Your Shrimp is Probably Peeled by Slaves

Shrimp is the most-loved seafood in the U.S., with Americans downing 1.3 billion pounds every year, or about 4 pounds per person. Once a luxury reserved for special occasions, it became cheap enough for stir-fries and scampis when Asian farmers started growing it in ponds three decades ago. Thailand quickly dominated the market and now sends nearly half of its supply to the U.S.

Source: AP: Global supermarkets selling shrimp peeled by slaves

SAMUT SAKHON, Thailand (AP) — Every morning at 2 a.m., they heard a kick on the door and a threat: Get up or get beaten. For the next 16 hours, No. 31 and his wife stood in the factory that owned them with their aching hands in ice water. They ripped the guts, heads, tails and shells off shrimp bound for overseas markets, including grocery stores and all-you-can-eat buffets across the United States.

These slaves are usually illegal immigrants who are locked inside these factories.  They work every day for more than 16 hours just so you can eat cheap shrimp at Red Lobster.

AP journalists followed and filmed trucks loaded with freshly peeled shrimp from the Gig shed to major Thai exporting companies and then, using U.S. customs records and Thai industry reports, tracked it globally. They also traced similar connections from another factory raided six months earlier, and interviewed more than two dozen workers from both sites.

U.S. customs records show the shrimp made its way into the supply chains of major U.S. food stores and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden.

It also entered the supply chains of some of America’s best-known seafood brands and pet foods, including Chicken of the Sea and Fancy Feast, which are sold in grocery stores from Safeway and Schnucks to Piggly Wiggly and Albertsons. AP reporters went to supermarkets in all 50 states and found shrimp products from supply chains tainted with forced labor.

What can you do?  Ask your supermarket if they know where the shrimp came from, buy shrimp caught in the Gulf of Mexico, write Red Lobster and other restaurants.  Don’t support slavery.

[Retailers], including Red Lobster, Whole Foods and H-E-B Supermarkets, said they were confident — based on assurances from their Thai supplier — that their particular shrimp was not associated with abusive factories. That Thai supplier admits it hadn’t known where it was getting all its shrimp and sent a note outlining corrective measures to U.S. businesses [… ] last week.

I hope they mean it.

3 Years and Counting

As of today, 2.5 million Syrians have registered as refugees in neighboring countries or are awaiting registration. Another 6.5 million Syrians are displaced inside the country. That means that about 40% of the entire pre-conflict population of Syria has been displaced.

via A Shocking Statistic About Syrian Refugees in Lebanon | UN DispatchUN Dispatch.

Over 9 million people displaced.   That’s like everybody in Texas who lives west of Dallas and Houston having to move, and living in a tent somewhere.

In Lebanon alone, the number of registered refugees from Syria is approaching 1 million and could grow to 1.6 million at the end of 2014 if current trends continue. Lebanon already has the highest per capita concentration of refugees of any country in recent history, with nearly 230 registered Syrian refugees for every 1,000 Lebanese. That is more than 70 times as many refugees per inhabitants as in France, and 280 times as many as in the United States. The number of registered Syrian refugees hosted in Lebanon would be equivalent to nearly 19 million refugees in Germany and over 73 million in the United States.

See more at:

A Shocking Statistic About Syrian Refugees in Lebanon | UN DispatchUN Dispatch

The Price of Oil

BBC News - Ban Ki-moon condemns Sudanese air raid on South Sudan

via BBC News – Ban Ki-moon condemns Sudanese air raid on South Sudan.

The past few months have seen sporadic fighting in the oil-rich areas along the two countries’ undemarcated border, prompting concern the violence could escalate into a full-blown war.

When South Sudan voted for independence, they knew they would have a steady income – oil.  The problem lies in selling it, however.  Because the new country is landlocked, it relies on pipelines through Sudan to ports on the Red Sea.

In January, South Sudan decided to shut down oil production, which provides 98% of the government’s revenue, after Khartoum impounded South Sudanese oil shipments amid a dispute over transit fees.

The growing dispute has escalated into air raids and ground fighting in areas along the border.  If it is not resolved soon, a repeat of the 22 year long civil war is possible.

Meanwhile, South Sudan’s President Kiir has arrived in China for a six-day visit during which he will meet his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao.

China has traditionally been an ally of diplomatically-isolated Sudan, but observers say Chinese officials are likely to push for an end to hostilities between the two countries.

China is the major buyer of Sudanese oil, so they have a vested interest in solving the problem quickly.  Sudan takes almost a quarter of the South’s oil as payment for export fees.  Since the oil is the main source of government revenue in the desperately poor nation,  South Sudan is upset with what they call the “theft.”

How will this crisis be resolved?  What effect will the dispute have on oil prices?  How many more refugees will leave their homes due to the fighting?  And how will the South Sudan government pay for all the infrastructure they need if they can’t export their oil?

The following is from Human Rights Watch, via Nicholas Kristof

Refugee Hell

Moises Saman for The New York Times

Hundreds of African migrant workers, many from Ghana and Nigeria, live next to the airport in Tripoli, Libya, hoping to fly home.

via Refugee Camps in Libya Reach Crisis Point –

TRIPOLI, Libya — As wealthier nations send boats and planes to rescue their citizens from the violence in Libya, a new refugee crisis is taking shape on the outskirts of Tripoli, where thousands of migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa have been trapped with scant food and water, no international aid and little hope of escape.

These mostly illegal migrants are suffering, with little hope of relief.  Racial discrimination is common here, and dark-skinned Africans, as well as Bangladeshis and Chinese, are looked down upon.

Sub-Saharan Africans make up a vast majority of the estimated 1.5 million illegal immigrants among Libya’s population of 6.5 million, according to the International Organization for Migration. Many were desperately poor people made even more so by investments of up to $1,000 each to pay smugglers to bring them across Libya’s southern border for a chance at better work in its oil economy.

Their flight has emptied the streets of thousands of day laborers who played a crucial, if largely unheralded, role in sustaining Libya’s economy. Their absence has played a role in halting construction projects that had been rising across the skyline.

They are now trying to flee the fighting, but their governments are not able to pay for flights home.  They are trapped in no-man’s land, with no water, sewers, or food.

“We are somebody and we are from somewhere,” said Abru Razak, 35, a Nigerian with two daughters, 2 and 5, at the airport. “Even when we get into the airport they are beating us and pushing us. We are dying. Tell the United Nations they should get us away from here — to anywhere, just to save our lives.”

Pathetic Leader Scared of Marching Women

via Ivory Coast forces kill at least six women protesters – The Globe and Mail.

[A]n African strongman clings to power and his forces have killed hundreds. Desperate inhabitants have turned to a new tactic in Abidjan: strength in weakness. Daily women’s marches have been held in neighbourhoods across the city, with slogans that don’t support either man claiming to be president. The women simply called for the killing to stop.

Their call went unheard and at least six women were killed Thursday when incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo’s Republican Guard opened fire.

Tribal differences are being exploited by the leaders, AK-47s are being passed out to teenagers, and all out war seems to be looming on the horizon.

The UN says that more than 200,000 people have fled Abobo, on the outskirts of Abidjan, and as many as 76 have been killed there since the fighting started.

The banks have closed, and gas, water, and electricity have been shut off in the north where Ouattara’s supporters live.

African leaders have been working for some resolution since last November, but nothing has changed except the level of violence against the citizens.

Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and other Arab nations have taken center stage, and Cote d’Ivoire has been pushed aside.  But people are suffering there, and they hope for a new president, and peace.




Unintended Consequences

Photo: AP Photo/Daniele La Monaca
A would-be immigrant is escorted to register at a re-opened detention center on the island of Lampedusa, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011.

via Italy Seeks to Deploy Police in Tunisia to Stem Tide of Refugees | Europe | English.

Tunisia’s interim cabinet says it plans to discuss a response to the thousands of people who have fled the country and landed on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa during the past few days.

After the revolution, thousands of Tunisians have fled the country, many taking small boats across the Mediterranean to the Italian outpost of Lampedusa.

A spokeswoman in Italy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says some Tunisians are fleeing because they are worried about violence and the instability in their homeland while others who were close to the former president are seeking protection.

Most of the refugees have been transported to the Italian mainland for processing;  however, more continue to arrive on the island.

[Italy’s Interior Minister] Maroni says he asked the European Union for emergency to intervene because “there is an institutional and political earthquake” underway in Tunisia that could “devastate” Europe.

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