Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Passing Down Poison: Grandchildren of contaminated veterans showing birth defects

this story courtesy of Betty Mekdeci & Paul Sutton

I thought you might like to see this interview on the transgenerational effects of Agent Orange done by an investigative reporter from Channel 9, the NBC affiliate in Tampa.


Best regards, 
Betty Mekdeci
Executive Director
Birth Defect Research for Children
407-895-0802


Birth defects and heart problems are showing up not only in the children, but the grandchildren of veterans who served in America's military during the Vietnam War. 
The question is whether Agent Orange, a powerful poison sprayed by the military to wipe out vegetation, is a contributing factor. 
Emma Ackerson, 9, of Holiday, looks like any other little girl playing her with dog.
But this list of Emma's medical problems keeps growing:
  • Connective tissue disorder, which is EDS ( Ehlers Danlos syndrome)
  • Hypermobility 
  • Vision problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sleep apnea
  • Epilepsy (benign occipital epilepsy)
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Dysautonomia
  • Long QT syndrome
  • Joint pain
  • GI problems
  • Migraines
  • Acid reflux 
  • Arrhythmias
  • Balance problems 
  • Emma suffers headaches and stomach pain, as well as heart problems.

Service members believe suicides are linked to use of anti-malaria drug

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Veterans allege the weekly anti-malarial drug they were ordered to take during deployments does not show up in their military medical records. Many say that has hindered their ability to get the help from the VA that they desperately need.
If you served in the United States military or traveled to a part of the world that's prone to malaria, you may have been prescribed a small white pill called Mefloquine, sold under the brand name, Lariam.
Many veterans, former Peace Corps volunteers and other world travelers now say that weekly anti-malarial pill ravaged their lives, causing psychiatric and physical damage that is getting progressively worse each year.
An Army veteran named Sean, who asked us to withhold his last name, said he took mefloquine while serving in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2004. He was 21 years old and didn't consider questioning orders.
What Sean didn't expect was that weekly dosage over the course of his deployment wouldn't show up in his medical records. He said he's "100% sure" he took mefloquine.
That disconnect has left him frustrated and angry when he's sought VA benefits related to the depression, anxiety, insomnia and vertigo that plague his life now, at the age of 35.
"I’ve resubmitted claims multiple times to the VA and they’re saying, 'Oh, well, it’s not in your medical record,' said Sean.

Veterans fear Congress has forgotten about the military’s burn pit problems

WASHINGTON — For years, Veterans Affairs leaders and administration officials have promised they won’t let health issues surrounding burn pit exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan become another “Agent Orange” in the community.
Now, advocates and a handful of lawmakers are worried it already has.
“The level of awareness among members of Congress on the problems from burn pits is abysmally low,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii and an Army National Guard soldier who served in Iraq in 2004-2005. “Too few understand the urgency of the issue.”

Gabbard and Afghanistan war veteran Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., recently introduced new legislation dubbed the Burn Pits Accountability Act to require more in-depth monitoring of servicemembers’ health for signs of illnesses connected to toxic exposure in combat zones.

AUA 2018: The Impact of Agent Orange Exposure on Bladder Cancer

San Francisco, CA (UroToday.com) Agent Orange is a mixture of herbicides that were used during the Vietnam War to clear forest coverage that concealed opposition forces. Although early studies suggested that Agent Orange increases the risk of prostate cancer [1], more contemporary studies suggest that a correlation between Agent Orange exposure and risk of prostate cancer is not as concrete [2].  Less studied, is the potential impact of Agent Orange exposure and increased risk of bladder cancer. However, in 2014, the National Academy of Sciences reported that epidemiologic data was suggestive of an association between bladder cancer and Agent Orange exposure, based on evidence that higher levels of exposure are associated with an approximately 2-fold increase in death from bladder cancer (although as of 2016, it has since backed off of these concrete statements). To further assess a potential association between Agent Orange exposure and bladder cancer, Vikram Narayan, MD, and colleagues from the University of Minnesota presented results of their institutional study. As Vikram points out, there is little data regarding whether a perceived association between Agent Orange and bladder cancer is secondary to increased incidence, more aggressive disease or other factors, as well as taking into account prior/present tobacco use.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ailing 'Blue Water' Vets of Vietnam Near to Gaining VA Benefits

After months negotiating with Senate colleagues, the House Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to send to the full House a bill likely to become the vehicle to qualify 90,000 ailing sea service veterans for Agent Orange-related disability pay and health care from Department of Veterans Affairs.
These former naval warriors of the Vietnam War, called “Blue Water Navy Veterans,” have been pressuring Congress for decades to have their illnesses recognized as being caused, as likely as not, by exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides sprayed on forests and jungle areas during that long war.
The argument is that surely clouds of the toxin also reached ships patrolling in territorial waters or contaminated water that, once desalinated, was used by Sailors and Marines for showering and other purposes while steaming off the coast.
Veterans who served on the ground in Vietnam or patrolled its inland waters, even for a day, have been eligible for VA compensation and care if diagnosed with one of 14 ailments associated with Agent Orange exposure.  But independent U.S. scientists who studied the issue concluded in 2011 that they can’t find enough information to determine if Blue Water Navy veterans were exposed.
 As a result, VA refuses to presume their illnesses, though on the Agent Orange presumptive list, were likely caused by service off of Vietnam.  A lone exception is allowed for Blue Water veterans with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Veterans Go Back to Court Over Burn Pits. Do They Have a Chance?

On May 9, a federal appeals court heard oral arguments in a case about an explosive issue among U.S. veterans: the widespread use of burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the potential health consequences they suffered as a result.
The case, which dates back to 2008, consolidated dozens of lawsuits by hundreds of veterans and their families seeking to recover damages from the military contractor KBR Inc., but a trial court dismissed it in July 2017. It could be at a legal dead end unless the panel of judges, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., overturns the dismissal.
The plaintiffs accuse KBR of negligence for exposing them to toxic emissions from open-air trash fires known as burn pits, which they say cause respiratory, neurological and other health problems. In tossing the case last year, the trial court accepted KBR’s argument that the American military made the decision to use burn pits to dispose of trash on bases, and that federal courts cannot second-guess the executive branch’s wartime decisions.
One plaintiff, Lauren Price, a Navy veteran from Pasco County, Fla., who developed constrictive bronchiolitis after working at a burn pit in Baghdad, said in an interview that she has already given up hope. “I’ve stopped paying attention,” she said. After 10 years of litigation, the case is still at the procedural starting gates, and unless the plaintiffs eke out a win on appeal, it will be one of the biggest setbacks yet for tens of thousands of affected veterans who have received zero recompense despite years of advocacy by lawyers and nonprofits.

No good deed goes unpunished

The first time Jim Pawlukiewicz applied to become a U.S. citizen, he was building quonset huts and pulling guard duty in Bien Hoa, Vietnam.
It was July 1967. Pawlukiewicz was a 21-year-old U.S. Army specialist with B Company, 34th Engineering Battalion.
He’d been drafted in 1966. Once he got to Vietnam, he learned there was a naturalization office in Guam. So he mailed in a request to U.S. immigration offices: could he take leave to become a citizen?
The letter back was his first no.
“Sorry, but you have to have six months residency in Guam before you can apply,” the government responded.
That was almost 51 years ago. His latest rejection came last year, when the Chicago immigration office denied his paperwork because he’d entered dates in the European, not American, format.
His sister Georgia Ackerman helped him with that most recent request. After it, too, was rejected, she wrote to Military Times, enraged.
“I just want to ensure that someone receives his application and reviews it according to the laws of the United States,” Ackerman said. “The man is 71 years old and has had strokes, heart attacks and his bones are falling apart. I just want to see him have a country, this country, before he dies.”

Workers in Puerto Rico Could Be Exposed to BPA and Other Endocrine Disruptors

BPA is just one of many endocrine disruptors that workers in some industries could encounter through dermal contact or due to inhalation exposure.
In early 2018, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published informational about bisphenol A (BPA) and occupational exposures. BPA is a synthetic compound that is widely used in the production of polycarbonate plastics, epoxy resins, phenolic resins and some specialty waxes. These are found in industrial applications, consumer products and some food packaging.
In 2013 and 2014, NIOSH undertook a study to measure BPA exposure in U.S. manufacturing workers. The agency reports, “The NIOSH study included six companies that either made BPA, BPA-based resins, or made and used BPA-filled waxes.  A total of 78 workers participated in the study.  Over two consecutive work days, each participant provided seven urine samples.  BPA was measured in the samples.  On average, workers in the NIOSH study had BPA levels in their urine ~70 times higher than adults in the U.S. general population (based on data from the 2013-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a representative sample of the U.S general population).”

“Exposure to BPA is a health concern because it may mimic some of the hormone-effects of estrogen,” said Harry Pena, President of Zimmetry Environmental. “BPA is just one of many endocrine disruptors that workers in some industries could encounter through dermal contact or due to inhalation exposure. Other known or suspected endocrine disruptors include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), perchlorate, phthalates, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, DDT, fire retardants, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury.”

Ding Dong Thomas Murphy Is Demoted Following IG Report Release

In an email to coworkers today, acting Under Secretary for Benefits (USB) Thomas Murphy announced he is no longer the acting USB, and no longer working from Washington DC in Central Office. The announcement comes one week after IG released a whitewashed report that implicates Murphy and his subordinates in a contract deal gone bad.
Instead, Murphy is taking a new position as Midwest Area Director out of St. Louis.
Yes, this is a demotion on its face, but there is more to the story.
It comes as no surprise that Murphy lost his spot since he was not selected as a nominee for confirmation to run Veterans Benefits Administration, but his punt out of Central Office may surprise some following the IG report release that confirms at least some allegations of wrongdoing under Murphy’s watch.
Insiders familiar with the move say, under anonymity, that Murphy orchestrated a job for himself to protect his retirement since he lacked the number of years necessary to earn such. That means, Murphy, a well known Agent Orange denier, will never been held accountable for his direct actions wrongly denying severely disabled veterans the benefits to which they are entitled.

Agent Orange During the Vietnam War: The Lingering Issue of Its Civilian and Military Health Impact

Agent Orange During the Vietnam War: The Lingering Issue of Its Civilian and Military Health Impact
Accepted: March 13, 2018               Published Online: May 09, 2018
Between 1961 and 1971, US and Republic of Vietnam forces sprayed more than 20.2 million gallons of military herbicides to defoliate forests and mangroves in what was then South Vietnam to deny cover to enemy troops and make bombing targets more visible. Relatively small quantities (2%) were used for defoliation of military base perimeters; 9% of the total was used to destroy “unfriendly” crops as a means of reducing enemy food supplies. The herbicides were also used in the United States, but at application rates at least an order of magnitude lower and with somewhat differing formulations.
The military herbicides were nicknamed in accordance with the colored stripes on their 55-gallon drums. Agent Orange was a mixture of butoxyethanol esters of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T). Agent Blue, which consisted of dimethylarsinic acid (salt of cacodylic acid), was used primarily for crop destruction. Agent White was a mixture of 2,4-D and picloram. The herbicides that contained 2,4,5-T were contaminated with dioxin (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin [TCDD]). The extent and implications of the TCDD content were not widely known or appreciated until well into the 1970s, when 2,4,5-T was banned from most US domestic uses owing to evidence of its teratogenicity.

USAID and Vietnam sign agreement on dioxin remediation project

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The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Air Defence – Air Force Service under the Vietnamese Defence Ministry signed an agreement on non-refundable aid for a project on dioxin remediation in the Bien Hoa airport in Hanoi.
Michael Greene, Mission Director for USAID in Vietnam, and Lt. Gen. Le Huy Vinh, Commander of the Air Defence – Air Force Service, signed the document to start making plans for the process for the project.
Bien Hoa is the largest remaining dioxin hotspot in Vietnam. The assessment of Vietnam and the US on the dioxin reported that some 500,000 cu.m of dioxin-contaminated land in the airport needs to be treated. The successful dioxin decontamination in this area will contribute to reducing risks of dioxin exposure and affecting human health.
The project, estimated to cost USD 390 million, and the project will complete within 10 years. The US side vowed to collaborate with Vietnam and its Defence Ministry in addressing war consequences while continuing to foster bilateral economic, cultural and security relations.
The US has cooperated with Vietnam in dealing with humanitarian issues and war legacies, including removing post-war unexploded ordnances, identifying remains of servicemen missing in action and treating dioxin.
By the end of 2018, USAID and the Vietnamese Defence Ministry will complete a six-year project worth USD 110 million on dioxin decontamination in the Da Nang International Airport.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Happy Mother's Day to All Who Serve

What should men do about prostate cancer screening?

For years, men were urged to get a blood test looking for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which can be elevated by prostate cancer. Then, in 2012, the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), a government-sponsored but independent network of national experts in disease prevention and evidence-based medicine, said that PSA testing produced more harm than good. They stopped recommending it at all.
Now, that same group has finalized a tweak on those 2012 screening guidelines. Instead of bypassing PSA entirely, men ages 55 to 69 should have a conversation with their doctor about the risks and benefits before making their own decision on whether or not to get screened.
What patients need to know about new recommendations for prostate cancer screening
The task force says the change was largely driven by a 2014 study in Europe (European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer), according to a new statement and evidence review published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The European trial showed that a screening saved one prostate cancer deaths for every 1,000 men screened between ages 55 and 69. In four out of the seven countries in the European trial, screening also stopped three cases of prostate cancer from spreading for every 1,000 men screened.
Dr. Alex Krist, vice chairman of the USPSTF and a professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University, says the “extended follow up of 10 plus years in these studies, which was not available in 2012, contributed heavily” to the decision to modify the recommendations.
The extended follow up showed some men’s lives would be saved if they chose to be screened between the ages of 55 to 69. Of note, the committee still finds screening for men over the age of 70 to be inappropriate -- the evidence still suggests more harm than benefit in this age group.

They argued for decades Agent Orange affected them at sea. Congress is finally listening

After months negotiating with Senate colleagues, the House Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to send to the full House a bill likely to become the vehicle to qualify 90,000 ailing sea service veterans for Agent Orange-related disability pay and health care from Department of Veterans Affairs.
These former naval warriors of the Vietnam War, called “Blue Water Navy Veterans,” have been pressuring Congress for decades to have their illnesses recognized as being caused, as likely as not, by exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides sprayed on forests and jungle areas during that long war.
The argument is that surely clouds of the toxin also reached ships patrolling in territorial waters or contaminated water that, once desalinated, was used by Sailors and Marines for showering and other purposes while steaming off the coast.
Veterans who served on the ground in Vietnam or patrolled its inland waters, even for a day, have been eligible for VA compensation and care if diagnosed with one of 14 ailments associated with Agent Orange exposure. But independent U.S. scientists who studied the issue concluded in 2011 that they can’t find enough information to determine if Blue Water Navy veterans were exposed.

As a result, VA refuses to presume their illnesses, though on the Agent Orange presumptive list, were likely caused by service off of Vietnam. A lone exception is allowed for Blue Water veterans with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House committee, predicts the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017 (HR 299)will be signed into law this year. He credited the fact that he and hard-working committee staff, for the first time, found a way to cover the $1 billion cost without violating House budget rules against raising a department’s mandatory, or entitlement, spending.

Hasn't this been the plan? Finally awarded Agent Orange benefits, veteran succumbs to cancer the VA missed


TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) - As his wife Sheila held Lonnie Kilpatrick's hand, his daughter Kassie recorded some of his last words. 
The Navy veteran said there is a reason for everything - his struggle with the VA, his impending death.
"Make something out of it, make it count," Lonnie said in a weak voice.
We met Lonnie in February, shortly after he learned Stage 4 kidney cancer had spread through his body.
"That hit me like a ton of bricks," he told us from his bed in Holiday in February.
For good reason. For four years, doctors at the VA at Bay Pines said his back pain was arthritis and disc related.
"Just couldn't get nobody to take it serious that, hey I've lost 50 pounds," explained Lonnie at the time.
The VA treated Lonnie for kidney cancer in 2013, pronounced him cancer-free, then missed its recurrence. 
"You know you're going to lose him and that could have been prevented if the VA had followed up," said daughter Keri Ackerson.
"I'm mad because this should never have happened, this should never happen to anybody," his wife Sheila stated.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Lawmakers launch new effort to provide Agent Orange coverage for 'Blue Water' Navy vets

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers are resuming an effort that stalled in November to extend health benefits to about 90,000 sailors who served in Vietnam and were potentially exposed to Agent Orange.
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced a reworked bill Friday that now includes a method to pay for extending Agent Orange benefits to Vietnam War veterans who were located on ships off the Vietnamese coast, known as “Blue Water” sailors.
Republicans and Democrats on the committee wrangled five months ago over the cost of extending the benefits to these sailors, though they all are seemingly supportive of the measure now.
“Today is a great day for Blue Water Navy veterans,” Roe wrote in a prepared statement. “We owe it to the brave veterans who served in the Vietnam War to provide benefits for conditions they may have developed because of exposure to Agent Orange.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs already presumes ground troops who served in Vietnam and others who served in the country’s inland waterways were exposed to Agent Orange, a dioxin-laden herbicide that’s been found to cause respiratory cancers, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease as well as other conditions.
Blue Water veterans have been denied the same benefits. The VA has argued there is not enough evidence to link Agent Orange to sailors aboard aircraft carriers, destroyers, cruisers and others ships.
In Congress, the fight stalled on multiple occasions because lawmakers have disagreed on how to pay for it.
Extending the benefits to Blue Water veterans for 10 years would cost $1.1 billion, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated.
To pay for the extension, Roe introduced a proposal Friday to increase fees for servicemembers and veterans who use the VA’s home loan program. The increase would amount to $2.95 each month for homeowners who made no down payment. The increase would average $2.82 each month for people who made a 5 percent down payment and $2.14 each month for people who put 10 percent down.
The fee rates have not increased since 2004, Roe’s office said. Under law, fees are waived for veterans who have a disability connected to their military service. That would still be the case.
Members of the National Guard and Reserve incur slightly higher fees through the home loan program. Roe’s proposal would bring their fee rates in line with other servicemembers and veterans.

FSIS set to begin dioxin analysis of U.S. meat, poultry


Federal agencies are set to begin a year-long testing program on U.S. beef, pork and poultry to measure the levels of a highly toxic group of chemicals called dioxins, which are best known for their use in Agent Orange and other herbicides.
The 2018 Dioxin Survey, headed by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS), will be done in conjunction with the federal Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center in Fargo, ND.
This is the fourth such survey in a recurring five-year cycle. The FSIS collaborates with federal partners including ARS, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. The previous dioxin surveys were done in 2003, 2008 and 2013.
Dioxins are a group of compounds that are of public health concern, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the EPA, the World Health Organization and other public health agencies. The chemicals are widely found, but generally at very low levels, throughout the natural environment.

Texas officials ignore dioxin spread in Houston waterways

HIGHLANDS, Texas (AP) — Evelyn and Jerome Matula were still polka-dancing newlyweds in 1950 when they spotted a half-finished cottage in the woods along the San Jacinto River east of Houston. It seemed idyllic, with panoramic views and a sandy path to the river, where their three children and later their grandchildren fished. Now, the retired refinery worker and former educator fear their kin were poisoned by carcinogenic dioxin in the fish and well water.
Decades ago, paper mill waste barged down the Houston Ship Channel was buried across the river. From their bluff today, the Matulas can see orange buoys marking a federal Superfund hazardous waste site established in 2008.
An agreement announced last month has cleared the way for the San Jacinto Waste Pits to finally be cleaned up. But dioxin damage already has spread far beyond the waste pits, the Houston Chronicle and The Associated Press found.
More than 30 hotspots — small sites where dioxin has settled — have been located in sediments along the river, the Houston Ship Channel and into Galveston Bay, according to University of Houston research conducted from 2001 to 2011 and pieced together by the news organizations.
The affected areas are alongside parks and residential neighborhoods with thousands of homes. But the residents’ wells or yards have not been tested by state health officials.
Details about the hotspots have not been made public by Texas environmental regulators, who used more than $5 million in federal money to pay for the research. In 2012, they ended a fact-finding committee that oversaw the project and had proposed new standards for dioxin and PCBs that could have been costly to corporate polluters.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality refused to release the full results of the studies that identified the sources of dioxin and PCBs, even to academic researchers, Harris County officials and lawyers who later sued companies over environmental damage. The research funding ended in 2011, leaving unanswered questions about whether toxic damage spread even farther during hurricanes Ike and Harvey.

Where does Congress stand on Monsanto's pending merger with Bayer?


Mississippians who feel they have a right to know what they eat need to keep an eye on the pending merger between two colossal corporations, Monsanto Co. and Bayer AG.
If Bayer, a German corporation, is permitted to merge with Monsanto, a U.S. seed giant, Mississippians could lose security over farming, agricultural and processed food products and its distribution worldwide.
The $66 billion dollar merger would, in effect, allow Bayer to control the development of seed and pesticides necessary to fuel the planet's food supply.
Monsanto went to court in 2013 to deny Mississippi planters from saving seeds from one harvest and planting them the following season because it violated Monsanto's patented use of the company's seeds. With that in mind, people may wonder what recourse planters would have with a foreign corporation in control of Monsanto's assets.
There are hundreds of pending federal lawsuits against Monsanto that allege the main ingredient in the popular weed killer "Roundup" may cause cancer, including non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, in people who frequently used the weed killer. The first trial is scheduled for June 1 in the U.S. District Court of Northern California. Reportedly, there are even more additional cases against Monsanto pending in state courts.

Field work begins to look into possible Agent Orange use

Fieldwork has begun as part of the investigation into US military use of Agent Orange on Guam. Officials from Guam EPA, Joint Region Marianas, and Anderson Air Force Base were present during the four day soil sampling by AECOM, a private contractor selected by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.
They collected soil samples from former fuel pipelines, airfield perimeter fence lines, and a fence line surrounding the aboveground storage tanks around Anderson Air Force Base.
Governor Eddie Baza Calvo directed Guam EPA to conduct an investigation a year ago, after Guam veterans issued testimony claiming they sprayed agent orange on Guam in the 1960s and 70s.
Samples were shipped to two different laboratories to test for the herbicide, results are expected to be complete in the next 60 to 90 days.Fieldwork has begun as part of the investigation into US military use of Agent Orange on Guam. Officials from Guam EPA, Joint Region Marianas, and Anderson Air Force Base were present during the four day soil sampling by AECOM, a private contractor selected by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.
They collected soil samples from former fuel pipelines, airfield perimeter fence lines, and a fence line surrounding the aboveground storage tanks around Anderson Air Force Base.
Governor Eddie Baza Calvo directed Guam EPA to conduct an investigation a year ago, after Guam veterans issued testimony claiming they sprayed agent orange on Guam in the 1960s and 70s.
Samples were shipped to two different laboratories to test for the herbicide, results are expected to be complete in the next 60 to 90 days.