January 10, 2016
PARIS â€" Since the end of September, any U.S. resident over the age of 21 who has a car and an Android smartphone can offer occasional delivery services for Amazon. With its news service, called Flex, the e-commerce giant steps further into on-demand work for private individuals â€" a sector in which it was a pioneer 10 years ago with Amazon Mechanical Turk. In exchange for payment, Turk allowed Internet users to perform tasks such as analyzing images, moderating forums and conducting surveys.
This new way of working, which has been popularized by Uber, now goes far beyond passenger or package transport. In the U.S., independent workers have access to platforms for pet-sitting (DogVacay), on-demand moving (Lugg) and all sorts of other odd jobs (TaskRabbit). In France, they can offer their services on Youpijob or Hassle, but the most used marketplace for these tasks is no other than Leboncoin, whose services section has more than 100,000 offers from private individuals.
The trend isn't limited to low-skilled jobs: In the U.S., the platform Upwork claims 2.5 million freelance service providers working intellectual jobs (developers, lawyers, graphic designers, assistants etc.). According to a study commissioned by the Freelancers Union, 53 million people are independent, or one in three working Americans. With rising online platforms, as many as half of American workers will be self-employed by 2020.
Some analysts have deduced from all this that the wage system as we know it has reached its limits. "In France, we think we are facing an employment crisis, which is true when you look at unemployment figures," ays Denis Pennel, who heads the International Confederation of Private Employment Servies (Ciett). "But this crisis hides a work revolution and a structural change about the way we work."
He recently wrote a report advocating the creation of an "active status." "I'm convinced we have reached the peak of the wage system in our developed economies," he says. It's a perspective that until recently didn't really interest the political world, which is too occupied with debating the 35-hour work week or public service status.
The age of the independents
David Ménascé, author of a study called "The Bon Coin France," makes the same conclusion. "The wage system is being eaten away downwards because people don't find jobs, or only jobs that are too precarious," he says. "It's also being eaten away upwards, because the intellectual professions aspire to something different than what the previous generations aspired to." Confronted with a job market that is much more closed than their elders, but also wanting more freedom and autonomy, the under 35-year-olds now constitute the majority of the "worker 2.0" generation.
The living conditions of a self-employed strategy consultant, a freelance designer, an Uber driver or an on-demand "service provider" are admittedly different. But they all face the same problem: Employment law, both in France and in the U.S., is not yet adapted to their situations. Whether it's social protection or housing loans, the dominant model is largely based on the wage system â€" to the detriment of those who are excluded from it. Of course, tools such as self-employment status have been developed, but "the labor code covers at 99% only waged work, with the exception of certain articles regarding inherently independent jobs (freelance journalists, entertainment professionals, domestic workers)," Pennel notes. "It has become both too complex and unable to defend these new forms of employment."
Subordination and dependence
Hence the necessity of creating a new status for the post-wage worker, one that would take into account their particular realities, particularly regarding subordination and dependence. "These new forms of employment are characterized by both legal independence and economic dependence," explains David Ménascé, who describes independents working mainly for platforms such as Uber as "micro-franchised."
In an interview with Les Echos, French politician Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet proposed as a solution the "creation of an "economic dependence limit," after which a business that has regular contracts with an independent must grant him rights, like paid vacation or compensatory time."
Pennel says the subordination question is no longer relevant. "We need to look at who's bearing the economic risk," he says. "This risk is a lot heavier on the shoulders of individuals, which is why we will need to work on offering them safety nets."
For this, he suggests the creation of a unique social account that would integrate all the social insurances (unemployment, training courses, pension) â€" a wider version of the future personal activity account, whose implementation the French government announced will begin Jan. 1, 2017. He also goes so far as to resurrect the idea of an ultimate safety net, envisioned as early as the 1960s by U.S. economist Milton Friedman: a basic income, paid unconditionally to any individual, "in the form a tax credit allowing each person to provide their basic needs."
In other words, we can now maybe imagine a world where everyone would work freely and independently, without risking losing everything if a contract ends.
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food / travel
With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.
Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson
October 26, 2021
When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.
And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.
Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan
The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan
According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.
In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.
The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.
Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.
View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA
Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!
The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.
Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.
Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain
Old Belchite, Spain
Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…
That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.
Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.
If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.
Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan
Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.
The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.
Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."
Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.
Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden
The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden
After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).
Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.
Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia
Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia
During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.
Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.
Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy
Poveglia Island, Italy
Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).
During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.
In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.
Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.
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