Friday, April 28, 2017

Editorial: Agent Orange still poisons many Vietnam War veterans

For many Americans, the enduring memory of the Vietnam War is of the protests that defined a generation and shattered the illusion of America’s purity on the world stage. But for the 3 million men and women who served in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and early 1970s, the memories are more visceral: the fog of combat, the stench of death, the sting of returning to a seemingly ungrateful nation.
For some veterans, there’s something else, and it’s no memory. Exposed to the toxin-laced Agent Orange a half-century ago, they are now suffering long-term effects including heart disease, Parkinson’s, type II diabetes, immune system disruption, and a variety of potentially lethal cancers. The time has come for them to get the moral and financial support that are our nation’s debt.
Robert Schmid of Leverett is one of those Vietnam vets. Schmid was a soldier on the ground when planes overhead showered down herbicide to kill jungle foliage and reveal enemy troops. Amid the gunfire, he paid it little heed. “There is so much activity,” he told reporter Lisa Spear, “that it is just another thing happening.”
Now 72, Schmid has suffered a heart attack and attributes his coronary heart disease to his time in-country. Donald F. Moulton, another Vietnam veteran, suffers from an aggressive form of leukemia. He told fellow veteran John Paradis that he was exposed to Agent Orange while a Navy Seabee clearing vegetation to build bases, hospitals and schools.
“We weren’t even using the words Agent Orange then and we just took it for granted,” Moulton said. “I can tell you this, we weren’t pulling any weeds over there — that stuff pretty much took care of everything.”
And no wonder. Agent Orange contained toxins including the now-infamous dioxin, and the U.S. military sprayed close to 11 million gallons of it in Vietnam. In the decades since, scientists have concluded beyond a doubt that the herbicide is to blame for health problems including the ones suffered by Schmid and Moulton — and the government has begun paying benefits to veterans who grapple with those issues.
Veterans collect monthly benefits ranging from modest to more substantial; veterans interviewed by Spear reported payments between $300 and $3,000 a month, depending on their debilitation. But many of those afflicted don’t know that they and their spouses are entitled to the help, despite the pain and expense associated with long-term ailments.
Too many veterans remain unaware of the benefits they might collect, says Timothy Niejadlik, director of the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services office in Greenfield. To help spread the word, his organization recently held a town hall meeting at Greenfield Community College to provide information, health screenings and help in filing claims.
“A lot of these diseases are equated to age, so (veterans) are just thinking that it’s part of their natural aging process,” said Niejadlik.
Says Schmid: “There are a lot of vets who don’t take advantage; either they don’t know about it or they are shy about asking for it — and I was like that, too.”
Happily, Schmid did ask and now receives a $300 monthly benefit that not only helps with his health-related expenses but also signals a recognition — long overdue — of the sacrifices he made in that distant land. Other vets deserve that same recognition, and our nation’s thanks.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Symbolic Tribunal Finds Monsanto’s Actions Violate Global Food, Health and Environmental Rights

THE HAGUE– Six months after hearings were held, the Monsanto tribunal – an international group created to assess the many accusations surrounding the controversial corporation – issued its findings last week in a public presentation in The Hague. Monsanto has drawn strong criticism from around the world for years, most recently following international studies and revelations of the carcinogenic nature of their best-selling pesticide Roundup, also known as glyphosate.
In the past, Monsanto also helped contribute to atomic bomb research and was one of the several companies that produced Agent Orange, which was used to deforest large sections of Vietnam during the U.S. invasion of the country. Agent Orange caused half a million Vietnamese children to be born with deformities and poisoned over 3 million people. Agent Orange is still used as a pesticide for genetically modified (GM) corn in the US.
In addition, Monsanto’s business model for the dissemination of its biotech products has created untold suffering around the world, particularly in India. After genetically modified crops were introduced in the country in 2002, poor Indian farmers became trapped in vicious debt cycles after adopting GM seeds and herbicides. In 2009, the number of GM-debt related suicides was so high that an Indian farmer was estimated to commit suicide every 30 minutes. The situation in India has been seen repeated in several other countries, but Monsanto has yet to be held accountable.

EPA working on accessing sites allegedly sprayed with Agent Orange

The investigation into the alleged use of Agent Orange in Guam, as detailed by dozens of eyewitness accounts of veterans, is ongoing by the Guam Environmental Protection Agency.
Agency spokesperson Nic Lee said, “The eyewitness accounts that were issued to us by way of notarized testimony have come in and they still continue to come in to back up other claims from other veterans who witnessed the use of Agent Orange. We plot this into our grid of possible sampling sites but we have not formalized all the sites yet.”
Lee said the agency is working with the military to access sites, many of which are on military property. Guam EPA is also formalizing an agreement with the Joint Region Marianas for financial and technical assistance. The investigation was launched earlier this year.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Taiwan FDA hunts eggs over dioxin fears

Following the recall of nearly 7 tonnes of eggs over fears they contain high levels of dioxin, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday said it has inspected 688 retailers and eateries and found them to be free of the questionable produce.
Laboratory tests showed that eggs sold by a distributor in Miaoli County had dioxin levels exceeding allowable limits, with the eggs traced to three chicken farms in Changhua County, the administration reported on Friday.
The administration issued a recall, with all vendors required to comply by 3pm on Saturday.
As of 2pm yesterday, the agency said 688 retailers and eateries that had purchased the eggs from the three farms and their four down-stream distributors had been inspected, and 6.785 tonnes of eggs had been removed from shelves.
Dioxins are highly toxic compounds that include 75 types of polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and 135 types of dibenzofurans and are formed in the burning or production of chlorine-based chemical compounds, the administration said.
Dioxins can be spread in the air and settle on soil or underwater sediment, where they can enter the food chain and be absorbed by plants, eventually ending up in the bodies of animals and humans, it said, adding that 90 percent of dioxins detected in humans are attributable to food consumption, including dairy products, fish and eggs.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Veterans score major victory in Los Angeles

Justice was again served last week against the Veterans Administration — specifically, its LA office, which once again got slapped down in its efforts to squelch a critic.
Exactly why federal prosecutors tried to work the VA’s will is a question Attorney General Jeff Sessions should be asking.
For most of a decade, Vietnam-era vet Robert Rosebrock, now 75, has protested outside the VA compound in Los Angeles, charging that the agency doesn’t do remotely enough for homeless vets. And the VA keeps trying to use criminal law to shut him down.
Years ago, lawyers from the ACLU helped him beat back charges for daring to display the American flag upside-down — a classic protest move — outside a gate to the compound. Last week, lawyers from Judicial Watch convinced the court he wasn’t guilty of a federal crime for hanging two napkin-sized flags on a fence adjacent to a compound’s gate last Memorial Day.
The VA, you see, has a statute that prohibits displays, unless authorized by the facility’s head; violations can mean six months in prison. What bureaucrat is going to OK a protest?
Earlier in the latest case, Judicial Watch got other charges tossed: He’d been arrested for taking “unauthorized pictures” of a VA police officer.
Rosebrock greeted his acquittal humbly, saying he was “honored that the flag was exonerated — and for once the veterans got a victory.”
It wasn’t the vets’ only win that week: On Thursday, President Trump signed a new law that will give vets more rights to use their benefits outside the dysfunctional VA system. And new VA Secretary David Shulkin promises more reforms.
Let’s hope that includes a serious attitude adjustment for VA bureaucrats who think it’s right to imprison veterans who protest the agency’s failures.

‘Agent Orange’ chemicals at old Nufarm site in Fawkner sparks worry over health risks

THE Environment Protection Authority will be asked to inspect a former pesticide factory site in Fawkner that is contaminated with chemicals found in Agent Orange.
Land at 100 and 102 McBryde St was formerly owned by Nufarm Ltd, which produced dioxins and herbicides using chemicals that are the chief ingredients in the substance first used by US troops to defoliate the jungle during the Vietnam War.
The council has referred a planning application for two warehouses on the site to the EPA, which has until Thursday to comment.
Moreland Council has also called on the EPA to examine a clay cap, placed over the soil in the mid 1990s to entrap the contaminants, to determine its condition.
A council report revealed high traces of the carcinogenic chemicals were found at the site after the Nufarm factory closed in 1990.
The report also showed a cancer cluster is believed to have existed in the area of McBryde, Percy and Bruce streets during operation of the factory.
The Herald Sun reported in June 1990 that 20 cancer deaths were recorded at 18 nearby homes.
Brian Snowden, who lives near the property, said he hoped planning permits for construction at the site would be rejected due to health risks.
“What the residents are saying is ‘It’s not on’,” Mr Snowden said.
“Nobody knows the status of this property and nobody has done anything on it since it was capped and sold off.”
An earlier permit application to build warehouses on the lot was denied in 2015, while three similar permits lapsed.
An EPA audit conducted in 1995 led to restrictions for the site, including the clay cap being maintained and a requirement that any soil excavated from deeper than half a metre be tested and disposed of within the authority’s guidelines.
EPA metro manager Daniel Hunt said the authority was yet to receive a request to inspect the clay cap, but was in discussions with the council and a resident.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Agent Orange Veterans Hunt Through Ship Logs In Fight With U.S. Navy

During the Vietnam War, hundreds of U.S. Navy ships crossed into Vietnam’s rivers or sent crew members ashore, possibly exposing their sailors to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange. But more than 40 years after the war’s end, the U.S. government doesn’t have a full accounting of which ships traveled where, adding hurdles and delays for sick Navy veterans seeking compensation.
The Navy could find out where each of its ships operated during the war, but it hasn’t. The U.S. Department of  Affairs says it won’t either, instead choosing to research ship locations on a Bills that would have forced the Navy to create a comprehensive list have failed in Congress.
case-by-case basis, an extra step that veterans say can add months — even years — to an already cumbersome claims process.
As a result, many ailing vets, in a frustrating race against time as they battle cancer or other life-threatening diseases, have taken it upon themselves to prove their ships served in areas where Agent Orange was sprayed. That often means locating and sifting through stacks of deck logs, finding former shipmates who can attest to their movements, or tracking down a ship’s command history from the Navy’s historical archive.
“It’s hell,” said Ed Marciniak, of Pensacola, Fla., who served aboard the USS Jamestown during the war. “The Navy should be going to the VA and telling them, ‘This is how people got aboard the ship, this is where they got off, this is how they operated.’ Instead, they put that burden on old, sick, dying veterans, or worse — their widows.”
Some 2.6 million Vietnam veterans are thought to have been exposed to — and possibly harmed by — Agent Orange, which the U.S. military used to defoliate dense forests, making it easier to spot enemy troops. But vets are only eligible for VA compensation if they went on land — earning a status called “boots on the ground” — or if their ships entered Vietnam’s rivers, however briefly.
The VA says veterans aren’t required to prove where their ships patrolled: “Veterans simply need to state approximately when and where they were in Vietnam waterways or went ashore, and the name of the vessel they were aboard, and VA will obtain the official Navy records necessary to substantiate the claimed service,” VA spokesman Randal Noller wrote in an email.
More than 700 Navy ships deployed to Vietnam between 1962 and 1975. Veterans have produced records to get about half of them onto the VA’s working list, with new ships being added every year. Still, veterans advocacy groups estimate about 90,000 Navy vets are not eligible to receive benefits related to Agent Orange exposure, either because their ships never entered inland waters, or because they have yet to prove they did.

Nearly 400 military bases must be tested for drinking water contamination — and it will take years

thanks to Gerry Ney
Earlier this year, one South Jersey property owner got a notice: Chemicals from a nearby military base had seeped into the well that supplied drinking water to the site — contaminating it at a level 20 times higher than the federal government considers safe.
It’s a familiar story to residents from New York to Colorado, Pennsylvania to Idaho. Contamination from former or current military installations, including in Horsham, Warrington, and Warminster, has ignited a nationwide review of water on or around bases that used a firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals. In the Philadelphia suburbs, about 70,000 residents have contended with tainted water running from their taps.
The military is now testing nearly 400 bases and has confirmed water contamination at or near more than three dozen, according to an analysis of data by the Inquirer and Daily News. The new numbers offer the best look to date at the potential scope of the problem.
But despite more than $150 million spent on the effort so far, the process has been slow and seemingly disjointed. The Air Force, for instance, has completed sampling at nearly all of its targeted bases; the Navy, barely 10 percent. The Army has not begun. The branches and the Pentagon say they are coordinating, but have varying responses on how many bases must be tested, and limited information about remediation timelines and cost.
The lack of answers has been so confounding that Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) moved to amend the defense spending bill to compel the Pentagon to release a list of all bases that used the foam.
But with so many sites to evaluate, the cleanup "is not super-simple to do," said Mark Correll, a high-ranking Air Force official.
While this process plays out, the chemicals in soil or groundwater could continue to leach into drinking water, experts say, meaning the problem could grow.
“I am not going to be terribly surprised if, once a month for the next several years or something, we hear of a small community somewhere that was impacted,” said Christopher Higgins, a top researcher on this type of contamination and a professor at the Colorado School of Mines. “We’re going to be dealing with this for quite some time.”

Monsanto needs to be responsible for AO recovery: Spokesperson

Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang has stated that the US companies and Monsanto in particular need to hold responsibility for assisting efforts to recover from Agent Orange (AO)/dioxin consequences in Vietnam. 
She made the statement during a regular press conference in Hanoi on April 20 in reply to reporters’ queries about Vietnam’s response to the International Monsanto Tribunal’s conclusion that Monsanto destroyed the ecosystem and caused losses to the Vietnamese people during the war. 

Vietnam welcomes the International Monsanto Tribunal’s ruling on April 18, she said, adding that Monsanto’s environment destruction constitutes objectively the severe war consequences in Vietnam, especially due to the impact of the AO sprayed by the US troops. 
The spokeswoman asked Monsanto to respect the tribunal’s consultation recommendations and soon take practical actions to deal with the consequences left over by AO/dioxin. 
Hang also spoke highly of the US government, parliament and people for their recent active moves to aid the settlement of war aftermaths in Vietnam, including the AO.
The Monsanto Tribunal has found Monsanto – an US multinational chemical firm – is guilty of ecocide, which has left long-term consequences on the ecosystem of various nations, including Vietnam.
The conclusion was delivered by five international judges in The Hague, the Netherlands, on April 18 after six months of investigation and two days of testimony. 
Once being among producers of Agent Orange/dioxin for the US army during wartime in Vietnam, the biotech giant now produces pesticides and genetically modified plants.
The judges said Monsanto has engaged in practices which have negatively impacted the human rights to a healthy environment, food and health. 
Convened by civil society groups, the tribunal's findings are not legally binding. 
However, Judge Fran├žoise Tulkens, chair of the Monsanto Tribunal, said the conclusion was drawn based on acknowledged reports and evidence.
Victims of toxic chemicals and corporate power can use the conclusions in their liability cases against Monsanto and similar companies, according to the judge.
The findings will be submitted to the United Nations, UN Human Rights Committee, International Criminal Court, and Monsanto.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


We update our meetings regularly on the Town Hall Meeting Calendar:

April 21, 2017
Frankfort, Kentucky
Contact: David Cowherd

April 22, 2017
Greenfield, Massachusetts
Contact: MA State Council
Gumersindo Gomez

April 22, 2017
Faribault, Minnesota
Contact: Maynard Kaderlik 507-581-6402
James Mayr 608-556-0617

April 22, 2017
Appleton, Wisconsin
Contact Joe Eiting (920) 205-1565

April 23, 2017
Fargo, North Dakota
Contact: Larry Nicholson 701-412-7992
Maynard Kaderlik 507-581-6402

April 29, 2017
Lawrence, Indiana
Contact: Michael Hamm 317-232-3921

April 29, 2017
Arvada, Colorado
Contact: Lee White                  

April 29, 2017
Leavenworth, Kansas
Contact: Kenny Bowen

May 6, 2017
Alexandria, Minnesota
Contacts Dave Anderson 320-304-0922
Maynard Kaderlik 507-581-6402

May 13, 2017
Frewsburg, New York
Contact: Rev. Bob Lewis

June 3, 2017
Lincoln, Rhode Island
Contact: Fran Guevremont

June 24, 2017
Sauk Rapids, Minnesota
Contact: Bob Behrens 763-497-5900
Maynard Kaderlik 507-581-6402

August 19, 2017
McKinney, Texas
Contact: Don Roush
618-340-0769 (cell/text)

September 23, 2017
Chicago, Illinois
Contact: Pat O'Brien 847.403.4676
Roger McGill 773.203.3353