Sunday, May 22, 2016

Veterans' Agent Orange lawsuits refused — but their war continues

A contractor agency hired by the U.S. government to review thousands of veterans' refund claims for exposure to Agent Orange recently refused them. Whistleblower attorneys decided to appeal the denial, claiming that they defrauded the federal government.
During the Vietnam War, U.S. military sprayed an herbicide called "Agent Orange" in the Vietnamese and Korean jungles to remove the dense vegetation where enemy soldiers lay in ambush. The tactical weed killer contained the controversial glyphosate, as well as dangerous levels of toxic dioxins, which are classified as human carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determined that soldiers who were exposed to this chemical substance during the war could be eligible for compensation for any disability or disease linked to exposure. Recently, the U.S. government hired a contractor agency called QTC Medical Services to review all the cases, leading to numerous denials. One of their former claims and file analysts, Dr. David Vatan, explained that reviewers were put under enormous pressure to review more than 160,000 applications in a very short time span. Vatan told that many of them weren't properly trained for this job and after he complained about the lack of quality control he was threatened with disciplinary actions. Despite the fact that QTC was paid $350 to review each file more than two inches thick, analysts had less than two minutes to read each one of them. This is not the first time that the VA is under the eye of the storm, however. Dozens of cases of VA malpractice get filed every day, and many senior executives have been fired for incompetence or malfeasance in recent times. To avoid further scandals and lawsuits by whistleblowers attorneys, last week the U.S. Senate promised a massive veterans reform package that should "change the agency to a more veteran-friendly culture."
QTC Medical Services was founded by former VA Secretary Anthony Principi.

Agent Orange's legacy continues to haunt Vietnam and Veterans

It's been more than 40 years since American troops left Vietnam.
President Obama will make his first visit to the country next week. While meeting with Vietnam's president, they'll discuss human rights, an arms embargo and cleaning up sites contaminated with Agent Orange, the chemical used by American troops to clear jungles.
Most tourists arriving at the new Danang International Airport don't know it's been one of Vietnam's most contaminated Agent Orange sites, with dioxin levels in some areas 350 times international safety standards.
"Nor did I, when I was based here in the 1970s as a marine aviator," said Larry Vetter, a Vietnam veteran.
"The Agent Orange defoliant used during the war and stored in Danang and other airbases, leaked into the surrounding areas and is believed to have contaminated local water sources, according to Canadian researchers," he said.
"In this area next to the airport, you have people with dioxin levels in their blood 100 times the safe levels and women whose breast milk is four times the safe levels," said Vetter.
Vetter, also a former Marine based in Danang during the war moved to Vietnam four years ago after recovering from prostate cancer, one of the presumed Agent Orange-related illnesses, which nearly 700,000 American vets are being compensated for.
Vetter has used his V.A. disability benefits for Agent Orange to help two Vietnamese boys severely crippled by presumed Agent Orange illnesses.

Agent Orange Benefits for Deep-Water Vets Languish on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON -- A proposal to extend health coverage for Agent Orange exposure to Vietnam-era Navy veterans has the type of backing in Congress that normally would make supporters hopeful.
In the House, a bill granting the benefits has garnered a whopping 320 sponsors -- almost 75 percent of all members have signed on in support. Nearly half of all senators also support extending benefits to the so-called "blue water" sailors who served aboard ships in ports and surrounding ocean during the Vietnam War.

"If you served just offshore, you don't have presumed coverage," said Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., a retired Army colonel who sponsored the House bill. "Members of Congress have to fight case by case ... It should not have to be that way, they should get presumed coverage."
But the legislation has collected dust for a year, failing to move past House and Senate veteran affairs committees that serve as a crucial first step on the road to making the benefits law. The Republican chairmen of these committees are skeptical of the science behind the exposure claims and concerned about the cost of new benefits. This has held up the proposals, frustrating supporters.
The window for Congress to act might be closing -- despite the support -- as lawmakers face the long summer recess, a fall schedule dominated by the presidential election and the end of the legislative session in December.
Gibson, Senate lawmakers and veterans groups, including Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars, were set to rally on Capitol Hill on Wednesday in hopes of finally moving the bills ahead. The expansion of coverage has been sought by veterans for a decade.
"We've never been in a stronger position to get it passed," Gibson said.
Some veteran sailors contend dioxin-tainted herbicide runoff was sucked up through their ships' water filtration systems and piped to crew, sometimes at concentrated levels.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Agent Orange Town Hall Meetings





Check the calendar


May 21, 2016
Livonia, Michigan
Contact: Bob Dew
June 4, 2016
Buckhead, North Carolina
Contact: Rossie Nance
June 10, 2016
Reading, Pennsylvania
Contact: Dale Derr
June 11, 2016
Ponca City, Oklahoma
Contact: Marie Mayo
July 9, 2016
Amarillo, Texas
Luther "Buster" Newberry

July 21, 2016
Tucson, Arizona
VVA National Conference
Hilton El Conquistador
Contact: Mokie Porter
August 6, 2016
Appleton, Wisconsin
Appleton, WI 54912-2277
Contact: Michael Demske
August 25, 2016
Long Beach, California
Contact: Max Stewart
President of VVA Chapter 756
August 27, 2016
St. Louis, Missouri
Contact: Bill Kiefer
September 18, 2016
Kenilworth, New Jersey
Michael Eckstein, Chair

Bayer offers to buy Monsanto in global agrochemicals shakeout

German drugs and chemicals group Bayer has made an unsolicited takeover proposal to U.S. seeds company Monsanto, aiming to create the world's biggest agricultural supplier and take advantage of converging pesticides and seeds markets.
Monsanto disclosed the approach on Wednesday before Bayer confirmed its move, though neither released proposed terms.
The $42 billion market capitalization of Monsanto means that the deal would be likely to eclipse ChemChina's planned acquisition of Swiss agrichemicals company Syngenta -- a target Monsanto itself pursued last year -- and could face U.S. antitrust hurdles.
A Monsanto statement said that its board was reviewing the proposal, which is subject to due diligence, regulatory approvals and other conditions. There is no assurance that any transaction will take place, it added. Bayer shares dropped more than 8 percent to a 2-1/2 year low of 88.39 euros in early Thursday trading, with some investors worried by the potential cost of a deal.
Monsanto shares were seen 7.6 percent higher at $104.50 in pre-market trades.
UBS Global Asset Management, which Reuters data shows is among Bayer's 30 biggest investors, said it was "deeply concerned" about the burden on Bayer's finances from a takeover, saying it would prefer the companies to agree a joint venture or a nil-premium merger.
Deutsche Bank analysts said a deal could shift Bayer's center of gravity to agriculture, accounting for about 55 percent of core earnings, up from roughly 28 percent last year excluding the Covestro chemicals business Bayer plans to sell.
That would have a negative impact on sentiment among Bayer's healthcare-focused investor base, the bank said.
During World War II Bayer was part of I.G. Farben, the German chemical conglomerate that used slave labor and manufactured Xyklon B, used in the gas chambers during the Holocaust.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Agent Orange benefits for deep-water Navy vets languish on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON — A proposal to extend health coverage for Agent Orange exposure to Vietnam-era Navy veterans has the type of backing in Congress that normally would make supporters hopeful.
In the House, a bill granting the benefits has garnered a whopping 320 sponsors – almost 75 percent of all members have signed on in support. Nearly half of all senators also support extending benefits to the so-called “blue water” sailors who served aboard ships in ports and surrounding ocean during the Vietnam War.
“If you served just offshore, you don’t have presumed coverage,” said Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., a retired Army colonel who sponsored the House bill. “Members of Congress have to fight case by case … It should not have to be that way, they should get presumed coverage.”
But the legislation has collected dust for a year, failing to move past House and Senate veteran affairs committees that serve as a crucial first step on the road to making the benefits law. The Republican chairmen of these committees are skeptical of the science behind the exposure claims and concerned about the cost of new benefits. This has held up the proposals, frustrating supporters.
The window for Congress to act might be closing – despite the support -- as lawmakers face the long summer recess, a fall schedule dominated by the presidential election and the end of the legislative session in December.
Gibson, Senate lawmakers and veterans groups, including Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars, were set to rally on Capitol Hill on Wednesday in hopes of finally moving the bills ahead. The expansion of coverage has been sought by veterans for a decade.
“We’ve never been in a stronger positon to get it passed,” Gibson said.

Discrepancies in incinerator dioxin figures questioned

Discrepancies in figures on dioxin levels supplied by Indaver in support of its planning application for a €160 million waste incinerator at Ringaskiddy in Cork Harbour call into question the veracity of documentation supplied by the company, a planning inspector has said.

An Bord Plean├íla senior inspector Derek Daly, who is chairing the oral hearing into Indaver’s application for the 240,000 tonne incinerator, said he was very concerned after it emerged there were discrepancies in some of the data being supplied by the company.
The issue came to light when Dr Gordon Reid of the Green Party questioned the dioxin figures submitted by Indaver in its Environmental Impact Statement as part of its planning application for the facility under the Planning and Development Strategic Infrastructure Act.
Dr Reid pointed out that dioxin tables which purport to be modelled using 2015 soil samples from the vicinity of the proposed incinerator at Ringaskidddy are identical to dioxin tables submitted with Indaver’s 2008 planning application for an incinerator at the same site.
Dr Reid also pointed out that the dioxin tables were the same as those submitted by a rendering company, College Proteins, in its 2008 in its planning application for an incinerator at Nobber in Co Meath.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Media Advisory: Lawmakers, Veterans host press conference on Agent Orange legislation Wednesday, May 18

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                          
May 16, 2016
Contact: Matt Sheehey
202-225-5614 or
matt.sheehey@mail.house.gov
Media Advisory: Lawmakers, Veterans host press conference on Agent Orange legislation Wednesday, May 18
Washington, DC – Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19) and several Members of Congress and U.S. Senators will gather with Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans, military families, members of Veterans Service Organizations, and other allies this week for a press conference on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R. 969, S. 681), a bipartisan bill in support of Navy and Marine Corps personnel and other Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service aboard vessels off the coast of Vietnam and now have serious illnesses that are directly connected to that exposure.
Congressman Gibson said, “Sadly, we’re losing these Veterans every day to a host of illnesses caused by drinking, bathing in, and otherwise being exposed to water contaminated by Agent Orange. This water was drawn into shipboard desalination units after mixing with runoff from Vietnamese rivers, as well as being brought to these ships from barges transporting water from heavily sprayed inland areas. The VA suspects the water was toxic, but for decades this agency has denied presumptive coverage to these brave men and their families because proof of exposure, even for those having touched land, is impossible to certify. Our bill corrects this injustice, and we are gathering together this week to see that Congress takes action now.”
 
The press conference details are as follows:
Date: Wednesday, May 18
Time: 1 PM
 
Location: House Triangle, East Front of the U.S. Capitol. In case of rain, the event will move to Room 441 in the Cannon House Office Building.
Expected Attendees: Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Steve Daines (MT), Representatives Chris Gibson (NY-19), Paul Tonko (NY-20), David Valadao (CA-21), Leonard Lance (NJ-7), Bill Johnson (OH-6), Roger Williams (TX-25), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Ryan Costello (PA-06), and Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans, military families, members of Veterans Service Organizations, and other supporters.
Media Note: Members of the media will have the opportunity to ask questions.
Matt Sheehey
Press Secretary
Office of Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19)
1708 Longworth House Office Building

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pepsi, Frito-Lay Quietly Adding GMO Ingredient Labels To Some Foods

Whether or not you agree with mandatory labeling for foods containing genetically modified or genetically engineered ingredients, the Vermont law requiring this information on food sold in that state will go into effect on the first of July. Some companies — including Mars, Campbell Soup, and General Mills — have announced decisions to implement these labels nationwide, while PepsiCo appears to be quietly putting labels on its products.

And it’s not just Pepsi beverages. The company’s snack foods are also getting the new labels, which, as you can see from the soda can example, are not the invasive in-your-face bursts or banners that opponents of the labels have made them out to be.
Not far from Consumer Reports HQ in New York, CU also found some Lay’s potato chips — produced by the folks at PepsiCo subsidiary Frito-Lay — with similar language placed in an unobtrusive (arguably hard to find) spot on the back of the bag.
We’ve reached out to PepsiCo for comment and clarification on the extent to which it intends to introduce these labels, but have not yet heard back.
However, a Frito-Lay customer service rep did tell Consumers Union that the company does plan to label products on a nationwide basis, and that the “Partial” terminology can be used on any product that uses less than 75% of ingredients from GMO sources.
 

Pesticides, Other Toxins Again Linked to Increased ALS

Researchers have provided more evidence that exposure to toxic environmental pollutants raises the risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Unlike previous research, the new study used both surveys and measurement of toxic chemicals in blood.
"This is not going to alter treatment at this point, but it really helps us think about the types of things we can do to prevent ongoing leakage of chemicals, and limit the pollution that we put into the environment, because it does have an impact, we believe, on disease," study author Stephen A. Goutman, MD, assistant professor and director, ALS Clinic, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, told Medscape Medical News.
The study was published online May 6 in JAMA Neurology.
From a tertiary center in Michigan, researchers identified 156 patients with ALS and recruited 128 controls with no ALS or family history of any neurodegenerative disorder.
They determined likely exposures through self-administered questionnaires on occupational and residential history, and military service, and collected other information on smoking history and demographic characteristics.
From blood samples, they examined concentrations of 122 environmental organic pollutants, including organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which were chemicals used as coolants or lubricants in electrical equipment, and brominated flame retardants (BFRs).
Investigators accounted for confounding variables, including tobacco use, age, sex, education level, marital status, ethnicity, and military service.
The analyses showed a consistent association between occupational pesticide exposure and ALS. For any past exposure, the odds ratio (OR) was 5.09 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.85 - 13.99; P < .01).
Ever having worked for the US Armed Forces was also associated with increased ALS risk (OR, 2.31; 95% CI, 1.02 - 5.25; P < .05).
Military Link
The link between being in the armed forces and ALS isn't new, said Dr Goutman. Theories possibly explaining the association include increased exposure to chemicals used during conflicts (especially during the first Gulf war), increased physical activity, multiple vaccinations, and traumatic injury.
Unexpectedly, occupational exposure to lead showed a statistically significant protective effect for ALS (OR, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.13 - 0.81; P < .05).
Dr Goutman said this requires additional follow-up but pointed out that lead was not measured in blood and that the protective effect was seen only when the authors looked at occupational exposure recalled over a lifetime, not at individual exposure time windows of susceptibility.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Upcoming Agent Orange Town Hall Meetings







May 14, 2016

Swartz Creek, Michigan

To preregister by email:


Contact: Debbie Erwin  DandDerwin@aol.com

Contact: Al Decker Adecker47@comcast.net




May 14, 2016

Dahlonega, Georgia

Contact: Bill Martin  706-809-2573

Fred Weil 770-313-4328



May 14, 2016

Lancaster , New Hampshire

Contact Russell Wyatt 603-991-9212




May 15, 2016

Port Monmouth, New Jersey

Contact: Mike Eckstein mre1065@gmail.com




May 21, 2016

Livonia, Michigan

Contact: Bob Dew bdew99@sbcglobal.net



June 10, 2016

Reading, Pennsylvania

Contact: Dale Derr





June 11, 2016

Ponca City, Oklahoma

Contact: Marie Mayo  580-628-0085;




July 9, 2016

Amarillo, Texas

Luther "Buster" Newberry Luther844@aol.com



July 21, 2016

Tucson, Arizona

VVA National Conference

Contact: Mokie Porter




August 6, 2016

Appleton, Wisconsin

Contact: Michael Demske michael.demske@yahoo.com



August 25, 2016

Long Beach, California

Contact: Max Stewart aircop72@gmail.com



August 27, 2016

St. Louis, Missouri

Contact: Bill Kiefer 314-363-8707




September 18, 2016

Kenilworth, New Jersey

Michael Eckstein, Chair (201) 803-2943