The deal was announced quietly, just before the holidays, almost like the government was hoping people were too busy hanging stockings by the fireplace to notice. Flooring politicians, lawyers and investigators all over the world, the U.S. Justice Department granted a total walk to executives of the British-based bank HSBC for the largest drug-and-terrorism money-laundering case ever. Yes, they issued a fine – $1.9 billion, or about five weeks’ profit – but they didn’t extract so much as one dollar or one day in jail from any individual, despite a decade of stupefying abuses.
"They violated every goddamn law in the book," says Jack Blum, an attorney and former Senate investigator who headed a major bribery investigation against Lockheed in the 1970s that led to the passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. "They took every imaginable form of illegal and illicit business."
Despite variations along the continuum from shock to wonder to tears, the message is essentially, “Oh my god look at this right now oh my god now now now!” If someone in real life, like a co-worker or member of your family, burst into the room and shouted that at you, of course you’d stop what you were doing and look. Even on the web, it takes an act of will to resist when you see a headline like that. The danger is that the formula only works for so long. Once you’ve clicked on a few posts that promised to make you cry or change your view of the world forever but didn’t deliver, your default assumption will become that when you see something like that , it means somebody’s trying to get you to be a part of something artificial.
Did you notice? The mainstream press didn’t. While the fasts in Guantánamo and California received significant coverage, the broader phenomenon went unremarked. There were dozens, perhaps hundreds, of sustained hunger strikes all over the world. In fact, it’s difficult to identify sizable countries where there wasn’t at least one noteworthy fast. Most took place in prisons. Together, the strikes reflect the universal disregard for the rights of prisoners as well as the worldwide increase in radical protest of all forms.
Mother Jones has seven fool-proof tips for guilt-free holiday shopping, notably:
1. Check the label
For clothing that is not made in the United States, check out Fair Trade USA, a certification group that evaluates all parts of companies’ supply chains. Between March 2010 and June 2012, only 4 out of 55 factories in 23 countries it considered were immediately certified. Today, the group certifies certain products made by these five companies. Social Accountability International is another good resource for which factories have undergone auditing. Some individual companies (like H&M) post some information about the factories they buy from online.
3. Support small clothing companies that don’t allow exploitation in their factories.
Look for companies that build fair labor into their business models. Alta Gracia, for example, makes its clothes in the Dominican Republic, but pays three times the local minimum wage and allows workers to unionize. San Francisco-based Everlane publishes information about its factories, providing full reports on each one with photos and owners’ names. Its prices are comparable to those of chains like Urban Outfitters and the GAP.
And perhaps most importantly:
7. Ask yourself: do I really need this?
In Iraq, the sectarian guerrilla war set off by the invasion goes on, the suicide bombers continue their work, hundreds of Iraqis die in horrific violence every month. That most Americans would prefer to ignore this does not alter the reality that we live in a world the Iraq war has made. Before the war, Iraq had served the United States as a check on the revolutionary ambitions of the Islamic Republic of Iran—a “tilt” to Iraq that Donald Rumsfeld had personally set on course, during talks with Saddam in Baghdad in 1983 as President Reagan’s special envoy. It took the American invasion two decades later to make of Iraq an Iranian ally.
We’re living in a world built by the Bush White House. Read about it at the New York Review of Books.
Twenty Years of NAFTA, for Better or Worse
It may be too soon to accurately assess the full impact of NAFTA. The deal’s real legacy may emerge in coming years as more trade pacts get written and take effect. For good or ill, NAFTA has become a guide for shaping how countries conduct business with each other in the 21st century.
The CRS put it this way: “NAFTA initiated a new generation of trade agreements in the Western Hemisphere and other parts of the world, influencing negotiations in areas such as market access, rules of origin, intellectual property rights, foreign investment, dispute resolution, worker rights, and environmental protection.”
In an open letter from the day Rusbridger appeared before the courts of England, Bernstein skewers the tactics of both the US and UK government in handling the fallout of Edward Snowden’s leaks.
…as we learned in the United States during our experience with the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, it is essential that no prior governmental restraints or intimidation be imposed on a truly free press; otherwise, in such darkness, we encourage the risk of our democracies falling prey to despotism and demagoguery and even criminality by our elected leaders and government officials.
Even her name, Dasani, speaks of a certain reach. The bottled water had come to Brooklyn’s bodegas just before she was born, catching the fancy of her mother, who could not afford such indulgences. It hinted at a different, upwardly mobile clientele, a set of newcomers who over the next decade would transform the borough.
Dasani’s own neighborhood, Fort Greene, is now one of gentrification’s gems. Her family lives in the Auburn Family Residence, a decrepit city-run shelter for the homeless. It is a place where mold creeps up walls and roaches swarm, where feces and vomit plug communal toilets, where sexual predators have roamed and small children stand guard for their single mothers outside filthy showers.
It is no place for children. Yet Dasani is among 280 children at the shelter. Beyond its walls, she belongs to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America.
There is another America just outside of where we care to look. Read Dasani’s story at the New York Times.
Nelson Mandela becomes first politician to be missed
“Certainly people have felt a sense of sorrow at the deaths of politicians in the past, but Nelson Mandela’s death is the only one on record that people everywhere unanimously agree has left the world notably worse off. I miss him, we all miss him—and that’s entirely unprecedented in the world of politics.” Delaney added that he could not predict who might be the second politician to be missed by humanity, but confirmed there were no viable candidates anywhere out there right now.