U.S. official asks to keep lid on Union Carbide case

Indian-U.S. relations are going to be pretty important for the foreseeable future. I'd imagine, then, that implicitly threatening the victims of the Bhopal Union Carbide (now owned by Dow Chemical) disaster of 1984 to be quiet or else isn't a very smart thing.

Apparently deputy National Security Adviser Mike Froman didn't get that memo.

India's Planning Commission deputy chairman sent Froman an e-mail requesting U.S. assistance in securing a loan from the World Bank. Froman replied that he'd look into it, and then proceded to lose all common sense:

While I've got you, we are hearing a lot of noise about the Dow Chemical issue. I trust that you are monitoring it carefully... I am not familiar with all the details, but I think we want to avoid developments which put a chilling effect on our investment relationship.

In case, like Froman, you're not familiar with the details of Bhopal, 25 years ago, a large amount of methyl isocyanate leaked from the plant and spread over the city, killing at least 3,000 immediately and contributing to the deaths of approximately 25,000 more. Local journalists had repeatedly warned that the plant suffered from lax safety regulations to no avail. Birth defects, cancers, growth deficiency, and other health issues are abnormally high in the affected area.

Finally last June employees of the plant received punishment. Local Indian managers were convicted, but received what were perceived as little more than slaps on the wrist. Campaigners have demanded Union Carbide -- including then chairman Warren Anderson -- itself be reprimanded, but no action has been forthcoming. Amnesty International called the convictions "too little, too late." 

Making Froman's e-mail even more asinine, his threat wasn't even credible. Regardless of further actions taken against Dow Chemical, the U.S. is going to invest a lot of money into India for both geopolitical and economic reasons -- making Froman's message one that really should have stayed in his drafts folder.


Burlington Coat Factory imam to tell Middle Easterners how great it is to be an American Muslim

Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Kuwait-born imam at the center of the Burlington Coat Factory Community Center controversy, landed in Bahrain Thursday to begin a short tour of Persian Gulf countries.

He's on a trip funded by the State Department,  whose ostensible purpose is to educate Muslims abroad about how great it is to be a Muslim in the United States of America. He's even written a book about the subject, titled What's Right With Islam, which the State Department has distributed in the past (one edition is called What's Right With Islam Is What's Right With America).

In other words ... the cleric's mission is to tell Middle Easterners how the United States is a bastion of tolerance, even as he's subject to an increasingly vicious campaign back home -- when he's not being compared to Nazis, he's being called a terrorist sympathizer, or worse. This is a guy who stood before a synagogue audience in 2003 and declared, "I am a Jew." Gotta love the irony.

UPDATE: I got a call earlier this afternoon from a representative of the Burlington Coat Factory, who politely asked me to change the title of this post and the reference to the company, since it no longer owned the site where the Cordoba Initiative is planning to build its community center. I declined, explaining that I was making a joke (one that has been widely shared on the Internets). She then told me that the Associated Press had issued guidelines to its reporters telling them to refer to it as an "NYC mosque." I told her I don't work for the AP.

Anyway, Jon Stewart, as usual, says it best: