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Food fraud and counterfeit cotton: detectives untangling the global supply chain (theguardian.com)
170 points by prostoalex 65 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 120 comments

From the article: "If the elements in the soil and water of a region work their way into the plants grown there, they also work their way into our bodies when we eat the produce of those plants, or when we eat the meat of animals fed on those plants. We ingest these elements, process them, and use them to build flesh, teeth and bones. So the elements making up our bodies can tell us something about the food we’ve eaten and the land that supports us."

Seems like the same idea would apply to regional differences in health including mental health. An obvious one would be if the land is high in lead, the people living on it might be more violent. Areas with oil wells are likely affecting air and food quality. Maybe areas with a lot of lithium result in happier people. Western medicine has largely ignored environmental effects. A map of background radiation levels across the world might have an interesting health story to tell as could multi-spectral satellite imagery. Oritain might be sitting on a wealth of very useful health data, unaware of it.

> Western medicine has largely ignored environmental effects.

I wouldn’t say they ignored it, instead environmental effects aren’t in scope to medicine. If your doctor said ‘you live on Long Island so you have a higher chance of breast cancer, combined with your family history, I advise you to sell everything and move your family.’ The vast majority of people are going yo ignore that.

Even if you have the means to move, your doctor can’t quantify your local ties and relationships in a meaningful way to determine if increased risks from the environment are worth it.

I think a sanity check heuristic applies: if the environmental effects on health were big enough to matter, the local government would turn the whole area into an exclusion zone (if effects were negative) or a vacation place (if they were positive). Since those things don't seem to happen, we can tentatively assume those effects don't rise above the noise floor.

(Same thing applies to dietary disinformation: if some foodstuffs were to actually increase your chance of cancer meaningfully, they'd be classified as hazardous substances. If they were to visibly improve your health, they'd be regulated as drugs.)

Interesting thought.. and the data is surely available, someone must just find it and use it to connect the dots

I want UL certification fraud investigation. Someone should be buying random phone chargers, e-bike batteries, and scooters, and running them through the usual tests. If the certifications are fake, someone should go to jail.

In Germany Stiftung Warentest buys multiple samples of things to test in random shops around the country.

Tropfen auf den heißen Stein...

This is an interesting article. It also makes me think that this kind of analysis presents a lot of opportunities.

Take for example the Chinese beef being labeled as premium New Zealand beef and sold for much higher prices in supermarkets. If shoppers can't tell the difference without this analysis, then it implies that the price differential between these two products is larger than it should be.

That specific Chinese beef producer is likely selling his product to a wholesaler at a standard (low) price. It is somewhere else in the supply chain that the mislabeling comes in - and that is the entity that makes the profit. If that beef producer was aware that his beef is selling at a much higher retail price, then he should be selling his product to the wholesaler at a much higher price. What prevents this from happening? Well, knowledge (and a marketing budget). There should be plenty of capital available to solve that problem :)

> If shoppers can't tell the difference without this analysis, then it implies that the price differential between these two products is larger than it should be.

But their bodies might.

Standards for meat are much higher in New Zealand than in China. I would be curious to have a health inspector take a look at the facilities where the beef was produced and handled...

Let's just say the country isn't new to food safety scandals...



>Let's just say the country isn't new to food safety scandals...

Yeah, just because I can't taste the melamine they used to water down the milk doesn't mean I want to drink melamine. I especially don't want to drink the chemical they later added in addition to melamine in order to spoof the melamine detection process and continue to sell watered down, tainted milk.

The low end of food production has some seriously determined bad actors. "Let the consumer decide" definitely isn't good enough.

Meat produced in New Zealand might be more sustainable, or ethically farmed, or have a smaller environmental transportation footprint if you’re in New Zealand, than meat from somewhere else. People paying premium for meat may be interested in all of these things—in fact, they may be interested in these things even over the taste of the meat.

I don’t think it’s true it implies the price differential is wrong. Just because you can’t tell the difference by consuming it, it doesn’t mean there is no difference you should care about.

> If that beef producer was aware that his beef is selling at a much higher retail price, then he should be selling his product to the wholesaler at a much higher price

You can't be a retail beef producer in China boldly claiming to produce New Zealand beef. The value-enhancing fraud has to happen a bit higher up the chain.

> If shoppers can't tell the difference without this analysis

Provenance matters even if the difference is undetectable.

> If shoppers can't tell the difference without this analysis, then it implies that the price differential between these two products is larger than it should be.

Or that the shopper has misplaced trust in the seller/grocery store.

In a lot of cases we can taste the difference. Organic vs. conventional chicken has a different mouthfeel. And Wagyu Beef vs. regular beef also has a similar different feel.

However I also buy free-range organic eggs and milk. I’d have no idea if those products were mislabeled. But it also makes me feel better I’m not contributing to cruel factory farming and antibiotic abuse. If that’s not the case, oh well. I did all I could reasonably do aside from going vegan.

I find it hard to tell with milk, but for eggs it's generally pretty obvious by looking at the yolk. Small and unsaturated yellow in mass produced eggs; larger and a deep orange color in the higher quality eggs that I've purchased.

That can't quantify free range or organic, but given that the eggs which are labeled free range / organic have this noticeable difference in their contents, I think it's safe to assume the chickens were treated better and taken care of.

You can't pass off non-Wagyu beef as Wagyu beef unless the consumer doesn't know what Wagyu beef is.

I totally disagree with the organic vs conventional chicken argument. I would suggest that the difference you notice is the breed of the chicken.

Organic vs non-organic and free-range vs non-free-range is not something where you'd say that there is an information arbitrage opportunity. The concept was that this analysis could be used to identify opportunity, not that every single instance of label fraud was an opportunity. Sheesh.

You could very well be right about chicken breeds. I never thought about different breeds tasting different. I know there are super-sized industrial ones which taste horrible. But what are good small chicken breeds? And would a fancy/organic supermarket butcher be a good source for this?

Those are good questions and I don't know that I can give you good answers. I think the answer would be yes about the butcher.

I just moved out to the "country" and might raise some chickens myself. If so, I'll be doing some research into the breeds that have the best flavor.

Can't say about the breeds, but the cheap supermarket victims of Henschwitz taste pretty bad compared to actual free range hens most likely because the latter move around instead of being stuck in a cage.

It could also be the brine pumped into the non-organic chicken. I don't know if pumping brine into chicken affects its organic status or not, but the organic chickens I see at the store do not have brine or chicken broth listed as ingredients, while the non-organic ones do.

The quality of natural products like beef is probabilistic. You might not be able to tell a poor example of a premium product from a good example of a low-end brand. And if you buy infrequently, you might not know what you're missing.

Just because the scam works doesn't mean there isn't a perceptible difference.

I can't tell the difference between leaded and unleaded gas. So it shouldn't matter if I use leaded gas.

The environmental impacts and animal welfare are probably an issue for many consumers, so even if can't tell the difference they might be fooled into thinking their cow had a free pasture or something.

Clearly, the next step is to create a fake origin tracing firm.

That implies a whole other set of dirty tricks available - not only "laundering" products but using it to libel competitors or as a protection racket of sorts. Fungible commodities are a very awkward thing to differentiate, much less trace and proving that there is no basis is hard, especially if there are other counterfeit packagers.

If "Foo Fish" really uses only Pacific Cod but I find a package with Atlantic Cod printed and packed identically how can you prove a disregard for the truth or bad intentions in saying "Foo Fish contains lying mislabeled fish?" I sourced the fish from this store from this wholesaler with the same packaging.

Introducing PPKI could technically help but would be a logistical nightmare and vulnerable to copying.

Just over a year ago, at least two textile and fiber watchdogs faced scrutiny for their links to the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a quasi-military organization that the U.S. government sanctioned in 2020 due to its role in operating mass internment camps and using forced labor in cotton fields.


Sources: Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Darren Byler, and Adrian Zenz.

This should be hilarious to anyone who has been scrutinizing the Xinjiang narratives closely.

Context: A lot of Adrian Zenz's "research" is pretty sketchy. However, a lot of criticism directed his way is straight up Chinese propaganda, which also means that anybody else questioning his methods gets labeled as a wumao shill.

Can you link a criticism of him that is misleading?

Check out the vitriol in Chinese state media like Global Times: https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1197187.shtml

This should be hilarious to anyone who has been scrutinizing the Xinjiang narratives closely.

"Hilarious" is not the reaction that comes to mind.

I think it is, just like I would e.g. characterize an article that sources Mike Pompeo as a neutral expert on Iran as hilariously unserious.

>Clearly, the next step is to create a fake origin tracing firm.

The possibilities for disruption are endless.

One of the factors that influences international trade is the way a successfully loaded cargo can then change hands during transit or be diverted to a different destination port according to market forces.

The middlemen in this process have strong incentive to conceal the true cost per tonne of the wholesale material from the inquisitive beancounters of the ultimate payers.

The true origin may or may not be handled accordingly, depending on how important it is to avoid having the consumers begin sourcing the material more directly from the manufacturing facility, thereby bypassing some middlemen who could become disgruntled.

It might be a better business proposition to not swim against the flow of cargo ships.

It could be more lucrative being the firm which issues the best fake origin documents rather than the one revealing the true source using advanced scientific techniques.

It's always paid to expedite cargo and frowned upon to introduce any delays.

Don't ask me how I know.

Then again you could take it one step further and have a completely fake firm . . .

Most recently, the apparel world has been roiled by revelations that cotton from Xinjiang, in China, is being grown and processed using forced labour. The scandal implicated some of the world’s biggest brands, including H&M, Nike, Adidas and Gap, and prompted sanctions and restrictions in the west on imports made of Xinjiang cotton. Last August, not long after the US banned all imports containing Xinjiang cotton, US customs authorities asked Oritain for a pilot demonstration of its cotton-tracing abilities.

This is one of the reasons China is going particularly ballistic over Xinjiang cotton. In the past supply chain controversies could be "fixed" relatively easy with bogus local inspections, fake documentation, or supplier shell games, but the science here is harder to fool.

This not just an issue for cotton. As the article notes, fake fish can be spotted with genetic analysis, and that's a global problem with very local consequences. The Boston Globe did a big report on this a few years back, concluding many local restaurants and markets in Eastern Massachusetts were flat-out lying about the fish they were selling:

Ken’s Steak House in Framingham again served Pacific cod instead of a more expensive Atlantic species. Slices of fish sold as white tuna at Sea To You Sushi in Brookline were again actually escolar, an oily species nicknamed the “ex-lax’’ fish by some in the industry because it can cause digestion problems. H Mart, an Asian supermarket chain found to have sold mislabeled red snapper last year, this time was selling inexpensive freshwater Nile perch as pricier ocean grouper at its Burlington store.


Just to nitpick slightly there is no such thing as white tuna. What’s called white tuna is always escolar. Albacore is a pinkish or off white tuna but I’ve never seen it listed as white tuna at a restaurant.

Out of curiosity, I wondered if the FDA agreed. And they do:


The FDA does warn against using the name "white tuna," but they sure don't seem to care in practice.

The FDA cares very little about most things in practice. So long as they've issued warnings (ass-covering), they'll let mislabelling and false advertising go on willy nilly.

They only get serious if people get sick. Using the wrong fish generally isn't going to make people sick.

Back in university, I had a class that required I get up early some mornings so I walked past a lot of sushi places as fish was getting delivered. Lots of places getting boxes labelled escolar, but nobody had anything but tuna on the menu.

The fake fish situation is well documented in the book Real Food/Fake Food


Also makes me think that if two different varieties of fish, steak etc. are so indistinguishable to the end consumer that you have to rely on genetic analysis to separate them, what warrants the massively inflated price of one over the other?

If I order a $500 bottle of wine but am served from a $50 bottle, and neither I nor anyone else at the table can tell the difference, did I not still get the $500 "experience" I wanted?

I mean, to be fair, it's not like you're sampling the fish at the market. Plus, most people don't assume they're being lied to; your thought might very well be, "huh, this is some pretty bad Atlantic cod" instead of "this must be the inferior Pacific cod!"

Specifically with fish, it depends on what you’re trying to fool with what.

But I also wonder if the way most fish seems to be cooked in Western cuisine — fillet’d and seared/fried — masquerades the physical qualities that differentiate types of fish.

I love eating fish but I refuse to buy fillets because of all the fraudulent activity. At least when I buy fish whole I know what I’m getting (on a species to species level at least. Farmed/Wild/Specific region is trickier to spot)

Red Snappers and Nile Perches are very different looking fish, but you’d have to buy them whole.

I’m not sure I’ve ever gone somewhere (for retail fish) where you could buy a whole fish where they wouldn’t filet it for you while you are standing there. Of course those bones and head make good stock so I try usually buy whole fish anyway.

Go to Korean or Chinese supermarkets — fish served whole.

I’ve only been to Midwest and east coast Asian markets, but I’ve never had a request to break down a fish turned down. If you are having trouble finding something your area H-Mart (which I think is pretty ubiquitous) will break down a fish you select in a manner you specify.

I wonder how much "crab" in restaurants is crab.

On the other hand, I wonder how much "seafood soup" is actually the real deal (sharkfin soup)

Why does seafood soup imply shark fin soup? Are you not concerned with the ethical concerns around sharkfin soup?

I was told restaurants that used to serve sharkfin soup served "seafood soup" after sharkfin was made illegal.

The gist of what I was saying was that crab -> fake, and ironically "seafood soup" was actually genuine sharkfin

Unless I’m cracking open the shell of a 8 legged creature with claws I don’t believe for a minute I’m truly being served crab.

> Most recently, the apparel world has been roiled by revelations that cotton from Xinjiang, in China, is being grown and processed using forced labour. The scandal...prompted sanctions and restrictions in the west on imports made of Xinjiang cotton.

This is super weird because the US _also_ still uses forced prison labor to pick cotton.

You started a hellish flamewar with this comment. Obviously the topics are serious but internet flamewars about these things are profoundly unserious and not what this site is for. Please take more care in the future, and please use HN in the intended spirit of thoughtful, curious conversation.


We've detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28644625.

> You started a hellish flamewar with this comment.

Well, it's clear after the fact, but that was not intentional. You have way more experience monitoring and tracking these threads and therefore predicting what will probably happen than any of the rest of us. I do think it's hypocritical for a government to impose sanctions for doing something (forced prisoner labor) that that government also does with its own prisoners. It would be nice if we could have an honest discussion about our carceral state without people repeatedly leaning into the idea that "convicted of crime"="deserves what they get, but only here and not there". But I understand that there are clearly now many greyed comments under here, so I don't fault you for separating the thread. And I can't predict that it won't happen again, but I'm sorry about bringing what this thread became to your doorstep.

Is there a single large economy that doesn't prohibit forced prison labor? I can't find one.

Care to name which ones do? China, US, probably Russia? Who else?

US, Germany, Russia, Brazil, China, India, etc.

The truth is that giving convicted prisoners opportunities to work is probably a big net positive. I'm sure plenty of them would work for pennies rather than rot in a cell.

The root of the problem is if there is injustice in sentencing or coercive work conditions. Not the work itself. But that requires far more investigation to establish than pearl-clutching about the universal practice of "forced labor".

But if there is a legit criminal behind bars, I would like to hear reasons why they shouldn't be able to work in a highly controlled, safe workplace.

> The truth is that giving convicted prisoners opportunities to work is probably a big net positive.

The fact that you used the word "opportunities" to described "forced" really demonstrates the problem with the line of reasoning used to justify forced labor.

Forced labor is wrong. Always. Period.

> I would like to hear reasons why they shouldn't be able to work in a highly controlled, safe workplace.

Sure, if someone is in prison they should be able to work. They should have the choice to work. As soon as the labor is forced, then it is unacceptable, immoral, and anyone defending it is wrong.

> than pearl-clutching about the universal practice of "forced labor".

So it's because everyone does it that it's "ok", then?

Or because you think it's better than "rotting in a cell"?

Whatever man. The issue is that the labour is _forced_. Give prisoners a choice to work or not and pay them, at market value, for their work.

If you're against choice and pay for prisoners you really shouldn't be embarrassed to just go ahead and call it what it is: slavery.

The allegation that Xinjiang has prisons and are allowing prisoners to work is almost certainly true. Like virtually every other major economy.

The allegation that the Xinjiang prisoners are actually innocent people being ethnically/religiously cleansed and forced into slavery has extremely little basis in reality, relying completely on claims from a tiny, unaccountable clique of Washington DC based ideologues (Zenz, et al) and ETIM lobbyists (WUC, et al).

However, the article deceptively uses the banal truth of the first allegation as a vehicle to imply that truth of the second, far more extreme allegation. These are classic disinformation methods employed to achieve political agendas.

Entire university department professors have been wiped out and sent to prison https://shahit.biz/supp/list_003.pdf

They should be paid market rate for their labor. Why should prison take away your basic financial rights.

Edit: it's disgusting to me that anyone downvoted this. what do you believe, if not that people have a right to the fruits of their labor, even as criminals? believing otherwise is believing in slavery and exploitation.

It shouldn't also take away from the rights of others. When prison labor is obtained below minimum wage, or under conditions or terms that workers would not accept, you hurt low income workers and drive down their wages in aggregate.

In my opinion, prison labor should only be used for public works. Cleaning up parks and that sort of thing. Giving a captive labor stream to private enterprise is only good for the owners of the select few firms who can take advantage of it.

I agree with the sentiment but it should be pointed out that even public works have to pay their workers at market rates when there are no forced laborers (so: most of the time). Throwing a bunch of forced laborers at public works kind of screws over the average Joe that used to do that for pay.

So, like you say, it shouldn't take away from the rights of others. Just pay the prisoners just like you'd pay any other worker regardless of the kind of job.

> The root of the problem is if there is injustice in sentencing or coercive work conditions. Not the work itself.

lol what? they're in a cage guarded by men with guns. what about that could possibly be anything other than "coercive?"

"Coercitive" would be something like "you make N license plate a day or don't get food".

"If you accept to do non-mandatory work in exchange of money/reduced sentence" it will be your choice.

another way to rephrase that is "if you choose not to work, you will stay in prison for longer." sounds pretty coercive to me!

Not longer that your original sentence though.

Yeah, prisons generally have armed guards.

I think they should be able to work if they want.

I just don't want private entities profiting off prisoners our taxes house.

I agree completely. Any prison labor programs should be entirely in the public sector.

A d pay the federal minimum wage

So your equating prison in the US to the camps in Xinjiang?

Or equating forced prison labor to forced prison labor.

So you're saying that being a Uighur is an equivalent crime to committing robbery or assault?

Someone being in prison simply for being of a certain ethnicity isn't the same as someone being in prison for crimes. Even if the root of those crimes might be complex socio-economic factors like discrimination and income inequality.

In addition, the level of human rights prisoners get in the US is far beyond what any Uighur experiences. Right to a lawyer, right to appeal convictions, visits from family members. It's really a false equivalency.

> Someone being in prison simply for being of a certain ethnicity isn't the same as someone being in prison for crimes.

Even when policing in the US is so completely racially motivated? Driving (hell, biking/walking/breathing) while black is a reality of the US carceral system.

The last year has really shown the world that US policing and incarceration is completely broken and highly resistant to even governance change (who's in charge of whom?)

I'm not saying what China does with the Uyghur population is right. Just that the US is not far away. Hell, look at the border detention centers.

the 13th amendment states that the only acceptable form of slavery is prison labor.

pair that with the fact that the united states is #1 in prisoners per capita, and it's not hard to come to a pretty dark conclusion...

Not just cotton. Fighting fires. Making License plates. Doing laundry.

The difference is U.S. prisoners are convicted felons. Many volunteer for these jobs, such as the firefighters in California. Others are paid a small wage for their work or get reduced sentences.

In China, it's members of specific minority groups such as Uyghurs who are singled out and put into concentration camps ... not because of what they have done, but because of who they are and what they believe.

Uyghurs and other non-Han minority people in China are subjected to forced labor, forced abortions and idealogical re-education.

Via the AP:

An estimated 1 million people or more — most of them Uyghurs — have been confined in re-education camps in Xinjiang in recent years, according to researchers. Chinese authorities have been accused of imposing forced labor, systematic forced birth control and torture, and separating children from incarcerated parents.


The Guardian:

It estimated 570,000 people came through three minority-heavy prefectures alone – Aksu, Hotan, and Kashgar – and that labor programs in other ethnic minority regions as well as prison labor would probably add hundreds of thousands to the figure.

The labour programs are not secret; they are frequently written about in state media as glowing examples of the government assisting millions of poor people into work, but those articles also contain clues to their coercive nature. Transferred workers are often sent far from their home, made to live on site in factories and subjected to ideological training.

Publications on the labour schemes frequently include references to policies discouraging “illegal religious activities” and changing thoughts and behaviour.


As another commenter also observed, "volunteer" is a very poor description of the situation. What exactly are the options here for the prisoner involved?

And I think this is worth distinguishing: a slave is always prisoner of their enslaver. The reverse need not be the case, and yet our system turns prisoners into slaves through forced labor. There's no volunteerism involved here. It's about those with power, those without. Slavery can be understood best by how the powerful behave, not the powerless. No one would volunteer for this or prisoners wouldn't have to be forced to do it.

I'm always disappointed that the lessons of slavery still aren't understood in this country. It's painful and shameful.

EDIT: clarity of terms

Both media sources rely on speculation from one individual, so why not just link that shared source?

You've made about 20 comments in this thread, mostly demanding sources and then dismissing those sources with vague ad-hominem and making zero attempt to engage with the substance of any claims.

Since you seem to be very well educated on this topic, can you share your sources? I'm eager to read them.

My understanding of the "Xinjiang issue" is that Xinjiang has a complex history of separatism & violent terrorism (see Urumqi attacks). Beijing implemented a counterterrorism program in the last decade or two, alongside other initiatives such as comprehensive anti-poverty campaigns. Broadly these programs have the same goal of stabilizing the region, its economy, its politics, its people, and overall they have been successful.

Recognizing China as a competitor on an unchecked rise, Washington "pivoted" its foreign policy on China towards antagonism at the beginning of the Obama admin. [1]

This resulted in a number of related attempts to internally destabilize China and loosen the dominance of the Communist Party, ideally leading to a Chinese regime that is submissive to Washington's demands (as occurred recently in India, Ukraine, Brazil and many other historical cases). Otherwise, China could very well surpass the USA as the most powerful nation on Earth.

Among those attempts is a fierce propaganda initiative, which takes any controversial issue related to China and warps it beyond recognition, with the goal of demonizing the Communist Party. Xinjiang, Hong Kong, COVID-19, Taiwan are among the extremely propagandized topics in circulation.

It is virtually impossible to get a fact-based perspective on these issues from mainstream Western media, because that is not their goal. If a mainstream Western outlet attempts to portray China in a neutral/positive, fact-based light, then they risk repercussions. For example, the illuminating PBS documentary entitled "China's War on Poverty" was removed from the airwaves in USA [2] citing "funding" concerns. Any attempt to deviate from official media policy on China could be labeled a "national security risk" and compromise major media corporation's access to funding and other opportunities. Simply not worth the risk (see Parenti's or Chomsky's "propaganda model").

Meanwhile, extremely dubious "reporting" that furthers this foreign policy agenda is amplified to incredible extents. This is how virtually all "China bad" stories end up tracing their origins from a relatively tiny inbred clique of Washington D.C.-based ideologues/think tanks/"human rights" groups, ETIM separatists, Falun Gong cultists, and weapons manufacturers who stand to profit enormously from the "China Threat" theory. Everyone else is directly or indirectly shut out.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Asian_foreign_policy_of_t...

[2] - https://current.org/2020/05/after-pbs-drops-film-pbs-socal-r...

One source? There are multiple sources, including eyewitness accounts, reports from Chinese and Uyghur exiles, western experts, and even satellite imagery:

"The findings of this research contradict Chinese officials' claims that all 'trainees' from so-called vocational training [centers] had 'graduated' by late 2019," report author Nathan Ruser wrote. "Instead, available evidence suggests that many extrajudicial detainees in Xinjiang's vast 're-education' network are now being formally charged and locked up in higher security facilities, including newly built or expanded prisons, or sent to walled factory compounds for coerced [labor] assignments."


Okay, so far you've linked Adrian Zenz and Raytheon-mouthpiece ASPI.

Is it really so much to ask for a source that doesn't have an obvious and massive Conflict of Interest in destabilizing China?

> have an obvious and massive Conflict of Interest in destabilizing China?

If only you would apply what you demand of others to your own brazen statements.

Rigorous, fact-based scrutiny is "brazen"? Ridiculous. Is this Reddit, or HN?

Please stay on topic: where are your primary sources that don't have a massive Conflict of Interest? It's okay to admit you don't have any.

He'll post the source of both claims when it's time for the Rapture.

> The difference is U.S. prisoners are members of specific minority groups


> Many volunteer for these jobs

True, because the alternative is being locked in your cell 23 hours per day.

In any case, using slave labor for profit is morally abhorrent. It creates very negative societal incentives, and it allows keeping the overall labor rate lower. I'd happily fight fires in CA or elsewhere, if the price is right.

>True, because the alternative is being locked in your cell 23 hours per day.

Source? A family member was charged with a felony for drugs and went to prison, and he was certainly not locked in his cell 23 hours daily.

Not all prisons are the same. The labor camps operate like this, your family member was either not in one of these prisons, or he took the job.

That's unfortunate. However, folks in the US prison system have been convicted of crimes.

Ignoring the fact that we've had prisoners, in places like e.g. Guantanamo, on and off who were/are held for decades without ever even being charged with anything, China has also charged its prisoners with crimes.

You don't agree with China's decision to make practicing religion a crime, I don't agree with the US's decision to make possessing drugs a crime. Both are "crimes" punishable by incarceration according to the two governments.

Presumably China has also convicted it's forced labor of some crimes as well.

Regardless of what the laws are, I believe that prison labor is a bad practice with big ethical issues—it incentives incarceration as a means to procure cheap/free labor that can be used to turn a profit for those in power.

EDIT: To clarify: I don't think giving prisoners an option to work is a bad thing, but nobody should be allowed to profit off of such labor other than the prisoner themselves. Anything else tends to lead towards undesirable incentives and outcomes.

Criminals are still humans and we should be using every effort to rehabilitate them and make them valuable members of society and contributors to the economy in a far more significant way

The Gulags were also full of people who have committed crimes. Some of those crimes were even non-political!

I can't say that's the argument that I'd use to defend slavery, though...

So slavery is legal as long as the slave is a criminal? I'm not following what's being implied.

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