“Battleship” the Movie Becomes The Cornerstone of Obama’s Own “Star Wars”

[If you wanted people to calm people’s nerves about the dozens of Arleigh-Burke class destroyers slowly taking-up positions in their Mediterranean and Black Sea neighborhoods, what would you do?  Would you downplay the lethality of the American destroyer fleet, or would you turn to Hollywood to help soften their image?   The White House obviously turned to Hollywood and found cooperation in the form of the block-buster movie, “Battleship.”  Mix a generous dose of US Navy cooperation with an ongoing alien invasion and you get the ultimate, most entertaining form of military propaganda imaginable.  Now, name recognition of the term “Arleigh-Burke class destroyer” automatically endears its image in our psyche, just when the destroyers are set to take a big part in Obama’s war against Russia, where they will serve as the cornerstone of Obama’s ABM program, the first element of the European Phased Adaptive Approach .]

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers

Putin: Missile shield deployment in Europe threatens US itself

 

Russia-Today

Further deployment of America’s global anti-ballistic missile defense poses a threat to the US and those European countries that agreed to host it, because it builds up a dangerous illusion of invincibility, President Vladimir Putin said.

“This [ABM] constitutes a threat not only to the security of Russia, but to the whole world, in view of the possible destabilization of the strategic balance of powers. I believe this is dangerous for the US itself, as it creates a dangerous illusion of invulnerability and reinforces the tendency of unilateral, often ill-considered decisions and additional risks,” Putin said in his annual state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly.

Russia will not get involved in an expensive arms race, the Russian president said, yet the country’s defensive capacity in the new conditions will be securely guaranteed.

“There’s no doubt about that – consider it done. Russia has both the capacity and creative decisions to do so,” Putin said.

The European Phased Adaptive Approach, a centerpiece of the US missile defense shield in Europe, implies deployment of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, all of which are fitted with the Aegis weapon and radar system, interceptor batteries in Poland and Romania, radar in Turkey, and a command center at Ramstein, Germany, a US Air Force base.

Russia is considering the system to be a major threat to its own security and has threatened to increase its own arsenals and missile shield piercing capabilities in response.

“Talking to Russia from a position of strength is meaningless,” said Putin, stressing that ‘deterrence policy’ towards Russia is nothing new.

“The deterrence policy was not invented yesterday, it has been always conducted towards our country, for decades, if not centuries,” Putin noted.

“Every time somebody considers Russia is becoming too powerful and independent, such instruments are turned on immediately,” said Putin.

Anti-Russian Economic Warfare—Cutting Russia Off from SWIFT Is An Act of War

The head of VTB: Disabling Russian banks from SWIFT would mean war

CypLive cyprus

Disabling Russian banks from the international payment system SWIFT would have meant war, the head of VTB Andrey Kostin in an interview with German newspaper Handelsblatt, which is published in Wednesday night online edition.

“In my personal opinion, if you will put this kind of sanctions, it would mean war,” – he said, adding that in this case, the US Ambassador to Russia should leave the same day.

Kostin also said it is the banking system, which is largely dependent on the euro and the dollar is one of the most vulnerable of the Russian economy.

Anyway, Russia has a backup plan, and in the event of such a development, said Costin. Previously, he pointed out that the VTB Group is in talks with the Savings Bank on the establishment of an alternative payment system.

SWIFT – Society for Worldwide Interbank telecommunications system provides 1,8 billion messages per year; per day via the SWIFT network are payment orders over 6 trillion dollars, it involves more than 10 thousand financial institutions in 210 countries.

By statute SWIFT, in each country are community group members and group members. In Russia, they are united by association “ROSSWIFT.” According to “ROSSWIFT”, the number of users of the SWIFT system, Russia ranks second in the world after the United States.

Putin Address to the Federal Assembly, Dec. 4, 2014—(OFFICIAL TRANS.)

[SEE previous address at Valdai]

pres of russia 2

Address to the Federal Assembly

president of russia 


December 4, 2014, 13:20 The Kremlin, Moscow
Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly. December 4, 2014Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly. December 4, 2014

 

Vladimir Putin made his Annual Address to the Federal Assembly. As is tradition, the Address took place at the Kremlin’s St George Hall before an audience of more than 1,000 people.

In his Address, the President set out his views on the situation in Ukraine and outlined Russia’s position with regard to events taking place there. In the foreign policy section of the Address, Mr Putin also spoke about international security issues and the integration processes taking place in the world.

On the subject of Russia’s economic strategy, the President said that Russia is open to the world, to investment and to carrying out projects together, but ultimately, Russia’s development depends above all on the country’s own efforts. Mr Putin named development of new technology and competitive goods, giving the country’s industry and financial sector a more solid foundation, and training the needed personnel as priority tasks.

The President also talked about relations between the state and business, in particular the need to free up the environment for doing business as much as possible and the concrete steps that can be taken to achieve this. Mr Putin proposed that no changes be made to the current tax rules for the next four years, and also proposed an amnesty for capital returning to Russia.

The President set the goal of reaching growth rates above the world average within the next 3-4 years.

Mr Putin also set objectives in the financial sector, agribusiness, and the banking sector, and declared the need to free Russia from dependence on foreign technology. Import substitution is a long term strategy, the President said, and is a goal for Russia regardless of the situation with sanctions. Mr Putin also gave the main target figures for Russian exports and investment levels.

The President proposed implementing a national technology initiative that will involve forecasting the technology needs required to guarantee Russia’s national security and ensure high living standards and economic development over the coming 10-15 years.

The President also spoke about demography, healthcare and education.

In his concluding section, Mr Putin focused on the dialogue between the state authorities and the public and the need to raise civic activeness and Russia’s civil society potential.

Those present for the Address included members of the Federation Council, State Duma deputies, members of the Government, heads of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, regional governors, heads of regional legislative assemblies, heads of Russia’s traditional religious faiths, public figures, including heads of regional public chambers, and the heads of Russia’s biggest media outlets.

* * *

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN:

Citizens of Russia, members of the Federation Council and deputies of the State Duma,

Today’s address will be related to the current situation and conditions, as well as the tasks we are facing. But before delivering it I’d like to thank all of you for the support, unity and solidarity you have shown during the landmark events that will seriously influence the future of our country.

This year we faced trials that only a mature and united nation and a truly sovereign and strong state can withstand. Russia has proved that it can protect its compatriots and defend truth and fairness.

Russia has done this thanks to its citizens, thanks to your work and the results we have achieved together, and thanks to our profound understanding of the essence and importance of national interests. We have become aware of the indivisibility and integrity of the thousand-year long history of our country. We have come to believe in ourselves, to believe that we can do much and achieve every goal.

Of course, we will talk about this year’s landmark events. You know that a referendum was held in Crimea in March, at which its residents clearly expressed their desire to join Russia. After that, the Crimean parliament – it should be stressed that it was a legitimate parliament that was elected back in 2010 – adopted a resolution on sovereignty. And then we saw the historical reunification of Crimea and Sevastopol with Russia.

It was an event of special significance for the country and the people, because Crimea is where our people live, and the peninsula is of strategic importance for Russia as the spiritual source of the development of a multifaceted but solid Russian nation and a centralised Russian state. It was in Crimea, in the ancient city of Chersonesus or Korsun, as ancient Russian chroniclers called it, that Grand Prince Vladimir was baptised before bringing Christianity to Rus.

In addition to ethnic similarity, a common language, common elements of their material culture, a common territory, even though its borders were not marked then, and a nascent common economy and government, Christianity was a powerful spiritual unifying force that helped involve various tribes and tribal unions of the vast Eastern Slavic world in the creation of a Russian nation and Russian state. It was thanks to this spiritual unity that our forefathers for the first time and forevermore saw themselves as a united nation. All of this allows us to say that Crimea, the ancient Korsun or Chersonesus, and Sevastopol have invaluable civilisational and even sacral importance for Russia, like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for the followers of Islam and Judaism.

And this is how we will always consider it.

Dear friends,

We cannot fail to mention today our perspective on the developments in Ukraine and how we intend to work with our partners around the world.

It is well known that Russia not only supported Ukraine and other brotherly republics of the former Soviet Union in their aspirations to sovereignty, but also facilitated this process greatly in the 1990ies. Since then, our position has remained unchanged.

Every nation has an inalienable sovereign right to determine its own development path, choose allies and political regimes, create an economy and ensure its security. Russia has always respected these rights and always will. This fully applies to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.

It is true that we condemned the government coup and the forceful takeover of power in Kiev in February of this year. The developments we are currently witnessing in Ukraine and the tragedy unfolding in the country’s southeast prove that we were right to take such a stand.

How did it all begin? I will have to remind you what happened back then. It is hard to believe that it all started with a technical decision by President Yanukovych to postpone the signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. Make no mistake, he did not refuse to sign the document, but only postponed it in order to make some adjustments.

As you recall, this move was fully in line with the constitutional authority vested upon an absolutely legitimate and internationally recognised head of state.

Against this background, there was no way we could support this armed coup, the violence and the killings. Just take the bloody events in Odessa, where people were burned alive. How can the subsequent attempts to suppress people in Ukraine’s southeast, who oppose this mayhem, be supported? I reiterate that there was no way we could endorse these developments. What’s more, they were followed by hypocritical statements on the protection of international law and human rights. This is just cynical. I strongly believe that the time will come when the Ukrainian people will deliver a just assessment of these developments.

How did the dialogue on this issue begin between Russia and its American and European partners? I mentioned our American friends for a reason, since they are always influencing Russia’s relations with its neighbours, either openly or behind the scenes. Sometimes it is even unclear whom to talk to: to the governments of certain countries or directly with their American patrons and sponsors.

As I mentioned, in the case of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement, there was no dialogue at all. We were told that it was none of our business or, to put it simply, we were told where to go.

All the arguments that Russia and Ukraine are members of the CIS free-trade zone, that we have deep-rooted cooperation in industry and agriculture, and basically share the same infrastructure – no one wanted to hear these arguments, let alone take them into account.

Our response was to say: fine, if you do not want to have a dialogue with us, we will have to protect our legitimate interests unilaterally and will not pay for what we view as erroneous policy.

So what’s came out of it all? The agreement between Ukraine and the European Union has been signed and ratified, but the implementation of the provisions regarding trade and economy has been postponed until the end of next year. Doesn’t this mean that we were the ones who were actually right?

There is also a question of why all this was done in Ukraine? What was the purpose of the government coup? Why shoot and keep shooting and killing people? In fact, the economy, finance and the social sector were destroyed and the country ruined.

What Ukraine currently needs is economic assistance in carrying out reforms, not petty politics and pompous empty promises. However, our Western colleagues don’t seem eager to provide such assistance, while the Kiev authorities are not willing to address the challenges their people are facing.

By the way, Russia has already made a major contribution to helping Ukraine. Let me reiterate that Russian banks already invested some $25 billion in Ukraine. Last year, Russia’s Finance Ministry extended a loan worth another $3 billion. Gazprom provided another $5.5 billion to Ukraine and even offered a discount that no one promised, requiring the country to pay $4.5 billion. Add it all up and you get as much as $ 32.5-33.5 billion that were provided only recently.

Of course, we have the right to ask questions. What was this Ukrainian tragedy for? Wasn’t it possible to settle all the issues, even disputed issues, through dialogue, within a legal framework and legitimately?

But now we are being told that this was actually competent, balanced politics that we should comply with unquestionably and blindfolded.

This will never happen.

If for some European countries national pride is a long-forgotten concept and sovereignty is too much of a luxury, true sovereignty for Russia is absolutely necessary for survival.

Primarily, we should realise this as a nation. I would like to emphasise this: either we remain a sovereign nation, or we dissolve without a trace and lose our identity. Of course, other countries need to understand this, too. All participants in international life should be aware of this. And they should use this understanding to strengthen the role and the importance of international law, which we’ve talked about so much lately, rather than bend its standards to suit someone’s strategic interests contrary to its fundamental principles and common sense, considering everyone else to be poorly educated people who can’t read or write.

It is imperative to respect the legitimate interests of all the participants in international dialogue. Only then, not with guns, missiles or combat aircraft, but precisely with the rule of law will we reliably protect the world against bloody conflict. Only then, will there be no need to scare anyone with imaginary isolation, and without any self-deception in the process, or sanctions, which are, of course, damaging, but damaging to everyone, including those who initiate them.

Speaking of the sanctions, they are not just a knee-jerk reaction on behalf of the United States or its allies to our position regarding the events and the coup in Ukraine, or even the so-called Crimean Spring. I’m sure that if these events had never happened – I want to point this out specifically for you as politicians sitting in this auditorium – if none of that had ever happened, they would have come up with some other excuse to try to contain Russia’s growing capabilities, affect our country in some way, or even take advantage of it.

The policy of containment was not invented yesterday. It has been carried out against our country for many years, always, for decades, if not centuries. In short, whenever someone thinks that Russia has become too strong or independent, these tools are quickly put into use.

However, talking to Russia from a position of force is an exercise in futility, even when it was faced with domestic hardships, as in the 1990ies and early 2000ies.

We remember well how and who, almost openly, supported separatism back then and even outright terrorism in Russia, referred to murderers, whose hands were stained with blood, none other than rebels and organised high-level receptions for them. These “rebels” showed up in Chechnya again. I’m sure the local law enforcement authorities will take proper care of them. They are now working to eliminate another terrorist raid. Let’s support them.

Let me reiterate, we remember high-level receptions for terrorists dubbed as fighters for freedom and democracy. Back then, we realised that the more ground we give and the more excuses we make, the more our opponents become brazen and the more cynical and aggressive their demeanour becomes.

Despite our unprecedented openness back then and our willingness to cooperate in all, even the most sensitive issues, despite the fact that we considered – and all of you are aware of this and remember it – our former adversaries as close friends and even allies, the support for separatism in Russia from across the pond, including information, political and financial support and support provided by the special services – was absolutely obvious and left no doubt that they would gladly let Russia follow the Yugoslav scenario of disintegration and dismemberment. With all the tragic fallout for the people of Russia.

It didn’t work. We didn’t allow that to happen.

Just as it did not work for Hitler with his people-hating ideas, who set out to destroy Russia and push us back beyond the Urals. Everyone should remember how it ended.

Next year, we will mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Our Army crushed the enemy and liberated Europe. However, we should not forget about the bitter defeats in 1941 and 1942 so as not to repeat the mistakes in the future.

In this context, I will touch on an international security issue. There are many issues related to this. These include the fight against terrorism. We still encounter its manifestations, and of course, we will participate in the joint efforts to counter terrorism on the international level. Of course, we will work together to deal with other challenges, such as the spread of infectious diseases.

However, in this case I would like to speak about the most serious and sensitive issue: international security. Since 2002, after the US unilaterally pulled out of the ABM Treaty, which was absolutely a cornerstone of international security, a strategic balance of forces and stability, the US has been working relentlessly to create a global missile defence system, including in Europe. This poses a threat not only to Russia, but to the world as a whole – precisely due to the possible disruption of this strategic balance of forces.

I believe that this is bad for the US as well, because it creates the dangerous illusion of invulnerability. It strengthens the striving for unilateral, often, as we can see, ill-considered decisions and additional risks.

We have said much about this. I will not go into details now. I will only say this. Maybe I am repeating myself. We have no intention to become involved in a costly arms race, but at the same time we will reliably and dependably guarantee our country’s defence in the new conditions. There are absolutely no doubts about this. This will be done. Russia has both the capability and the innovative solutions for this.

No one will ever attain military superiority over Russia. We have a modern and combat ready army. As we say, a polite but formidable army. We have the strength, will and courage to protect our freedom.

We will protect the diversity of the world. We will tell the truth to people abroad, so that everyone can see the real and not distorted and false image of Russia. We will actively promote business and humanitarian relations, as well as scientific, education and cultural relations. We will do this even if some governments attempt to create a new iron curtain around Russia.

We will never enter the path of self-isolation, xenophobia, suspicion and the search for enemies.

All this is evidence of weakness, while we are strong and confident.

Our goal is to have as many equal partners as possible, both in the West and in the East. We will expand our presence in those regions where integration is on the rise, where politics is not mixed with economy, and where obstacles to trade, to exchange of technology and investment and to the free movement of people are lifted.

Under no conditions will we curtail our relations with Europe or America. At the same time, we will restore and expand our traditional ties with South America. We will continue our cooperation with Africa and the Middle East.

We see how quickly Asia Pacific has been developing over the past few decades. As a Pacific power, Russia will use this huge potential comprehensively.

Everyone knows the leaders and the drivers of global economic development. Many of them are our sincere friends and strategic partners.

The Eurasian Economic Union will start working in full on January 1, 2015. I’d like to remind you about its fundamental principles. The topmost principles are equality, pragmatism and mutual respect, as well as the preservation of national identity and state sovereignty of its member countries. I am confident that strong cooperation will become a powerful source of development for all of the Eurasian Economic Union members.

To conclude this part of my address, I’d like to say once again that our priorities are healthy families and a healthy nation, the traditional values which we inherited from our forefathers, combined with a focus on the future, stability as a vital condition of development and progress, respect for other nations and states, and the guaranteed security of Russia and the protection of its legitimate interests.

Dear friends,

To be able to implement all our plans and to meet the basic social commitments set forth in the presidential executive orders of May 2012, we must decide what we will do in the economy, finance and social spheres. But most importantly, we must choose a strategy.

I repeat that Russia will be open to the world, cooperation, foreign investment and joint projects. But we must above all see that our development depends primarily on us.

We will only succeed if we work towards prosperity and affluence, rather than hope for an opening or a favourable situation on foreign markets.

We will succeed if we defeat disorder, irresponsibility and our habit of burying good decisions in red tape. I want everyone to understand that in today’s world this is not simply an obstacle to Russia’s development but a direct threat to its security.

The period ahead will be complex and difficult, when much will depend on what each one of us do at our workplaces. The so-called sanctions and foreign restrictions are an incentive for a more efficient and faster movement towards our goals.

There is much we need to do. We need to create new technologies, a competitive environment and an additional margin of strength in the industries, the financial system and in the training of personnel. We have a large domestic market and natural resources, capital and research projects for this. We also have talented, intelligent and diligent people who can learn very quickly.

The most important thing now is to give the people an opportunity for self-fulfilment. Freedom for development in the economic and social spheres, for public initiatives is the best possible response both to any external restrictions and to our domestic problems. The more actively people become involved in organising their own lives, the more independent they are, both economically and politically, and the greater Russia’s potential.

In this context, I will cite one quote: “He who loves Russia should wish freedom for it; above all, freedom for Russia as such, for its international independence and self-sufficiency; freedom for Russia as a unity of Russian and all other ethnic cultures; and finally, freedom for the Russian people, freedom for all of us: freedom of faith, the search for faith, creativity, work, and property.” Ivan Ilyin. This makes a lot of sense and offers a good guideline for all of us today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Conscientious work, private property, the freedom of enterprise – these are the same kind of fundamental conservative values as patriotism, and respect for the history, traditions, and culture of one’s country.

We all want the same thing: wellbeing for Russia. So the relations between business and the state should be built on the philosophy of a common cause, partnership, and equal dialogue.

Naturally, responsibility and compliance with the law and obligations are essential in the business world, as it is in other areas of life. And this is exactly how the overwhelming, absolute majority of our business people work. They value their business and social reputation. Like genuine patriots, they want to be a benefit to Russia. These are the kind of people to look to, providing conditions for their productive work.

This is not the first time we are speaking about the need for new approaches to the activities of oversight, supervisory, and law enforcement agencies. Nevertheless, things are changing very slowly here. The presumption of guilt is still very much alive. Instead of curbing individual violations, they close the path and create problems for thousands of law-abiding, self-motivated people.

It is essential to lift restrictions on business as much as possible, free it from intrusive supervision and control. I said intrusive supervision and control. I will consider this in more detail later. I propose the following measures in this regard.

Every inspection should become public. Next year, a special register will be launched, with information on what agency has initiated an inspection, for what purpose, and what results it has produced. This will make it possible to stop unwarranted and, worse still, ‘paid to order’ visits from oversight agencies. This problem is extremely relevant not only for business, but also for the public sector, municipal institutions and social NGOs.

Finally, it’s crucial to abandon the basic principle of total, endless control. The situation should be monitored where there are real risks or signs of transgression. You see, even when we have already done something with regard to restrictions, and these restrictions seem to be working well, there are so many inspection agencies that if every one of them comes at least once, then that’s it, the company would just fold. In 2015, the Government should make all the necessary decisions to switch to this system, a system of restrictions with regard to reviews and inspections.

Concerning small business, I propose establishing ‘supervisory holidays’. If a company has acquired a good reputation and if there have not been any serious charges against it for three years, then for the next three years it should be exempted from routine inspections by government or municipal supervisory agencies. Of course, this does not apply to emergencies, when there is a danger to people’s health and life.

Businessmen talk about the need for stable legislation and predictable rules, including taxes. I completely agree with this. I propose ‘freezing’ the existing tax parameters as they are for the next four years. Not revisiting the matter again. Not changing them.

Meanwhile, it is important to implement the decisions that have already been made to ease the tax burden. First of all, for those who are just setting up their operations. As we have agreed, two-year tax holidays will be provided to small businesses registering for the first time. Production facilities that are starting from scratch will be entitled to the same exemptions.

Another thing. I propose a full amnesty for capital returning to Russia. I stress, full amnesty.

Of course, it is essential to explain to the people who will make these decisions what full amnesty means. It means that if a person legalises his holdings and property in Russia, he will receive firm legal guarantees that he will not be summoned to various agencies, including law enforcement agencies, that they will not “put the squeeze” on him, that he will not be asked about the sources of his capital and methods of its acquisition, that he will not be prosecuted or face administrative liability, and that he will not be questioned by the tax service or law enforcement agencies. Let’s do this now, but only once. Everyone who wants to come to Russia should be given this opportunity.

We all understand that the sources of assets are different, that they were earned or acquired in various ways. However, I am confident that we should finally close, turn the “offshore page” in the history of our economy and our country. It is very important and necessary to do this.

I expect that after the well-known events in Cyprus and with the on-going sanctions campaign, our business has finally realised that its interests abroad are not reckoned with and that it can even be fleeced like a sheep.

And that the best possible guarantee is national jurisdiction, even with all of its problems. We will continue to deal with those problems with conviction, together with our business community, of course.

Russia has already made significant headway in improving its business climate. A new legislative framework has for the most part been developed on the federal level. Now the focus should be shifted to the quality of law enforcement, promoting so called best practices in the regions in partnership with business, using the national investment climate ratings to this end. From next year, the ratings system will be introduced in all the regions. We will review the progress at a State Council meeting without fail.

We need properly developed construction sites and transport infrastructure in order to be able to expand businesses and accommodate new production sites. Our regions must focus on fixing regional and local roads. To enable them to do so, we have introduced additional sources for regional road funds. Overall, we should seek to double the volume of road construction across Russia.

Of course, what I have just said has been verified by the relevant government agencies. They all confirmed that this is a feasible project. We’ll be expecting to see the results of your work, colleagues.

In 2015, we will launch a programme to reimburse the regions’ expenses involved in creating technology parks. I hope that the regions will make good use of this opportunity to develop their own industrial capacity. These additional measures are being taken in order to support economic and industrial growth in strategically important Russian regions.

The law on a special economic zone in Crimea has been adopted. Favourable conditions will be created here for businesses, agriculture and tourism, manufacturing industries and maritime transport, including taxation, customs and other procedures.

As you may be aware, customs preferences for Kaliningrad Region will expire in 2016. It is imperative that alternative measures to support this region, which have already been prepared, be implemented in order to maintain a comfortable entrepreneurial climate.

I’d like to ask the Government to complete this work as soon as possible. I’d also like to ask the deputies not to delay their review of the law on priority development areas (PDA).

In addition, I propose extending PDA regulations to new projects in a number of single-industry cities with the most difficult socioeconomic situations, rather than waiting three years, as provided by the draft law (I believe it has passed its first reading). Instead, we should amend it and start working on single-industry cities right away.

Of course, PDAs should play a key role in developing the Russian Far East. We have announced ambitious plans for developing this region, and we will, of course, implement them. I’d like to ask the Government to consider recapitalising the Far East Development Fund. We can allocate a portion of federal tax increments, which will be obtained from new businesses opening in the region, for these purposes.

As is often the case in such matters, we had a tough conversation on this issue with the Finance Ministry. We agree that initially this can be done with an exception for VAT. Then, we’ll see how well this system works.

I propose providing a free port status to Vladivostok, with an attractive and easy customs regime. As you may be aware, Sevastopol and other Crimean ports have already been given this status.

We also need a comprehensive project for modern and competitive development of the Northern Sea Route. It must operate not just as an effective transit route, but also promote business activity on the Russian Pacific coast and the development of Arctic territories.

Colleagues, the quality and the size of the Russian economy must be consistent with our geopolitical and historical role. We must escape the trap of zero-level growth and achieve an above-average global growth rate within the next three to four years. This is the only way to increase Russia’s share in the global economy, and thus strengthen our influence and economic independence.

The national economy should also be more effective. It’s imperative that labour productivity be increased by no less than five percent annually. The Government should find reserves for this and come up with a plan for the best way to use them. At the same time, it’s important to maintain a stable macroeconomic environment and reduce inflation in the medium term to four percent, but, importantly, not through suppressing business activity. We must at last learn to harmonise two goals: containing inflation and stimulating growth.

Today we are faced with reduced foreign exchange proceeds and, as a consequence, with a weaker national currency, the ruble. As you are aware, the Bank of Russia has switched to a “floating” exchange rate, but this does not mean that the Bank of Russia has withdrawn from controlling the exchange rate, and that the ruble may now be the object of unchecked financial speculation.

I’d like to ask the Bank of Russia and the Government to carry out tough and concerted actions to discourage the so-called speculators from playing on fluctuations of the Russian currency. In this regard, I’d like to point out that the authorities know who these speculators are. We have the proper instruments of influence, and the time is ripe to use them.

Of course, a weaker ruble increases the risk of a short-term surge in inflation. It’s imperative that we protect the interests of our people, first and foremost, those with low incomes, and the Government and the regions must ensure control over the situation on the food, medicine and other basic goods markets. I’m sure this can be done without any problem, and it must be done.

A weaker national currency also increases the pricing environment and the competitiveness of our companies. We take this factor into account in our policy of import substitution (at least, where it’s appropriate and necessary). Within three to five years, we must provide our customers with high-quality and affordable medicines and food that are produced mostly in Russia.

The grain crop in Russia in 2014 was one of the best in recent history. The overall output growth across our agro-industrial complex currently stands at about 6 percent. We now have efficient large agricultural enterprises and farms, and we will support them. Let’s thank our agricultural workers for their performance this year.

We must also lessen our critical dependence on foreign technology and industrial goods, including in the machine-tool building and instrument-making industries, power engineering, and the production of equipment for field development, including on the Arctic shelf. Our commodities and infrastructure companies can seriously help our producers in this sphere. When implementing large oil, energy and transport projects, they must rely above all on domestic producers and promote demand for their products.

At this point, it’s mostly the other way around: we buy everything abroad, leaving the domestic industries and science empty-handed. I suggest creating a special governmental coordination centre and giving the Government more authority in this sphere. This centre would dovetail the implementation of large projects with placement of contracts at Russian companies, with further development of the national production and research facilities, and production localisation.

As for imports, we must only buy distinctly unique equipment and technology abroad. I’d like to add that we must also cooperate with domestic producers when upgrading the housing and utility sector, public transport, agriculture and other industries.

I am instructing the Government to take the necessary decisions to expand small and medium-sized businesses’ access to purchases by state companies, and in particular to determine the volume of state-owned companies’ mandatory annual purchases from small and medium firms. This is tens and hundreds of billions of rubles that must be used to boost the development of national businesses.

It goes without saying that their products must satisfy the strictest quality and price conditions. Next, we must prevent internal monopolism. I want to stress that reasonable import substitution – reasonable is the key word here – is a long-term priority that we need in order to change, irrespective of external conditions.

Moreover, import substitution programmes must encourage the creation of a large group of industrial companies that can be competitive not only domestically but also on foreign markets. These companies exist in Russia. They are highly efficient and have export potential – very good potential. But they are short of capital, technology, personnel and equipment. We must remove as many of these restrictions as possible. We must provide investment incentives so that these companies can increase growth, increase their capitalisation and production severalfold and become established on foreign markets.

I am instructing the Agency for Strategic Initiatives to join forces with Vnesheconombank, the Russian Direct Investment Fund and other development institutions to draft a relevant programme and system. The first pilot programme for the support for non-commodity companies must be launched already next year.

The integrated credit and insurance export support centre, which will start operating in 2015, will stimulate domestic exports. Its services will be available to all non-commodity companies, both big and small.

In the next three years the capitalisation of Roseximbank, which was created for this purpose, should reach approximately 30 billion rubles. In the next three years, the volume of Russian high value-added exports should grow by 50 percent.

Of course, considerable funds will be needed for the development of the non-commodity and other economic sectors. Russia has these funds. We have large domestic savings, which must be used for this.

Despite any external restrictions, we must increase our annual investment to 25 percent of GDP by 2018. What does this mean? I’ll explain it with just a few words.

It means that we must invest as much as we save. Our savings must work for the national economy and development, rather than the export of capital. To be able to do this, we must seriously strengthen the stability of our banking system – the Central Bank has been working towards this end quite persistently – and also reduce the dependence of the national financial market on external risks.

Joint Statement of the U.S.-EU Energy Council

us state deptImage 11

Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
US EU ENERGY COUNCIL
Secretary Kerry Helps Kick Off U.S.-EU Energy Council Meeting in Belgium
December 3, 2014

The sixth United States-European Union Energy Council met today in Brussels, chaired by EU High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini, European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, European Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Vice-Minister Claudio De Vincenti of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development represented the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Acting Assistant Secretary Jonathan Elkind represented the U.S. Department of Energy. The Energy Council, a forum on EU-U.S. energy priorities, promotes transparent and secure global energy markets, fosters policy and regulatory cooperation on efficient and sustainable energy use, and pursues joint research and development on clean energy technologies. These actions boost economic growth and jobs, enhance energy security and international cooperation, and highlight the importance and urgency of tackling global energy and climate challenges.

Begin text:

Ukraine

The Council welcomed the trilateral gas accord of 30 October 2014 mediated over the course of the last eight months by the European Union, and acknowledged the support of the United States and other parties in this achievement. The accord is an important contribution to ensuring Ukraine’s security of gas supply this winter, provides relief to the citizens of Ukraine, and ensures the reliable transit of gas to Europe. Beyond its immediate impact on the supply of gas, it demonstrates that it is possible to de-escalate the conflict, and provides a template on which further action could be built. Without prejudice to the outcome of the cases lodged with the Stockholm International Court of Arbitrage, the Council reaffirmed the importance of reaching a long-term gas agreement between Russia and Ukraine. The Council reiterated the resolve of the EU and the United States to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in their support for Ukraine’s new government, and underlined the necessity of continuing the reforms in Ukraine’s energy sector in line with its Energy Community commitments to integrate progressively the Ukrainian energy market with that of the EU, while highlighting the need to protect vulnerable segments of the population. The Council welcomed the Plan established by the Ukrainian Government with active U.S. support regarding contingency measures in the energy field for the coming winter, and underlined the importance of ensuring continued close cooperation as the Plan is implemented to ensure optimal use of assistance by the United States, the EU and its Member States. The Council also acknowledged U.S. and EU medium- and long-term efforts to improve Ukraine’s energy security, including support for reform of Ukraine’s energy sector and for enhancing the legal and policy framework and technical capacity for increased domestic production. Increased energy efficiency and the expansion of renewable energies also play a crucial role in enhancing Ukraine’s energy security. The Council also welcomed efforts undertaken in financing energy efficiency investments within the Eastern Europe Environment and Energy Efficiency Partnership (E5P). The Council reaffirmed that the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Ukraine must be respected and stressed its determination to help end the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the human rights violations of the affected populations. The Council urged all parties fully to implement the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum swiftly and without further delay, and underlined the Russian Federation’s responsibility in this context. The Council called in particular for a halt to the continuous violations of the ceasefire, a withdrawal of all illegal and foreign forces, mercenaries and military equipment, as well as for securing the Ukrainian-Russian border with permanent monitoring by the OSCE. Assessing the present situation, we concurred on the need to coordinate the application of our respective sanctions regimes, while reinforcing measures against separatists as well as in relation to the non-recognition policy related to the illegal annexation of Crimea.

Energy Security

The Council reaffirmed that energy should not be used as a political tool. It welcomed the recommendations made by the European Commission in the EU’s Energy Security Strategy to increase energy efficiency, strengthen domestic production, diversify supplies, complete the internal energy market, maintain a unified voice in external energy policy, bolster emergency and solidarity mechanisms while protecting critical infrastructure. The Council discussed ways in which the United States could provide assistance to strengthen energy security in EU candidate countries and Eastern Partnership countries.

The Council recognised that energy security is underpinned by open, competitive and transparent international energy markets and through supportive policies that promote the sustainability of energy production and consumption, in particular the development and deployment of renewable and low carbon energies and energy efficiency. The Council welcomed the prospect of U.S. liquefied natural gas exports in the future since additional global supplies will benefit Europe and other strategic partners. The Council also welcomed the negotiations towards a comprehensive and ambitious Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the discussion of trade and investment issues relevant to energy.

The Council welcomed the goal of the European Council to build an Energy Union aiming at affordable, secure and sustainable energy, and supports the work underway to achieve a fully functioning and interconnected internal EU energy market, as laid out in the conclusions of the European Council of 23 October. Reinforcing energy infrastructure, accelerating priority projects including electricity and gas interconnections, moderating energy demand through the more efficient use of energy, and tapping into indigenous resources, including renewable energy, will bring the benefit of greater energy security and more competitive energy prices to all Member States and neighbouring states in the Energy Community. The Council recognised the importance of all projects in compliance with EU law, which contribute to the diversification of European supply sources and delivery routes The Council lauded the recent European Commission energy security stress tests, which called for increased cooperation, particularly in the event of major energy disruptions. The Council has directed the Energy Security Working Group to meet with the Energy Community Contracting Parties and Secretariat in 2015 to assess progress on gas and electricity infrastructure projects and possibilities for further financial support for the priority projects.

The Council commended the work done under the Rome G7 Energy Ministerial, which highlighted core principles of energy security, including flexible, transparent and competitive energy markets; diversification of energy fuels, sources, technologies, infrastructure and routes; readiness to deal with energy emergencies; and encouragement of indigenous sources of energy supply. In view of the importance of collective action to enhance energy security, the Council noted that these efforts will be taken forward under the German G7 presidency. The Council welcomed recent infrastructure developments including the inauguration of the Klaipeda LNG terminal in Lithuania, the ground breaking ceremony of the Southern Gas Corridor last September, and the inauguration of the reverse flow interconnection between Ukraine and Slovakia, to complement the existing reverse flow interconnections between Ukraine and Hungary and Poland. The Council reaffirmed the importance of prioritizing a select number of critical infrastructure projects to develop rapidly interconnections to end the isolation of any Member State from European gas and electricity networks. The Council welcomed the agreement between Estonia and Finland on 17 November on the Baltic connector pipeline and the regional LNG terminal, recognising the importance of its timely implementation. In this context, the Council highlighted the need for improving gas interconnectors between EU Member States, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, and encouraged swift completion of projects such as: related infrastructure for supplying gas from Romania to the Republic of Moldova via the Iasi-Ungheni gas interconnector and extending the line to Chisinau. The Council further welcomed the latest developments in the Vecsés-Velke Zlievce gas interconnector between Hungary and Slovakia which is due to be put into operation by January 2015; and encouraged completion of an LNG terminal in Krk Island, Croatia; and of the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria and associated LNG capability. The Council also acknowledged the potential of the Iberian Peninsula as a strategic gas entry point for the EU.

The Council recognised the growing potential of the new gas resources in the Black Sea, North Africa, and Eastern Mediterranean for the energy security of the EU and the wider region as demonstrated in the recent Malta and Rome Euro-Mediterranean Conferences. The Council stands ready to facilitate the development of these resources, underlining the need to respect international law. The Council underlined the importance of continuing to promote the development of Iraq’s energy resources and electricity infrastructure, and also welcomed the planned inauguration in early 2015 of the EU-Iraq Energy Centre.

The Council discussed the current state of global energy markets. The Council agreed on the importance of countries phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. The Council will continue to support ongoing efforts towards rules-based and inclusive energy markets.

Energy Policy and Energy Research & Technology

The Council concurred that research and innovation have a critical role to play in increasing energy security and in mitigating the threat of climate change by expanding the share of low-carbon options in the energy mix, and by reducing costs. Enhanced cooperation between the EU and United States in energy-related research should support the development of coordinated and harmonised technologies, solutions, programmes and projects. This will provide the base for developing expertise, science and technology capacity and excellence that will directly benefit competitiveness and contribute to green growth as a source of new jobs and prosperity. The Council emphasised the importance of intensifying and streamlining co-operation in this area, including but not limited to the areas of renewable sources of energy, critical materials, energy efficiency, nuclear fusion, hydrogen and fuel cells, smart grids and storage, Carbon Capture and Storage, unconventional resources, ocean energy and systems integration. The Council welcomed the continuing exchange on energy policy issues of mutual interest, including on the EU’s 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Quadrennial Energy Review, the EU’s ‘Connecting Europe Facility’, smart grids and electric vehicles, energy efficiency, unconventional resource development, and LNG and Carbon Capture and Storage, recognising the joint objective of accelerating the transition to a competitive and sustainable low-carbon economy. The Council will explore further opportunities for energy research collaboration, potentially to include new exchange opportunities for academics and other researchers and business community engagement.

Climate and Energy

Coordinated action by the EU, the United States and all major and emerging economies will be essential to tackling the threat of global climate change, which remains the defining challenge of our generation. The Council reaffirmed the strong determination of the United States and the EU to work towards the adoption at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris in 2015 of an ambitious protocol, legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force, under the Convention and applicable to all parties, which would strengthen the multilateral, rules-based regime. This agreement must be sufficiently ambitious, robust and dynamic in light of the goal to limit global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius . The latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change serve to emphasise the importance of urgent and effective action. The EU and the United States are committed to taking the lead in the fight against climate change and note the increasing evidence that action on climate change can be combined with improved economic performance and have positive co-benefits in areas such as health and energy security. The EU and the United States also intend to continue their strong efforts to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants. The Conference of Parties COP 20 in Lima this December is an important stepping stone towards success in Paris in 2015. It is important that in Lima countries reach agreement on draft elements of a negotiating text, including the requirement for transparent, quantifiable, verifiable and ambitious mitigation contributions, elaboration of the international process to consider and analyse contributions prior to COP 21, and a commitment to continue raising mitigation ambitions before 2020. In order to ensure a successful outcome in Paris it will be essential to work also in fora outside the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, such as the Major Economies Forum, the G20 and the G7. Initiatives and organisations including but not limited to the Clean Energy Ministerial, the International Energy Agency, the International Energy Forum, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the International Renewable Energy Agency, could also play an important role.

The Council welcomed the decision of the EU and United States to submit their intended nationally-determined mitigation contributions in the first quarter of 2015. All major economies must demonstrate similar leadership and submit their intended contributions by the same time in a manner that is transparent, quantifiable and comparable.

The Council welcomed the 23 October European Council decision to reduce the EU’s aggregate domestic greenhouse gas emission by at least 40 percent below the 1990 base year by 2030. The Council further welcomed the binding target to achieve at least a 27 percent share of renewable energy in the EU’s total energy mix, and the indicative target to reduce total energy consumption by at least 27 percent compared to projections by using it more efficiently. The Council welcomed the announcement by the United States of its intention to reduce emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels in 2025. The Council also welcomed the $3 billion pledge of the United States, and EU Member States’ current aggregate pledge of at least $4.6 billion towards the initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund, as well as their respective provisions of climate finance to developing countries.

The Council encouraged other parties who have not yet done so to pledge commensurate amounts. The Council discussed opportunities for co-operation in promoting sustainable energy in other parts of the world, including mobilising the necessary long-term investments needed to operate a transition to low-carbon economies. Energy efficiency and renewable energy are among the priorities for support globally, in the context of climate change as well as development. The Caribbean was discussed as a region that is highly vulnerable to climate change, where clean, renewable energy sources could be particularly productive and useful. The Council welcomed initiatives in the region to promote a cleaner and more sustainable energy future for the Caribbean, including those reflected in the Joint Caribbean-EU Partnership Strategy and the U.S.-Caribbean Energy Security Initiative (CESI), and discussed ways to work collaboratively in support of the region’s own sustainable energy strategies.

End text

On December 3 1984, Union Carbide Gas Sent 3,800 Souls Home To God

BHOPAL SOURCE

The Bhopal disaster and its aftermath: a review

NCBI

On December 3 1984, more than 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, immediately killing at least 3,800 people and causing significant morbidity and premature death for many thousands more. The company involved in what became the worst industrial accident in history immediately tried to dissociate itself from legal responsibility. Eventually it reached a settlement with the Indian Government through mediation of that country’s Supreme Court and accepted moral responsibility. It paid $470 million in compensation, a relatively small amount of based on significant underestimations of the long-term health consequences of exposure and the number of people exposed. The disaster indicated a need for enforceable international standards for environmental safety, preventative strategies to avoid similar accidents and industrial disaster preparedness.

Since the disaster, India has experienced rapid industrialization. While some positive changes in government policy and behavior of a few industries have taken place, major threats to the environment from rapid and poorly regulated industrial growth remain. Widespread environmental degradation with significant adverse human health consequences continues to occur throughout India.

December 2004 marked the twentieth anniversary of the massive toxic gas leak from Union Carbide Corporation’s chemical plant in Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India that killed more than 3,800 people. This review examines the health effects of exposure to the disaster, the legal response, the lessons learned and whether or not these are put into practice in India in terms of industrial development, environmental management and public health.

History

In the 1970s, the Indian government initiated policies to encourage foreign companies to invest in local industry. Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) was asked to build a plant for the manufacture of Sevin, a pesticide commonly used throughout Asia. As part of the deal, India’s government insisted that a significant percentage of the investment come from local shareholders. The government itself had a 22% stake in the company’s subsidiary, Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) [1]. The company built the plant in Bhopal because of its central location and access to transport infrastructure. The specific site within the city was zoned for light industrial and commercial use, not for hazardous industry. The plant was initially approved only for formulation of pesticides from component chemicals, such as MIC imported from the parent company, in relatively small quantities. However, pressure from competition in the chemical industry led UCIL to implement “backward integration” – the manufacture of raw materials and intermediate products for formulation of the final product within one facility. This was inherently a more sophisticated and hazardous process [2].

In 1984, the plant was manufacturing Sevin at one quarter of its production capacity due to decreased demand for pesticides. Widespread crop failures and famine on the subcontinent in the 1980s led to increased indebtedness and decreased capital for farmers to invest in pesticides. Local managers were directed to close the plant and prepare it for sale in July 1984 due to decreased profitability [3]. When no ready buyer was found, UCIL made plans to dismantle key production units of the facility for shipment to another developing country. In the meantime, the facility continued to operate with safety equipment and procedures far below the standards found in its sister plant in Institute, West Virginia. The local government was aware of safety problems but was reticent to place heavy industrial safety and pollution control burdens on the struggling industry because it feared the economic effects of the loss of such a large employer [3].

At 11.00 PM on December 2 1984, while most of the one million residents of Bhopal slept, an operator at the plant noticed a small leak of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and increasing pressure inside a storage tank. The vent-gas scrubber, a safety device designer to neutralize toxic discharge from the MIC system, had been turned off three weeks prior [3]. Apparently a faulty valve had allowed one ton of water for cleaning internal pipes to mix with forty tons of MIC [1]. A 30 ton refrigeration unit that normally served as a safety component to cool the MIC storage tank had been drained of its coolant for use in another part of the plant [3]. Pressure and heat from the vigorous exothermic reaction in the tank continued to build. The gas flare safety system was out of action and had been for three months. At around 1.00 AM, December 3, loud rumbling reverberated around the plant as a safety valve gave way sending a plume of MIC gas into the early morning air [4]. Within hours, the streets of Bhopal were littered with human corpses and the carcasses of buffaloes, cows, dogs and birds. An estimated 3,800 people died immediately, mostly in the poor slum colony adjacent to the UCC plant [1,5]. Local hospitals were soon overwhelmed with the injured, a crisis further compounded by a lack of knowledge of exactly what gas was involved and what its effects were [1]. It became one of the worst chemical disasters in history and the name Bhopal became synonymous with industrial catastrophe [5].

Estimates of the number of people killed in the first few days by the plume from the UCC plant run as high as 10,000, with 15,000 to 20,000 premature deaths reportedly occurring in the subsequent two decades [6]. The Indian government reported that more than half a million people were exposed to the gas [7]. Several epidemiological studies conducted soon after the accident showed significant morbidity and increased mortality in the exposed population. Table Table1.1. summarizes early and late effects on health. These data are likely to under-represent the true extent of adverse health effects because many exposed individuals left Bhopal immediately following the disaster never to return and were therefore lost to follow-up [8].

Table 1

Health effects of the Bhopal methyl isocyanate gas leak exposure [8, 30-32].

Aftermath

Immediately after the disaster, UCC began attempts to dissociate itself from responsibility for the gas leak. Its principal tactic was to shift culpability to UCIL, stating the plant was wholly built and operated by the Indian subsidiary. It also fabricated scenarios involving sabotage by previously unknown Sikh extremist groups and disgruntled employees but this theory was impugned by numerous independent sources [1].

The toxic plume had barely cleared when, on December 7, the first multi-billion dollar lawsuit was filed by an American attorney in a U.S. court. This was the beginning of years of legal machinations in which the ethical implications of the tragedy and its affect on Bhopal’s people were largely ignored. In March 1985, the Indian government enacted the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act as a way of ensuring that claims arising from the accident would be dealt with speedily and equitably. The Act made the government the sole representative of the victims in legal proceedings both within and outside India. Eventually all cases were taken out of the U.S. legal system under the ruling of the presiding American judge and placed entirely under Indian jurisdiction much to the detriment of the injured parties.

In a settlement mediated by the Indian Supreme Court, UCC accepted moral responsibility and agreed to pay $470 million to the Indian government to be distributed to claimants as a full and final settlement. The figure was partly based on the disputed claim that only 3000 people died and 102,000 suffered permanent disabilities [9]. Upon announcing this settlement, shares of UCC rose $2 per share or 7% in value [1]. Had compensation in Bhopal been paid at the same rate that asbestosis victims where being awarded in US courts by defendant including UCC – which mined asbestos from 1963 to 1985 – the liability would have been greater than the $10 billion the company was worth and insured for in 1984 [10]. By the end of October 2003, according to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department, compensation had been awarded to 554,895 people for injuries received and 15,310 survivors of those killed. The average amount to families of the dead was $2,200 [9].

At every turn, UCC has attempted to manipulate, obfuscate and withhold scientific data to the detriment of victims. Even to this date, the company has not stated exactly what was in the toxic cloud that enveloped the city on that December night [8]. When MIC is exposed to 200° heat, it forms degraded MIC that contains the more deadly hydrogen cyanide (HCN). There was clear evidence that the storage tank temperature did reach this level in the disaster. The cherry-red color of blood and viscera of some victims were characteristic of acute cyanide poisoning [11]. Moreover, many responded well to administration of sodium thiosulfate, an effective therapy for cyanide poisoning but not MIC exposure [11]. UCC initially recommended use of sodium thiosulfate but withdrew the statement later prompting suggestions that it attempted to cover up evidence of HCN in the gas leak. The presence of HCN was vigorously denied by UCC and was a point of conjecture among researchers [8,1113].

As further insult, UCC discontinued operation at its Bhopal plant following the disaster but failed to clean up the industrial site completely. The plant continues to leak several toxic chemicals and heavy metals that have found their way into local aquifers. Dangerously contaminated water has now been added to the legacy left by the company for the people of Bhopal [1,14].

Lessons learned

The events in Bhopal revealed that expanding industrialization in developing countries without concurrent evolution in safety regulations could have catastrophic consequences [4]. The disaster demonstrated that seemingly local problems of industrial hazards and toxic contamination are often tied to global market dynamics. UCC’s Sevin production plant was built in Madhya Pradesh not to avoid environmental regulations in the U.S. but to exploit the large and growing Indian pesticide market. However the manner in which the project was executed suggests the existence of a double standard for multinational corporations operating in developing countries [1]. Enforceable uniform international operating regulations for hazardous industries would have provided a mechanism for significantly improved in safety in Bhopal. Even without enforcement, international standards could provide norms for measuring performance of individual companies engaged in hazardous activities such as the manufacture of pesticides and other toxic chemicals in India [15]. National governments and international agencies should focus on widely applicable techniques for corporate responsibility and accident prevention as much in the developing world context as in advanced industrial nations [16]. Specifically, prevention should include risk reduction in plant location and design and safety legislation [17].

Local governments clearly cannot allow industrial facilities to be situated within urban areas, regardless of the evolution of land use over time. Industry and government need to bring proper financial support to local communities so they can provide medical and other necessary services to reduce morbidity, mortality and material loss in the case of industrial accidents.

Public health infrastructure was very weak in Bhopal in 1984. Tap water was available for only a few hours a day and was of very poor quality. With no functioning sewage system, untreated human waste was dumped into two nearby lakes, one a source of drinking water. The city had four major hospitals but there was a shortage of physicians and hospital beds. There was also no mass casualty emergency response system in place in the city [3]. Existing public health infrastructure needs to be taken into account when hazardous industries choose sites for manufacturing plants. Future management of industrial development requires that appropriate resources be devoted to advance planning before any disaster occurs [18]. Communities that do not possess infrastructure and technical expertise to respond adequately to such industrial accidents should not be chosen as sites for hazardous industry.

Since 1984

Following the events of December 3 1984 environmental awareness and activism in India increased significantly. The Environment Protection Act was passed in 1986, creating the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and strengthening India’s commitment to the environment. Under the new act, the MoEF was given overall responsibility for administering and enforcing environmental laws and policies. It established the importance of integrating environmental strategies into all industrial development plans for the country. However, despite greater government commitment to protect public health, forests, and wildlife, policies geared to developing the country’s economy have taken precedence in the last 20 years [19].

India has undergone tremendous economic growth in the two decades since the Bhopal disaster. Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has increased from $1,000 in 1984 to $2,900 in 2004 and it continues to grow at a rate of over 8% per year [20]. Rapid industrial development has contributed greatly to economic growth but there has been significant cost in environmental degradation and increased public health risks. Since abatement efforts consume a large portion of India’s GDP, MoEF faces an uphill battle as it tries to fulfill its mandate of reducing industrial pollution [19]. Heavy reliance on coal-fired power plants and poor enforcement of vehicle emission laws have result from economic concerns taking precedence over environmental protection [19].

With the industrial growth since 1984, there has been an increase in small scale industries (SSIs) that are clustered about major urban areas in India. There are generally less stringent rules for the treatment of waste produced by SSIs due to less waste generation within each individual industry. This has allowed SSIs to dispose of untreated wastewater into drainage systems that flow directly into rivers. New Delhi’s Yamuna River is illustrative. Dangerously high levels of heavy metals such as lead, cobalt, cadmium, chrome, nickel and zinc have been detected in this river which is a major supply of potable water to India’s capital thus posing a potential health risk to the people living there and areas downstream [21].

Land pollution due to uncontrolled disposal of industrial solid and hazardous waste is also a problem throughout India. With rapid industrialization, the generation of industrial solid and hazardous waste has increased appreciably and the environmental impact is significant [22].

India relaxed its controls on foreign investment in order to accede to WTO rules and thereby attract an increasing flow of capital. In the process, a number of environmental regulations are being rolled back as growing foreign investments continue to roll in. The Indian experience is comparable to that of a number of developing countries that are experiencing the environmental impacts of structural adjustment. Exploitation and export of natural resources has accelerated on the subcontinent. Prohibitions against locating industrial facilities in ecologically sensitive zones have been eliminated while conservation zones are being stripped of their status so that pesticide, cement and bauxite mines can be built [23]. Heavy reliance on coal-fired power plants and poor enforcement of vehicle emission laws are other consequences of economic concerns taking precedence over environmental protection [19].

In March 2001, residents of Kodaikanal in southern India caught the Anglo-Dutch company, Unilever, red-handed when they discovered a dumpsite with toxic mercury laced waste from a thermometer factory run by the company’s Indian subsidiary, Hindustan Lever. The 7.4 ton stockpile of mercury-laden glass was found in torn stacks spilling onto the ground in a scrap metal yard located near a school. In the fall of 2001, steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center was exported to India apparently without first being tested for contamination from asbestos and heavy metals present in the twin tower debris. Other examples of poor environmental stewardship and economic considerations taking precedence over public health concerns abound [24].

The Bhopal disaster could have changed the nature of the chemical industry and caused a reexamination of the necessity to produce such potentially harmful products in the first place. However the lessons of acute and chronic effects of exposure to pesticides and their precursors in Bhopal has not changed agricultural practice patterns. An estimated 3 million people per year suffer the consequences of pesticide poisoning with most exposure occurring in the agricultural developing world. It is reported to be the cause of at least 22,000 deaths in India each year. In the state of Kerala, significant mortality and morbidity have been reported following exposure to Endosulfan, a toxic pesticide whose use continued for 15 years after the events of Bhopal [25].

Aggressive marketing of asbestos continues in developing countries as a result of restrictions being placed on its use in developed nations due to the well-established link between asbestos products and respiratory diseases. India has become a major consumer, using around 100,000 tons of asbestos per year, 80% of which is imported with Canada being the largest overseas supplier. Mining, production and use of asbestos in India is very loosely regulated despite the health hazards. Reports have shown morbidity and mortality from asbestos related disease will continue in India without enforcement of a ban or significantly tighter controls [26,27].

UCC has shrunk to one sixth of its size since the Bhopal disaster in an effort to restructure and divest itself. By doing so, the company avoided a hostile takeover, placed a significant portion of UCC’s assets out of legal reach of the victims and gave its shareholder and top executives bountiful profits [1]. The company still operates under the ownership of Dow Chemicals and still states on its website that the Bhopal disaster was “cause by deliberate sabotage”. [28].

Some positive changes were seen following the Bhopal disaster. The British chemical company, ICI, whose Indian subsidiary manufactured pesticides, increased attention to health, safety and environmental issues following the events of December 1984. The subsidiary now spends 30–40% of their capital expenditures on environmental-related projects. However, they still do not adhere to standards as strict as their parent company in the UK. [24].

The US chemical giant DuPont learned its lesson of Bhopal in a different way. The company attempted for a decade to export a nylon plant from Richmond, VA to Goa, India. In its early negotiations with the Indian government, DuPont had sought and won a remarkable clause in its investment agreement that absolved it from all liabilities in case of an accident. But the people of Goa were not willing to acquiesce while an important ecological site was cleared for a heavy polluting industry. After nearly a decade of protesting by Goa’s residents, DuPont was forced to scuttle plans there. Chennai was the next proposed site for the plastics plant. The state government there made significantly greater demand on DuPont for concessions on public health and environmental protection. Eventually, these plans were also aborted due to what the company called “financial concerns”. [29].

Conclusion

The tragedy of Bhopal continues to be a warning sign at once ignored and heeded. Bhopal and its aftermath were a warning that the path to industrialization, for developing countries in general and India in particular, is fraught with human, environmental and economic perils. Some moves by the Indian government, including the formation of the MoEF, have served to offer some protection of the public’s health from the harmful practices of local and multinational heavy industry and grassroots organizations that have also played a part in opposing rampant development. The Indian economy is growing at a tremendous rate but at significant cost in environmental health and public safety as large and small companies throughout the subcontinent continue to pollute. Far more remains to be done for public health in the context of industrialization to show that the lessons of the countless thousands dead in Bhopal have truly been heeded.

Competing interests

The author(s) declare that they have no competing interests.

Acknowledgements

J. Barab, B. Castleman, R Dhara and U Misra reviewed the manuscript and provided useful suggestions.

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Articles from Environmental Health are provided here courtesy of BioMed Central

Censorship Through Search-Engine Tampering

[In case anyone hasn’t noticed, or hasn’t been paying attention, Google’s infamous “secret algorithm” has been squeezing most blogs out of search results.  Even blogs which are treasure troves of information on the Imperial war on humanity, such as No Sunglasses, can no longer be found by “stumbling-upon” them in concerted searches on specific topics, using Google searches.  Prior to Google’s previous reworking of its search algorithm, called “Panda” (SEE:  Getting Squeezed-Out of Google Searches With the Panda Logarithm), which devastated the Alexa Ratings Index for this website and others like it,

snapshot no sun  Dec. 3, 2014

This site lost over 100,000 points in the Alexa system, because readership is down that much, 400+ daily visitors difference.  Before, “therearenosunglasses” nearly always came up in most web searches, pertaining to the American dictatorship or resistance to it.  Now, after the new algorithm rework, we are faced with Google’s next generation search barricade, called “Hummingbird” (SEE: Hummingbird Unleashed), which has flat-lined most of us.  The proof of Hummingbird censorship has been summed-up in this article from aangirfan, “TRUTH BLOGS UNDER ATTACK.”  It is impossible at this stage of the game to determine whether this can all be written-off to more of the same govt/corporate censorship of truth-tellers (a.k.a., “conspiracy theorists”), or it can be partially explained by the move to hand-held computers and the tendency to turn everything into another “APP” (SEE: Lets talk about Hummingbird—Parts 1 and 2)]

peter.chamberlin@hotmail.com

 

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