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Well, now we join the ranks of the victimized. First, we learn that Target took such little care to check on its own credit card security that 40 MILLION customers, including us, may have had their credit cards hacked. Then we learn that the greedy banks in the US still use vulnerable magnetic strips on the cards they issue, while European banks have used highly unhackable microchips in their cards for a decade. Now, we have no MasterCard in the days before Christmas. Humbug, Target and American banks. Coal in all your stockings.

This morning, federal figures show U.S. unemployment at 7.7%, a slight improvement. And we are hearing new calls for a higher U.S. minimum wage.

Yet, as I picked up a warm-up jacket from the seamstress yesterday, I was again reminded of the vast gap between U.S. wages and those overseas. My new midnight blue warm-up jacket from Wal Mart cost me $16.88, plus tax, and seemed like a bargain for the quality and fit. The label says it was made in Indonesia.

Then I picked it up from the local seamstress, where I had taken it to have the sleeves shortened. Her charge for that simple sewing task was $20.00, plus tax — more than the entire cost to me for the new jacket! Most of the alteration cost was for her labor, plus a few cents for thread, and maybe some to offset the cost of her sewing machine and rent for the shop.

The warm-up jacket was nicely designed and carefully manufactured, made of a beautiful soft fabric, with a white stripe sewed on. It had been shipped thousands of miles, then inventoried and marketed in the U.S., and added a little more profit for Wal Mart.

While our workers deserve a living minimum wage most surely, the dichotomy of labor costs between the U.S. and Indonesia is staggering. Clearly, it will take not just a few years or a generation, but hundreds of years of social evolution to bring any semblence of justice to the relationship of labor costs in the economies of the world. Meanwhile, we must each take care of our own as best wee can, and hope for peace in our time. My fine new warm-up jacket will be a constant reminder to me.

Lower Manhattan became famous, as it has for so many things when in the 30s, more than 200 skyscrapers (of more than 20 floors) were built there in a decade. Since 1990, when Chinese Premier Deng proclaimed that Shanghai would build a world-class financial district on the mud flats across the river from Shanghai proper, some 400 skyscrapers have been built there. We recently visited, and viewed the awesome day and night skyline of the Pudong district, as it is known, both from our hotel rooms at the Peninsula Hotel on he famous Bund, across the river, and down from 93rd floor restaurant the Shanghai World Financial Center, in the Center of Pudong, now I believe the world’s 3rd tallest building. A Chicagoan, Marshall Strabala, is the lead architect of the Shanghai Tower, now under construction there, which will soon soar above the Financial Center. Seen from across the river, Pudong resembles a space-age version of the Financial District in Lower Manhattan. If architecture can connote such a thing, we may be looking at the world’s financial capitol of the 21st century.

February 2023

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