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The Reality Of Consumerism – Starbuck’s Certified Coffee Plantation Busted Using Slave Labour

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Photo Credit: Starbucks

Daniela Penha, Mongabay

At first sight, the Córrego das Almas farm in Piumhi, in rural Minas Gerais state, seems to be a model property. “No slave or forced labour is allowed,” reads one of several signs that display international certifications — including one linked to the U.S.-based company Starbucks corporation. But investigators have found that labourers on the farm’s coffee plantations were working under degrading conditions and living in substandard housing without sewerage or drinking water. A Ministry of Labour team inspection conducted at the site rescued 18 rural workers in conditions analogous to slavery.

The farm, locally known as Fartura (Portuguese for Abundance), also boasts the UTZ seal – a Netherlands-based sustainable farming certificate considered one of the most prestigious in the coffee industry. That seal of approval was suspended after the certifier was questioned by Repórter Brasil about the case.

The farm also holds the C.A.F.E. Practices certification — owned by Starbucks in partnership with SCS Global Services. After hearing of the raid, the two companies responsible for issuing the seal said they would review the farm’s quality certificate. The certifiers verify commodity supply chains in order to assure ethical purchases, good labour practices, and other criteria required by Starbucks and other retailers.

Photo Credit: Starbucks

Evidence found at Fartura shows that the farm’s operating standards were far below those expected at a certified agricultural facility. “There were lots of bats and mice. We’d buy food and the mice would eat it. Then we had to buy it again,” said one of the workers rescued.

We weren’t paid for holidays, Sundays, nothing. And we worked from Monday to Saturday with no record of the hours. During the week, we would start at 6 am and only stop at 5 pm,” says another former employee rescued from the farm, where workers received payment according to the amount of coffee they picked.

The employees lived in collective lodgings without drinking water. According to the inspectors, sanitation was so precarious that it put workers’ health at risk. The rescued group reported that dead bats were often found in the water tanks, which had no cover. This water was used for cooking and drinking.

In addition, the inspectors collected farm reports indicating that accounts payable were rigged. “We’d harvest and they’d leave it (the beans) there to be weighed the next day. When we arrived there, the coffee was gone. And then we were humiliated: we complained and they laughed in our faces,” said one of the rescued workers.

I’ve always harvested coffee, and I’ve never been through something like that in my life. I wasn’t even able to send money home,” adds another.

It was also reported that, for workers to cash their pay checks or to buy food, they had to pay R$ 20 for a “clandestine bus” – in the words of one labourer – to go from the farm to the nearest town. “We had to pay in order to get paid,” he explained.

UTZ said the seal´s audit of the farm occurred in February 2018, and the certificate was issued in April. After Repórter Brasil questioned the organization, the certification was suspended and the group said their team would look into the conditions at the farm.

Workers’ rights and wellbeing are of the utmost importance and are an integral part of our standard. We take those issues very seriously because something like that would violate the UTZ standard. Whenever we receive reliable evidence of breaches on UTZ certified farms, we take immediate action, which includes conducting a thorough investigation,” the organization said in a statement.

According to Starbucks, the Fartura farm has been certified since 2016, but the firm denied having “purchased or received any coffee from this farm in recent years. It said it is starting a process of investigation to re-evaluate the seal. “We are already investigating this matter and will continue to pay very close attention to issuances from the Ministry of (Brazilian) Labour and Employment and communicate expectations to our suppliers that no farm on the list may supply coffee to Starbucks,” the statement said.

SCS, a Starbucks partner on the C.A.F.E. seal, reported that inspections and audits are conducted before certifications are granted and that no signs of slave labour were detected when the process was conducted at Fartura: “Forced labour is considered a point of zero tolerance; therefore farms with forced labour would not be eligible for the status in the program.”

In addition to these two seals, another sign at Fartura suggests its certification by the 4C Association of the Coffee Assurance Services (CAS), a worldwide organization. However, the indications at the farm were that this seal was still under analysis, and “the final decision on the license has not yet been made.”

The discovery of slavery-like conditions on this particular farm points to flaws likely to be present elsewhere in the coffee certification process: “This is not the first or second time, and it will not be the last time a certified farm is charged with employing slave labour and violating labour rights,” said Jorge Ferreira dos Santos, who heads the Coordination of Rural Employers of Minas Gerais (Articulação dos Empregadores Rurais de Minas Gerais, Adere-MG) and who accompanied the Labour Ministry inspectors. The certification system is weak and not transparent, he added, and fails at “taking workers’ views and reality into account.”

The Fartura Farm is currently caring for 3 million coffee trees, while also raising so, and cattle; it has 151 employees. The property is leased and managed by Fabiana Soares. In a statement, her lawyer, Amanda Costa Ferreira, claimed that the property owner learned about the inspection “with shock” since slave labour is not the company’s “work philosophy.”

Our farm has been operating in the coffee market for many years and has always sought to comply with all legal requirements that include obtaining all certifications, licenses and awards whose requirements are extremely strict,” the statement read.

Second Raid Rescues 15 Workers

Another inspection in Minas Gerais, in the town of Muzambinho, rescued 15 workers in conditions analogous to slavery from a farm owned by Maria Júlia Pereira, the sister-in-law of a state deputy, Emidinho Madeira. The workers there included a 17-year-old.

The labourers questioned reported that they were forced to buy their own equipment, so ended up owing the farm owner R$ 2,500-3,000 before even beginning harvesting. The group also told Repórter Brasil that they were required to work 90 days straight, without a single day off. Coffee harvesting only paused on rainy days, with work generally continuous from 6 am to 8 pm, one labourer said.

“And if we stopped, the boss got angry,” added another. “It was exhausting.”

Pereira was not charged, but the workers said that she paid severance. Her lawyer Thiago de Lima Dini, issued a statement explaining that Pereira acquired the farm at the end of 2016 and that she leased it to Elias Rodrigo de Almeida in December of the same year, “ignoring any procedures and occurrences on that property.” The lawyer, who also represents Almeida, said that he “used subcontractors to hire workers” and that he is “a victim, just like other workers.”

The Córrego da Prata Farm was cited for 34 violations and paid R$ 87,000 (US$ 20,000) to the workers in damages. The Fartura farm received 27 notifications and paid R$ 71,000 in severance.

This story was produced via a co-publishing partnership between Mongabay and Repórter Brasil and can be read in Portuguese here.

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Cyntoia Brown, Convicted At 16 Of Killing Her Sex Trafficker, Released From Prison After 15 Years

Cyntoia Brown was originally sentenced to life in prison for killing her sex trafficker when she was only 16.

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Cyntoia Brown, Convicted at 16 of Killing Her Sex Trafficker, Released From Prison After 15 Years
Photo Credit: NPR

Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams

Child sex trafficking victim Cyntoia Brown was released from prison on Wednesday—a development welcomed by human rights advocates who said her case underscores the need to fix the nation’s criminal justice system.

Now 31 years old, Brown was originally sentenced to life in prison for killing one of the men who solicited her for sex when she was a 16-year-old child.

In January, then-Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.) commuted her sentence following pressure from human rights groups, thousands of Americans who signed petitions and wrote letters, and celebrities who helped bring attention to her case.

This victory belongs to Cyntoia, her community, and to the thousands of people including local organizers and advocates who stepped in to demand justice,” said online racial justice organization Color of Change on Twitter on Wednesday.

Cyntoia’s story,” the group continued, “provides a glimpse into the lives of the thousands of women and girls currently locked up behind bars largely due to survival strategies.”

It also provides a glimpse of how justice is meted out, as commentator David A. Love noted in 2018.

A virtual life sentence for former child sex slave Cyntoia Brown stands in marked contrast to the light slap on the wrist for billionaire serial abuser Jeffrey Epstein,” he wrote. “But it is not surprising in a society that treats people differently based on race, class, and gender.

More action must be taken to protect young, vulnerable sex trafficking victims in our country,” Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law president and executive director Kristen Clarke tweeted. “Child trafficking victims deserve support and safety, not incarceration.”

Brown spent more than 14 years behind bars.

Brown said in a statement this week that she looks “forward to using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation.”

Though now out of prison, Brown is still under state control.

The Tennessee Department of Correction said she will be on parole for 10 years. During that time, she must maintain employment or enrollment in classes, attend regular counselling, and do community service.

The ACLU previously denounced the additional decade as “excessive.”

“Cyntoia never should have been sentenced so harshly to begin with,” the rights group said in January, “and we can’t lose sight of the fact that she is still receiving an excessive 10 years probation.”

By Andrea Germanos | CommonDreams.org

The views in this article may not reflect editorial policy of Collective Spark.

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Major League Baseball Officially Removes Cannabis From List Of Banned Substances

The MLB will begin to treat cannabis use by players in the same way that alcohol use is handled.

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MLB
Photo Credit: Mint Press News

Elias MaratThe Mind Unleashed

For years, professional athletes have been subjected to drug tests that screen for cannabis. The practice has continued even as the substance has become legally available in many states while being scientifically and clinically proven to be safer than alcohol and opiates, both of which have been largely tolerated by most major sporting leagues.

This week, the Major League Baseball organization in the U.S. announced their new drug testing policies and associated penalties. Until now, the MLB was one of the few major sporting leagues that did not test its players for recreational drugs. While they did have an official list of banned substances for many years, they only actually tested their players for performance-enhancing drugs. Players would sometimes get in trouble if they were caught in the act or arrested for off-field activities, but they were not forced to take random drug tests as players in other American sporting leagues are.

That is all going to change this year when they begin to test their players for cocaine and opiates. However, the league says that cannabis will be removed from their list of banned drugs and will be considered a recreational substance like alcohol. One ironic twist is that synthetic cannabis compounds will be screened for and treated as an abusive substance, as these chemicals have been known to be very harmful.

Testing for opiates and other hard drugs became a topic of discussion among MLB decision-makers earlier this year after the overdose death of the 27-year-old Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

Union head Tony Clark says that treatment plans will be available for players who are found to be on hard drugs, and they will not face any further penalties if they comply with the treatment plan.

“Players from our side of the equation recognize that there was an opportunity to take a leadership role here in this discussion. Players aren’t immune to issues that affect all of us, and so the situation this year only heightened that, brought it even closer to home,” Clark said.

Clark hopes that this policy will reflect the current reality of drug science.

“It was a part of a larger conversation that was reflective of the attitudes changing in many parts of the country,” he says.

This policy will also apply to the minor league program, which actually has tested players for cannabis to determine eligibility.

“The minor league program obviously affects a number of our PA members every year because we have a number of guys who sign major league contracts then wind up finding themselves removed from the 40-man roster during the course of the year. So this was something that, again, as part of the discussion for the overarching baseball player community, was important,” Clark said.

By John Vibes | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Elderly In Japan Are Wearing Exoskeletons To Continue Working Into Their Old Age

People in Japan are strapping on exoskeletons to meet the physical demands of their jobs.

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Photo Credit: The Mind Unleashed

Elias Marat, The Mind Unleashed

While powered exoskeletons may seem like something out of the movies — think Alien, Avatar, Elysium, and how could we forget Iron Man—the concept has increasingly found favour in various applications, ranging from the battlefield to the assembly line and even to restore function to paralyzed people’s body.

But now, elderly citizens in Japan are preparing to potentially step into powered exoskeletons so that they can continue labouring into their old age and stall retirement for as long as possible, New Scientist reports.

To put into perspective how dystopian that prospect is, just consider that Japan has one of the largest populations over the age of 65 out of any country, comprising about 26 percent of the total population, per 2015 census data. Japan has both the world’s highest life expectancy and the lowest birth-rate.

And as Japan’s workforce continues to decline, the right-wing government of Shinzo Abe has sought to grapple with labour shortages and increased public spending on the senior citizen population by raising the retirement age from 60 to anywhere between 65 and 71.

But now, Japanese tech companies hope to use these exoskeleton suits to allow them to continue their labour well into their advanced age, with some suits costing only $1,300 and allowing people to lift up to 55 pounds. The suit can be charged through a hand pump that fills the “muscles” with pressurized air.

Innophys spokesperson Daigo Orihara said:

“One client is a family-owned company which makes and sells pickled radish and uses heavy weights in the process of production.

The father is in his 70s and was supposed to retire but is still working with our muscle suit.”

Automotive giant Toyota has also poured funds into its motorized exoskeleton research division, in part out of hopes to support the aging workforce. Panasonic, too, has created the popular Atoun Model Y, a $5,500 suit that adds 22 pounds of lifting force to wearers.

No doubt, many senior citizens with their faltering and fragile bodies would prefer a bit of mechanical assistance to allow them to lift heavy loads and physically function as they did when they were younger.

However, Japan also has a horrible reputation for working its people to the point of utter exhaustion, if not a total mental breakdown. With a shrinking population that only continues to rapidly age, powered exoskeletons may be the only means by which industry can continue squeezing the last bit of labour from the Japanese people.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

The views in this article may not reflect editorial policy of Collective Spark.

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How You Can Undermine The ‘Evil Cabal’

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Photo Credit: Waking Times

Over the years, the description of the tyrants and psychopaths that so often occupy positions of power in our world has evolved, and today it is fashionable to refer to this nebulous group by using the term ‘Evil Cabal.’

Language is perhaps the most important device we have for creating reality, and just as George Orwell knew, the more linguistically vague, simplistic, ambiguous and nondescript the language, the more room there is to shape perception. This is called Newspeak, and in the case of the ‘Evil Cabal,’ the term fails to fully describe our complex world, but succeeds tremendously in maintaining the prison of fear that actually inhibits freedom.

In a catch-all phrase like ‘Evil Cabal,’ there really is little substance in the language to inspire meaningful action or reaction. In fact, the opposite is true. By generalizing the widespread depravity in the world with such a vague yet loaded term, the result can only be fear and inaction.

But, just for rhetorical purposes, let’s suppose for a moment that the world’s troubles can indeed be wholly attributed to a singular, top-down, all-knowing, all-controlling evil cabal that has its wicked tentacles inserted into every facet of our lives. Let’s imagine that every bit of the injustice and calamity we see is intentionally orchestrated and narrated by an untouchable group of all-mighty criminals.

If this is in fact the case, one very serious question emerges: What exactly are YOU going to do about it? 

My thoughts on this are expressed below, and are derived from two decades of peering deeply into the abyss of conspiracy fact and alternative history. I’ve learned in time that such intense and singular focus on conspiracy and international wickedness is corrosive to the soul, inviting acrimony and triggering impotency into what should be the blessed, joyful gift of a life well lived.

How YOU Can Undermine the Evil Cabal

Firstly, understand that systems of political and economic control are actually more heavily dependent on the acquiescence, cooperation, and participation of many millions of people. They are much less dependent on brute force, even though the perception is that brute force controls everything. This notion is accurately presented by Larken Rose in his short animated presentation, The Tiny DotThe acquiescent masses vastly outnumber any evildoers.

It is imperative to also understand that the world is heavily influenced by the management of public perception, and that holding onto a chiefly negative and fearful worldview severely limits your potential to create and experience the world in which you actually wish to see materialize.

Furthermore, you must recognize that taking it upon yourself to assemble and collate every possible fact and insight into every conspiracy and every nasty event is self-destructive. That is, by becoming a library of terrible truths, you are wilfully  imposing upon yourself a subtle but powerful form of mental slavery.

The tendency to want to convince and awaken every person you meet to your point-of-view is ultimately caustic to personal relationships and can quickly lead to isolation. Take notice of the fact that individual isolation is exceptionally beneficial to any controlling power in our world, and therefore, it is imperative to connect with others and allow them to express their own personal truths without sparking your judgement and condemnation.

So many of us today adhere to a destructive worldview, and to counter this, it is critical to set an example for others in your life by living in such a way as to inspire a love for freedom, independence and individuality. This is done, first and foremost, by giving freedom to others. Allow people the privilege to walk their own path and think their own thoughts.

Moreover, to undermine a cabal that primarily rules by psychological control, it is essential to recognize that all humans have a tendency to want to control things, and that as human beings we all share similar shadow traits. The desire to control others, and even to control nature, is evident at every level of society, meaning we are all inherently capable of extraordinary evil and cruelty. It is your duty and priority to recognize this and to manage this tendency within yourself and only yourself.

Also, remember that energy goes where attention flows. If you are totally consumed with the wicked deeds of the evil cabal, as so many otherwise righteous people are, you are inadvertently giving away your personal power and energy, thus contributing to their ability to control people with fear.

When you are engaged in an endless and all too often speculative discussion about the evil deeds of others, you are engaged in a form of worship that puts one in a state of continually imagining the uninhibited power of some other mysterious and unnameable other. This makes their power much more real than it may actually be. Stop worshiping psychopaths and evil people by giving them so much of your attention, because exposing corruption alone is not enough to create a better world. In order to see positive change we have to shift our attention to those ideas and people who are contributing to the healing of the earth and its people.

Additionally, recognize that in today’s media landscape, even those who may seem to have your best interest at heart often profit wildly from perpetuating fear and despair. We live in a viral information culture where buzzwords, distortions, and over-simplifications get clicks and earn advertising dollars. There is an enormous profit motive in keeping people teetering on the margin of despondency and hope. We’ve built an entire economy out of fear, and it’s up to you to break this cycle and smash this paradigm. You can do so by checking in with your heart and asking if the information you’re consuming is inspired by fear or by love.

Finally, use the freedom you still have. Use it right now to become the person you are supposed to be. Follow your heart and find your place, wherever it may be. If you are interested in politics or otherwise directly confronting injustice and corruption in the system, throw yourself wholly into this effort, with heart. However, if your calling is beneficial in any other way, do not diminish the positive effect that you can have on the world by simply being a force of good, big or small. If all you have to offer at this moment is a smile, use it generously.

Ultimately, there are many ways to resist evil, and as George Herbert wrote, ‘the best revenge is living well.’ Heal yourself and become an agent of joy. Whether there is, or is not, a round-table evil cabal of untouchables is ultimately irrelevant to how you live your life right now. Get on with the business of living well.

Final Thoughts

I wrote this piece as an indirect response to an email I recently received from a reader. I’m noting it here because in my position I see this sentiment quite frequently, and I feel that it needs to be called out. Here is the note in full:

Hi there.
I really don’t appreciate your website getting VERY POLITICAL.
I am going to quit reading it now and will recommend the same thing to all of the people I know.
Obviously, there is a lot of info you don’t know and you are wasting your time playing into the hands of the Evil Cabal. I have no time for little minds.
Very Sincerely,
L

Clearly this person, L, cares about the world we live in and the future we create together, yet, based on my own personal experience, personal growth, and ever-evolving understanding of the world, I feel like this mindset needs to be acknowledged as counter-productive and harmful to one’s well-being and mental stability, while ultimately contributing to the oppressiveness in our world today.

It does need to be said, though, that there are undoubtedly evil people, institutions, corporations, and diabolical plans at play in our world, so again, I ask you, what exactly are you going to do about it?

About the Author

Dylan Charles is the editor of Waking Times and host of The Battered Souls Podcast, both dedicated to ideas of personal transformation, societal awakening, and planetary renewal. His personal journey is deeply inspired by shamanic plant medicines and the arts of Kung Fu, Qi Gong and Yoga. After seven years of living in Costa Rica, he now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and enjoys spending time with family. He has written hundreds of articles, reaching and inspiring millions of people around the world.

This article (How YOU Can Undermine the ‘Evil Cabal’) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Dylan Charles and WakingTimes.com.

The views in this article may not reflect editorial policy of Collective Spark.

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