Supreme Court lets Nestle, Cargill off hook in child slavery case – National & International News – FRI 18Jun2021

SCOTUS shields corporations in child slavery case. Wildfires at 10-year high. North Korea’s Kim admits famine fears, wants dialog with US.


Supreme Court lets Nestle off hook for supporting child slavery

Many were no doubt relieved yesterday when the Supreme Court ruled out a challenge that would have struck down the Affordable Care Act. However, another ruling announced yesterday could certainly raise some eyebrows, especially when you hear the baffling arguments that somehow “won” this case.

The justices voted 8-1 to block a lawsuit brought against US food giants Nestle and Cargill by six African men enslaved as children on an Ivory Coast plantation that supplies the companies with their cocoa. The men were kidnapped from neighboring Mali and forced to work on the farm under horrific conditions.

When the court heard arguments back in December, the legal team representing the plaintiffs contended that Nestle and Cargill were fully aware that their African suppliers used child slaves. Neither Nestle or Cargill ceased doing business with the farms. In fact, to keep their cocoa prices low, they continued doing business with the farms and made no demands that they end the practice.

What is the Alien Tort Act?

The men brought the suit under the 18th century Alien Tort Act. In recent years, foreign nationals have used the act to seek redress in US courts for human rights abuses committed on foreign soil. Such suits have met with mixed success, and the most recent precedents have effectively limited the scope of the provision.

Confusingly, yesterday’s majority opinion stated that the men lacked standing to sue Nestle and Cargill in the US since the offenses took place on foreign soil- which is exactly the point of the Alien Tort Act. However, they did not go so far as to bar use of the Alien Tort Act to redress wrongs of this kind.

“Mind-boggling” defense

Back in December, Nestle and Cargill’s defender, Neal Katyal, offered arguments that had the justices visibly dumbfounded. The crux Katyal’s arguments had little to do with where the abuses took place. Instead, he simply argued that as corporations, Nestle and Cargill were shielded from responsibility.

In one example, Justice Thomas asked Katyal whether there was an international norm allowing corporate liability for slavery. Katyal answered that there was, but not for merely “aiding and abetting” slavery, which is what Nestle and Cargill did.

Posing a hypothetical, Justice Kagan then asked Katyal whether a former child slave could sue ten slaveholders as individuals. Katyal said ‘yes’. Kagan then asked whether the child slave could sue the ten men if they formed a corporation, to which Katyal answered ‘no’. Kagan duly expressed astonishment at this contention.

When Justice Alito asked whether a child could sue a US corporation that hired men kidnap and enslave them, Katyal again answered in the negative.

Both liberal and conservative justices expressed incredulity at Katyal’s arguments, with Justice Sotomayor saying they “boggled the mind”. Nevertheless, despite the justices’ collective bewilderment, Katyal’s arguments somehow won them over- all except for conservative Justice Alito!

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).

Click here for audio clips of Katyal’s arguments (redirects to Twitter).


US wildfires at 10-year high

Weather experts have warned that record droughts would likely spawn a particularly dangerous wildfire season this year. The number of wildfires in 2021 is already at a ten-year high compared to this time in previous years. Already more than 28,000 wildfires have burned over a million acres in the last 6 months.

This week’s heatwave, combined with unusually dry conditions, have made out-of-control fires more likely across the Western US. There are 33 fires currently burning, most of them in Utah, Nevada and eastern Oregon are bearing the brunt of it. But the biggest is outside Pheonix, AZ, and has burned 175,000 acres. Another fire in Montana has scorched more than 24,000 acres and 18 structures northeast of Yellowstone National Park.

Fire officials say that the 2021 wildfire season is already off to a bigger and earlier start than normal. If the conditions continue, 2021 could have one of the longest and most destructive wildfire seasons on record.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



North Korea’s Kim admits food shortages, says open to dialog with Biden

In North Korea, a COVID-related border shutdown and a run of bad weather have led to food shortages in the country. The country’s leader Kim Jong-Un admitted earlier this week that, “The people’s food situation is now getting tense“. This is the latest in a string of admissions of failure by Kim. Despite the increasingly dire conditions, Kim has, up to now, refused to engage in renewed dialogs with western powers.

Former President Trump was the first sitting president to formally meet with a North Korean dictator when he attempted to open direct negotiations towards normalizing relations. Though the talks initially got off to a promising start, they quickly fell apart. The disappointment seems to have deepened the rancor of Kim and his cabinet toward the west.

But as the crisis rolls on and food prices spike, Kim has signaled that he’s ready to resume negotiations. However, even as Kim extended an olive branch with one hand, he rattled a saber in the other. In a meeting with Communist party leaders, Kim said the country needed to prepare for both “dialogue and confrontation” with the US.

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