Monday, April 30, 2018

NVLSP Persuade Federal Court to award disability benefits for pain related to military service

NVLSP and Its PrivateLaw Firm Partner Persuade the Federal Circuit to Overturn 19-Year Precedent, VACan Now Award Disability Benefits For Pain Related to Military Service
WASHINGTON – In a sweeping legal victory for veterans, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned a 19-year lower court precedent which prohibited the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from awarding disability benefits to a veteran for disabling pain if it was not linked to a medical diagnosis.
“What this ruling means is that if a physician cannot diagnose the cause of the pain the veteran is experiencing, but the pain is related to an event, injury, or disease that occurred during the veteran’s military service, the veteran should now win disability benefits,” said Bart Stichman, executive director and co-founder of the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) and one of the attorneys who represented the veteran in the case.
The Federal Circuit’s decision in Saunders v. Wilkie overturned the 1999 precedential decision issued by the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that said VA had no authority to award benefits for pain alone, if the pain was untethered to a medical diagnosis explaining its cause.
NVLSP partnered with pro-bono counsel, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP, on the case. They won the case on behalf of Gulf war veteran Melba Saunders, who served in the Army from November 1987 until October 1994.
Saunders did not experience knee problems before serving in the Army. During her service, however, she sought treatment for knee pain and was diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome. Her exit examination reflected normal lower extremities but noted she had a history of swollen knee and hip joints and bone spurs on her feet.
After leaving the military, she suffered with pain from bilateral knee disorders. In 1994, Saunders filed a VA claim for disability compensation for knee pain, hip pain, and a bilateral foot condition. The VA Regional Office denied it. She filed a reopened VA claim for bilateral knee pain in 2008 and was denied again. She appealed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals which remanded the case to the Regional Office for additional evidence.
A 2011 VA exam found that Saunders had functional limitations on walking, that she was unable to stand for more than a few minutes, and that sometimes she required use of a cane or brace. The VA physician diagnosed Saunders with bilateral knee pain and concluded that Saunders’ knee condition was at least as likely as not caused by her military service.  Nonetheless, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals denied the claim, explaining that VA is not authorized to pay disability compensation for “pain” alone, without a medical diagnosis for the pain.  The Board cited in support the 1999 Veterans Court decision in Sanchez-Benitez v. West, which held that “pain alone is not a disability for the purpose of VA disability compensation.”


Saunders served on active duty in the Army, 1987-1994. Saunders did not previously experience knee problems but, during her service, sought treatment for knee pain and was diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). Saunders’s exit examination reflected normal lower extremities but noted Saunders’s history of knee swelling. The VA denied Saunders’s 1994 claim for disability compensation because she failed to report for a medical examination. In 2008, Saunders filed a new claim, which was denied. In 2011, a VA examiner noted that Saunders reported bilateral knee pain while running, squatting, bending, and climbing but had no anatomic abnormality, weakness, or reduced range of motion. Saunders had functional limitations on walking, was unable to stand for more than a few minutes, and sometimes required a cane or brace. The examiner concluded that Saunders’s knee condition was at least as likely as not caused by, or a result of, Saunders’s military service but stated there was no pathology to render a diagnosis. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals and Veterans Court rejected her claim under 38 U.S.C. 1110. The Federal Circuit reversed; “disability” in section 1110 refers to the functional impairment of earning capacity, not the underlying cause, which need not be diagnosed. Pain alone can serve as a functional impairment and qualify as a disability, no matter the underlying cause.

WTC firefighters disproportionately likely to have disease more common among veterans exposed to Agent Orange

What's more, the firefighters were disproportionately likely to have a type of this disease that was also more common among veterans who were exposed to the cancer-causing chemical defoliant known as Agent Orange, the study authors noted.

It's been nearly 16 years since cleanup work officially ended at New York City's ground zero, but the health effects for rescue and recovery workers are still making themselves known.
Two studies published Thursday in the journal JAMA Oncology suggest that the firefighters who came to lower Manhattan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center face a heightened risk of cancer -- and will continue to do so for years to come.
From the time that airliners flew into the twin towers through the months it took to remove the wreckage, ground zero was replete with substances that are either known or suspected carcinogens. Dust from the collapsed buildings, smoke from smoldering fires and exhaust from heavy equipment put workers in contact with asbestos, glass fibers, lead, dioxins, PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl), PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and other hazards.
Researchers have been tracking people who spent time at the site, including thousands of the New York City firefighters and EMS workers who are part of the World Trade Center Health Program. In the first decade after the attacks, 697 cancers were diagnosed among 15,507 participants.
In all likelihood, some of those cancers would have been diagnosed if the Sept. 11 attacks had never happened. But not all of them.

To see how many could be traced to ground zero exposure, a team from the FDNY's Bureau of Health Services and Office of Medical Affairs compared data on firefighters who worked at the site with data from a cancer registry of New York residents. To simplify the analysis, the researchers focused on white men.
Based on their actual cancer incidence through the end of 2011, the 12,374 firefighters were on track to be diagnosed with 2,714 cancers between the start of 2012 and the end of 2031, the researchers found. However, if those same firefighters got cancer at the same rate as other white men in New York City, they would expect to be diagnosed with only 2,596 cancers during that 20-year period.
That difference -- 118 additional cancers -- was too large to be due to chance, said Rachel Zeig-Owens, director of epidemiology for the FDNY's WTC Health Program, who led the study with Dr. David Prezant, the Fire Department's chief medical officer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Calling All Runners - Become a Parkinson's Champion Today

Are you looking for a challenge? Do you want to do something big this year? Are you ready to make a difference for people living with Parkinson's? Run with us and become a Parkinson's Champion. This fall, our team will be running in New YorkWashington, D.C. and Philadelphia to make life better for the 1 million Americans living with Parkinson's disease. Commit to 26.2 miles while raising funds and awareness for the Parkinson's Foundation.
The 2018 TCS New York City Marathon is one of the premiere running events in the world. This 26.2-mile marathon travels through all five boroughs of New York City and features a field of over 50,000 runners who enjoy an iconic NYC experience, starting in Staten Island before finally finishing in historic Central Park. More information.
The Marine Corps Marathon, known as 'the best marathon for beginners,' is the largest marathon in the world that doesn't offer prize money, earning its nickname, "The People's Marathon." You'll tackle 26.2 miles starting in Arlington, VA and tour downtown DC past the Lincoln Memorial, Tidal Basin, and multiple national museums to finish at the Marine Corps War Memorial. More information.
Join us in the city of brotherly love and celebrate the Philadelphia Marathon's 25th anniversary in November. Expect beautiful views through Fairmount Park and along the Schuylkill River with crowds cheering you on as you end the race speeding towards the steps of the majestic Art Museum. More information.
More Ways to Get Involved

If you aren't a runner, there are still so many ways you can get involved! Visit to learn more. We rely on the energy, skill and passion of people like you to make life better for people with Parkinson's and advance research toward a cure! y

Pollution Promotes Rheumatoid Arthritis

A study in mice showed that air pollution is a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis.
Air pollution is an aggravating risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study published in the medical journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The conclusions were obtained on mice.
Researchers at the University of Michigan in the United States conducted a study to understand whether there was a link between rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory joint disease and environmental factors such as pollution. This pathology affects about 1% of the population, especially women between 40 and 60 years old.
During the study, scientists observed the association between the HLA gene and other environmental pollutants such as air pollution. However, the HLA gene has already been noted as a risk factor for smokers to develop this disease in a more severe form, with greater pain and bone degeneration.
The researchers have isolated dioxin, a toxic pollutant from the hydrocarbon family, resulting from industrial processes but also vehicles and highway traffic as a risk factor for an autoimmune disease, multiple sclerosis.
“We have found a particular enzyme acting as a “channel in the cell” bringing the HLA gene into contact with dioxin. The two culprits would therefore walk together to do more damage, including bone destruction,” said Dr. Joseph Holoshitz, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, author of the study.

Burn Pits and the VA: The Impact of the Department of Labor’s Landry Decision on Disability Claims Pending Before VA

For the first time, a federal agency recognized that exposure to burn pits used at a US military forward operating base may cause lung disease. This January an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) in the Department of Labor (“DOL”) found that burn pit exposure caused lung disease in a government contractor working in Iraq. Ever since, social media platforms have been abuzz with hopeful chatter that the DOL decision will spark the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) to follow suit and acknowledge the connection between burn pits and negative health conditions. While DOL’s decision evidences a hopeful crack, the dyke has not yet fully burst. Although the ALJ found that a government contractor presented enough evidence to show that exposure to the burn pits caused her lung disease, the DOL decision does not control decisions made by the VA. Veterans with claims pending before VA for that relate to burn pit exposure must continue to gather medical evidence to bring a successful benefits claim — a daunting task when it comes to proving causation.
Factual Background: Veronica Landry Diagnosed with Lung Disease After Deployment
Veronica Landry worked as a government contractor at two forward operating bases in northern Iraq from March 2004 through February 2005. While in Iraq, Ms. Landry lived and worked within a mile of the burn pit at each base. Ms. Landry worked outdoors about a third of the time and testified that she was exposed to smoke from the burn pits every day during her deployment. As has become well known, the military used such burn pits to dispose of a variety of items containing various toxins, such as tires, vehicle parts, hazardous medical materials, plastic water bottles, and ammunition. 
After returning to the U.S., Ms. Landry began to develop respiratory problems. These problems included several respiratory “episodes” and an overall decrease in lung function. Ms. Landry was eventually diagnosed with mild lung disease after her doctor conducted testing and a lung biopsy. Ms. Landry’s doctor offered a medical opinion that her mild lung disease was related to her exposure to burn pits, dust, and working outdoors in northern Iraq. However, the doctor did not believe that her lung disease contributed to her respiratory episodes after returning home.
Judge Determines that Burn Pits Contributed to Ms. Landry’s Lung Disease
After reviewing the facts, the ALJ determined that Ms. Landry presented sufficient evidence to show that she her lung disease arose from deployment-related conditions, specifically, exposure to burn pits. This decision marked the first time a federal agency recognized that exposure to a burn pit used at a US military base contributed to deployment-related lung disease.

Vet: "I was in Vietnam." VA: "Prove it."

An aging veteran can't get some of his health costs paid for because he's having a hard time proving he was exposed to Agent Orange.
A hearing was supposed to help clear things up on Friday.
But 73 year-old James Edwards says his hearing was cancelled.
The Malvern Air Force veteran has already been waiting six years for the VA to hear his appeal...and his proof that he was in Vietnam.
If Edwards can prove that his health problems are service connected, it would do wonders for his finances.
"I've been paying the VA...they've been taking care of me,” says Edwards. “But...I have been paying them co-pays for 40 years now. I pay $59.00 for an office visit. I pay $9.00 for a medical prescription...which I have six of them."
Edwards believes he was exposed to Agent Orange while serving as a Crew Chief aboard C-133’s delivering supplies to Vietnam in the mid-60’s.
The problem is flight manifests and maintenance records were long ago destroyed.
If payroll or tax records exist Edwards hasn't been able to find them..
And his trips were quick so he has no photographs of himself in southeast Asia or postmarked letters sent back home.
But...he does have witnesses.
And he recently travelled to Nebraska to get one of them on record.
"My names is Leland M. Vallier, retired Chief Master Sgt. United States Air Force. I was stationed at Travis at the time James Edwards was a flying crew chief. I wrote his performance report and he did go out on that air craft west many, many times and many times into Vietnam."
"In addition to death and taxes there is one other absolute in life and that is...if you are a flying crew chief on a C-133 at Travis in the mid-60's you're going to Vietnam," asserts Edwards.
As for when Edwards will get another chance to argue his appeal, he says it could take anywhere from six months to two years.

Toxic neighbour: Monsanto and the poisoned town

In June 1957, Disneyland in California added a new building to Tomorrowland, its vision of a carefree world to come. Made of plastic, the House of the Future looked suitably avant garde and was entirely mechanised. Sponsored by Monsanto, then one of the world’s
biggest chemical companies, it attracted 20 million visitors over the next 10 years.

However, as Mathieu Asselin points out in his book Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation, a very different vision of the future was unfolding in Anniston, Alabama. There, since the 1920s, Monsanto had been producing PCBs, chemicals widely used in the creation of lubricants, inks, paints and electrical equipment. PCBs were banned in the US in 1979 due to fears about their toxicity, but the damage to Anniston had already been done. Between 1929 and 1971, some 27 tonnes of PCBs were released into the atmosphere, 810 tonnes flushed into Snow Creek canal, and 32,000 tonnes deposited in an open-air landfill site near the city centre, according to a 2005 report by the Environmental Protection Agency.
PCBs linger long in the environment and have been detected in water far from their original source of release. Prolonged exposure causes skin rashes in humans and changes in blood and urine that may denote liver damage. In 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified dioxin-like PCBs as human carcinogens.

Friday, April 20, 2018

CA Appeals Court Hands Monsanto a Legal Setback

(CN) – A California state appeals court dealt Monsanto a legal defeat on Thursday, ruling the state was well within in its legal bounds when it decided to list a weed-killing chemical as a possible cancer-causing agent.
California’s Fifth Appellate District affirmed a ruling, saying California’s decision to list glyphosate as a possible carcinogen, based on determinations made by international health organizations, did not override the rights of U.S. citizens.
“Fundamentally, appellants’ argument is that a state’s delegation of its lawmaking authority is an inappropriate violation of the republican form of government when that delegation is to a foreign agency,” said a three-judge panel in a 43-page ruling issued on Thursday. “Yet there is no question, given the extensive analysis of the United States Constitution … that the state has authority to delegate legislative authority under long-settled principles consistent with republican forms of government.”
In other words, the Office of Environmental Health and Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) acted appropriately when it listed glyphosate, a weed-killing chemical sold commercially as RoundUp, under the Proposition 65 list of chemicals believed to cause cancer.
“This is a huge win for all Californians – and a huge loss for Monsanto – as it upholds our right to protect ourselves and our environment from unnecessary and unwanted exposure to the dangerous chemical glyphosate,” said Adam Keats, senior attorney at California for Food Safety.
Last year, OEHHA listed the widely used weed abatement chemical as a possible carcinogen, citing the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization that focuses on researching the lifestyle and environmental risk factors that contribute to cancer rates.
Monsanto asserted that California’s reliance on a foreign entity not beholden to voters in the United States amounted to an end around U.S. sovereignty and sued in Fresno County Superior Court.

Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel (CAP) and Public Meetings Contaminants in the Water August 1953 through December 1987

For those in and around western PA, eastern OH, WV or southwest NY
courtesy of Paul Sutton

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) invites the public to hear from the scientists who conducted public health activities to understand the impact of exposure to contaminants in the drinking water at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Veterans Affairs representatives will also discuss VA health benefits available to Veterans and family members, and disability benefits for Veterans who were stationed or lived on the base for at least 30 days from August 1953 to December 1987.

Dates/Times:    Community Assistance Panel (CAP) Business Meeting:
April 27, 2018, 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.                     
Public Meeting:
April 28, 2018, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Location:         DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Green Tree
                         500 Mansfield Avenue
                         Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15205

Online: Link to livestream of meeting will be available the day of the meeting

Background: The contamination of drinking water at Camp Lejeune started in the early 1950s and ended in 1985. ATSDR has been assessing the health risks from hazardous substances in drinking water at Camp Lejeune since the 1980s. ATSDR has published several health studies that have linked exposures to the drinking water with a number of diseases and health conditions.

Additional Information:

ATSDR health studies and other work related to Camp Lejeune

Veterans Affairs Health and Disability Benefits

Opinion - Lutz: The U.S. military in Vietnam and the fight against Agent Orange

Agent Orange was a wise, planned political move by the U.S. starting in 1962 during the Vietnam War. It was used to eliminate forest coverage as well as crops that enemy South Vietnam could utilize.
In January of 1962, United States helicopters flew over South Vietnam and ended up spraying more than 20 gallons of numerous herbicides, including the deadly chemical Dioxin, onto its terrain.
From these types of chemicals like Dioxin, the health effects are not only a long list but extreme, too. Exposure to them can lead to: cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Hodgkin’s Disease, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and liver damage, among others.
The term Agent Orange gets its name from the orange stripe painted on the 55-gallon drums that the mixture of chemicals were stored in. It’s a code name for “Operation Ranch Hand,” which is defined as a herbicide-warfare program.
From 1962-1971, approximately 20 million gallons of herbicides were dropped down on South Vietnam and approximately 20,000 attacks were launched from 1961-1971. Roughly 4.5 million acres of land were destroyed.
On orders, United States pilots serving in the war were spread out throughout the terrain, to spray everything in sight. Roads, rivers, aqueducts, crop fields and farmland were all victims of the spraying of heavy chemicals that occurred.
Some United States’ troops compared Agent Orange to Smokey the Bear, joking that his new slogan should be: “Only you can prevent a forest,” instead of “only you can prevent forest fires.” Slogan posters with his picture on it were even made to continue the joke.
In 1979, over several years after the war ended, class action lawsuits started to pile up versus numerous chemical companies. Almost 2.5 million Americans who claimed to be victims of Agent Orange wanted compensation. Half-a-decade later, they got their wish.
Settling out of court, against the plaintiff veterans [or a veteran’s next-of-kin], seven different chemical companies paid a total of [a whopping] $180 million dollars in damages.
Not only can anything during warfare be dangerous but everything in life has a consequence; whether good or bad.

Aquatic moss could clean up arsenic from contaminated waterways

READ THE STORY courtesy of Bill Hodges

Arsenic was long used for treating wood, but this was banned in consumer products in 2004 due to concerns over its toxicity. However, the element continues to pose a risk in many areas as deposits naturally occurring in the ground and bedrock can contaminate water as a result of mining operations. One such area where this occurs is northern Sweden, but now researchers have identified a moss there that can quickly remove the harmful substance and make the water safe to drink.
It's not just drinking from waterways contaminated with arsenic that poses a risk to humans because the substance is also absorbed by plants, either from the soil or from arsenic-contaminated water used for irrigation. This can lead to high levels of arsenic in everything from rice and leafy greens, to wheat and root vegetables.
Now researchers from Stockholm University have discovered an environmentally friendly way of removing arsenic from water in the form of the aquatic moss Warnstorfia fluitans. This moss is found in various countries around the world, including Sweden, and was found to have the ability to absorb and adsorb arsenic from water in a very short time.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Conservation Groups, Farmers Seek Court Decision to Declare Dow Chemical’s New Agent Orange-based Pesticide

Latest Court Filings Allege That Dow’s Enlist Duo Harms Endangered Species, Other Crops, Human Health; Was Unlawfully Approved by Pruitt’s EPA
WASHINGTON— Late Wednesday a coalition of environmental organizations and farmers represented by the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice filed new legal papers in federal court seeking the reversal of Scott Pruitt and the Trump Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of Dow Chemical’s toxic pesticide, Enlist Duo. The novel pesticide is a combination of glyphosate and 2,4-D, to be sprayed over the top of corn, cotton and soybeans that are genetically engineered by Dow with resistance to both pesticides.
“Our filing reveals that EPA approved Enlist Duo despite its significant harms to health, environment, farms, water and endangered species,” said Sylvia Wu, CFS attorney and counsel for the coalition. “EPA’s job is protecting the environment, human health, and farmers, not blindly do the bidding of pesticide companies. The court must stop its use.”
In early 2017 EPA dramatically expanded approval of Enlist Duo use to 34 states and for use on cotton, only one year after a court sent back EPA’s previous approval. The two chemicals in Enlist Duo do more damage when used together than the net damage they do when used separately.
“EPA has put human health, neighboring crops, and the survival and recovery of hundreds of endangered species at risk by recklessly putting a potent and toxic pesticide on the market without the data or expert review the law requires,” said Paul Achitoff, Earthjustice attorney and counsel for the coalition. “We, and the law, demand much more from the agency created to protect our health and environment than bowing to chemical industry pressure.”
Dow markets Enlist Duo and its companion Enlist crops as a quick fix for the “superweeds” epidemic created by prior genetically engineered “Roundup Ready” crops, genetically engineered to withstand what would otherwise be a toxic dose of the herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. Repeated use of Roundup on these crops has resulted in the proliferation of glyphosate-resistant superweeds which now infest over a hundred million acres of U.S. farmland. These superweeds now require an even more toxic combination of herbicides, like Enlist Duo, to take them out, driving a dangerous spiral of increasing weed resistance and pesticide use. The U.S. Department of Agriculture conservatively estimates that use of Enlist Duo on U.S. corn and soybean will increase the use of 2,4-D by 200 to 600 percent.
Said Jim Goodman, an organic dairy and beef rancher from Wisconsin and board president of National Family Farm Coalition, one of the petitioners in the case: “2,4-D is a possible carcinogen, an endocrine-disrupter and a herbicide that is very drift prone and persistent in the environment. The combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate in Enlist Duo is a recipe for disaster. It may control Roundup-resistant weeds, but only for a while, and at what cost to the health of farmworkers, consumers and the environment?”

Another Voice: Glyphosate -The gift that keeps on giving

“Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science”, by Carey Gilliam, published in 2017, is a book about glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.
Glyphosate is a chelating agent, a chemical that bonds to minerals. It was originally manufactured to remove mineral deposits in water boilers. Monsanto researchers discovered it would bond to, and disrupt, a phosphate bearing enzyme necessary for plants and bacteria, but not mammals. The weed-killer, Roundup, went to market in 1970 as a wide spectrum herbicide, and was an immediate commercial success. It was advertised as less harmful than other herbicides, safer than aspirin, and almost safe enough to drink.
By 1995, annual US application of glyphosate was 40 million pounds, the seventh most widely used herbicide at the time, with 147 million pounds used globally. It was applied for weed control before planting and after harvest, limiting the overall use. At this point Monsanto introduced genetically modified (GMO) crops which were glyphosate resistant, so Roundup could be applied during the entire growing season. Sales soared and by 2014, annual US application was 275 million pounds and 1.8 billion pounds globally, the most widely used herbicide on the planet.
Problems soon appeared as weeds became resistant to glyphosate. Totally resistant super weeds now infest more than 70 million acres in the US, increasing each season. They are so tall and strong they can damage farm equipment. They must be removed by hand, erasing the original advantage of the product. More Roundup has to be applied every year to get the same results, but increased application contaminates waterways, damages the soil by removing key nutrients, and kills soil micro-fauna necessary for healthy plants.

What’s the deal with genetically modified (GM) foods?

It’s complicated; but here is a quick summary of what the controversy over genetically modified foods is all about.
GM engineering involves reconfiguring the genes in crop plants or adding new genes that have been created in the laboratory.
Scientific modification of plants is not something new. Since time began, nature has been modifying plants and animals through natural evolution, meaning that the plants and ani­mals that adapt best to the changing environment survive and pass their genes on to their offspring. Those that are least fit do not survive. Farmers, too, have been helping nature improve crops for generations by saving the seeds of the best tomatoes and apples to use for next year’s crop. This is a kind of genetic selection—the most favorable plants succeed.
Seed companies have been contributing to this genetic strengthening, too. Today’s seed catalogs show traditional genetic selection at its finest, promising flowers with bigger blooms, tomatoes that ripen early, and new varieties of old species. Genetic selection has always been cultivated, first by nature and later with help from flower growers and farmers. It’s nature at its best.
But here’s the problem—today’s genetic tinkering is not being undertaken by farmers. It is being driven by chemical (i.e., pesticide) manufacturers and plant geneticists, and it is proceeding on a macro scale. The chemical manufacturers’ goal is not to produce a tastier apple, a juicier tomato, or more nourishing corn, but rather to modify food crops, such as corn and soybeans, so that the crops will be resistant to the pesti­cides that these same companies make. Then, when it comes time to weed vast tracts of planted corn or soybeans, the agro-business can spray the pesticide-resistant crops with the chem­ical company’s product to kill the weeds—rather than perform the tedious task of mechanical weeding. The weeds die, the crops live, and the pesticide company makes money. At first glance it appears to be an efficient way to weed a big field.

Monday, April 9, 2018

EPA announces San Jacinto River Waste Pits cleanup action

On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that an agreement has been reached with International Paper Company and McGinnes Industrial
Maintenance Corporation to perform a remedial design for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site selected remedy. The selected cleanup action addresses the potential dangers posed by dioxin contamination at the site in east Harris County.
“This agreement marks the next step in my commitment to the people of Harris County to expedite the remediation of the San Jacinto Waste Pits site,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA will ensure that the remedial design removes all the contamination as quickly and safely as possible and permanently protects the health and safety of the surrounding communities and the San Jacinto River.”
The EPA’s cleanup plan, with support from state partners and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, includes installing engineering controls before excavating approximately 212,000 cubic yards of dioxin contaminated material for disposal. The estimated cost for the remedy is $115 million.

Baby Diapers and Dioxin - It's not personal, it's only business

Baby Diapers Market challenge - one of the major factors hindering the growth of this market is Rising awareness of negative impacts associated with baby diapers. Baby diapers, especially disposable baby diapers, contain dioxin, a toxic chemical by-product of the paper-bleaching process. Dioxin is recognized as the most hazardous chemical among all cancer-causing carcinogens. They are a known toxin linked to congenital disabilities, skin diseases, liver diseases, immune system suppression, and genetic damage in lab animals. Additionally, a majority of disposable and eco-friendly baby diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, which is a toxic chemical ingredient that is added to the inner layer of diapers to make them super-absorbent.

Monday, April 2, 2018


Fired VA secretary - “I am struck by a recurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country.”

WASHINGTON — Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is blaming his sudden ouster from the Trump administration on “political forces” that he says are bent on privatizing the agency and putting “companies with profits” over the care of veterans.
Shulkin, the lone Obama administration holdover serving in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, blasted a “toxic” and “subversive” environment in Washington that made it impossible for him to lead. In a tweet late Wednesday, President Donald Trump fired Shulkin, who faced a mounting internal rebellion at VA and a bruising ethics scandal.
“As I prepare to leave government,” he wrote in a New York Times op-ed Thursday, “I am struck by a recurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country.”
Shulkin said he was undone by advocates of privatization within the administration.
“They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed,” he said. “That is because I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans.”
White House on Thursday rejected Shulkin’s assertions that it was seeking to privatize the agency.
“This administration has taken several unprecedented steps to transform and modernize the VA, and there are no discussions about privatizing it,” said White House spokesman Raj Shah. “We look forward to continuing our work with Congress to reform and strengththe VA Choice program to provide our veterans with more choice in their health care.”

from the President of the Blue Water Navy Veterans Association


I would like to ask everyone reading this and other veterans a big favor. We need you to contact the White House at or 855-948-2311 in support of Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans.
Here is some history. In 1993, a bill passed in Congress call the Agent Orange Act of 1993 giving VA benefits to Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans who were suffering from certain diseases. The list has been updated since then. In 2002, the general consul of the VA ruled that Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans didn't qualify for these benefits. Since that time, Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans have been fighting to get these benefits back.
You may ask why this is important. Veterans like myself who served on ships while serving in Vietnam were actually exposed to a higher level of the dioxin that is in Agent Orange than their fellow veterans who served "boots on the ground." This is due to the fact that the distillations system used on the ships actually enhanced the dioxins instead of removing them. This has led to many of these veterans suffering from diseases related to Agent Orange exposure like myself who now suffer from prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, heart problems, COPD, emphysema and skin cancer.
Right now, there is a bill in Congress called the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R.299 & S.422) that would cover us. We have 75 percent of Congress supporting the bill, yet we can't get the bill brought to the floor for a vote because they do not have a way to fund the bill. The cost of the bill is around $1 billion over 10 years. Now to add insult to injury, our own government has spent over $1.1 billion cleaning up Vietnam of Agent Orange.

Agent Orange testing limited to base

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency lacks the budget to proceed with herbicide testing efforts outside Andersen Air Force Base as requested by Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje in a Feb. 1 letter to agency administrator Walter Leon Guerrero.
Terlaje, in that letter, wanted to confirm if soil testing for TCDD dioxin – the toxic component of the Agent Orange herbicide – would be conducted along the fuel pipeline that runs from Sasa Valley Fuel Farm to Andersen Air Force Base.
She also suggested that soil testing for the presence of herbicides should be extended to Naval Base Guam as well as civilian areas because the pipeline runs through several villages.

Agent Orange Survivors of Guam rally in support of H.R. 809 and 299


Guam – A group of veterans and activists held a veteran’s day agent orange and toxic chemical rally in Agana yesterday.
The rally was organized by Ned Pablo, veteran Barry Mead and the Agent Orange Survivors of Guam group to bring awareness to the claims of the use of agent orange on Guam. Agent Orange is a toxic and carcinogenic chemical used as a defoliant by the U.S. military, particularly during the Vietnam war.
There are numerous claims that the toxic chemical was stored and even used on Guam at Andersen air force base to clear the runway of vegetation. The rally was held in front of Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo’s office in support of HR 809 and HR 299. HR 809 or the “Fighting For Orange-Stricken Territories in The Eastern Region Act” was introduced by Florida Congressman Dennis Ross in February of 2017. The measure includes Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands as potential places where agent orange was used. HR 299 or the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017” is a bill that extends the Republic of Vietnam definition with regards to the exposure to certain toxins to include the surrounding seas of the country. In January of 2017, Bordallo met with DOD officials who “asserted that agent orange was not used on, stored or transshipped through Guam during the Vietnam war,” according to the Congresswoman’s official website. Then in April of 2017 the Congresswoman wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office in Washington D.C. asking them to look into whether or not agent orange was used, transshipped or stored on Guam.