Saturday, August 14, 2010

Nuclear Bill: It isn't the money stupid!

The judicial tragedy following the Bhopal gas incident has led to many analysts questioning the current clauses in the Liability Bill. The opinion demographic is starting to contort against the government mandate. Skeptics have placed rhetorical emphasis that the bill if passed, would mean the government has not learned from the Union Carbide fracas. However, one must realize that if the union government does go through with the bill it would not have crossed the Rubicon. The bill might actually allow adroit institutional response to grievances in the event of a nuclear catastrophe.
One of the central concerns is the current liability cap at Rs. 500 Crores. First, the cap limits are open to adaptations and may be increased by government notification. The limits are much higher than the financial liability limits in Canada or France. In addition, the bill directs the government to pay a part of the liability. The opposition cites it as a direct burden channel to the taxpayer’s money. The opposition is trivial to the sense that a government channel might allow distribution of liabilities rather deftly, than the case if it had been of the private player’s alone. The current clauses are a welcome depart from the Vienna and Paris convention that majority of the nuclear players had signed. India is not a co-signatory but the current bill is well a cut above those ensured by Vienna and Paris conventions.
News media was rife with concerns during the penultimate court hearings that the Indian government was vulnerable to DOW Chemicals’ rhetoric. DOW Chemical took over Union Carbide following the Bhopal tragedy and an imploding financial bottom line. It lobbied among various government quarters to exonerate itself from the inherited debts and to a certain level succeeded. However, the bill places the responsibility on the current operator. The operator would pay for its criminal negligence even if it arises out of faulty equipment. The capped amount would not be open to trial.
Secondly, private players have cajoled the government for a long time to allow Indian private players to the nuclear power sector. There are chances that the government might wield to business groups. In such an event and under the normal scheme of things (if it wasn’t for the present bill), an Indian group would have de facto invited a majority of foreign equity. Following a nuclear tragedy, the overseas player’s recourse, as we have been witness to the past, would be bankruptcy. Not with the status quo, the current operator would have to bear the financial responsibility along with the Union Government.
The “Liabilities Bill in the event of a nuclear accident” goes well beyond international rubric. Policy analysts realize that India does rely on nuclear power to tackle its future energy problems. If the bill is amended to include suppliers and procurement agents, the bill would have delivered to the real schlep that it was.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Five second rule

#56 Five Second Rule
The five-second rule is a fable, a childhood guise to satiate temptations and exculpate the guilt of eating food that has lost its clean. For the unfamiliar, five-second rule promulgates that; it is safe to eat food if it falls on a floor, provided it is recovered within five seconds. It has evolved within the matrix of various cultures and gastronomic literature. According to a legend, when Genghis Khan prepared food for his military, it was supposed to be impervious to spore or any decadence. The food was edible as long as the ruler allowed it was, for if the food was prepared for Khan, it was sacred and edible indefinitely. There are traces of the same in Russian literature as well.

The notion however puerile has many believers and it is not even a cult. A survey confirms that 70 percent women and 56 percent men in the States believe the same. There are a number of variations to it, like the food is safe as long as it remains in your sight, the Australian version extends to thirty seconds, there is another, that if you are intoxicated the rule extends to ten seconds or beyond. Some argue that it is so because the ingested alcohol increases the acidity in your stomach and helps extirpate those germs that the pie might have picked along.

Keeping aside the folk lore, a scientific insight seems to ridicule the five to filth notion. Jillian Clarke, a high school intern at the University of Illinois(2006) conducted the first experiments. A number of ceramic tiles were contaminated with E.coli bacteria, consequently food was placed on them for the mandatory five seconds and analyzed; the samples invariably picked up a noticeable amount of bacteria within five seconds. The researchers however, acknowledged the limitation that the concentrations on tiles were much more than what actually lurk on ordinary floors. The lab floors did not even have observable traces of the microbes under investigation.

An advanced research carried out by Prof. Dawson at Clemson University branched into a study involving salmonella on different surfaces viz. nylon carpet, wood and tile. The salmonella managed to survive for four weeks, carpets being the most congenial of these surfaces. Researchers then placed food on these surfaces for varying amounts of time. The bits recovered after five seconds contained ten times lesser bacteria than the samples analyzed after a minute. The stickiness for bacteria varied with moisture or succulence. But, how much of a microbe is safe for ingestion?

None, and that is as far as salmonella is concerned. Even tens of these can cause infection and illness, hundreds for E.coli. There are of course, different degrees of bacterial affliction for various foods, but by the time you are actually done thinking, chances are five seconds would be long gone.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Global Warming: Oh Baloney!

James Delingpole is busier than ever; on news channels, opinion columns and environmental blogs. He is a Global warming skeptic or a “self righteous, deluded conservative” as his counterparts call him. Delingpole’s blog has had a surge in visitors the past week owing to his novelty to the journalistic lexicon, Climategate, the scandal that threatens to denigrate the global warming claims altogether and the associated academia with it.

The Climategate controversy unfolded with the leak of emails exchanged between Climatologists of the Climate Research Unit (CRU), University of East Anglia. These were hacked and posted at the Air Vent blog. The academicians at the centre of the broil were shown to have indulged in illicit manipulation of the data. There were clear instances of specific deletion that weakened alarming GW claims, and colluded purging of dissenting scientists from the body. These apparent dissenting scientists were pivotal to the peer review process of CRU’s findings and research. According to an analysis by The Guardian, the vast majority of the emails related to four climatologists: Phil Jones, the head of the CRU; Tim Osborn, a climate modeller; Mike Hulme, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research; and Michael E. Mann of Pennsylvania State University (PSU), one of the originators of the graph of temperature trends dubbed the “hockey stick graph”.

IPCC’ 1995 report endorsed the “hockey stick” curve paraphrasing the whole finding as “a discernable human influence on global climate”, which in the existing circumstances seems ludicrous. The panel’s ensuing climatic claims and their magnitude drew dissension from various scientific communities. Its claim of the Himalayan glaciers vitiating against the rising temperatures by 2035, was questioned by the reports of Indian Glaciologists (which Rajendra Pachauri, Chief of IPCC, spurned as a “Voodoo Science”). They reproached the IPCC report as premature and shallow. What is unsettling is that IPCC serves as a direct advisory to the United Nations. It is unbecoming for a cardinal environmental organization to be at the centre of such controversies.

The immediate fallout of the Climategate crisis would be journalistic intimidation of the climate alarmists, media scrutiny of the concealed CRU literature and a shift in opinion demographics. 59 percent of the United Kingdom no longer believes in anthropogenic global warming, while in Germany the figure is around 60 percent. Such public derision may comprehensively debase the environmental research.

Is Anthropogenic Global Warming as serious as it purports to be? The human Carbon dioxide contribution is a mere 2 percent and many believe that heating of earth is an unavoidable temperature cycle. Environmentalists need to bolster the trust of the populace and sponsoring political regimes before this scientific edifice is decimated.