The recent catastrophe in a West Virginia mine where almost a dozen miners were killed even wiped Iraq out of the headlines for a few days, maybe even a week. My symphathies and condolences to the bereaved families. I want to note here my gratitude for freedom of the press in America--a freedom to which very few contries are privileged. Further, my gratitude for Americans' concern for fellow Americans and justice. And here is a perfect humbling contrast. According to the Guardian, more than 5,000 Chinese miners are killed each year, 75% of the global total, even though the country produces only a third of the world's coal. Recently, 216 miners were killed at a mine in north-east China in the most deadly accident in 50 years. Last October, another gas explosion killed 148. Countless other accidents at small unregistered mines go unreported because the owners - often in collusion with local officials - buy off or threaten the victims' families. Very little is heard about this in the Chinese press and even so, there is hardly any outcry from ordinary citizens.
Another recent example, as reported by the NY Times, in yet another toxic spill in a tributary of the Yangtze river, this time in the south, the official EPA report claimed that cadmium (used in batteries) levels in the Xiangjiang River were still "one or two times above national standard, but did not represent an immediate public health hazard." That iBut the provincial environmental administration said just on Sunday that cadmium levels in the river were still 22 to 40 times above standard.