Photographs of human trafficking and enslavement around the world
It was 130 degrees when I was first introduced to the brick kilns of Nepal. In these severe temperatures, men, women, and children -- whole families, in fact -- were surrounded by a dense cloud of dust while mechanically stacking bricks on their heads, carrying them, 18 at a time, from the scorching kilns to trucks hundreds of yards away.
These are slaves. Deadened by monotony and exhaustion, they worked without speaking, repeating the same task 16 hours a day. They took no rest for food or water, no bathroom breaks -- although their dehydration suppressed their need to urinate.
Around the world human traffickers trick many people into slavery by false promises of good jobs or good education, only to find themselves forced to work without pay, under the threat of violence. Trapped by phony debt, these slaves are hunted by local police and private security guards if they try to escape. Sometimes slaves don't even understand that they're enslaved, despite people working 16 or 17 hours a day with no pay. They're simply used to it as something they've been doing their whole lives. Their bodies grow weak and vulnerable to disease, but they have nothing to compare their experience to.
For the last 28 years I have documented people in more than 100 countries on six continents. In 2009, at the Vancouver Peace Summit, I met a supporter of Free the Slaves, an NGO dedicated to eradicating modern-day slavery; weeks later, I flew down to Los Angeles and met with the director of Free the Slaves; thus began my journey into exploring modern-day
Oddly, I'd been to most of the locations where I started photographing slavery many times before. I even considered some of them homes-away-from-home. But there can be dark corners in familiar places.
These are not images of "problems." They're images of people. There are 27 million slaves in the world today. A hundred and fifty years ago, an average agricultural slave cost over three times the average yearly wage of an American
worker, about US$50,000 in today's money. Yet now, entire families can be enslaved for generations over a debt as small as $18. Slavery is illegal
everywhere, but it exists all over the world.
Accra, Ghana: These gold miners have just come out of the shaft, their pants soaked from their own sweat. Most had spent all their money coming from the north hoping to strike it rich in legal mines. But legal operations require certifications. When they can't get a job, the men take high-interest loans or join groups of slaves in mines abandoned by legitimate operations.
Accra, Ghana: 200 feet underground, a man labors in an illegal gold mine. He and others enslaved like him are underground for as long as 72 hours at a time.
Accra, Ghana: Many of those enslaved had children with them while panning for gold, wading in waters poisoned by mercury that is used in the extraction process.
Kathmandu, Nepal: For this photo, I was escorted by women who had previously been enslaved themselves. They brought me down a narrow set of stairs leading to a green fluorescent-lit basement. This wasn't a brothel as such; it was a "cabin restaurants," as they are known in the trade -- venues for forced prostitution. Each has a small private room where slaves, some as young as seven, entertain and serve the clients, encouraging them to buy alcohol and food. These cubicles are small, dark, and dingy, each identified with a number painted on the wall, and partitioned by plywood and a curtain. The workers here often endure sexual abuse at the hands of the customers. Standing in the near darkness, I realized there was only one way out -- the stairs where I came in: no back doors, no windows large enough to climb through, no escape at all.
Kathmandu, Nepal: A worker blends in with the bricks at a Nepalese kiln. Workers mechanically stack 18 bricks at a time, each weighing four pounds, and carry them to nearby trucks for 18 hours a day without any payment or compensation.
Lake Volta, Ghana: Fhanaian NGOs estimate that between 4,000 and 10,000 trafficked children are enslaved on Lake Volta, the largest man-made lake in the world. At first glance this image appears to be a family fishing in the lake, two older brothers and some kids. I was alarmed to learn that they were actually enslaved, working in plain sight. These children have been lost to their parents and are forced to work endless hours in boats on the lake, though they're unable to swim.
Lake Volta, Ghana: Child workers usually work from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on cold, windy nights to reel in nets weighing as much as 1,000 pounds when they are full of fish. Skeletal tree limbs submerged in Lake Volta frequently entangle the fishing nets, and and slave masters will throw weary, frightened children into the water to free the trapped lines, sometimes drowning them. I didn't meet one child who didn't know another who had drowned.
Lake Volta, Ghana: There are triumphs, too. Meet Kofi, a young boy who was rescued from slavery in a fishing village. I met Khofi at a shelter where Free the Slaves rehabilitate victims of slavery. He was bathing at the well, pouring big buckets of water over his head. Thanks to the efforts of organizations like Free the Slaves, today Kofi has been reunited with his parents, who were provided tools to make a living and to keep their children safe from human traffickers.
In the Himalayas I found children hauling stone for miles down steep mountain terrain to trucks waiting at the road below. These huge sheets of slate were heavier than the children themselves. The kids hoisted them with their heads using handmade harnesses made from sticks, rope, and torn cloth.
Uttar Pradesh, India: In India I visited a village where whole families were enslaved in the silk industry. This is a family portrait. The father (hands in black) and his sons (hands in red and blue) are held captive in a "silk dyeing house." The dye they work with is toxic. It's common for entire families to be enslaved for generations. My translator told me their story. "We have no freedom," they said. "But we hope, some day, we will be able to leave this house and make dyes in a place where we actually get paid for it."
Uttar Pradesh, India: Slaveholders burned down these people's villages after they declared their freedom. Many of the neighbors wanted to give up, they were so frightened -- but the woman in the center encouraged them to persevere. Abolitionists helped them get a quarry lease of their own. Now they do the same backbreaking work, but they at least get paid for it, and they do it in freedom.
Einstein’s gravitational waves rest on a genuinely radical idea.
After decades of anticipation, we have directly detected gravitational waves—ripples in spacetime traveling at the speed of light through the universe. Scientists at LIGO (the Laser Interferometic Gravitational-wave Observatory) have announced that they have measured waves coming from the inspiral of two massive black holes, providing a spectacular confirmation of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, whose hundredth anniversary was celebrated just last year.
Finding gravitational waves indicates that Einstein was (once again) right, and opens a new window onto energetic events occurring around the universe. But there’s a deeper lesson, as well: a reminder of the central importance of locality, an idea that underlies much of modern physics.
Across China, where new developments are keeping pace with the rapidly growing economy, reports continue to surface so-called "nail houses."
Across China, where new developments are keeping pace with the rapidly growing economy, reports continue to surface of so-called "nail houses." These properties, standing alone amid the ruins of other buildings, belong to owners who have stood their ground and resisted demolition. Defiant property owners say the compensation being offered is too low. Some of them have remained in their homes for years as their court cases drag on and new construction continues all around them. A few homeowners have won their fights, but most have lost. Meanwhile, these nail houses have become powerful symbols of resistance against the world's fastest-growing major economy.
This wasn’t terribly surprising. When Streep was asked, last year, in the course of promoting her extremely feminist film Suffragette, whether she is herself a feminist, the actor replied that, no, she isn’t. Instead: “I am a humanist,” she said. “I am for nice, easy balance.”
The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged. Why?
On a sultry evening last July, a tall, soft-spoken 17-year-old named David Stoner and nearly 600 other math whizzes from all over the world sat huddled in small groups around wicker bistro tables, talking in low voices and obsessively refreshing the browsers on their laptops. The air in the cavernous lobby of the Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was humid, recalls Stoner, whose light South Carolina accent warms his carefully chosen words. The tension in the room made it seem especially heavy, like the atmosphere at a high-stakes poker tournament.
Stoner and five teammates were representing the United States in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad. They figured they’d done pretty well over the two days of competition. God knows, they’d trained hard. Stoner, like his teammates, had endured a grueling regime for more than a year—practicing tricky problems over breakfast before school and taking on more problems late into the evening after he completed the homework for his college-level math classes. Sometimes, he sketched out proofs on the large dry-erase board his dad had installed in his bedroom. Most nights, he put himself to sleep reading books like New Problems in Euclidean Geometry and An Introduction to Diophantine Equations.
Today’s empires are born on the web, and exert tremendous power in the material world.
Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t had the best week.
First, Facebook’s Free Basics platform was effectively banned in India. Then, a high-profile member of Facebook’s board of directors, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, sounded off about the decision to his nearly half-a-million Twitter followers with a stunning comment.
“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades,” Andreessen wrote. “Why stop now?”
After that, the Internet went nuts.
Andreessen deleted his tweet, apologized, and underscored that he is “100 percent opposed to colonialism” and “100 percent in favor of independence and freedom.” Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, followed up with his own Facebook post to say Andreessen’s comment was “deeply upsetting” to him, and not representative of the way he thinks “at all.”
Ben Stiller’s follow-up to his own comedy classic is a downright bummer, no matter how many celebrity cameos it tries to cram in.
You don’t need to go to the theater to get the full experience of Zoolander 2. Simply get your hands on a copy of the original, watch it, and then yell a bunch of unfunny topical lines every time somebody tells a joke. That’s how it feels to watch Ben Stiller’s sequel to his 2001 spoof of the fashion industry: Zoolander 2 takes pains to reference every successful gag you remember from the original, and then embellish them in painful—often offensive, almost always outdated—fashion. It’s a film that has no real reason to exist, and it spends its entire running time reaffirming that fact.
The original Zoolander, to be fair, had no business being as funny as it was—it made fun of an industry that already seems to exist in a constant state of self-parody, and much of its humor relied on simple malapropisms and sight gags. But it was hilarious anyway as a candid snapshot of the fizzling-out of ’90s culture. Like almost any zeitgeist comedy, it belonged to a particular moment—and boy, should it have stayed there. With Zoolander 2, Stiller (who directed, co-wrote, and stars) tries to recapture the magic of 2001 by referencing its past glories with increasing desperation, perhaps to avoid the fact that he has nothing new to say about the fashion industry or celebrity culture 15 years laters.
When four American women were murdered during El Salvador’s dirty war, a young U.S. official and his unlikely partner risked their lives to solve the case.
On December 1, 1980, two American Catholic churchwomen—an Ursuline nun and a lay missionary—sat down to dinner with Robert White, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. They worked in rural areas ministering to El Salvador’s desperately impoverished peasants, and White admired their commitment and courage. The talk turned to the government’s brutal tactics for fighting the country’s left-wing guerrillas, in a dirty war waged by death squads that dumped bodies in the streets and an army that massacred civilians. The women were alarmed by the incoming Reagan administration’s plans for a closer relationship with the military-led government. Because of a curfew, the women spent the night at the ambassador’s residence. The next day, after breakfast with the ambassador’s wife, they drove to San Salvador’s international airport to pick up two colleagues who were flying back from a conference in Nicaragua. Within hours, all four women would be dead.
Most people know how to help someone with a cut or a scrape. But what about a panic attack?
Here’s a thought experiment: You’re walking down the street with a friend when your companion falls and gashes her leg on the concrete. It’s bleeding; she’s in pain. It’s clear she’s going to need stitches. What do you do?
This one isn’t exactly a head-scratcher. You'd probably attempt to offer some sort of first-aid assistance until the bleeding stopped, or until she could get to medical help. Maybe you happen to have a Band-Aid on you, or a tissue to help her clean the wound, or a water bottle she can use to rinse it off. Maybe you pick her up and help her hobble towards transportation, or take her where she needs to go.
Here’s a harder one: What if, instead of an injured leg, that same friend has a panic attack?
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
The bureau successfully played the long game in both cases.
The story of law enforcement in the Oregon standoff is one of patience.
On the most obvious level, that was reflected in the 41 days that armed militia members occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns. It took 25 days before the FBI and state police moved to arrest several leaders of the occupation and to barricade the refuge. It took another 15 days before the last of the final occupiers walked out, Thursday morning Oregon time.
Each of those cases involved patience as well: Officers massed on Highway 395 didn’t shoot LaVoy Finicum when he tried to ram past a barricade, nearly striking an FBI agent, though when he reached for a gun in his pocket they finally fired. Meanwhile, despite increasingly hysterical behavior from David Fry, the final occupier, officers waited him out until he emerged peacefully.