Life in Late Stage Capitalism
“It’s much easier to imagine the end of all life on earth than a much more modest radical change in capitalism.”
– Slavoj Žižek
- Democratic Republic of the Congo hit by worst floods in decades:
More than 300 people have died and 280,000 households in more than half the country have been forced to leave their homes since heavy rains started at the end of November. More than 1,500 schools, 267 health centres, 211 markets and 146 roads have been damaged.
- Prisoners in the U.S. are part of a hidden forced-labour workforce linked to hundreds of popular food brands:
They are among America’s most vulnerable laborers. If they refuse to work, some can jeopardize their chances of parole or face punishment like being sent to solitary confinement. They also are often excluded from protections guaranteed to almost all other full-time workers, even when they are seriously injured or killed on the job.
The goods these prisoners produce wind up in the supply chains of a dizzying array of products found in most American kitchens, from Frosted Flakes cereal and Ball Park hot dogs to Gold Medal flour, Coca-Cola and Riceland rice. They are on the shelves of virtually every supermarket in the country, including Kroger, Target, Aldi and Whole Foods. And some goods are exported, including to countries that have had products blocked from entering the U.S. for using forced or prison labor.
Many of the companies buying directly from prisons are violating their own policies against the use of such labor.
Some prisoners work on the same plantation soil where slaves harvested cotton, tobacco and sugarcane more than 150 years ago, with some present-day images looking eerily similar to the past.
[…] [T]he U.S. has blocked shipments of cotton coming from China, a top manufacturer of popular clothing brands, because it was produced by forced or prison labor. But crops harvested by U.S. prisoners have entered the supply chains of companies that export to China.
In Alabama, where prisoners are leased out by companies, AP reporters followed inmate transport vans to poultry plants run by Tyson Foods, […] along with a company that supplies beef, chicken and fish to McDonald’s. The vans also stopped at a chicken processor that’s part of a joint-venture with Cargill, which is America’s largest private company. It brought in a record $177 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2023 and supplies conglomerates like PepsiCo.
- Beauty chain Sephora hit $10 billion in revenue while workers get cookies to celebrate the milestone.
- German supermarket chain withdraws ad after customer backslash over slogan “For democracy. Against Nazis.”
- Germany’s former top neo-Nazi hunter now being monitored as right-wing extremist:
Hans-Georg Maassen, who until five years ago was responsible for protecting Germany against violent and extremist threats to its democracy, is himself now being monitored by the security agency he ran […].
[…] [T]he lawyer has become known for his increasingly radical commentary on the supposed threat immigration poses to Germany, becoming a hero to far-right activists including some in the circles surrounding Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss, the aristocrat who led a foiled coup attempt in 2022.
Maassen’s post-BfV career as a far-right icon has been a growing embarrassment to Germany’s security services as they contend with a burgeoning far-right scene that is profiting from a lacklustre economy and stretched public services.
- Argentina police crack down on protests against sweeping economic, social and political reform package:
TV footage showed police firing rubber bullets and water cannons at hundreds of demonstrators opposed to the reform package.
- Spain’s northeast region of Catalonia declared drought emergency:
Reservoirs that serve 6 million people, including the population of Barcelona, are at less than 16 per cent of their capacity, a historic low.
- Berlusconi’s Sardinian estate on sale for €500 million.
- Brussels threatens to hit Hungary’s economy if Viktor Orbán vetoes Ukraine aid:
In a document drawn up by EU officials and seen by the Financial Times, Brussels has outlined a strategy to explicitly target Hungary’s economic weaknesses, imperil its currency and drive a collapse in investor confidence in a bid to hurt “jobs and growth” if Budapest refuses to lift its veto against the aid to Kyiv.
- Romanian far-right leader lays claim on Ukrainian regions, Moldova.
- Hungary far-right would lay claim to neighbouring region if Ukraine loses war.
- U.S. department store chain Macy’s faces lawsuit for using facial recognition to accuse man of robbery he did not commit:
A 61-year-old man has sued Macy’s department store and Sunglass Hut for using a facial recognition system to wrongfully accuse him of robbing their stores at gunpoint. The complainant, Harvey Eugene Murphy Jr., was arrested in October 2023 for the robbery in a Macy’s in the Houston area. While he was detained — until his alibi proved his innocence — Murphy was raped and beaten, according to his lawsuit. If confirmed, this would be the latest case in which facial recognition systems for public security have caused serious errors with sweeping consequences.
- Nearly 25,000 U.S. tech workers were laid off in the first weeks of 2024.
- Property giant China Evergrande ordered to liquidate with debts of $300 billion.
- Escaping poverty in U.K. has become much harder in past two decades, report says:
Publishing its UK poverty report for 2024, it said 6 million of the poorest people – those living in very deep poverty – would need on average to more than double their incomes to move out of hardship.
Its analysis showed the average person in poverty had an income 29% below the poverty line on the latest official figures for 2021-22, up from a gap of 23% in the mid-1990s. […]
For the poorest households – those living in very deep poverty – the average income was 59% below the poverty line, with this gap increasing by about two-thirds over the past 25 years.
- The world’s largest cruise ship sets sail on maiden voyage:
The 365m-long (1,197 ft) Icon of the Seas has 20 decks and can house a maximum of 7,600 passengers. It is owned by Royal Caribbean Group.
It cost $2bn (£1.6bn) to build and also has more than 40 restaurants, bars and lounges.
- Record number of Americans are homeless amid nationwide surge in rent, report finds:
According to a Jan. 25 report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, roughly 653,000 people reported experiencing homelessness in January of 2023, up roughly 12% from the same time a year prior and 48% from 2015. That marks the largest single-year increase in the country’s unhoused population on record, Harvard researchers said.
- Nearly half of Americans have $500 or less in their savings accounts, survey found.
- Nancy Pelosi made $500,000 from her Nvidia bet, doubling her annual government salary in just two months.
- Texas superintendent took out a full-page newspaper ad over school dress code decision:
One particular part of the ad that garnered outrage was when Poole asserted “being an American requires conformity.”
- U.S. National Security Agency buys Americans’ web browsing data without warrant.
- Bodies washed ashore in southern Turkey from a lost migrant ship sailing toward Cyprus from the Lebanese-Syrian coast.
- “Punishment beatings” used at E.U.-backed Greek refugee camps and detention centres, alleges N.G.O.:
[T]he Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) documented dozens of testimonies from individuals who experienced physical abuse in closed camps, police stations, prisons and pre-removal detention centres across the southern European country.
Interviewees reported being violently punished for “making eye contact” with officers, while others said they were beaten for talking while waiting in line to be counted, coughing, and not cleaning their rooms.
According to the BVMN, violence by staff was frequently concealed, with 45% of respondents saying they were attacked in “hidden spaces”.
- Algorithm denied food to thousands of poor in India’s Telangana:
Initially deployed by the state police to identify criminals, the system is now widely used by the state government to ascertain the eligibility of welfare claimants and to catch welfare fraud.
- More than 70 people killed in Mali gold mine collapse.
- China added more solar panels in 2023 than U.S. did in its entire history.
- Dutch police regularly force people to give up footage from doorbell cameras:
Inquiries by BNR at ten regional police forces, the National Police, and the Public Prosecution Service (OM) showed that requisitioning footage from owners of doorbell cameras is now standard practice. After a crime, police officers walk the neighborhood and check for cameras door to door. Refusing a demand for footage is a punishable offense that can lead to a fine or a prison sentence of up to three months.
- U.N. special rapporteur condemns U.K. crackdown on environmental protest:
A severe crackdown on environmental protest in Britain with “draconian” new laws, excessive restrictions on courtroom evidence and the use of civil injunctions is having a chilling impact on fundamental freedoms, the United Nations special rapporteur has said.
- Fascist salute legal at rallies unless it threatens public order, says Italy’s high court.
- S.U.V.s drive trend for new cars to grow 1 cm wider in U.K. and E.U. every two years, says report:
New cars have become so bloated that half of them are too wide to fit in parking spaces designed to the minimum on-street standards in many countries, the report found. The average width of a new car in the EU and UK passed 180cm in the first half of 2023, having grown an average of 0.5cm each year since 2001.
- Belarus adopts new military doctrine involving nuclear weapons.
- U.K. Army chief says society must prepare for war with Russia.
- Sweden calls population to prepare for war:
Swedish child protection group BRIS said its hotline had been saturated with calls from worried children after the blunt comments on war had spread online, prompting its secretary general Magnus Jagerskog to plead with media to take more care in how they relay news to children.
- U.S. medical centre warns it may deny care to patients making “offensive comments” about race, gender of staff.
- DPD A.I. chatbot swears, calls itself “useless” and criticises delivery firm.
- Medical debt lawsuits in U.S. clog courts as hospitals sue for unpaid medical bills.
- Fujitsu bugs that sent innocent people to prison were known “from the start”.
- Miami Police used Clearview A.I. facial recognition in arrest of homeless man:
Miami police used facial recognition technology to identify a homeless man who refused to give his name to an officer. That man was arrested, but prosecutors quickly dropped the case after determining the officer lacked probable cause for the arrest.
- San Francisco plans to introduce 400 license plate cameras:
San Francisco’s police chief said the cameras won’t be deployed as part of a mass surveillance operation.
- French N.G.O. warns situation is getting worse for homeless people.
- Ukrainian military is experimenting with psychedelic drug Ibogaine to treat traumatic brain injury and promote battle readiness.
- Americans can no longer afford their cars:
That means that more than 60 percent of American households currently cannot afford to buy a new car, based on Census data. For individuals, the numbers are even worse, with 82 percent of people below the $100,000 line.
- U.K. faces a cost of dying crisis as funeral costs reach record high.
- Canada’s health care crunch has become “horrific and inhumane”, doctors warn:
Jain says Canadians are waiting in emergency departments with serious illnesses for 10 to up to 32 hours. The CMA also reported an approximate 20-hour wait time in some parts of the country. Two Canadian patients have even died this season waiting in an ER at a hospital on Montreal’s south shore.
- World’s richest five men double wealth:
The world’s five wealthiest men have more than doubled their wealth since 2020, while five billion people have been made poorer, according to a new report by British charity Oxfam.
The combined wealth of the top five richest people in the world – Elon Musk, Bernard Arnault, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, and Mark Zuckerberg – has increased by $464 billion (€423 billion), or 114%, to $869 billion last year.
It estimated that 148 top corporations made $1.8 trillion in profits, 52 percent up on 3-year average, allowing hefty pay-outs to shareholders even as millions of workers faced a cost of living crisis as inflation led to wage cuts in real terms.
- Around 30% of those born in Portugal aged between 15 and 39 decided to emigrate.
- Three migrants drown in Rio Grande after Texas blocks Border Patrol from rescue:
A woman and two children drowned in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass […] as they were attempting to cross the U.S. southern border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection told TPR that Border Patrol was prevented from deploying lifesaving efforts by agents with Operation Lone Star, the controversial Texas border security initiative.
- Panama Canal drought forces Maersk to start using “land bridge” for Oceania cargo.
- Greenland startup begins shipping glacier ice to cocktail bars in the United Arab Emirates.
- France to introduce school uniforms in bid to reduce bullying and inequality.
- eBay pays $3m fine for harassment of bloggers critical of the company:
The acts of intimidation included sending live insects, a foetal pig and a funeral wreath to the Steiners’ home in Natick, Massachusetts.
Baugh and his associates also installed a GPS tracking device on the couple’s car and created posts on the website Craigslist inviting sexual encounters at their home, according to the filings.
- Brand-new Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplane forced to make an emergency landing after mid-flight cabin panel blowout.
- Boeing wants U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to exempt MAX 7 from safety rules to get it in the air.
- Citigroup plans 20,000 job cuts – about 10% of its global staff – over two years.
- Costa Rica’s murder rate hits record, up 38% from the previous year.
- Ecuador declares state of emergency amid prison chaos:
Ecuador’s prison agency said there were “incidents” […] at six of the country’s overcrowded prisons, where clashes between rival gangs are frequent and have left more than 400 prisoners dead since 2021.
- Norway to allow mining waste to be dumped in fjords.
- Argentina’s inflation hits 211% in 2023, fastest gain in three decades.
- Turkey inflation ends second year near 65%.
- U.S. debt rises above $34 trillion for first time:
The U.S. national debt has eclipsed $34 trillion for the first time, the Treasury Department said […], as persistently large annual deficits continue to add to the federal tab.
Roughly three months after the debt first hit $33 trillion, the new milestone comes as lawmakers brace for fiscal showdowns over spending levels in the new year.
“[E]mancipatory politics must always destroy the appearance of a ‘natural order’, must reveal what is presented as necessary and inevitable to be a mere contingency, just as it must make what was previously deemed to be impossible seem attainable.”
– Mark Fisher