Multinational Tobacco Giants Exposed for Using Child Labor –
Multinational Tobacco Giants Exposed for Using Child Labor
Some of the world's largest cigarette manufacturers and distributors are buying tobacco harvested through the illegal use of child labor in Indonesia. A new report from Human Rights Watch exposes the practice which involves thousands of minors, some as …
Govt neglects child smokers, labor in tobacco industryJakarta Post

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Fewer agricultural workers migrate now, but why? – Southeast Farm Press

Southeast Farm Press
Fewer agricultural workers migrate now, but why?
Southeast Farm Press
Agricultural labor markets have historically been characterized by both seasonal demand and migrant workers, said Maoyong Fan, an economics professor at Ball State and the study's lead author. The workers — including many from Mexico — have followed …


Shareable VR? New startup Visual Vocal is bringing collaboration to virtual reality – GeekWire

Shareable VR? New startup Visual Vocal is bringing collaboration to virtual reality
Visual Vocal co-founders Sean House, CTO, and John SanGiovanni, CEO, Visual Vocal co-founders Sean House, CTO, and John SanGiovanni, CEO. Virtual reality is still in its infancy, but today's connected world demands the ability to share everything.


The Coming Drone Blowback

(Photo: Flickr / Debra Sweet)

(Photo: Flickr / Debra Sweet)

The targeted assassination of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour last weekend wasn’t just another drone strike.

First of all, it was conducted by the U.S. military, not the CIA, which has orchestrated nearly all drone strikes in Pakistan.

Second, it didn’t take place in Afghanistan or in the so-called lawless tribal region of Pakistan known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA. The guided missile turned a white Toyota and its two passengers into a fireball on a well-traveled highway in Balochistan, in southwest Pakistan.

Prior to this particular drone strike, Pakistan allowed the United States to patrol the skies over the northwest region of FATA, a Taliban stronghold. But President Obama decided to cross this “red line” to take out Mansour (and a taxi driver, Muhammad Azam, who had the misfortune to be with the wrong passenger at the wrong time).

Pakistani leaders have registered their disapproval. According to former ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman, “The drone strike is different from all others because it has not only resumed a genre of kinetic action that is unilateral, but also illegal and expansionary in its geographical theater of targeted operation.”

In other words, if the United States is sending drones after targets in Balochistan, what will prevent it from taking out a suspected terrorist on the crowded streets of Karachi or Islamabad?

The Obama administration is congratulating itself on removing a bad guy who was targeting U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. But the strike itself may not produce any greater willingness on the part of the Taliban to enter into negotiations with the Afghan government. Mansour, according to the administration, opposed such negotiations, and the Taliban has indeed refused to join talks in Pakistan with the Quadrilateral Coordination Group — Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, the United States — unless foreign troops are first removed from Afghanistan.

This “kill for peace” strategy of the Obama administration may backfire.

According to senior Taliban leaders, Mansour’s death will help the fractious organization unify around a new leader. Conversely, despite such rosy insider predictions, the Taliban could splinter and enable even more extremist organizations like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State to fill the void. In a third scenario, the drone strike will have no impact on the ground in Afghanistan at all, since the current fighting season is already underway and the Taliban want to strengthen their bargaining position before entering talks.

In other words, the United States cannot possibly know whether Massoud’s death will advance or complicate U.S. strategic goals in the region. The drone strike is, basically, a crapshoot.

The strike also comes at a time when U.S. drone policy is coming under greater scrutiny within the United States. After a number of independent assessments of drone casualties, the Obama administration will soon release its own estimate of the death toll for combatants and non-combatants outside of active war zones. A new independent assessment of drone strikes in FATA argues that the long-anticipated “blowback” has not in fact taken place. And the Obama administration is desperately trying to salvage a policy in Afghanistan that’s failed to draw down U.S. troop levels as promised, fully turn over the responsibility for military operations to the Afghan government, or stop the Taliban from making significant battlefield gains.

Massoud’s death is the latest example of the United States dispensing death at a distance in an attempt to micromanage a conflict that it’s long since lost control over. The precision of the strikes belies the imprecision of U.S. policy and the virtual impossibility of achieving U.S. goals as currently stated.

The Question of Blowback

The term “blowback” was originally a CIA term for the unintended — and negative — consequences of clandestine operations. One of the most famous examples was the U.S. funneling of arms and supplies to the mujahedeen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Some of these fighters, including Osama bin Laden, would eventually turn their weapons against U.S. targets once the Soviets were long gone from the country.

The U.S. drone campaign isn’t exactly a covert operation, though the CIA has generally refused to acknowledge its role in the attacks (the Pentagon is more open about its use of drones for strikes on more conventional military targets). But critics of drone attacks — myself included — have long argued that all the civilian casualties caused by drone attacks will produce blowback. Drone strikes and the anger they generate effectively serve to recruit people into the Taliban and other extremist organizations.

Even those involved in the program have come to the same conclusion.

Consider, for instance, this impassioned plea to President Obama from four Air Force veterans who piloted drones. “The innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool,” they argued in a letter last November. “The administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”

But now along comes Aqil Shah, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, who has justpublished a report attempting to debunk this claim.

According to a set of 147 interviews he conducted in North Waziristan, an area in Pakistan’s FATA that has sustained the largest number of drone strikes, 79 percent of respondents support the campaign. A majority believes that the strikes rarely kill non-combatants. Further, according to experts cited by Shah, “most locals prefer drones to the Pakistan military’s ground and aerial offensives that cause more extensive damage to civilian life and property.”

I don’t doubt these findings. Most people in Pakistan have no sympathy for the Taliban. According to a recent Pew poll, 72 percent of respondents in Pakistan had an unfavorable view of the Taliban (with earlier polls suggesting that this lack of support extends to FATA). Drones are no doubt better than Pakistan’s military operations, just as they represent an improvement over the scorched-earth policies used by the United States in the Vietnam War to destroy large sections of Southeast Asia.

Shah’s research was not exactly scientific. He admits that his interviews were “not statistically representative” — and then goes on to draw conclusions about the entire population of FATA. It’s also true that several other polls suggest that Pakistanis throughout the country oppose the drone program and believe that it encourages militancy, but these polls have generally not included FATA.

But Shah’s most controversial conclusion is that the high level of support for the drone program means that no blowback has taken place. Even if his interviews were statistically representative, I don’t understand this analytical leap.

Blowback doesn’t require universal opposition. Only a small percentage of the mujahedeen went on to fight with Osama bin Laden. Only a certain number of Contras were involved in operations that pumped drugs into the United States.

It’s not as if the entire population of FATA is going to join the Taliban. If only a couple thousand young men join the Taliban out of anger over drone strikes, that counts as blowback. There are over 4 million people living in the FATA. A fighting force of 4,000 people is 1 percent of the population — and that easily falls within the 21 percent of respondents who disapproved of drones in Shah’s findings.

And what of the suicide bomber who embarks on his path of extremism because a drone strike took out his brother? The Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, was motivated at least in part by drone strikes in Pakistan, even though they hadn’t killed anyone in his family.

Ultimately, blowback can be just one angry and determined person who makes his mark on history without first showing up in a survey.

Other Drone Problems

The blowback issue is only one of the many problems with U.S. drone policy.

The proponents of drones have always argued that the strikes are responsible for far fewer civilian casualties than aerial bombardment. “What I can say with great certainty is that the rate of civilian casualties in any drone operation are far lower than the rate of civilian casualties that occur in conventional war,” President Obama said in April.

Although that may be true for indiscriminate carpet bombing, it turns out not to be true for the kind of air campaign the United States has conducted in Syria and Afghanistan.

“Since Obama entered office, 462 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia have killed an estimated 289 civilians, or one civilian per 1.6 strikes,” write Micah Zenko and Amelia Mae Wolf in a recent Foreign Policy piece. In comparison, the civilian casualty rate in Afghanistan since Obama took office has been one civilian per 21 bombs dropped. In the war against the Islamic State, the rate was one civilian per 72 bombs dropped.

Then there’s the question of international law. The United States has been conducting drone strikes outside of combat zones. It’s even killed U.S. citizens. And it’s done so without going through any legal process. The president signs off on the kill orders, and then the CIA carries out these extrajudicial murders.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. government argues that the strikes are legal because they target combatants in an international war against terrorists. Under that definition, however, the United States can kill anyone it considers a terrorist anywhere in the world. Several UN reports have called the strikes illegal. At the very least, drones represent a fundamental challenge to international law.

Then there’s the controversial concept of signature strikes. These attacks target not specific people, but anyone who fits the general profile of a terrorist in what’s deemed a terrorist-rich territory. They do not require presidential approval. These strikes have resulted in some huge mistakes, including the killing of 12 Yemeni civilians in December 2013 that required a million dollars in “condolence payments.” The Obama administration shows no sign of retiring this particular tactic.

Finally, there’s the issue of drone proliferation. It used to be that only the United States possessed the new technology. But those days are long gone.

“Eighty-six countries have some drone capability, with 19 either possessing armed drones or acquiring the technology,” writes James Bamford. “At least six countries other than America have used drones in combat, and in 2015, defense consulting firm Teal Group estimated that drone production would total $ 93 billion over the next decade — reaching more than three times the current market value.”

Right now, the United States blithely conducts drone strikes worldwide with relative impunity. But when the first drone strike is conducted against the United States — or by terrorist organizations against U.S. citizens in other countries — the real blowback will begin.

The post The Coming Drone Blowback appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

John Feffer directs the Foreign Policy in Focus project at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Book Review|Alan Furst’s ‘A Hero of France’ – New York Times

New York Times
Book Review|Alan Furst's 'A Hero of France'
New York Times
In short order, the German presence rapidly extended into every aspect of French life. France's Jews began to be rounded up in the notorious rafles, sent first to prison camps within France and ultimately to the east. Leftists were also put under


Honoring Two IPS Giants

Marc Raskin (pictured) co-founded IPS with Richard Barnet in 1963.

Marc Raskin (pictured) co-founded IPS with Richard Barnet in 1963.

As a newcomer to IPS, it’s always a bit of a shock to hear the names of progressive heroes spoken around the water cooler with such familiarity.

On May 20, IPS dedicated our new conference room to two of those heroes, Richard Barnet and Marc Raskin, who co-founded IPS in 1963.

“The Barnet-Raskin Conference Room was designed to be a place for us to deepen our relationships with our friends and allies,” Associate Director Tiffany Williams said.

There was a lot of laughter among old friends at the dedication as IPS staff and members of the Barnet and Raskin families recalled moments of the two. Like the story of the first time they met, for instance.

They were both at a State Department meeting during the height of the Cold War and the room was filled with the elites of the military-industrial complex. One especially pompous official stated that if this group couldn’t bring about disarmament, no one could. There was silence. Until two men on opposite sides of the room laughed. A few years later, the story goes, they started IPS where they could more freely laugh at power.

Others recalled memories of the co-founders chasing after a folder of vital institutional documents that got swept up by the wind, and asking strangers in elevators about their tattoos.

Ann Barnet and Jamie Raskin share memories of Dick Barnet and Marc Raskin.

Ann Barnet and Jamie Raskin share memories of Dick Barnet and Marc Raskin.

“In a city that was all about power and ego,” said Sarah Anderson, who was hired by Dick Barnet in 1992, “Dick put niceness above everything else, never put himself above anything, and relished humor. Those are the things that helped us thrive.”

Ann Barnet, Dick Barnet’s wife, remembered countless people telling Dick that his book changed their life, that their life’s work came out of an internship at IPS, or that they found their calling at IPS.

“We need communities like IPS to keep going and make things happen,” Ann said. “It’s so much of an honor for me and my family to be a part of this vision that Dick believed in with all his heart and he’d be overjoyed to see it flourishing here and now.”

Karen Dolan, who was hired by Marc Raskin in 1996, shared a poem she wrote that began:

Ben and Anna in ’34
Gave birth to a baby and opened a door
To music and justice and the intellectual spark
Which would burn so brightly in a public scholar named Marc

IPS Director John Cavanagh toasts to the audacity of the men with "giant ideas that seemed impossible until they made a few of them possible."

IPS Director John Cavanagh toasts to the audacity of the men with “giant ideas that seemed impossible until they made a few of them possible.”

Maryland senator and Marc Raskin’s son, Jamie Raskin, joked that all of the Raskin kids could probably be described as projects of IPS. He said the thing his father taught him about politics was to never give up on anybody, and to talk to everybody.

Cellist David Rabin, who used to perform alongside Dick Barnet, helped honor the co-founders with a Bach piece.

To close, IPS Director John Cavanagh toasted to the audacity of Dick and Marc, and to the “giant ideas that seemed impossible until they made a few of them possible.”

As I toasted the creation of this institute that has been a home for thousands of progressives plotting together on how to make the world a better place, surrounded by IPSers past and present, I felt grateful and inspired to be a part of this continued history in the making.

The post Honoring Two IPS Giants appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Domenica Ghanem is the communications assistant at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Indonesian 8-year-olds could be picking the tobacco in your cigarettes – CNN

Indonesian 8-year-olds could be picking the tobacco in your cigarettes
HRW urged tobacco companies to stamp out the use of child labor throughout their supply chains. "Tobacco companies are making money off the backs and the health of Indonesian child workers," said Margaret Wurth, children's rights researcher at Human …
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Lightning Injures Several People in France and Germany – New York Times

New York Times
Lightning Injures Several People in France and Germany
New York Times
Credit Matthieu Alexandre/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. PARIS — Eight children and three adults were injured on Saturday in a Paris park after a sudden spring storm sent a lightning bolt crashing down on a children's birthday party, a
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Wall Street as a Matter of Life and Death

(Photo: Flickr / Trygve Utstumo)

(Photo: Flickr / Trygve Utstumo)

Bobby Tolbert is a New York City-based activist who draws from his own experience as an HIV positive and formerly homeless man to educate his peers and build a movement for better health care policies. He also serves on the boards of VOCAL New York and the recently formed People’s Action — two of more than 40 organizations that have endorsed a new Take On Wall Street campaign. co-editor Sarah Anderson spoke to Tolbert on May 24 after he delivered a statement in support of the campaign at a Capitol Hill press conference.

. Help me understand why an AIDS activist would care about reforming Wall Street.

Tolbert: For me, it’s personal. On top of being HIV-positive, four years ago I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Then they told me there was a drug that was 99 percent effective, but I couldn’t have it because Medicare didn’t cover it and it cost $ 1,000 per pill.

They were just telling me to die.

And a big reason why people like me can’t afford life-saving medication is because some hedge fund manager has come in and demanded that the price for the drug be jacked up beyond our means. This is a direct violation of our values as Americans. Can you say a bit more about the role of the private investment funds in drug pricing?

Tolbert: These guys are investors in Big Pharma. All they want is a quick profit – and they can get away with it, especially if the drug company has a monopoly. Fortunately, with the drug I needed, the company—Gilead—eventually lost the monopoly and it became more affordable. But not without a big fight and a lot of suffering. What do you think should be done about this?

Tolbert: VOCAL New York and many other groups got the governor to agree to a plan to end AIDS in our state by 2020. And there’s a good blueprint for doing this. But it will take money. And now the governor has reneged on his commitments to pay for it.

So we need to go where the money is. Let me guess, Wall Street?

Tolbert: Yes. People can’t even believe that the same guys who’ve been jacking up drug prices are also getting away with paying lower tax rates than ordinary Americans. We’ve been supporting a campaign to eliminate the “carried interest” loophole, which lets the hedge fund managers pay a lower capital gains tax rate on most of their income. If they won’t do it in Congress, we’ll get them to do it in New York, which is ground zero. And we could use revenue for that to help end AIDS. At the press conference both you and Rep. Keith Ellison talked about taxing Wall Street speculation, which is another one of the five priorities of the Take On Wall Street campaign.

Tolbert: Yes, that would raise even more money than carried interest. And we have a lot of needs in this country – crumbling infrastructure, no real social safety net. But some of this money could also go for ending AIDS. These people have gotten filthy rich off the backs of ordinary families who can’t stay in their homes. And it’s just fundamentally unsound to have an economy that only works for the 1 percent. You mentioned that People’s Action has a 40-year vision for the economy. What do you want to see 40 years from now?

Tolbert: Well, we should’ve ended AIDS by 2020, so I don’t need to talk about that. I see viable communities where city colleges are free, local banks have replaced the Wall Street banks, small businesses are thriving, and we have racial harmony. Basically, an economy that works for everybody.

The post Wall Street as a Matter of Life and Death appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Global Smart Factory Solution Industry – PR Newswire (press release)

Global Smart Factory Solution Industry
PR Newswire (press release)
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