Thursday ReadsPosted: April 25, 2013
Unfortunately there is quite a bit of bad news breaking right now.
I’ll start with the collapse of the factory in Bangladesh.
From the Independent UK: Rescuers battle on as toll rises to 175 at collapsed Dhaka factory block that supplied Primark
Rescuers in Bangladesh are battling to save those trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building that contained garment factories as the death toll soared to at least 175. Many more hundreds of people were injured.
Hundreds of members of rescue teams, assisted by members of the military, frantically tried to clear rubble and debris amid fears that the death toll could rise yet higher.
The eight-storey building containing the factories which produced garments for several Western brands including Primark and Walmart, had been inspected on Tuesday and was found to have cracks.
But officials said the owners of the building assured the 2,000-odd employees that there was no danger and told them to carry on with their work….
The cracks were discovered on Tuesday and were so big that the local television news channel made a report about them. Staff from a bank that is housed in the same building were evacuated. However, the garment factories kept their staff working
With deep cracks visible in the walls, police had ordered a Bangladesh garment building evacuated the day before its deadly collapse, but the factories flouted the order and kept more than 2,000 people working, officials said Thursday. More than 200 people died when a huge section of the eight-story building splintered into a pile of concrete.
The disaster in the Dhaka suburb of Savar came less than five months after a blaze killed 112 people in a garment factory and underscored the unsafe conditions faced by Bangladesh’s garment workers, who produce clothes for brands worn around the world. Some of the companies in the building that fell say their customers include retail giants such as Wal-Mart.
Hundreds of rescuers, some crawling through the maze of rubble in search of survivors and corpses, worked through the night and into Thursday amid the cries of the trapped and the wails of workers’ relatives gathered outside the building, called Rana Plaza, which housed numerous garment factories and a handful of other companies.
An AP photographer ventured into the rubble and talked to one man who was
pinned face down in the darkness between concrete slabs and next to two corpses. Mohammad Altab pleaded for help, but they were unable to free him.
“Save us, brother. I beg you, brother. I want to live,” moaned Altab, a garment worker. “It’s so painful here … I have two little children.”
Another survivor, whose voice could be heard from deep in the rubble, wept as he called for help.
“We want to live brother; it’s hard to remain alive here. It would have been better to die than enduring such pain to live on. We want to live. Please save us,” the man cried.
I linked to this Matthew Yglesias post in a comment last night, but I’m going to include it here again because it is just so disgusting: Different Places Have Different Safety Rules and That’s OK
It’s very plausible that one reason American workplaces have gotten safer over the decades is that we now tend to outsource a lot of factory-explosion-risk to places like Bangladesh where 87 people just died in a building collapse.* This kind of consideration leads Erik Loomis to the conclusion that we need a unified global standard for safety, by which he does not mean that Bangladeshi levels of workplace safety should be implemented in the United States.
I think that’s wrong. Bangladesh may or may not need tougher workplace safety rules, but it’s entirely appropriate for Bangladesh to have different—and, indeed, lower—workplace safety standards than the United States.
The reason is that while having a safe job is good, money is also good. Jobs that are unusually dangerous—in the contemporary United States that’s primarily fishing, logging, and trucking—pay a premium over other working-class occupations precisely because people are reluctant to risk death or maiming at work. And in a free society it’s good that different people are able to make different choices on the risk–reward spectrum.
Um . . . No, it’s not okay. Read more at the link if you can stomach it.
Back in the USA, there have now been seven explosions on fuel barges in Alabama.
A seventh blast has rocked the scene of a large fire that began with explosions aboard two fuel barges in Mobile, Ala.
The latest explosion occurred around 2 a.m. local time on Thursday. The situation is so unstable that officials are letting the fire burn into the night.
Authorities responded after 8:30 p.m. Wednesday to a pair of explosions involving the gas barges in an area of the Mobile River east of downtown.
In an email, Mobile Fire and Rescue spokesman Steve Huffman wrote that as they were responding, a third explosion occurred around 9:30 p.m. Additional explosions followed over the next few hours.
Authorities say three people were transported to University of South Alabama Medical Center after suffering burn-related injuries. Huffman identified them as workers with Oil Recovery Co.
According to this article, the three people were critically injured.
This story is still developing. Here’s one more link posted early this morning: Fuel barges explode, causing huge fires in Alabama
The cause of the fire was under investigation, U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Vega said shortly before dawn Thursday.
Firefighters from Mobile and Coast Guard officials responded after 8:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday to a pair of explosions involving the gas barges in an area of the Mobile River east of downtown, authorities said. Additional explosions followed over the next few hours….
Across the river, the Carnival Triumph, the cruise ship that became disabled in the Gulf of Mexico last February before it was towed to Mobile’s port, was evacuated, said Alan Waugh, who lives at the Fort Conde Inn in downtown Mobile, across the river from the scene of the explosions. Waugh saw the blasts and said throngs of Carnival employees and others were clustered on streets leading toward the river as authorities evacuated the shipyard.
“It literally sounded like bombs going off around. The sky just lit up in orange and red,” he said, “We could smell something in the air, we didn’t know if it was gas or smoke.” Waugh said he could feel the heat from the explosion and when he came back inside, his partner noticed he had what appeared to be black soot on his face.
Video from WALA-TV (http://bit.ly/15NEYJl) showed flames engulfing a large section of the barge, and a video that a bystander sent to AL.com (http://bit.ly/13vWz4G) showed the fiery explosions and billowing smoke over the river.
George W. Bush’s presidential library will be dedicated today; consequently, some Republicans have spent this past week trying to rehabilitate the former president. Here’s Politico’s take on the library itself: George W. Bush library: More 9/11, less Cheney and Rove
George W. Bush was a wartime president, and his new museum won’t let you forget it.
High ceilings mean visitors can hear the wail of sirens on Sept. 11 across adjoining rooms, as Bush bellows resolutely: “Today our nation saw evil.”
The 14,000-square-foot museum is part of a 23-acre Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University, just north of Dallas. All the living former presidents, plus Barack Obama, will be here Thursday for the dedication.
Politics is downplayed; the 2004 reelection campaign goes unmentioned. And essentially invisible are Karl Rove, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, who the president became somewhat estranged from in his second term.
Bush wants to be remembered as a statesman, not a hawk. An oversize painting of him with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair hangs at the entrance of a theater.
Social issues, from his steadfast opposition to abortion to his push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, are ignored, too.
For the attempted rehabilitation, Ron Fourier wrote a truly ridiculous piece at the National Journal titled Go Ahead, Admit It: George W. Bush Is a Good Man. Fournier’s arguments are based on very odd criteria:
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer walked into the media cabin of Air Force One on May 24, 2002, and dropped identical envelopes in the laps of two reporters, myself and Steve Holland of Reuters. Inside each was a manila card – marked by a small presidential seal and, in a simple font, “THE PRESIDENT.”
Handwritten in the tight script of President George W. Bush, both notes said essentially the same thing: “Thank you for the respect you showed for the office of the President, and, therefore, the respect you showed for our country.”
What had we done? Not much, really. An hour earlier, at a rare outdoor news conference in Germany, Steve and I decided to abide by the U.S. media tradition of rising from our seats when the president entered our presence. The snickering German press corps remained seated. “What a contrast!” Bush wrote. “What class.”
Fournier doesn’t actually claim that polite gestures like this should erase the memories of how Bush ignored hundreds of warnings before 9/11, his lying us into a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people and helped crash our economy, the torture and rendition, or his catastrophic non-response to Hurricane Katrina and the collapse of the NOLA levees. But he (Fournier) does kinda sorta imply that we should just let all that go.
Bush’s note, a simple gesture, spoke volumes about his respect for the office of the presidency. He did not thank us for respecting him. He knew it wasn’t about George W. Bush. He was touched instead by the small measure of respect we showed “for our country.”
The same sense of dignity compelled Bush to forbid his staff to wear blue jeans in the White House. Male aides were required to wear jackets and ties in the Oval Office.
He was a stickler for punctuality. Long-time adviser Karen Hughes asked him years ago why he was always early for appointments. “Late is rude,” Bush replied. He thought that if people were going to take the time to see him, he shouldn’t keep them waiting.
He remembered names of the spouses and children of his staff, and insisted that hard work at the White House not be an excuse to let family life suffer. One steamy summer day in 1999, then-Gov. George W. Bush called me with an exclusive interview and interrupted my first question. “What’s all that noise in the background, Fournier?” he asked.
“I’m at the pool with my kids, governor.”
Bush replied, “Then what the hell are you doing answering your phone?”
I don’t even know how to respond, but I found this from someone who contrasted Fornier’s hollow words with photos. Please check it out.
Naturally Jennifer Rubin had to chime in: Bush is back.
It took less than 4 1/2 years of the Obama presidency for President George W. Bush to mount his comeback. While doing absolutely nothing on his own behalf (he’s been the most silent ex-president in my lifetime), his approval is up to 47 percent according to The Post/ABC poll. That’s up 14 points from his final poll in office. For comparison’s sake President Obama’s RCP average is a tad over 49 percent.
Why the shift? Aside from the “memories fade” point, many of his supposed failures are mild compared to the current president (e.g. spending, debt). Unlike Obama’s tenure, there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11. People do remember the big stuff — rallying the country after the Twin Towers attack, 7 1/2 years of job growth and prosperity, millions of people saved from AIDS in Africa, a good faith try for immigration reform, education reform and a clear moral compass.
And, it turned out that the triumvirate of Iraq-Iran-North Korea really was the Axis of Evil. Unlike the current president, who’s played politics with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, President Bush took huge political risks to back the surge in Iraq, which worked. He is responsible for one of the most popular and fiscally sober entitlement plans, Medicare Part D. He did not foist a grandiose unpopular and exorbitant program like Obamacare on the public. And then there were his tax cuts, 99 percent of which were approved by the most liberal president in history. Even the TARP program, reviled by conservatives, can be credited with helping to calm the markets and stabilize financial institutions.
And so on . . . bla bla bla . . .