Cambodia’s aggressive anti-trafficking campaign is designed to rescue and rehabilitate sex workers. But many women say authorities there are actually forcing them into a trade where conditions and pay are even worse: making clothing for Western brands.
VICE News traveled to Phnom Penh to speak with former and current sex workers, officials, and labor organizers to investigate what is happening to those swept up in the country’s trafficking crackdown.
When we arrived in Cerro de Pasco, a medium-size city in the high Peruvian sierra, it was night. We inched through the crowded, twisting streets past a large statue of Daniel Carrión, a legendary medical student who stands there with a syringe in his hand, injecting himself with the disease that’s named in his honor. In the colonial quarter, we abruptly came to a wall, painted alternately with graffiti and the words private property. I could sense a great emptiness on the other side, like when you’re by the ocean but cannot quite see it.
I climbed a rock and peeked over. All around in the distance the city was aglow. Plunging out before me was the hole, void of light but for the tiny headlights of trucks crawling around its sides. This is El Tajo: the Pit.
In Andean cosmology, Earth is Pachamama—Mother Earth—and this massive polymetal mine is the locus of a literal penetration. It is 1.2 miles wide and as deep as the Empire State Building is tall. All day and all night, the rock-grinding machinery produces a low mechanical groan, which is amplified tremendously by the pit’s speaker-like shape. It is the sound of the city being eaten alive.
Photo by the author.
Cerro de Pasco is an environmental and urban catastrophe. The pit, which opened in 1956, is in the middle of the city—not beside it but in it. As it grows, thousands of families have had to move into unplanned urban developments, most of which lack basic sanitation. Now the city is running out of space. In 2008, Peru’s congress passed Law No. 29293, calling for the resettlement of the entire population of 67,000. But the law has gone unheeded.
It started in the playground, where that sweaty bully dished out bad insults and made you feel like a putz. Years later, you’re still being intimidated: on the street at night, in job interviews, at pickup basketball games, when someone says something nasty to you in the bar—in all these situations you’re stuck being the victim rather than the aggressor, the one who has to back down while your tormentor grins that shit-eating grin at you. Don’t you wish there was a way to shut him or her up, to force that clown into a humiliating retreat? Not by throwing a punch, of course, since that could end with you in a jail cell or badly beaten or both. You’re going to win this fight without it ever becoming a fight.
The problem is, not everybody has a natural knack for intimidation. Practice makes perfect, but since firsthand research in this field can be slightly hazardous, I thought I’d get some pointers from a group of individuals who are skilled in getting the bullies of life to back the fuck off.
VICE does not advocate the use of violence or illegal activity, nor do we advise you to put yourself into a position of danger.
Click through below to read intimidation tips from:
I Accidentally Fooled Conservative Twitter with a Fake Lena Dunham Quote
The internet is always stupider than you think. When you’re telling a joke to an audience of anonymous online strangers, as long as the setup is believable no amount of absurdism in the punchline will give the game away.
Here’s an example: The week before Breaking Bad ended, I tweeted, “My uncle is a teamster and got a copy of the ending.” And I attached a fake script page that clearly demonstrated I had never seen the show. I referred to the main character as “Bryan Cranston from Malcolm in the Middle,” gave him lines like “Here goes nothing! Suicide!” and wrote in the AMC copyright information with a Sharpie. But people still got furious and demanded I immediately take it down. One guy said my uncle wouldn’t find work again. Another told me, “Teamsters are pieces of shit.”
So every once in a while I try to test the limits of that joke format. And on Friday, I struck the mother lode: I took a quote from economist/sociologist Thorstein Veblen’s seminal 1899 workThe Theory of the Leisure Class and attributed it to Lena Dunham’s new book of essays, Not That Kind of Girl. I know almost nothing about Veblen; I just thought it was a funny way to say I don’t like rich people.
Obviously, Lena Dunham, who has chapters like “Take My Virginity (No, Really, Take It),” is not writing anything in the same universe as the Veblen quote, which critiques the cultural fallout of the Gilded Age while using words like “impinge” and “forfeiture” and “exigencies.” The joke made ten or so of my political science major friends smirk, which is all I thought it would do.
n Cuba, items that are difficult or impossible to purchase are considered perdido, meaning lost. At the time of my arrival in Havana this summer, two of the most pressing perdido goods are toilet paper and beer. Visitors can still find these items in their hotels, but for Cubans, they’ve gone missing. Perdido. Eleven million people on an island with a toilet-paper shortage. Other unobtainables include soap, pens, smartphones, and credit cards—not that any American credit cards work here, either. The internet is also perdido: Only 3 to 4 percent of the population has access to the web. But of all the perdido things Cubans can’t get a hold of, the strangest—and most taboo—is beef.
Every person I’ve spoken to in Havana assures me that it is a greater crime here to slaughter a cow than it is to slaughter a person. All cows, they add, are property of the state. When caught cooking illicit beef, Cubans have even been known to commit suicide rather than face incarceration. Why is beef so precious to this country’s communist dictatorship? I’ve come here to find out. The answer, I suspect, must have something to do with endemic hunger and the desperation of continually fighting for survival. Or perhaps it’s an anomalous legislative side effect to five and a half decades of revolutionary idealism and trade embargoes, the sort of skewed reasoning that arises among mind-sets capable of ordering the execution of those with differing views.
There’s more marbling to this story, however. The last time I traveled to Cuba, almost ten years ago, I’d been advised not to eat any beef. Locals told me that the beef served in restaurants came from the United States, and that it was of terrible quality. Some warned that it was contaminated; others said it was D-grade utility meat, or “cutter” beef, commonly used for dog food in North America.
Although I steered clear of any ropa vieja that crossed my path, it seemed unlikely that the US would be selling beef to Cuba, given the trade embargo that has existed between the two nations for the past 54 years. But since the American government started authorizing agricultural exports to Cuba in 2000, the island has brought in a staggering $4.7 billion worth of US-produced food, almost all of it by payments of cash in advance. The purpose of an embargo is to isolate and weaken the survival mechanisms of an enemy state through commercial policy. In this case, America is profiteering by feeding Cuba’s citizens. Few people realize it, but around one quarter to one third of Cuban food imports currently come from the USA.
In normal circumstances, Lyft’s drivers congregate in a Facebook group set up by the ridesharing company in order for them to share tips with one another, ask questions, or reach out to corporate with feedback or concerns. When yet another cut in driver pay was announced on Thursday, September 25, however, the driver’s lounge filled up with countless “Fuck this, I quit!” posts, calls to organize strikes, and demands that Lyft’s CEO, John Zimmer, step down. On top of all this, dozens of drivers decided they’d be leaving the company in a more dramatic, and cathartic, fashion: by burning their cars’ iconic fuzzy pink mustaches in a symbolic pyre.
I met one of the organizers (who, like many drivers I met, did not want her name shared) on the beach where this mustache burning party was to take place and she laid it out for me as the other drivers showed up with pizza, beer, lighter fluid, and giant mustaches. At this point, she explained, most drivers were driving for both Lyft and Uber, and everyone was really just hanging on and waiting for the moment when Uber will inevitably emerge victorious, purchases Lyft, and raises their rates back up to more reasonable levels. This particular rate cut had been another 10 percent decrease, the third of its kind in September, most likely to compete with Uber.
Lyft, unlike Uber, has aimed to make the experience more socially engaging for the passenger. Drivers are encouraged to be chatty or decorate their cars in themes. This social aspect was even a key factor in some of Lyft’s investors choosing to back the company over Uber.
I have, at various times, loved LA and hated LA. Right now, I’m on an up-swing. I love the weirdos, the driving, the aggressively-enforced postive vibes, the endless space, and the ridiculous weather. And I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else.
Here are some photos of the higlights and lowlights of the city I call home:
Atlas Mugged: How a Libertarian Paradise in Chile Fell Apart
It was a good idea, in theory anyway. The plan was to form a sustainable community made up of people who believed in capitalism, limited government, and self-reliance. The site was already picked out: 11,000 acres of fertile land nestled in the valleys of the Chilean Andes, just an hour’s drive away from the capital of Santiago, to the east, and the Pacific Ocean, to the west. Residents could make money growing and exporting organic produce while enjoying Chile’s low taxes and temperate climate. This was no crackpot scheme to establish a micronation on a platform floating in the middle of the ocean (a common libertarian dream)—this was a serious attempt to build a refuge where free marketers and anarcho-capitalists could hole up and wait for the world’s fiat currencies to collapse. They called it “Galt’s Gulch Chile” (GGC), naming it for the fictional place where the world’s competent capitalists flee to in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
The project was conceived in 2012 by four men: John Cobin, an American expat living in Chile who once ran unsuccessfully for Congress in South Carolina; Jeff Berwick, the globe-trotting founder of the Dollar Vigilante, a financial newsletter that preaches the coming end of the current monetary system; Cobin’s Chilean partner; and Ken Johnson, a roving entrepreneur whose previous investment projects included real estate, wind turbines, and “water ionizers,” pseudoscientific gizmos that are advertised as being able to slow aging.
That initial group quickly fell apart, though today the principals disagree on why. Now, two years after its founding, the would-be paradise is ensnared in a set of personal conflicts, mainly centered on Johnson. Instead of living in a picturesque valley selling Galt’s Gulch–branded juice, the libertarian founders are accusing one another of being drunks, liars, and sociopaths. GGC’s would-be inhabitants have called Johnson a “weirdo,” a “pathological liar,” “insane,” a “scammer,” and other, similar things. Some shareholders are pursuing legal action in an effort to remove him from the project, a drastic measure for antigovernment types to take. Johnson, who remains the manager of the trust that controls the land, claims all the allegations against him are false. So what happened?