Friday, September 11, 2015

Agent Orange linked to doubled cancer risk in Vietnam veterans

U.S. Air Force personnel who conducted aerial spray missions of the Agent Orange herbicide during the Vietnam War were twice as likely to have a disorder that can lead to a type of blood cancer, says a new study published in JAMA Oncology online Sept. 3.
This is the first study to uncover an association between exposure to Agent Orange and multiple myeloma among Vietnam veterans.
Previous research showing an association between similar herbicides and multiple myeloma examined agricultural workers in the United States and Canada.
“We have, for the first time, biological evidence of a connection between this particular cancer and exposure to Agent Orange and its dioxin contaminant,” said Joel Michalek, a professor of biostatistics at San Antonio’s University of Texas Health Science Center and an author on the paper.
Multiple myeloma is a relatively rare blood cancer that can damage the kidneys and other organs, weaken bones and cause high calcium levels in the blood, the National Cancer Institute says. Agent Orange has been linked to other cancers and diseases, including Type 2 diabetes.
U.S. Air Force personnel sprayed Agent Orange from aircraft to destroy forests and foliage that provided enemy cover in Vietnam from 1962 to 1971 as part of the Operation Ranch Hand program.
The study examined blood samples collected and stored in 2002 from 479 Ranch Hand veterans and compared them to blood samples from 479 veterans who served in Southeast Asia during the same time period but weren’t involved in the aerial spray missions.
Researchers found a 2.4-fold increased risk for a condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, a precursor disease for multiple myeloma, in the Ranch Hand veterans compared to the other veterans.
Of 479 Ranch Hand veterans, 34 of them, or 7.1 percent, had the precursor for the cancer, compared to 15 of 479, or 3.1 percent, in the other veterans.
The majority of people with the multiple myeloma precursor do not develop the cancer, but previous research has shown multiple myeloma is consistently preceded by that blood disorder, said Dr. Ola Landgren, a hematologic oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the study’s lead author.
Agent Orange contains a contaminant called TCDD, which the Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a probable human carcinogen.
The study found the veterans who’d been exposed to Agent Orange and had developed the precursor had significantly higher levels of TCDD in their blood, making the results of the study “more meaningful,” Dr. Nikhil C. Munshi, a physician with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study. The risk increases as the concentration of TCDD in the blood increases.
Not all Air Force personnel involved in Operation Ranch Hand had the same level of exposure to Agent Orange, Michalek said.
“The pilots were probably the least exposed because they’re like the truck drivers,” Michalek explained. “The guys who got it the worst were the enlisted ground crew who had to fill the tanks, sit in the back of the plane, operate the spray equipment.”
Army ground troops in the jungles of Vietnam, crew members on boats and ships and other service members also may have been exposed.
“There’s a controversy going on even now as to who was exposed in Vietnam and who wasn’t and by how much,” Michalek said.
The research was conducted from 2013 to 2014 using specimens and exposure data collected by the Air Force Health Study. That 25-year study, headquartered at the now-closed Brooks AFB, examined the health effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans and their children. Michalek headed the study for about 10 years before it ended in 2005.
More than 80,000 biological specimens from the study later were sent to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, where researchers continue to have access to the materials.
Jack McManus, an Operation Ranch Hand veteran who participated in the Air Force Health Study, wasn’t surprised to learn about the association between Agent Orange and multiple myeloma. He believes insufficient research has been conducted on the stored specimens.
“I think there are multiple more diseases that we’re going to find,” said McManus, 69, who lives in North Carolina and who works with the nonprofit Vietnam Veterans of America to advocate for veterans exposed to Agent Orange. “I think what we’re going to get is bits and pieces of information coming out for many, many years.”
Veterans exposed to Agent Orange during military service may be eligible to receive disability compensation from the Veterans Affairs Department for diseases associated with that exposure, including multiple myeloma.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Agent Orange Zone will be offline until October 2, 2015. Our highly trained and grossly overworked staff will be on a much needed retreat.
Since going on the air in July 2009 the staff has had little chance to retreat together and recharge their batteries and attitudes.
When they return they will be tanned, rested, and ready to continue to Rock 'n' Roll for another 6 years!

Vietnam vet with cancer denied pain medication after testing positive for marijuana

A nationwide argument between the veterans’ administration and groups which represent the rights of veterans emerged in Topeka Tuesday.
That issue is whether veterans should be denied prescription medications because they use marijuana for physical or emotional pain even in states which allow medical marijuana use.
We found out about it when a Vietnam veteran contacted KSNT News.
“I went in to get a refill on my pain medication and they refused to let me have it, because I have marijuana in my blood,” Gary Dixon, Vietnam veteran.
Gary Dixon is a 65-year-old disabled Vietnam veteran. While in Vietnam he was exposed to Agent Orange.
“I hurt, and I hurt from something I got fighting for my country,” says Dixon.
Now he’s got stage four lung cancer, doesn’t have much time left to live and readily admits to smoking marijuana.
Tuesday morning Dixon and his wife Debbie drove up to Topeka from Fort Scott like they always do for Dixon’s stroke group therapy and to pick up his pain medicine. But this time his visit went different. He had to take a urine test and sign an opiate consent form.
“I said, ‘if she was wanting to see if I still smoke marijuana, I said I do’,” Dixon says.
Dixon takes 10 to 15 pills a day. Tuesday afternoon he walked out of the VA empty handed.
“If you take marijuana and you take pain medication these are two things that decrease your alertness,” says Dr. Daniel Cline, chief of ambulance with the Kansas VA.
Dixon is the latest in the growing number of veterans caught in a change nationwide within the VA.
They have to sign an ‘opiate consent’ form which outlines the negative effect of mixing pain killers and marijuana is now required.
Under the new VA guidelines, vets can get their prescriptions filled, or use marijuana, but can’t do both.
“I have always had marijuana in my blood and will continue to have it in my blood,” Dixon says.
If Dixon was to stop smoking, could he get his medication back?
“Everything is done on a case by case bases. So I can’t say that with 100 percent certainty,” says Cline.
Dixon says he’ll continue using the marijuana for the physical and emotional pain, and try to find the $400 a month for his prescriptions.
Currently several veterans groups are lobbying congress to change the VA’s policy in state’s which allow the use of medical marijuana. That’s something Kansas has still rejected.

Denying Agent Orange benefits to Vietnam vets - The VA is wrong to exclude blue-water ship personnel
There has been much publicity about recent Veterans Affairs (VA) bureaucrats manipulating data, the destruction of claim documents and other mismanagement that adversely affects the treatment of our dedicated veterans. However, these scandals pale in comparison to the VA’s arbitrary decision in 2002, with a basis in fact, to refuse benefits to U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange while serving in blue-water ships off the coast of Vietnam from 1962 to 1975.

The VA has chosen to ignore the congressionally mandated benefits for those veterans as outlined in the Agent Orange Act of 1991. Consequently, tens of thousands of Navy and Marine Corps veterans who have died or are dying from cancer and other deadly diseases contracted as a result of being exposed to Agent Orange have been cast side.
If the VA had just continued to implement the congressionally mandated 1991 Agent Orange Act, there would be no problem. The act specifically declared that any veteran who served on active duty in the Republic of Vietnam from 1962 to 1975 and has a disease attributed to Agent Orange dioxins would be “presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and eligible for service connected medical treatment and disability benefits.” The act applied to all veterans who earned the Vietnam Service Medal. This included all veterans who served on land; those who served in small craft on inland waterways (the brown-water Navy); and those who served on ships operating in harbors, bays or off the coast of Vietnam (the blue-water Navy) in the South China Sea.
Initially, Veterans Affairs properly executed the act by declaring that any Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard veteran who had earned the Vietnam Service Medal was presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and, therefore, eligible for treatment and benefits as necessary. However, for the past 13-plus years, the VA has limited Agent Orange-related benefits to only those who served “in country.” This arbitrary decision ignores abundant evidence that exposure to Agent Orange is seriously impacting those who served on Navy ships and who came into harbors, bays and within the territorial waters of Vietnam as well as further offshore.
There is no denying that U.S. military forces sprayed more than 20 million gallons of toxic herbicide and defoliants in Vietnam from 1962 to1971. The most common of these herbicides was known as Agent Orange, which contained high levels of Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD) — one of the most deadly dioxins ever synthesized — causing cancers and other deadly diseases in humans. These deadly dioxins contaminated the land, rivers, harbors and bays, and were blown by prevailing winds far out to sea, where they were ingested by those on Navy ships.

Corn Wars - The farm-by-farm fight between China and the United States to dominate the global food supply
August 16, 2015
n September 30, 2012, agents from the FBI contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago with an urgent request. They wanted bags from two passengers on an outbound flight to Beijing pulled for immediate inspection. The passengers didn’t track as dangerous criminals: Li Shaoming, president of Beijing Kings Nower Seed Science & Technology, a large Chinese agricultural company that develops corn, rice, cotton, and canola seeds, and Ye Jian, the company’s crop research manager.
In Li’s luggage, agents found two large Pop Weaver microwave popcorn boxes. Buried under the bags of unpopped snack kernels were roughly 300 tiny manila envelopes, all cryptically numbered—2155, 2403, 20362. Inside each envelope was a single corn seed. In Ye’s luggage, agents found more corn seeds hidden amid his clothes, each one individually wrapped in napkins from a Subway restaurant. Customs officers were dispatched to the gate area for the Beijing flight, where they found the two men and conducted body searches. Still more corn seeds, also folded into napkins, were discovered in Ye’s pockets.
Meanwhile, at a different gate, Wang Hongwei, another Chinese national believed to be in the employ of Kings Nower (agents never learned if he worked for the company or was related to someone who did), boarded a separate flight for Burlington, Vermont, where he had a car waiting for him to drive to Canada. FBI agents were there to follow him—though Wang, after leaving the airport parking garage, made a series of abrupt turns and managed to give his surveillance team the slip. It didn’t matter. Border patrol officers were waiting when Wang pulled up to the Highgate Springs port of entry along the U.S.-Canadian border. He was selected out for a search, which turned up 44 bags of corn seeds under his seat and in his suitcases, as well as a notebook filled with GPS coordinates and a digital camera containing hundreds of pictures of cornfields. Questioned by agents, Wang would say only that he had purchased the seeds from a man named Mo Hailong, the director of international business at the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group (DBN Group), the parent company of Kings Nower Seed.
Not wanting to alert Mo, agents allowed all three men to leave the country, but their corn seeds were confiscated. Special Agent Mark E. Betten, a 16-year veteran of the FBI specializing in the investigation of intellectual property theft, had the seeds sent to an independent bio-diagnostic testing laboratory, which confirmed that they were proprietary, genetically modified hybrids. Eventually, their genetic sequencing was matched to seeds under development by Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, and LG Seeds, which, including LG’s parent company, Groupe Limagrain, comprise three of the four largest seed companies in the world. The GPS coordinates were found to correspond with farms in Iowa and Illinois, where those companies were testing the performance of new hybrids.

VN, RoK scientists address AO effects
HA NOI (VNS) — Vietnamese and Korean experts yesterday discussed in Ha Noi co-operative measures to tackle soil contaminated with Agent Orange/dioxin sprayed by the American army during the war in Viet Nam.
The conference was part of the co-operation between the Viet Nam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment (VACNE) and the Biological Company (BJC) of the Republic of Korea (RoK) under a memorandum of understanding, signed last year, on a project to handle the repercussions of dioxins.
Speaking at the conference, Deputy Director of the Viet Nam Environment Administration Dr Mai Thanh Dung said Viet Nam was striving to handle the effects of dioxins in badly affected areas such as A Luoi District in the central Thua Thien-Hue Province.
At the event, scientists presented the results of their latest research on the issue, while exchanging viewpoints on microbiological measures to treat the toxic chemical and solutions for soil improvement for agriculture.
In the past two years, Viet Nam and the RoK have conducted research to tackle dioxin effects, integrated with improvement of the environment and the local livelihoods.
After the conference, the RoK scientists and the VACNE delegation collected soil samples from A Luoi District to test the microbiological treatment method.
From 1961 to 1971, American troops sprayed more than 80 million litres of herbicides — 44 million litres of which were AO, containing nearly 370kg of dioxin — over southern Viet Nam.
As a result, about 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic chemical. Many of the victims have died, while millions of their descendants are living with deformities and diseases as a direct result of the Agent Orange/dioxin effects.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Former Macon Mayor Ellis calls on Congress to expand Agent Orange coverage to all Vietnam vets
While the Department of Veterans Affairs has expanded coverage of troops exposed to Agent Orange, a group of Macon veterans says the VA has not gone far enough.
The group was led by Jack Ellis, former mayor of Macon and an Army airborne infantryman who fought in the Vietnam War. In a news conference at the Macon-Bibb County Government Center, Ellis also called for Congress to make benefits retroactive for children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange if the child suffers from spina bifida.
The VA website states that spina bifida, a debilitating condition, is presumed to be caused by the exposure of the father to Agent Orange. Ellis’ son has spina bifida.
“My son has never been able to walk in his life,” Ellis said in an interview prior to the news conference. “That is a direct result of my exposure to Agent Orange.”
Ellis said the VA in 1994 made those children eligible for compensation but did not make it retroactive to their birth. He estimated about 2,200 children were affected.
Ellis also called for allowing all Vietnam vets to get a free physical every year at the VA’s expense.
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., was in the midstate Thursday conducting a news conference in Warner Robins with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and others after they toured Robins Air Force Base.
Asked about the issues Ellis was raising, Bishop said he is a co-sponsor of legislation currently under consideration by the House of Representatives that would make the spina bifida compensation retroactive to birth.
Isakson, chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, said the VA currently is considering whether 19 ailments could be attributed to Agent Orange exposure.
“We are studying to make sure the scientific tie of Agent Orange to the disease is specifically there,” he said.
A Vietnam veteran supporting Ellis’ position was Leroy Thomas Sr., who served in the Navy in Vietnam.
Thomas said he served on a ship off the shores of Vietnam and thinks he was exposed to Agent Orange as a result of the wind blowing it out to sea.
Thomas said he suffers from diabetes and blames it on Agent Orange. The VA does not recognize him as having been exposed.
“We don’t want Vietnam veterans to be forgotten,” Thomas said.
Agent Orange was a defoliant widely used in Vietnam to destroy the cover and food supply of enemy troops.

Read more here:

Friday, September 4, 2015

Lawsuit Alleges Chipotle Misleads Customers About Use Of GMOs
Back in April, Chipotle proudly declared that it was the only major fast food chain in the country to contain an entirely GMO-free menu. Now, just four months later, a recently filed class-action lawsuit says that proclamation isn’t exactly truthful, accusing the fast casual restaurant of false advertising and deceiving diners into paying more for their food.
The class-action lawsuit [PDF], filed by a California woman in federal court in San Francisco, alleges that Chipotle violated the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act because its food labeling is false and misleading, and the company deceived diners into paying more for their food on the basis that it was GMO-free and “aligned with consumers’ ethical eating choices.”
According to the lawsuit — which aims to cover everyone who bought Chipotle in California since the April 27 “no GMOs” announcement — Chipotle has been selling itself to health-conscious consumers since at least 2009.
“Chipotle has carefully tailored its public image by marketing to healthy-lifestyle and environmentally conscious consumers that it knows are willing to pay premium prices for its food,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs contend that Chipotle’s recent public statements do not accurately reflect the company’s practices.
“As Chipotle told consumers it was ‘G-M-Over it,’ the opposite was true. In fact, Chipotle’s menu has never been at any time free of GMOs,” the lawsuit states.

Study finds links between Agent Orange and Bone Marrow Cancer
 Servicemembers exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War are at higher risk of developing the precursor stage of a bone marrow cancer, according to a study published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology.
The study provides the first scientific evidence for a link between the precursor stage of multiple myeloma -- a cancer of white blood plasma cells that accumulate in bone marrow -- and veterans exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange, according to the study's 12 authors, who are associated with medical centers across the U.S. The precursor, called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, or MGUS, is not in and of itself a problem.
"MGUS is not a cancer," said Dr. Nikhil Munshi, who specializes in multiple myeloma at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "A very large majority of patients with MGUS remain MGUS all through their lives with no real consequence."
MGUS virtually always precedes multiple myeloma, but the mechanisms that trigger its onset are not fully understood, said Munshi, who was not involved in the study but wrote an editorial published in the same issue of JAMA Oncology.
Previous studies have linked other insecticides, herbicides and fungicides to higher risks of MGUS and multiple myeloma.
Agent Orange was used during Operation Ranch Hand in Southeast Asia to clear jungle foliage from 1962 to 1971. It was usually sprayed via aircraft. Since then, Agent Orange has been linked to a host of health problems and diseases in many servicemembers.
The Veterans Administration maintains a list of "presumptive diseases" assumed to be related to military service that automatically qualify them for VA benefits. The Institute of Medicine has identified seven cancers with a positive association to Agent Orange, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma -- all of which have been accepted by the VA as presumptive diseases.
Multiple myeloma is a VA presumptive disease, but it has been classified as having "limited or suggestive evidence" of a link to Vietnam War veterans' exposure to herbicides, the authors of the JAMA study wrote.
The study looked at specimens from two groups of Air Force veterans that had been collected and stored in 2002 by the Air Force Health Study. A group of 479 veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange during Operation Ranch Hand were compared with a second group of the same size that had similar duties in Southeast Asia from 1962 to 1971 but were not involved with the herbicide.
The Air Force Health Study had sampled servicemembers in the two groups in 1987, 1992, 1997 and 2002 for exposure to Agent Orange and to 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, or TCDD, which is an unintended contaminant of the herbicide considered the culprit for so many of its adverse effects.
The researchers found that the prevalence of MGUS in Ranch Hand veterans was twice as high as in the comparison group, with 34 of the 479 Ranch Hand veterans having MGUS compared with 15 out of 479 in the control group.
That translated to a 2.4-fold increased risk of MGUS for Ranch Hand veterans over their counterparts when adjusting for factors such as age, race and other physical traits. "That's an important number," Munshi said. Researchers also found significantly higher levels of TCDD in the Ranch Hand veterans who had developed MGUS, he said.
Because all cases of multiple myeloma originate from MGUS, the study has provided the first scientific evidence for a direct link between Agent Orange and multiple myeloma, he said.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tell me it ain't so!

Without uttering a sound, the message on a Fowler Avenue billboard in Tampa is loud and clear. “VA is LYING, VETERANS ARE DYING,” the sign reads.  It sits not too far from the James A. Haley Veterans hospital.  VA is Lying, a FaceBook group, paid for the space.
“Sadly the situation between veterans and the V.A. is adversarial, it shouldn’t be,” group founder Ron Nesler stated.  “I want these billboards to bring public attention on what the V.A. is doing to veterans.”  Nesler is upset with what he calls the V.A.’s opposition to a law providing comprehensive health care for children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
“After the law was passed they (the V.A.) told us, that they had found loopholes, where they didn’t have to do it and if we didn’t like it we could sue them,” Nesler said.
Christine Travis, who’s father was exposed to Agent Orange while stationed at Da Nang airbase in South Vietnam, is fighting the same battle. “My health issues are a drop in the bucket compared to some second generation sufferers.  We’ve got second generation that have appendages missing, they were born without some fingers, legs,” Christine said.
Her father, Robert Yeske loaded the toxic defoliant onto planes during the war.  She points out the V.A. did not recognize Robert’s Agent Orange related illnesses until just a few months before his death in 2011.  As a result, her father lived a good portion of his life after Vietnam, unable to work and in poverty.  Now Christine contends, she and her children suffer the from effects of Agent Orange. “We bleed orange, Agent Orange.  It’s in our DNA, it’s in our blood, it’s not going away,” she added.  She believes the government and the V.A. have an obligation to care for the generations affected by the chemical.
The V.A. recognizes only Spina Bifida as a birth defect caused in the children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange.  It recognizes no health issues in their grandchildren.  Christine points out that testing has shown Agent Orange can affect 7 generations.  She urges more studies. “Me and my children will become casualties of the Vietnam war.  I’m still alive, but I was killed in Vietnam. I just haven’t died yet,” she said.
There is a reason the billboard went up around the corner from Haley.  The hospital, Ron Nesler says, is a hotbed of complaints.  Nesler remembers trying to contact Haley’s medical director on behalf of a sick veteran.  He said, he was put on hold for 20 minutes, before someone picked up. “They said that it is the policy of our medical center that the director’s office not take phone calls from veterans.  That got James A. Haley a sign,” he said.
Haley responded with an email from communications chief Karen Collins. “We respect this and any other organization’s or individual’s right to express their opinion. It is what our nation’s heroes fight for. We regret any issues he may have had with the JAHVH and are reaching out to Mr. Nesler to discuss any concerns he has with our local facility. Our wait-times are published every two weeks, the same as other VA facilities, at <;.
Overall our access is good, but there remain certain high demand specialties services that we are continuing to focus on to improve access.  JAHVH has been audited by both the OIG and the Joint Commission and no access data manipulation has been found,” the email stated.
“We work diligently to create a collaborative, problem solving environment that is conducive to the needs of our patients. We encourage anyone with a specific concern to contact the hospital’s team of Patient Advocacy Specialists that work as liaisons for the Director’s Office. Additionally, we have Service Liaisons, who field incoming calls from Veterans and either answer their questions or route the individuals to the appropriate office to handle their concerns,” it added.
Ron Nesler’s VA is Lying FaceBook group is nearly 10,000 members strong.  He vows to put up more billboards around the country.  He plans to make veterans’ care an issue in the 2016 presidential election.