An empire doesn’t like those who are unwilling to serve its purpose. Since the invasion of Ukraine, the White House made it crystal clear that the nations who denounce or won’t support its “unprecedented and expansive” sanctions against Russia, will have to pay a heavy price. The world already witnessed Washington’s removal of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan who refused to sing the same tune along with the Empire to wage a war against Russia by visiting Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine. He refused to be a slave of the Western powers and shouted out loud, “What do you think of us? Are we your slaves… that whatever you say, we will do?”
I am from a disappearing nation. My country, Bangladesh, is one of several at risk of becoming submerged partially or completely by rising sea levels caused by climate change in the coming decades. 75 percent of the country lies below sea level. Bangladesh, a tropical country on top of a low-lying delta, is no stranger to flooding, especially during monsoon season. But the extent to which this flooding has taken place in recent years is unprecedented. Flooding in Sylhet and other northeastern districts of Bangladesh between May and June of 2022 displaced an estimated 15 million people – approximately 9 percent of the country – and toppled hundreds of villages in 2022 alone.
On Wednesday 24 April 2013, 3,000 workers entered Rana Plaza, an eight-story building in the Dhaka suburb of Savar in Bangladesh. They produced garments for the transnational commodity chain that stretches from the cotton fields of South Asia, through Bangladesh’s machines and workers, and on to retail houses in the Western world. Garments for famous brands such as Benetton, Bonmarché, Prada, Gucci, Versace, and Zara are stitched here, as are the cheaper clothes that hang on Walmart racks. The previous day, Bangladeshi authorities had asked the owner, Sohel Rana, to evacuate the building due to structural problems.
A study published this month found that popular international fashion brands with factories in Bangladesh were involved in multiple “unfair practices,” such as paying suppliers below the cost of production, which had an impact on workers and their livelihoods. The study conducted by Aberdeen University and advocacy group Transform Trade, titled ‘Impact of Global Clothing Retailers’ Unfair Practices on Bangladeshi Suppliers During COVID-19,’ was based on the survey of 1,000 Bangladeshi factories that manufacture garments for international fashion firms. It found that these factories were facing rising costs for raw materials, and nearly one in five struggled to pay the Bangladeshi minimum wage of £2.30 per day. Professor Pamela Abbott, co-investigator of the study and director of the Center for Global Development at the University of Aberdeen, claimed that fashion brands were extracting their wealth from some of the world’s poorest countries, a form of 21st century neo-colonialism.
Rising sea levels and extreme flooding in Bangladesh are devastating lives and livelihoods. This year, floods in Bangladesh killed more than 100 people and, according to AFP, eroded at least 1,800 hectares (4,500 acres) of land according to estimates by Bangladesh’s Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS). The homes of at least 10,000 people were also affected. Totally, as many as 7.2 million have been affected by the floods, as per the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Cross Societies, and nearly half a million had to flee their homes and take refuge elsewhere as water levels rose this summer. As per a report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in February, climate change is also severely impacting the country’s food production. According to *New Age Bangladesh,* the report points with alarm to the “declining production” of basic food grains such as rice and wheat, by 12-17% and 12-61%, respectively, by “mid-century.”
On the show this week, Chris Hedges talks to Fabian Scheidler about how the global economic machine came to dominate our lives, and with looming social upheavals caused by predatory capitalism, what can be done to blunt its destructive power. Fabian Scheidler is author of The End of the Megamachine: A Brief History of a Failing Civilization, and co-founder of Kontext TV.
By Andy Rowell for Oil Change International - As much of the North American media focuses on the ongoing unprecedented flooding and relief efforts in Texas and now potentially Louisiana, another tragedy is unfolding, which is going largely unreported, in Asia. Whereas the death toll in Texas stands at 20, the estimated death toll in South Asia is estimated at 1,200 after weeks of unusually strong monsoon rains affecting India, Bangladesh and Nepal. The Red Cross estimates that 14 million people have been affected by flooding in India; over 7 million in Bangladesh and 1.5 million in Nepal. The United Nations puts the total number of people affected by floods and lindslides at total nearly double that at 41 million. According to the Red Cross: “Vast swaths of land across all three countries are under water .. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Many medical facilities, schools, markets and other essential services are submerged.” And as the rains continue, many people are worried that the death toll – and the number affected – will rise. Although the monsoon is an annual event, this year’s rains have been seen as far worse than usual, which people are blaming our changing climate for making things much worse.
By John Vidal for The Guardian - Bangladeshi villagers staged further protests on Tuesday after police opened fire and killed at least four people demonstrating against the planned construction of two large Chinese-financed coal-fired power stations. According to police and eyewitness reports, several thousand villagers gathered in the coastal town of Gandamara near Chittagong on Monday, to protest against the two power plants. These are expected to force the eviction of several thousand people in a fertile coastal farming areas and the demolition of temples and schools.
By Samantha Page for Think Progress - Bangladeshi police opened fire on a group of protestors Monday, killing at least four, according to local news reports. Thousands of people were charged with assault and vandalism in connection with the demonstration against Chinese-financed coal plants on the country’s southeast coast. “We demand an immediate, full and independent inquiry into yesterday’s events to hold those responsible to account for the unnecessary murder of at least four people,” two Bangladeshi groups, National Committee for Saving the Sundarbans and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, said in an emailed statement.
By Cindy Carr for Sierra Club - DHAKA, BANGLADESH -- Early this morning, thousands of activists from Bangladesh and India joined together in Dhaka to trek more than 100 miles in protest of the Indian-backed Rampal coal project and adjacent Orion Khulna power station. Rampal and Khulna, the proposed 1,320- and 660-megawatt coal projects, sit adjacent to the Sundarbans, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed mangrove forest. Sundarbans, which means “beautiful forest” in Bengali, is one of the largest continuous mangrove forests remaining in the world.
By Jason Burke in The Guardian - An Islamic militant group in Bangladesh has issued a hitlist of secular bloggers, writers and activists around the world, saying they will be killed if its demands are not met. The list will raise fears that Islamic militant violence within the unstable south Asian country could take on an international dimension. The targets in the list include nine bloggers based in the UK, seven in Germany, two in the US, one in Canada and one in Sweden. Some are Bangladeshi citizens living overseas. Others are dual nationals or citizens of the western nations. The list was issued in a statement on the internet by the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a group that has been blamed for a series of murders of bloggers and activists in Bangladesh over the last 18 months. All those killed have been prominent critics of extremist religious doctrines, especially in Islam.
By International Labor Rights Forum - The International Labor Rights Forum is thrilled to announce that two years of campaigning, with over one million people participating, has succeeded in securing $30 million in compensation for the victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse – the deadliest disaster in the history of the global garment industry. “This campaign victory would not have been possible without the hard work of workers’ rights groups and labor unions on the ground in Bangladesh, and activism from a wide array of allies around the world who held more than a hundred store actions and demonstrations at corporate headquarters,” said Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum.
By Beenish Ahmed in Think Progress - The owner of a collapsed garment factory building in Bangladesh that’s 2013 collapse killed more than 1,100 people has been charged with murder. Sohel Rana is among 42 people who face criminal charges for ignoring warnings not to allow workers into the Rana Plaza building the day before it collapsed. Government officials responsible for safety inspections were charged with murder alongside various factory stakeholders. They all face the death penalty if convicted. “It is the biggest industrial disaster in Bangladesh’s history,” lead investigator Bijoy Krishna Kar told AFP. “They [the factory owners] discussed and decided to keep the factory open,” Kar said. “They sent the workers to their deaths with cool heads.”
Marking two years since the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, protesters are converging on the country's capital and feminist actions are sweeping the globe on Friday, to honor the lives of the 1,138 people—most of them women—who perished in the tragedy and to demand justice for those they left behind. News outlets are reporting that demonstrators have gathered in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, the city where the Rana Plaza factory was located. Among them are survivors of the tragedy and family members of the deceased, who say that, two years later, they still have not received adequate compensation. "I haven’t received any compensation from the government yet," Nilufar Begum, a worker wounded in the factory collapse, told Euronews. "I can’t support my family, my children can’t go to school. I’m crippled forever."
Bangladesh police have fired tear gas and stormed a garment factory where workers were staging a hunger strike over pay, a union official says. The police, armed with batons, forced 400 workers to flee the factory in the capital Dhaka where they had been holding a 10-day strike to demand back pay and a holiday bonus, the official said. Bangladesh's garment industry, the world's second largest, which supplies top Western retailers such as Wal-Mart and H&M, has a woeful history of poor pay and conditions for its four million workers. "Police fired tear gas and baton charged us, they forced us out of the factory, where we were staging the hunger strike," said Moshrefa Mishu, head of Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee, which represents 15 garment unions. An AFP reporter at the scene saw workers running out of the factory crying due to the tear gas, while others were bleeding from head injuries. Angry at the police action, the workers then took to the streets, vandalising cars and buses and prompting officers to fire more rounds of tear gas, the reporter said. The workers have been on a hunger strike on behalf of 1,500 employees who stitch clothes in five factories belonging to the Tuba Group in Dhaka's Badda district.