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Obama just quietly signed a major anti-slavery bill. It's a game changer.

The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 has been signed into law.

Obama just quietly signed a major anti-slavery bill. It's a game changer.

I've got some news that might be, er, tough to swallow for you shrimp lovers out there.

Some of that succulent seafood you're used to seeing on a plate like this...


Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

...or — if you're more about that deep-fried life — all crispy like this...

Photo by Rod Lamkey Jr./AFP/Getty Images.

...it may have been plucked from the sea in a port that looks something like this:


Photo by Paula Bronstein/ Getty Images.

The photo above was taken in Thailand, a country where slave labor has become all too common within the fishing industry.

Fishing is a huge industry in Thailand — worth roughly $7 billion in exports every year — with people in markets like Europe and North America gobbling up whatever fishermen are catching.

The bad news? At least some of the profits these Thai companies rake in are being made on the backs of slaves, an Associated Press exposé revealed last year.

So, yep ... if you've snagged seafood from stores like Walmart or Kroger, you may have bought crustaceans caught by slaves.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

Through empty promises of (paid) work, many slaves are lured into human trafficking circles across South Asia, where they're abused, drugged, and caged, with no pay for their labor. Some Thai officials, by the way, had been well aware of (and even helped facilitate) this atrocity.

"I cried," Lang Long, a former slave who'd been rescued, told The New York Times last year about being resold between fishing boats multiple times.

But thanks to the AP's original exposé and many follow-up reports, about 2,000 former slaves have been rescued by authorities, and several of their traffickers have been arrested.

And now we can mark another tally in the "win" column for justice on the issue.

President Barack Obama signed a bill on Feb. 24, 2016, that effectively banned all imports of seafood caught by slaves in Southeast Asia into the U.S.

If you're like me, your first reaction to this news might have been, "Yay!" quickly followed by, "But wait ... why wasn't this already the law of the land?"

To get to the answer, you have to travel back more than a few decades.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Until Obama signed the bill into law, an 85-year-old tariff law in place had a major loophole that allowed products processed through slave labor to make it onto U.S. soil legally. The loophole allowed imports, regardless of how a given product was made or processed, if there was not enough supply to meet demand domestically.

The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 kicks that loophole to the curb.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) led the charge to include the ban within the larger bill.

"It's embarrassing that for 85 years, the United States let products made with forced labor into this country," Brown said, according to the AP. "Closing this loophole gives the U.S. an important tool to fight global slavery."

This is big news because the import ban stops products other than seafood that have been created or processed by slave laborers, too.

Like gold mined by kids in poor countries.

Thousands of children, such as the boy pictured above in Africa's Burkina Faso, are subjected to hazardous gold mining operations throughout the developing world. Photo by Ahmed Ouoba/Getty Images.

And garments sewn in Bangladesh by women who've been subjected to abuse.

Remember the 400 people who'd been killed in 2013 while working in a Bangladesh factory? They were making products bought by many consumers in the West — while getting paid less than $50 a month. Photo by Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images.

Yes, this ban only applies to U.S. imports, and certainly falls short of solving the global crisis of child and slave labor. But it's a big step.

And now you can help push progress forward, too. The more people who know about modern slave labor — and use their purchasing power to fight it — the better equipped we are to end the injustice.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less