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Zika and Inequality

[ 4 ] February 21, 2016 |

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Disasters, however “natural,” are a wonderful (well, horrible really) entry point into exposing to the public to deep fissures on inequality in a society. That’s true whether they are earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, or disease epidemics. This includes Zika, even as our knowledge of what is really going on remains very much a work in progress. But what is clear is how it exposes the severe inequality problems of Brazil:

What kind of country can be denounced by a mosquito? For a start, it is a country where Arthur Chioro, a doctor trained in the field of public health, was removed from the ministry of health at the moment when the ministry most needed to be led by a public health physician. At that time, last September, the dengue epidemic, also caused by the Aedes aegypti, was reaching tragic proportions: in 2015 there were over 1.6 million likely cases and the number of related deaths increased by more than 80%.

Against that backdrop, the president handed over control of the department of health – the ministry with the largest budget – to a politician from the Brazilian Democratic Movement party, which Rousseff needed to appease in order to pass government bills in congress and stave off the threat of impeachment. Political horse-trading thus resulted in a public health specialist being replaced by the psychiatrist and career politician Marcelo Castro.

Faced with the link between Zika and microcephaly, the new health secretary has come out with a collection of bizarre statements. Castro declared that “sex is for amateurs, pregnancy for professionals”. He said that women protect themselves less than men from mosquitoes “because they expose their legs”. He stated that he “hoped women would catch Zika” before they reached a fertile age, since “that way they would be immunised” and would not need a vaccine. But perhaps the most damning of all his statements was the following warning: that the epidemic may give rise to “a handicapped generation in Brazil”.

The Aedes mosquito has proliferated in Brazil due to the negligence of the state: an inadequate sewage system, poor management of waste, precarious urban development and the difficulties a section of the population faces in accessing drinking water, making it necessary to store it. The distribution of the number of suspected cases of microcephaly linked to the Zika virus, according to the Brazilian Association of Public Health, shows that those affected are the poorest members of society, who live in dramatic socio-environmental circumstances.

Official discourse, however, holds the individual citizen responsible for containing an epidemic that has only taken on such proportions because the authorities have proved to be incapable of moving beyond palliative measures. On Saturday, the government promoted a “national day of action to combat the Aedes aegypti”, a high-profile operation involving more than 200,000 soldiers inspecting homes. Rousseff led a rally wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan: “A mosquito is not stronger than an entire country.”

Now, the problems of inequality and poverty in Brazil run far deeper than the corruption problems of the Dilma government. For most of Brazil’s history, it has been governed by elites who did not care about the poor one bit, with a military ready to overthrow democratically-elected regimes with U.S. support if that changed too much. The Lula and Dilma governments have at least attempted to change the course of the country on this path. So blaming her exclusively for these problems is like blaming Castro for relying too much on sugar in the early decades of the Cuban Revolution. That road was blazed a long time ago. Yet that doesn’t mean that her government and the tremendous corruption problems Brazil faces isn’t a major problem in addressing Zika and other public health problems. Certainly replacing experts with political appointees is rarely a good idea. For those of us who are not Brazilian, at least this becomes an opportunity to have a serious discussion of the interaction between disaster and inequality there and throughout the world, a reminder that events like Hurricane Katrina expose the same problems in American society.

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Nineteenth Century Coroner Reports

[ 17 ] February 20, 2016 |

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This is a pretty amazing digitized collection of 19th century coroner reports from South Carolina, put together by historians at the University of Georgia, which go into great detail about the deaths of individuals. The coroners were investigators of sorts so they wrote a lot about these deaths, including that of slaves. Here’s one example:

The State vs. Gabiel Coats for killing a Negro woman the property of John Brown. The voluntary confession of Gabriel Coats. He saith that on Tuesday the 14th Instant when he was correcting a negro boy the property of said John Brown that a Negro woman the mother of said boy & the property of said Brown named Sylvia came to him and ordered him to quit whipping the boy. Coats ordered her away, she then rushed between him and the boy. He coats then pushed her aside with his hand, and continued to correct the boy. She rushed in between them again, and Coats says he gave her a stroke over the arm with the switch he was whipping the boy with and ordered her away again. The Negro woman then said to him, “My God, don’t do that again,” and pushed in between him and the boy again. Coats says he struck her over the shoulder again, and ordered the boy to pick up the seed corn that he had spilt, and Sylvia ordered the boy to go to replanting corn, and she would pick up the corn herself. She then began picking up the corn, and in about from 5 to 10 minutes afterwards she fell down and complained that he had hurt her, and continued to complain every time he seen her afterwards until Sunday night the 19th Instant when she died, but he says that he think that she was not injured by the two strokes he gave her.

Also, if you want to read a lot of cases of infanticide, you can now do so. Pretty incredible stuff and a great resource.

Sprawl and Art, Africa and California

[ 21 ] February 20, 2016 |

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Sometimes I read about art projects dealing with socially conscious themes and think “wow, this shows a real lack of self-awareness.” That’s how I felt when reading about this:

Nick Brandt has been photographing the grandeur of East Africa’s stoic wildlife since 2001, but during his many trips he has observed a troubling pattern:

“The destruction of the natural world was occurring at an alarming rate — faster than my already pessimistic imagination could have anticipated,” Brandt said from his studio in the Santa Monica Mountains.

His forthcoming series of photos, “Inherit the Dust,” was conceived as his elegy to Africa’s natural world. He came up with the idea of photographing displaced animals in places where just three years earlier they used to roam — but no longer can because of rapid urban sprawl. Factories, garbage dumps and quarries now stand where elephants, lions, rhinos and cheetahs once lived.

To compose his latest photos, Brandt had life-size prints of the animals transferred onto giant panels and erected in situ — once familiar ground where people are oblivious to the giant creatures in their midst. Like ghosts in a landscape.

“It was an effective way of showing this level of present-day dystopia that humans are creating,” Brandt said.

For his ghosts, he selected never-before-published black-and-white portraits including one of his favorite subjects, Craig, a 40-year-old Amboseli bull elephant.

Photos printed in California were shipped and glued to aluminum and plywood frames. The panels, up to 30 feet long and sometimes rising even higher, were loaded onto trucks and driven to their designated sites. As many as 23 men worked in heat that reached 100 degrees to set up and strap down the panels in often rugged terrain. Horizon lines were carefully matched up with the composition of the original photo and contours of the land.

What does the art intend to convey?

Filmmaker and conservationist Dereck Joubert said every photographer-conservationist struggles with the dual desire to show beauty in the wild while protesting what is happening in formerly pristine lands. “What Nick has done is combine the two in a way that sends a visual protest but doesn’t detract from the beauty inside of each wildlife frame,” Joubert said, calling the result a “juxtaposition of celebration and regret.”

Brandt’s “Wasteland With Elephant” depicts an elephant walking through a river of garbage in central Kenya. “Just three years ago, zebras, gazelles and impalas could be seen roaming through these places,” he said.

Sitting in a trash-filled alleyway next to a stagnant pool of fetid sewage, a solemn chimpanzee lowers his head as if mourning the loss of his former home.

Where does this horrible sprawl remind the photographer of?

Brandt compared the “out-of-control development, overpopulation and crowds” in some parts of modern Africa to that in parts of China and India. “I never thought I’d put Africa in the same category,” he said.

And where will Brandt’s art be shown?

An exhibition of “Inherit the Dust” will open March 24 at Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles and will run through May 14.

Well, it’s a good thing that the art is going to be shown in Los Angeles but he has nothing to say about sprawl in California. Clearly that was environmentally sustainable and totally didn’t destroy habitat for wildlife!

None of this is to say that the massive sprawl of African cities isn’t terrible for wildlife, not great for people, and isn’t something that westerners shouldn’t address. But there are so many assumptions at play in this artist’s work–that Africa is inherently natural and should be maintained that way for the enjoyment of the western mind and tourist, that there’s no need to ask actual Africans what they want their world to look like, and that the problems over there are completely different than our world. So this artist can live in the Santa Monica Mountains and come to Los Angeles all the time where eighteen million people have decimated the environment over 5,000 square miles and he can completely ignore the vast poverty where he lives while talking about the degradation of Africa.

Now, I don’t want to assume too much here. Obviously, some of the problematic framing of all this could be on the reporter and it’s possible the artist does care very much about these issues in California. I don’t want to castigate the man for expressing real concern about real problems. And certainly he is aware of how this pollution affects the people who live in these slums. But there are also some red flags raised that need addressing.

Trying to Catch That Reagan Magic

[ 36 ] February 20, 2016 |

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I wonder how true this actually is.

An Iranian official said “Republican rivals of the current US administration” attempted to stall last month’s Iranian-U.S. prisoner swap until the eve of the U.S. presidential election, Tasnim News Agency reported.

According to the semi-official Iranian news outlet, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, made the claims during a speech Thursday at a rally in Yazd, Iran.

“In the course of the talks for exchanging prisoners, the Republican rivals of the current US administration who claim to be humanitarians and advocates of human rights sent a message telling us not to release these people [American prisoners] and continue this process [of talks] until the eve of US presidential elections,” Shamkhani said, according to Tasnim.

“We acted upon our independent resolve and moved the process forward,” Shamkhani said.

Given that under current Republican ideology, Democratic presidents have to stop governing in the last year of their term, it wouldn’t actually shock me if there was some level of truth to this. Besides, all those Republican candidates want to be Reagan on January 20, 1981, announcing the hostages have returned from Iran on the first day of his administration.

Lubbock: America’s Worst Mid-Sized City

[ 86 ] February 19, 2016 |

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Lubbock is a truly dreadful place in all conceivable ways except for one. That one is not its tolerant politics.

Lubbock officials are re-evaluating security and working with local and federal investigations after what Mayor Glen Robertson described as an “Arabic flag” spent much of Monday dangling from the city-owned Citizens Tower in downtown Lubbock.

After evaluating the situation and blocking traffic on a portion of nearby Avenue K, city crews cut down the flag shortly after noon, sending the flag and the two cinder blocks used to stabilize it crashing onto the red brick street near the dilapidated building.

The flag, noticed on the building early Monday, prompted Robertson to write a letter to City Manager James Loomis, requesting Lubbock police notify the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office.

“I am also requesting that we take whatever steps are necessary to secure the building and ensure that this does not happen again,” Robertson wrote in the letter he shared with A-J Media. “I fully understand that we must gather more facts before we make a knee-jerk reaction but I am concerned on several levels. Please keep me informed as we learn more about this situation.”

The black flag, which featured script over a red heart, was hanging over the edge of the roof of the building at 14th Street and Avenue K.

Syrian native Hasan Almekdash, 35, is an Arabic language instructor at Texas Tech. Almekdash moved to this area in 2012; he said he has never experienced any type of Islamophobia, but he can see how the display did not go over well.

“Literally translated, it says ‘love is for all,’ ” he said.

And here I thought Isis was totally taking over Lubbock and probably the entire Panhandle as part of its scheme to destroy America, probably through Jade Helm.

That one way Lubbock is good is its contributions to American music, with Terry Allen, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Buddy Holly, and even the one and only Mac Davis from there.

Is the Wildcat Strike Back?

[ 5 ] February 19, 2016 |

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Probably not in any meaningful way, but it’s interesting to see groups of workers taking these actions:

Longshoreman at the New York and New Jersey ports launched a classic wildcat strike on Friday, January 29, catching the Port Authority, the Shipping Association and their own International Longshoremen Association totally unaware. The strike, which cost businesses that rely on the ports to ship goods in and out of the country hundreds of thousands of dollars in a few short hours, was apparently in protest of a government agency, the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, imposing new job requirements on top of and outside the bounds of the longshoremen’s collective bargaining agreement.

The walkout seems to have been a genuinely spontaneous action, sparked and spread within a few short minutes and over by nightfall. Industry observers are still scratching their heads at what it all meant, and whether it will happen again.

The following Monday, NYC-based drivers for the controversial “rideshare” app, Uber, began a 24-hour work stoppage and staged a rally outside of the company’s local headquarters. The tech firm is notorious for its questionable legal practices of treating its employees as “independent contractors” and often operating outside of taxi and limousine regulations in order to undercut traditional yellow cabs and car services. Drivers struck in protest of a 15% reduction in Uber’s fares, a cost that they alone must absorb.

While planned at least a day or two in advance, this wildcat strike was organized by an informal network calling themselves “Uber Drivers United,” according to the homemade fliers they handed out (although some coordination with the Taxi Workers Alliance has been noted). Uber was designed by its Silicon Valley founders to “disrupt” traditional work rules and regulation and to definitely be union free. The strikers are not demanding union recognition in the modern sense, but simply demanding a rollback of the wage cut.

While the smug business press scoffs (Fast Company said of the strike, “The irony, of course, is that by taking a slew of drivers off the road, the strike actually serves as a good opportunity for other drivers to profit from surge pricing, the fare increase that Uber imposes when demand is high”), the protests could spread to other cities.

Earlier in January, a faction of Detroit schoolteachers led by former Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) president Steve Conn staged a wildcat sickout over the abhorrent physical conditions of the school buildings that forced 64 out of 97 schools to close. Conn’s group is exactly the sort of alternative competitive union that I have predicted will become the norm if unions embrace non-exclusive members-only organizing.

Like most everything with isolated worker actions, we need to be very careful with reading anything into them. A few dozen more wildcat strikes and maybe there is something interesting going on here. But some workers will always find ways to fight for better lives and if short walkouts work, then that’s great. Definitely something to keep an eye on at least. Ultimately, we simply can’t know what will spark a new wave of workplace activism. Could be this strike or another or something a few years from now.

“It just seems like you can just make up your own facts now.”

[ 80 ] February 19, 2016 |

mesothelioma

The Center for Public Integrity is running a great series on how corporations buy scientists. These hack-scientists are truly horrible humans.

At 2:15 in the morning, an insomniac corporate defense lawyer in San Francisco finished crafting a “revolutionary” scientific theory.

Now Evan Nelson of the law firm Tucker Ellis & West needed a scientist willing to publish it in a medical journal. If his theory were given scientific validity, Nelson could use it to win lawsuits.

Nelson defended companies that had exposed people to asbestos, a heat-resistant, fibrous mineral. Asbestos causes several deadly diseases, including mesothelioma, a rare cancer that often drowns the lungs in fluid.

Nelson had expressed frustration with the argument that asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma. After scouring the scientific literature and applying his own logic, Nelson came up with a new culprit: tobacco.

Nelson sent a typo-ridden email to Peter Valberg of Cambridge, Massachusetts. A former professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, Valberg was by then a principal at the environmental consulting firm Gradient Corporation, with offices in Harvard Square.

“We can collaborate to publish several key, revolutionary articles that you will see unfold as I present this stuff to you,” the lawyer wrote in the 2008 email.

Citing a few scientific articles, Nelson drew a hypothetical link between the fact that cigarette smoke contains radioactive particles and limited evidence that people exposed to radiation had higher rates of mesothelioma.

“It is amazing that no one has pout [sic] this together before me, but I am confident that you will agree it is solid science that proves tobacco smoke causes mesothelioma — you just have to look at the tissue [sic] through the proper lense [sic].”

There was an obvious problem with Nelson’s “science.” Researchers for decades have exhaustively analyzed data on the health of hundreds of thousands of smokers. Since 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General has summarized the findings of study after study, none of which shows evidence that tobacco causes mesothelioma.

Valberg wrote back within hours, calling Nelson’s scientific theory “very intriguing.” He was game to try to disseminate it in peer-reviewed journals. He later sent Nelson a contract agreeing to write the first of three articles and even offered him a 10-percent discount. In the meantime, Valberg would adopt Nelson’s theory as an expert witness in lawsuits, using it against mesothelioma victims such as Pam Collins of Bellevue, Ohio.

The whole article gets a lot more disturbing.

Photos from the Flint Sit-Down Strike

[ 3 ] February 19, 2016 |

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Here’s a great collection of photos from the Flint Sit-Down Strike, an event that makes the mass poisoning of the Flint water by the state’s governor still only the second most significant thing in the city’s history.

Nuclear Deals

[ 9 ] February 18, 2016 |
U.S. President Barack Obama, left and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake their hands after they jointly addressed the media after their talks, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Seizing on their personal bond, Obama and Modi said Sunday they had made progress on nuclear cooperation and climate change, with Obama declaring a "breakthrough understanding" in efforts to free U.S. investment in nuclear energy development in India. (AP Photo /Manish Swarup)

U.S. President Barack Obama, left and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake their hands after they jointly addressed the media after their talks, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Seizing on their personal bond, Obama and Modi said Sunday they had made progress on nuclear cooperation and climate change, with Obama declaring a “breakthrough understanding” in efforts to free U.S. investment in nuclear energy development in India. (AP Photo /Manish Swarup)

It’s late on Thursday evening, you’ve probably popped open a beer or had a glass of wine. Time for a light-hearted blog post considering the legacy of the U.S.-India nuclear deal a decade after its signing. Turns out it is, unsurprisingly, really complicated! In short, it’s real goal for the U.S. was to open up the Indian economy, strengthen ties with Israel, and isolate Iran, all of which succeeded. But allowing India to produce all this nuclear material has not brought nuclear energy into Indian homes and there is no accountability in the Indian nuclear program. And of course the Pakistan issue remains tremendously tricky, with the nuclear deal making solving the Kashimir problem even more difficult. The whole essay is a really interesting analysis if you are interested in such things.

Dukakis on Scalia

[ 93 ] February 18, 2016 |

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This is a great interview with Michael Dukakis. The best part is that it turns out he went to law school with Scalia.

How well did you know Scalia at law school?

Not well. It was an interesting class. Scalia, myself, Paul Sarbanes, Bill Ruckelshaus. But in those days, Isaac, we had a class of 475 that was divided in thirds. So you got to know your section very well. But I didn’t know who Scalia was until the last semester of my last year, when I took a class called Federal Courts and the Federal System, with a great man named Henry Hart. It is 1960. We are in the middle of the civil rights revolution. And there’s this guy in class who begins engaging Professor Hart every day in these long dialogues over whether it was appropriate for federal judges to reach in and take cases away from Southern criminal courts, in cases where, as everyone knew, if you were a black defendant, forget it. And this went on for about three weeks. [Laughs.] I finally turned to the guy next to me and said, “Who the hell is that guy?” He said, “That’s Scalia, he’s on the law review.” And I said, “Does he know what it’s like to be black in the South?” A bright guy—yeah. But he was to the right of Marie Antoinette for Christ’s sake. There was no consistency in his so-called philosophy. Money is corporate speech. This is all preposterous.

Reading the whole thing, I’m surprised Dukakis had this level of patience, what with Isaac Chotnier admitting to being nostalgic for George W. Bush. Luckily, Mike Dukakis is long past caring what anyone thinks about him.

The Malheur: A Triumph of Good Government

[ 221 ] February 18, 2016 |

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Joshua Holland on how the resolution of the Malheur occupation was an enormous win for good governance against the forces who would seek to undermine the ability of the federal government to govern at all, including over the public lands:

The FBI showed patience and restraint. They gave the occupiers ample opportunity to alienate the local community. Many locals reportedly became hostile toward the stunt despite agreeing with the occupiers about the sentencing of two local ranchers on arson charges. Federal authorities left the lights on and allowed them a platform to demonstrate the incoherence of their mishmash of grievances. They bided their time until an opportunity presented itself to arrest of the group’s leaders on a remote Oregon highway. They then slowly tightened the noose on the remaining holdouts, allowing them to ramble on about abortion, marijuana prohibition and a government cover-up of aliens at Area 51.

In the final hours, as negotiators talked the last few holdouts into surrendering on a live-streamed telephone call, only someone deeply indoctrinated in anti-government ideology could fail to see the FBI as calm and professional, while the occupiers displayed clinical levels of paranoia. The last four militants were convinced that they would be cut down in a hail of gunfire the moment they stepped outside the door, but it was clear that all they had to do to avoid harm was leave their weapons behind and walk out, which is what ultimately happened.

And other than Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, who maintained his vow to never be taken alive, and a minor wound suffered by Ryan Bundy, the FBI ended the standoff without bloodshed. Federal attorneys even showed restraint in charging the group. Twenty-five of the Malheur occupiers were indicted on a single felony charge of conspiring to impede officers of the US government through the use of force. They face up to six years in prison if convicted. (Another occupier was arrested on unrelated charges.)

I still think the feds could have acted more directly by closing access to the reserve, but then again, it was the militants’ brazenness in leaving that set up the leaders to be caught traveling down a rural road in trucks and thus taken. So in the end, it really is hard to criticize federal actions in this incident. Hopefully it demonstrates the futility of such actions to other would-be right-wing revolutionaries.

Cracking Down on Slavery in the Global Supply Chain

[ 12 ] February 18, 2016 |

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Good for President Obama (and even congressional Republicans!) for passing and singing a bill that closes the 1930 Tariff Act loophole that allowed for slave-produced goods to enter the United States if it was determined that Americans could not acquire those goods in other ways. This was a massive opportunity for companies to use slave labor in their supply chains, one that has been used frequently. That’s especially true in the seafood industry, a topic I have spent a lot of time highlighting here.

President Obama will sign legislation this week that effectively bans American imports of fish caught by forced labor in Southeast Asia, part of a flurry of recent actions by the White House, federal agencies, international trade unions and foreign governments to address lawlessness at sea and to better protect offshore workers and the marine environment.

Last week, the president signed the Port State Measures Agreement, which empowers officials to prohibit foreign vessels suspected of illegal fishing from receiving port services and access. The United States became the 20th country to ratify the pact.

In another step, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a plan this month to improve how seafood is tracked from catch to market, imposing new reporting requirements on American importers. Two of the world’s largest trade unions filed a complaint last week with the United Nations’ labor agency about seafood from Thailand produced by so-called sea slaves, and the Thai government said it was installing satellite tracking devices on more fishing ships and requiring more reporting as workers get on or off the vessels.

“Step by step, I do really think we’re making progress, and there is a growing awareness of how much we need to get more control over the world’s oceans and the range of crime that happens out there,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview on Monday. He added that he hoped to build on the momentum in the fall during a global meeting, called Our Oceans, that he will host in Washington.

The amendment that the president has said he will sign this week would close a loophole in the Tariff Act of 1930, which bars products made by convict, forced or indentured labor. For 85 years, the law has exempted goods derived from slavery if American domestic production could not meet demand.

Moreover, American unions are showing the sort of necessary international labor solidarity to improve worldwide labor conditions that I frequently call for:

On Friday, two of the largest labor unions, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and International Trade Union Confederation, filed a complaint at the International Labor Organization, which is part of the United Nations, about the use of forced labor to produce Thai seafood.

“The Thai government has shown a willingness to react, but there are still big gaps in their laws, and even more so in how they enforce them,” said Steve Cotton, the general secretary of the transport union, which represents 4.7 million rail, trucking and maritime workers worldwide.

Mr. Cotton said the next step would be for the United Nations labor organization to send a team to investigate the allegations. The complaint carries more weight because it was sponsored by the trade union confederation, which includes the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and is the world’s largest union, representing 176 million workers.

Pisan Manawapat, the Thai ambassador to the United States, said his government was working hard to address the problems highlighted by The Times, other news organizations and human rights groups. He said his country had made dozens of arrests of trafficking suspects and had installed satellite tracking devices in the last two months on more than 5,300 fishing ships for better monitoring of fish and workers.

This is all very important and incredibly important if we want to see labor conditions improve worldwide. It also demonstrates that in fact the United States has a lot of power to choose the conditions by which it will allow production for imported products. We could expand on this significantly by banning other exploitative conditions of labor, creating a global race to the top if companies want to access the lucrative American market. We have a ton of power here. We just have to use it. That’s of course the problem.

And let’s not underestimate the centrality of slavery in the global economy. See, for example, Brazil:

Brazil’s ministry of labor has fined 340 Brazilian companies for using slave labor, including forced labor and people working in degrading conditions for little or no pay in rural and urban areas, a leading anti-slavery group has said.

A “dirty list” published by the rights group Reporter Brazil this month revealed that 340 Brazilian companies from May 2013 to May 2015 employed people working in slave-like conditions, including in sweatshops producing clothes, in farms, cattle ranches, timber companies, construction and charcoal production.

Leonardo Sakamoto, head of Sao Paulo-based Reporter Brazil, said his organization, which works to expose slave labor, used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the names of companies and individuals that were found to have slave labor by federal labor inspectors in Brazil.

“The companies were fined by the labor ministry and those enslaved were released,” he said.

And while it’s unclear from the story to what extent these goods were being traded internationally or exported to the United States or other wealthy world nations, the point is that they certainly could be unless Brazil chooses to actually enforce its laws on slavery. It did in this case and that’s good. But without legal and financial consequences for companies using slave labor in their supply chains–or looking the other way by not asking questions–there’s not much incentive to not use slaves. The closure of the 1930 loophole makes that a little harder.

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