Friday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

Well, we’re seeing Dooky Chase’s famous gumbo Z’herbes being served so it must be close to the time of year when bunnies are chocolate and eggs are colorful. Miss Leah’s gumbo is the best I’ve ever had in a restaurant in the city. I have a few stories to share today that are less yummy but important to  think about.  When you think of “priestly disobedience” don’t most of you think of the pedophilia scandal?  Evidently, that’s not what the Pope has in mind.   It’s things that have to do with those filthy things called women.

Striking the tone that once earned him the nickname “God’s Rottweiler,” Pope Benedict XVI in a stern Holy Thursday homily denounced “disobedience” in the Roman Catholic Church, chastising priests who sought the ordination of women and the abolition of priestly celibacy.

Wow, that’s inspiring at a time of rebirth and celebration of hope.  Don’t marry the women.  Don’t consider them your peers or face the wrath of the empire.  Molest a few choir boys and we’ll over look that!

So, my second topic is about those chocolate bunnies and eggs.  A lot of child slaves are involved with the chocolate trade so it’s important you try to buy chocolate that doesn’t support producers that use child slaves. Try filling up those baskets and tummies with organic chocolate.  There are many places that rely on forced child labor to produce cocoa.

Thousands of children in West Africa are forced to labor in the production of cocoa, chocolate’s primary ingredient. The West African nation of Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is the leading supplier of cocoa, accounting for more than 40% of global production. Low cocoa prices and thus the need for lower labor costs drive farmers to employ children as a means to survive. The US Department of State estimates that more than 109,000 children in Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry work under “the worst forms of child labor,” and that some 10,000 are victims of human trafficking or enslavement.

These child workers labor for long, punishing hours, using dangerous tools and facing frequent exposure to dangerous pesticides as they travel great distances in the grueling heat. Those who labor as slaves must also suffer frequent beatings and other cruel treatment. Cote d’Ivoire’s child laborers are robbed not only of their freedom but of the right to a basic education. In a country where more than half the population is illiterate, basic education of “cocoa children” takes on an even more critical significance for Cote d’Ivoire’s future. Increased access to education must be a key component in any effective strategy to reduce poverty and exploitative child labor.

In 2001, in an attempt to avoid government regulation and intense media scrutiny, major cocoa companies made a voluntary commitment (the Cocoa Industry Protocol) to certify their cocoa “child labor-free” by July 2005, but that deadline passed with little fanfare. The deadline was then extended to certify 50% of farms “child-labor free” by July 2008. The cocoa companies trumpeted a few pilot programs, but continue to purchase and reap profits from child labor cocoa. The major cocoa importers need to use their vast influence on the cocoa market to bring about the kind of systemic changes necessary to eliminate child slavery once and for all.

The International Labor Rights Forum is committed to combating the scourge of forced child labor in the cocoa industry through public education and corporate campaigns.

Most of the major uses of cocoa produced by child slaves are large chocolate producers like Hershey’s.  Again, chocolate produced in the Ivory Coast area of Africa is most likely produced by forced child labor.  Lobbyists from the chocolate industry have stopped Congress from taking actions against trade in cocoa produced by child slaves.

Chocolate’s billion-dollar industry starts with workers like Abdul. He squats with a gang of a dozen harvesters on an Ivory Coast farm.

Abdul holds the yellow cocoa pod lengthwise and gives it two quick cracks, snapping it open to reveal milky white cocoa beans. He dumps the beans on a growing pile.

Abdul is 10 years old, a three-year veteran of the job.

He has never tasted chocolate.

During the course of an investigation for CNN’s Freedom Project initiative – an investigation that went deep into the cocoa fields of Ivory Coast – a team of CNN journalists found that child labor, trafficking and slavery are rife in an industry that produces some of the world’s best-known brands.

It was not supposed to be this way.

After a series of news reports surfaced in 2001 about gross violations in the cocoa industry, lawmakers in the United States put immense pressure on the industry to change.

“We felt like the public ought to know about it, and we ought to take some action to try to stop it,” said Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who, together with Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, spearheaded the response. “How many people in America know that all this chocolate they are eating – candies and all of those wonderful chocolates – is being produced by terrible child labor?”

If you’d like to not support the use of children in this manner, consider buying “fair trade” chocolate.  Here’s a list of companies committed to fair trade.

Are you aware of how big the on line porn industry is? This has frightening implications to me.

The good folks at ExtremeTech took it upon themselves this week to get at one of the Internet’s crucial questions—just how big are porn sites these days? The answer? Ron Jeremy big. To study porn sites, ExtremeTech turned to the DoubleClick Ad Planner tool from Google (GOOG). It’s a useful website where you can peek at information gathered by ad-serving cookies about how much traffic a website gets, the age and income of visitors, and the amount of time people spend on a site.

According to this tool, the online porn kingpin Xvideos feeds up 4.4 billion page views per month. That’s about 10 times as many as the New York Times and three times as many as YouPorn—another site packed full of stimulating content—notches 2.1 billion page views per month. And while people spend a few minutes per day on news sites, they tend to spend 15 minutes or more on porn sites, which would seem to say something rather definitive about, er, male stamina.

“But it’s not just men on the sites,” you shout. True, although the top porn sites count men as about 75 percent of their visitors. Breaking the stats down further, about half of the visitors make between $25,000 and $50,000 per year, while only 2 percent earn more than $150,000 per year. According to Google, the other interests of Xvideos visitors include Latin American music and gangs and organized crime, while YouPorn visitors like networking equipment and family films, so it’s an eclectic bunch.

While anyone can dig through these numbers, ExtremeTech did a nice job of adding some context to the incredible amount of data served up by porn sites. According to the Google estimates, Xvideos would record “29 petabytes of data transferred every month, or 50 gigabytes per second. That’s about 25,000 times more than your home Internet connection is probably capable of, which is a couple of megabytes per second.” Sliced another way, Xvideos will “serve up 50 gigabytes per second, or 400Gbps,” ExtremeTech writes. “Bear in mind this is an average data rate, too: At peak time, Xvideos might burst to 1,000Gbps (1Tbps) or more. To put this into perspective, there’s only about 15Tbps of connectivity between London and New York.”

Someone at YouPorn chatted with ExtremeTech and said the Google estimates are way below actual totals. YouPorn stores more than 100TB of porn and feeds up about 28 petabytes per month.

Is it any wonder we’re having laws put into place that objectivize and remove the power of self-determination from women?

An adviser to former SOS Condoleeza Rice says that he believes that the kinds of extraordinary interrogation techniques used for Khalid Sheik Mohammed was wrong and likely illegal.  He wrote this in a secret 2006 memo that has now been published by The UK Guardian.

Philip Zelikow, who was the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s most senior official, told the Guardian that he now regards what officials euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation”, such as sleep deprivation and waterboarding, as torture – although he did not use that word at the time and is reluctant to use it now.

Zelikow, whose official position was counsellor to Rice, said he had her support on the issue. As the state department’s representative on the National Security Council committee considering legal issues around violent interrogations, he expressed his concerns at the time in a top secret 2006 memorandum.

The memo, to other members of the committee who represented the justice and defence departments and intelligence services, warned that the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other abuses were almost certainly in breach of US and international law. But the memo so alarmed the administration that it was immediately rejected and all copies were ordered destroyed.

A draft version of the memo, found at the state department, was released this week following a freedom of information request by the National Security Archive in Washington.

Zelikow told the Guardian in an email exchange that while he did not use the word torture in the memo, he believes that is what the CIA was using. “I do regard the interrogation practices and conditions of confinement, taken together, as torture – in the ordinary layman’s use of this term. But … ‘torture’ is also a term with a carefully worded legal meaning and definition. So I tend to avoid talking about ‘torture’ because it would appear I’m accusing officials of criminal activity, which I’m not sure was the case,” he said.

“I have sometimes just referred to ‘physical torment’ instead, which seems expressive and is accurate.”

Well, these might not be the most pleasant reads you’ll find this week, but I believe they are all important.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?