Tag Archives: ‘forced

Star Citizen Devs Angry, Forced to Work Through Life-Threatening Texas Storm

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The devastating snowstorm that hit Texas in mid-February killed at least 70 people and set record cold temperatures all across the state. Insufficiently winterized power infrastructure failed, plunging millions of people into darkness. Houses burned as homeowners attempted to light fires in dirty chimneys. A number of video game companies reached out to help their employees through the rocky time, including EA, Aspyr, Owlchemy, Certain Affinity, and Activision-Blizzard. Cloud Imperium Games also made public claims about helping to support its employees through a difficult time, but multiple people who work at the company have claimed this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Kotaku spoke with six employees at the company. As the storm moved in, a CIG office manager told employees to plan on working extra-long hours to make up for the shutdown, with “this week/weekend as a first option.” The manager continued, “Assuming roads are clear we also can manage a few people in the studio. If all else fails then enter PTO for whatever time you cannot make up.”

If you asked me to pick a game developer I trusted to understand the difficulty of any given task, Cloud Imperium Games would be at the bottom of my list. Image is of Austin following the February storm, from the ESA. CC BY-SA 2.0

CIG employees report organizing among themselves to share tips on surviving the Texas storm even as the head office made no attempt to do so. The company made no effort to distribute aid or information about where to go and what to do if you found yourself in a precarious and previously uncontemplated survival situation. CIG had no response for what employees who could not take PTO were supposed to do.

“I still felt obligated to check in on teams every couple hours,” said one source. “I just felt like I had to do it, even though most people weren’t talking those days. Everyone was just focusing on surviving.”

“I was talking to some other people in the [Austin] office, and apparently, some of the blowback from the other offices is that they were like ‘Oh, they just want a snow day. Why should we give them a snow day?’” another source told Kotaku.

An Amazing Explanation

CIG’s explanation for why its executives had so completely failed to respond to what was happening in Texas arrived in employee inboxes on Feb. 21, after the storm was over. According to management, the reason executives expected business as usual all week is that none of them had been paying attention to the news coming out of Texas.

This is incompetence or gaslighting in its purest form. It was literally impossible to glance at the news and not see something about the catastrophe in Texas that week. Any given individual might be utterly head-down in a project and working like crazy, but the idea that not a single person in the C-suites or their various assistants had the tiniest idea about the size of a disaster affecting one of its development studios implies either complete disengagement from the day-to-day business of running the company or an equally unacceptable inability to prioritize literal employee survival over the need to get a new spaceship texture turned in by Friday. Chris Roberts eventually sent out an email to the entire company stating that no employee pay would be affected by the storm.

Star Citizen has raised $ 31.3 million dollars since November from crowdfunding.

Star Citizen broke its own fundraising records for 2020. Last June, it announced it had raised over $ 300M. Currently, it’s raised over $ 350M. Here’s their funding graph, showing a monthly intake of between $ 3M and $ 16M per month going back to last August. That’s not everything CIG has ever raised; private investment has accounted for at least an additional $ 62M being pumped into the company over time. One estimate puts the total amount raised by CIG between $ 450M and $ 470M to-date. Star Citizen claims 604 developers and the median wage for a game programmer in Austin according to Glassdoor is $ 50,432 and $ 64,355 according to Salary.com. Giving its employees a week of unexpected time off to deal with an incredibly rare emergency was never going to break the corporate bank. Nor was it going to matter to Star Citizen’s release date, given that neither the single-player nor multi-player version of the game have one.

“While I think the company ultimately came to the right decision…CIG’s slow and hesitant response and general lack of communication hit hard for employees that are already low on morale and feel this company doesn’t care about them,” one source told Kotaku. “With all those things on top of a game that feels like it’s coming closer and closer to a gacha for expensive ships and no actual gameplay, useless features being constantly shoved in and removed, where marketing holds absolute power over any other department, employees start to feel disheartened after awhile.”

Feature image by CIG. 

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Canada forced to settle for silver as stifling U.S. team wins world juniors

Team Canada was the steamrolling, bullyboy juggernaut of the world junior hockey championship until they ran into a pugnacious U.S. team Tuesday that knocked them off 2-0 to win gold.

The U.S. players poured over the bench as the buzzer sounded, tossing sticks and gloves aloft in an empty Rogers Place. The tournament was played with no fans in the stands to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

They linked up and swayed with delight on the blue line, lustily singing their anthem as the American flag rose to the rafters as the Canadians, many with their heads down, leaned on their sticks and contemplated what might have been.

For their celebratory centre ice photo, they included a blue barrel emblazoned with the Hockey Canada logo. The barrel, they said represented their mindset, never looking past the next barrel or marker on their way to gold.

Canadian captain Bowen Byram had tears in his eyes as he handed out the silver medals to his teammates.

It’s the first gold medal for the Americans since they won it all in 2017.

U.S. winger Trevor Zegras led the way, scoring a goal and adding an assist. He was named tournament MVP.

WATCH | Zegras leads U.S. past Canada for world junior gold:

American star Trevor Zegras scored early in the second period to give the United States a 2-0 lead at the world junior hockey championship. 1:00

American goaltender Spencer Knight, a 2019 top pick by the Florida Panthers, turned aside 34 shots for his third shutout of the tournament, tying the record set by Canada’s Devon Levi this year and by Justin Pogge in 2006.

Canada took home the silver medal. Finland defeated Russia 4-1 earlier Tuesday to win bronze.

“I think we surprised them in the first two periods with how well we played below their hashmarks,” said Zegras.

“You could tell they hadn’t seen that kind of ground game from any other team in the tournament. We got a couple of quick goals early in those periods and from there we just kind of put it on shutdown mode and played great defence.”

Zegras, a 2019 first-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, was the top scorer of the tournament (seven goals, 11 assists).

Alex Turcotte also scored for the U.S.

Knight was spectacular at times, particularly when the Canadians stormed and buzzed the net late in the second period and came in waves in the third.

Knight stoned Connor McMichael on a breakaway with three minutes left in the game, prompting the Canadian to slam his stick on the glass in frustration.

Levi made 19 saves in the loss.


American Arthur Kaliyev celebrates his first-period goal as Canada goalie Devon Levi looks on. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Canadian forward Dylan Cozens, tied with Zegras in tournament scoring heading into the final, finished as Canada’s top point getter, with eight goals and eight assists.

Asked post-game how he felt Cozens said, “Terrible. We lost the gold medal game. We feel horrible. It sucks.”

Byram added: “We didn’t have the start we wanted. They got up on us and we just couldn’t buy a couple of goals there.

“We’re still very proud of our group and how we played throughout the tournament.”

The U.S. lost its tournament opener 5-3 to Russia before running the table, outscoring opponents 36-10.

Canadian dominance comes to sudden halt

Canada had been absolutely dominant, going undefeated and outscoring opponents 41-4 heading into the gold-medal match.

Cozens was asked if the team did not face enough adversity early in the tournament and wasn’t ready when the Americans tested them.

“Our group faced lots of adversity,” he said. “With the COVID testing we had in camp, we had to quarantine for 14 days.

“Obviously we played great through all the games. And then we ran into a team like this. They were good.”

The players battled to a continuous hum of canned crowd noise throughout the game, including ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ on hard shots and great saves.

Rogers Place, home to the Edmonton Oilers, was otherwise empty except for hockey officials, media, rink and support staff.

The game featured two Florida draft picks in net: Levi, a seventh-round pick in 2020 and Knight.

The U.S. forechecked ferociously in the first period, outshot Canada 13-9 and opened the scoring at 13:25 when Turcotte deflected a Drew Helleson point shot up and over Levi’s glove.

To that point, Canada had never trailed in the tournament.

The U.S. took a 2-0 lead just 32 seconds into the second period. Arther Kaliyev fired the puck past the net. Zegras grabbed the puck off the end boards and tucked it in on the short side while Levi, expecting the puck to come out the other side, was moving in the opposite direction to cover the far post.

The Americans held off Canada in third to preserve the victory.

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Thousands forced to flee after volcano erupts in eastern Indonesia

A volcano in eastern Indonesia erupted Sunday, sending a column of ash as high as 4,000 metres into the sky and forcing thousands of people to leave their homes.

Nearly 2,800 people from at least 28 villages fled from the slopes of Mount Ili Lewotolok, which is located on Lembata island of East Nusa Tenggara province, as the volcano began erupting, said Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Raditya Jati. There were no reports of deaths or injuries from the eruption.

The Transportation Ministry said a flight warning had been issued after the eruption and a local airport had been closed as ash rained down on many areas of the island.

Mount Ili Lewotolok has been erupting off and on since October 2017. The Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center raised the volcano’s alert level to the second-highest level on Sunday after sensors picked up increasing activity.

The 5,423-metre volcano is one of three currently erupting in Indonesia along with Merapi on Java island and Sinabung on Sumatra island.


The 5,423-metre volcano is one of three currently erupting in Indonesia. (Muhammad Ilham/Reuters)

They are among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines around the Pacific Ocean.

After the eruption, the Disaster Mitigation Agency advised villagers and climbers to stay four kilometres from the crater and be aware of the peril of lava.

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CBC | World News

Like it or not, NHL could be forced to play next season in modified bubble

If the NHL hopes to start a new season in January, there probably won’t be any fans in the buildings and games could be played in some sort of modified bubble format, say some experts.

There’s also talk of an all-Canadian division but whatever plans are in place when the season opens could change over time.

The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association will begin meetings in the coming weeks to discuss a return to play, although there’s already been some dialogue between the two sides.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league hopes to begin Jan. 1 and wants to play a full 82-game season with fans in arenas.

WATCH | NHL analyst Dave Poulin discusses NHL’s next steps:

The NHL had zero cases in the bubble during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but what’s next for the league? Andi Petrillo speaks with NHL analyst Dave Poulin. 6:03

The border between Canada and the United States remains closed as cases of COVID-19 increase in both countries. That presents a huge challenge for a league with seven Canadian cities.

“It would be premature to speculate on what next season might look like at this point,” Gary Meagher, the NHL’s executive vice-president of communications, told CBC Sports in an email. “The league and the NHLPA are focused on what makes the most sense from a scheduling standpoint.

“We are going to be flexible and adaptable, but we also understand that important considerations like the status of the Canada-US border and the state of COVID in the next few months are simply guesswork at this point.”

Experts doubtful of NHL’s plan

Earl Brown, a professor emeritus in biochemistry, microbiology and immunology at the University of Ottawa, said even if a vaccine were developed for COVID-19 in the next couple of months, it’s unlikely enough people would be immune by the beginning of the new year.

“So given the way it is now, I would not put my money on [the] NHL [having fans] at the beginning of next year,” he said.

Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer in the economics of sports, gaming and gambling at Concordia University, also questioned the league’s suggested timetable.

“I cannot see that all of the boxes are going to be checked for the NHL,” said Lander. “They’re not going to be able to start on Jan. 1 with fans [and] with free movement of teams. Something’s going to have to be sacrificed there.”

And Bill Foley, owner of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, suggested in a radio interview the Canadian teams could remain home and play each other without travelling to the United States.

“I think they’re going to play in a Canadian division,” said Foley. “I don’t think they’re going to cross the border.”

However, Lander questions the logic of allowing teams to fly within Canada.

“You’re begging for trouble,” he said.

WATCH | NHL reports no COVID-19 cases after 65 days in bubbles:

The Tampa Bay Lightning took home the Stanley Cup, but the NHL is also celebrating. There wasn’t a single positive COVID-19 test within the league’s bubble, which is being heralded as a win and as a model for sports going forward in the pandemic. 1:59

The NHL used bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton to successfully host its Stanley Cup playoffs. Players and support staff from the 24 teams were only allowed access to their hotel and the arena.

Over the 65 days of the playoffs, 1,452 league and club personnel stayed in the bubble secure zones. A total of 33,394 COVID-19 tests were administered with zero positive results.

That plan worked for the playoffs. But with some players grumbling about the time spent away from home and how the amenities inside the bubbles were not delivered as promised, it’s unlikely the concept would be used for a full season.

“Nobody is going to do that for four months or six months or something like that,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr told The Associated Press as the playoffs were winding up in September.

Former NHL goaltender Corey Hirsch said the players would want some flexibility.

“I would probably be able to do a bubble if you let me go home every 10 days for a week,” said Hirsch, who is now part of the Vancouver Canucks’ radio broadcast crew. “I wouldn’t want to do two months straight again.”

Alternate bubble format?

It has been reported the bubbles could cost between $ 75 million and $ 90 million US to operate.

Lander suggested the idea of regional bubbles based on the NHL’s four divisions. Teams could play a number of games then the players would be allowed to return home.

“Rather than having one continuous season of 80 games, maybe you’re going to have to look at kind of four mini-seasons,” with teams rotating through the bubbles, he said.

Brown understands why players don’t want to be isolated again but questions the safety of allowing anyone to leave the bubble.

“That sounds a little dicey to me,” he said.

WATCH | A look inside the NHL bubbles:

Photographer Dave Sandford gives insight into what life is like inside the NHL bubble for teams and players in Edmonton. He says everyone is taking the rules surrounding the pandemic very seriously.  9:21

Crossing the border remains a huge issue.

The Toronto Blue Jays played their Major League Baseball home games at their top minor-league affiliate’s stadium in Buffalo, N.Y., this season. The Jays were forced to make the move after the federal government rejected a plan for the club and visiting teams to stay in the hotel inside Rogers Centre and never leave the facility during stints in Toronto.

Canada’s three Major League Soccer teams were also forced to relocate in U.S. cities to play games.

Natalie Mohamed, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said the resumption of sports events in Canada must follow the government’s plan “to mitigate the importation and spread of COVID-19.”

“The government is open to reviewing further proposals from the National Hockey League that includes a comprehensive public health plan agreed to by the Government of Canada and obtaining written support from provincial or territorial public health officials,” Mohamed told CBC Sports in an email.

There have been suggestions the NHL may be forced to reduce the number of games teams play. If fans are allowed, it will likely be far less than what buildings normally seat.

No matter what happens, owners will still lose millions of dollars.

“I don’t see them making money in the coming year,” said Lander. “It’s merely going to be a matter of trying to minimize losses.”

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CBC | Sports News

With uptick in COVID-19 cases, Quebec could be forced to choose between schools and bars

When Premier François Legault announced Monday that masks will soon be mandatory across Quebec, he also confirmed that the province is witnessing a slight increase in the number of reported cases of COVID-19. 

After having dropped almost steadily since mid-May, the five-day rolling average of new cases began to rise in late June. Quebec is now registering about 100 new cases per day. 

While that’s far from the peak of around 1,000 new cases per day the province saw two months ago, public health officials are nevertheless concerned. 

At Monday’s news conference in Montreal, Legault pointed out that unlike at the height of the first wave, the new cases are turning up almost entirely in the general population, as opposed to in long-term care homes. 

The increase has coincided with the reopening of bars and nightclubs in the Montreal area. Health officials in the city have linked nine bars to about thirty cases.


On Monday, Premier François Legault announced that masks will be mandatory in all indoor public spaces across Quebec, beginning July 18. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

In a buzzkill worse than Sunday morning, the officials are now asking everyone who’s been to a Montreal bar in the past month to get tested.

With the number of new cases headed in the wrong direction, Legault’s announcement that, starting Saturday, masks will be mandatory in enclosed public spaces — like stores, bars and restaurants — came as little surprise. 

The reaction from infectious disease specialists, who’ve been calling for the measure for weeks, was closer to relief.

“Better late than never,” said Dr. Karl Weiss, who heads the infectious diseases department at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital.   

Bars are risky business

That new provincewide mask rule (Montreal already announced its own) is part of a series of restrictions Quebec has been forced to introduce since it began lifting the lockdown.

Last week, it added more rules for bars to follow if they want to stay open, including an earlier last call and serving even fewer clients at a time.  

Bar owners, obviously, aren’t thrilled. They’re only just getting used to being open again, and already the government is adding burdens to their business.

But the science is against them.

“Bars are enclosed spaces, and that’s where the risk of transmission is highest,” said Benoît Mâsse, an epidemiologist at the Université de Montréal.

“[Drinking in a bar] is a type of activity that is riskiest in terms of propagating the virus.”

Which raises the question of why bars and nightclubs were allowed to reopen in the first place, especially given Montreal has been the Canadian epicentre of the pandemic.

#schoolsbeforebars

There are widespread concerns — not just in Quebec but across North America — that elected officials have jeopardized the return of children to classrooms this fall by seeking to salvage a nightlife in the summer.

On social media, this concern has been given the pithy hashtag #schoolsbeforebars.


If the current trend continues, pressure will mount quickly on Legault to sacrifice the livelihoods of some business owners to spare a generation of young minds further disruption. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The argument, stated roughly, is that as major drivers of transmission, bars, nightclubs and parties could cause a big enough spike in COVID-19 cases to warrant keeping schools closed even longer.

Doing so would entail significant social costs that must be considered alongside the loss of revenues to bar owners. 

In a widely read op-ed published in the Globe and Mail this month, gender equality consultant Lauren Dobson-Hughes noted it is women and lower-income children who will likely bear the burden if schools are forced to stay closed. 

“The lack of affordable child care, especially for low-income and racialized families, was already unsustainable,” she wrote. 

“It is now a crisis for many. We must make the safe return to school a political and national priority.”

In Quebec, only elementary school children outside the greater Montreal area were able to return to classrooms this spring.

Summer day camps, moreover, have had to reduce their offerings because of staffing shortages and space constraints, further complicating child care for parents.

WATCH | 2 pandemics tell the story of the role women play in times of crisis:

Women played an important role during the 1918 influenza pandemic. What can be learned from a century ago as we face a pandemic that hits women harder in Canada? 4:27

As it stands, Quebec’s plan is to have children return to classrooms in the fall, though with several restrictions. 

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge, for instance, has warned that students in Grades 10 and 11 may have to do some of their schooling online if the public health situation worsens. 

The recent uptick in cases has reinforced just how delicate the situation is in Quebec, and in Montreal in particular.

If the current trend continues, pressure will mount quickly on Legault to sacrifice the livelihoods of some business owners in order to protect not only a generation of young minds, but the province’s hard-won gains for gender equality as well.

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Canucks captain Horvat forced to leave wife, newborn at home ahead of Cup chase

He knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat had no idea how hard it was going to be.

Horvat returned to Vancouver Sunday, a week after his wife Holly gave birth to the couple’s first child, Gunnar John Horvat. Horvat is preparing for the Canucks training camp to open Monday while his wife and son remain in Ontario.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy to leave your newborn,” Horvat said during a video conference Thursday. “I only got to be part of it for a week, but it was the best week of my life. We’re really happy to have the little man in our life.

“I knew it was going to be tough, but you don’t know until it actually happens. Leaving Sunday was probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to go through, leaving your family behind.”

Adding to Horvat’s angst is the uncertainty of when he might see his family again.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo breaks down NHL-NHLPA agreement:

The league took one step closer to returning with a tentative agreement on its return to play plan and CBA extension. Rob Pizzo breaks down the deal.  2:01

The Canucks are one of 24 teams playing in the NHL’s Stanley Cup tournament, with the opening rounds expected to be split between Edmonton and Toronto.

The Canucks will travel to one of the hub cities July 26 and the first round of the playoffs begin Aug. 1.


Vancouver will face the Minnesota Wild in a best-of-five opening round series.

Like any player, Horvat is focused on winning a Stanley Cup – but that is a double-edged sword. The deeper the Canucks go in the playoffs, the longer he will be separated from his wife and new child.

WATCH | Multiple NHL players test positive after wave of testing:

League says more than 1,450 tests have been given to 250 players since Phase 2 of its return-to-play protocol started June 8. 4:20

The Stanley Cup winner isn’t expected to be decided until October.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it’s not going to be easy,” said Horvat, who had 22 goals and 31 assists in 69 games with Vancouver before the league paused the season March 12 due to concerns over COVID-19. “At the same time, at the beginning of the year we set out a goal to make the playoffs and have a chance at the Stanley Cup, and we have that.

“If I’m going to be away from my family … I want to go all the way. I want to try to win this thing so it’s not just a waste of time and being away form my family for no reason. Hopefully by the end of this I will be putting him in the Stanley Cup.

Refusal to opt out

Some players in the NBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer have decided not to return to their teams for health or personal reasons. It’s something Horvat never considered.

“Not one time have I ever thought about opting out,” he said. “I want to be there for my teammates, I want to be there when the season gets going, be part of winning here.”

For the time being, Horvat has to be content communicating with his family on Facetime.

“They are probably getting sick of me by now,” he joked. “Hopefully they won’t forget me.”

Unlike most new fathers, Horvat is also enjoying a full night’s sleep.

“My wife curses me out pretty much every day for that,” he said.

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Calls grow for UN probe of China over forced birth control on Uighurs, minorities

Politicians around the world have called for a United Nations probe into a Chinese government birth control campaign targeting largely Muslim minorities in the far western region of Xinjiang, even as Beijing said it treats all ethnicities equally under the law.

They were referring to an Associated Press investigation published this week that found the Chinese government is taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities, while encouraging some of the country’s Han majority to have more children. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China — a group of European, Australian, North American, and Japanese politicians from across the political spectrum — demanded an independent UN investigation.

“The world cannot remain silent in the face of unfolding atrocities,” the group said in a statement.

The AP found that the Chinese government regularly subjects minority women in Xinjiang to pregnancy checks and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands. New research obtained by The Associated Press in advance of publication by China scholar Adrian Zenz also showed that the hundreds of millions of dollars the government pours into birth control has transformed Xinjiang from one of China’s fastest-growing regions to among its slowest in just a few years.

The AP found that the population control measures are backed by mass detention both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply. Having too many children is a major reason people are sent to detention camps, documents and interviews show, with the parents of three or more ripped away from their families unless they can pay huge fines.


Alif Baqytali hugs his mother, Gulnar Omirzakh, at their new home in Shonzhy, Kazakhstan. Omirzakh, a Chinese-born ethnic Kazakh, says she was forced to get an intrauterine contraceptive device, and that authorities in China threatened to detain her if she didn’t pay a large fine for giving birth to Alif, her third child. (Mukhit Toktassyn/The Associated Press)

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called for a UN and State Department investigation, saying the Chinese government’s birth control campaign “might meet the legal criteria for genocide.”

According to a UN convention, “imposing measures intended to prevent births” with “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” is considered evidence of genocide. The last colonial governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, told Bloomberg Television that the birth control campaign was “arguably something that comes within the terms of the UN views on sorts of genocide.”

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee called the forced birth control “beyond deplorable,” and said that “a nation that treats its own people this way should never be considered a great power.” U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris wrote a letter urging the Trump administration to respond to an “alarming” AP investigation, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Ro Khanna also called for action.

U.S. President Donald Trump told China President Xi Jinping he was right to build detention camps to house hundreds of thousands of ethnic minorities, according to a new book by former national security adviser John Bolton. However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the reports of forced birth control for minorities were “shocking” and “disturbing” in a statement Monday.

“We call on the Chinese Communist Party to immediately end these horrific practices,” he said.

Allegations ‘fake news,’ says China

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian fired back on Tuesday by calling Pompeo “a brazen liar,” saying the Uighur population had more than doubled since 1978 in response to criticism of Xinjiang’s birth control policies.

“If Mr. Pompeo is telling the truth, how can he explain the big increase in the Uighur population?” Zhao asked.

For decades, Xinjiang’s population grew quickly, as minorities enjoyed more lax birth control restrictions than Han Chinese. But in just three years, new measures have caused the birth rate in Xinjiang’s Uighur-majority areas to plunge, and it is now well under the national average.


Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, shown in Beijing on Feb. 24, called The Associated Press’s story investigation into forced birth control on Uighurs ‘fake news.’ (Andy Wong/The Associated Press)

Zhao also said the American government had been responsible for “genocide, racial segregation and assimilation policies” on Indigenous Americans. University of Colorado researcher Darren Byler said the Chinese state-orchestrated assault on Xinjiang’s minorities does echo past birth control programs.

“It recalls the American eugenics movement, which targeted Native and African Americans up until the 1970s,” he said. “China’s public health authorities are conducting a mass experiment in targeted genetic engineering on Turkic Muslim populations.”

In response to the AP story, which he called “fake news,” Zhao said the government treats all ethnicities equally and protects their legal rights. Chinese officials have said in the past that the new measures are merely meant to be fair, with the law now allowing minorities and China’s Han majority the same number of children.

However, the AP’s reporting found that while equal on paper, in practice Han Chinese are largely spared the abortions, sterilizations, IUD insertions and detentions for having too many children that are forced on Xinjiang’s other ethnicities, interviews and data show. Some rural minorities are punished even for having the three children allowed by the law.

British members of Parliament debated Xinjiang in the House of Commons on Monday, with both Labor and Conservative politicians urging the U.K. Foreign Ministry to adopt a stronger stance against the Chinese government. Nigel Adams, the British Minister of State for Asia, said the reports added to the U.K.’s “concern about the human rights situation in Xinjiang” and that it will be “considering this report very carefully.” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne also told Australian broadcaster SBS that the reports “further compounded” their concerns.

Bill Browder, CEO of investment fund Hermitage Capital Management and brainchild of the Magnitsky Act, asked the U.S. government to level sanctions against Chinese officials, calling the birth control campaign part of a broader assault he called “vile persecution.”

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Canadian Premier League forced to cut wages as 2020 season lies in balance

Its season delayed by COVID-19, the Canadian Premier League has been forced to reduce wages for players and staff.

Players will have 25 per cent of their contracts deferred, while coaches, technical staff, and club and league employees will take unspecified pay reductions “during this challenging time in order to keep as many people as possible employed.”

“The Canadian Premier League and its member clubs have been working hard to minimize the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our business,” commissioner David Clanachan said in a statement Monday. “We were scheduled to start our season on April 11, but were unable to do so.

“Despite our best efforts, we are now having to make adjustments to our operations including the wages of our hard-working and passionate players, coaches and employees.”

Clanachan has said the eight-team league is running different scenarios on what the 2020 season might look. But the final word on resuming play will come from government and health authorities.

“We thank our dedicated players, coaches and staff for helping us share the weight of these difficult challenges,” Clanachan added in the statement. “And we look forward to starting our season and welcoming back our amazing fans when authorities say it is safe to do so.”

The league said it had no further comment.

Clanachan said last week in an interview that the second-year league, thanks to the commitments of its owners, will survive the pandemic.

“As in any business, you do what you have to do and adjust as you go. But we’re in this for the long run,” he told The Canadian Press. “This is a long game here and we’re very focused about what we’re going to build and the legacy we will leave going forward. That’s not changed at all.”

And he said the league continues to hear from potential new ownership groups.

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Report: China Sells Minorities Into ‘Forced Labor’ to Benefit Apple, Foxconn, Others

Ongoing human rights violations in China were a significant topic of discussion at the end of 2019. The country has sought to block criticism of its policies towards Tibet, the still-ongoing Hong Kong protests, and its imprisonment of a million or more Uighurs and other ethnic minority groups in forced re-education camps. A new bombshell report from Australia indicates that the Uighurs and other minorities aren’t just being subjected to forced re-education — they’re being used as slave labor after completing their terms of “study.”

The paper, by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, doesn’t use the term “slavery,” preferring to rely instead on the euphemism of “forced labor.” Here’s how the situation is described (Uighur and Uyghur are two different ways of spelling the same word):

It is extremely difficult for Uyghurs to refuse or escape these work assignments, which are enmeshed with the apparatus of detention and political indoctrination both inside and outside of Xinjiang. In addition to constant surveillance, the threat of arbitrary detention hangs over minority citizens who refuse their government-sponsored work assignments. Most strikingly, local governments and private brokers are paid a price per head by the Xinjiang provincial government to organise the labour assignments…

The Uyghur workers, unlike their Han counterparts, are reportedly unable to go home for holidays… Uyghur workers are often transported across China in special segregated trains… Multiple sources suggest that in factories across China, many Uyghur workers lead a harsh, segregated life under so-called ‘military-style management’. Outside work hours, they attend factory-organised Mandarin language classes, participate in ‘patriotic education’, and are prevented from practising their religion. Every 50 Uyghur workers are assigned one government minder and are monitored by dedicated security personnel. They have little freedom of movement and live in carefully guarded dormitories, isolated from their families and children back in Xinjiang. There is also evidence that, at least in some factories, they are paid less than their Han counterparts.

There’s a common perception that the difference between slaves and free individuals is that the latter is paid for their work, but the truth is more complex. This article from the Organization of American Historians is a deep dive into the history of slaves earning wages in the South. In some cases, slaveowners found it advantageous to allow slaves to earn a certain amount of money and to spend it on improving their own lives or the lives of their families. The same is undoubtedly true in China today.

If you can’t refuse a work assignment, can’t go home to see your family, can’t practice your religion, are forced to live by a schedule in which virtually every minute of your life is regimented for you, are kept under constant or near-constant surveillance and subject to the whims of headhunters who earn a bounty for delivering you to a job, and didn’t get any choice in the matter, I’d argue you’re effectively a slave. In some cases, workers’ families are also under simultaneous surveillance back at home, which provides an extra incentive for the slaves “prisoners with jobs” to behave themselves.

Image by Disney, from Thor: Ragnarok. This is one of those “I needed a bit of a joke, because the next few images are really nauseating” moments.

The ASPI estimates that up to 80,000 Uighurs have been forced into labor camps this way, some of them directly after finishing their indoctrination at Chinese re-education centers. The report includes three case studies focused on factories producing goods for Nike, Adidas/Fila, and Apple. A total of 83 companies have been identified as benefiting from these practices:

Abercrombie & Fitch, Acer, Adidas, Alstom, Amazon, Apple, ASUS, BAIC Motor, BMW, Bombardier, Bosch, BYD, Calvin Klein, Candy, Carter’s, Cerruti 1881, Changan Automobile, Cisco, CRRC, Dell, Electrolux, Fila, Founder Group, GAC Group (automobiles), Gap, Geely Auto, General Electric, General Motors, Google, H&M, Haier, Hart Schaffner Marx, Hisense, Hitachi, HP, HTC, Huawei, iFlyTek, Jack & Jones, Jaguar, Japan Display Inc., L.L.Bean, Lacoste, Land Rover, Lenovo, LG, Li-Ning, Mayor, Meizu, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Microsoft, Mitsubishi, Mitsumi, Nike, Nintendo, Nokia, The North Face, Oculus, Oppo, Panasonic, Polo Ralph Lauren, Puma, Roewe, SAIC Motor, Samsung, SGMW, Sharp, Siemens, Skechers, Sony, TDK, Tommy Hilfiger, Toshiba, Tsinghua Tongfang, Uniqlo, Victoria’s Secret, Vivo, Volkswagen, Xiaomi, Zara, Zegna, and ZTE.

How many vocational schools do you know of that don’t have completely fenced-off areas and a dozen or more security checkpoints?

The report details how this massive system of relocation and forced labor has been built up under the guise of an aid program known as “Xinjiang Aid.” What appears superficially as a targeted aid program for the poor and undereducated people in the province is a relocation and reeducation program meant to destroy their culture and religious practices. Companies all over China have been encouraged to provide “industrial Xianjing aid” by building factories in the province to absorb what China terms “surplus labor capacity” or to hire Uighurs for other tasks in factories across the rest of China.

Factories are well-compensated for taking these workers and advertisements for their services have reportedly begun popping up in Chinese publications, as shown above and below:

Uighur-Ads2

Compare that with some vintage advertisements for American pre-owned human property.

The report details how, days before Tim Cook visited an O-Film Technology factory in 2017, the company transferred 700 Uighurs to a separate factory. In a now-deleted press release, Cook praised the company for its “humane approach towards employees.” The company reportedly continued to hire more Uighur prisoners throughout the year.

Uighur-Transfers

The ASPI doesn’t make any damning accusations that any specific Western company knew that its products were being built by slave labor. There are multiple diagrams attached to each case report that make it clear how intricate some of these supply chains are. When you look at the supply chains for companies like O-Film, you immediately see just how many major firms could be buying products tainted by the use of slave labor:

O-Film-Supply-Chain

The ASPI does not argue that Apple or any other company has been aware of what has been going on within their supply chains. But the web of connections between these firms implies many companies have benefited from this practice and need to take immediate action to address it. Past that immediate problem, this is another area where we as a society have to choose whether we want to stay quite so cozy with a nation with an increasingly awful human rights record.

If you’ve paid attention to the clashes over issues like freedom of speech between the United States and China over the past six months, it’s become very clear that China isn’t just attempting to control what is said within its borders. In multiple instances, the Chinese have targeted low-level employees or minor embarrassments with hostility beyond all proportion to the alleged offense. This overreaction is not an accident. It’s part and parcel of how the nation is demonstrating its willingness to enforce its own cultural and social norms on others.

While it is absolutely possible for nations to have positive effects on each other, it is past time to let go of the fiction that engaging with China in economic terms will intrinsically lead the company to democratize its policies or protect the rights of its citizenry. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China has moved to curtail freedom of the press and freedom of speech. It has imprisoned 1-2 million citizens in political re-education camps and is forcing some of those citizens into what is effectively slavery to manufacture cheap goods for Western markets.

I’m Not Just a Consumer

Businesses make a lot of assumptions about what their customers will or won’t want. One of the most offensive, I’d argue, is the idea that customers are sensitive to nothing but price. Suggest that we might benefit from moving production to a country where minority workers and their families aren’t literally enslaved to provide cheap labor, and someone will instantly bring up the fact that prices would go up if anything changed. In some cases, that’s probably true. A more meaningful question that few people seem to have the guts to ask these days is, “So what?”

Over the past few years, we’ve watched smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung jack up the price of smartphones to the point that $ 1,000 isn’t even guaranteed to buy you a top-end product any longer. The iPhone XR starts at $ 600 while the iPhone 11 Pro Max starts at $ 1,100, but everybody knows that it doesn’t cost Apple an extra $ 500 to build an iPhone 11 Pro Max. For the past few years, both Samsung and Apple have increased prices simply because they could increase prices.

Somehow, however, the same MBAs who confidently predict to the Tim Cooks of the world that the market will cheerfully absorb a price increase engineered for the sole purpose of installing more gold-plated bathtubs in the C-suites would quail at the idea of refusing to do business with a reprehensible dictatorship that inflicts catastrophic human rights abuses on its own citizenry. The idea that I might be willing to pay more for an iPhone because Apple wants to spend more money propping up its own stock is treated as a given. The idea that I might be willing to pay more for an iPhone because I don’t believe the Chinese government should be rewarded for literally enslaving people? Well, that’s letting morality get in the way of business.

And yet, the fact remains: I would vastly rather pay an extra $ 50-$ 100 to know my phone wasn’t made with slave labor than I would to pay an extra $ 50-$ 100 so that some rich schmuck on Wall Street can make an extra million bucks in bonuses this quarter. I know I am not the only person who feels that way.

The clash of values between China and the United States isn’t going to go away. Writing in 1945, philosopher Karl Popper described what is now known as the paradox of tolerance, stating: “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

I am aware of all of the reasons — literally billions of reasons — why United States’ companies seek access to Chinese markets. I am aware of the hyper-optimized supply chains and the decades of investment US companies have made in them. Any effort to shift even a small amount of manufacturing out of China would be difficult and time-consuming, and in many cases, alternatives would have to be developed from scratch. Furthermore, because the Earth’s resources are unevenly distributed, some nations have a much larger supply of valuable resources than others. The United States has most of the world’s helium. China has a huge percentage of rare earths. Bolivia has a huge chunk of the world’s lithium reserves. Even in the best of cases, we live in a global, interconnected economy. There is no way to simply wave a wand and roll the clock back to the early 20th century.

There is, however, still time for Americans to push back on the idea that access to Chinese markets is the highest value to which we, as a people, can aspire to. And since every conversation starts with someone choosing to start it, I’ll go first. I am not willing to pay higher drug prices so that the pharmaceutical industry can continue ripping off Americans with exorbitant drug prices. I am not willing to pay higher prices for goods and services so that “disruptive” companies can pocket their employees’ tips. I am not willing, generally speaking, to watch my own costs rise so that people who already make more money in a day than I’ll make in a year can get just a little richer.

But I would be willing to pay more for my electronics and devices if it meant knowing that the countries and companies where these devices were manufactured weren’t enslaving their employees, driving them to suicide, exposing them to poisonous toxins, or otherwise destroying their lives, particularly when one of the benefits of doing so is knowing that my fellow citizens will not be subject to being fired for the crime of accidentally liking the wrong tweet.

If Tim Cook wanted to demonstrate the courage Phil Schiller claims Apple possesses, he could declare that Apple would take a leadership position in certifying that the workers employed at every company in every part of its supply chain were ethically treated and that none of the profit from its raw material purchases would be used to finance wars or conflict around the world. It would be an enormous challenge — one befitting a trillion-dollar company with enough yearly revenue to qualify as the 42nd-largest economy in the world. If the other companies named in this report joined him, they would collectively represent enough purchasing power to force even China to the bargaining table, if backed up by the US government.

The very concept of the “marketplace of ideas” is that people are allowed to bring their thoughts and ideas to the metaphorical table for everyone to peruse them. The connection between China deploying slave labor in factories and, say, the protests in Hong Kong, is that China doesn’t want anybody talking about any of this, and it’s already proven its own willingness to use extraordinary measures to clamp down on dissent, even when that dissent comes from other countries. We ignore these trends at our own peril.

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China denies forced labour accusations after plea found in Christmas card

China denied accusations of forced labour at a Shanghai prison on Monday, a day after media reports that a young girl had found a message in a Christmas card saying it had been packed by inmates.

The Sunday Times newspaper said the message in the charity card sold by British supermarket giant Tesco read: “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu Prison China. Forced to work against our will.”

The message urged whoever received it to contact Peter Humphrey, a British former journalist and corporate fraud investigator who was imprisoned in the same jail in 2014-2015.

Tesco suspended the Chinese supplier of the Christmas cards on Sunday and said it had launched an investigation.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a news briefing that “I can responsibly say, according to the relevant organs, Qingpu prison does not have this issue of foreign prisoners being forced to work.”

Watch: Prisoner put plea for help in Christmas card

Florence Widdicombe, 6, describes what she found in a package of Christmas cards from Tesco. 1:52

He dismissed the whole story as “a farce created by Mr. Humphrey.” Humphrey did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ministry’s statement.

Humphrey spent 23 months in prison on charges of illegally obtaining private records of Chinese citizens and selling the information to clients including drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline.

The Sunday Times said the message had been found by six-year-old Florence Widdicombe, who showed it to her father. He then contacted Humphrey via LinkedIn.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Humphrey said he did not know the identities or the nationalities of the prisoners, but he “had no doubt they are Qingpu prisoners who knew me before my release in June 2015.”

Humphrey said during his trial he had not thought his activities in China were illegal.

Watch: Ex-prisoner recalls receiving holiday card plea

Peter Humphrey, who spent time in a Chinese prison, recalls receiving a Christmas card from fellow detainees pleading for help. 1:17

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