(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHINA’S SHINE NEWS NETWORK FROM SHANGHAI)
China working hard to ensure ‘six stabilities’
01:48 UTC+8, 2018-10-15
Amid complicated international landscape and new changes in China’s domestic economy, experts around the world believe that the Chinese government has sufficient policy tools to tap its inherent dynamism so as to secure robust and resilient economic growth.
These remarks came following the Chinese government’s recent proposal of a target to “stabilize the employment, finance, foreign trade, foreign investment, investment and expectations,” collectively known as the “six stabilities.”
Since the beginning of this year, despite fluctuations of certain economic indicators, the Chinese economy has registered stable growth, with the four major macroeconomic indicators of economic growth, employment, CPI and the international balance of payments basically meeting expectations.
In its latest World Economic Outlook report released on October 8, the International Monetary Fund kept China’s economic growth forecast unchanged at 6.6 percent.
IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld recently said that the Chinese economy saw robust performance in the first half of this year, and that the recent figures which might not be so ideal are still in line with expectations, considering that measures such as strengthening financial supervision and preventing risks would drag down economic growth to a certain degree.
Changyong Rhee, director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific department, says the slowdown in growth is a result of the government’s initiative to deleverage and regulate the economy, which in fact produces a “high-quality” slowdown.
Rhee expressed confidence that the Chinese government has the policy tools to stabilize economic growth and offset negative impacts from the economic and trade frictions with the United States, but meanwhile, deleveraging should forge ahead to ensure more stable and resilient growth in the medium term.
Subhomoy Bhattacharjee, a consultant with the Research and Information System for Developing Countries based in India, said China’s economy, which has started to shift from high speed growth to medium-high speed growth, has stepped into the deep waters of economic restructuring, where certain suffering and pain are inevitable.
The government embraces change and has a mature and sensible understanding of economic development, as indicated by its economic policy adjustments in recent years, he said, adding these adjustments will benefit China’s economy in the long run.
Even though the favorable international environment plays a role in China’s economic success, Bhattacharjee said, its achievements should be mainly attributed to the inner dynamism generated by its domestic policies.
Source: Xinhua Editor: Gao Wei
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Wal-Mart’s Growth Was Through Fraud Lies and Deceit
If you are old enough to remember the Wal-Mart of the 1980’s and the mood of the nation during that time about buying American, maybe this will tweak your anger button. During the late 70’s and the 80’s was when American businesses were first starting to move overseas in alarming numbers, unfortunately we Americans are used to this treason (my view) now. Plus this was a time when Americans got hooked on cheaper imports. During this time the American auto industry was in big trouble partly because Americans were buying the cheaper Japanese models. This is a time area when you would see such bumper stickers as (can you eat your Toyota). On a sidebar though, in regards to the quality of the cars the big three were putting out at that time was pretty poor in comparison to say the Toyota’s and in this case it helped force the big three to start producing a better quality product. This coincided with the decline in union membership in America which also meant that the American worker’s paycheck was starting to shrink. This meant that people were requiring better quality transportation so they could get to their lower paying jobs.
Wal-Mart at this time used America’s consumer mood to grow itself. Their TV and Radio ads as well as their traveling billboards (their semi trailers) used to tout how they only bought American goods thus trying to get patriotic Americans to do all their shopping at Wal-Mart. There was a big problem with this though, they were totally lying, they were perpetrating a total fraud on the American people.
You may fairly ask me how I know such a thing, was I in their board room? No, but I was a long haul truck driver who hauled a lot of their incoming product. I am going to give you an example of how buffaloed people were by their fraud. I picked up loads from the docks in northern New Jersey about once a month plus once in a while in California. It was a common event when we would get a load assigned to pick up but when we got there the load would be staged on the docks but we had to in some cases wait several hours while the dock workers were having to replace all the stickers on every item with tags that said made in the USA. I asked the dock workers about these things because it always made it more difficult to make your delivery appointments on time and Wal-Mart distribution centers would fine the trucking company if you were late on your delivery and most times they would reschedule your appointment for a different day. This meant that you now had to sit in a truck stop parking lot and wait for your new appointment time. When you as a driver are doing this you get no pay at all because the trucking company got no pay at all. What I was told by more that a couple of dock workers was that it was required that when a Wal-Mart load came in they all had to be re-tagged. This was so that when the American consumer came in the store and looked at the tags they thought they were buying American made products which meant that Wal-Mart was helping protect American jobs. The truth was Wal-Mart was committing a total fraud on the American worker and the American public.
I remember one time that I had picked up a load of laundry detergent at the docks in north Jersey and the load was going to a distribution center in NW Wisconsin. That night as I was driving, the chatter on the CB was some other drivers were talking about where they were headed to and or who their customers were. Somewhere in the conversation Wal-Mart’s name came up. I then mentioned what had happened with my load on the dock and how it had put me a bit behind where I was hoping to be by this time. I remember one driver who got on his radio with much indigence in his voice said to me “how dare you slander a fine company like that”. My response to him was a simple truth, if what you say about someone or something is %100 the truth, then it is not slander, it is simply the truth. That man did not say anything to me after that but a few other drivers chimed in saying the same thing about what I had said about loads for Wal-Mart.
This is why I used the title that I did on this letter to anyone who wants to read it. Wal-Mart committed a total fraud on the American people. If you think about it, this fraud helped bring more customers into their stores so that these same customers would not go to Wal-Mart’s competitors thus giving Wal-Mart an unfair advantage , unfair because they were lying. Now look at the Wal-Mart company, have you ever gone into one of their stores and looked for the made in the USA tags. Unless USA is now spelled CHINA or INDONESIA, it’s a pretty hard tag to find. I used to like to listen to Paul Harvey on the radio every chance I could. I liked the man but he was very naive. If you remember Wal-Mart was a sponsor of his and he seemed to really believe in them. Do you remember how he used to talk how if you had a Wal-Mart store in your town how you couldn’t have a better neighbor. In reality what Wal-Mart was doing then they are still doing. When a Wal-Mart moves into your community about all if not all of your local stores are forced to close because they can’t compete with Wal-Mart buying power. This caused a problem for the people/workers of the area because once all the local stores close up the employees are laid off. In many cases about the only place they can now find work is at the Wal-Mart. But, as many of you know most Wal-Mart employees are only hired as part-time worker’s which also means when these people lost their previous job they lost income and all of their benefits like insurance. At this same time look at the wealth of the owners, the kids of Mr Walton, look at how many billions each of them are worth. Yet they won’t hire most people as full-time because they say they can’t (won’t) give their people any benefits.
You know something that I have been wondering about, would Wal-Mart be anywhere near as big today if they had not been such liars and frauds in their earlier years? One of the things that was also happening during these years I speak of is that the Federal government was breaking up monster size companies like Bell Telephone Co into several smaller companies. It is my opinion that Wal-Mart should be forced to break up into about five companies because of the help they got through fraud and lies they are now a total behemoth. The American GDP (gross domestic product) is about 11 trillion per year, Wal-Mart corporation has about 1.1 trillion dollars go through their hands now each year. Folks that is %10 of our countries GDP. I totally believe that it is dangerous for any one family to have this much control of the American people’s money supply. Especially when these people have already proven that they have no problem lying to all of us.
Now, back to the bought in the USA idea, just think if Wal-Mart and or the five or so companies I wish it would get broken into would indeed only buy from American companies where only American workers and American products produced them, think what a boom to our economy this would produce. If we the American people would only buy American products then this would put many American workers back to work. But, stringent guidelines would have to be put into place to make sure that we the people were not being defrauded like we were within the Walton family before.
As most of us knows, Wal-Mart is an international company. I do believe that such a company has stores in lets say China, I believe that Wal-Mart stores in China should first buy goods made in China. This is also what the people of China badly need. Right now most people in America know that places like China make products for the purpose of export to countries like the US. Most of us also know that almost all of these product are basically of very poor quality, so basically we are paying for lousy and or unsafe products when we buy their exports. If the American people would not buy these cheaply made products it would also help the Chinese people. The population of China is about four times that of the US and these people matter just as much as people of other countries and the working poor of China depends on exports at this time. If the export markets dried up to the companies of China they would have to finally turn inward and build products for the people of China, this would be a huge boom to their domestic companies and at the same time the quality of those products made in their country for their people would have to get much better. This would make their people have a much better quality of life both by having a better paying job and they would be able to purchase products that are out of their financial reach at this time.
I guess what I am getting at is I’m trying to show how things could truly get better for the masses here in the US as well as in places like China if we the people would force behemoth companies like Wal-Mart to be held accountable for their actions. Also force our government to hold countries and companies legally accountable when they are found to be frauds and liars.
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If The Saudi’s Killed A Journalist: So Now What? Answer, Nothing
In this article today I am not trying to be cold-blooded or hate filled, I’m trying to be honest. Here in the States you have your typical politicians like Lindsey Graham wagging their tongues about “there will be hell to pay if the Saudi government killed this man.” I almost never side with Donald Trump but I do sort of agree with him on this issue. Reality is that many governments kill people every year. How many Journalist’s die in the line of duty every year? The Organization Reporters Without Borders says that 65 Reporters were killed in the line of duty in 2017 plus many more were imprisoned. He was not a Reporter but do you remember the American college kid who tore down a poster in North Korea and spent a year or so in one of their prisons only to be sent back home in a coma where he died a couple of weeks later? Folks, nothing real happened to North Korea because of this because mans murder. Mr. Trump was trying to strike a deal with N.K. President (Dictator) Kim Jung Un to get rid of their Nuclear Weapons. Which was/is more important, one life, or not having a thin-skinned ego maniac with is finger on a Nuke button? By the way, I am speaking of Mr. Kim, not the one that is in Our White House.
Now, let us get back to the murder of the Saudi/American Journalist who was murdered inside the Saudi Embassy in Turkey. Here are some realities for us all to think about. Mr. Trump is under pressure to cancel a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with the Saudi government because of them killing this man. Would this action by our President be a wise decision? Would it teach “them” a lesson? My answer is no, it would not. In fact if anything it could/would shift the balance of power on this planet. Here is why I am saying this. First it would shift the Saudi government toward the Chinese. If we do not sell these weapons to the Saudi’s the Chinese would be falling all over themselves to sell weapons to the Saudi government. Honestly I believe that it would be the Chinese and not the Russians who would fill the gap because the Russian government has aligned themselves with the Shiite Nations, mainly Iran and as you know, the Sunni Saudi’s are the enemy of Shiite Islam. China and Russia are allies of each other so it would be more crushing to the U.S. if China filled our void. Plus there is the reality that canceling this contract would put many American workers out of a job which would be felt in the voting booth next month.
Think about these things please, what if the Russians and the Chinese governments held complete sway over all of the Middle-East, over all of OPEC? What if China grew close to the Saudi Royal Family by such things as massive weapons sells? China is already building the largest refinery in the world in the Saudi Kingdom. If the U.S Government steps away from the Saudi Royal Family how long will it be before the Saudi’s decide to take their oil off of the dollar standard and put it on the Chinese Yen? If the Saudi’s did this I am sure that the rest of OPEC and the Arab world would very quickly follow suite. Think about it, the dollar not being the “world standard” currency. What if OPEC decided to only take the Yen as trading currency, and decided to either not sell any oil to the U.S. at all, or if they did, only at twice or three times the market rate? What would this do to the U.S. economy, to your job, to your living standard? In 2008 during that “depression” the U.S. economy backed off about 2%, what would things here in the States look like if our economy fell off by 10, 15 or 20%? I am just trying to be honest, I don’t like many realities in our world yet if we decide to change some of the current realities, we must be very careful about the new realities that bloom.
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Despite a worsening tariff war, China’s trade surplus with the United States has widened to a record $34.1bn in September.
Chinese exports to the American market rose by 13 percent over a year to $46.7bn, down from August’s 13.4 percent growth, customs data showed on Friday.
Imports of American goods increased 9 percent to $12.6bn, down from 11.1 percent.
Relations between the world’s two largest economies soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 bn in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 bn worth of US goods.
Chinese exports to the US have at least temporarily defied forecasts they would weaken after being hit by punitive tariffs of up to 25 percent in a fight over American complaints about Beijing’s technology policy.
“Exports continued to defy US tariffs last month but imports struggled in the face of cooling domestic demand,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report.
“We expect both to soften in the coming quarters,” he said.
The yuan has lost nearly 10 percent of its value against the US dollar this year. That prompted suggestions Beijing might weaken the exchange rate to help exporters, but that might hurt China’s economy by encouraging an outflow of capital.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – in comments published in the Financial Times this week – warned China against engaging in competitive currency devaluations.
China has steadfastly denied that it has manipulated the yuan to cope with the tariffs. The US dollar has strengthened against a range of currencies this year as American interest rates have risen.
China’s stock market has plunged this year but the trade war has also started to erode Trump’s oft-touted US stock gains, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than five percent for the week.
The International Monetary Fund this week cited the trade war as it lowered its 2019 growth forecast for China, which is set to see its slowest expansion since 1990.
The IMF also lowered estimates for the United States and the global economy as a whole.
But before we embark on our prison scouting, we have something else on the agenda: a visit to the city’s only Walmart store. It feels important, given the note was found in a Walmart, albeit one on the other side of the globe. Perhaps a Chinese Walmart close to where the note supposedly originated can provide clues, or at least context.
The Guilin Walmart is a 10-minute drive from the center of the city, spread across two floors in a shopping mall, on a road lined with scooter repair shops. Walmart is the world’s biggest retailer; it owns 11,700 retail units in 27 countriesaround the world, including Brazil and South Africa, under various banner names. In China, Walmart owns 389 Walmart Supercenters, in addition to 21 Sam’s Clubs and 15 Hypermarkets.
A note on Walmart’s Chinese site reads: “Walmart China firmly believes in local sourcing. We have established partnerships with more than seven thousand suppliers in China. Over 95% of the merchandise in our stores in China is sourced locally.”
The Guilin Walmart sells athletic shorts made in Vietnam, girls’ T-shirts made in Bangladesh, and sports jackets made in Cambodia. But for the most part, the store’s clothing is made in China, some of it just a few hours away. There are England football shirts and women’s purses from Guangdong, World Cup Russia sandals from Fujian, Frozen and Mickey Mouse tees from Shanghai, and baseball jerseys and Peppa Pig sun hats from Jiangxi.
Countries the world over encourage citizens to “buy local,” so why would China be any different? Still, necessarily, what is local to one place — local practice, local perspective — is foreign to all others. To those in the country, “made in China” means items produced by their fellow Chinese that contribute to the robust economy. Elsewhere in the world, particularly in the US, the phrase draws ire, conjuring images of goods mass-produced in factories with questionable conditions by workers who have supplanted their own country’s workforce.
Walmart in the US has tried and tested the homemade idea. In 1985, founder Sam Walton voiced a commitment to “made in America” products, launching a program called “Bring It Home to the USA” to buy more US-made goods. Around that time, according to reporter Bob Ortega’s book In Sam We Trust, Walton estimated 6 percent of his company’s total sales came from imports; a Frontline report found that number may have been closer to 40 percent. Bill Clinton, then the governor of Walmart’s home state of Arkansas, described “Bring It Home to the USA” as an “act of patriotism.” The program failed.
It’s easy to understand why. The “made in America” ideal comes second to finding the cheapest sources of production — this was true in the ’80s, and it’s true now. A study released in 2016 found that three in four Americans say they would like to buy US-made goods but consider those items too costly or difficult to find. When asked if they’d buy an $85 pair of pants made in the US or a $50 pair made in a different country, 67 percent chose the latter.
Today, Walmart outsources the majority of its production around the world. According to a 2011 report in the Atlantic, Chinese suppliers are believed to account for around 70 percent of the company’s merchandise. A 2015 analysis from the Economic Institute, a progressive think tank, found that Walmart’s trade with China may have eliminated 400,000 jobs in the US between 2001 and 2013.
This is something Walmart says it’s trying to change. In its 2014 annual report, the company pledged to spend an additional $250 billion on US-made goods by 2023, saying it believes “we can drive cost savings by sourcing closer to the point of consumption.” Research from Boston Consulting Group projected this could create a million new US jobs.
At the initiative’s 2018 halfway point, though, it’s unclear how many jobs have been created or how much money has actually been spent. Additionally, in 2015, the Federal Trade Commission initiated a probe into Walmart’s mislabeling of foreign goods as “Made in the USA.” Walmart took action by removing inaccurate logos and making its disclosures more transparent, only to come under fire for deceptive “Made in the USA” labels yet again the very next year.
Forced labor is commonly practiced in the Chinese prison system, which the Chinese Communist Party first established countrywide in 1949, modeling it on Soviet gulags. The kind of crimes that land someone in the Chinese penal system range widely, from murder and bribery to saying anything remotely bad about the government. Freedom of speech isn’t a reality for Chinese citizens, who can face decades in prison for publishing articles about human rights online.
Peter E. Müller, a leading specialist at the Laogai Research Foundation, and his team extensively document the human rights abuses inside China’s prison system. This work includes identifying prisons and camps that employ forced labor, tracking the inmate population, and gathering personal testimony from those who have experienced forced labor.
He says prisoners in China, the US, and elsewhere are sometimes paid for their labor. (In the Walmart note, the writer describes forced labor and beatings, as well as low pay for long hours and health care deducted from payment.) The amount depends on the financial situation of the prison; the average pay in American state prisons is 20 cents an hour. Müller says the monthly salary specified in the note (2,000 yuan, or $295) is “unusually high,” but speculates that it may be because the prison “makes good money because of high-quality workers.”
Human rights organizations, such as the Laogai Research Foundation and China Labor Watch, say the biggest problem in stopping the export of products made in prisons is that the supply lines are “almost untraceable.” Supply lines, in general, are very difficult to trace due to the enormous complexity of supplier networks, a lack of communication between actors, and a general dearth of data that can be shared in the first place. The result is a frustratingly opaque global system of production.
Li Qiang, the founder and executive director of China Labor Watch, explains that American companies that manufacture abroad place their orders directly with factories or sourcing companies, and that those factories and companies can transfer the orders to prisons without the company’s knowledge. In fact, some of these relationships are formalized to the point where prisons that use forced labor have a sister factory that coordinates the prison manufacturing.
It’s essentially a front, as sister factories will use a commercial name for outside trade, intentionally mislabeled products that are made in prisons. Prisoners are never physically sent to the sister factories; the main bulk of the production happens on prison grounds. Once nearly complete, items are then sent to the sister factories, where they are prepared and labeled for international delivery. This system isn’t easy for companies to monitor. Suppliers conceal these practices from clients, and supplier checks are not frequent, especially for large corporations like Walmart, which use a large number of suppliers and subcontractors.
Qiang says the issue can feel intractable. “Even if shoppers in the US understand that the items are being made under poor working conditions, there is nothing they can really do,” he says. “Multinational corporations will not invest in improving their supply chain if there are few laws to protect workers whose rights are being violated, and no successful lawsuits against brands, companies, or their factories for violating them.”
On a Tuesday morning in late May, Channing and I sit at a table in our hotel lobby. We browse message boards on Baidu, one of the country’s most popular search engines and social networking sites, to see if the issue of prison labor is discussed on Chinese social media, or if it’s a subject the government censors.
In a matter of seconds, Channing is able to find discussion boards filled with suppliers looking to outsource labor to prisons. The conversations are quite ordinary — there is no coded language, and full addresses and contact numbers are included in postings. We also find dozens of posts from people offering the services of prisons they work with to mass-produce items for overseas companies, including “electronic accessories, bracelets, necklace bead processing, toy assembly, and shirt processing.”
One post in Chinese reads: “Because our processing personnel are from prison, it has the following advantages. The prison personnel are centralized and stable, and they are managed by the prison. There is no need to worry about the flow of people and the shortage of labor. The processing price is low: Since the processing location is in prison, there is no need for manufacturers to provide space and accommodation; and the prison works in the principle of serving the people, so the processing price is guaranteed to be absolutely lower than the market price. If your company needs it, please contact!”
In an effort to verify not only that Yingshan prison exists but also that it’s one of many Chinese factories that use forced labor and contract with manufacturers, Channing and I drive toward the suburbs in the eastern part of Guilin.
Channing asks our driver to drop us at a high school so we can remain undetected. Nearby, I’d marked a spot where I believed the prison to be according to the human rights report I’d found before arriving in China. But theprison isn’t there. In its place is a crossing, though there’s reason to believe the prison is closed — a dilapidated sign pointing left reads: Yingshan.
We walk down the road and find the area under heavy surveillance. Security cameras are hitched onto poles on every corner of the pathway. The farther we walk, the more literal the warnings that we shouldn’t be there. Three different signs hammered into a tree read: “DO NOT APPROACH.”
Yingshan prison, described in a note found in a Walmart handbag thousands of miles away in the US, does exist — and we are standing in front of it.
Though it had been difficult to find, it actually doesn’t seem so hidden after all. It is integrated into the neighborhood, just around the corner from a driving school, near leafy streets and apartment blocks.
The prison doesn’t look like an archetypal prison you’d see in the US. If it weren’t for the two security watchtowers, Yingshan could be mistaken for a modern residential building. Thick bushes cover dark blue metal fences lined with barbed wire. The high walls are painted cream with decorative white lines demarcating each of the building’s five floors. Each window has a neat white frame, with a metal air vent attached.
Several guards in uniform are standing in the parking lot of the building next door. We don’t approach them for fear of being detained. The Chinese government treats both domestic and foreign journalists hostilely. Reporters are often banned from entering the country, and they have also been detained for their work. Our safest bet for gathering information is to speak to people in the area who may have ties to the prison.
Walking down a second pathway that runs alongside Yingshan, the village of Sanjia comes into view. Sanjia is a small village that abuts the prison grounds. In the village, crumbling homes stand alongside gated, modern ones painted gold. Locals say this is because the land is being bought out, and that the village is grappling with redevelopment.
Each person we speak to have a personal connection to the prison. They know people imprisoned, have a family member working inside, or have worked inside themselves. They tell us that guards who work in Yingshan are housed with their families in an apartment complex next to the prison. We realize this is the building with the parking lot filled with uniformed guards.
Zhenzhu, who asked that her surname not be used for fear of retribution from the government, can see the prison from her front door. A jovial woman, she has lived in the village for 14 years, moving to the area right after she was married. As we talk, we hear pigs squealing. Zhenzhu explains that those are her pigs, 100 of them, next door in a slaughterhouse she runs with her husband.
When the building of the prison commenced in 2007, Zhenzhu was three months pregnant, and her husband was employed as a construction worker on the project. By the time their daughter turned 3, the building was complete. Zhenzhu has visited the prison before, to see an inmate; Yingshan allows visits from family members under heavy security. She says its walls are buried so deep into the ground that “even if the prisoners want to break out by digging an underground tunnel, they can’t dig through.”
Zhenzhu recounts much of what her husband told her about his experience at Yingshan. For years following the construction, he would visit for maintenance checks and additional building; trucks were always driving fabric in and out of the prison. The trucks, he told Zhenzhu, were from factories located in the Guangdong province. Guangdong is home to an estimated 60,000 factories, which produce around a third of the world’s shoes and much of its textiles, apparel, and toys.
Everyone we speak to, Zhenzhu included, says they’ve seen labor inside the prison or have been told about it directly by inmates. None was familiar with Walmart goods being produced there, but some could confirm that women’s fashion is manufactured inside.
To those in the village, prison labor is not just common knowledge; it’s also necessary. They consider the prisoners “bad guys” who have committed horrible crimes. In their eyes, the labor is a good thing: It helps rehabilitate inmates and gets them to understand the value of work. But that work can come at a great cost. According to local hearsay and furthered by a published account from a woman who was married to a Yingshan prison guard, inmates have been known to kill themselves because of the poor conditions and forced labor.
Zhenzhu leads us around the edge of the village, to get a side view of the prison. She points to the building we first passed and tells us that’s where the inmates eat and sleep. She then points to a building farther in the distance on the left that looks almost exactly the same. It’s also painted cream, but with slightly larger white window frames; a yard obscured behind the prison wall separates the structures. The second building, she tells us, is for “the work.”
The Walmart note followed a tradition of hidden messages found by shoppers. In 2014, shoppers found labels stitched into several items of clothing in Primark stores across the UK. The labels, written in English, read: “forced to work exhausting hours” and “degrading sweatshop conditions.”
As the notes spread across social media, the fast-fashion company conducted an investigation and found the labels were fake. The company said the items were all made by different suppliers, in different factories, on different continents. They stressed it was impossible that the same labels, especially those written in English, would appear on all the items and that they believed the labels were part of an activist stunt carried out in the UK.
Though no one claimed credit for the labels, activist groups had been waging campaigns to protest Primark’s labor practices in the time leading up to their discovery. War on Want led a 2013 campaign against the company after more than 1,100 people died as a result of the Rana Plaza collapse. Primark, along with J.C. Penney and Joe Fresh, was among the retailers whose products were made in the Bangladeshi complex.
Almost all the messages that have been found in stores have come under public scrutiny, as they’re often suspected of being written and planted by activists.The handwriting, the language, and even the paper used for notes have pointed to activist work.For example, several notes and labels, like the Primark ones, were written in English. Many inmates and factory workers in China, as well as Bangladesh, come from poor backgrounds and are unlikely to have had the chance to learn English in school.
There have been, however, at least two instances in which actual workers have claimed the notes. In 2011, a shopper bought a box of Halloween decorations at a Oregon Kmart. She found a note inside the box, allegedly from a prisoner in China explaining that he had made the item under forced labor conditions.
Two years later, Zhang — a man who asked newsrooms to only use his surname for fear of being arrested and imprisoned again — claimed to be the writer of the note. He said he planted 20 such notes during the two years he spent in prison, with hopes they would reach American stores. His handwriting and modest English language proficiency matched those of the note, but even then, it wasn’t feasible to fully corroborate his story. As the New York Timeswrote, “it was impossible to know for sure whether there were perhaps other letter writers, one of whose messages might have reached Oregon.”
The second instance came in 2014, when a shopper in New York found a note in a Saks shopping bag she received when purchasing a pair of Hunter rain boots two years earlier. The note, written in English, claimed to have been written by a man in a Chinese prison; it also included his email address, photo, and name, which led to the finding of the alleged author, Tohnain Emmanuel Njong. Originally from Cameroon, he said he’d been teaching English in China when he was arrested in May 2011 and wrongly jailed for fraud charges.
In both cases, the final step of verification would be to confirm with the prisons mentioned in the notes that Zhang and Njong served sentences at their facilities and that forced labor occurs there. But since Chinese prisons refuse to provide comment on such stories, there’s little way of definitively confirming the prisoners’ accounts.
In 2017, the validity of hidden notes came into question yet again. Shoppers in Istanbul found tags inside clothing items in a Zara store that read: “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.”
It turned out Turkish workers, who produced the clothing for Zara in an Istanbul factory, planted the notes in protest. The factory where they had been employed closed down overnight, leaving them suddenly without jobs or a source of income. The workers wrote notes urging shoppers to pressure Zara into giving them the back pay they were owed. They then went to a Zara store in the center of Istanbul and hid the notes in the pockets of clothing being sold inside.
The Turkish workers didn’t come up with the idea of the notes on their own. The Clean Clothes Campaign and its alliance partner Labour Behind the Label (LBL), an organization that campaigns for garment workers’ rights, helped plan the action.
LBL and other campaign groups have organized “note droppings” like this in retail stores like Zara for many years. The notes describe how poor labor practices are behind the store’s items; LBL gathers information about these practices through its own reports and interviews.
“Dropping notes is an extension of leaving leaflets in stores,” says LBL’s director of policy Dominique Muller. “When we think we’re not getting movement from companies, we turn to confrontational tactics like this.”
LBL doesn’t worry that the notes they plant in stores could overshadow any potentially real notes found in stores. “These notes are just a drop in the ocean. They’re still new” — as an activism tool, that is — “and they will continue to have an impact.”
Finding Yingshan brought some answers about the validity of the note. For one, the prison named in the Walmart note exists. We heard firsthand accounts from locals who said forced labor does occur inside the prison as the note described. What we were told about the work is that the hours are long, the work is done indoors, and the labor involves manufacturing fashion items, which might include bags like the purse Christel bought in Arizona.
After Walmart issued its statement about their being “no way to verify the origin of the letter,” the company launched an internal investigation. It was found that the factory that made the purse didn’t adhere to Walmart’s standards, which stress the need for “labor to be voluntary” and state that “slave, child, underage, forced, bonded, or indentured labor will not be tolerated.” As a result, the company cut ties with the supplier, a decision the company only disclosed after it was contacted for this story. Walmart declined to clarify whether the supplier in question had contracted with Yingshan prison.
In a statement to Vox, a Walmart spokesperson wrote: “Walmart has strict standards for our suppliers, and they must tell us where our products are being made. Through our investigation into this matter, we found the supplier’s factory sent purses to be made at other factories in the region that were not disclosed to us. The supplier failed to follow our standards, so we stopped doing business with them. We take allegations like this seriously, and we are committed to a responsible and transparent supply chain. There are consequences for our suppliers when our standards are not followed.”
One last question did remain unanswered. Was the note written by an actual prisoner, or by an activist with knowledge of the conditions that produced the bag? Müller of the Laogai Research Foundation believes the note is indeed real.
The description and details referenced in the note, he says, mirror much of what he’s heard in interviews with former prisoners. He says the language, the style of writing, and the use of the phrase “horse cow goat pig dog” — a common expression in China that compares the treatment of prisoners to that of animals — add to its authenticity. He believes the writer of the note certainly risked his life to send his message.
Even if the note is real, though, what’s come to light during the reporting of this story is that the Walmart note won’t end forced labor in China. The government is not going to release a public statement condemning human rights abuses inside its prisons because of stories like this one. It doesn’t see forced labor as a human rights abuse; Chinese citizens who don’t support the practices risk arrest if they speak out, and so most won’t.
The pitfall of pinning reform on awareness is expecting a bad thing to end if enough people know about it. Very rarely does mass attention on an issue result in a tangible shift in how things work. If merely sharing information were enough, the countless viral stories about forced labor recounted here would have already resulted in widespread reform.
Still, the incremental change the Walmart note led to — however impossibly small, however seemingly inconsequential — is a step. It has to be.
Additional reporting by Channing Huang.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)
IMF cuts global growth forecasts, citing escalating trade tensions
15:42 UTC+8, 2018-10-09
The International Monetary Fund has cut growth forecasts for the global economy this year and next year, as escalating trade tensions could dent business sentiment and trigger financial market volatility.
In its updated World Economic Outlook report released on the IMF’s website on Monday, the Washington-based international lender said global economic growth is projected to reach 3.7 percent in 2018 and 2019, 0.2 percentage points lower than its previous forecasts in July.
“Downside risks to global growth have risen in the past six months and the potential for upside surprises has receded,” the report said, adding the economic expansion has become “less balanced” and “may have peaked” in some major economies.
The IMF maintained its growth forecast of 2.4 percent for advanced economies in 2018, while downgrading its forecast for those economies in 2019 to 2.1 percent, 0.1 percentage points lower than its July forecast.
Growth in emerging markets and developing economies is projected to reach 4.7 percent in 2018 and 2019, 0.2 percentage points and 0.4 percentage points, respectively, lower than the previous forecasts in July.
The IMF kept its growth forecast for China at 6.6 percent this year, while shaving its projection for China’s growth next year to 6.2 percent, down 0.2 percentage points from three months ago.
As the United States unilaterally imposed additional tariffs on some of its main trade partners in the past several months, the IMF warned that “escalating trade tensions and the potential shift away from a multilateral, rules-based trading system” are key threats to the global outlook.
“An intensification of trade tensions, and the associated rise in policy uncertainty, could dent business and financial market sentiment, trigger financial market volatility, and slow investment and trade,” the report said.
“Higher trade barriers would disrupt global supply chains and slow the spread of new technologies, ultimately lowering global productivity and welfare,” the report argued, adding more import restrictions would push up the prices of consumer goods, thus harming low-income households disproportionately.
The report comes as global financial ministers and central bankers gather in Bali, Indonesia, this week to attend the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank. Officials are expected to have a heated discussion on the trade tensions.
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, last week called on economies around the world to “de-escalate and resolve the current trade disputes” as global economic growth outlook has dimmed.
“The stakes are high because the fracturing of global value chains could have a devastating effect on many countries,” Lagarde said, urging countries to work together to build a global trade system that is “stronger, fairer, and fit for the future.”
Source: Xinhua Editor: Wang Qingchu
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Folks: How Do We Personally Believe In The Independence Of OUR OWN: Supreme Court?
Well Folks, do We? This is a case where 1/3 of Our National Government is in the hands and minds of just 9 of Our own People. I personally would not want to have to be a judge, at any level. Not with all the sins that I know that I have committed. I don’t want to have to have a job of being a Judge where what the 9 of you say, is final. Folks, that’s just like being one step away, or below, God! I am not saying that this Job can’t be done, but to be Truly Independent of the Other 2 Branches of Our Government, at every level is necessary. To me, and I know that I could be wrong, but I believe that in Our Country’s Supreme Court Job Description, that Job Description is to make sure that all Laws are Constitutional! Now again, do the Nine Folks we now have on The Nations Top Court realize the weight upon each of them to be in charge of 1/3 of Our Government? Personally, there is no way, no amount of money that could get me to want that Job. Think of the pressure on all 9 of these folks to be, Honest. Has Our Nations Supreme Court become nothing but pawns of Big Politics, and Big Money? Do you have the Intelligence, and the Morals, do you Mr. Kavanaugh? What are you walking into Mr. Kavanaugh, do you really know? Well folks, as a very dear friend of mine used to say once in a while, “we shall see what we shall see.” Fore without an independent Supreme Court, there is no Democracy and as little as 9 people holds in their hands the weight of 1/3 of the Constitutional Government. Their sort of like those “Super Delegates” the Democrats been hosting, aren’t they? Except if you can totally control one of these 3 Branches of our Government, 9 people could control our Country. How much weight is on Mr. Kavanaugh? How much weight is on all 9 of these people? As I said earlier, I wouldn’t want this job no matter what the pay. When we add in the reality that another 1/3 of Our Government is in the hands of just One Person. Folks this means that 2/3 of Our whole Government is the Hands of 10 people. That is too much power if those positions aren’t filled with quality persons, now who decides what “Quality” is. Now Folks, does this help you see why I would not want to ever have to be in the place of one of these nine Folks.
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When The Poor Serve No Need We Will Be Exterminated
Earlier I posted an article that came from the Government of China, the article was in several of their news outlets, the article stated that by the year 2027 in China’s Financial district alone that AI will cause the loss of 2.3 million jobs. Remember that their current President for life Mr. Xi Jinping is a devout follower of Chairman Mao. When Chairman Mao was in charge in China their country’s population was about one billion people and his policies were to let about half of the Nation starve to death. One of the main reason he gave was the Central Government’s inability to not only be able to control them but also their inability to feed them. The population of the United States and of Russia combined today is about 470 million people, Mao was speaking of letting 500 million of his own people starve to death. There are many reasons that China went to their ‘one child’ policies for several decades, these were two of their top reasons.
There are those in China and elsewhere in the world who will argue that these things could not happen today because we are now much more civilized and to this I have to say, O really. The United States is without a doubt a ‘surveillance State’ today, if you think otherwise you are being quite naive. There are good things about living in constant surveillance though, I have no doubt that the FBI, CIA, and the NSA have stopped quite a few attacks upon the American people because of their secretive work. Yet how much freedom do the people give up for the sake of being safer? The more a government knows, the more easily they can then totally control the lives of the people. When it comes to governing a Nation the main building block of their power is their ability to control the people. Lose control on the streets, they lose their grip on their power.
Now let’s get back to financials within a government. Unless you are oblivious to reality you should know that the tail that wags the dog, is money. Back in the mid 1970’s I worked in a Chrysler Assembly Plant in norther Illinois for just a couple of weeks (I couldn’t stand the thought of working on an assembly line putting cushions in-car seats for at least 37 years) so I quit. What I did notice was how many people worked on the different ‘lines’. As the cars went down the assembly line you had many people doing manual labor like spot welding and putting windshields into the car frames. Go there now, see how many jobs are still there and how many are being done by automation, the job loss is staggering. Even think of stores like Wal-Mart who are getting rid of their cashiers in favor of automation and self-checkouts. Now think about self driving cars, trucks and even trains. Even companies like Uber are killing the Taxi industry. What do all of these things have in common folks? Companies are trying to get rid of human employees and the reason is simple, more profits for the top end persons in these companies.
If you are old enough (I am 62) do you remember when we used to hear how technologies were going to allow worker to only have to work 4 days a week because with technologies we could get 5 days work done in 4 days? Some people were foolish enough to think that their employer was going to pay you for 5 days work even though you only worked 4 days. Reality was that the employees still worked 5 days a week but the companies demanded 6 or 7 days of finished product in the 5 days, for no more pay. Then of course the companies could ‘let go’ some of their workforce because they didn’t need them anymore. The employment issue has just grown from there as more and more computers and machines have taken over jobs that humans used to do.
I have spoken of the world Stock Markets before, how I believe that they are nothing but a Ponzi scheme and a curse to the working class, the working poor who labor in these corporations who are on these ‘Markets.’ Some will argue that throughout the years that they have been buying and selling stocks and bonds that they have been able to amass a ‘nice little retirement fund’, yet in reality all of a persons profits that they have amassed over the past thirty years can easily be wiped out in one or two hours on this same ‘Market scheme.’ Little people like us working class folks at best get the crumbs that fall off of the ‘Boss Mans’ plate. We are no more than dogs licking their floor and their shoes. What takes you or I 30 years to amass the ‘connected’ make in one 5 minute transaction.
When there are lets say 4 billion working age poor people (ages 10-75) but there are only 2 billion actual jobs that need a humans hands to do, what will happen to the other 2 billion people, and all of their families, all of the children? The Republicans in the U.S Congress often refer to things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Aid For Dependent Children, unemployment checks, VA Disability checks and even the VA itself as “entitlements” as “Welfare”, things that must be “defunded”, “stopped.” Why is this? The answer is simple, it takes away from the money that flows to the top end of the financial class. The Republicans say that they are the “Christian right” yet their actions are as anti-Christian as you can get in American politics. Do not get me wrong, I am no fan of the Democratic Party either with their platform of murdering babies (pro-abortion). Both ‘Parties’ are pure evil, they will both do everything that they can to make sure that the American people never get to have a viable 3rd or 4th political party and the reason is simple, that would take away from their power and they aren’t about to let that happen.
When there is not enough jobs for the poor people to do, not even slave labor jobs, who is going to house and feed these people if they can’t get an income? Is the top 1% going to just ‘give’ these people money from their bank accounts? When there is 7 billion people on the planet but only enough food or clean drinking water for 6 billion, who is going to get that food and clean water, the poorest of the poor people? Really? If you really think so, how naive you are my friend! In this new world that is on our doorstep, indeed kicking down our doors right now, you are either the lead dog, or you are daily looking up the lead dogs ass, drinking their piss for water and licking up their shit for food. In this regard, for the poor, this new world that we are all hurtling into, thousands, then millions, then billions of people will be fighting for a position behind these lead dogs just so they can stay alive. Those who refuse will not be fed and housed, we will be exterminated!
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Lebanon Stresses Compliance With US Measures Against Hezbollah
Friday, 28 September, 2018 – 09:45
Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh delivers a speech during the plenary session of the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in Tokyo. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao
Beirut – Nazeer Rida
The new US draft-law on Hezbollah is moving to an advanced stage involving media funders, economic and social institutions linked to the group, in what seems to be “an attempt to isolate the supporters of the party, which is facing increased financial pressure,” according to experts.
The new draft-law imposes sanctions on the supporters of “Bayt al-Mal” and “Jihad Al-Bina”, which is involved in construction works, as well as the party’s media institutions, and includes advertisers who broadcast ads through Hezbollah’s channels.
While the bill seeks to “increase pressure on banks dealing with the group,” Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Thursday in response to a question about his willingness to enforce the sanctions: “We, as the central bank, issued circulars a while ago, and there aren’t new notices.” He explained and these circulars make Lebanon comply with the laws of countries that have currency or banks dealings with it.
He pointed out in a radio interview that those circulars were sufficient enough whatever the new sanctions, adding that there was nothing new on this subject.
The US House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass a bill calling for new and harsh sanctions against Hezbollah. The new sanctions aim to limit the party’s ability to raise funds and recruit members, as well as increase pressure on the banks that deal with the group and the countries that support it, especially Iran. The sanctions also prohibit anyone who supports the party materially and in other means from entering the United States.
According to Dr. Sami Nader, Director of Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs (LISA), the new bill shows that the circle of sanctions is widening, since it started with Hezbollah’s officials, then reached the entities associated with the party, and today includes the supporters of the group’s institutions.
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The International Jew, the four-volume, virulently anti-Semitic tract, written and self-published by Ford Motor Company founder, Henry Ford Sr. in the early twenties and said to have inspired Adolf Hitler (may his name be erased) to write Mein Kampf, is partially true. And though I’m certain it wasn’t the intention of the author, I must tell you, the ‘partly true’ part of the book left me feeling more proud to be Jewish than anything I’ve read since… well, perhaps since Leon Uris’s Exodus.
It’s a well-established idea in Judaism that nothing can exist if it doesn’t contain at least a modicum—some homeopathic dose—of pure truth. This past summer I spent a Shabbat at a friend’s house in Minneapolis and it was by complete surprise that I happened on a bit of that truth. As they always do in the northern latitudes of Minnesota, that mid-July Shabbat day seemed like it would never end. Sometime around 7:00 p.m., with the sun still high on the horizon, I reached up and discovered a dog-eared copy of The International Jew on a crowded bookshelf.
I grew up in Minnesota, a place that for all its liberal leanings was the original home of the National Socialist Movement in 1974. Knowing this fact, and having felt acutely the effects of anti-Semitism as a boy, I was curious.
For historical context, just think what it might have felt like to be Jewish if Apple founder, Steve Jobs, had used his economic power and social standing principally to spread Jew-hatred. Like Steve Jobs, Henry Ford was wildly popular and a much-beloved figure among most Americans at the time The International Jew was first published. And imagine if Steve Jobs had written a similarly anti-Semitic screed and put a copy of it on every new iPad!
As frightening as that sounds, Henry Ford did much the same thing in his day. Ford used his money and influence to finance The Dearborn Independent, a nationally distributed newspaper, dedicated in large part to the propagation of his anti-Semitic worldview, in which he first published excerpts from The International Jew. With a circulation that reached 900,000 by 1925, it was second only to The New York Daily News in scope. The effect of Ford’s widespread hate mongering on Jews, both in America and worldwide, was so devastating it is nearly impossible to overstate.
The International Jew is rife with outlandish proclamations such as:
Jazz is a Jewish creation. The mush, slush, the sly suggestion, the abandoned sensuousness of sliding notes, are of Jewish origin.
But alongside them, and the malevolent ignorance of the book’s overall conceit, in which a mysterious cabal of super-Jews are using their devilish ingenuity and international reach to destroy the world—there was one idea that Ford kept coming back to:
There is lacking in the Gentile a certain quality of working-togetherness of intense raciality, which characterizes the Jew. It is nothing to a Gentile that another man is a Gentile; it is next to everything to a Jew that the man at his door is another Jew.
It was as if that very notion had pained him, not just in some general or academic sense, but personally. Ford couldn’t seem to wrap his head around why Jews—Jews who’d never met one another, Jews who didn’t share a common language or a cultural heritage, could be so immediately at home with one another. How was it, he wondered, that the Jews, a people that had been in exile for thousands of years and virtually cut off from each other, could create such an immediate sense of trust and familiarity?
What Ford could never fathom was what we Jews know as “Ahavat Yisrael,” the innate love a Jew has for a fellow Jew. This, of course, is not to say that a Jew doesn’t have, or is not capable of having, G‑d forbid, love for others. In the same way that I love my brother more than my closest friend, and my closest friend more than a mere acquaintance, this hierarchy of loves is actually instructive in how to love in a larger sense.
But what is the glue that binds one Jew to another? Is it a cultural or culinary connection like a love for the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer or gefilte fish? Or is it a shared language—Yiddish or Ladino, for example? What I have come to understand is that the Torah itself is at the root of the deep, almost mystical affinity of one Jew for another.
Now some might say they don’t accept its Divine origins, some may dispute the present-day relevance of certain of its laws, still others may consign the entire Torah to mere historical artifact. But one thing is indisputable: Unlike any other people on the planet, the Jewish nation has remained intact throughout its 2,700 years of diasporic existence. I believe it is only possible because we were given the Torah, a Testimony of laws, and highly specified codes of morality, that we have been able to accomplish this miraculous feat.
But even with all our differences, whether political, religious, or cultural, when the Torah is removed from the ark on the holiday of Simchat Torah, the day we celebrate having been given this precious and unifying document, we will rush as one to kiss it, to embrace it, and to dance with it—as if the Torah were a beautiful child.
In that moment we won’t be holding parchment scrolls; we will be carrying history itself. We will dance, not just with our friends and community members, but also with our grandparents, many of whom died to uphold the Torah.
And when we raise our voices to sing on Simchat Torah, we will sing for our children, those born and those yet to be born, and for brothers and sisters so distant it’s unlikely we will ever meet them—and perhaps most of all, we will sing for departed loved ones who can no longer sing for themselves. On Simchat Torah, we will celebrate the joy of having been given nothing less than the embodiment of God’s Will.
Throughout the millennia it has been our shared sense of mission to that “Will,” along with the connection to one another that sense of mission inspires, which has been the cause of so much enmity among our adversaries.
But on Simchat Torah, and during the coming year, I won’t be dwelling on hatred. Instead, I will focus my mind and heart on kindness, on unity, and on a renewed sense of Jewish pride —a pride that emerged from the unlikeliest of sources —the unadulterated animus of The International Jew, among the most ruthlessly anti-Semitic works of the 20th century.
Peter Himmelman is a Grammy and Emmy nominated songwriter, composer and author. His latest book, Let Me Out (Unlock your creative mind and bring your ideas to life) was released fall 2016 on Random House.