Adonis Diaries


Got to stare at ugly pictures of handicapped soldiers and civilians “collateral damages”

It’s impolite to stare.

But when it comes to severely injured soldiers, maybe we don’t look enough; or maybe we’d rather not see wounded veterans at all.

That’s the message you get from photographer David Jay’s Unknown Soldier series.

Jay spent three years taking portraits of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but before that — for nearly 20 years — he was a fashion photographer.

His stylish, artful images appeared in magazines like Vogue and Cosmopolitan.

“The fashion stuff is beautiful and sexy — and completely untrue,” he says.

Truth became the focus of Jay’s work for the first time about 10 years ago, when he started The SCAR Project, a series of portraits of women, naked from the waist up, with mastectomy scars.

Around the time he was taking those photos, he was also trying to comprehend the news coming from Iraq and Afghanistan.

May 25, 2015 3:43 AM ET

“We hear about ‘this number of men were killed’ and ‘this many were injured,'” Jay says, “and we think of them — maybe they got shot — or we don’t really picture what these injured men look like.”

So Jay visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C., and one of the first injured soldiers he met there was Capt. Nicholas Vogt.

In 2011, an explosive device detonated under Vogt’s feet in Afghanistan, nearly killing him. His legs had to be amputated.

(Thousands around the world are being exploded every day by cluster bombs and land mines, furnished by the US and England. England provided cluster bombs to Israel, 3 days before cease fire in 2006, in order to prevent people from returning home. 10 years later, the UN are still demining south Lebanon))

“I had never seen anything like it,” Jay says. “It appeared that he ended at his waist.”

He asked Vogt if he would be willing to be photographed.

“And Nicholas was very kind and said, ‘Listen, I understand what you’re doing but I don’t think I can take part in that, certainly [not] right now,'” Jay recalls.

About a year later, Jay was back at Walter Reed and from across the room he heard someone yell, “Hey, photographer!”

This time, Vogt wanted to participate. He’d been working hard at his recovery and seeing results. He was swimming a lot and he had a girlfriend (a nurse at Walter Reed who is now his fiancé). Vogt gave Jay permission to take his picture, but he had some parameters.

“I wanted to make sure there was action, it was movement,” Vogt says. “Because I didn’t want to portray myself as someone that’s just waiting for medical retirement and going to be stationary for the rest of my life.”

David Jay delivered. In his portrait of Vogt, he captures that sensation of jumping into a swimming pool and feeling your body descend to the bottom. Vogt’s arms are stretched out and his eyes are tightly shut. Beneath his black swim trunks, there is nothing.

Vogt doesn’t know how other people will react to the portrait, but he’s glad he did it. “I just know I felt fulfilled afterwards,” he says. “I felt like it represented me as a person. Yeah, I was happy with the result.”

Army Spc. Jerral Hancock sits for a portrait with his son Julius. It is believed that Hancock was trapped under the wreckage of his Army tank in Iraq for half an hour before he was rescued. Courtesy of David Jay/Unknown Soldier hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of David Jay/Unknown Soldier

Army Spc. Jerral Hancock sits for a portrait with his son Julius. It is believed that Hancock was trapped under the wreckage of his Army tank in Iraq for half an hour before he was rescued.


Other portraits in Jay’s Unknown Soldier series are more graphic.

Take Army Spc. Jerral Hancock: On his 21st birthday, a roadside bomb hit the tank Hancock was driving in Iraq. The explosion sent shrapnel into his spine, paralyzing him.

Jay’s photographs of Hancock show him with his young son — in one, their eyes are fixed on each other; in another, they’re looking at the camera.

In both, the veteran is bare-chested, revealing his tattoos and the mangled skin and bone where his left arm was amputated.

Then there’s Sgt. Joel Tavera: When a rocket hit his Humvee in Iraq, he received third-degree burns across two-thirds of his body, including almost all of his face.

Jay believes these wounds belong to all of us: “You can imagine how many times each of these men and women have heard a parent tell their child, ‘Don’t look. Don’t stare at him. That’s rude.’

I take these pictures so that we can look; we can see what we’re not supposed to see. And we need to see them because we created them.”

Jay believes seeing is one step closer to understanding.

The Library of Congress has acquired images from his Unknown Soldier collection as part of its visual documentation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Patsy Z shared this link

As our lives go on as usual today, lets remember our vets, who’s lives are changed forever– and often lost.

Photographer David Jay says, “I take these pictures so that we can look;
we can see what we’re not supposed to see. And we need to see them because we…

Rogue narcotics officer offers blistering testimony

In his 24 years as a Philadelphia narcotics investigator, Jeffrey Walker testified at countless court hearings, providing the evidence that sent dozens of drug dealers to prison.

As long as the Narcotics Field Unit kept the headline-grabbing drug busts coming, he told a federal jury, its supervisors never asked too many questions.

We produced big jobs. They liked that,” he said. “As for the bosses, it’s nothing but a dog and pony show.”

Former Philly cop Jeffrey Walker

He took the witness stand again Tuesday – this time to implicate himself and 6 of his former colleagues as rogue cops who terrorized the streets with gang-like efficiency.

Over five hours, Walker painted a devastating portrait of the tactics members of his elite narcotics squad employed to keep drugs off the street, the bosses happy, and their own wallets fat.

As he told it, they lied in court hearings, planted evidence, and conducted dozens of illegal searches, asking for warrants after the fact.

They beat up drug suspects and pocketed their money.

And over beers after work, they would proudly compare themselves to dirty cops in the movie Training Day or the corrupt Los Angeles drug squad in the TV series The Shield.

“We used to joke,” the 46-year-old disgraced officer turned star government witness said, ” ‘That’s all Hollywood. This is real life. They ain’t got nothing on us.’ ”

Slump-shouldered, paunchy, and dressed in a drab prison jumpsuit, Walker cut a far different figure on the witness stand than the dreadlocked enforcer that others have described from their encounters with him in his prime.

With his testimony, prosecutors sought to establish the backbone of their case against Officers Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, Michael Spicer, Linwood Norman, and John Speiser.

Walker began cooperating with the FBI following his own arrest in a 2013 FBI sting.

After he was caught planting drugs and robbing a suspect’s house, he said, he flagged for agents the 20 questionable drug busts that now make up the case against his former colleagues.

Asked Tuesday why he agreed to turn on the rest of the squad, Walker replied, “I decided I wanted to save myself.”

That answer is likely to provide ample ammunition as defense lawyers get their chance to cross-examine him Wednesday. Already, they have referred to Walker in court as a “despicable, rotten liar and thief,” and a “narcissistic, amoral creep.”

Under questioning Tuesday from Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen McCartney, Walker matter-of-factly walked jurors through his career as a rogue cop – from the first time he pocketed drug money as a young officer in West Philadelphia’s 16th District to the bigger hauls and bigger paydays after he joined the Narcotics Field Unit.

They operated under the leadership of Liciardello, he said, who directed them to a certain type of drug dealer – “white boys, college-boy types, khaki pants” – whom they could easily intimidate and slap around.

“I was very loyal to the guys,” he said. “I would lie for them. I would steal for them. I would abuse people for them. I wanted to be part of the squad.”

Much of Walker’s testimony corroborated stories told by the government witnesses that preceded him.

Describing a 2007 raid in which members of the field unit are accused of stealing $97,000 from drug dealer Robert Kushner’s City Avenue apartment, Walker recalled a moment that Kushner described in detail during his own time on the stand.

Soon after entering the apartment, Liciardello spotted a photo on Kushner’s wall of mobster John Gotti, the Gambino crime family’s “Teflon Don.”

Walker recalled Liciardello’s calling Kushner in jail to say: “You ain’t no gangster.”

In describing other incidents, however, Walker occasionally contradicted previous testimony.

Earlier Tuesday, Howard Wilson told jurors that in 2006, Liciardello and others took $38,000 in drug money his nephew had stashed in a backpack hidden in his basement clothes dryer.

In Walker’s retelling, the money was found in a Timberland shoe box stuffed into the appliance.

And though he explained his testimony as a way to help himself in his own case, McCartney’s questioning revealed another possible motive for Walker’s extensive cooperation – a bitter feud with Liciardello.

By 2009, Walker said, he felt himself being squeezed out of the squad.

First, the others refused to work with him, and he was partnered with Norman. Once Norman left the squad, Walker spent most days patrolling the streets by himself – a violation of police policy.

He became the target of cruel jokes.

They teased him about his messy divorce and took photos of him when he fell asleep on surveillance jobs. After he underwent gastric bypass surgery, they called him names such as “Staple Stomach” and “Zip Mouth.”

That tension came to a head in 2013, Walker said, when Internal Affairs investigators began investigating a complaint from a city prosecutor about Liciardello’s behavior in court. Walker, who had testified in the same case, was called in to answer questions.

Normally, when one of the squad’s members was brought before Internal Affairs, a supervisor would call in a favor and get a heads-up about the complaint so squad members could work out a believable cover story, Walker said.

This time, Walker didn’t wait for that meeting. He told investigators that Liciardello and the rest were dirty, but didn’t share details.

Somehow Liciardello found out, Walker testified, and that night unleashed his wrath. In a series of text messages shared with jurors, Liciardello berated Walker for the betrayal.

“You are dead to everyone in this squad,” Liciardello wrote. “The problem you have is you’re now a rat. I hope you die.”

Despite their falling out, there were still times Walker felt desperate to win back Liciardello’s trust, he said.

He told jurors he once lied in court about a drug buy to cover one of Liciardello’s mistakes.

Asked by McCartney, the prosecutor, whether he ever stopped to think about how his false testimony affected the men his lies sent to jail, Walker responded: “I didn’t think of them as being humans. They were criminals. It never crossed my mind.”

When did you start to think differently, McCartney asked.

Walker replied: “Since being in jail myself.”

Walker will return to the stand Wednesday to face what is expected to be a highly charged cross-examination.





Recollecting Lebanon civil war on April 13, 1975. 

A constat of failure: No victors but the brute militia leaders ruled during and after the 15-years civil war was officially over.

Guerre du Liban: Mémoires partagées, mémoires orphelines

Des combattants lors de la guerre civile libanaise

Des combattants lors de la guerre civile libanaise

13 avril 1975, le 11 septembre 2001 libanais, chacun apporte son témoignage du début de la guerre civile, une pierre à l’édifice mémoriel.

Certains évoquent une enfance volée, d’autres, le départ loin d’un pays aimé, le sort de proches disparus et dont on est pour l’heure encore sans nouvelle, ou simplement morts enterrant avec eux un avenir qui se promettait d’être radieux.

Par ci ou par là, sur les réseaux sociaux, ou sur les pages personnelles, on peut lire le récit de ce jour funeste où a débuté la guerre civile de 15 ans, qui fera entre 150 000 et 250 000 morts et toujours aujourd’hui, on compte 17 000 disparus. Nombreux ont été effectivement les déracinés de cette terre qui iront briller à l’étranger au lieu d’accomplir leurs destinées au Liban même.

Nombreux ont été blessés, amputés d’une partie de leur chair ou de leurs proches, douleur aujourd’hui qu’on ne voit pourtant pas assez, il faut cacher ses cicatrices comme on a détruit les témoignages de la guerre et ces bâtiments criblés de balles et d’éclats du centre-ville de la capitale pour mieux oublier, au lieu de se recueillir et d’affronter ses peurs.

Certains affrontaient les bombes pour sauver les vies comme les volontaires de la Croix-Rouge qu’on ne remerciera jamais assez et d’autres les lançaient sur les civils et on ne maudira jamais assez également. C’était le choix du courage et de l’abnégation ou le choix de la mort.

Ce 13 avril 1975, 40 ans après, beaucoup n’étaient pas encore nés, puisque 60% des libanais ont moins de 40 ans.

Certains ont grandi ensuite et ont subi sans comprendre le conflit fratricide, d’autres sont nés bien plus tard et ne peuvent pas imaginer les souffrances subies.

Chaque témoignage est bénéfique à la transmission de la mémoire, mais il reste que la mémoire n’est malheureusement pas institutionnalisée et donc commune pour toutes et pour tous.

Chacun reste sur ses histoires transmises à ses proches, une histoire qui amène parfois des incompréhensions face aux autres qui étaient souvent des protagonistes et des adversaires selon les partis auxquels ils appartenaient.

Ils se rejettent par conséquence, aujourd’hui la responsabilité du conflit comme ils se combattaient hier.

L’absence d’une mémoire commune contribue aussi aujourd’hui à la poursuite de la mentalité de la guerre civile, une guerre devenue une écriture en plusieurs versions antagonistes du même récit ou chacun rejette sur les autres les fautes, mais ou les versions différentes tonnent comme les balles des Kalachnikov qui frappaient les murs.

Il ne s’agit plus aujourd’hui de faire témoignage à part, de raconter sa version des différentes phases de la guerre civile, mais de pousser les institutions civiles, politiques et institutionnelles libanaises à se tendre enfin la main, à mettre non pas de coté l’Histoire, mais au contraire à la mettre à l’honneur, à saluer ses adversaires d’hier, morts pour des idéaux, même si ces idéaux ne sont pas partagés, parce que ce conflit n’était pas le conflit du Liban mais le conflit des autres importés au Liban. On n’était que des pions, mais cette phase n’est malheureusement pas terminée aujourd’hui.

Outre le deuil non accompli par les familles qui réclament leurs proches disparus sans trop d’espoir qu’ils puissent toujours être vivants et de connaitre les derniers moments de leurs vies, une histoire difficile à reconstituer et qui malheureusement se révèle souvent impossible, faute de voir accomplir une justice, la guerre civile se poursuit aujourd’hui dans les mentalités des gens par les conflits parfois sectaires que traversent la région d’ou la nécessaire interprétation commune de notre histoire.

L’objectif doit être qu’une nation libanaise naisse, dans sa définition moderne, c’est à dire, que des objectifs communs puissent permettre à des individus, ici des libanais, de choisir non pas de coexister mais de vivre ensemble. Il s’agira de partager non pas seulement une langue ou un territoire, mais aussi une Histoire, un même état et non 19 communautés, et les mêmes lois, la même justice.

Il s’agit aujourd’hui de promouvoir non plus des nations ethniques ou religieuses qui nous séparent en fin de compte mais une seule nation civique. Au lieu de cela, les criminels, autrefois vus comme des voyous, se pavanent souvent dans les institutions, pour eux, la guerre civile est une histoire d’une réussite personnelle, quid du sang versé par les autres.

Et c’est ce manque de mémoire commune qui perpétue parfois des lignées d’assassins au pouvoir au lieu d’une élimination pacifique par des élections via le vote du peuple. Au lieu de cela, ils se font réélire depuis 40 ans, perpétuant le conflit qui les a mis au-devant. Une tragédie dont nous sommes condamnés à revivre les rediffusions années après année. Malheureusement, il ne s’agit pas d’une fiction mais d’une réalité quotidienne.

40 ans après, c’est sur un constat d’échec que malheureusement chaque témoignage sonne le glas de ce rêve d’une et unique nation rassemblée faute à ce que l’Etat et les autorités aient pu instituer un récit commun de cette période pour l’immense majorité qui n’a pas pu connaitre ce 13 avril 1975.

François el Bacha

L’opinion de François el Bacha:

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40 ans après, c’est sur un constat d’échec que malheureusement chaque témoignage sonne le glas de ce rêve d’une et unique nation rassemblée faute à…

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Children in cocoa production

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Boy collecting cocoa after beans have dried

The widespread use of children in cocoa production is controversial, not only for the concerns about child labor and exploitation, but also because up to 12,000 of the 200,000 children working in Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s biggest producer of cocoa,[1] may be victims of trafficking or slavery.[2]

Most attention on this subject has focused on West Africa, which collectively supplies 69 percent of the world’s cocoa,[3] and Côte d’Ivoire in particular, which supplies 35% of the world’s cocoa.[3]

Thirty percent of children under age 15 in sub-Saharan Africa are child laborers, mostly in agricultural activities including cocoa farming.[4]

It is estimated that more than 1.8 million children in West Africa are involved in growing cocoa.[5]

Major chocolate producers, such as Nestle, buy cocoa at commodities exchanges where Ivorian cocoa is mixed with other cocoa.[6]

Production and consumption statistics[edit]

Cocoa bean output in 2012

In Ghana, the cocoa industry began in the late 19th century[10] and in Côte d’Ivoire it began in the early 20th century.[11]

Ghana became the largest cocoa producer in the world in 1910.[10]

By 1980 Côte d’Ivoire overtook Ghana as the biggest producer.[11] In both countries, the majority of farms are small and family owned. The family members, including the children, are often expected to work on the farms.[12]

In the 2008–2009 growing year (which runs October through September[13]), there were 3.54 million tonnes of cocoa beans produced.[3]

African nations produced 2.45 million tonnes (69%), Asia and Oceania 0.61 million tonnes (17%) and the Americas 0.48 million tonnes (14%).[3] Two African nations, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, produce more than half of the world’s cocoa, with 1.23 and 0.73 million tonnes respectively (35% and 21%, respectively).[3]

Different metrics used for chocolate consumption.

The Netherlands has the highest monetary amount of cocoa bean imports (US$2.1 billion); it is also one of the main ports into Europe.[3]

The United States has highest amount of cocoa powder imports ($220 million); the US has a large amount of cocoa complementary products.[3]

The United Kingdom has the highest amount of retail chocolate ($1.3 billion) and is one of the biggest chocolate consumption per capita markets.[3]

Cocoa plantations in Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Malaysia provide 80% of the world with chocolate, according to CorpWatch.[3] Chocolate producers around the world have been pressured to “verify that their chocolate is not the product of child labor or slavery.”[4]

Children in cocoa harvest and processing[edit]

Cocoa pods in various stages of ripening

Cocoa trees are treated with pesticides and fungicides.[14]

Cocoa harvest is not restricted to one period per year and occurs over a period of several months to the whole year.[15] Pods are harvested at multiple times during the harvest season because they do not all ripen at once.[15]

Pod ripening is judged by pod color, and ripe pods are harvested from the trunk and branches of the cocoa tree with a curved knife on a long pole.[15] The pods are opened and wet beans are removed.[14][15] Wet beans are transported to a facility so they can be fermented and dried.[14][16]

Many of these tasks could be hazardous when performed by children, according to the ILO.[9] Mixing and applying chemicals can be hazardous due to pesticide contamination,[14][17] especially because no protective clothing is worn during application.[16]

Clearing vegetation and harvesting pods can be hazardous because these tasks are often done using machetes, which can cause lacerations.[14] This skill is part of normal development in children 15 to 17 years old, but is a higher risk in younger children.[16] Many have wounds on their legs where they have cut themselves.[18] Transport of the wet beans can also be hazardous due to long transport distances and heavy loads; hernias and physical injuries can occur.[16][17]

The director of the Save the Children Fund described “young children carrying 6 kilograms (13 lb) of cocoa sacks so heavy that they have wounds all over their shoulders.”[19]

In 2002, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture investigated the prevalence of child labor in the cocoa industry.[2]

They found 284,000 children working in hazardous conditions in West Africa.[2] Of this, 153,000 children applied pesticides without protective equipment, others picked pods and opened them to get the beans; 64% of the children were younger than 14 and 40% of the children were girls.[2]

Children often began working at 6 am, worked 12-hour days and were beaten regularly

Education of child laborers[edit]

Child laborers are less likely to attend school. They are kept out of school because families need their help on the farms,[18] and 12-hour workdays[2] make it difficult to attend school

. In Côte d’Ivoire, 34 percent of children on cocoa farms attended school compared to 64 percent of children who did not work on farms.[2] Only 33 percent of children from immigrant cocoa workers attended school, while 71 percent of the local children attended school.[2]

Child slavery and trafficking[edit]

In 1998, UNICEF reported that Ivorian farmers used enslaved children—many from surrounding countries.[20] A 2000 BBC documentary described child slavery on commercial cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire.[2][21] In 2001, the US State Department estimated there were 15,000 child slaves in cocoa, cotton, and coffee farms in Côte d’Ivoire,[22] and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association acknowledged that child slavery is used in the cocoa harvest.[22]

Malian migrants have long worked on cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire,[23] but in 2000 cocoa prices had dropped to a 10-year low and some farmers stopped paying their employees.[23] The Malian counsel had to rescue some boys who had not been paid for five years and who were beaten if they tried to run away.[23]

Malian officials believed that 15,000 children, some as young as 11 years old, were working in Côte d’Ivoire in 2001.[19] These children were often from poor families or the slums and were sold for “just a few dollars” to work in other countries.[19]

Parents were told the children would find work and send money home, but once the children left home, they often worked in conditions resembling slavery.[2] In other cases, children begging for food were lured from bus stations and sold as slaves.[24]

In 2002, Côte d’Ivoire had 12,000 children with no relatives nearby, which suggested they were trafficked,[2] likely from neighboring Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo.[25] According to a 2009 snowball sampling study, the majority of those with childhood cocoa labor experience were trafficked (75% from Burkina Faso and 63% from Mali).[26]

The majority of those who were trafficked had no interaction with police, and 0.5 percent had any contact from institutions that provided social services.[27] Western African nations of Cameroon,[28] Côte d’Ivoire,[29] Ghana[30] and Mali[31] are the 2009 US State Department‘s Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking in part due to the trafficking of children in cocoa production.

Burkina Faso[32] and Togo[33] are rated at Tier 2 in part due to trafficking for cocoa production.

The blame for the slavery in cocoa production has been passed from one group to the next. Those who sell the children to the farmers claimed they did not see the slavery.[20] The Ivorian government accused foreigners of using and selling slaves[20] and blamed multinational chocolate companies for keeping cocoa prices low and farmers in poverty; it claimed the low prices forced some farmers to use slave labor.[1]

The Ivorian prime minister, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, said the price would need to increase 10 times to ensure a good quality of life for the farmers and their families.[1] Farmers who bought slaves blamed the worldwide cost of cocoa.[20] Cocoa suppliers claimed they cannot manage what happens on the farms.[20] Chocolate companies stated that the suppliers needed to provide cocoa that was not produced by slaves.[20] Consumers did not know that their chocolate was produced using slave labor.[20]

In 2001, due to pressure applied by the US Congress and potential US and UK boycotts,[2] the chocolate manufacturers promised to start eliminating forced child labor.[18] In 2012, Ferrero and Mars promised that they will end cocoa slavery by 2020.[34][35][36]
In December 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a report on labor conditions around the world[37] in which a List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor mentioned 6 countries (among a total of 74) where the cocoa industry employed underage children and indentured laborers. Instances of child labor were reported in 4 of the listed countries namely Cameroon, Ghana, Guniea and Sierra Leone. The others (Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria) resorted to both child labor and forced labor.

Harkin-Engel Protocol[edit]

Main article: Harkin-Engel Protocol

To combat the child slavery in cocoa production, US Representative Eliot Engel introduced a legislative amendment to fund the development of a “no child slavery” label for chocolate products sold in the United States. Senator Tom Harkin proposed an addition to an agriculture bill to label qualified chocolate and cocoa products as “slave free”.[38]

It was approved in the House of Representatives by a vote of 291–115,[39] but before it went to the Senate the chocolate makers hired former senators George Mitchell and Bob Dole to lobby against it,[38] and it did not go to a vote.[39] Instead, the chocolate manufactures agreed with the Congressmen to create the Harkin-Engel Protocol[40] to remove child slavery from the industry by July 2005.[38]

The voluntary agreement was a commitment by the industry groups to develop and implement voluntary standards to certify cocoa produced without the “worst forms of child labor,”[40] and was signed by the heads of major chocolate companies, Congressmen, the Ambassador of Côte d’Ivoire, and others concerned with child labor.[40]

The chocolate makers were to create programs in West Africa to make Africans aware of the consequences of child labor, keeping their children from an education, and child trafficking. The primary incentive for the companies’ voluntary participation would be the addition of a “slave free” label.[38] The 2005 deadline was not met,[41][42] and all parties agreed to a three-year extension of the Protocol.[42][43]

This extension allowed the cocoa industry more time to implement the Protocol including creating a certification system to address the worst forms of child labor for half of the growing areas in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.[43][44]

By 2008, industry had collected data on over half of the areas, as required, but they did not have proper independent verification.[45] In June 2008, the Protocol was extended until the end of 2010. At that time, the industry was required to have full certifications with independent verifications.[43]

The European Union passed a resolution in 2012 to fully implement the Harkin-Engel Protocol and fight child labor in cocoa production.[46]

The resolution was criticized by the International Labor Rights Forum for having no legally binding measures and two major chocolate manufacturers claimed they were addressing the problem.[46]


“Anti-Semitic” term to be defined by State Department? Are Middle East people included as Semitic people to be saved from Western persecution ?

Does Signing on to the State Department’s definition deny academic freedom and free speech?

Recently a battle has begun over the way the U.S. State Department defines the term “anti-Semitic.”

As the Los Angeles Times notes, the current State Department version,

“defines more general ethnic and religious hatred against Jews but also declares that it is anti-Semitic to demonize Israel, deny Israel’s right to exist, liken Israeli policy to that of the Nazis and blame Israel for all inter-religious tensions.”  (Israel apartheid policies are more astute and framed in fraudulent legal forms than any racist State dared to go)

The Times goes on to note that

57 rabbis from California and 104 University of California faculty members called on UC administrators to adopt that State Department definition when dealing with protests and potential discipline for anti-Semitic statements.

They said they did not aim to silence free speech, but they contend that too often protests against Israel have turned into inciting anti-Jewish attitudes.

In a letter to UC President Janet Napolitano and the UC regents, the rabbis urged that campus leaders “be trained in using the State Department definition to identify anti-Semitic behavior and to address it with the same promptness and vigor as they do other forms of racial, ethnic and gender bigotry and discrimination.”

Is being a critic of Israeli state policies the same as being an anti-Semite?

 posted this May, 20, 2015

Careful readers will note the extreme slipperiness of the assertion that the petitioners do not “aim to silence free speech, but …”  They seem to address the issue of how this definition of anti-Semitism might be used to suppress free speech, but then they plow ahead undeterred, as if the denial of academic freedom and free speech was an unfortunate but inevitable price to pay.

Before we sign on to this bargain, it’s necessary to get back to the basic issue:

Is being a critic of Israeli state policies actually the same as being an anti-Semite?

 If every time one voices a criticism of Israel one is acting as an anti-Semite, and if making an anti-Semitic statement is prohibited by the State Department, then ardent supporters of Israeli state policies have won a huge victory:  they have essentially made Israel immune from criticism.

 And made anyone even thinking about raising a serious concern about Israel think twice about just how (or even if) to voice that point of view.

 But that victory is based on false reasoning, if not a lie.

Being an anti-Semite means denigrating, persecuting and victimizing a people solely because of the fact they are Jewish.

Being a critic of Israel’s policies means criticizing a set of actions undertaken by a government. This seems self-evident,.

But those who wish to make the equation between anti-Semite and critic of Israeli state policies care less for accuracy and more about silencing and punishing critics with any means available, legitimate or not.

We all should seriously think about why we are, and should be, especially firm in our condemnation of anti-Semitism.

At the same time we should, out of respect for the term itself, not abuse its meaning and significance for political or ideological gain.

We condemn anti-Semitism not only because bigotry is wrong; we condemn it because of the terrible effects anti-Semitism  (and all ethnic cleansing arguments) has had historically, and continues to have today.

However, some Israel advocacy groups are making it more difficult to combat actual instances of anti-Semitism by using the label in a broad and reckless fashion simply to smear critics of Israeli state policies.

They also make it impossible to defend the human rights of Palestinians, which is what many of them aim to do.

We are de facto put in the position of acquiescing to the status quo;

we are de facto made into tacit supporters of Israel, out of fear of being tarred with the anti-Semite brush.

In sum, for those who are critical of, or at least dubious about, Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and others, we are forced to be silent, we are forced to go against our better selves, out of fear of being called a horrible thing, something we detest.

(Policies of silencing freedom of expressions by means of fear from laws is the tactics used by dictators and oligarchic government)

Another way of putting this: We are forced to be dishonest, we become hypocrites by omission.

Now our own inner silencing mechanisms are being aided and abetted by the state, and by certain pro-Israel organizations.

Legislation in several states and at the national level has accepted and exploited the equation of criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, targeting in particular the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Such bills use precisely the same tactics and even words of Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a 2014 speech before AIPAC, Netanyahu criticized BDS no fewer than 18 times:  “Attempts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, the most threatened democracy on Earth, are simply the latest chapter in the long and dark history of anti-Semitism.  Those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot. They should be exposed and condemned.”


Demise of America’s once-mighty streetcars: What happened?

This post is part of a series on the past, present, and future of commuting in America.

Back in the 1920s, most American city-dwellers took public transportation to work every day.

There were 17,000 miles of streetcar lines across the country, running through virtually every major American city.

That included cities we don’t think of as hubs for mass transit today: Atlanta, Raleigh, and Los Angeles.

Nowadays, by contrast, just 5 percent or so of workers commute via public transit, and they’re disproportionately clustered in a handful of dense cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago.

Just a handful of cities still have extensive streetcar systems — and several others are now spending millions trying to build new, smaller ones.

So whatever happened to all those streetcars?

“There’s this widespread conspiracy theory that the streetcars were bought up by a company National City Lines, which was effectively controlled by GM, so that they could be torn up and converted into bus lines,” says Peter Norton, a historian at the University of Virginia and author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City.

But that’s not actually the full story, he says. “By the time National City Lines was buying up these streetcar companies, they were already in bankruptcy.”

Surprisingly, though, streetcars didn’t solely go bankrupt because people chose cars over rail.

The real reasons for the streetcar’s demise are much less nefarious than a GM-driven conspiracy — they include gridlock and city rules that kept fares artificially low — but they’re fascinating in their own right, and if you’re a transit fan, they’re even more frustrating.

The golden age of the streetcar

grand rapids 
<img alt=”grand rapids” src=””>

Electrified streetcars in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Grand Rapids Historical Society)

During the 1800s, animal-drawn streetcar lines were built in cities across the United States.

Starting in the 1880s, they were replaced by electrified streetcars, which quickly became the dominant mode of transportation in many cities.

Running streetcars was a very profitable business. Cities expanded, and people who found themselves living too far from work to walk depended on them.

(Some real-estate developers built nearby suburbs around streetcar lines.)

Over time, the businessmen who ran the streetcars, called “traction magnates,” consolidated ownership of multiple lines, establishing powerful, oftentimes corrupt monopolies in many cities.

atlanta streetcar <img alt=”atlanta streetcar” src=””>

In 1902, Atlanta had an extensive streetcar network. (Georgia Railway and Electric Company)

Eventually, many of them contracted with city governments for the explicit right to operate as a monopoly in that city. In exchange, they agreed to all sorts of conditions.

“Eager to receive guarantees on their large up-front investments, streetcar operators agreed to contract provisions that held fares constant at five cents and mandated that rail line owners maintain the pavement around their tracks,” writes Stephen Smith at Market Urbanism.

Until the start of World War I, these conditions weren’t a huge problem. But soon afterward, they became excessively onerous — because even though these companies were making sacrifices to act as monopolies, they were no longer operating as them.

What really killed the streetcar: gridlock and artificially low fares

fresno <img alt=”fresno” src=””>

A Fresno streetcar stuck in traffic, in 1938. (Fresno Beehive)

The decline of the streetcar after World War I — when cars began to arrive on city streets — is often cast as a simple choice made by consumers.

As a Smithsonian exhibition puts it, “Americans chose another alternative — the automobile. The car became the commuter option of choice for those who could afford it, and more people could do so.”

But the reality is more complicated.

“People weren’t choosing to ride or not ride in some perfect universe — they were making it in a messy, real-world environment,” Norton says.

The real problem was that once cars appeared on the road, they could drive on streetcar tracks — and the streetcars could no longer operate efficiently.

“Once just 10 percent or so of people were driving, the tracks were so crowded that [the streetcars] weren’t making their schedules,” Norton says.

cars could drive on streetcar tracks — so they slowed them down dramatically

In some places, like Chicago, streetcars retained dedicated rights of way, and they survived.

Pretty much anywhere else, they were doomed. “With 160,000 cars cramming onto Los Angeles streets in the 1920s, mass-transit riders complained of massive traffic jams and hourlong delays,” writes Cecilia Rasmussen at the Los Angeles Times.

What’s more, in many cities the streetcars’ contracts required them to keep the pavement on the roads surrounding the tracks in good shape.

This meant that the companies were effectively subsidizing automobile travel even as it cannibalized their business.

And paying for this maintenance got more and more difficult for one key reason: many contracts had permanently locked companies into a 5-cent fare, which wasn’t indexed to inflation.

five cent token <img alt=”five cent token” src=””>


Especially after World War I, the value of 5 cents plummeted, but streetcars had to get approval from municipal commissions for any fare hikes — and the idea of the 5-cent fare had become ingrained as something of a birthright among many members of the public.

“Nobody on these commissions would approve fare increases to cover costs, because that would get them in trouble with their constituents,” Norton says.

The public had little sympathy for the traction magnates who’d entered into these contracts.

Today, many progressives and urbanists are boosters of streetcars, but back then they were often seen as a bastion of corruption — especially because of their owners’ history of violent strike-breaking.

The quiet death of the streetcar

decommissioned streetcars <img alt=”decommissioned streetcars” src=””>

Decommissioned streetcars awaiting destruction in Los Angeles, 1956. (Los Angeles Times
photographic archive

Because of these factors, some streetcar companies began going into bankruptcy as early as the 1920s, when they were still their cities’ dominant mode of transportation. Huge costs and the falling value of fares forced them to cut back on service, steadily pushing people to the convenient, increasingly affordable automobile.

As they fought to stay alive during the Great Depression, many companies invested in buses, which were cheaper and more flexible.

Initially they operated mainly as feeder systems to bring commuters to the end of lines, but as time went on, they began to replace some lines entirely.

That wasn’t enough to save most of these companies, especially as city, state, and federal governments pumped more and more money into roads.

“By the ’50s, planners put a priority on bringing cars into cities with new urban highways,” Norton says. “That really made streetcars truly impractical to get around on.”

detroit streetcar <img alt=”detroit streetcar” src=””>

One of Detroit’s final streetcars, shown as part of a special parade in 1956. (Dave’s Electric Railroads —Stephen M. Scalzo collection)

By the 1950s, virtually all streetcar companies were in terrible shape. Some were taken over by new municipal bus companies, while a total of 46 transit networks were bought up by National City Lines — the holding company linked to GM, as well as oil and tire companies, that’s at the center of all the conspiracy theories.

While it’s true that National City continued ripping up lines and replacing them with buses — and that, long-term, GM benefited from the decline of mass transit — it’s very hard to argue that National City killed the streetcar on its own. Streetcar systems went bankrupt and were dismantled in virtually every metro area in the United States, and National City was only involved in about 10 percent of cases.

It’s also not exactly right to say the streetcar died because Americans chose the car.

In an alternate world where government subsidized each mode equally, it’s easy to imagine things playing out quite differently.

So what killed the streetcar? The simplest answer is that it couldn’t compete with the car — on an extremely uneven playing field.

Andrew Bossone shared and commented on this link

A conspiracy theory I’ve always bought into that’s partly true.

It wasn’t a GM-driven conspiracy.|By Joseph Stromberg




May 2015
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