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Liquid water may be lurking beneath the southern polar ice cap on Mars, according to fresh evidence reported in Nature Astronomy.…
They rose early in the morning to toil away at the eucalyptus plantation, planting seeds and spreading fertilizer. At night, they returned to barracks provided by their company, a cluster of small rooms that housed up to six people each—often whole families.
Sleeping in rows within the cramped space, 40 families survived on weak electricity and one shared bathroom. But most alarmingly, among the workers were children, some tasked to spray weed poison without protective gear.
These were the findings of a VICE World News exposé in May. But months after reporters shed light on the harsh working conditions on the eucalyptus plantation, the cramped barracks have been dismantled, a direct result of the report, say NGO workers. The company moved its workers to a nearby village—though the fate of its underage workers remains unknown.
The relocation happened in July, just one week after company personnel visited the barracks and questioned villagers who live near the plantation, said an NGO staffer who works closely with the local community.
"After the report was released, I received information that several company officers met with the villagers [in June] and asked who informed [the media] of the whereabouts of the barracks," they told VICE World News last week, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisal from Toba Pulp, the multimillion-dollar company that runs the plantation.
“The villagers said, ‘Isn't the barracks already known to many people? Then why should it be hidden?’”
Owned by billionaire Sukanto Tanoto, Toba Pulp Lestari is one of Indonesia’s largest paper and pulp companies, located in North Sumatra. Over the years, it has been criticized for polluting the environment and land grabbing from indigenous groups. However, the harsh living conditions of workers at Toba Pulp hadn’t received much public attention until they were published in May.
In a statement released on May 13, just over a week after the report was published, Toba Pulp addressed what it described as “recent allegations made by online media” and denied that it employed minors.
“We have investigated and found this to be categorically untrue,” said the statement. “We have a clear and firm policy against any form of child labour, and our policy applies to all our suppliers.”
“We are committed to providing a safe, productive and conducive work environment.”
In the statement, Jandres Silalahi, director of Toba Pulp, also claimed that the housing facilities provided by the company are “livable and child-friendly,” with amenities such as clean water, a kitchen, and a bathroom.
“We also opened learning centres for children of workers so they have equitable access to education”, he said.
However, when VICE World News visited the plantation earlier this year, reporters found workers living in cramped and squalid conditions. Employees at the plantation did not have insurance, and were often forced to work extra acres of land that exceeded agreed-upon workloads, pressured by contractors keen to keep their prices low and retain business with Toba Pulp.The now-demolished barracks at the Toba Pulp Lestari plantation. Photo: Albert Ivan Damanik
Most alarmingly, among the thousands of casual workers present at Toba Pulp’s plantation when reporters visited, were children under 18—school dropouts supporting their families, with no access to education at the site. VICE World News spoke with five underage workers, who were instructed to hide from visitors, doing hazardous jobs like spraying poison.
Regardless of their age, all workers earned the same wage of $6 a day—and even in their best months, earnings still fell well below North Sumatra’s minimum monthly wage of $165.
Adi, a villager living near the barracks, whom VICE World News has chosen to anonymize for his own safety, said on Tuesday that the workers were relocated to a row of houses in Simare, a village about two kilometers away. The row of houses, which appeared to be permanent structures, seemed of a better standard than the barracks, he said, but noted that they may still be overcrowded.
“The demolition of the barracks was triggered because of the report… I hope that media exposures are carried out more often so that more people know about this company's crimes.”
While he isn’t sure about the workers’ new living conditions, Adi said that the local community is relieved about the move.
“We sometimes feel sorry for the workers, living in cramped barracks where sometimes one family lives. Their wages are too low, sometimes they just eat instant food and share it with their families, even though they work for big companies,” Adi said, adding that conditions in the barracks were worrying the local community long before they were revealed to the public.
Toba Pulp’s statement also said that they would be increasing its “support” to their contractors to improve their labor practices, as well as getting “a credible labor rights expert for assurance.”
“If any instances of non-compliance with regulations and relevant commitments are found, they will be addressed immediately,” it said.
Recent scrutiny surrounding Toba Pulp’s barracks has also raised concerns from local authorities. In May, just weeks after the report was published, different government officials from the Ministry of Manpower and Ministry of Health paid visits to the plantation, Adi said. Over the course of a week, they surveyed the barracks and met with workers and nearby villagers.
However, according to those who have been advocating for workers’ rights on the plantation, the shabby barracks and Toba Pulp’s recruitment of minors aren’t news to the government.
Delima Silalahi, the director of the Community Initiative Study and Development Group, a local NGO tackling child labor and poor living conditions on the plantation, said that the government has long known about these exploitative practices, but never directly addressed Toba Pulp on the issue before it received media attention.
“The demolition of the barracks was triggered because of the report, [but] I believe there are other violations committed by the company,” she told VICE World News, citing the company’s mass deforestation projects, land grabbing, and pesticide pollution.
“I hope that media exposures are carried out more often so that more people know about this company's crimes.”
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Welcome yet again to On-Call, The Register’s Friday festival of futility in which readers share their stories of being asked to fix foul-ups inflicted by fools.…
Microsoft has claimed a North Korean threat group poses as LinkedIn recruiters to distribute poisoned versions of open-source software packages.…
Fiji’s police commissioner has rejected claims that authorities aren’t doing enough to quell the growing influence of hard drugs in the country, following a VICE World News investigation that shed light on the booming meth trade and the government’s failing “war on drugs.”
When visiting the island nation in August, VICE World News found that despite Fiji’s remote South Pacific location, local trade and consumption of crystal methamphetamine, or “ice,” is at an all-time high. People close to the industry said a growing number of locals cook the drug in-country, child sex workers use and sell it on the streets, and the deepening influence of narco-corruption is compromising some of the highest levels of society.
Shortly after VICE World News published its investigation in mid-September, Pio Tikoduadua, president of one of Fiji’s National Federation Party (NFP), released a statement claiming the report showed that the use of hard drugs has spiralled out of control. He also went on to suggest that VICE World News’ findings indicated the issue is now a “far bigger disaster than climate change.”
“Tragically, our worst fears have been confirmed with Vice World News highlighting that meth is as easily accessible as lollipops, which means our children and youths are being viciously targeted by unscrupulous drug kingpins,” NFP president Pio Tikoduadua said in the statement, published last week. “It is obvious this government lacks the political will to tackle this issue head-on. And we wonder why FijiFirst [Fiji’s ruling party] continues to be lackadaisical about this scourge.”
The NFP, one of Fiji’s main political parties, will be contesting the leadership of the incumbent FijiFirst party at the country’s upcoming national elections in October. Tikoduadua has previously been vocal in his criticism of both the government and Fijian police. In August 2019 he was confronted and shoved by Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama after a parliamentary debate, and in April 2020 he was arrested for sharing a video exposing brutality by Fijian Police over Facebook.
Fiji police commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho hit back against Tikoduadua’s comments last week, claiming the criticism was “uncalled for” and saying it diminished the “hard work” being done by Fijian authorities, in collaboration with the Australian Federal Police and New Zealand Police, to combat the sale and consumption of drugs like meth.
“For [the] National Federation Party to come up with such a statement is uncalled for, and I don't normally react to political statements, but in this case we need to put it into perspective that government has invested a lot and so has the police force, and we don’t go around publishing this,” Qiliho told the media.
“To say that it's out of control, I wouldn't say that. We do a lot of work, and if they say it's out of control, it's rubbishing all of the organisations… that we work together [with] as a region and globally to address this issue.”
“It's not something that's localised to Fiji,” he insisted. “It's a global issue that the whole world is trying to address at the moment… The small island states around us are also going through the same issues.”
VICE World News reached out to the police commissioner’s office for comment, but did not receive a response.
The South Pacific’s booming meth trade is largely a result of its location in the middle of one of the world’s most lucrative drug corridors, which runs between East Asia and the Americas, some of the world’s biggest manufacturers of the drug, and Australia and New Zealand, the world’s highest-paying markets. The vast and porous archipelago—comprising thousands of islands and gigantic corridors of open water—is notoriously hard to police. But multiple people VICE World News spoke to in Fiji also suggested that local authorities weren’t doing enough to meaningfully disrupt the growth of the drug market. Some even suggested they were actively facilitating it.
Hampering law enforcement is a severe lack of data on Fiji’s drug culture, with multiple experts telling VICE World News that little to no research has been done. Another issue, according to sources on the ground as well as Tikoduadua, is the tendency for police to pool their resources into targeting drugs like cannabis rather than ice.
In his media address, Qiliho pointed to large-scale cannabis stings and farm raids across the country as proof that police were taking the issue of drugs seriously and doing their bit.
“The dynamics involved in the use of drugs such as methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs constantly continues to change,” he added. “And we also need to continuously upgrade ourselves to deal with the situation.”
In both his statement and a subsequent tweet, Tikoduadua claimed that in 2019 he proposed that Parliament open an “urgent inquiry” into Fiji’s hard drugs situation, and the establishment of a special parliamentary committee to holistically look into the associated risks. The proposal was rejected at the time, he said—and in the three years since, the meth crisis and its various impacts on the economy, public health, and society at large have continued to spiral.
José Sousa-Santos, a senior fellow at the Australian Pacific Security College and the author of a February report looking at the impacts of transpacific drug trafficking, told VICE World News that the escalating, “catastrophic” situation constituted a “threat to national security.” Tikoduadua’s recent comments went even further than that.
“While climate change is important globally, the impact of the sale and use of hard drugs like methamphetamine on education, health and poverty [in Fiji] will be cataclysmic,” he said. “The fact that this government has allowed drugs to fester and spread throughout Fiji is horrifying.”
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The US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday proposed a long-awaited revision to the definition of the term "healthy" on food packaging—finally scrapping the mind-boggling criteria from the 1990s that made healthful foods such as nuts, salmon, avocados, olive oil, and even water ineligible for the label.
The new definition is not immune to criticism, and Americans are likely to still face uncertainty about healthy food choices as they stroll grocery store aisles. But, the proposed update—which coincides with this week's White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and a national strategy to improve US nutrition and reduce hunger—is a clear improvement.
Under the current criteria, established in 1994, the FDA allows food manufacturers to label their products as "healthy" based on myopic maximums and minimums of specific nutrients. That means "healthy" foods have universal maximums for saturated fat, total fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and are also required to provide at least 10 percent of the daily value for one or more of the following nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein, and fiber.
For almost a decade, the US Central Intelligence Agency communicated with informants abroad using a network of websites with hidden communications capabilities.…
NASA announced Thursday that it plans to study the possibility of using SpaceX's Crew Dragon vehicle to boost the aging Hubble Space Telescope into a higher orbit.
The federal agency has signed a "Space Act Agreement" with SpaceX to conduct a six-month study to determine the practicability of Dragon docking with the 32-year-old telescope and boosting it into a higher orbit. The study is not exclusive, meaning that other companies can propose similar concepts with alternative rockets and spacecraft.
The agreement comes after SpaceX and the Polaris Program—a series of private missions self-funded by billionaire Jared Isaacman—approached NASA about potential servicing missions including the Hubble Space Telescope. Isaacman is the first private citizen to command an orbital spaceflight, when he led a crew of four aboard SpaceX's Dragon in 2021 on the Inspiration4 mission. With Polaris he is seeking to push the boundaries of private space exploration outward. The first Polaris mission is scheduled for March 2022 on Dragon, and will fly to an altitude of 750 km while also conducting the first private spacewalks.
MIT engineers have built a wireless, battery-free underwater camera, capable of harvesting energy by itself while consuming very little power, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature Communications. The system can take color photos of remote submerged objects—even in dark settings— and convey the data wirelessly for real-time monitoring of underwater environments, aiding the discovery of new rare species or monitoring ocean currents, pollution, or commercial and military operations.
We already have various methods of taking underwater images, but according to the authors, "Most of the ocean and marine organisms have not been observed yet." That's partly because most existing methods require being tethered to ships, underwater drones, or power plants for both power and communication. Those methods that don't use tethering must incorporate battery power, which limits their lifetime. While it's possible in principle to harvest energy from ocean waves, underwater currents, or even sunlight, adding the necessary equipment to do so would result in a much bulkier and more expensive underwater camera.
So the MIT team set about developing a solution for a battery-free, wireless imaging method. The design goal was to minimize the hardware required as much as possible. Since they wanted to keep power consumption to a minimum, for instance, the MIT team used cheap off-the-shelf imaging sensors. The trade-off is that such sensors only produce grayscale images. The team also needed to develop a low-power flash as well, since most underwater environments don't get much natural light.
Hackers backed by the North Korean government are weaponizing well-known pieces of open source software in an ongoing campaign that has already succeeded in compromising "numerous" organizations in the media, defense and aerospace, and IT services industries, Microsoft said on Thursday.
ZINC—Microsoft's name for a threat actor group also called Lazarus, which is best known for conducting the devastating 2014 compromise of Sony Pictures Entertainment—has been lacing PuTTY and other legitimate open source applications with highly encrypted code that ultimately installs espionage malware.
The hackers then pose as job recruiters and connect with individuals of targeted organizations over LinkedIn. After developing a level of trust over a series of conversations and eventually moving them to the WhatsApp messenger, the hackers instruct the individuals to install the apps, which infect the employees' work environments.
Did September whoosh past you like your ex on a Citi Bike? Awkwardly waving hello and goodbye simultaneously, while wondering where the time went? Ya, us too. But we ain’t mad, no, not at all. Because October is the best month of the year, according to Drake and any Libra you ask.
Last week, we gently eased you into spooky season with a very topical slutty Anna Delvey costume, Brooklinen’s new line of home fragrances, and Maude’s newest G-spot vibrator that is sure to reach all the right places. This week is chock full of even more exciting product launches and much-anticipated collabs, from the likes of Wrangler x Leon Bridges, and Vans x Lisa Says Gah—not to mention, Skims’ new line of bras to tame and titillate your tatas in the most comfortable fabric. Get ready for the last weekend of September, and start brainstorming your Halloween costume, lest you show up to the part in the same sexy Minion get-up as everyone elseOne of These Days’ latest collection
Artist Matt McCormick creates stunning works that pay homage to Americana and the Wild West juxtaposed against today’s cultural landscape, especially what he observes near his studio in downtown L.A. While his artwork might be out of your price range, his clothing brand of the same ilk features original art by McCormick. The newest collection, Northern Sky, pays homage to New York’s Hudson Valley, honoring “the lush green of the environment… the slower pace… the incredible music,” according to the artist. McCormick tried to capture, “a calmness that reverberates creative energy [upstate] that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” through this collection.Polaroid’s P3 Music Player
Feeling nostalgic for the days of boomboxes, and “Do The Right Thing”? Polaroid’s new line of Bluetooth speakers will bring you right back. The P3 is a colorful sound system that can be synced with your smartphone and Polaroid’s Music App to control the mini boombox from its analog knob, giving you that full-retro vibe. The compact speaker weighs less than five pounds, and a full charge will last up to 15 hours of playback time. The coolest thing about the P3 is that two devices can be paired together, to create a stereo sound experience.Wrangler x Leon Bridges
Daddy, I mean, Daddy—ahem, DADDY!!! …sorry, [cough] denim. Wooo, this tasty 70s himbo-inspired collab between Wrangler and Leon Bridges have gotten our undies all in a twist. Excuse us while we wipe the drool from our keyboards. If you’re wanting to try a new look for fall, these ultra-flattering flares and denim vests, western-inspired shirts and logo-printed denim make us want to save a horse, and ride a cowboy/cowgirl.Teva’s new hiking boots
It’s get-lost-in-the-wilderness time, and it seems like all of our fave brands are hopping aboard the cool hiking boot train. First Hoka launched its Anacapa boot, and now Teva is getting in on the futuristic hiking trend with its new Geotrecca boot, which are super lightweight thanks to their rugged Spider Rubber outsole. The entire shoe is made from Earth-friendly, recycled materials and are waterproof, making them ideal for both the great outdoors and slushy days in the city.Birthdate’s tarot candle
Holy Mercury retrograde, Batman. We’ve all been feeling the static chaos, so might as well reground yourself with a tarot candle that contains a mystery gold-plated tarot charm, one for each of the 22 cards of the Major Arcana tarot deck. This black soy candle (points if you can find a virgin to light it) is fragranced with bergamot, cardamom, verbena, and eucalyptus for a transformative scent; an accompanying Spotify playlist will help you ascend to a higher plane. Plus, the reusable tin will come in clutch for holding on to locks of your enemies hair, or you know, matches?Skims’ new line of Bras
Everyone I’ve known to try Skims instantly falls in love—which makes sense, considering the craft and attention to detail that goes into its comfy, classic designs. Skims’ newest “system of bra solutions” has been in development for three years and features eight new styles across three collections; Naked, which offers feels-like-nothing fabrics and ultra-comfy cuts, for everyday wear; Weightless, for a non-bulky, lightly-padded shape; and No Show, for a bra-less look with a bit more support.Vans x Lisa Says Gah!
When two classically Californian brands join forces, you can be sure the results will be a collection of effortlessly cool jawns that pay homage to each brands’ “shared mindset when it comes to dressing with ease without sacrificing style,” in the words of Lisa Says Gah! Founder and designer Lisa Buhler. The Neapolitan ice cream-reminiscent collab reimagines two classic Vans shoes—the Old Skool and the Slip On, and re-introduces a Mary Jane, “inspired by the Vans archives, [which is] a cult favorite style and highly popular amongst vintage buyers.”
Make sure you order the bald cap for your sexy Golem costume, before Spirit Halloween has been picked clean!
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Discovering and reporting critical security flaws that could allow foreign spies to steal sensitive US government data or launch cyberattacks via the Department of Defense's IT systems doesn't carry a high reward.…
Intel's highest-end graphics card lineup is approaching its retail launch, and that means we're getting more answers to crucial market questions of prices, launch dates, performance, and availability. Today, Intel answered more of those A700-series GPU questions, and they're paired with claims that every card in the Arc A700 series punches back at Nvidia's 18-month-old RTX 3060.
After announcing a $329 price for its A770 GPU earlier this week, Intel clarified that the company would launch three A700 series products on October 12: The aforementioned Arc A770 for $329, which sports 8GB of GDDR6 memory; an additional Arc A770 Limited Edition for $349, which jumps up to 16GB of GDDR6 at slightly higher memory bandwidth and otherwise sports otherwise identical specs; and the slightly weaker A750 Limited Edition for $289.
If you missed the memo on that sub-$300 GPU when it was previously announced, the A750 LE is essentially a binned version of the A770's chipset with 87.5 percent of the shading units and ray tracing (RT) units turned on, along with an ever-so-slightly downclocked boost clock (2.05 GHz, compared to 2.1 GHz on both A770 models).
The moon enters Sagittarius at 12:03 PM, inspiring adventure, fun, and intellectual curiosity. We could be in a flirtatious or creatively inspired mood as the moon mingles with Venus in Libra at 2:04 AM. The moon connects with Jupiter in Aries at 5:38 AM, encouraging generosity, and the moon connects with the sun in Libra at 1:05 PM, bringing a boost of confidence.
All times ET.
Stay in the cosmic loop with the VICE horoscopes newsletter. Get horoscopes straight to your inbox when you sign up here!Aries: March 20, 2022 - April 19, 2022
You could be planning your next trip as the moon enters Sagittarius. Your focus can also be on publishing or your education. The moon mingles with Venus and the sun in Libra, as well as Jupiter in Aries, inspiring romance, collaboration, confidence, and a feeling of expansion!Taurus: April 19, 2022 - May 20, 2022
Your focus may turn to finances today as the moon enters Sagittarius, especially regarding money you share with partners, debts, or bills. The moon connects with Venus in Libra, which can help you smooth any tricky situations over.Gemini: May 20, 2022 - June 21, 2022
The moon enters your opposite sign Sagittarius today, lighting up the relationship sector of your chart, and communication flows especially smoothly as the moon connects with Venus and the sun in Libra. Exciting social connections can form as the moon mingles with Jupiter in Aries.Cancer: June 21, 2022 - July 22, 2022
You could be busy reorganizing your schedule as the moon enters Sagittarius. The moon connects with Venus and the sun in Libra, which can bode well for your home and family life, and exciting shifts may be taking place in your career as the moon mingles with Jupiter in Aries.Leo: July 22, 2022 - August 22, 2022
The moon enters fellow fire sign Sagittarius today, lighting up the romance and creativity sector of your chart! Good news could arrive as the moon connects with Venus and the sun in Libra. The moon also mingles with lucky Jupiter in Aries, inspiring an adventurous atmosphere. New opportunities may be on the way!Virgo: August 22, 2022 - September 22, 2022
The moon enters Sagittarius, bringing your focus to home and family life today. You could be reorganizing your budget or having meaningful discussions about money and responsibilities as the moon mingles with the sun and Venus in Libra, and Jupiter in Aries.Libra: September 22, 2022 - October 23, 2022
The moon enters Sagittarius, lighting up the communication sector of your chart, and an easy atmosphere flows around connection in your social life and your one-on-one partnerships as the moon mingles with your ruling planet Venus and the sun, both in your sign, and lucky Jupiter in Aries.Scorpio: October 23, 2022 - November 22, 2022
The moon enters Sagittarius today, which can bring your focus to finances. Creativity flows as the moon mingles with Venus and the sun in artistic Libra, and a productive atmosphere flows as the moon connects with Jupiter in fire sign Aries.Sagittarius: November 22, 2022 - December 21, 2022
The moon enters your sign today, Sagittarius, encouraging you to connect with yourself emotionally. Exciting social connections can form as the moon mingles with Venus and the sun in Libra, and big discussions may take place as the moon connects with your ruling planet Jupiter, currently in fellow fire sign Aries.Capricorn: December 21, 2021 - January 19, 2022
The moon enters Sagittarius today, encouraging you to slow down and rest. As you unwind, creative ideas that benefit your reputation or your career can come to you while the moon mingles with Venus and the sun in Libra. The moon also connects with Jupiter in Aries, which can make for a cozy atmosphere at home.Aquarius: January 19, 2022 - February 18, 2022
The moon enters Sagittarius, lighting up the friendship sector of your chart, and exciting social connections can form as the moon mingles with sweet Venus and with the sun, both in fellow air sign Libra. Exciting discussions take place as the moon mingles with Jupiter in Aries.Pisces: February 18, 2022 - March 20, 2022
The moon enters Sagittarius today, which can bring your focus to your career, and people could be eager to work with you as the moon connects with Venus and the sun in Libra. Opportunities to boost your wealth or sense of security arrive as the moon mingles with Jupiter in Aries.