This week we’re delving into labour rights, colonialism, and much more with our must-reads, so get going! What’s moving you this week? Tell us about it in comments — and if you haven’t already, subscribe to the Global Comment podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud and catch up on the first episode, a fascinating interview with Omar Saif Ghobash.
‘Inside Alabama’s Auto Jobs Boom: Cheap Wages, Little Training, Crushed Limbs‘ (Peter Waldman for Bloomberb Business Week)
An intriguing, rich, thoughtful deep dive into the manufacturing boom in Alabama — and the high cost to workers.
Except that it also epitomizes the global economy’s race to the bottom. Parts suppliers in the American South compete for low-margin orders against suppliers in Mexico and Asia. They promise delivery schedules they can’t possibly meet and face ruinous penalties if they fall short. Employees work ungodly hours, six or seven days a week, for months on end. Pay is low, turnover is high, training is scant, and safety is an afterthought, usually after someone is badly hurt. Many of the same woes that typify work conditions at contract manufacturers across Asia now bedevil parts plants in the South.
‘How Paul Ryan Convinced Washington of His Genius‘ (Alex MacGillis for The New Republic)
Paul Ryan’s political rise is mesmerising, chilling, and slightly bizarre. Hard on the wake of a major failure for the Speaker of the House, a closer look at how he got where he is today.
It’s a hell of a metamorphosis: fitness coach to vice presidential candidate in less than 20 years. But those who worked closely with Ryan as a young man weren’t really wrong to doubt him. He’s not a Moynihan-style big thinker, never has been. Rather, he’s a keen observer of Washington’s evolving political culture who has become good—very good—at exploiting it.
‘Chasing the Phantom‘ (Garrett M. Graff for Wired)
The most notorious bank robber in the world acts virtually, swirling through the depths of the internet like a ghost. Learn more about the people on his trail.
The messages contained references to hundreds of victims, their stolen credentials scattered in English throughout the files. Craig and other agents started cold-calling institutions, telling them they had been hit by cyberfraud. He found that several businesses had terminated employees they suspected of the thefts—not realizing that the individuals’ computers had been infected by malware and their logins stolen.
‘Our Cotton Colonies‘ (Meta Kreses for In These Times)
Cotton has a long and complex history as a colonial crop, and the current state of the cotton industry is subject to an amazing investigative piece here.
Today, cotton crops occupy about 2.5 percent of the world’s arable land. The industry is the primary source of income for hundreds of millions of farmers and factory workers. That income is typically meager, however. Cotton workers are the perennial losers in a global race to the bottom. Multinational clothing companies seek out the cheapest textile manufacturing hubs. Factories, in turn, buy the cheapest cotton they can find. Any added expenses, including higher wages, may prompt buyers to flee to ever-cheaper factories—sometimes leaving entire national economies in tatters.
‘How a Falsehood Becomes a Law‘ (Sofia Resnick for Rewire)
Myths about ‘abortion reversal’ are everywhere. Why?
The extent to which there is a demand for “reversing” abortions is unclear. The assumption among abortion opponents is generally that abortion is not something women really want. Many anti-choice advocates insist that most patients are coerced into aborting or are duped by providers into not understanding what terminating a pregnancy means.
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Photo: Alec Perkins/Creative Commons