Friday
Aug102018

REDEYE 8/29/18

Racist government poisoned kids’ brains to cut costs
NYT Book Review, 8/5 (“What the Eyes Don’t See” By Mona Hanna-Attisha) — …In April 2014,…the mayor of Flint, Michigan,….switched Flint’s water supply from a tested and reliable source…to a cheaper and untested one, the nearby Flint River….defend[ing] the move as necessary cost-cutting….
[It] led to one of the biggest public-health disasters of our time. The water from the Flint River turned out to be highly corrosive, causing the city’s old pipes to leach lead into the drinking water. Lead…cause[s] irreversible damage to human brains and nervous systems, especially children’s. Yet in Flint, a predominantly African-American city, nobody worried too much about it….Water tests were done haphazardly. Officials rigged data and intimidated activists. Thousands of kids drank water that may have permanently harmed their brains.
This is the story of a government poisoning its own citizens, and then lying about it,” Mona Hanna-Attisha writes….“what happens when the very people responsible for keeping us safe care more about money and power than they care about us, or our children….Analysis of Flint residents’ blood tests proved indisputably that they were being poisoned…a crime of tragic proportions….
Children in…Flint…[have a] life span…15 years shorter than that of a child born in a neighboring suburb…. “A group home for abused and neglected kids…had a water-lead level over 5,000” parts per billion….(The…mandated action level for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion.)….The white mayor of Flint to the public-health officials…claimed that ensuring safe drinking water was not their responsibility.
Middle East: Women domestic workers suffer slave labor, torture; fight back
NYT, 8/7 (op-ed, Laura Secorum) — From Lebanon to Saudi Arabia, many employers view domestic workers, a large majority…women, as servants who do not deserve the freedom to leave the house or even the right to rest….
…A body of a Filipino worker was found inside the freezer of an abandoned apartment that belonged to her employer in Kuwait. Last year, an employer in the United Arab Emirates was found guilty of torturing her Indonesian domestic worker and causing her permanent deafness….
…Much of the Arab world…operate[s] within an…exploitative structure — the “kafala” system, which places a domestic worker entirely at the mercy of her employer. She is not allowed to leave her employer or the country without the employer’s consent. Escaping is a crime, punishable by arrest and deportation….
…There are about 1.6 million female migrant domestic workers in the Middle East and Gulf region….Recruitment agents focus largely on profit, which leads to…migrants paying exorbitant fees….
In Lebanon, where abuse is rampant, domestic workers have already set up a union….The government…[is] denying the organization legal status and deporting its leaders.
Capitalism’s private prisons for caged immigrant children = billion-dollar business
NYT, 7/31 (op-ed, Scott Stringer, Javier Valdés) — The Trump administration’s decision to separate migrant children and their parents…and its anemic efforts to reunite families…have been widely condemned as cruel. But the president’s so-called solution — to imprison immigrants as families in detention centers — is equally abhorrent.
This policy, which will undoubtedly cause immense human suffering, has one clear beneficiary: the private prison industry.
In recent decades, private prison operators have opened centers to detain immigrants and their children. This means…when a mother escapes life-threatening dangers in her home country and arrives in the United States only to be imprisoned in one of these centers, they profit. When a family seeking refuge here is put behind bars, they profit. When a new center needs to be opened…they profit.
This industry has turned human suffering into a billion-dollar business.
…Conditions in private prisons are dismal….A report from the A.C.L.U. uncovered evidence that people held in private prisons were denied access to functioning toilets and proper medical care and served inedible food, and had no opportunity to challenge…use of solitary confinement….
Private prisons’….bottom line depends on locking people up….These companies have a financial interest in perpetuating the inhumane “zero tolerance” policies….
Israeli rulers make racist apartheid the law
NYT, 7/31, (op-ed Sayed Kashua) — …The Nationality Law….says Israel is a Jewish state….
…The law that Israel’s Parliament passed this month without using terms like “racial segregation,” “discrimination” and “supremacy”….[means my] 12-year-old…is a citizen of a state that holds that he is inferior because of his non-Jewish origin….When Israel was founded on the ruins of the Palestinian people in 1948, it was defined as a Jewish state. The Palestinians who…became Israeli citizens…have always been viewed as an undesirable demographic burden and subjected to discrimination...The new law….has turned de facto racism into de jure racism.
The law seeks to legislate [that]…non-Jewish minorities…will never be equal….[and] by law will, by definition, reject any minority member…even if…fluent in its culture,…writes literature in its language, respects its laws, serves its society….
The Nationality Law…rejects any collective…memory other than the Zionist one…revoking Arabic’s status as an official state language….Article 7 of [the] law…has a distinctly colonialist tone, addressing Jewish settlement without any mention of the 20 percent of the population who are Arabs and who live in crowded conditions and under continuous threat of having their land appropriated.

Friday
Jul132018

REDEYE 7/25/18

Peace Accord means death
El Pais (Spain) 7/5 – Every three days a social leader in Colombia is assassinated.  There have been 178, according to police calculations, since the signing of the peace accords with the FARC on November 24, 2016…
This past Wednesday, in the Caceres municipality in the northwest of the country, Ana Maria Cortes, the local coordinator for the electoral campaign of leftist candidate Gustavo Petro was assassinated.  On Tuesday, Margarita Estupiñan, the president of the Communal Action Board for the Tumaco neighborhood, was shot in the doorway of her home.
These assassinations are a a dramatic reflection of the precarious situation that still exists in Colombia.
The regular lack of defense for community leaders shines a spotlight on local landowners and mafia groups; since the peace accords there has been increasing confrontations between criminal bands and armed groups for control of the territory.
U.S. impoverishes & kills millions of kids
NYT, 6/28 — America systematically shortchanges tens of millions of children, including homegrown kids….American kids are more likely to be poor, to drop out of high school and even to die young….Tear apart homegrown families…through mass incarceration, excessive juvenile detention and overuse of foster care. One black child in 10 spends time in foster care — and 61,000 foster kids have simply gone missing since 2000….
“A shockingly high number of children in the U.S. live in poverty,” the United Nations…[official] Philip Alston…declared
….Almost one-fifth of American children live in poverty…and they account for more than one-fifth of homeless people.
Alston [said] “there’s a very direct link” between the mistreatment of immigrant children at the border and the indifference toward low-income children all across the country….
…A U.N. official…finds that kids here have worms….Two researchers…found that some three million children live in “extreme poverty,” with a cash income of less than $2 per person per day….
Since about 1970…American kids have been dying at higher rates. A child is more likely to die by the age of 19 in the U.S. than in…peer countries….
Half a million kids still suffer from lead poisoning each year….A tropical disease specialist at Baylor’s College of Medicine warns that here in the United States, “Millions of children living in poverty may be affected by toxocariasis, a parasitic roundworm infection….”
…Trump is…cutting benefit programs in ways that will hurt poor kids. Trump’s tax cuts add to the deficit…sticking children with the bill.
Thousands separated from parents: a “form of state terror”
NYT, 6/23 — Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security shrugged off accusations that [separating migrant children from their parents] was a “form of state terror.” After all, she said, “We do it every day in every part of the country….”
…Family separation…is…happening…thousands of times a day. “In the United States,” she said,” we call that law enforcement….”
…Prosecutors and the police routinely separate children from their parents….It comes with no warning, sometimes in the middle of the night….
INCARCERATING PARENTS. A quarter of a million American children…have a single mother in jail, where most detainees are awaiting trial or committed a minor offense….Another 150,000 have a mother in prison….One in four black children …have their father incarcerated before they turn 14….Some have the potential to be lost. The Dallas Morning News found that children whose parents were behind bars had slept in state offices, [and] run away from foster homes. “No one in the criminal justice system is responsible for the safety of children whose mothers go to jail.”
Women who give birth while incarcerated are usually separated from their babies….
INCARCERATING CHILDREN. More than 30,000 children are locked up in juvenile facilities in this country….Black children are incarcerated at a rate five times higher than white children….Children are still held in appalling conditions…[including] solitary confinement for months at a stretch.
REMOVING CHILDREN FROM THE HOME. There are some 400,000 children in the foster home system, many of whom are prohibited from any parental contact….
These children are typically taken by officials they have never met, without warning, then subjected to intrusive interrogations, medical examinations and sometimes strip searches…..Many of the cases were unfounded, and…agencies disproportionately go after black and Latino parents.
France: Youth fight cops’ racist murder of immigrant workers
NYT, 7/5 — …A police killing….[showed]….images from the western city of Nantes of burned-out cars, smashed bus shelters and shattered store fronts:…symbols of…policing in minority neighborhoods….Police pulled over a 22-year-old man acquaintances identified as Aboubakar, the son of immigrants from Guinea, during a traffic stop….
…The young man was shot in the neck and died before he made it to the hospital….
What followed was a night in which angry youths in three Nantes neighborhoods threw fire bombs and burned eight buildings and some 30 cars….Said Gergard Mauger, at the CNSR research institute…”For 40 years we’ve had 10 percent unemployment, much higher in these neighborhoods. The first victims of it are the immigrants.”
En-Némèr, who runs a local youth group….said, “They had beefed up the police presence to ‘protect’ the neighborhood….
Mr. En-Némèr, who knew Aboubakar from soccer matches organized by his group, vigorously disputed the police account. He said 10 witnesses interviewed by him and his group all agreed. There had been no aggression from the young man….[He] was complying with the officers. He wasn’t aggressive….
“They fired at him without warning….” There was lots of blood coming from his neck, but it was too late.”
Aboubakar was known as “cheerful” and “respectful,” Mr. En-Némèr said….
…Officials in Nantes said the shooting would be investigated, and a march was being organized….For Mr. En-Némèr, though the shooting demonstrated that “you might as well re-establish the death penalty.”

Friday
Jun292018

REDEYE 7/11/18

Billion$ in profits caging immigrant kids
NYT, 6/22 — …Housing [and] transporting…migrant children detained along the southwestern border is not a million-dollar business.
It’s a billion-dollar one.
…Southwest Key Programs has won at least $955 million in federal contracts since 2015 to run shelters…[for] immigrant children in federal custody….Southwest Key is but one player in the lucrative secretive world of the migrant shelter business. About a dozen contractors operate more than 30 facilities in Texas alone, with…about 100 shelters in 16 other states.
…There is a migrant-shelter hub…in the four-county Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas [with]…about a dozen shelters….What happens inside is often highly confidential:...employees sign nondisclosure agreements, more a fixture of the high-stakes corporate world than of non-profit child-care centers….
Trump’s order…calling for migrant families to be detained together likely means millions more in contracts for private shelter operators, construction companies and defense contractors.
A…network of private prison companies already is operating family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania,…and are likely to expand under the new presidential directive….
…Several large defense contractors…are also building a presence in the system, including General Dynamics….
The migrant-shelter business has been booming since family separations began on a large scale….
For years, including during the Obama administration, contractors housed children who were…crossing the border….
The shelters’ rush to house, and cash in on the surge of children [under Obama] …. includ[es] Southwest Key, whose president and chief executive, Juan Sanchez’s….tax records show…compensation — more than $770,000 in 2015 alone….
…Officials have investigated allegations of sexual abuse and neglectful supervision in numerous facilities.

Total U.S. killing of civilians discounts troops’ secret actions in 130 countries
NYT, 6/16, letter to editor — The Pentagon’s account of civilians killed by American military action is unreliable. One reason,…is the blackout on civilian casualty figures for countries in which the United States conducts strikes in secret. And there are many.
While the Trump administration lists seven countries in which the United States…is using military force, Special Operations Command has admitted that…its forces had already been deployed to 137 countries.
Another reason,…is the definition of the word “civilian.” The Pentagon…term…mean[s] “whomever we didn’t intend to kill” rather than “what the law requires.”
This excludes people it wrongly intended to kill because of bad intelligence, false presumptions of combatant status and…because the United States wrongly applies law-of-war rules for killing in places where the United States is not at war.
(Gabor Rona, professor at Cardoza Law School)
Macron, “president of the rich” cuts welfare
NYT, 6/16 — The French president…Emmanuel Macron dislikes being called “president of the rich,” but…it is the one [label] he can’t shake.
…The cost of the new presidential dinner service is unlikely to help.
…Macron is ordering…1,200 plates from a porcelain factory in Sèvres that is heavily subsidized by the state….
…At a moment when Mr. Macron was…complaining…that French welfare spending costs “a truckload of cash,” those fancy new plates….require “at least five hours of work — it’s all made by hand….”
…The cost of the plates….[are] a total of nearly $600,000….
For Sèvres, “the subsidy remains…four million euros.” [$5 million]
France: workers strike, masses march to defy Macron, singing The Internationale
NYT, 6/13 — René Bodiou, a 75-year-old…retired union member….summed up a feeling shared by many on the street…: “Macron does not speak to those who are poor, who sleep on the ground; he speaks to…the entrepreneurs….”
Several hundred thousand union workers have taken to the streets of France this year….
…Four railroad unions staged the biggest strikes…and holding protests from Paris to Marseilles, and Nantes to Lyon….
For the strikers,…many hoped that in the face of Macron…people would clamor for a return….to the heady days of May 1968 when laborers and students joined hands and for a month brought the country to a standstill and won unprecedented gains….
…People stopped along the route for the traditional sandwich of Moroccan merguez sausage on a baguette,…a sign of solidarity with many immigrant workers who came from the Magreb region of northwestern Africa….
…The marchers [chanted] “The truncheon’s blow is free; the university also must be.”
“Macron is screwed; the railroad workers are in the street.” (It rhymes in French.)….
…Solidarity,…it is all together that we will win….
People set up stands selling…a collection of red-covered books — a color associated with…communism. There were classics of Karl Marx, “The Commune of Paris” and “Value, Price and Profit” as well as…“The Communist Manifesto,” and Lenin’s “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism….”
The leftists who marched….called for all workers to unite and sang the “Internationale,” the communist anthem.
India’s capitalist ‘democracy’: lack of water killing 200,000 a year
NYT, 6/18 — …In the Himalayan resort….Shimla’s decrepit network of water pipes, built under British colonial rule more than 70 years ago,….in May left some homes without water for 20 days….
…The water…crisis…[is] threatening millions of lives and livelihoods. Some 600 million Indians, about half the population, face high to extreme water scarcity conditions, with about 200,000 dying every year from inadequate access to safe water….
…[Shimla’s] ancient pipe system also leaks five million liters of water every day….
…In the rare instances when tap water flows, it is dirty and undrinkable.

 

Friday
Jun152018

REDEYE 6/27/18

Guatemala, a volcano only for the poor
El País (Spain) 6/9/18–At 6 in the morning, Domingo Lopez, a thin and wirey 79 year-old farmer, woke up in...one of the six communities that rise up the flanks of the Fuego Volcano.
At this early hour...a special bulletin had already been issued by the Institute of Vulcanology...Nonetheless, due to disorganization, a lack of means, or laziness, no one thought to warn them in time...
And so he, his parents, siblings and grandchildren were buried beneath tons of ash following a river of boiling water, gas and rocks...
...a fine magma killed 109 and scattered through the area another 200 that have not been found and for whom no one is searching...”We didn’t have time to do anything, the sky darkened and by the time I realized what was happening a hot river was rushing down the sides of the mountain knocking down everything”...
While this was happening, about three miles away the guests at one of the the most luxurious golf resorts in Central America...the hotel La Reunion, where rooms cost around $200 a night...more than 300 people were evacuated from the imposing buildings...when at around 3 pm the volcanic tsunami of mud and ash razed the complex it was already empty...
“...We were expecting this since 6 am when the bulletin arrived from the Institute for Vulcanology.  These are public alerts and we received them every few hours like everyone...explained a saddened Evelyn Gomez, manager of the hotel...in the face of the indifference shown by Conred (the civil defense) that ignored the warnings...Evelyn is responsible for having saved 300 lives, roughly the same number that were killed or remain missing...
The negligence continued throughout the day.  A Conred worker...showed this newspaper reporter their mobile phone...[with] an alert...describing the increased seismic activity and ordering an evacuation of the area.  By this time, villages like El Rodeo, La Reina, La Libertad, and San Miguel Los Lotes were nothing more than entombed memories.  “These deaths could have been avoided, or, at the very least, reduced in number”, explained Alejandro Maldonado, the director of Conred for 12 years.

Truckers’ strike spreads, paralyzes Brazil, defies military
NYT, 5/28 — …A weeklong standoff between striking truck drivers and the government has….[seen] hundreds of trucker roadblocks sealed off highways across the country as a protest against rising fuel prices ground Brazil’s economy to a halt….Gas stations have run out of fuel.
Dozens of flights have been canceled, fresh food supplies…have dwindled and….many schools and universities suspended classes….
…A deal with the strike leaders proved premature. Roadblocks were maintained…and oil workers announced they intended to go on strike,…raising the prospect of a deepening crisis….
…[President] Temer’s…order authorizing the military to clear roads using force….failed to bring the strike to an end….
Union leaders have urged drivers to accept [a] deal. But…many protesters held firm….
Tremer’s speech…prompted Brazilians frustrated by…a failed government to honk their horns and bang pots from their windows in protest in many cities across the country….
On [May 28]…protesters gathered at an oil refinery on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, which has been one of the focal points of the strike….Scores of unemployed oil workers, motorcycle couriers and public transportation workers said they wanted their grievances addressed as well.
“This started with the truckers but it reached millions,” said Alexsandro Faria, 39, an unemployed scaffold builder…laid off in 2016….”If we only stay on our sofas, complaining about corruption, it won’t work.”
U.S. anthem written by slave-owner, extols slavery
NYT, 6/10 — Many…born black in the 1950s abandoned reverence toward the national anthem….Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title for refusing induction into the Army. And the Vietnam War was unmasked as…morally repugnant…built on…racism and lies.
By…1969, dissent from the national anthem was endemic. It was an almost every-day occurrence to see groups of African-Americans (and whites as well)…remaining defiantly seated at sporting events as the audience rose…for the “Star-Spangled Banner….”
Francis Scott Key, a slave-owning Washington lawyer, wrote it to commemorate an American victory over the British during the War of 1812….
…The song tightened its grip on the country during the height of the lynching era in the South and became popular at baseball games…when African-Americans were barred from white baseball….Black columnists discredited the song by unearthing a long suppressed third stanza (“No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror or flight or the gloom of the grave”)…reflecting the composer’s embrace of slavery….
…African-Americans [in a] recent poll show that two-thirds of them believe that the national anthem protests — begun by Colin Kaepernick to protest injustice — are acceptable….The National Football League’s decision to curtail the protests through…fines….is likely to radicalize players who…believe they have a role to play in the debate about police brutality and the resurgence of white supremacy in the age of Trump. Kneeling…may have been just the beginning.
Capitalists’ profits thrive; Mattel CEO made 4,987 times median worker
NYT, 5/27 — A Walmart employee earning the company’s median salary of $19,177 would have to work more than a thousand years to earn the $22.2 million that…the company’s chief executive was awarded in 2017. At Live Nation Entertainment…an employee earning the median pay of $24,406 would need to work for 2,893 years to earn the $70.6 million that its chief executive…made last year….
“It’s grotesque how unequal this has become,” said Louis Hyman, a business historian at Cornell University. “For C.E.O.s, it’s like they are winning the lottery year after year. For a lot of Americans, they don’t have any savings.….The chief executive’s pay was 4,987 times that of the median employee….
“Particularly in low-wage jobs, people are struggling to pay for housing, for health insurance, for child care,” said Jennifer Gordon, a law professor at Fordham University. “When people are working two and three jobs and are not able to put together a decent wage, then at a very basic level they don’t have time to be active in their children’s schools….
…The country’s 200 chief executives….almost all of them white men, were awarded some $4.4 billion last year….“The top layer of management lives like kings and queens, while the people at the bottom are scrabbling for a decent existence,” Ms. Gordon said.

Thursday
May172018

REDEYE 5/30/18

Hammer and sickle memorializes Rama Plaza factory fire
NYT, 4/29 — “‘Help me! people screamed,’” recalled [Mahmudul Hassan] Hridoy….remembering the moment the seventh floor of the eight-story Rana Plaza…manufacturing complex crumbled beneath his feet on April 24, 2013. The catastrophe injured 2,500 and killed more than 1,100….the deadliest garment industry ‘accident’ in modern history.
“‘Save me!’ they cried,” Mr. Hridoy said. “But nobody was listening….”
…“Those memories still haunt me….”
The land where Rama Plaza once stood is now overgrown with weeds. On the street-facing side, a cement monument, topped by an enormous pair of sculpted fists grasping the hammer and sickle, has been erected in victims’ memory….Bangladesh has long been among the cheapest places to produce clothes, along with Vietnam and India. More than 4.4 million people — mostly women — work in its 3,000 factories where the minimum wage is currently 32¢ an hour, or $68 a month.
Brands flock here to source $30 billion worth of ready-made garments…. making Bangladesh the world’s second largest apparel manufacturing center, after China….
…the Bangladesh apparel industry has been rife with sweatshops — among the grimmest ever anywhere….Between 2006 and 2012, more than 500 Bangladeshi garment workers died in factories fires….The Tarzeen Fashions factory went up in flames…in November 2012. At least 117 died, many burned beyond recognition….Sweatshops [still] exist in Bangladesh….Fire buckets [are] filled with trash, emergency water buckets [are] cracked and half empty, no one [is wearing] safety masks, most workers — some in their early teens — [are] barefoot, wiring…exposed, bolts of fabric and scraps litter the floor, window panes…broken and [a] lone stairwell out of [a] tenement-like building [is] obstructed by cartons of finished products….
Already there has been union repression, with the jailing of labor leaders…and wage negotiations…will no doubt trigger worker protests and unrest….[The] minimum wage…is one-fifth a conservative living wage….
Recently, nearly 3,000 survivors and supporters — including nurses and doctors who treated the victims — gathered at Rana Plaza to mark the anniversary and honor the injured and dead…..and marched with banners that read “Workers of the World Unite….”
U.S. troops join Saudi’s war in Yemen
NYT, 5/4 — The Pentagon and the Trump administration…have misled Americans about growing military involvement in a war in Yemen….
In the latest expansion of America’s secret wars,…Army commandos….are helping to locate and destroy missiles and launch sites used by indigenous Houthi rebels in Yemen….This…puts the lie to Pentagon statements that American military aid to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen is limited to aircraft refueling, logistics and intelligence and is not related to combat….
In at least 14 countries, American troops are fighting…professed enemies of the United States….
The Saudis’ brutal campaign in Yemen has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with at least eight million people on the brink of famine, one million suspected of being infected with cholera and two million displaced from their homes….The killing of thousands of civilians and the humanitarian aid deprivations, most blamed on Saudi Arabia, could be war crimes in which the United States would be complicit….In 2015, a Saudi-led coalition, with President Barack Obama’s backing, launched blistering attacks, including thousands of airstrikes….
Racist bail bondsmen extort billions from workers
NYT, 4/1 — …Commercial bail has grown into a $2 billion industry….
Bondsmen have extraordinary powers….Some…[can] arrest their clients for any reason — or none at all….and…can…jail someone for missing a payment.
…Bond agents can charge steep fees, some…are illegal, with impunity….They can also…require their clients to…keep a curfew, allow searchers of their car or home…and open their medical, Social Security and phone records to inspection….
“They’re living under a constant daily threat that ‘if you don’t bring more money, we’re going to put you in jail….’”
“What they’re doing is intimidating and coercing and lying….”
Commercial bail fees…siphon millions from poor, predominantly African-American and Hispanic communities….
…Bail companies are backed by large surety companies….
Together…[they] collect about $2 billion a year in revenue….“to safeguard their profits at the expense of people’s lives.”
Abu Dhabi: Slave labor on campus, workers still owed millions
NYT, 5/11 — When investigators reported in 2015 that 10,000 migrant workers employed at New York University’s campus in Abu Dhabi had not been paid money they were owed, and were subject to substandard working conditions, the university vowed to reimburse the workers and provide…compliance with labor standards.
Three years later, thousands of workers may still be owed millions of dollars. And…the university had not released a compliance report….
…A report…by the Coalition for Fair Labor, a group of N.Y.U. faculty members and students….[has] its title — “Forced Labor at N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi….”
In 2014…an investigation into the plight of construction workers at the Abu Dhabi campus, document[ed] how many had been charged steep recruitment fees to get their jobs, how few were being paid what they had been promised, and how some lived in miserable conditions.