Posts Tagged ‘Dow Chemical’

Vietnam/USA: Agent Orange – Die Opfer warten immer noch

Montag, August 6th, 2012

“AUGUST 10, 2012, AT NOON: 51 YEARS AFTER THE CHEMICAL WAR BEGAN IN VIETNAM, WE SHOULD BE SILENT IN MEMORY, THEN TAKE ACTION TO REMEDY

By Jeanne Mirer and Marjorie Cohn

To take action go to http://www.vn-agentorange.org/

There are images from the U.S. War against Vietnam that have been indelibly imprinted on the minds of Americans who lived through it. One is the naked napalm-burned girl running from her village with flesh hanging off her body. Another is a photo of the piles of bodies from the My Lai massacre, where U.S. troops executed 504 civilians in a small village. Then there is the photograph of the silent scream of a woman student leaning over the body of her dead friend at Kent State University whose only crime was protesting the bombing of Cambodia in 1970. Finally, there is the memory of decorated members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War testifying at the Winter Soldier Hearings, often in tears, to atrocities in which they had participated during the war.

These pictures are heartbreaking. They expose the horrors of war. The U.S. War against Vietnam was televised, while images of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have intentionally been hidden from us. But what was not televised was the relentless ten years (1961-1971) of spraying millions of gallons of toxic herbicides over vast areas of South Vietnam. These chemicals exposed almost 5 million people, mostly civilians, to deadly consequences. The toxic herbicides, most notably Agent Orange, contained dioxin, one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man. It has been recognized by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen (causes cancer) and by the American Academy of Medicine as a teratogen (causes birth defects).

From the beginning of the spraying 51 years ago, until today, millions of Vietnamese have died from, or been completely incapacitated by, diseases which the U. S. government recognizes are related to Agent Orange for purposes of granting compensation to Vietnam Veterans in the United States. The Vietnamese, who were the intended victims of this spraying, experienced the most intense, horrible impact on human health and environmental devastation. Second and third generations of children, born to parents exposed during the war and in areas of heavy spraying — un-remediated “hot spots” of dioxin contamination, — suffer unspeakable deformities that medical authorities attribute to the dioxin in Agent Orange.

The Vietnamese exposed to the chemical suffer from cancer, liver damage, pulmonary and heart diseases, defects to reproductive capacity, and skin and nervous disorders. Their children and grandchildren have severe physical deformities, mental and physical disabilities, diseases, and shortened life spans. The forests and jungles in large parts of southern Vietnam were devastated and denuded. Centuries-old habitat was destroyed, and will not regenerate with the same diversity for hundreds of years. Animals that inhabited the forests and jungles are threatened with extinction, disrupting the communities that depended on them. The rivers and underground water in some areas have also been contaminated. Erosion and desertification will change the environment, causing dislocation of crop and animal life.

For the past 51 years, the Vietnamese people have been attempting to address this legacy of war by trying to get the United States and the chemical companies to accept responsibility for this ongoing nightmare. An unsuccessful legal action by Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange against the chemical companies in U.S. federal court, begun in 2004, has nonetheless spawned a movement to hold the United States accountable for using such dangerous chemicals on civilian populations. The movement has resulted in pending legislation HR 2634 – The Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2011, which attempts to provide medical, rehabilitative and social service compensation to the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, remediation of dioxin-contaminated “hot spots,” and medical services for the children and grandchildren of U. S. Vietnam veterans and Vietnamese-Americans who have been born with the same diseases and deformities.

Using weapons of war on civilian populations violates the laws of war, which recognize the principle of distinction between military and civilian objects, requiring armies to avoid civilian targets. These laws of war are enshrined in the Hague Convention and the Nuremberg principles, and are codified in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Optional Protocol of 1977, as well as the International Criminal Court statute. The aerial bombardments of civilian population centers in World Wars I and II violated the principle of distinction, as did the detonation of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9 of 1945. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese people were killed in an instant, even though Japan was already negotiating the terms of surrender.

The use of Agent Orange on civilian populations violated the laws of war and yet no one has been held to account. Taxpayers pick up the tab of the Agent Orange Compensation Fund for the U. S. Veterans at a cost of 1.52 billion dollars a year. The chemical companies, most specifically Dow and Monsanto, which profited from the manufacture of Agent Orange, paid a pittance to settle the veterans’ lawsuit to compensate them, as the unintended victims, for their Agent Orange related illnesses. But the Vietnamese continue to suffer from these violations with almost no recognition, as do the offspring of Agent Orange-exposed U.S. veterans and Vietnamese-Americans.

What is the difference between super powers like the United States violating the laws of war with impunity and the reports of killing of Syrian civilians by both sides in the current civil war? Does the United States have any credibility to demand governments and non-state actors end the killings of civilians, when through wars and drones and its refusal to acknowledge responsibility for the use of Agent Orange, the United States has and is engaging in the very conduct it publicly deplores?

In 1945, at the founding conference of the United Nations, the countries of the world determined:

to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and

to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and

to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and

to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

If we are to avoid sinking once again into the scourge of war, we must reaffirm the principles of the Charter and establish conditions under which countries take actions that promote rather than undermine justice and respect for our international legal obligations. The alternative is the law of the jungle, where only might makes right. It is time that right makes might.

August 10th marks 51 years since the beginning of the spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam. In commemoration, the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign urges you to observe 51 seconds of silence at 12 noon, to think about the horrors of wars which have occurred. We ask you to take action so as not to see future images of naked children running from napalm, or young soldiers wiping out the population of an entire village, or other atrocities associated with war, poverty, and violence around the world. We urge you to take at least 51 seconds for your action. In the United States, you can sign an orange post card to the U.S. Congress asking it to pass HR 2634. This would be a good start to assist the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange as well as the next generations of those exposed to these dangerous chemicals in both Vietnam and the United States.

Jeanne Mirer, a New York attorney, is president of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. They are both on the board of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign.

To sign the petition, go to http://www.vn-agentorange.org/

 

(Quelle: Marjorie Cohn.)

Grossbritannien: Schatten über der Olympiade

Donnerstag, Juli 5th, 2012

“Greenwashing the Olympics

By Daniel Nelson, CorpWatch Blog
July 4th, 2012

Greenwash Gold graphic.
Courtesy Greenwash Gold campaign

Rio Tinto, the global mining company, has been named as early front-runner for the Greenwash Gold award for the worst Olympic sponsor, with BP, the oil and gas multinational, in second place and Dow Chemical third.

The three corporations are banking on getting a good return on their purchase of the right to stick their names all over Olympic promotional material and activities. But Olympic branding has sparked bad publicity, too. Activists have accused the companies of “greenwashing”
–  a tactic by which companies “preserve and expand their markets by
posing as friends of the environment and enemies of poverty.”

Last week, as London celebrated one month to the Games opening, demonstrators in India and London staged protests against “the toxic reputation” of Dow Chemical for failing to take responsibility for clearing up the site of the 1984 industrial plant disaster in the Indian city of Bhopal to ensure that the toxic waste buried there does not continue to poison people.

“Dow Chemical have been refusing to accept that their wholly-owned subsidiary, the Union Carbide Corporation, is wanted on the criminal charges of culpable homicide for the Bhopal Gas Disaster,” said Colin Toogood of the Bhopal Medical Appeal. “We cannot understand why the Olympic organizers continue to defend Dow Chemical when these are the facts.”

Campaigners are particularly angry that Lord Coe, the four-times Olympic medalist who runs the London Olympics organizing committee, has failed to honor a promise made in response to a previous demonstration that he would be happy to meet demonstrators to discuss the issues they had raised.

Human rights organization Amnesty International joined in the criticism, complaining that Coe’s reaction to a mass of emails from the organization “was apparently to block all emails sent via our website, and disengage from any conversation about Dow’s involvement in the Olympics. This does not reassure us that the Olympic Committee is committed to ethical, responsible investment.”

Coe’s reluctance to engage with the demonstrators is not surprising, given that the Olympic organizers have conferred the title of ‘Sustainability Partner’ on BP. The activists say that the company is “a world-class climate criminal”, in the words of Emily Coats from the UK Tar Sands Network, who points out that "BP has just launched another shiny advertising campaign to continue to obscure from the public its devastating operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Alberta tar sands and pristine Arctic.”

Other actions have already targeted the company in London. Members of the “Reclaim Shakespeare Company” leaped on stage and performed an anti-BP “guerilla Shakespeare” skit in front of a theater audience that included many BP employees.

Rio Tinto must also be bracing for protests. Richard Solly of London Mining Network, one of the backers of the Greenwash Gold campaign, says: “Rio Tinto has provided nearly all the metals for the Olympic Medals from mines in Utah where local residents have accused the company of creating so much pollution that it is contributing to premature deaths and respiratory diseases. You can’t pretend to have ‘the greenest games ever’ when you’re working with such a dirty and disreputable company like Rio Tinto.”

Meredith Alexander, the ex-Olympics ‘ethics tsar’ who resigned over controversies surrounding Olympic sponsorship condemned Coe for ignoring concerns about unethical Olympic sponsors.

“He does not want to hear about BP’s investment in the most polluting form of oil, the environmental problems that come with Rio Tinto’s medals or the fact that Dow Chemical is the company now responsible for the Bhopal tragedy,” said Alexander.

Anti-corporate protests in London take place on fertile ground because of a series of corporate scandals, the latest of which are the $455 million fine imposed on Barclays bank for letting its traders manipulate the interbank lending rates such as Libor and Euribor to suit the bank’s trading positions (even business-friendly Chancellor, George Osborne has said criminal investigations could follow) and revelations about offshore tax avoidance schemes.

So a report that Olympic sponsors will avoid paying up to $942 million in tax as venues will be treated like offshore havens during the Games will add insult to injury.

A report by Ethical Consumer claimed that under new tax rules ushered in as part of “Team Great Britain’s” winning Olympic bid, corporate partners like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Visa were given a temporary exemption from corporation tax as “non-resident” companies from March 30 to November 8.

The new rules also reportedly mean foreign employees working for the companies do not have to pay income tax in the UK.

“The real winners in the London Olympics are those companies who stand to make millions out of the greatest sporting event in the world,” says Tim Hunt of Ethical Consumer.

On 28 July, the second day of the Olympics, the Counter Olympics Network is holding a demonstration in an east London park, on the doorstep of the main Olympic site, “to protest the government’s turning of the games into a showcase for corporate, financial and military power at a time people are crushed by sweeping austerity measures.”

 

(Quelle: CorpWatch.org)

Global: Entwicklungsländer fordern Entschädigung für Umweltkatastrophen

Dienstag, August 24th, 2010

Pay Developing Nations For Eco-Disasters

The $20bil put aside by BP to pay for the effects of the Gulf oil spill contrasts with the lack of accountability of big firms that cause environmental harm in developing countries.

In a widely publicised move in June, the United States’ President Barrack Obama succeeded in getting the oil company BP to set aside US$20 billion into a fund to meet claims for compensating losses arising from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

It is extraordinary that a giant company has been pressurised by a government to agree to pay so much. The funds will be used to meet claims for economic losses of local people in the Gulf Coast states whose incomes have been lost due to the spill (for example the tourist business has collapsed) and to pay the cost for the environmental clean up.

Another US$100 million fund will be set up to pay workers laid off due to suspension of offshore drilling. BP will also suspend paying dividends so that there is enough cash for the new funds.

A US Congress committee also grilled the CEO of BP Tony Hayward for seven hours.

Obama’s move and BP’s agreement to compensate were clearly the result of the growing anger of Americans at both BP and the government, which had lax or absent implementation of safety regulations.

Americans are angry that it has taken so many months to fix the problem. Meanwhile 11 oil workers died in the rig explosion, a lot of marine life will perish and many thousands of local people will have their livelihoods damaged.

It may indeed be the United States’ worst ever environmental disaster. But there have been much worst ecological catastrophes in developing countries, caused by giant companies, many of them American.

Many more lives were lost and livelihoods damaged, and the environmental cost has been higher. But little if any compensation has been paid by these companies. And the governments of the countries in which the companies are headquartered have turned a blind eye.

Bhopal, India

The most outstanding case is that of Bhopal in which the emission of poisonous gas from US-owned company Union Carbide in that Indian town in 1984 affected half a million people, killed 2,300 people immediately, with another 15,000 to 30,000 dying subsequently and many thousands of others maimed seriously. Even now the land and water in the vicinity continue to be contaminated with toxic chemicals that affect human health.

The factory was then owned by the US company Union Carbide, which in 2001 was taken over by Dow Chemical. The Bhopal factory was sold to a local firm in 1992.

Union Carbide never accepted responsibility for the disaster, and neither has Dow. An arrest warrant for Union Carbide’s then chairman Warren Anderson was issued in India but he has not been brought to trial.

Union Carbide paid US$470 million in a deal in 1989 with the Indian government, but this is a small amount, given the enormous numbers of people who died, were injured and continue to suffer.

On 7 June this year, an Indian court found 7 former executives of the Indian subsidiary of the company guilty of negligence and they were given sentences of two years’ jail, which is being appealed against. According to reports from India, the Bhopal residents and their supporters are dismayed by such a light sentence, and that they are still waiting for proper compensation.

However, the court case and perhaps Obama’s actions on BP have spurred new actions in India.

The Indian government on 24 June announced enhanced compensation to the victims, an environmental clean-up plan, and to make new efforts to extradite Anderson to face court action in India.

The government is also exploring the possibility of new legal action to reconsider the $470 million fixed earlier in an out-of-court settlement between the government and Union Carbide, and later approved by the Supreme Court. A curative petition may be filed in the Supreme Court to seek higher consideration.

Ecuador Oil Dumping in Forest

A second case is that of the Ecuador, whose Amazon region was contaminated by oil and oil waste in amounts far larger than the Gulf Oil spill so far. The oil and waste was discharged by Texaco (bought over by Chevron in 2001) when it operated an oil concession in 1964-1990.

The New York Times in May 2009 reported indigenous people resident in the area saying that toxic chemicals had leaked into their soils, groundwater and streams, and that their children had died from the poisoning. It cited a report of an expert (contested by the company) who estimated that 1,400 people had died of cancer because of oil contamination.

The indigenous groups have taken a court case against Chevron for US$27 billon in damages. They accuse Chevron of dumping more than 345 million gallons of crude oil into the rainforest. Chevron is also said to have dumped 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste in pits in the forests.

Experts sympathetic to the local people claim that the disaster has devastated their lands, income and health to a degree far larger than the BP spill in the Gulf.

US Congressman James P. McGovern, the vice-chairman of the House Rules Committee, visited Ecuador in 2009 and is reported to have written to Obama that “the degradation and contamination left behind by [Chevron] in a poor part of the world made me angry and ashamed… I also saw the infrastructure Texaco/Chevron created that allowed the wholesale dumping of formation water and other highly toxic materials directly into the Amazon and its waters.”

Niger Delta Oil Contamination

A third case is that of the Niger Delta in Nigeria, in which oil is extracted by Shell, Exxon and other giant companies.

An article in The Observer entitled “Nigeria’s agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill: The US and Europe ignore it”, describes how oil spilt from pipelines and other sources has contaminated swamps, rivers, forests and farmlands in the region.

“In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico,” wrote John Vidal.

A report by environment groups calculated in 2006 that up to 1.5m tons of oil – 50 times the pollution unleashed in the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in Alaska – has been spilled in the delta over the past half century. Last year Amnesty calculated that the equivalent of at least 9m barrels of oil was spilled and accused the oil companies of a human rights outrage.

On 1 May a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline spilled more than a million gallons into the delta over seven days and thick balls of tar are being washed up along the coast. Local people blame the oil pollution for the fall in life expectancy in the rural communities to a littlle above 40 years.

According to the writer Ben Ikari, “This kind of spill happens all the time in the delta. The oil companies just ignore it. When I see the efforts that are being made in the US I feel a great sense of sadness at the double standards.”

“We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the US,” said Nnimo Bassey, Nigerian head of Friends of the Earth International. “But in Nigeria, oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people’s livelihood and environments. The Gulf spill can be seen as a metaphor for what is happening daily in the oilfields of Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

Compensation Must Be Accountable

These cases show a big contrast between what the US administration is doing to hold a multinational company financially accountable, and how similar companies that cause ecological catastrophes in developing countries are able to get away either freely or with grossly inadequate pay-outs.

What the US administration and Congress are doing to get BP to compensate for the environmental and economic damage it is causing is commendable and should be supported.

Developing countries should learn a lesson from the US and take similar action in line with the “polluter pays” principle.

And just as importantly, the governments of the home countries of the multinationals should also act to make their companies accountable for their actions when they operate in other countries, and to compensate adequately when they cause environmental damage.

There should be an international understanding or agreement among the governments to the effect that they will support one another to obtain redress from companies to compensate for the environmental damage fact they cause.

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.

He can be contacted at: director@southcentre.org

(Quelle: South Centre.)