HIGHTOWER: Stop Child Labor

I worked as a kid, and maybe you did too. At 10 or 12 years of age, many of us had paper routes, mowed yards and took on other part-time jobs.But this is not what the International Labor Organization means when it refers to "Child Labor." The ILO notes in a startling new report that TWICE as many children than previously thought are at work around the world, half of them working full-time rather than going to school. The report counts 250 million little ones -- the equivalent of the entire U.S. population -- caught in the horror of child labor.And a horror it is, for these are not kids with paper routes, but tykes as young as three doing abusive and dangerous work in mines, on fishing vessels and in hellacious factories making things like glass, rugs, matches . . . and soccer balls.In Sri Lanka, more children die of work-exposure to pesticides than die of a combination of malaria, whooping cough and other childhood diseases. In Indonesia and elsewhere, children work as deep-sea divers to collect shell-fish without any protective gear -- resulting in ruptured eardrums, horrible decompression illnesses and drownings.Then there are those soccer balls. If your kids play soccer, they are likely playing soccer with a ball that was painfully stitched by the tiny fingers of children in Pakistan, China and Indonesia -- the source of most balls used in the U.S. These are six-to-sixteen year olds who often are indentured to soccer-ball factory owners. They work 12-hour days, hand-sewing hundreds of tight stitches in the ball, often crippling their fingers for life. They receive maybe 30 cents for making a ball that sells here for $40. They receive no schooling and, of course, have no time to play soccer.

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