[Marxism] What Texas and Bangladesh have in common

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 25 07:37:08 MDT 2013


 From today's NY Times:

Death Toll Hits 194 in Bangladeshi Building Collapse
By JULFIKAR ALI MANIK and JIM YARDLEY

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Search crews on Thursday clawed through the wreckage 
of a collapsed building that housed several factories making clothing 
for European and American consumers, with the death toll rising to at 
least 194 and many others still unaccounted for.

The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, an industrial suburb 
of Dhaka, the capital, came only five months after a horrific fire at a 
similar facility prompted leading multinational brands to pledge to work 
to improve safety in the country’s booming but POORLY REGULATED garment 
industry.

By early Thursday, police officials reported that more than 1,000 of the 
2,500 workers were injured, with many of them still trapped. Soldiers, 
paramilitary police officers, firefighters and other citizens were 
enlisted in the search for survivors and bodies.

Brig. Gen. Ali Ahmed Khan, head of the National Fire Service, said that 
an initial investigation found that the Rana Plaza building violated 
codes, with the four upper floors having been constructed illegally 
without permits.

“There was a structural fault as well,” General Khan added, noting that 
the building’s foundation was substandard.

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April 24, 2013
Texas Fertilizer Plant Fell Through Regulatory Cracks
By MANNY FERNANDEZ and STEVEN GREENHOUSE

WEST, Tex. — In the moments after a fire broke out at a fertilizer plant 
here last week, some of the volunteer firefighters and other first 
responders who rushed to the scene appeared to have known that there 
were tons of dangerously combustible ammonium nitrate inside, but others 
did not.

Ammonium nitrate is the same chemical that Timothy McVeigh used in the 
Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The nitrogen-rich chemical, a 
crystal-like substance that resembles  coarse table salt, is popular 
with farmers as a fertilizer but in the wrong hands or in the wrong 
conditions it can turn explosive. Investigators say that the ammonium 
nitrate stored at the plant appeared to have caused the subsequent 
explosion that killed 10 firefighters and at least 4 civilians.

The uncertainty over who was aware of the chemical at the plant and who 
was not, both at the site and in Washington, illustrates the patchwork 
regulatory world the plant operated in and the ways in which it slipped 
through bureaucratic cracks at the federal, state and local levels.

One week after the blast, investigators were still not sure how much 
ammonium nitrate was stored there, whether it had been stored properly 
and which agencies had been informed about it — even though a host of 
federal, state and local officials were responsible for regulating and 
monitoring the plant’s operations and products.

Many safety decisions — including moves in recent years to build homes, 
schools and a nursing home not far from the decades-old plant — were 
left to local officials who often did not have the expertise to assess 
the dangers. And the gaps in the oversight of the plant and a paper 
trail of records have left the essential question of how and why the 
ammonium nitrate ignited a mystery.

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