Saturday, October 31, 2009

BP faces record $87.4m US fine over Texas refinery

The image can be found at

FT story:
The US government said as it issued a record $87.4m in proposed fines on the UK oil group BP since it still has "systemic safety" issues four years after an explosion at its Texas refinery killed 15 people and injured 170.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Podcast: Labor Politics in the Obama Administration

Joshua B Freeman talks about labor politics in the Obama administration and the role of immigrant workers in the future of New York City. Dr. Freeman is a professor of history at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

This is a podcast for New York University.

Mines and the Military in Congo

You can find the picture here: Developing world stories

Wanted to flag a journal article this morning:
For Congo's Military, a Mine of Difficulties
Sarah Childress reports:
"Human-rights advocates and mineral-industry groups say the military may now be trying to consolidate its own power over Congo's rich mineral mines, with little ability to improve conditions for the thousands of miners scraping a living from the trade. Some groups accusing the military of complicity in mining and trading so-called blood minerals -- those mined amid violence, sold to fund conflict, or both."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

UN to defend human rights in conflict zones

Nations join forces with UN to stamp out rights abuses in conflict zones

Leftists and left-outs: Jug Suraiya, Times of India

Everyday, the Indian State is losing headline space to Maoists. Will it adversely affect risks of investing in the country?

You can read the whole editorial by Jug Suraiya here in the Times of India here:


"Prakash Karat (a left-wing leader) got it right when he said that the Indian Maoists, who are in virtual control of some 160 of the country's 600-odd districts, were not leftists. They're not. The so-called Maoists -- and the forgotten, marginalised and dispossessed people they claim to represent -- are left-outs: left out, deliberately or through sheer forgetfulness, of the purview of the Indian state. In that sense, they are stateless anarchists.".....

....."There is a fundamental mismatch not just of vocabulary but of perception. The government sees the police force as legitimate protectors of the state's legitimate rights to mineral deposits and other resources in Chhattisgarh (a state in India), or anywhere else; the killing of the four policemen is uncondonable, cold-blooded murder. In the Naxal (described as rebels) view, the government's exploitation of resources -- often after the forcible dispossession of small landowners who have no other source of livelihood and who do not believe they will in any way benefit from the activities of a government that over decades has neglected them -- is an act of violence which provokes counterviolence. Such a complete breakdown of communication, a total lack of common ground, can result only in murderous confrontation."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Old Style Unionism is not dead: FT Columnist

Pic Courtesy: An Army Green American Apparel T with the Give Up logo

Unions need to focus on jobs of the future

By Michael Skapinker, FT, October 26, 09

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Climate Change Activism

Pic: Courtesy New York Times
Click here for a slideshow in NYT on climate change activists all over the world

Thousands gather for worldwide climate protests
(AFP) –

NEW YORK — From Asia to the Americas via Europe and the Middle East, activists around the planet have protested in an effort to mobilize public opinion against global warming 50 days ahead of a crucial UN climate summit.

Many of the thousands that gathered on the steps of Sydney's iconic Opera House to kick off the event waved placards bearing the logo 350, a figure scientists believe is the maximum parts per million of CO2 that the atmosphere can bear to avoid runaway global warming.

In New York's Times Square, a crowd of demonstrators gathered as giant screens beamed in images from around the world. Organizers told the activists that events had taken place in "more than 180 countries" at 5,200 events.

In France, politicians received a "wake up" call from several hundred Parisians who chose clocks as their symbol.

Protesters who met in a central square in Paris had set their alarm clocks and mobile phones set to ring at 12:18 pm (1018 GMT) in reference to the closing date of the UN summit in Copenhagen, which lasts from December 7-18.

The summit is considered crucial as world leaders will try to thrash out a new treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions in place of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

But senior officials from the United States and China, the world's two largest polluters, have warned the talks may fail.

There is growing concern that a treaty deal in Copenhagen could be hampered by issues that include US domestic politics and the problems of securing agreement between developed and developing countries.

In Berlin, some 350 protesters wearing masks with the face of German Chancellor Angela Merkel came together in front of the Brandenburg Gate in the city center.

In London, more than 600 people gathered beneath the London Eye Ferris wheel by the River Thames to arrange themselves into the shape of the number five, according to organisers Campaign against Climate Change.

An aerial photograph of the event will be added to pictures of a giant "three" and "zero" from around the world.

"Hundreds of thousands of people are taking part (globally) and for us that's so important, to have people out on the streets," campaign activist Abi Edgar told AFP. "We want serious action on climate change and we want it now."

Across the Thames, some 100 musicians playing trumpets, trombones, saxophones and clarinets gathered outside parliament to play the same note -- an F, made by the frequency of 350 Hz -- for 350 seconds, organizers said.

In the Lebanese capital Beirut hundreds of activists, many wearing snorkels, held demonstrations in key archaeological sites.

They gathered around the Roman ruins in central Beirut, in the ancient eastern city of Baalbek and along the coast, carrying placards bearing the 350 logo.

"It's not the first time Beirut will have gone under water," Wael Hmaidan of the IndyACT group organizing Beirut's protests told AFP, explaining the goggle-wearing, "but this time it's going down because of climate change, and not earthquakes."

Environmental activists in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul staged their protest in a boat, unfurling a banner reading "Sun, wind, right now!" under the main bridge linking Asia and Europe over the Bosphorus Strait, Anatolia news agency reported.

They then sailed to the ancient Maiden's Tower, which sits on a tiny islet in the Bosphorus, and unfurled another banner reading "Jobs, climate, justice," the report said.

Events in Asia included demonstrators in Dhaka riding bicycles to highlight one way of cutting emissions.

In Jakarta, around 100 students from the London School of Public Relations gathered to form the symbolic number 350, coordinator Candy Tolosa said on news website.

Naxalites and economic interests of the Indian state

More than one-fourth of India's 600 districts are under the control of Maoists. The government is trying to gain control of the mineral-rich states - an undeniable economic interest. Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy has called for unconditional talks with the Maoists. Here is a report based on her interview with a TV channel. (Why the anchors were advocating on behalf of the government, beats me)I stumbled upon this provocative headline in the Times of India.

What Muslims were to BJP, Maoists are to Congress: Arundhati Roy

Press Trust of India
October 25, 09

Supporting unconditional talks with the Maoists, Booker prize winner and activist Arundhati Roy has alleged that "economic interests" in mineral-rich states have driven the government and establishment to launch action against them.

"My fear is that because of this economic interest the government and establishment actually needs a war. It needs to militarise. For that it needs an enemy. And so in a way what the Muslims were to BJP, the Maoists are to Congress...," Roy said in an interview to a TV news channel.

When asked about the talks between the government and left wing extremists, she said, "There should be unconditional talks with the Maoists.

"If I was a person who is being dispossessed, whose wife has been raped, who is being pushed of their land and who is being faced with this 'police force', I would say that I am justified in taking up arms. If that is the only way I have to defend myself," she said when asked whether armed struggle was justified.

"We should stop thinking about who is justified...You have an army of very poor people being faced down by an army of rich that are corporate-backed. I am sorry but it is like that. So you can't extract morality from the heinous act of violence that each commits against the other," she said.

History of labor movement in New York City - NYT series

Read here: A series on the history of New York City's labor politics.

Joshua B. Freeman answers questions about the history of New York City’s unions, labor politics and changing work force. Dr. Freeman is a professor of history at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Pic courtesy: Harrietsplace's reviews

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Employers Beware

Employer Retaliation Claims Rise

According to this WSJ story reported by Cari Tuna: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said that the claims including a retaliation charge rose 23% in the year ended Sept. 30, 2008, to 32,690 -- more than a third of all claims filed with the agency. Employers beware, for it seems retaliation is often easier to prove than discrimination, particularly since a 2006 Supreme Court decision adopted a broader definition of retaliation than some courts had used, as per the story.

p.s. Apologize that this story is slightly dated. Have been caught up with school.

At it again!

Pic: Symbol of the Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)

News reports say up to 90,000 auto workers in India have gone to strike in Delhi.
Report from the Journal.
According to the story:
Haryana the epicenter of the strike, just outside the capital, is a hub for the auto industry, with about 200 companies that account for 60% of the automotive and motorcycle parts made in India, according to industry organziation, Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rare Intervention?

Courtesy: Mining Journal

Home ministry puts off decision on Balco stake after Korba tragedy

Last month, a power-plant chimney being built at an aluminum-making unit of Vedanta Resources collapsed in the district of Korba in eastern India. This seems to have stalled the transaction between the Indian government and Vedanta. The Economic Times story above alludes to such a possibility.

Here's what had happened: Vedanta unit chimney collapse kills 20, police say

And subsequently: Chhattisgarh police question Chinese engineers in Balco mishap

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Obama prioritises Hu meeting over Dalai Lama

No Time for the Dalai Lama: WSJ

Excerpts from the editorial:
In nearly nine months in office, President Obama has found time to meet with Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega and Vladimir Putin. But this week he won't see the Dalai Lama, a peaceful religious leader who has long been a friend to the U.S. and an advocate of human rights for China's six million Tibetans.....It's becoming clear that Mr. Obama's definition of "engagement" leaves plenty of room to meet with dictators, but less for those who challenge them.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pfizer lawsuit in Nigeria

Kano State v. Pfizer

(First published in The American Lawyer here)

On July 30 Pfizer Inc agreed to pay a Nigerian state $75 million to settle claims on behalf of dozens of children allegedly injured or killed during a clinical trial of a then-experimental drug.

The case was first filed in 2007 in Kano City, Nigeria. State officials alleged that, during a meningitis epidemic in 1996, the company tested the antibiotic Trovan (trovafloxacin mesylate) on 200 critically ill children without informed written consent from parents or approvals from government officials. Pfizer also administered a comparison drug, ceftriaxone, allegedly in insufficient doses. Some test subjects ended up brain damaged, paralyzed, or blind; 11 died. The state originally sought $5 billion.

Pfizer asserted in public statements that it had conducted the study with parental and governmental consent. The company has also said that the deaths and injuries were caused by meningitis, not its drugs. The company did not admit to or deny the allegations under the settlement, which establishes a $35 million trust for test participants, underwrites $30 million in health care initiatives in Kano, and covers $10 million in the state’s legal costs.

Pfizer’s Trovan problems are not over, however. Cases filed by Nigeria’s central government are pending. Also pending are two civil claims filed in the United States under the Alien Tort Claims Act; one, filed in Connecticut, seeks $2 billion.

For plaintiff Kano State, Nigeria

In-House: Kano state attorney general and commissioner of justice Aliyu Umar.

SimmonsCooper Partners: Babatunde Irukera. (He is in Lagos, Nigeria.) Irukera was lead counsel and led settlement negotiations.

For plaintiffs Rabi Abdullahi et al.

Milberg: Peter Safirstein and associate Stephanie Hatzakos. The firm is spearheading an ATCA claim in New York.

For plaintiffs Ajudu Ismaila Adamu et al.

Altschuler & Altschuler: Donald Altschuler and Richard Altschuler. (They are in New Haven.) The firm is spearheading an ATCA claim in Connecticut.

Streamsowers & Köhn: Etigwe Uwa. (He is in Lagos, Nigeria.) Etigwe is cocounsel on the Connecticut claim.

For defendant Pfizer Inc (New York)

In-House: Senior vice president and associate general counsel Bradley Lerman and assistant general counsel Atiba Adams.

Williams & Connolly: Joseph Petrosinelli. (He is in Washington, D.C.) Petrosinelli was lead counsel in the Kano case.

Kaye Scholer: Steven Glickstein. (He is in New York.) Glickstein is handling the ATCA litigation.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom: Sheila Birnbaum. (She is in New York.) Birnbaum is handling the ATCA litigation.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges: Faith Gay and Kathleen Sullivan. (They are in New York.) The firm is advising on ATCA matters.

Madu, Edozie & Madu: John Edozie. (He is in New York.) Edozie helped defend mass torts at a previous firm.

Punuka Attorneys & Solicitors: Chief Anthony Idigbe. (He is in Lagos, Nigeria.)

India Inc.'s Labor Pains

Courtesy: Reuters blog

Read Business Standard's Shyamal Majumdar's column here about the murders of top-level management executives in India.

Update on October 5, 2009. Read Mint's series on lack of industrial safety in India.
Conspiracy of silence obscures numbers