Tens of Millions Dead
China’s been in the news more and more lately, and not just because of contaminated pet food.
That was bad enough, of course — the idea that feeding your dog or cat a regular part of its regular diet might end up killing the poor animal is awful for any pet owner to contemplate. But it’s not just limited to pet food; medicines, toothpastes and even human foods have been indicted as contaminated. It eventually became so bad that Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of China’s State Food and Drug Administration, was killed for his extreme negligence and outright corruption.
But it’s not really getting better over there, is it? Mattel has had to recall something on the order of 9 million Chinese-manufactured toys because of high levels of lead in paint, and because, apparently, small but powerful magnets used in some toys represent pinch hazards.
This is pretty significant. There’s a history of corruption that clearly did not end with either the removal — or the killing — of Zheng Xiaoyu. It’s a very safe bet that what we’re seeing here is a more or less literal iceberg’s tip.
Why this should matter is the Three Gorges Dam project.
There’s already a history of corruption behind this project — a dam to control the Yangtze — which is slated for completion in the next couple of years. We can assume that inferior materials have been used in the dam’s construction, just as inferior materials have poisoned the food, medicine and toothpaste supply — as well as the toy lines — coming from China. And, given that the dam is resting atop a known fault line, and that its filled reservoir will put tremendous stress on the strata that lie beneath it, I think we can start counting the time left before failure in years, not in decades.
If (or, quite likely, when) the dam fails, particularly if it happens during the wet season, we’ll be looking at a downstream level of devastation that’s nearly impossible to conceive. We won’t be looking at a few hundred, or even a few thousand, dead; we’ll be looking at millions, possibly tens of millions.
…in Africa, too
And, in an interesting reversal of its own policies, Bush’s AIDS prevention plans in Africa are going to start funding circumcision.
This on the heels of a report that circumcised men seem to have 60% fewer incidences of HIV infection — at least among vulnerable populations. It seems the foreskin, in keeping the cells of the glans penis moist, also allows them to become more vulnerable to HIV infection.
The problem is the schizophrenic message. A lot of African peoples have ceased the practice of circumcision under pressure from the West, on the argument that it’s barbaric.
And, of course, you’d have to be a moron of Bush’s magnitude not to understand what’s going to happen to the sexual behavior of circumcised men. It’s been hard enough to convince them to use condoms; now, with the magical shield of circumcision (and the magical thinking accompanying it), we can be fairly certain that unprotected sex will resurge in numbers not seen in two decades or more.
This decision will not reduce the spread of HIV. It’ll multiply it exponentially.
Even when they get it right and finally fess up to the validity of science, the Bush administration still somehow manages to make the wrong decisions.
We won’t see fallout from either of these developments in the immediate future; these are, however, sure to be crises that will affect the entire planet by, say, 2025. The difference will be that the Chinese disaster will kill millions in a few hours; the African one will do the same over a few years.
Hopefully, the US will have managed to withdraw from Iraq by then, and will be able to offer humanitarian aid to a desperate and devastated China — as well as to an Africa wherein one in four will be AIDS-symptomatic.
But I’m sure that the religious amongst us will be able to mollify themselves with the certainty that the human suffering on such a vast scale was really the will of a loving, if psychotic, God, simply punishing the unbelievers as He is wont to do.
And, of course, we’ll all be able to rest assured that no one could have seen it coming.
UPDATE: Apparently the magnets don’t represent pinch hazards, but they can come loose and are a choke/swallow hazard.
Damage control includes statements to the effect that toy recalls are common. That might or might not be true, in a relative sense. What’s unusual is the sheer volume of defective products and the broad scale of the problem.
Also, if you’re thinking of buying a bike for yourself or a child, avoid the Wal-Mart Chinese-manufactured NEXT brand. For one thing they’re steel and insanely heavy; but, more significantly, the front forks have a history of breaking off due to defective welds, sending the rider headfirst over the bike’s frame. This has led to some genuinely tragic disfigurements requiring years of surgery to correct, where possible.
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