Saturday
Oct092010

Red Eye

No immigrant problem for bosses

NYT, 9/23 — In a time of widespread joblessness, Mexicans in New York have proved unusually adept at finding and keeping work….And as they have filled the city’s restaurant kitchens and building sites, they have acquired a reputation for an extraordinary work ethic.

“They put their heads down and work…”

One reason Mexicans have found work in such numbers, experts say, is that many are “illegal” immigrants, and less likely to report workplace abuses to the authorities for fear of deportation….

“Employers are quite interested in employing people who are willing to work and to overlook some labor laws.”….

 “They can call me and say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come in tomorrow and work….There’s nothing I can do. I have to go work.’....

Many Mexican men in New York left their wives and children behind when they came in search of jobs. Some…say the absence of families makes it easier to endure the hardships…and to focus on work....

“Americans expect accommodations to be made in their personal lives. But these guys have no personal lives.”

….While there was nothing intrinsic to their culture or character that made Mexicans better workers than others, a certain pride came with the toil…

Agustin, 45.... found a job this year at a supermarket in Bensonhurst….He now works 12 hours a day, seven days a week, he said, and is paid $4 an hour, more than $3 below the minimum wage. He sends whatever he can back to Mexico….“if I don’t work,” he said, “they don’t eat.” 

S. Africa: System robs workers

GW, 9/24 — The ANC critics claim that it has fallen into the trap of business patronage, corruption and bureaucratic indifference towards millions of poor South Africans….

The ANC conference this week, kick[ed] off with a gala dinner at which a seat at president Zuma’s table cost $73,000. During the week, breakfasts with ministers were to provide business people with direct contact with decision-makers.

“We have an absolute entré into any ministry.”… Others are more harsh on the ANC…”What the ANC, with the endorsement of the Communist party and Cosatu unionists, have developed is a truly amazing system. It allows them to make sweeping promises during elections then stage a fake battle between alliance partners.

“The contending forces manufacture discourses that suggest that what is at stake is something noble and for the benefit of the oppressed and excluded. The…battles crowd out the real questioning of how they run the country. No one takes responsibility, and the spoils are shared [among the insiders].” 

No recession, just a fall in jobs!

NYT, 9/21 — The United States economy has lost more jobs than it has added since the recovery began over a year ago.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The downturn officially ended, and the recovery officially began, in June 2009, according to an announcement Monday by the official arbiter of economic turning points. Since that point, total output… has increased.... But nonfarm payrolls are still down 329,000 from their level at the recession’s official end 15 months ago, and.…the unemployed still have a long slog ahead…The recovery thus far has been so anemic that the job picture seems likely to stagnate, and perhaps even get worse, in the near future.

Black pols help rulers stay on top

NYT, 9/21 — It’s no secret that the president is in trouble politically, and that Democrats in Congress are fighting desperately to hold on to their majorities. But much less attention has been given to the level of disenchantment among black voters, who have been hammered disproportionately by the recession and largely taken for granted by the Democratic Party….

Race is still a very big deal in the United States.... Black leaders like.... Obama try so hard to behave as though they are governing in some sort of pristine civic environment in which the very idea of race has been erased....

The president has consistently seemed more concerned about the needs and interests of those who are already well off, who are hostile to policies that would help working people and ethnic minorities....



Friday
Sep102010

Excerpts from newspapers that may be of use for our readers.

US troops to stay in oil-rich Iraq

otherwords.org, 8/23 — The war in Iraq is over. Or so the government and most media outlets will claim on September 1….

When September 2 dawns, however, 50,000 of our troops will still be in Iraq. The mission of these “non-combat” forces…. sound[s] an awful lot like what American soldiers are supposed to have been doing for much of the last seven years. With the exceptions of the initial invasion and the 2004 assaults on Fallujah, the Iraq War has had few large-scale battles. The Army and Marines have seen plenty of action, but most of it has been in raids on insurgent strongholds, which have frequently been called “partnered and targeted counter-terrorism operations.” One difference from past years is that American troops will rarely conduct patrols, but most have already been confined to base for some time….

The close of the “combat mission” is a rebranding rather than a watershed moment….

The essential realities of the Iraq War remain the same: Iraq is oil-rich and strategically located at the head of the Persian Gulf. Its ruling elites are fractious and weak. Our continued troop presence is an insurance policy against… Iraq’s takeover by unfriendly elements….

None of the foregoing has anything to do with the reasons Americans were given for invading Iraq in the first place.

Much more than 50,000 remain

NY Daily News, 8/22 — 50,000 other American soldiers and some 95,000 private contractors… will remain in Iraq

The new jobs: No living wage

NYT, 9/1 — The growth of… low-wage jobs began in the 1980s, accelerated in the 1990s and began to really take off in the 2000s. Losing out in the shuffle… were jobs… described as “middle-skill, middle-wage….” And certain blue-collar jobs, like assembly line workers and machine operators.

The recession appears to have magnified that trend…. From 2007 to 2009… there was relatively little net change in total employment for both high-skill and low-skill occupation, while employment plummeted in so-called middle-skill occupations….

“If this kind of bottom-heavy job creation continues, it could pose a real challenge to… making sure working families have a way to support themselves.”

Child marriage kills many girls

otherwords.org, 8/13 — While child marriage has decreased globally, it remains common in rural and low-income areas in parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa….

For these girls, having sex and bearing children almost always comes before they are physically or emotionally ready. They… are often powerless to abstain from sex or even use contraception.

So children deliver children, often with tragic results. Girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women over the age of 20. Pregnancy-related deaths are the leading cause of mortality for girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide.

BP profits by using prison labor

otherwords.org, 8/16 — In its national PR blitz to buff up its image, [BP] has loudly boasted that it has been hiring devastated, out-of-work local people to handle the clean-up….

The Nation magazine now reports…. BP has been using inmates — literally a captive workforce — to do much of the shoveling and scooping to remove oil from Louisiana beaches. What a deal for BP! It gets very cheap workers who’re (sic) guaranteed to show up on time, do what they’re told, and keep their mouths shut….

BP is getting paid for this labor. By you and me. Under a little-known tax provision passed during the Bush regime, corporations can get a “work opportunity tax credit” of $2,400 for every work release inmate they hire.

Racism, sexism in pain-kill meds

NYT, 8/29 — Pain causes distress — both physical and emotional. And Thernstrom displays an admirable testiness when confronted with absurd or disturbing ideas. She’s aghast at 19th-century studies that found “civilized” whites more sensitive to pain, and dismayed that such thinking still suffuses modern medicine. Minority sufferers, one study showed, are three times more likely than whites to get insufficient pain relief and to have their requests classified as “drug-seeking behavior….” Women complaining of pain are much more likely than men to walk out of a doctor’s office with a prescription for antidepressants, while the men get opioids.

 

NYT, 9/8 — Mozambique: The government has decided to reverse a major increase in the price of bread that helped set off deadly riots… in a nation where poverty is widespread…

Katrina ‘recovery’ passes blacks by

GW, 9/3 — Five years on, the government has spent $143bn on the reconstruction of public buildings and private homes, roads and bridges, in one of the largest programmes of its kind in US history….

But…. more than a third of the St Bernard population has not returned. In the neighboring Lower Ninth, the predominantly working-class African-American district that bore the worst of the disaster, just one in four residents has moved back….

Only one of the five schools in the Lower Ninth has reopened. Hundreds of businesses have been abandoned…. many residents of the Lower Ninth think the city does not want the residents back.

“It’s racism… there are some who want to run us all out of here… and make it a green space with motels and gambling and casinos.” It’s a common view in the Lower Ninth….

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a third of New Orleans residents say their lives are still getting worse because of the hurricane. African Americans were more than twice as likely as whites to say they had not recovered from Katrina.

Rich world fuels Congo brutality

GW, 9/3 — Cassiterite, wolframite, coltan: they are the minerals on which laptops, mobiles and even the tin of tomatoes in the cupboard depend….

The rich world has a capacious appetite for them, and… it is fueling conflict in… the Congo. The rape of more than 150 women and children last month in… the DRC’s mineral heartland is probably… connected with the exploitation of the mines form which these minerals come….

A detailed report from Global Witness last year described a system of mutual back-scratching and callous exploitation where forced labour and rape are the daily weapons of control… while China runs scores of “comptoirs,” export houses that convey the precious minerals to Asia….

In July President Obama signed… legislation that included a clause requiring US-quoted companies to guarantee that they are not using what are coming to be known as “conflict minerals.” This will not be the end of the DRC’s tragic history of exploitation by the west.

True leftists happier than fakes!

NYT, 8/15 — According to a new British study of thousands of people in 82 countries, those who identify themselves as left wing are actually a lot more conservative when measured by their professed views on substantive issues….

The study does contain a cheering side…. Those who identified themselves as leftists and whose views reflected the same were happier than those on the right.

Poor nations grind women down

GW, 9/3 — So long as Afghan women are kept in terrified servitude and poverty, peace for that country is likely to remain a pipe dream, let alone any hope of prosperity. But it is not just Afghanistan; the same is true for women in other parts of the developing world. They are not all vulnerable to such hideous cruelty, but…. more than two-thirds of the billion people surviving on less than a dollar a day are female.

The credit crunch, which in the west has barely curtailed our luxuries and our lifestyles, has had a devastating effect on farmers in the developing world and the majority of them are women….

Girls are being pulled out of school and sent to work to earn money for their families as a result of the credit crisis.

Shut up and eat your sugar!

otherwords.org, 8/23 — One, America has a rather huge child obesity problem. Two, major food corporations constantly pitch ads to children for such stuff as sugar-saturated breakfast cereals and fat-laden “Happy Meals….” Yes, No. 2 is a cause of No. 1. It’s really not that hard to grasp, is it?

‘American century’ nears twilight

GW, 8/27 — the concentration of economic power on Wall Street, the stagnation of incomes for all but the rich, the structural trade deficit, the military overreach, the switch from being the world’s biggest creditor nation to its biggest debtor, add up to a simple conclusion: we are in the twilight years of the long American century.

Capitalists coping by not hiring

LAT, 7/31 — Big business has found a way to make big money without restoring the jobs it cut the past two years….

Profits, that is, are increasing seven times faster than revenue….

They have evolved a business model that enables them to make money even while the strapped American consumer has cut back on purchasing. For one thing, they are increasingly selling and producing overseas….

And… American workers aren’t making what they used to….

From the American worker’s perspective, the model… is an unqualified disaster…. It locks into place a generation of reducedincomes….

There are now roughly five unemployed Americans for every open job… and that ration isn’t likely to decline much…. Corporations have figured out a way to make money without resuming hiring. Their model is presumed in not resuming hiring.

Thursday
Aug192010

Excerpts from newspapers that may be of use for our readers.

US renames the Iraq occupation!

GW, 8/13 — The US isn’t withdrawing from Iraq at all — it’s rebranding the occupation. Just as George Bush’s war on terror was retitled “overseas contingency operations” when Obama became president, US “combat operations” will be rebadged from next month as “stability operations.”

But as Major General Stephen Lanza, the US military spokesman in Iraq, told the New York Times: “In practical terms, nothing will change.”

More than one way to a profit

NYT, 8/10 — The underhanded tactic, known as pay for delay, occurs when a generic drug company tries to bring its product to market by challenging the patents on a brand-name drug. Rather than engage in a costly and unpredictable court battle, the brand-name manufacturer sometimes pays the challenger substantial compensation to delay marketing its drug, and the generic company often welcomes the easy, risk-free money.

Both companies profit. The consumer, unfortunately, loses — by paying high, brand-name drug prices instead of lower prices for a generic.

Joblessness will be “structural”

Paul Krugman, NYT, 8/13 — I predict — having seen this movie before, in Japan — that….two years from now unemployment will still be extremely high, quite possibly higher than it is now. But instead of fixing the situation, politicians and Fed officials alike will declare that high unemployment is structural, beyond their control.

I’d like to imagine that public outrage will prevent this outcome. But while Americans are indeed angry, their anger in unfocused. And so our governing elite, which just isn’t all that into the unemployed, will allow the jobs slump to go on and on.

Min. wage rises; workers rebel

GW, 8/16 — Thousands of [Bangladeshi] garment workers rioted in central Dhaka last week after protests against low pay turned violent. The demonstrators overturned vehicles, burned tyres, smashed shop windows and blocked traffic in the Bangladeshi capital…Several people were injured and scores detained.

The protests were sparked by government announcement that monthly minimum wages for the millions of garment workers would rise…”We can’t accept this raise…compared with the high cost of living. It’s a betrayal.”

Major retailers, including Wal-Mart, Tesco, H&M, Zara, Carrefour, Gap, Metro, JCPenney, Marks & Spencer, Kohl’s and Levi Strauss, imported clothes in bulk from Bangladesh, which has some of the lowest labour costs in the world…the new official minimum wage has been set at $43 a month.

One more reason to abolish money

NYT, 8/9 — Money lenders are common across rural India, often providing loans at extortionate rates. Some farmers hand over food booklets as collateral. Sitting in a small shop, Salim Khan said people approach him for loans when a child is sick or if they need cash to travel for migrant work. “Until they repay me,” he said, “I keep their ration card.”

          He uses the cards to buy grain at government fair Price Shops at the subsidized rate of about 2 rupees, or 4 cents, a kilogram. He resells it on the open market for six times as much…He has held the ration cards of some migrant workers for seven years. “Sometimes I’ll have 100 or 150. It’s not just me. Other leaders do this too.”

          This is just one of the illegalities that permeate the system.

Congress crooks hide behind Rangel

NYT, 8/3 — To the Editor: It is ironic, if not downright hypocritical, for congress to present a veneer of ethical behavior by scapegoating Representative Charles B. Rangel while its members refuse to pass a financial disclosure law, thus protecting themselves from scrutiny as to their campaign dependence on the financial, oil, insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

          Which is more damaging corruption?

Fed up? Elect a billionaire!

NYT, 7/23 — When Jeff Greene, a k a the Meltdown Mogul, recently brought his democratic campaign for the United States Senate to a poor Miami neighborhood rife with the kinds of subprime mortgages that he became a billionaire bidding against, did he:

Arrive in a Cadillac Escalade S.U.V., before stumping for energy conservation;

Tell the crowd that he was “fed up and frustrated” with Washington while suggesting job-creation ideas previously proposed by Washington politicians;

Receive a raucouse welcome as an outsider who could turn Florida around.

The answer? All of the above of course.

          Call it the Great Recession paradox. Even as voters express outrage at the insider culture of big bailouts and bonuses, their search for political saviors has led them to this: a growing crowd of rich candidates, comfortable in boardrooms and country clubs, spending a fortune to remake themselves into populist insurgents.

Yes, pols follow the money

NYT, 8/1 — Mr. Powell, the Illinois official who kept his cash in shoe boxes, was not shy about his motivations, though his crimes were not discovered until he was dead.

          “There’s only one thing worse than a defeated politician,” he once said. “That’s a defeated and broke politician.”

Rich nations like tiny climate plan

GW, 8/13 — What more do countries need to persuade them to act on climate change? A lot, it seems. With…a crunch political meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in November, the only progress being made is backwards.

          The poorest countries are distraught. Instead of accepting the broad thrust of accord, more than 100 have now demanded that nay agreement limits future temperature rises to 1.5C or lower. Equally, many now say that the $100bn a year promise of climate aid is just not enough. They have beefed up the text with what the US and Europe say are outrageous demands. And if rich are not prepared to negotiate, nothing will happen.

          As one delegate put it last week: “It’s groundhog day all over again.”

US got NAFTA; immigration doubled

Otherwords.org — The US immigration debate tends to ignore a fundamental question: Why do so many people migrate here from Mexico and other countries in Central America? The answer is that they need to look for jobs because there aren’t enough jobs at home. Several years of the wrong economic policies have destroyed millions of jobs, both in the countryside and in cities. These economic policies tend to concentrate wealth. They’re based on what’s often called the “Washington consensus” because they’re designed and dictated from institutions based in the U.S. capital like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

          During the last 30 years Mexico and other countries…have allowed big transnational companies to import cheaper products into their countries. That’s…ultimately forced millions of small farmers off their land. Another result of NAFTA is that tens of thousands of small and medium companies, which provide 90 percent of Mexico’s jobs, have wound up bankrupt….

Mexico’s official unemployment rate of five percent is a joke…there are around 7 million yound people without access to higher education or a job. They see little option but to migrate….

          Most immigrants would prefer to stay at home with their families and live their own culture, eat their own food, and listen to their own music. The lack of opportunities to live a decent life and even feed their children sends them north….

                Not one of the 4,130 words in Obama’s most recent speech on immigration addressed why people migrate. He didn’t address unfair trade, mention displaced farmers, or acknowledge that the immigration rate doubled after NAFTA transformed U.S.-Mexican trade.

Thursday
Aug052010

Excerpts from newspapers that may be of use for our readers.

In gov’t she can’t fight racism

NYT, 7/24 — No time for facts…. The important part of the Shirley Sherrod story was that we are all being sold a tragic bill of goods by the powerful forces that insist on pitting blacks, whites and other ethnic groups against one another.

Ms. Sherrod came to the realization, as she witnessed the plight of poverty-stricken white farmers in the South more than two decades ago, that the essential issue in this country “is really about those who have versus those who don’t.”

She explained how the wealthier classes have benefited from whites and blacks constantly being at each other’s throats, and how rampant racism has insidiously kept so many struggling whites from recognizing those many things they and their families have in common with economically struggling blacks, Hispanics and so on.

Big money spreads climate lies

NYT, 7/26 — If you want to understand opposition to climate action, follow the money. The economy as a whole wouldn’t be significantly hurt if we put a price on carbon, but certain industries — above all, the coal and oil industries — would. And those industries have mounted a huge disinformation campaign to protect their bottom lines.

Look at the scientists who question the consensus on climate change; look at the organizations pushing fake scandals; look at the think-tanks claiming that any effort to limit emissions would cripple the economy. Again and again, you’ll find that they’re on the receiving end of a pipeline of funding that starts with big energy companies....

Or look at the politicians who have been most vociferously opposed to climate action. Where do they get much of their campaign money? You already know the answer.

Early steps toward a China war

NYT, 7/27 — Beijing — The Chinese government reacted angrily on Monday to an announcement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that Washington might step into a long-simmering territorial dispute between China and its smaller neighbors in the South China Sea….

Mrs. Clinton apparently surprised Beijing by saying the United States had a “national interest” in seeking to mediate the dispute, which involves roughly 200 islands….

The state-run news media…described Mrs. Clinton’s speech as “an attack” and a cynical effort to suppress China’s aspirations – and its expanding might….

The area of contention…is an increasingly important conduit for a third of the world’s maritime trade and much of the region’s energy supplies. Just as compelling are the enormous deposits of oil and natural gas thought to be under the ocean floor….

“The U.S. feels like this is the time to play the political and military card since it’s very difficult for them to compete with China in the economic sphere”….

In March, China warned two visiting American officials that it would not tolerate interference in the South China Sea.

‘Strong borders’ are murderous

NYT, 7/29 – The Pima County morgue is running out of space as the number of Latin American immigrants found dead in the deserts around Tucson has soared this year….

Arizona….law has not kept the immigrants from trying to cross hundreds of miles of desert on foot in record-breaking heat….

Human rights groups say it is the government’s sustained crackdown on human smuggling that has led to more deaths.

“The more that you militarize the border, the more you push the migrant flows into more isolated and desolate areas, and people hurt or injured are just left behind.”

War? What war?

NYT, 7/25 – “The army is at war, but the country is not,” said David M. Kennedy, the Stanford University historian. “We have managed to create and field an armed force that can engage in very, very lethal warfare without the society in whose name it fights breaking a sweat.” The result, he said, is “a moral hazard for the political leadership [can] resort to force in the knowledge that civil society will not be deeply disturbed.”

Big charities can’t fix capitalism

GW, 7/30 – For 14 of the last 16 years, Bill Gates has been the richest person on earth. More that a decade ago, he decided to start handing over the “large majority” of his wealth – currently around $55bn – for the foundation to distribute, so that “the people with the most urgent needs…gain the power to lift themselves out of poverty.” In 2006, Warren Buffett, the third-richest person in the world, announced that he too would give a large proportion of his assets to the foundation…Accounts show an endowment of $37bn, making it the world’s largest private foundation.

The internet, the modern power of celebrity, and the ease of travel to virtually anywhere in the world enjoyed by the super-rich, has made it possible for the more thoughtful, socially conscious of them – such as Gates and the financier George Soros – to become…more potent even than the previous generation of famous philanthropists, such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

However, there is a problem with the Gates Foundation…. On the ground in Africa or Asia the Foundation’s immense-sounding grants are a miniscule fraction of what is required to create a fairer world. “In agriculture,” says [Gates’ agriculture director] Steiner, “the problem’s this big” – he throws out his long arms – “and our resources are this big” – he pinches an inch of air between a finger and thumb.

Hunger spreads as banks gamble

GW, 7/23 - Financial speculators are under renewed fire from anti-poverty campaigners for their bets on food prices, which are blamed for…threatening the livelihoods of farmers in developing countries.

The WDM’s Great Hunger Lottery report says, “risky and secretive” bets on food prices have exacerbated the effect of bad harvests in recent years…and risk sparking unrest, as seen in the Mexico and Haiti food riots of 2008….

“Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs are making huge profits by gambling on the price of everyday foods…and the world’s poorest suffer because basic foods become unaffordable.”

 


Protests win $ for Nike workers

NYT, 7/27 – Facing pressure from universities and student groups, the apparel maker Nike announced on Monday that it would pay $1.54 million to help 1,800 workers in Honduras who lost their jobs when two subcontractors closed their factories.

Nike agreed to the payment after several universities and a nationwide group…pressed it to pay some $2 million in severance that the two subcontractors had failed to pay….

“This may be a watershed moment…[u]p until now, major apparel brands have steadfastly refused to take any direct financial responsibility for the obligations to the workers in their subcontractors’ [factories].”

“Nike plays factory against factory, causing them to shave a penny here and a penny there, creating an ultra-competitive environment that drives down wages and gives factory…owners virtually no choice but to disrespect workers’ basic rights.”

Explaining Monday’s agreement, United Students Against Sweatshops, said “After we got over 100 universities to boycott[,] Nike understood the university pressure would not simply go away.”

Who’s inhuman – N. Korea or U.S.?

NYT, 7/22 – Mr. Cumings’s book is a squirm-inducing assault on America’s moral behavior during the Korean War[.]…It’s a book that puts the reflexive anti-Americanism of North Korea’s leaders into sympathetic historical context.

Mr. Cumings argues that the Korean War was a civil war with long, tangled historical roots, one in which America had little business meddling. He notes how “appallingly dirty” the war was. In terms of civilian slaughter, he declares, “our…ally was the worst offender, contrary to the American image of the North Koreans as fiendish terrorists.”

Mr. Cumings likens the indiscriminate American bombing of North Korea to genocide.[”] He details the north’s own atrocities, and acknowledges that current “North Korean political practice is reprehensible.’ But he says that we view that country through “Orientalist bigotry” seeing only its morbid qualities….

“There is no evidence in the North Korean experience of the mass violence against whole classes of people or the wholesale ‘purge’….

The most eye-opening sections of “The Korean War” detail America’s saturation bombing of Korea’s north. “What hardly any Americans know or remember,” Mr. Cummings writes, “is that we carpet-bombed the north for three years with next to no concern for civilian casualities.” The United States dropped more bombs in Korea (635,000 tons, as well as 32,557 tons of napalm) than in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. Our logic seemed to be, he says, that “they are savages, so that gives us the right to shower napalm on innocents.”

His book is a bitter pill, a sobering corrective.

 

 

Job training doesn’t create jobs

NYT, 7/19 – [N]ow the number of job openings is vastly outnumbered by people out of work.

“It’s such an ugly situation that job training can’t solve it,” said…a job training expert[,] “When you have five people unemployed for every vacancy, you can train all the people you want and unfortunately only one-fifth of the people will be hired. Training doesn’t create jobs.”….

Today, even highly skilled people with job experience of two decades or more languish among the unemployed. Whole industries are being scaled down by automation, the shifting of work overseas, and the recession.

The literature is not encouraging.

A 2006 study prepared for the Labor Department found virtually no benefit for 8,000 randomly selected recipients who entered federally financed training programs.

 

 

 

Child miners boost profits in India

LaMonde – Child labour is forbidden in India. The federal parliament passed a law recently decreeing compulsory schooling for children[.]…Yet [in north-east India] there are more than 70,000 underage labourer in the pits…..

[T]he children of Soo-Kilo squat around pools of filthy water, and scrape away the coal dust that sticks to their skin[.]….

Below ground, there are no machines to do the work, since men and children cost much less than machinery…[T]here is not enough oxygen and it is hard to breathe. The workers’ pay depends on how much coal they mine….”There are even drugs to boost their stamina[.]”….

Why are the mines not closed for using illegal child labour?...[M]ine owners are prominent among those who pass the laws in the regional parliaments.

 

 

India path won’t cure Africa

GW, 7/23 – There are more poor people in eight states of India than in the 26 countries of sub-Saharan Africa.  More than 410 million people live in poverty in the Indian states, including Bihar, Utter Pradesh and West Bengal, researchers at Oxford University found. The “intensity” of the poverty in parts of India is equal to, if not worse than, that in Africa.

When the vast central Indian Madhya Pradesh state, which has a population of 70 million, was compared with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the war-racked African state of 62 million people, the two were found to have near-identical levels of poverty….

The study’s conclusion will reinforce claims that distribution of the wealth generated by India’s rapid economic growth – recently around 10% year on year – is deeply unequal

Thursday
Jul222010

Excerpts from newspapers that may be of use for our readers.

Economy picks up — for Wall Street

NYT, 7/13 — The hustlers and high rollers at Wall Street’s gaming tables are starting to feel lucky again.

Hiring is beginning to pick up in the very sector that led the country to the edge of a depression….

The hustlers and high rollers are always there to skim the cream, no matter what’s happening in the real world of ordinary Americans….

There can be no real national recovery with so many millions of people in such deep economic distress…. But in a society of, by and for the rich…help will be a long time coming.

War’s worst stories aren’t told

otherwords.org, 6/26 — Controlling the media…tamps down war complaints….

You may have noticed, for example, that we haven’t seen or heard much about drones lately. Not long ago they were all the rage. They demonstrated that good old American know-how allowed us to kill the bad guys without getting our hands dirty. Then, worse luck, malcontent citizens in Pakistan and Afghanistan commenced whining that our armchair pilots back home in Nevada were bumping off too many of their wedding parties and eight-year-old insurgents. Suddenly drones disappeared from the headlines.

We don’t hear that much about the suffering of [U.S. soldiers]…either. Never did. But the Army Times reports that 18 vets a day commit suicide. Every day! And those are just the ones being treated by the VA health system. Worse, these only constitute seven percent of those who try. In addition, 11 percent of those who attempted suicide give it another shot within nine months. Suicide rates for active-duty troops are also high, but closely held. They’re generally called “accidents.”

Secret also are the numbers of vets and troops being treated for mental illness. Stuff happens when you send…youth to the heroin capital of the world to perform heinous acts of violence. Some are driven to substance abuse, others to a secret torture chamber in their own heads. Still others to seek escape into the next world. No wonder the military keeps things quiet.

Would US lie about Afghan war?

The North Vietnamese were said to have attacked American destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964, two days after an earlier clash.

President Lyndon B. Johnson cited the attacks to persuade Congress to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, but historians in recent years have concluded that the Aug. 4 attack never happened….

In the end, however, the senators did not pursue their doubts….If the committee came up with proof that an attack never occurred, “We have a case that will discredit the military in the United States, and discredit and quite possibly destroy the president….”

President Johnson…apparently had his own doubts. Historians note that a few days after the supposed attack he told George W. Ball, “Hell, those…sailors were just shooting at flying fish!”

Regulations can’t purify capitalism

NYT, 6/29 — No one should be surprised, Mr. Damon insists, that booms go bust. That’s the way markets work. Most Americans probably find that answer unsatisfying, to put it politely. After all, millions have lost their homes, their jobs, their savings.

But now here comes the Dodd-Frank Act, which is supposed to ensure that we never repeat that 2008 finale of Wall Street Gone Wild. The bill…might help us avoid another sorry episode like that. But one thing it won’t do is prevent another crisis — if only because the next one probably won’t be like the last one.

Belgium and US ruined Congo

GW, 7/9 — “Fabulous minerals. Magnificent music. Great cuisine. A landscape that stretches from lush rainforest to Swiss-looking mountains. And a people still mired in violence and misery a half-century after independence from Belgium.”

This was the take of the Associated Press on the 50th anniversary celebration in the Democratic Republic of Congo last week….

The rape and plunder of Congo under…Leopold II remains one of history’s greatest crimes….

When independence came in 1960, the country entered a new nightmare. Belgium continued to meddle and was blamed, along with the CIA, for the 1961 assassination of Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister. Belgium and the US then supported the 32-year dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, a pro-western leader seen as a bulwark against communism. He robbed his people of an estimated $50bn and made corruption a political way of life.

Mobutu was overthrown in 1997, but then came a war that sucked in six neighboring countries and left at least 4 million dead, mainly from hunger and disease.