurs out of sight.

While teenage activist Greta Thunberg - TIME Magazine's Person of the Year - has inspired public action on climate change, people must also be engaged and inspired to consider the human cost of services and products they buy, campaigners say.

"We must continue to mobilise government action, business engagement and public concern about the exploitation taking place in our local communities and global supply chains," said Sara Thornton, Britain's independent anti-slavery commissioner.

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Scapegoats to supply chains: Five aims for the anti-slavery fight in 2020 - Sight Magazine

Iain Macwhirter: Labour has to learn the language of progressive nationalism if it is to survive – HeraldScotland

LABOURS attempts to come to terms with its worst defeat since 1935 have been as painful as they are predictable. The party simply cant understand how it lost to an Eton-educated Tory. Dont voters know whats good for them? We even offered them free broadband...

But people rarely vote on their own narrow material interest, rather on what they think is best for the country as a whole. They clearly didnt think Jeremy Corbyn believed in Britain or had the nations best interests at heart.

Now, one of Mr Corbyns disciples, Rebecca Long-Bailey, has recognised this. In her leadership pitch in the Guardian she has called for Labour to adopt progressive patriotism to bring the country together. She is suggesting that Labours electoral problem was not just opposition to Brexit but its ambivalence regarding the nation.

Ms Long-Bailey doesnt see why patriotism should be the property of the right. We should celebrate Lancashire mill workers who supported Abraham Lincolns anti-slavery blockade of cotton from the American South. But even this tentative and politically-correct version of patriotism proved too much for the guardians of Labour purity on Twitter. She was taken to task for spreading loathsome nonsense...Tory Lite...dog whistle nationalism. Progressive patriotism is an oxymoron, said one critic, like humane fascism. For many supporters of Jeremy Corbyn love of country is irremediably toxic.

During the long Brexit culture war, this attitude finally alienated Labours older, socially conservative voters in the Midlands and North of England. The question is whether Labour has the will or the capacity to win them back. It would have to go a lot further than history lessons about anti-slavery.

Can you imagine Momentum activists saying how much they love Britain and its history? Can you hear David Lammy say that, actually, Britain is not a racist country? Mr Corbyn saying that the British Empire wasnt all bad?

Imagine Ms Long-Bailey saying that our armed forces are the best of British. Or that most men are kind and loving fathers and not part of an oppressive patriarchy. Twitter would go into meltdown if Labour started talking about controlling immigration.

I just cant see Labour becoming patriotic in a way northern English voters would recognise. Stormzy would be furious. The Guardian would say it had gone populist, fascist, even.

But the inconvenient truth is that many voters just seem hard-wired to regard their community and their country with pride. It is a lot to do with accentuating the positive. The relentless miserablism of the Left leaves people with nothing to feel good about. Its like watching a permanent Ken Loach film.

Scottish nationalists used to make the same mistake of revelling in miserablism. They banged on about how Scotland was impoverished and demeaned by England and how theyd stolen our oil. Then in the noughties it discovered positive nationalism and started talking up Scotland as a progressive country that could be a model for the world. Inclusive, democratic, equalitarian.

It worked. The SNPs electoral dominance today is directly related to its celebration of Scotland. The 2014 referendum campaign, with its Yestivals and Saltires, was all about feeling good about being Scottish.

Could Labour learn from this? Or has Labour sold its soul to a version of liberal identity politics which loathes the very idea of nations? Labour intellectuals like Emily Thornberry laugh at flag-waving English patriots. Labour academics regard Britain as a neocolonial power, with blood on its hands, oppressing people abroad and racist at home.

This is why this General Election could be terminal for Labour. Unlike in Scotland, the English Left seems incapable of finding any positive dimension to nationalism. Britishness is seen as inherently right wing and racist even though Britain gave the world parliamentary democracy, abolished the slave trade and led the defeat of fascism.

Boris Johnsons One Nation Conservatism, by contrast, is a version of progressive nationalism that goes back to Disraeli. It even has similarities with contemporary Scottish nationalism. It is racially inclusive, for a start. Mr Johnsons cabinet is far more ethnically diverse than the SNPs. He is also articulating social democratic themes of redistribution and state intervention.

The Tory PM is dismantling the overtly racist, imperial nationalism of Churchill and Thatcher, in favour of the self-mocking, popular nationalism of the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. Danny Boyles pageant of English identity was of course authorised by Mr Johnson as London Mayor. It featured NHS nurses, Chartists and icons of popular culture. Thats the kind of One Nation Conservatism that Boris Johnson is grasping for, and is temperamentally capable of delivering.

It is about reflecting the nation in a favourable light, but it is also a way of doing politics. The Prime Minister is successful because he is relentlessly positive. He makes people feel good about themselves. Labours characterisation of him as a hard-bitten racist demagogue doesnt ring true. Mr Johnson is actually more in the hail-fellow-well-met mould of one Alex Salmond, who made the SNP what it is today.

Mr Salmond too was a gifted populist leader, a romantic nationalist who loved Scottish history and understood the importance of supporting the Scottish regiments, even the Queen. The media regarded him with suspicion, but many Scottish voters loved him. He wedded nationalism to social democratic themes of inclusion and equality. In his 2012 Hugo Young lecture on progressive nationalism he hailed left-wing policies, like tuition fees, as the social wage.

Unlike Mr Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon does not like nationalism, and is quite obviously embarrassed by it. Shes even said she would like to remove the word national from the party name. But if she did she would risk throwing the cultural baby out with the liberal bathwater. The SNP was an early the beneficiary of the wave of populist nationalism that has now swept England.

SNP intellectuals loathe the idea that Scottish nationalism might have anything in common with Brexit and English nationalism. But the similarities are too obvious to ignore. They were both populist rebellions against globalisation and neoliberalism by people who love their country and seek sanctuary within it.

How these two nationalisms, Scottish and English, learn to coexist or dont will decide the future of the United Kingdom. Labour may have to learn the language of progressive nationalism to have any future at all.

Read more: Why I'm giving up Twitter in 2020

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Iain Macwhirter: Labour has to learn the language of progressive nationalism if it is to survive - HeraldScotland

Crimes of Fashion – Fairplanet

Most chances are youre wearing jeans while reading these words. Half the population of the world does so every day. Jeans statistics are insane: 6 billion pairs are manufactured yearly (while in the whole world there are 7.5 billion people), jeans, you could say, are the uniform of humanity.

The jeans fabric was born in France and Italy during the 17 century. Primarily the fabric was coloured with indigo produced from Nil plants imported from India. But in the beginning of the 20-century, German chemists had developed a method to create synthetic indigo using chemicals as Sodium hydroxide, Potassium hydroxide and more. The tough competition in the field made synthetic Indigo a standard, and nowhere in the world is flooded with it as Xintang, in South China's Guangdong province, known asthe "Blue Jeans Capital of the World". More than 200,000 people in 3,000 factories in Xintang produce 800,000 pairs of jeans a day, 5 percent of the global production.

Saying synthetic Indigo is flooding the city is not a metaphor: the colours are pouring into a river flowing into the Dong, a tributary of the Pearl River, one of the largest rivers in China. Consequences for the river are devastating: it has become a sewage canal, tainted blue which is even caught through satellite photography. A Greenpeace examination shows the Dongs water is filled with heavy metals, such as lead, copper and cadmium (found exceeding national "soil environmental quality standards" by 128 levels), as well as high levels of PH (11.95) and other metals. Fish do not live in the river estuary anymore.

Some of the pairs are taken from China to the largest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, where, after being washed with stones, they get a worn-out look. One kilo of jeans, about three pairs, requires 20 litres of water, also coloured blue. More chemicals used to hasten the wearing out process are also eventually poured into the rivers-system, which nourishes the drinking water in the Dongs delta.

In the past, you would get the worn-out look after five years of wearing. The accelerated process takes about seven hours, but also shortens the fabrics life. In the past you used to wear a pair of jeans for five years until you got that look, and could keep wearing it for five years after, explains fashion journalist Dana Thomas to Calcalist.

Today in the U.S. people wear an item for an average of seven times before it is thrown out - which isnt surprising, given its poor quality. Despite the low prices, we buy clothes that are essentially fake. And all that, as Thomass new book Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes explains, comes at a huge environmental price.

Thomas is one of the most valued writers of the fashion world. She started her career in the Washington Post, and since has been writing regularly to Vogue, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, Financial Times and other leading journals. She won many prizes for her writing including the decoration of the Order ofArts and Letters, given to her by the French minister of culture. She has already published two best sellers on the subject: Deluxe (2007) which exposes how a few large companies took control over the elite fashion houses, and Gods and Kings (2015),dealing with the rise and fall of Alexander Mcqueen and John Galliano.

The highly praised Fashionopolis, is an incisive indictment against the fashion industry and its part in the responsibility for the climate crisis. Thomas claims that if the industry will not come back to its senses and change its conduct, the situation will lead to an inevitable ecological collapse and bring the widening of economic gaps to unprecedented levels.

The pace: an item every five days

The trigger to write Fashionopolis, Thomas reveals, was the collapse of the textile factory Rana Plaza in Daka, the capital of Bangladesh, in April 2013. Approximately 1,000 people had died in the disaster, most of them textile workers working in sweatshops located in an international fashion companys structure. But after the disaster, not one of these companies took even partial responsibility for it.

This disaster clarified one of the things that bothered me in the fashion industry, says Thomas, a handful of people in the industry get richer and richer (five of the 41 richest people in the world are owners of major fashion groups), while the vast majority of the sectors workers are paid less than a living-wage, even in the third world. These people work under the conditions of slavery. I dont buy the excuse that the industry creates jobs in places where there is hunger, its simply untrue.

I felt like I could write the story of the industry and the destruction it creates - the fact that it essentially perpetuates the inequality and global poverty rates, while simultaneously generates terrible pollution. We need to talk about these things because we all need to put on clothes every morning. The focus on fashion is in fact a prism through which we can discuss globalisation: I could write a book about almost any other topic related to industry and business. As a matter of fact, when people ask what the book is about, I say about humankind on earth.

The main cause for exploitation and contamination characterising the field, Thomas explains, is over consumption in large scales. Each person in the world acquires, on average, about 68 fashion items a year. According to Pulse of the fashion industry, an annual report produced by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) firm and Global fashion agenda (a body following the environmental damages of the fashion industry), by 2030, world population will grow to 8.5 billion and GDP per capita will grow by 2 percent in developing countries, and by 4 percent in developed countries. In parallel, the quantity of consumed clothes in the world will jump by 60 percent, from 64 million to 102 million tons a year.

Already, the current damages of large-scale production of clothing are destructive and irreversible. According to Kate Fletcher, a research fellow from the University of the Arts London, 27 million tons of cotton are produced in the world yearly, requiring 2.5 percent of the cultivated land, 13 percent of insecticides consumption and enormous amounts of water (1,540 litres for a kilo of cotton), crude oil and whitening chemicals including sodium chloride, sodium chloride and hydrogen peroxide. The whitening also damages the cotton fibres, causing accelerated erosion of the fabric and clothes made from it, which, in turn, accelerates the consumption pace.

The most popular source for the industry, other than cotton are synthetic fibres, such as polyester, present today in 60 percent of clothes: these are produced from crude oil in a process releasing huge amounts of polluters. These fibres are non-perishable and will pollute the environment for hundreds of years.

According to data by the World Bank, theclothing industry is responsible for 20 percent of global water pollution and 10 percent of emissions of nitrogen dioxide; one kilo of clothes produces 28 kilos of greenhouse gas, and a quarter of the chemicals produced in the world are meant for the textile industry. The fashion industry, Thomas emphasises, is responsible for carbon emissions in larger scales than the air and sea transportation industries combined.

Thomas refuses to mention names of specific companies (due to my work in journalism, she reasons, implying, perhaps, to the strength of fashion publishers), but the names can be fished from other sources. The aforementioned BCG report, which was published in May this year during the Copenhagen summit for sustainable fashion, reminds that three groups - British Primark, Swedish H&M and Spanish Zara, hold together about 43 percent of the world market. Report writers estimate if these groups will implement an environmental policy, they will manage to reduce the pollution scale they cause by 30 percent.

Another report, the Dirty Fashion Report, is published annually by the Changing Markets foundation, a Dutch organisation acting on behalf of sustainability in consumption markets. The 2018 report discovered that H&M, Zara and Marks and Spencer acquire viscose from polluting factories in Asia. Viscose is presented as a product with environmental values, but, as the report reveals, a line of dangerous chemicals are used in its production.

The Model: wear and dump

An understanding of the model of Fast Fashion motivating the field completes the picture of the damages. Under this model, fashion manufacturers produce collections at a dazzling pace, moving them to the selling points in high speed, and using high-tech to recognise when they have outgrown themselves and have to be replaced. At the same time, a deliberate decrease of the production quality shortens the clothes life, forcing consumers to buy more and more. This way, an average American bought in 2018 five times more clothes than they bought in 1980.

It was Amancio Ortega, the owner of Zara, whose fortune amounts to 70 billion dollars, Thomas explains, who refined this model, becoming one of the six richest men in the world. Ortega founded Zara in Spain, but was a pioneer in importing the production out of it, first to Morocco and then to other developing countries. He was also a pioneer in creating a network, including the whole supply chain (design, production and selling), which allowed him huge flexibility: if a collections sales do not live up to expectations, Zara will replace it within a week with another one that is designed to match what goes on in the market. And since production costs are so low, the failed collection can be thrown to the trash at a very low cost.

The outcome is that in the last twenty years, the amount of clothes we throw away has multiplied by seven. Every year, two million tons of fashion items are being thrown away worldly, most of them transferred to Africa. The rationale is that its a poor continent, and we are coming to help it, Thomas explains. But the Kenyans pay a heavy price, both because the importation flood demolishes the local textile industry and since most of the clothes transported to the country remain unused and are eventually thrown out. Even though they buy the jeans for cheap, in 2018 the Kenyans considered halting the purchasing of the clothes, but the U.S. threatened with boycotts, and Kenya reversed its position and went back to being the Wests dumpster.

The damage inflicted on local industries is particularly severe since the growth of the sector had turned it to a leading source of employment: every sixth person in the world is employed in the clothing industry. Most employees in the field are women, and 20 percent are children. In the past year we were exposed in Turkey to sweatshops of Syrian refugees children. In Sri Lanka I met an employee who took a loan from the company she works for to take care of her teeth, and when she could not repay the loan she had to work in prostitution. The sewing workshop she works for makes clothes for a line of renowned brands.

The key: pricier clothing

Breaking the vicious circle, claims Thomas, requires a new model. In her book, she examines a line of brands and designers working to change the trend by going back to traditional crafts, technologies such as 3D printing, clean jeans manipulation, smart production, hyper localism, recycling fabrics and growing materials in labs. Among others, she conducts a fascinating interview with elite designer Stella McCartney, who turned her renowned brand sustainable. In order to stop the damage, she concludes, the fashion industry must return to a local production and raise prices.

Doesnt it remind you of Donald Trumps discourse? After all he wants to raise taxes and to bring America back to its glory by way of local production.

Thats a totally different thing. Trump is pushing to bring people back a hundred years. He wants to return people like coal miners back to their old jobs, but you cant turn reality backwards. My vision is the opposite: I propose to take the old textile factories that sit empty, infuse them with new technology, and train people who will work in computer rooms.

This will not supply employment to many people

Youre right. But at least out of 3,000 unemployed people who used to work in fashion I will employ 300. Thats something.

Can the sustainable solutions youre offering be widely implemented?

Stella McCartney proved that there is a business incentive and profit in the transition to a cleaner society. We need to understand that pollution and garbage cost money, and somebody will have to pay for them. You can also save on raw materials. At the end of the day, if you think about it in the right way, you could also make a profit.

Most of your solutions would raise the price of clothing. That will hurt the poor, who will be unable to buy clothes.

Clothes must become more expensive. Today we pay for them the same price people paid a hundred years ago: the price of housing has increased, the price of food has increased, only the price of clothing went down. And the reason it is so cheap is that 98 percent of workers in the sector are not being paid enough to feed their families, while we buy clothes, wear them for a moment, and then throw them away. If we respected these workers we wouldve paid them a fair wage, and then the price of clothes would have been higher, which would have made us appreciate the items more. Today you pay ten dollars for a piece of clothing at Zara, and it doesnt pay off to send it to dry cleaning. You simply throw it out and buy a new one.

A system that enables a handful of people, such as Ortega, to become exceptionally rich while people in Bangladesh die of starvation and disasters so that this master will make more money is a distorted system. So, yes, the price of clothes needs to go up.

How will you make it happen?

By creating awareness. This is why I wrote the book. Lots of people who read it told me they didnt know that this is how things were being run. You can make quality tags for clothes that will report on companies that exploit workers and use poisonous chemicals. If people look at a shirt and say I refuse to buy it because it causes great damage we will be able to change things.

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Crimes of Fashion - Fairplanet

Our nation’s self-serving myths fell apart in the decade since 2010 – Milwaukee Independent

The 2010s was the decade that forced American politicians and commentators to confront the limits of the countrys own mythology.

Political elites in both parties had long shared the same conventional wisdom about the United States, grounded in ideas of exceptionalism and institutional perfection. But with the rise of Donald Trump and the return of a virulent politics of xenophobia and exclusion, it became increasingly difficult, even for many in the political establishment, to reproduce these past homilies.

Today the US is truly at a crossroads. Are Americans willing to confront the failures that led to the present, or will the US remain trapped in the same cycles of crisis and popular disaffection?

If you grew up in the US in the late 20th century, you would have imbibed a familiar account of the country. This was the idea that the US, from its founding, had always been committed to principles of universal equality, self-government and personal liberty. For starters, this consensus assumed that those in the US with wealth and power generally deserved it because they were the best and brightest. And such faith in meritocracy meant that even people on the centre left embraced American-style capitalism and the idea that the US constitution along with the federal judges who presided over it produced a near-ideal realization of democracy.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it became a truism that victory in the cold war had vanquished all ideological competitors proof that the country had the best and only viable means of running an economy and political system. The US was a beacon on the international stage, justly exercising power as global policeman. Americas principles, coupled with cold war triumphalism, also suggested that the political change was only ever a story of improvement. As Barack Obama declared in 2008, the country was nothing less than an improbable experiment in democracy, one steadily being perfected, generation after generation.

But as the decade began, the country was facing a series of rolling crises that challenged all of these assumptions: failing overseas wars started on false grounds; financial near-collapse; the social blights of mass incarceration and worsening inequality. Each problem was the product of a policymaking approach rooted in the governing mythology.

Yet political elites responded by essentially doubling down on the conventional wisdom. The Obama administrations strategic choices were guided by the same philosophy that had long informed American politics, above all, placing faith in markets and in national security experts (despite the recent and catastrophic failures of both). And, in the end, the policies were simply not up to the challenges of the times.

Moreover, what the centre right and centre left could not make sense of given their overall vision was the extent to which the US had succumbed to deep and structural decay; a fact that both Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter activists highlighted. This decay was perhaps epitomized by the profoundly anti-democratic nature of the American constitutional system itself.

This system had long been characterized by the proliferation of corporate money and by checks on popular authority from the Senate and the disproportionate power it gave to small population centers, to gerrymandering in the House of Representatives, and from widespread practices of voter disenfranchisement to an unelected federal judiciary serving for life. And, as politicians faced overwhelming problems, such constraints only reinforced the sense of paralysis. They made it increasingly apparent that, rather than reflecting actual mass sentiment, politics was now controlled by a wealthy and white minority coalition within the Republican party which enjoyed a veto power that was well beyond its actual public support.

Trumps victory in 2016, despite losing the popular vote, not only made plain these institutional flaws but also made it almost impossible for establishment politicians to repeat the old truisms. How could you talk about American meritocracy when so much of political and economic power was defined by nepotism, incompetence and sheer impunity? Indeed, a slew of headlines exposed how even at places like Harvard 43% of admitted white students were either legacies, recruited athletes or children of targeted donors.

Meanwhile, the idea of either the benevolence of American power or the inherent progressive direction of national history a new post-racial society seemed absurd. At a time when the president and the ruling party openly embraced white nationalism and separated children at the border from their parents, it became hard to repeat bromides about the US being great because it was good.

As the decade ends, one of the defining features of the 2020 Democratic primary has been the degree to which the old-fashioned rhetoric is being abandoned by centrist candidates, let alone more left-leaning ones. Even the New York Times, with its interactive, online 1619 project on the legacy of slavery, is demythologizing the national past. But the problem today is that both Republicans and most Democrats have responded to the collapse of the American myth by peddling a version of nostalgia. Trumps nostalgia is for a 1950s America, both racially and in terms of national prosperity and prestige. But the centre left also traffics in nostalgia, even if only for a time any time before Trump.

Alas, there is no real turning back. Trumps rise was in many ways the product of fundamental failures within the old consensus, of which Obama himself was a critical part. And for this reason, there is only one path forward for the US a politics of genuine transformation. This means nothing less than democratic changes to the electoral process, the economy and the political-legal order more broadly.

There are clearly incipient moves in this direction, from the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren campaigns to the activists involved with the Movement for Black Lives, the minimum wage campaign Fight for $15, the so-called Moral Mondays movement and the Democratic Socialists of America, to name just a few. The upcoming decade therefore will be shaped by real political struggle. For the sake of the country, one hopes that some version of nostalgia will not win out.

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Our nation's self-serving myths fell apart in the decade since 2010 - Milwaukee Independent

Despite the Modern Slavery Act, poor labour conditions are prevalent in the fast fashion industry – PoliticsHome.com

British people are Europes fast fashion addicts. Consumption of new clothing is estimated to be higher in the UK than any other European country, and manufacturers are in engaged in an unceasing floral-printed arms-race to satisfy that demand.

Earlier this year the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC)investigated the social and environmental impact of disposable fast fashion. For the fashion industry, the report was damning.

Describing the way that we make and use clothing as unsustainable, the report attracted headlines for its focus on the environmental damage caused by fashion that people perceive as disposable.

Companies like ASOS and Boohoo came under criticism for their focus on saving money in the production process rather than sustainability, but the undeniable truth is that they are simply responding to public demand. Last year Boohoo released a range of 5 dresses, and despite howls of anguish from campaigners and competitors, the range has proven immensely popular with the companys millennial target market.

Modern Slavery

The cost is more than just environmental, however. The EACs report emphasised that forced labour was still present in contemporary supply chains, expressing particular concern about the use of child labour and prison labour.

Arguably most concerning was the comparatively high awareness of poor labour conditions within garment-making the globalisation of production has also to led to an apparent globalisation of indifference. The forced labour within cotton production can be found in far-off Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, whereas Anti-Slavery International campaigner Kate Elsayed-Ali also highlighted the Sumangali system practiced in India to illustrate the often gendered nature of forced and child labour.

Tempting though it might be, however, to dismiss modern slavery as an overseas problem, to do so would grossly mischaracterise the situation.

A Made in the UK label may assuage the worries of concerned consumers, but the Committee noted the open secret that there were British factories paying wages well below the legal level. Leicester has the dubious honour of being Britains fast fashion capital, with a number of garment factories paying staff well below the minimum wage, often in illegally sub-standard working conditions.

The fact that such practices have a presence in the UK may surprise some observers. The much-vaunted Modern Slavery Act contains a clause relating directly to transparency in supply chains; businesses with a turnover of more than 36m required to produce a statement setting out the steps the organisation has taken to ensure that modern slavery is not taking place in their business or supply chain.

The Government believes that this is sufficient, claiming that the Act has increased transparency in supply chains. However, concerns have been raised by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the Government does not monitor whether statements made under the Modern Slavery Act comply with the legislation and the Government has never used its powers to penalise companies that do not comply.

Compliance is far from universal - research at Leeds University identified 24 leading retailers, including Foot Locker and Valentino, who are non-compliant with the Modern Slavery Act by not making available their modern slavery statements as of December 2018.

Governmental Response So Far

Despite the EACs damning conclusions, May this year saw the Government respond with comparative indifference. They rejected each of the reports recommendations, pointing out their commitment to the rising minimum wage and the actions of the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

On the topic of public procurement, the official response to the report highlighted that bidders for Government contracts are now required to show their compliance and the Government believes these measures are sufficient to root out Modern Slavery within the context of public contracts.

Behavioural change was another area in which the Government claimed to be acting proportionately. They noted a series of events held in the UK to boost environmental awareness and insisted that children were educated on the topic of sustainability throughout their school lives.

Chair of the Committee Mary Creagh was withering in her criticism of the Government response, claiming that Ministers had failed to acknowledge the severity and urgency of the environmental crisis. She repeated her calls for greater transparency within the supply chains of big fashion companies and accused some of them of flouting the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

The Future Direction of Policy

Of course, much has changed since the summer, with a new Prime Minister, a new Cabinet and a new set of political priorities. The Government has responded to growing public concerns about the climate crisis by emphasising their environmental record but have, so far, remained comparatively reticent in the area of sustainable fashion.

More action has been seen in combatting low domestic wages - over Conference season, the Chancellor Sajid Javid announced a dramatic increase in the minimum wage, taking it to two-thirds of median earnings by April 2024, for all workers aged 21 and over.

However, campaigners have warned that this may prove ineffectual in the case of fashion supply chains, due to the disproportionately globalised nature of the work force and the fact that some British factories have been flatly ignoring the existing rules for many years.

Only four years after the landmark Modern Slavery Act, there remains a clear prevalence of unsustainable environmental and social practices in the sector. Ultimately, this is unlikely to change dramatically until it becomes politically expedient for it to move up the agenda, and, given the overwhelming sense of indifference towards the issue amongst the general public, this seems a long way away.

If your organisation needs to keep abreast of political and policy developments, Dods Monitoring can offer intelligence to keep you one step ahead. Find our more HERE.

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Despite the Modern Slavery Act, poor labour conditions are prevalent in the fast fashion industry - PoliticsHome.com

ITUC: ‘Qatar is changing’ with the abolition of the kafala system – Morning Star Online

QATAR claimed to abolish their vile modern slavery kafala system today and announced a new evidence-based minimum wage law from January 2020.

The bloodstained Gulf state won the right to stage the 2022 World Cup in a controversial vote by footballs governing body Fifa during December 2010.

In the wake of delivering the successful bid for international footballs showpiece event, there was increased scrutiny over Qatars diabolical labour laws governing the estimated two million migrant workers who have been exploited while building the infrastructure.

Despite numerous broken promises from the Qatari government to improve matters within the small, but oil-and-gas-rich, country, nothing was done.

Last month, human rights organisation Amnesty International published a 52-page report, titled All Work, No Pay: The Struggle of Qatars Migrant Workers For Justice, which points out that the pledges have not yet been matched by reality.

However, yesterdays announcement to end the kafala system, a sytem of virtual enslavement under which their ability to leave the country or change job is entirely at the whim of their employer, saw International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) general secretary Sharan Burrow declare that Qatar is changing.

Exit visas for workers including domestic workers, those in government and public institutions, and workers employed at sea, in agriculture as well as casual workers have been eliminated and these workers finally have the same rights as all workers in Qatar. The same non-discriminatory law will apply for all workers including domestic workers.

From the start of next year, a new evidence-based minimum wage law that applies to all nationalities is established.

The abolitionof the no objection certificates (NOC) will also allow workers to change their jobs without the permission of their employer, following normal contractual commitments.

Qatar is changing, said Burrow. The new tranche of laws will bring an end to the kafala system of modern slavery: exit visas for all workers including domestic workers eliminated; a system of contracts that are transparent and labour courts to enforce them; the end to permission to leave a job, with criteria equivalent to any modern industrial relations system; and a government fund to ensure workers are not disadvantaged by exploitative employers, while the state pursues recovery of entitlements.

We recognise that an evidence-based minimum wage, the first of its kind in the Middle East, will be a major improvement for workers, and will guarantee a minimum level of protection. We urge the government to announce the new rate as quickly as possible.

Workers want to work in the Gulf states, they want to support their families at home, but they also want decent work where they are treated fairly and with dignity and respect. While we witness the changes in Qatar, sadly this is not the case in neighbouring countries where migrant workers are still treated as less than human with few rights and freedoms.

The reforms need to become embedded in employment practice and strong legal compliance. But the partnership between the Qatar government and the ILO supported by the ITUC is working to change lives to change a nation.

The new laws will be submitted to the Advisory (Shura) Council in November and come into effect on January 1 2020.

The programme of reforms ispart of a three-year technical co-operation agreement with the International Labour Organisation. A review of the agreement will be reported to the ILO Governing Body in November.

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ITUC: 'Qatar is changing' with the abolition of the kafala system - Morning Star Online

From the Pages of Orlando Weekly: Central Florida’s hotels and restaurants are the chief reason Orlando consistently has the lowest median income of…

Were going to revisit a topic from last weeks commentary because its of vital importance. Last week, we told you how the president of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Carol Dover, decried the words of attorney John Morgan, who compared Floridas minimum wage to slave wages.

While Morgan is no pauper, its important to note that Dover, whose response diverted attention with empty words about slavery and human trafficking, herself is paid more than $620,000 a year for her job.

As has been widely reported year after year, Central Floridas hotels and restaurants are the chief reason Orlando consistently has the lowest median income of all major metros in the U.S.

Restaurants, at the behest of organizations like Dovers and lobbyists for hotel and service industries, pay servers as low as $5.44 per hour, not the $8.46 minimum other employers pay, because restaurants are allowed to let servers tips make up the remaining $3.02 an hour.

While tips are an unstable source of income that only serves to keep menu prices low for restaurant owners, working as a lobbyist to keep restaurant employees pay as low as possible is one of the very best ways to get rich in Florida.

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From the Pages of Orlando Weekly: Central Florida's hotels and restaurants are the chief reason Orlando consistently has the lowest median income of...

Human trafficking is happening on our doorstep, says head of Sheffield anti-slavery charity – Yorkshire Post

Friday is Anti-Slavery Day but modern-day slavery is still destroying lives. Grace Hammond speaks to a victim and the charity trying to help her.

Sharon endured the ultimate betrayal. She was enticed to the UK with false promises, then manipulated into a life of slavery by a member of her own family. She came to the Yorkshire and Humber area from Ghana with dreams of becoming an accountant.

My country is beautiful but there are no opportunities for anyone and there is corruption, says Sharon, not her real name, who is now 27. I wanted to be an accountant. I managed to study for an accountancy diploma. But there was no chance of getting any further. I was sat at home, helping my mum and feeling Id just wasted three years of study.

When my cousin, who was living in the UK, told me about her successful life, and promised to help me to get into college near her, I was really excited.

She said I could stay with her and her family and offered to organise my visa and pay for my flight. People will say this sounded too good to be true but I had known her all my life; I trusted her totally.

Sharon moved into her cousins home. She was given a mattress on the floor in the childrens bedroom, but she was told she would need to wait until September to start college, and asked to work in her cousins business in the meantime.

I didnt mind. I felt it was the least I could do to repay her for her kindness, she says. I worked six days a week until late each day, without receiving a penny. I felt very grateful to them. I didnt want to make a fuss. But then I was asked to do the household chores on top of my job, and take the children to school. Without realising it, I had become the familys unpaid servant and totally dependent on them. I would have liked to go out to make friends, but without money it was impossible. I think that was the plan to isolate me. I became less and less confident.

When the cousins business collapsed, there was no escape for Sharon. She was given false identity papers and a job was found for her.

I didnt have a say in it. They told me I needed to do it to pay for my college course, and living expenses while I studied. I could see their point so went along with it. Around her household duties, she worked in a clothing warehouse. She has no idea how much she was earning, her wages went straight into her cousins bank account.

She told me she was saving the money for me. But whenever I asked about applying for my college place, she would tell me I wasnt ready. My English wasnt good enough, I needed to be more settled here. There was always a reason. I had worked at the warehouse for over a year when I asked my cousin how much had been saved for me and where the money was. She got very angry and said I owed her money for the paperwork, my airfare and my room in her house. She always made me feel I should be grateful to her.

Eventually Sharon confided in a friend at the factory, who helped her to get her payment details changed at the warehouse. That meant she would receive her next wage. It would give her the means to escape from her cousin.

I was really frightened; I knew as soon as my wages didnt drop into her account she would realise what I had done. I sneaked out of her house and went to stay with my work friend.

Sure enough, the cousin came to the warehouse and confronted Sharon, then told factory bosses and the police that it was Sharon who had acted fraudulently.

She said I had stolen her documents and identity. My manager called the police and I was put in a cell overnight. They were more interested in the fact that I only had a visitors visa which had expired and reported me to immigration authorities.

A document of deportation was issued and I was terrified. I told them I was the victim and wanted to claim asylum.

As soon as the police released her, she went to ground. With no income and no home, she slept on the sofas of her former workmates for two years.

Eventually she met a man and moved into his home. She told him about her cousin and he took her to a lawyer, who contacted immigration services.

I gave them as much information as I could. I told them my cousin had received all of my wages for over a year.

At an initial assessment for claiming asylum, it was decided there were reasonable grounds to identify Sharon as a victim of human trafficking and was referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) the system by which victims of modern slavery are identified and provided with support. She was given the Salvation Armys specialist support for victims of modern slavery. By this time she had a daughter and her relationship had broken down. The Home Office found them an apartment. I had a place no one could kick me out of. I felt safe.

The Salvation Army introduced Sharon to the Sheffield charity City Hearts. Her City Hearts caseworker gave her emotional support and counselling. She was putin touch with support services for refugees and asylum seekers and a church, where she made friends. Because she is recognised as a potential victim, she is allowed to stay in the UK pending a verdict on her status. It should take 47 days she has been waiting since 2017. She is not allowed to work but has enrolled at catering college and hopes to become a cook. She lives off a weekly allowance of 37.75 from the National Asylum Seeker Service and a temporary additional amount of 27.25 from the NRM.

Amy Harrison, senior anti- human trafficking caseworker at City Hearts, says: Sharon is stuck in the system somewhere and while she waits in limbo, we are supporting her. She is working towards a future, but where that future will be is unknown.

CEO of Sheffield charity City Hearts, Ed Newton, said: People should not imagine trafficking only exists in major cities like London. It is happening right now, on our doorsteps, in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.

According to the charity, latest statistics indicate there are as many as 136,000 modern-day slaves in the UK.

Founded in Sheffield 14 years ago, City Hearts aims to restore the lives of people rescued from trafficking and modern slavery. Nationally recognised for its work with over 2,000 survivors in the last five years, the organisation has grown dramatically to cope with the explosion in trafficking in 2018 6,993 were referred into the National Referral Mechanism, a 36 per cent rise from 2017.

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Human trafficking is happening on our doorstep, says head of Sheffield anti-slavery charity - Yorkshire Post


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