Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Trump loyalists at VA shuffling, purging employees before new secretary takes over

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Ahead of Robert Wilkie’s likely confirmation to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, Trump loyalists at the agency are taking aggressive steps to purge or reassign staff members perceived to be disloyal to President Trump and his agenda for veterans, according to multiple people familiar with the moves.
The transfers include more than a dozen career civil servants who have been moved from the leadership suite at VA headquarters and reassigned to lower-visibility roles.
The employees served agency leaders, some dating back more than two decades, in crucial support roles that help a new secretary.
None said they were given reasons for their reassignments.
The moves are being carried out by a small cadre of political appointees led by Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke who have consolidated power in the four months since they helped oust Secretary David Shulkin.
The reshuffling marks a new stage in a long estrangement between civil servants and Trump loyalists at VA, where staff upheaval and sinking morale threatens to derail service to one of the president’s key constituencies, according to current and former employees.
Among those reassigned is an experienced scheduler whom Wilkie told colleagues he wanted to work for him once he is confirmed by the Senate, according to former and current employees.
Other career senior executives with institutional knowledge of VA’s troubled benefits operation also have been sidelined, some to other cities, according to multiple people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. A high-ranking executive appointed during the Obama administration to a six-year term quit last week after clashing with Trump aides. Even some Trump appointees have been pushed out for challenging the leadership group.
VA officials say the reassignments will help their efforts to improve the agency’s overall culture and performance. Still, it is highly unusual for a leader in an acting, caretaker role — which began for O’Rourke on May 30 — to make such significant changes before a permanent leader arrives.
“Under President Trump, VA won’t wait to take necessary action when it comes to improving the department and its service to Veterans,” spokesman Curt Cashour said in an email. Wilkie, according to Cashour and a spokeswoman for the nominee, has had no hand in the changes as he awaits Senate confirmation.
Current and former employees — and now alarmed members of Congress — call the reshuffling a loyalty purge that is targeting the alleged political sympathies of civil servants whose jobs are, by definition, nonpartisan.

Senate plans path ahead for ‘blue water Navy’ benefits fix

WASHINGTON — Senate lawmakers will start their work next month on legislation to extend disability benefits for nearly 90,000 veterans who worked around toxic chemicals during the Vietnam War but have been denied compensation for that exposure.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is planning an Aug. 1 hearing on the issue, one that committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has called a “top priority” for the remainder of the year.
Last month, House lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation dealing with the plight of “blue water” Vietnam veterans, adding a new Veterans Affairs home loan fee to pay for the $1.1 billion needed to cover benefits costs.
Supporters of that measure had pushed for the Senate to quickly approve the measure, but Isakson has said he wants to hold public debate on the issue to ensure that lawmakers aren’t overlooking needed improvements to the proposal.
House passes benefits fix for ailing ‘blue water’ veterans, now awaits Senate’s move
House passes benefits fix for ailing ‘blue water’ veterans, now awaits Senate’s move
The bill would provide disability payouts for about 90,000 veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam.
But under existing rules those veterans must provide proof of exposure to the chemicals to receive disability benefits. In contrast, troops who served on the mainland or patrolled inland rivers during the war are assumed to have been working with or near Agent Orange and are given special expedited status when filing disability benefits claims.

Does glyphosate cause cancer?

Does glyphosate cause cancer? Monsanto herbicide trials take shape in US
A California man is dying of cancer, and he is blaming the glyphosate found in Monsanto‘s Roundup, while a judge has allowed hundreds of more cases to move forward. But research shows the link is anything but clear.
A San Francisco court began hearing opening statements in the first US trial of its kind on Monday: A California man dying of cancer is , claiming the popular weed-killer Roundup is to blame for the disease.
Days after, a federal judge in San Francisco allowed hundreds of lawsuits against Monsanto to go forward. The judge said on Wednesday that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to hear the case.
The plaintiffs argue that Monsanto products containing glyphosate, most notably Roundup, were at fault for cancer that either they or their deceased relatives were diagnosed with.
In particular, the trial of 46-year-old Dewayne Johnson was expedited due to his likely death in the coming months from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to his lawyer.

Dow Chemical continuing to clean up dioxin along Tittabawassee River

FREELAND (WJRT) (7/16/2018) - The clean up of contaminated soil downstream from Dow Chemical continues along the Tittabawassee River -- much to the delight of many homeowners.
Some property owners feel they are getting brand new backyards.
"Before we bought the house, my wife and I did a lot of research on the Dow issue the chemicals in the dirt," said Ben Adams, who purchased a home near Freeland two years ago.
Two years later, he's happy with the cleanup work that has been done.
"It really allows us to have peace of mind when our kids are back there, or when I am cutting the grass," Adams said.
He had a foot of soil removed from about a half acre of his property that was closest to the Tittabawassee River, which testing showed was contaminated with dioxin.
Dow Chemical has been paying for the removal of the soil and the Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing the work.
"We were really excited to make sure they were able to remove all the contaminated dirt, but then also reseed it and actually they will cut the grass the first couple of times for us," Adams said.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

July 15, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Call To Action


Waiting For An Army To Die Won't Work When A Significant Number of Vietnam Veterans Are Reporting Children and/or Grandchildren With Birth Defects Related to Exposure to Agent Orange:


by Mokie Porter

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at the Cosmos Club in Washington D.C.the Ford Foundation, announced that it is funding and launching of a full-scale, public-relations campaign to win the sympathy of the American people for the plight of Agent Orange victims in Vietnam

The Ford Foundation and the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin are hoping to mobilize resources and raise awareness for the continuing environmental health consequences of dioxin contamination in Vietnam resulting from the use of A/O, with the end goal of gaining the support of Congress, American business, and the American people to direct U.S. dollars to Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange. When representatives of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) asked at the June 2nd meeting whether the condition of American veterans, their children, and grandchildren would also be a subject of the public relations campaign, the answer from the chair of the Working Group, came back "We have given you the report."

The June 1, 2009, report, "U.S. Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange: Understanding the Impact 40 Years Later," which was done by the National Organization on Disability with funding from the Ford Foundation, concludes that it is not "too late to correct the lapses in the nation's treatment of veterans who were exposed to dioxin during the Vietnam War." It goes on to state that "One lesson of the Agent Orange experience has been that the consequences of such chemicals are rarely easy to predict, and that the burdens they impose may well be borne for generations." for report and VVA reactions.

The report includes five detailed recommendations for greater clarity and justice: (1) Outreach to All Affected Veterans and their Families; (2) Outreach to Health Practitioners and Disability-Related Service Agencies; (3) Medical Care for Affected Children and Grandchildren; (4) A Fresh Approach to Research; and (5) Direct Service to Veterans and their Families, in Their Communities.

If the Ford Foundation's publicity campaign will focus on the plight of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, but not American victims of Agent Orange, then veterans need to launch our own grassroots publicity campaign to gain the support of Congress, American business, and the American people for the unfinished Agent Orange agenda for American veterans and their families.

The Task Ahead: Don't Mourn, Organize and Publicize in Your Own Communities

This is not just a VVA issue.VVA members, chapters, and state councils need to reach out and work with other veterans organizations in their communities and to be a force multiplier. Many of our members, of course, are members of other veterans organizations, so this will help.

The brunt of the fallout of this one-sided, public-awareness campaign will rest on our members at the grassroots, in chapters and state councils, where the network exists for our veteran families. We cannot allow those veterans outside the VA/VSO network to find out about their A/O exposure from the perspective of the Vietnamese victims, as they watch the Ford Foundation media campaign unfold in print and on television.

While, at this point, we know very little about the when and where of the Ford Foundation media campaign, we expect that it will begin this summer and continue through the year. We anticipate a multi-media barrage, with Ford's efforts directed toward the documentary film industry, the print media, radio, television, celebrities, etc. We have not located the budget for this endeavor yet, but expect that, minimally, it will be in the range of six figures.

This is not about animosity toward Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, but it is a response to the telling of only one side of the story by the Ford Foundation media campaign. That's not the right approach to take and may well create a great deal of pain in those veterans, whose "welcome home" nearly forty years ago, was a slap in the face, or disdain and distance, and who will now, once more, be reminded of the esteem in which their government holds them, as they watch while the Ford Foundation media campaign focuses on the suffering of their former enemy.

What do we need to create awareness? We need real stories about real people to convince the American people and Congress that our A/O problems are real.

We already have two excellent stories, though still in the rough draft stage. More will be needed. If each state would identify at least one family with a child or grandchild affected by A/O, willing to share their story, we will begin to have ammunition to use locally and nationally with the media and with legislators.

One idea that has been suggested is holding veterans health forums at the chapter and state council levels. That's a good way to get local media attention, and a forum to discuss the issue of A/O, as well as all the host of illnesses and maladies associated with military service. It would likely be useful to have a nuts-and-bolts, how-to plan for this type of health forum.

What we need is something that could be shared with other states and chapters, like a "checklist for organizers of local health forums," or a document that has tips for putting on a "high-interest, high attendance, high media coverage veterans health forum in your community.

Ideas other than a veterans health forum will likely emerge, and a forum for the sharing of these ideas, info, intel, and good stories will be needed, if we are to sustain a vital campaign. What works in one area may not work in another area. Local initiative, local creativity, and local enthusiasm and energy will be essential.

This is not just about Vietnam/Agent Orange alone; it is about all toxic exposures in all theaters of our recent wars whether in Thailand, on Eglin Air Force Base, Guam, Puerto Rico, Texas, the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.--the larger lesson continues to be this: The cost of war doesn't end when the guns are silent, in fact it takes a generational toll so we, as a nation, must be willing to pay the price.

(See VVA web page http://www.vva.org/ for report and VVA reactions. The report is also available at http://www.veteranstoday.com/article7206.html)

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Military And Motor Neuron Disease: Military-related factors affecting survival of veterans with ALS

Military veterans may have higher rates of death from the progressive neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neuron disease, than non-veterans. However, few studies have examined what might be behind this association. The authors of a PLOS ONE study evaluated the relationship between various military-related factors and ALS survival among U.S. veterans.
The study has just been awarded the 2018 PLOS Veterans Disability & Rehabilitation Research Channel Prize. I interviewed via email co-author John Beard, epidemiologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health at Brigham Young University, to find out more.
Q-What drew you to study epidemiology?
JB: It happened gradually over time. I’ve been interested in numbers and research since I was about 10 years old, so I majored in statistics for my undergraduate degree. I then earned graduate degrees in public health and epidemiology so that I could apply statistics to real problems that affected real people. I had some great mentors in graduate school and during internships who helped me to discover that epidemiology was enjoyable, fulfilling, and a good fit for me.
Q-In your study, you examined rates of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) mortality amongst US military veterans. Why did you decide to study this topic?

$100M settlement will speed cleanup of North Providence, Johnston Superfund site

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A $100-million settlement reached with two subsidiaries of Stanley Black & Decker Inc. — Emhart Industries Inc. and Black & Decker Inc. — will speed the cleanup of dioxin-contaminated sediment and soil at the Centredale Manor Restoration Project Superfund Site in North Providence and Johnston, authorities said Monday.
The U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Management announced the settlement Monday.
The site, located at 2072 and 2074 Smith St. in North Providence, is contaminated with dioxin and other contaminants from chemical production and drum reconditioning that took place from the 1940s to the 1970s. The site spans a one-and-a-half-mile stretch of the Woonasquatucket River and encompasses a nine-acre peninsula, two ponds and forested wetland.
From the 1940s to the early 1970s, Emhart’s predecessor operated a chemical manufacturing facility on the peninsula and used a raw material that was contaminated with a toxic form of dioxin. The property was also previously used by a barrel refurbisher. Elevated levels of dioxins and other contaminants have been detected in soil, groundwater, sediment, surface water and fish.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Does glyphosate cause cancer? Monsanto herbicide trial begins in US

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A California man is dying of cancer, and he is blaming the glyphosate found in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. From the WHO to the EU, international bodies show the research is anything but clear. DW examines the case.
A San Francisco court began hearing opening statements in the first US trial of its kind on Monday: A California man dying of cancer is suing agrochemical giant Monsanto, claiming the popular weed-killer Roundup is to blame for the disease.
The trial of 46-year-old Dewayne Johnson was expedited due to his likely death in the coming months from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to his lawyer.
What happened?
Johnson, who worked as a groundskeeper at a school near San Francisco for two years, argues that Monsanto's Roundup herbicide caused his cancer and that the company failed to warn against the product's fatal effects, according to court documents.
Johnson sprayed Roundup on school grounds "20 to 40 times per year, sometimes hundreds of gallons at a time," his lawyer told AFP news agency.
Two years after starting his job in 2012, Johnson was diagnosed with cancer. He filed the lawsuit against Monsanto two years later after being unable to work due to the disease.
Johnson has "suffered severe and permanent physical and emotional injuries" and "endured economic loss (including significant expenses for medical care and treatment) and will continue to incur these expenses in the future," according to the lawsuit.
Glyphosate has been found in Ben & Jerry's ice cream samples from France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, according to a report by the Health Research Institute (HRI). The weed killer is used on crops such as oats and wheat — ingredients used in the Unilever-owned brand's products. The attested quantities could be a health risk, says the US-based Organic Consumers Association.
Does glyphosate cause cancer?
While critics are quick to describe glyphosate — the main chemical substance in Roundup — as carcinogenic, research is far from definitive on the question. Here's what international bodies, environmental authorities and researchers have to say:
The EU's European Food Safety Authority said in 2015: "EU peer review experts, with only one exception, concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential."
The WHO's International Agency for Cancer Research in 2015 classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans." At the same time, it said that, "For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada and Sweden published since 2001."
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1985 labeled glyphosate a "possible human carcinogen," but that classification was rescinded in 1991 by an internal committee, saying there wasn't enough evidence to claim that it was carcinogenic. It was consequently labeled a chemical with "evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans." A new review process launched in 2015 said data "at this time do no (sic) support a carcinogenic process for glyphosate."

EPA Directs Additional Repairs for San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site

DALLAS – (June 29, 2018) EPA is directing the potentially responsible parties of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site in Texas to take immediate action to address damage to the protective cap. Initial repairs will begin shortly at the damaged areas where the protective rock was missing. Upon completion, EPA will inspect the final repair.
EPA received preliminary data from sediment samples collected by EPA’s dive team from twenty-two small areas measuring up to 50 square feet at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site. Samples from twenty-two of the areas confirmed the protective cap is absent and the underlying waste material was exposed. The preliminary sample showed dioxins up to 60,500 ng/kg. EPA recommended clean up level for the site is 30 ng/kg.
EPA has directed both International Paper and Industrial Maintenance Corporation, the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site in Harris County, to take steps to ensure that the exposed waste material is isolated and securely covered.  The dioxin in the waste material does not dissolve easily in water, but it can migrate further out into the surrounding sediments.
The PRPs developed an Operations, Monitoring, and Maintenance Plan under Federal Order by the EPA and completed work to prevent wastes from continuing to migrate to adjacent areas including the San Jacinto River in July 2011. The Order allows the Agency to require additional measures and investigations deemed necessary by the Agency from its periodic inspection of the protective cap. EPA is exercising that authority today. EPA divers determined that additional measures were necessary.
The PRP conducted similar repairs in December 2015 and September 2017.  EPA selected long-term remedy for the site has 150,000 cubic yards of waste removed and disposed of offsite.
EPA will continue to provide updates about the status of the Superfund site, and continue to work with the PRPs to ensure that risk to human health and the environment is managed as best as possible.

Guam senator: GAO can't find some Agent Orange shipping records

The investigative arm of Congress hasn't located about a quarter of shipping records it needs to help confirm the shipping to and through Guam of the hazardous defoliant Agent Orange, according to Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje.
Terlaje said the U.S. Government Accountability Office expects to issue its investigation report on Agent Orange on Guam in early autumn, based on communication from GAO Director Brian Lepore.
The senator said the Government Accountability Office still is working with archivists around the U.S. to try and locate the remaining records and expects to finish soon. The records include possible ports of embarkation from the mainland U.S. and locations to or through which Agent Orange was shipped, Terlaje said.
The Government Accountability Office's inability to obtain additional shipping records is concerning, Terlaje said in a July 5 letter to Guam Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Walter Leon Guerrero.
The senator said this also emphasizes the importance of proper and direct testing, on and off base, to validate that Agent Orange was used on Guam.
"To that end, please provide our office with a list of all documents or test results in your possession or that should be reviewed that may indicate the presence of TCDD or its parts or polychlorinated dibenzo-P-dioxins in water on land in Guam," Terlaje wrote. "Also, please share with us which additional areas GEPA would recommend testing be done.

DND investigation of possible buried Agent Orange cache goes deeper

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It could take months for military to learn if anything toxic was buried in an overgrown corner of CFB Gagetown
It was more than just a stroll down memory lane for Al White.
When the retired military police sergeant returned to Base Gagetown in New Brunswick last week, he brought with him the memory and the burden of friends lost to the ravages of time and cancer.
On Thursday, he also led scientists and environmental engineers from National Defence on a damp trek directly to the spot where he claims dozens of barrels containing the notorious defoliant Agent Orange were secretly buried over three decades ago.
The location was not among the contaminated sites flagged by the military in the six decades since the base was established.
"It's good," White told CBC News. "I'm glad to be here to do this and bring some form of closure."
White claims that, in the late spring of 1985, he escorted a flatbed truck loaded with chemical barrels to a point near the base's tank training range, where they were buried in a large hole near an area known as the Shirley Road dump.
It happened before sunrise and White said he'd always found it suspicious. He kept silent, however, until he lost three friends — all former Gagetown soldiers — to cancer.
The speed and confidence with which he pointed out the site impressed defence officials, including the base's chief of environment services, a geophysicist and a environmental engineer.
"Pretty darn precise," said Pam Cushing, senior project manager with the National Defence Directorate of Contaminated Sites.
Cushing and White used maps and aerial photos of the area, wrapped in plastic against the rain, to confirm his recollection.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

July 4, 1776



























"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

GMOs and biochemical warfare: Monsanto’s reign of illness

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It may be difficult to wrap your head around the fact that the same manufacturer of Agent Orange – a highly toxic herbicide used during the Vietnam era to clear forest and starve opponent soldiers – is also a huge controller of our cotton, corn and soy crops, and seems to be taking over the world.
Founded by a pharmaceutical company agent John F. Queeny, Monsanto has not only created one of the most used herbicides in the world Roundup, but it also formed a manmade seed that learned to survive against its toxic counterpart and overtake the farming industry as we know it. So, one begs the question:  How does a sugar-replacement company turned chemical company become world’s most antipathic corporation?
Monsanto’s parasitic infestation has been something of a slow burn since it’s 1901 saccharin introduction, an artificial sweetener that was quickly met with resistance from the USDA. In 1907, they found that replacing sugar with saccharin violates the Pure Food and Drug Act, a consumer protection law. Theodore Roosevelt (who enjoyed saccharin) fought against this investigation, which, in turn, set the wheels in motion for Monsanto’s origins.
However, in 1911, the USDA determined that saccharin violated it’s pure food protection; once again, it worked to ban the alternative sweetener. When World War I began in 1914, it brought sugar shortages; so, saccharin was reintroduced to the market. With the expansion of their line to include caffeine and vanillin, Monsanto rose to be a million dollar company and garnered Coca-Cola as their top customer.

Toxic waste once again exposed at San Jacinto River Waste Pits

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced high levels of dioxin waste are currently exposed to the San Jacinto River from the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site. In the EPA dive team’s recent inspection, they found 22 areas of concern and collected samples from those locations. The sample results show levels of 60,500 ng/kg of dioxin exposed to the river. The level that prompts a cleanup is 30 ng/kg.
The executive director of Texas Health and Environment Alliance, Jackie Young: “Yet again astronomic levels of dioxin are found exposed to the river from the San Jacinto Waste Pits. The bottom line is the cap is not working and public health and the environment are at risk.”
Per the EPA statement: “The dioxin in the waste material does not dissolve easily in water, but it can migrate further out into the surrounding sediments.”
EPA is directing the potentially responsible corporate parties of the Superfund site in Texas to take immediate action to address damage to the protective cap. Initial repairs will begin shortly at the damaged areas where the protective rock was missing. Upon completion, EPA will inspect the final repair.
EPA has directed both International Paper and Industrial Maintenance Corporation, the potentially responsible parties for the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site in Harris County, to take steps to ensure that the exposed waste material is isolated and securely covered.  The dioxin in the waste material does not dissolve easily in water, but it can migrate further out into the surrounding sediments.

Bases for Migrant Detention Contain Nuclear Waste, Other Toxins

On Monday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that migrant detainees would be housed at two U.S. military bases: Goodfellow Air Force Base and Fort Bliss. What he didn’t mention was that toxic contaminants have been blamed for health problems at these locations.
The Trump administration has not said exactly how many migrants it will place at each of these bases. However, the Pentagon has been told to prepare for up to 20,000 unaccompanied migrant minors and was asked earlier this week to prepare to house up to 12,000 additional migrant family members of all ages.
One of the bases where these migrants will be sent, Fort Bliss, is a U.S. Army post in El Paso, Texas. It has reportedly been contaminated with radioactive waste, in addition to at least four different types of carcinogens.
According to previously unreported court documents, The American Legion, the largest U.S. war veterans organization, was suing the V.A. as recently as 2008 on behalf of a veteran who developed a tumor after alleged exposure to Agent Orange and other caustic chemicals while at Fort Bliss.