This story opens by saying ‘most everyone agrees that inequality’ matters. I’m not sure that’s true. In the U.S., we’ve come to accept inequality as a natural consequence of things and any politician who uses the e-word gets branded a socialist … or worse. As a consequence, we are becoming one of the most unequal places on the planet.
Equity, opportunity, access to education. Social determinants of health.
Eskinder Nega was arrested after raising questions about arrests under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism legislation in September 2011. Now he serves an 18 year sentence thanks to the very law he questioned.
“The Ethiopian government is treating calls for peaceful protest as a terrorist act and is outlawing the legitimate activity of journalists and opposition members,” said Amnesty International‘s Ethiopia researcher Claire Beston at the time of sentencing.
Rights groups raised attention to the use of the law to circumvent speech and dissent. Nearly a year later, Nega remains in jail. His attempt to appeal the ruling two weeks ago failed. The judge upheld the sentencing decision, saying it was correct.
“The truth will set us free,” said Nega to the public following the ruling. “We want the Ethiopian public to know that the truth will reveal itself, it’s only a matter of time.”
A year and a half of truth later and Nega is still in jail. He is not the lone victim of Ethiopia’s crackdown of opposition figures and abuse of its terrorism law. Ethiopia is one of the worst places in the world to be a journalist. 79 journalists fled Ethiopia between 2001 and 2011, the most of any country in the world. The press freedom index categorized Ethiopia among the most difficult countries for press. Continue reading
As the Washington Post reported today, most U.S. clothing retailers have refused to sign on to an international pact aimed at ensuring that Bangladesh garment factory workers are less likely to get killed making our pants and shirts.
Companies including Wal-Mart, Gap, Target and J.C. Penney had been pressed by labor groups to sign the document in the wake of last month’s factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed at least 1,127 people. More than a dozen European retailers did so. But U.S. companies feared the agreement would give labor groups and others the basis to sue them in court.
Amid all the talk about how we’re making gains against extreme poverty, child mortality and so on it appears, according to this report, that the world is still getting more unequal. Some want to make inequality the centerpiece for the world’s focus for the next round of the Millennium Development Goals.
One of the world’s leading statesmen gets unusually blunt about the international community’s continued exploitation of sub-Saharan Africa:
“It is time to draw back the veil of secrecy behind which too many companies operate. Every tax jurisdiction should be required to publicly disclose the full beneficial ownership structure of registered companies. Switzerland, Britain and the United States — all major conduits for offshore finance — should signal intent to clamp down on illicit financial flows.”
If you’re not paying attention to this courtroom battle in Guatemala, it’s fair to say you’re not paying attention to Latin America in general. As the Daily Beast reports:
The Rios Montt trial is a groundbreaker on many fronts. This is the first time a former head of state in the region has been brought up on charges of genocide in his own country. It is also a stress test for this tender Latin democracy where, like so many countries across the hemisphere, the rule of law often has bowed to the whim of the powerful.
The American Medical Association recently wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel saying the force-feeding “violates core ethical values of the medical profession.” President Obama says he wants to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, which many claim violates international law.
The world remains focused on the massive tragedy of the Bangladesh garment factory collapse, which is a good thing in that it helps educate us all about the working conditions for some of those making our clothing.
More than 500 have been reported killed but the toll is likely to keep climbing since hundreds remain missing.
Many of the stories are beginning to dwell on what is seen as a dilemma. How to best support the workers.
Some say we in the rich world need to support efforts to improve safety, wages and working conditions in these factories where many of our clothes are now made. Others say we need to be careful not to hurt this industry that gives so many of the poor jobs.
Here’s our interview with Sumi Abedin, a survivor of an earlier Bangladesh garment factory disaster, and our follow-up podcast with an organizer of a Seattle protest on the day of the factory collapes. The latest:
Christian Science Monitor Disney pulls out of Bangladesh: Will that make workers safer?
I think our best bet is to listen to the workers. As Sumi Abedin said to me in our interview, none of the workers want to see a boycott or a reduced garment industry in Bangladesh. But the choice shouldn’t be between having a dangerous and exploitative job or no job, she said.
Some clothing retailers like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger have signed on to international rules aimed at improving garment factory safety. It may add a few cents more to ensure people aren’t killed making our pants and shirts, or maybe even a dollar more per item if we want them to make living wages.