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Obama signs bill banning US from importing goods produced by slave labor

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President Barack Obama signed a bill on Wednesday barring the import of goods produced by forced labor from entering the United States, throwing the weight of the U.S. market into the fight against global slavery.

Shipments derived from slavery, from fish to electronics and cocoa, will be kept out of the country under the new law that closes a legal loophole that allowed import of goods derived from forced labor if U.S. demand exceeded domestic production, officials said.

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The measure closing the loophole from the Tariff Act of 1930 was included in a wider trade enforcement bill, which Obama signed into law at the White House in Washington.

“The mere deterrent effect of closing this loophole is a great step forward,” Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told reporters on a conference call. “We’re going to make sure that is heavily noted throughout the world.”

The new law could keep at bay billions of dollars worth of goods produced by forced labor, said Annick Febrey, senior associate at the advocacy group Human Rights First.

“It’s a really big deal,” she said. “While we as a country have said that we are against slavery, we’ve had this little-known rule in the Tariff Act.”

The International Labour Organization estimates that 20.9 million people are victims of forced labor globally.

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The illegal industry is estimated to generate $150 billion in profits per year, the agency has said.

Implementation of earlier U.S. anti-slavery measures faltered due to a need to determine if demand exceeded domestic production, Febrey said.

Enforcement of the new law should benefit from data from the U.S. Department of Labor, which has been listing goods, classified by nation, that are likely made by forced labor, officials said.

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Only a few countries have laws addressing forced labor goods, including Canada where prison-labor imports are illegal and Australia where financial benefits from forced labor are outlawed, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe. Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst via the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change.)

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Newly released emails show White House prepared to freeze Ukraine aid hours before Trump’s phone call

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White House budget officials were preparing to freeze aid to Ukraine the night before President Donald Trump's infamous July 25 phone call to the country's new president, according to newly released emails.

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Trump impeachment trial: 4 stories from first day spell doom for Mitch McConnell

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If the score was kept for the first day of the impeachment trial, it would show hefty losses for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

As Former Special Counsel for the Department of Defense, Ryan Goodman, pointed out, four major headlines perfectly reflect the cracks in the strangle-hold McConnell has had on his party.

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‘Disease fanboy’: Internet slams NBC conservative for ‘rooting for pandemic’ to distract from Trump impeachment trial

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Hugh Hewitt is once again under fire, this time for almost appearing to be glad a deadly SARS-related virus has been diagnosed in a patient in Washington state – saying additional diagnoses will take the focus away from the Senate's historic impeachment trial. Hewitt is a conservative Washington Post columnist, radio host, MSNBC and NBC contributor, and law professor who went from being a "Never-Trumper" to all-in for President Donald Trump.

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