Twenty years after Bhopal

(Excerpt) On the night of 2 December 1984, poisonous methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal. Thousands were killed immediately. Thousands more were to die from the effects of that night in the months and years that followed.


“The disaster shocked the world and raised fundamental questions about corporate and government responsibility for industrial accidents that devastate human life and local environments,” the report reads.

“Yet 20 years on, the survivors still await just compensation, adequate medical assistance and treatment, and comprehensive economic and social rehabilitation. The plant site has still not been cleaned up so toxic wastes still pollute the environment and contaminate water that surrounding communities rely on. And, astonishingly, no one has been held to account for the leak and its appalling consequences.”


The report confirms survivors’ claims that far more died in the immediate aftermath of the gas leak than the figure of 2,000 claimed by the Madhya Pradesh state government. Amnesty’s found that 7,000 died in the immediate aftermath, and 15,000 more have died of related diseases since 1984. It reveals that 100,000 people still suffer from chronic or debilitating illnesses. “The company decided to store quantities of the ‘ultra-hazardous’ MIC in Bhopal in bulk, and did not equip the plant with a corresponding safety capacity,” the report says.

Repeat: no one has been held to account…

  • Frank Rich last week, in one of the many pieces I didn’t get to pass on here:

    “The mainstream press, itself in love with the “moral values” story line and traumatized by the visual exaggerations of the red-blue map, is too cowed to challenge the likes of the American Family Association. So are politicians of both parties. It took a British publication, The Economist, to point out that the percentage of American voters citing moral and ethical values as their prime concern is actually down from 2000 (35 percent) and 1996 (40 percent).”

    Now this would have been a very useful statistic for Rev. Jim Wallis to toss out yesterday on Meet the Press during the “sometimes heated discussion” he held with the Revs. Al Sharpton, Jerry Falwell and Richard Land. “Discussion” is a generous way to describe this exchange, which revealed nothing new and found very little common ground. Here’s the transcript. Tim Russert moderated, albeit ineffectually, on topics of faith, politics, moral values, and whatever sound bites the participants spat out – including whether God could be pro-war, and who takes the Bible more seriously (Falwell, of course). (Disclaimer: I lived in NYC during Sharpton’s Tawana Brawley years, and must confess to being somewhat flummoxed by his transformation into a social justice dignitary and apparently serious presidential candidate. Having him on this program to represent religious progressives along with Jim Wallis was… an interesting choice.) Russert brought up the fact that divorce rates are higher in the “red states,” and that “Desperate Housewives” is watched as much in the red states as the blue, but the Reverends didn’t really take the bait. And actually, TNR’s Jeffrey Friedman makes a good case for the flawed logic in assuming that red state voters are the same folks that are getting divorces and watching “Desperate Housewives.” In any case, it was pretty clear that this was little more than a chance to trumpet already established positions, not to seek compromise or agreement. And with right-wing ministers like the abominably smug and proudly intolerant James Kennedy telling non-believers and non-right wingers to “repent” in the face of a conservative Christian-controlled government, I don’t expect compromise or agreement is in the offing.

  • A dispatch from beyond the Reality-Based Community informs us that global warming may in fact be beneficial to humankind:

    The International Policy Network will publish its long-awaited study, claiming that the science warning of an environmental disaster caused by climate change is ‘fatally flawed’. It will state that previous predictions of changes in sea level of a metre over the next 100 years were overestimates.

    Instead, the report will say that sea level rises will reach a maximum of just 20cms during the next century, adding that global warming could, in fact, benefit mankind by increasing fish stocks.

    No mention of the benefits associated with natural disasters and the concommitant economic crisis anticipated by the world’s second largest insurer

  • I wish I could say I’m closely following developments in Ukraine, but I’m not. I’m following other people following the developments. Julie Saltman (via Pandagon) spotted this delicious irony:

    The Bush adminstration has refused to accept the Ukrainian election results because they suspect fraud. Apparently the conservative candidate has claimed victory by a narrow margin but — and I am not making this up — the results are under suspicion because the exit polls gave a narrow victory to his liberal challenger…

  • The Supreme Court was asked to overturn the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court that legalized gay marriage. They declined without comment. Dang those activist judges.
  • Wal-Mart had a bleak Black Friday, but sales of high-end, luxury items were up. I’m sure this has nothing to do with beneficiaries of Bush’s tax policies…
  • Coincidental to my Django Reinhardt item last week, The New Yorker reviews a new biography about him.

    Postings will remain unpredictable for a couple of weeks, yet, but don’t give up on me!

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