China making uniforms for UK soldiers

Interesting, and a tad ironic. Keep in mind, this is the conservative Telegraph, which may explain all the anti-China quotes.

British Army combat uniforms are to be made in China in a cash-saving exercise forced on the military by the latest round of defence cuts.

The Ministry of Defence has admitted that all combat clothes worn by soldiers will be made in Chinese factories, despite claims by human rights pressure groups that working conditions in them are appalling.

A five-year £50 million contract to supply two million items of combat gear a year has been awarded to a Northern Ireland-based company, Cooneen Watts and Stone, which will sub-contract the work to China.

No MoD officials have visited the factories which will make the uniforms to check on working conditions and practices, even though China is the subject of an European Union arms embargo because of its poor human rights record.

Lindsay Hoyle, the Labour MP for Chorley, Lancashire, who raised the issue in the House of Commons, said last week: “We don’t know whether British uniforms will be manufactured using child labour in sweat shops in terrible conditions.

“It seems a bit hypocritical to me that Britain will not supply weapons to China because of its human rights record but the Government is asking it, a communist country, to supply our Armed Forces with uniforms. It is absurd.”

A spokesman for Amnesty International said: “Poor conditions for Chinese workers are widespread, with low wages, mass lay-offs and corrupt management practices. Those attempting to form trade unions have been met by the authorities with intimidation, arrests and long prison sentences….”

There was no one available to comment from Coneen Watts and Stone, the company which was awarded the contract. A senior military officer said: “This is laughable. Apart from China’s appalling human rights record, it is also potentially the Western world’s most powerful enemy and we are paying them £50 million to make our uniforms.”

I think the officer is being somewhat outspoken, and I have mixed feelings on the topic myself. I want China to get the work and the money. If, however, it goes to encourage sweatshop conditions and child exploitation, I’ll be less enthusiastic. Right now we don’t know, and it sounds like some critics are jumping to the most extreme conclusions, with no meaningful evidence.

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Zheng Qinming, a metaphor for the plight of China’s rural poor

Zheng Qinmeng.jpg
Zheng, 18, killed himself over an $80 debt to his school

The New York Times has begun a new series on the huge economic divide separating China’s urban rich and rural poor starting with a mammoth article by Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley, including an excellent slide show narrated by Kahn. The story uses the horrifying story of Zheng Qinming as a metaphor for the plight of China’s poor.

PUJIA, China — His dying debt was $80. Had he been among China’s urban elite, Zheng Qingming would have spent more on a trendy cellphone. But he was one of the hundreds of millions of peasants far removed from the country’s new wealth. His public high school tuition alone consumed most of his family’s income for a year.

He wanted to attend college. But to do so meant taking the annual college entrance examination. On the humid morning of June 4, three days before the exam, Qingming’s teacher repeated a common refrain: he had to pay his last $80 in fees or he would not be allowed to take the test. Qingming stood before his classmates, his shame overtaken by anger.

“I do not have the money,” he said slowly, according to several teachers who described the events that morning. But his teacher — and the system — would not budge.

A few hours later, Qingming, 18 years old, stepped in front of an approaching locomotive. The train, like China’s roaring economy, was an express.

That’s just for starters. The story of his family and the situation with the school that led to his suicide is maddening. You want to reach into the past and do something to help him. You feel utterly helpless.

Reading the story is unbearably painful. At times I just wanted to stop; why should I inflict such misery on myself? But I forced myself to read it to the end, for better or worse. We can’t pretend this situation doesn’t exist when it involves such a staggering number of people — at least I hope we can’t.

Thanks to Kahn and Yardley for taking on this huge and depressing subject. I look forward to the next installment, not because it’s in any way uplifting, but because they’re telling a story of which many in the West are ignorant.

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Another poll

Kos tells us:

Just saw this on MSNBC after Bush stopped talking, take it for what it’s worth….

THURSDAY SAMPLE
BUSH/CHENEY 47
KERRY/EDWARDS 49

FRIDAY SAMPLE
BUSH/CHENEY 41
KERRY/EDWARDS 54

Also, tied on handling of Iraq.

It’ll die down over the next few weeks, then bush will get his convention bounce, and then it’s off to the debates. I don’t want to set the bar too high — that way, if bush even comes out alive some will say he “won” the debates. But in my heart of hearts, I know Kerry will eat shrub alive.

Update: Another one, conducted by Newsweek.

In a two-way trial heat between the Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates, among registered voters, Sen. John Kerry/Sen. John Edwards lead President George Bush/Vice-President Dick Cheney 52-44 percent, according to the latest Newsweek Poll. In a three- way race with the Ralph Nader/Peter Camejo ticket added, Kerry/Edwards receives 49 percent of the vote; Bush/Cheney, 42 percent and Nader/Camejo, 3 percent, the poll shows.

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“In his own words”

Someone has created his own campaign commercial for Bush-Cheney — or is it? It definitely goes over the top and I disagree with some of its points. But there’s no denying it’s brilliant. Upsetting, thought-provoking and brilliant. You really have to see it.

Via All Spin Zone, one of my favorite political blogs.

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If you get sick in China….

choose your hospital carefully. Yikes.

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Death Wish: Put bush out of office!

You think I’m joking?

A South Florida woman who died this week had an unusual last request. Instead of flower or contributions in her name to a charity, she asked those who loved her to try to make sure President George W. Bush is not re-elected

Loved ones said that Joan Abbey was committed to her political passions, even in death…..

Abbey was buried the day after the Democratic convention ended. Her unusual death notice in the Miami Herald said: “You can honor Joan’s values by voting against George Bush and contributing to a liberal or Democratic cause.”

Abbey’s nephew, Martin Shapiro, said, “What she cared most about was improving circumstances in this country… getting rid of George Bush and making this a better country for all people.”

Let’s help Joan Abbey’s great dream come true. All of you who are still resisting, I beseech you, vote for John Kerry — don’t do it for me; do it for Joan Abbey.

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Zogby Poll shows deep trouble for GWB

Here’s what Zogby says:

The most recent Zogby poll shows deeper trouble for President George W. Bush beyond just the horserace. Mr. Bush has fallen in key areas while Senator John Kerry has shored up numerous constituencies in his base. The Bush team’s attempted outreach to base Democratic and swing constituency has shown to be a failure thus far, limiting his potential growth in the electorate.

Oh frabjuous day. Holden distills the numbers from today’s Zogby poll:

Among Hispanic Voters:
Kerry 69%
Bush 19%

Among Southern Voters:
Kerry 48%
Bush 46%

Viewed Favorably in the South:
Kerry 55%
Bush 55%

Approve of Bush’s Job Performance in the South: 44%

US Headed in the Right Direction in the South: 43%

Among Young Voters (18-29) :
Kerry 53%
Bush 33%

Among Single Voters:
Kerry 69%
Bush 19%

In the Red States:
Kerry 46%
Bush 48%

In the Blue States:
Kerry 50%
Bush 38%

Among People Who Did Not Vote in 2000:
Kerry 50%
Bush 25%

There is no way you can spin these numbers and say they’re positive for bush. This has to be alarming to the GOP, and I’ll bet the farm they’re working on their next set of dirty tricks right now.

I didn’t get a chance to blog Kerry’s speech last night because I had relatives over for dinner, and by now there are more than enough posts about Kerry’s performance. The one thing that’s amazed me is how so many bloggers and pundits came to wildly different conclusions about it. Sully said he liked Kerry less after the speech but went on to note lots of things in it he liked; Billmon hated the first half and liked the last half; Kevin Drum didn’t like the last half but liked the first half. InstaPuppy found plenty of bloggers who hated it (surprise) but Mickey Kaus said it served its purpose well. CNN interviewed a very conservative columnist for the NY Post immediately afterward (sorry, don’t remember his name) who said he now believes Kerry could really win. David Brooks on PBS thought it was great. Tom Oliphant didn’t. Reaction is more all over the map than I’ve ever seen. Not at all llike the reaction to Clinton’s speech, which was praised across the board, by his bitterest enemies and staunchest supporters.

My relatives and I sat transfixed over dinner as we watched Kerry speak last night, and we all thought it was masterful. Sure, there were some promises that will be impossible to keep, but there always are at conventions. What he did was instill confidence that he can be the commander in chief, and looking at the poll numbers above, there is no denying he was effective. Argue about his record and his alleged waffling, call him the No. 1 liberal, attack him for driving an SUV or not being clear whether he threw medals or ribbons, it doesn’t matter. Our nation, suffocating from Bush fatigue, longs for a change, and Kerry proved he can step up and take the reins.

The best moment for me was when he extended the olive branch to bush, asking if the negative attacks could be ended. Brilliant. Now, whenever the negative attacks come (and they sure will), the Dems can remind the public of Kerry’s offer and say, “There he goes again,” as Reagan said so effectively of Carter.

Looking at the poll above, I see how irrelevant most of our pundits are. The only true measure of the speech is those numbers, and we’ll see a lot more of them over the next few days.

One of the most interesting polls last week showed that the No. 1 concern of most Americans is, by far, the economy — and not taxes, which was way down the list. Iraq was next, and then terrorism. On the first two, bush is demonstrably weak. I believe he’s even weaker when it comes to terrorism, but he’s still perceived as Mr. Tough, though that image should fade more and more, especially as more Americans realize just how disastrous both Iraq and Afghanistan have become.

So bush is vulnerable on all fronts, while the Kerry campaign is infused with energy, enthusiasm and cash. Karl Rove sees this too, so I’m sure Bush’s Brain is running on overdrive. Hopefully the public has by now become immune to bush’s last-minute dirty tricks, but there’ll nevertheless be more on the way.

Apologies if this post rambled, and apologies for not giving links to some of the bloggers cited above; I’m just too tired to hunt them down.

Don’t forget to get your absentee ballots and to send them in on time. We finally have a chance to save our country, and the election really is Kerry’s to lose. Dethroning bush depends on each of us. Let’s make it happen. Even you, Conrad. Just do it.

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Sandy Berger “pantsgate” update

From an article by Scott Paltrow in today’s unlinkable Wall Street Journal:

Officials looking into the removal of classified documents from the National Archives by former Clinton National Security Adviser Samuel Berger say no original materials are missing and nothing Mr. Berger reviewed was withheld from the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks….

The conclusion by archives officials and others would seem to lay to rest the issue of whether any information was permanently destroyed or withheld from the commission.

Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said officials there “are confident that there aren’t any original documents missing in relation to this case.” She said in most cases, Mr. Berger was given photocopies to review, and that in any event officials have accounted for all originals to which he had access.

That included all drafts of a so-called after-action report prepared by the White House and federal agencies in 2000 after the investigation into a foiled bombing plot aimed at the Millennium celebrations. That report and earlier drafts are at the center of allegations that Mr. Berger might have permanently removed some records from the archives. Some of the allegations have related to the possibility that drafts with handwritten notes on them may have disappeared, but Ms. Cooper said archives staff are confident those documents aren’t missing either.

It probably ruined Sandy’s career, but it was hardly as sinister as some hysterics tried to portray it. Stupid and inexplicable, yes. A risk to national security and a crime worthy of imprisonment, no.

Via pie.

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The July Surprise

Amazing, that on July 7 Josh Marshall wrote:

From TNR’s new piece, ‘July Surprise’…

A third source, an official who works under ISI’s director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis “have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs [i.e., high-value al Qaida targets] before [the] election is [an] absolute must.” What’s more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: “The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington.” Says McCormack: “I’m aware of no such comment.” But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that “it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July”–the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Imagine that …

Right on schedule, the Pakistanis have indeed come through for us, only hours before Kerry speaks. Amazing. Do I think the whole thing was choreographed? Yes, I do. Like everything else we’ll see from now until election day, it’s pure show, scripted by Karl Rove to help george win again.

We may have captured an important al Qaeda man; it’s the timing that’s choreographed. It’s vintage Rove, just like yesterday’s whisper campaign about Kerry’s “re-eneacted” Vietnam movies, just a few hours before Edwards spoke. Distract, distort, demolish — it’s been Rove’s winning formula for decades, and he’s not changing it now.

[Marshall link is via Kos.]

Update: Here’s what Marshall says.

This is just the latest, but perhaps the most blatant, example of how this administration has placed politics and, really, political dirty tricks above national security itself, and along the way persisted in defining political deviance down until tactics we used to associate with banana republics start to seem commonplace here.

And while we’re at it, this is yet another example of how truly important it is that we democratize the Middle East. Because once we have, some of them will be able to come back here and redemocratize us.

Update 2: I am not, as a couple of commenters think, alone on this one. Paul Krugman writes it up at the end of his column today, and Kevin Drum has more than one post about it.

Before reading Kevin Phillips’ American Dynasty I may have been a skeptic about this type of story. Not anymore. The Bush’s I and II thrive on covert operations and trickery like this; it is the norm.. It is not a matter of conspiracy but of documented fact. Just like the whisper campaigns against John McCain and Max Cleland, these things are always coordinated and intentional. According to the WaPo:

Pakistani officials have rejected allegations that they delayed the announcement for four days to obtain maximum publicity. Hayat said the delay was a result of “double checks and even triple checks in such cases.”

But in the arrests of other high-profile al Qaeda targets in Pakistan, including Abu Zubayida, Khalid Sheik Mohammad and Ramzi Bin al Shibh, the news media received word almost immediately.

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Barack Obama must be good — they’re already smearing him!

He’s just a state senator, and already somebody’s working 24/7 to destroy his reputation over at Obama Truth Squad. Somebody obviously sees him as a big threat.

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