Monday, August 31, 2015

VA acknowledges connection between city councilor's illness, Marine base chemicals

More than three decades after coming into contact with 100 barrels of a mysterious substance on a Marine Corps base in Japan, a Keene city councilor and state representative finally has some closure.
In 1981, Kris E. Roberts was a facilities maintenance officer at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan.

As a first lieutenant in charge of maintaining the base with 50 Okinawans and the 35 U.S. soldiers working under him, Roberts was assigned to look into some unusually high chemical readings in the water coming off the base.
He and his men did some digging, and found barrels of a substance that Roberts thinks was Agent Orange, one of the herbicides used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War to kill the foliage that North Vietnamese troops used for cover.
More than 100 barrels lay neatly in the ground, rusty and leaking fluid, Roberts said.
“We dug, and it was more and more and more,” he said.
Now Roberts, a candidate for mayor in Keene, is the first veteran the U.S. government has acknowledged came into contact with hazardous chemicals on Futenma, he said Wednesday.
In a ruling this month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ appeals board told Roberts that the prostate cancer he was diagnosed with in 2006 was due to “exposure to hazardous chemicals.”
Roberts, now 61, said he experienced several medical issues, including strokes and blackouts, when he returned from Okinawa.
”Things just weren’t working,” he said. “I was was passing out ... and I had no idea what was causing it.”

He and his men had moved the barrels onto trucks that were taken off the island, then submerged themselves in water at the site where the barrels had been after a typhoon flooded the area.
Roberts thought nothing at the time of the potential health effects of interacting with the barrels, which he said had rust that was the reddish-orange color of Agent Orange. ”In 1981, Agent Orange was really no big deal,” he said. “We weren’t working in any protective gear.”
Based on photographs of the barrels and a doctor’s report that Roberts’ prostate cancer may have been caused by exposure to chemicals, the Veterans Appeals Board said in a letter to Roberts this month that “the benefit of the doubt has been given in your favor.”
“We have conceded your exposure to hazardous chemicals and granted service for prostate cancer,” the letter says, which means there could be a connection between the two, Roberts said.
The letter denies that the chemical in the barrels was Agent Orange.

Full List of Property Tax Exemptions By State
“If you’re a disabled veteran, in almost every single jurisdiction, you can petition your local taxing authority and you can have all of your local real estate taxes waived. Some cases, they require it’s a one-time waiver; some cases, it’s an annual waiver,” said Mike Frueh, National Director of the VA Home Loan program. “That’s a fantastic benefit.”
And that benefit could save you thousands.

Property Tax Exemption

California, for instance, offers a Disabled Veterans’ Exemption for these veterans to reduce or eliminate their property tax liability. As long as the property is the veteran’s primary place of residence, the full value of the residence does not exceed $150,000, and total household income does not exceed $40,000, a 100 percent disabled veteran can claim a full property tax exemption.
Likewise, Texas offers full exemptions for veterans with a disability rating of 100 percent. The state also offers tax exemptions for a portion of the home’s assessed value for other disability ratings. For instance, a 10 to 30 percent disability rating qualifies for an exemption of $5,000 of assessed value, while a 50 to 70 percent rating qualifies for a $10,000 exemption.
However, these rates and conditions can vary by area just as they do by state, so veterans are urged to contact their local municipal tax assessors office for further information. Veterans may also refer to the table found at the end of the article.

Do You Understand Your Benefits?

Unfortunately, many veterans, disabled and able alike, are often unaware of the plentiful benefits available to them. McClatchy-Tribune News reports the VA’s 2010 National Survey of Veterans, which includes a variety of questions about coverage as well as understanding of the VA benefits package, found 59 percent of respondents said “their understanding of available benefits was ‘a little’ or ‘not at all.'”
The Government Accountability Office suggests complexity as a possible factor, while others blame a disconnect in communication between the Department of Veterans Affairs and administering localities. Regardless, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer notes property exemptions in particular as crucial benefits that allow veterans to “afford a home and live stable civilian lives.”
“Despite recent affordability, a lot of occupations you find veterans working in don’t pay enough to afford a home,” Jeffrey Lubell, Center for Housing Policy’s executive director, said. Especially when it comes to more disabled veterans who are unable to work altogether, the need for policy change is even greater.
“If vets can’t afford decent housing, we’ve really missed the boat,” Lubell said.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Monsanto’s super-broccoli shouldn’t scare you, but its plans for global vegetable domination might
Broccoli, the original superfood, is getting an upgrade.
On top of the Vitamin C, Vitamin K, protein, dietary fiber, and slew of other nutrients found in a typical stalk of broccoli, Monsanto says its Beneforté broccoli will do you even better. It’s bred to have higher levels of a nutrient that your body uses to fight cancer and cholesterol. As Monsanto’s website for the super-broccoli puts it, “Beneforté is even more of a good thing.”
Beneforté seeds were first sold in 2010 and the packaged broccoli arrived in supermarkets in the UK and US in 2011. It’s on sale in the UK in 10 grocery chains, and though it’s not currently available in the US because of a gap in supply, Monsanto expects it to be widely available in 2017.
Broccoli may seem out of step with Monsanto’s corn- and soy-heavy business, but it’s right in line with shifting consumer preferences for healthier, less processed foods. For the year ending June 2015, US unit sales of soft drinks were down 2% and units sold of ready-to-eat cereals were down 4%, while fresh produce sales were up 2% by volume, according to data from Nielsen. Companies like General Mills and PepsiCo are trying to lure customers back with revamped products like all-natural Trix and aspartame-free Diet Pepsi.
If they succeed, so does Monsanto. Its patented genes are in the vast majority of corn and soy grown in the US. But if they don’t—if the trend towards more fresh vegetables and fewer packaged foods continues—well, Monsanto, which has made billions on the ingredients for processed food, is preparing for that, too. And this time it’s doing it without a genetically-modified organism in sight.
Beneforté is no pet project. Since 2005, Monsanto has spent more than $2 billion acquiring two major vegetable and fruit seed companies. That includes Seminis, the world’s largest seller of vegetable seeds, which licensed Beneforté from its original developers in the UK, the John Innes Centre and the Institute of Food Research.
While Monsanto’s 2014 net sales of vegetable seeds, at $867 million, were a fraction of what it sold in seeds and traits for corn ($6.4 billion) and soybeans ($2.1 billion), according to the company’s SEC filing, Monsanto is building a robust division nonetheless. In 2014, it included 21 vegetable crops sold in more than 150 countries, allowing the company to slowly inch its way out of the center of the grocery store and into the world’s ever busier outer aisles.
Nor is this just about capturing the most lucrative and discerning broccoli-eaters: The company is setting its sight on global vegetable domination. “A big part of our focus is expanding the geographic scope of production in order to achieve a global market,” Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, told Quartz. It’s testing several different seeds to make sure Beneforté can grow year-round, in different regions depending on the season, to make for a consistent product that is available everywhere, all the time. It doesn’t want Beneforté to be the Champagne of broccoli; it wants it to be the Coca-Cola of broccoli. If anyone can achieve that with a vegetable, it’s Monsanto.MORE

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How to make hepatitis C treatment more affordable
D. Steven Fox and Jeffrey S. McCombs, Los Angeles Times
How long should you wait to treat a possibly fatal but curable disease? That's a question with major implications for millions of patients and for insurers and government programs that have to pay for the treatment.
In the last year this question has focused on hepatitis C, a viral infection of the liver that, left untreated, can lead to cirrhosis, cancer, liver failure and death. Hepatitis C is the leading cause for liver transplants in the United States.
The virus can be eliminated in more than 90 percent of the individuals who take newly approved drugs over a three-month treatment - but at a staggering cost of $75,000 to $100,000 per patient. Treating everyone in the U.S. who has the hepatitis C virus would cost at least $200 billion. To put that in perspective: In a typical year, U.S. spending on all prescription drugs is $300 billion to $360 billion.
In July the California Department of Health Care Services ordered a new protocol that will mean many thousands of Medi-Cal patients will have to wait for treatment. But far from jeopardizing lives, the department is helping solve the hepatitis C conundrum with a sensible policy: Treat everyone who needs it, but not until treatment is necessary.
As serious as hepatitis C can be, it often produces no symptoms - no cirrhosis, cancer or liver failure. Many of the estimated 3 million to 7 million infected people in the U.S. and 130 million to 170 million worldwide do not know they have the disease; most fail to develop symptoms over their lifetime. Statistically, only a third will ever be seriously troubled by their infection.
The California protocol essentially calls for two things: watchful waiting, and using simple screening indicators. One indicator - called FIB-4 - is calculated from routine blood tests and estimates the amount of scarring on the liver. It is inexpensive, easy to measure and shown to be highly predictive of the disease's progression.
Treatment to eliminate the virus can be delayed until the marker shows heightened liver fibrosis (scarring), without significantly increasing a patient's risk for illness and death.
The marker was revealed during research we began four years ago with pharmaceutical companies and the Veterans Administration aimed at demonstrating to infected veterans when they needed to embark on a different hepatitis C treatment - an onerous, yearlong drug regimen - or face organ failure. A simple test every six months or so can alert a physician to whether the risk of serious complications is increasing.
The California protocol will, in a way, ration care, and any form of rationing is controversial. Consumer groups and some health insurance companies have called for investigations into the costs of hepatitis C drugs to pressure drug makers to roll back prices. Manufacturers contend their products are a bargain, even at a very high price, because the American healthcare system would otherwise have to deal with the long-term consequences of millions of chronic hepatitis C cases. (The first of these medications are already coming under price pressure after the introduction of competing therapies.)
But the state's protocol provides a way through the thicket. A California Association of Health Plans study released in June estimated that treating the 127,000 Medi-Cal patients with hepatitis C for one year might cost $438 million to $1.71 billion. By implementing the screening protocol, Medi-Cal can probably hold costs to the lower part of that range without risking patient health.
Other states are starting to implement similar protocols. Now physicians, health insurance companies, managed care organizations and other government health-care programs need to follow suit to manage the new, highly effective but very expensive treatments for hepatitis C.
Doing so will strike a practical, and humane, balance. Knowing who does not need treatment right away improves access for those who do.
Neither D. Steven Fox, an assistant professor at University of Southern California, nor Jeffrey S. McCombs, an associate professor at the USC School of Pharmacy, has a financial interest in hepatitis C therapies or tests.

Poisoned by Army's Fort Doom, Civilians Say

BALTIMORE (CN) - A U.S. Army Base in Maryland nicknamed Fort Doom for its research into offensive biological warfare is responsible for the deaths and illnesses of neighboring civilians, a class claims in Federal Court.
Fort Detrick's nickname hearkens to the 5,000 bombs containing anthrax spores that World War II researchers produced at the U.S. Army medical command installation in Frederick, according to the complaint filed Wednesday.
Lead plaintiff Angela Pieper says "German and Japanese scientists ... who had experimented on human subjects among POWs and concentration camp inmates" found work after the war at the 1,200-acre site.
During the Cold War years, Fort Detrick was "the world's leading research campus for biological agents requiring specialty containment," the complaint continues.
The Environmental Protection Agency allegedly put Fort Detrick on its Superfund list of the most polluted places in the country in 2009. Today the base is a cemetery for decades of biomedical and weapons research that were simply buried in shallow unlined pits, the complaint states.
Pieper says the plume of chemical agents seeping from these pits quickly made their way into the drinking water supply of neighboring properties. The toxins have allegedly caused locals to develop various diseases and cancers.
Pieper represents the estate of woman named Kristen Hernandez who died of "exposure to toxic materials, substances, chemicals, groundwater, compounds, wastes and/or byproducts thereof on or emanating from Fort Detrick," the complaint states.
A landfill that occupies one 400-acre site of Fort Detrick has been contaminated with "sterilized anthrax, radiological tracer materials, the lethal chemical agent phosgene, industrial waste, herbicides, and defoliants including known carcinogens in their formulation," according to the suit.
Other materials allegedly include "Agent Orange, dioxin, radioactive materials, anthrax, Ebola, tetrachloroethene (PCE), and trichloroethene (TCE)."
Pieper and other current and former Marylanders say that the Army allowed "those toxics to contaminate the property and the vicinity surrounding Ft. Detrick."
The area has been subjected to multiple studies over the years, but the first attempt at remediation did not occur until 2001 - a limited removal action by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to the complaint.
Cleaning crews opened one of the pits to find "unmarked, unlabeled containers, drums, barrels, and other chemical, biological, and/or radiological waste receptacles," the complaint sates.
"Vials containing live pathological bacteria were also revealed to have been disposed of at the site," the class added.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Agent Orange Town Hall Meetings - Check for a meeting near you

AOTHM Calendar

September 2, 2015,
Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
4:00 pm
McMillan Memorial Library
490 East Grand Avenue
Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494
Contact Mike Demske

September 17, 2015
Green Bay, Wisconsin
4:30 pm. 
Green Bay Yacht Club
100 Bay Beach Road
Green Bay, WI 54302
Mike Demske

September 19, 2015
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
1:00pm-4:00 pm
VVA Chapter 415
Northampton Community College
Lipkin Theatre, Kopecek Hall
3835 Green Pond Rd,
Bethlehem, PA 18020
Contact: Mike Regrut

September 19th, 2015
Douglas, Georgia
9am – 12pm
City of Douglas Auditorium
200 S Madison Avenue
Douglas, GA 31533
Wayne Rowell 912-614-1020
Spence Davis 912-387-6551

September 19, 2015
Rapid City, South Dakota
VFW Post Rapid City
420 Main Street
Rapid City, SD 57701
Contact: Maynard Kaderlik
September 27, 2015
Little Ferry, New Jersey     
2:00 pm-5:00 pm       
VFW Hall, 100 Main Street
Little Ferry, NJ 07643
Contact: Mike Eckstein

October 3, 2015
Redding, California
5:00 pm
Shasta County Veterans Hall
1605 Yuba Street, Redding, CA 96001
Contact: Linda Johnson

October 17, 2015
Riverside, CA
Details Upcoming
Contact Zack Earp (951) 352-1278

October 24, 2015
Oxford, Michigan
11:00 am Registration
12:00 pm-4:00 pm Town Hall Meeting
Christ the King Community Church
1550 W Drahner Rd,
Oxford, MI 48371
VVA Chapter 133      
Contact: Richard Lash

PTSD and Herbicide Exposure Affects Your Overall Health

An increasing body of evidence indicates that posttraumatic stress disorder, a common anxiety disorder in both veteran and nonveteran populations, is associated with major forms of cardiovascular disease including those attributed to atherosclerosis such as coronary heart disease and thromboembolic stroke.
Persons with PTSD have also been reported to be more likely to have hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, and cardiovascular disease [1]. These findings are important to the field of cardiology since coronary heart disease may develop over time as a result of hemodynamic factors (for example, elevated blood pressure with turbulence and sheer stress within coronary arteries), hyperlipidemia, and events such as the rupture of atherosclerotic plaques and thrombus formation [2].
This review summarizes cardiovascular alterations linked to PTSD including results from epidemiologic and clinical studies and possible biological mechanisms. BACKGROUND Individuals may develop PTSD after being exposed to a traumatic event such as combat experiences, a motor vehicle crash, or sexual assault [3]. Symptoms of PTSD may include nightmares, intrusive thoughts, or other re-experiencing phenomena, the avoidance of situations that remind the person of the traumatic event, a feeling of numbness or being socially detached from family and friends, and hyper-arousal (for example, feeling angry, irritable and “on edge,” or having difficulty concentrating).
Hyper-arousal or hypervigilance includes a rapid and pronounced reaction to stressors which may lead to a preoccupation with signs of threat and emotional distress.
Persons with PTSD may have other challenges such as difficulties with employment, relationships, or other health conditions (for example, depression, alcohol abuse or drug dependency). Effective psychological and medical treatments for PTSD include group or individual psychotherapy (for example, cognitive-behavioral therapy) and pharmacotherapy such as the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [4]. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps patients to address their traumatic memories and distorted cognitions (for example, by providing education about the nature of PTSD and stress responses and helping the individual with the integration of the traumatic events).
*Address correspondence to this author at the Environmental Epidemiology Service (135), Environmental Health Strategic Healthcare Group, Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20420, USA; Tel: (202) 266-4656; E-mail 

A Poisoned Legacy: Contractors who worked at Eglin’s Agent Orange spray fields still live with its effects 
Von Jones sits at a conference room table, a yellow legal pad in his hands. On it are written the names of 40 of his former co-workers at Vitro Services, a defense contractor that once managed the test ranges on Eglin Air Force Base’s reservation.
According to Jones, many of the people on the list died from illnesses that scientists have linked to exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide made with the toxic chemical compound dioxin.
“There are probably more than this,” the Crestview resident said as he flipped through the pages. “Of course, some folks might have gotten some of these conditions whether they were exposed or not. But it sure is interesting that so many people got sick, don’t you think?” 
‘What went on’ 
What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear the term “Agent Orange”?
For many people, the word is probably Vietnam, where an estimated 2 million American service members and 4 million Vietnamese citizens were exposed to the powerful herbicide and others like it between 1962 and 1971.
For men like Jones and his fellow range technicians at Vitro, however, the term brings back memories of a very different place, far from the jungles of Vietnam. For them, “Agent Orange” will always be synonymous with Eglin Air Force Base’s Site C-52A, where the herbicide was tested from 1962 to 1970.
“Everybody always talks about the guys in Vietnam,” said DeFuniak Springs resident Jody Mitchem, one of Jones’ former co-workers at Vitro. “No one ever talks about what went on down here.”

Friday, August 21, 2015


Due to restrictions on the volume of mail distributed by AOZ, this site will post news and information updates as they are available. Sometimes that is daily, other times there may be several days between the availability of relevant information.
AOZ will distribute this information to our subscribers ONCE A WEEK, generally on Fridays. You are encouraged to check the site frequently and distribute it without restriction whenever you see updated information.
This site only works because you have made the commitment to seek out and distribute the most current and timely information concerning Agent Orange/Dioxin, and the other poisons we have allowed to compromise the health of our families, friends, and neighbors.

The Poisoning of New Zealand
Outbreaks of rare diseases and tumors are appearing in clusters around New Zealand, close to chemical factories. Why doesn’t the Government want to investigate? SIMON JONES discovers what the authorities don’t want you to know:
Walk down any street in New Plymouth and you will probably hear a mixture of coughing and spluttering. Look inside any school and there appears to be more special needs children than is the norm for a city the size of New Plymouth. It’s often been said that everyone knows someone with a serious disease, whether it be cancer or multiple sclerosis.
Bad luck? Possibly, but for the last 15 years a group of residents have turned scientists to uncover what they say is a national health scandal – and one which, despite the government and media’s persistent attempts to ignore, won’t go away.
They may sound like conspiracy theorists in overdrive – and there is little in the way of official evidence and health statistics to back up what they say. But here is the frightening thing: If, in this real-life game of Fact or Fiction?, only 10 percent of what the residents say is true, we have a huge health scandal on our hands – the magnitude and implications of which are unimaginable.
The story centres around one of the city’s major employers, the Ivon Watkins Dow Plant.
Since the early 1960s, and up until 1987, it manufactured the 2,4,5T herbicide – which contains the deadly dioxin also used to form Agent Orange – a weapon of huge destruction in the Vietnam War.
In New Zealand and around the world 2,4,5T is used to kill scrub, gorse and blackberry. In Vietnam, with concentrations of dioxin much higher, it had the same effect – to the extent where it devastated the country’s crops and caused major health problems amongst veterans, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, while creating learning difficulties amongst the vets’ children.
Is it just coincidence that many in New Plymouth – and in areas around New Zealand, where this herbicide was extensively sprayed, complain about the same health problems?
For years governments, both here and overseas, turned a blind eye to the damaging effects of dioxin, refusing to admit that there was any link between Agent Orange and health problems suffered by vets.
Yet recently, in a draft report leaked to the Washington Post, the US government upgraded dioxin to a ‘human carcinogen’ – in other words a substance which is a major cause of cancer, as well as birth defects and infertility.
Only a pending lawsuit by New York restaurant owners, who claim the link to cancer will scare away customers, has blocked publication of the report.
The US Environmental Protection Agency notes that emissions of dioxin have plummeted from peak levels in the 1970s, but still pose a significant threat to some who ingest it – mostly in food, especially food of animal origin.
John Moller, the president of the Vietnam Veterans Association, says it is ironic that some of the 3,800 Kiwi vets who served during the war came home to find that they were still partly exposed to chemicals associated with Agent Orange either by living in New Plymouth or areas where the herbicide was sprayed.
“The New Zealand government says that because of the few figures involved and the time span it is not worth running tests on veterans now.
“That’s rubbish because the government has given $200,000 to the nuclear test veterans association for research and legal fees. Their exposure happened before Vietnam and their figures are much smaller.
“The government has buried its head in the sand for too long,” he says. “For example, when an enquiry was finally instigated, they took samples from native forest but not the Pine forest where 2,4,5-T was heavily used.
“The problem with dioxin exposure is that there is a 30-year envelope. The historical effects are only beginning to come through now.”
The US government invented 2,4,5T in 1941 to be used as a weapon of war against Japan. Later, with concentrations lower, it is intended to control unwanted vegetation, most of which is found in Taranaki, Northland and Gisborne.
The manufacture of 2,4,5-T is said to have started in New Zealand around 1962 and by 1970 the number of birth defects in New Plymouth doubled and the number of cases nationwide started to riseMORE

Will VA Now Admit that You Were in Brown Water?

Join Us for a Webinar

Thursday, September 10th at 3 PM EDT
Agent Orange and Bluewater Sailors: VA has yet to publish its official definition of “inland waterway.” However, the BVA’s decision indicates that VA still refuses to accept Vietnam harbors as inland waterways, ignoring a Veterans Court order to the contrary.
On Thursday, September 10th at 3 PM EDTCommander John Wells, Esq., Executive Director, Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc. and Matthew Hill will cover what has and hasn’t changed in the Brown Water/Blue Water Debate. In this webinar, you will learn:
  • Why you still need to pay attention, even if your ship was in a harbor or bay. 
  • What to take away from the Gray decision. 
  • What evidence to use for your case. 
  • Actions to be taken politically.
Please submit your questions for Mr. Wells and Mr. Hill on the registration form.

UMass professor awarded $419,000 grant to study gene's role in infertility, Alzheimer's
AMHERST - A University of Massachusetts professor has received a $419,00 federal grant to study how early exposure to estrogen, as well as environmental pollutants called dioxins, may impair the regulation of a certain gene and impact a women's fertility.
She will also look at how any impairment of the gene caused by exposure to estrogen during fetal development may be linked to late-onset Alzheimer's.
Sandra Petersen, who earlier this year was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring by the White House, will use the grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to continue studies on CUG binding protein 2 (CUGBP2), a little known gene that she and colleagues identified and have shown that exposure to estrogen compounds and dioxin impairs its normal regulation.
The grant will help them study how this impairment of regulation works. Doxins are known to have a disruptive effect on estrogen activity in the early stages of life, and such disruptions can led to cancer and other health issues later in life.
"Our findings will provide new molecular insights into how estrogen, and perhaps dioxin, exposure during development may play a role in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases later in life. This information may help in the development of new preventative strategies or therapeutic drugs," Petersen said in release.
According to the release, Petersen has found the gene behaves differently in males and females in the brain region that controls ovulation in rodent models.
Her group will initially study whether CUGBP2 impairment by neonatal estrogen or dioxin exposure during development in mice is responsible for infertility or subfertility observed in adulthood, according to the release.
Because CUGPB2 regulates neural cell death, according to the release, the researchers want to determine whether estrogen regulation of CUGBP2 may contribute to the difference in rates of non-age-related Alzheimer's disease seen in men and women as well.
Petersen, a professor in the university's veterinary and animal sciences department, is also principal investigator and project director for two other current NIH grants totaling $3.8 million.