Wednesday, September 18, 2019

US veterans and service members targeted by foreign entities online, report finds

US veterans, current service members and their families are being targeted online with malware and by foreign entities and influence campaigns, and the government isn't doing enough to stop it, a new report says.
The study by Vietnam Veterans of America, a non-profit that advocates for and serves the needs of all veterans, documents a myriad number of ways veterans are impersonated and targeted online -- particularly on Facebook. In at least one instance, they've been targeted by influence campaigns from foreign governments.
Russia's Internet Research Agency, for instance -- the "troll factory" with ties to the Russian government that creates content to push divisive messages on American social media -- purchased more than a hundred online ads targeting US service members and veterans, the study found. It also specifically purchased ads focused on people who followed a number of legitimate organizations on Facebook, including Vietnam Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Concerned Veterans for America.
But the sources of the efforts to target veterans was not always clear. The report found numerous other Facebook pages and groups, often with moderators who were listed in countries like Russia (though not necessarily tied to the IRA) and "with concentrations in Eastern Europe and Vietnam", that follow very similar trends.
One Facebook page called Vietnam Veterans, which has been around since at least 2016, posted both photos of VVA's president to imply a relation with the group, and re-posted Russian IRA memes.

Why GMOs have no place in Africa

Africa a continent once blessed with vast natural habitat providing natural resources foods and medicinal plants, fresh waters, minerals with a rich history cultural heritage and hospitable people has been reduced to a continent laden with wars, suffering, impoverishment, greed and a multitude of diseases. And now, Africa is being confronted with yet another seemingly sweet but bitter package of GMOs but only designed to compound the current problems Africa is grappling with.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are a result of laboratory processes where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. GMO’s can also be described as living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering.
Genetic Engineering or Modification is a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to introduce improved/novel organisms or the direct manipulation of an organism’s genome using bio-technology.
Genome is an organism complete set of DNA including all the genes each genome contains all the information needed to build and maintain that organism.

Court orders VA to cover veterans’ emergency room debts

In August, the VA Inspector General found $716 million in improperly processed payments in cases involving veterans who sought medical care outside the department’s health system in 2017, including about $53 million that should have been refunded under existing rules.
A federal court this week ordered Veterans Affairs officials to reimburse veterans for all expenses at non-department emergency medical centers, a move that could mean payouts of tens of thousands of dollars to patients facing financial distress because of their hospital bills.
The ruling also has the potential to add billions in medical care costs to the department’s budget in coming years.
A divided three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on Tuesday said that VA’s current reimbursement regulation for veterans who seek non-department medical care violates existing federal law.
They blasted administration officials for creating an “unacceptable” policy and ordered that any emergency medical expenses not covered by veterans’ private medical insurance must be covered by the agency.
In August, the VA Inspector General found $716 million in improperly processed payments in cases involving veterans who sought medical care outside the department’s health system in 2017, including about $53 million that should have been refunded under existing rules.

Veterans Group Sues VA Over Processing Delay of Blue Water Disability Benefits

A veterans advocacy organization filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over its decision to delay paying disability benefits claims to Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans until at least January 1, 2020. Lawmakers have also urged VA officials to lift a stay on processing the disability claims, calling for quicker action on the cases instead of waiting until next year.
Military Veterans Advocacy (MVA) filed the lawsuit in the Federal Court of Appeals. The group called the stay “unlawful” and requested the court to compel the VA to begin processing the claims immediately. In a memo, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the Congress-approved legislation signed by the president authorized him to delay the claims until next year. However, MVA Executive Director John Wells argued that the delays were “unconscionable” and created hurdles for “veterans whose health and longevity are at stake.”
 “Blue Water veterans have already had to wait decades for the benefits to which they are entitled. They have waited long enough,” commented Florida veterans lawyer David W. Magann. “Aging veterans who are suffering from serious, sometimes even life-threatening, illnesses due to toxic herbicide exposure deserve to receive their disability payments as soon as possible.”
VA officials said the delay was necessary to ensure agency employees were adequately prepared to process the influx of new claims. They added that entering thousands of new claims into the system could create problems that could affect millions of other veterans filing for disability payments besides those seeking Blue Water benefits.

Monday, September 9, 2019

September Is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

First of all, the disease is prostate cancer, not prostrate cancer.
Much more importantly, however, is the fact that more men are diagnosed every year with prostate cancer than women are diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s true. You just don’t hear or read about it as much. It’s time to change this.
The prostate gland is a mysterious, walnut-sized gland that sits below the bladder, in front of the rectum and surrounds the urethra – and only men have one. Its purpose is to provide fluid to propel sperm.
Most men are unaware of their prostate until it starts giving them trouble. Around middle age, the gland can begin to enlarge and put pressure on the bladder, making urination difficult. This is called BPH: benign prostatic hyperplagia. It is not prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer, like many cancers, happens when something goes “wonky” (real medical term) in the cells. We can’t always tell why, but we do know that exposure to certain chemicals (Agent Orange, for one) can increase the risk of prostate cancer. There is also a genetic link. If a father, brother or other close relative has had prostate cancer, it greatly increases your risk of developing the disease.
What should you do? As with all cancers, early diagnosis is critical to the cure. It is recommended that every man have a baseline screening prostate exam at age 50, but earlier if there is a family history of prostate cancer. The exam consists of two parts: a PSA (prostatic-specific antigen) blood test and a DRE (digital rectal exam – a finger test). If both are normal, then these tests should be repeated annually to track any changes.
If you are at least 50 and your doctor has not mentioned a prostate exam, be proactive by asking for one! A lot of men are reluctant to have the DRE because it may be a little uncomfortable, but it lasts only 10 to 15 seconds. It’s far less uncomfortable than suffering a fatal case of prostate cancer.

Exposure to dispersant raised likelihood of neurological symptoms in Deepwater Horizon responders: study

U.S. Coast Guard members who were exposed to oil while responding to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe were twice as likely to experience headaches and dizziness as those who were not, according to a new study by researchers with the Uniformed Services University, a health science university in Maryland that is run by the federal government.
And those who were exposed to dispersants as well as oil were significantly more likely to report acute neurological symptoms than those who were exposed only to the oil, said Jennifer Rusiecki, one of the study's authors and a professor in the university's department of preventive medicine and biostatistics.
Previous studies have examined lung and skin irritation in relationship to exposure to oil and dispersants. But the new study provides a glimpse of acute neurological effects stemming from exposure to the oil and dispersants.
The study will be published in the journal Environment International in October, but is available online now.
In addition to local fishers and coastal residents, more than 8,500 U.S. Coast Guard personnel were deployed to help aid in the cleanup after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion led to the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history.
They provided support in placing containment booms, skimming oil from the water's surface, cleaning up beaches, decontaminating equipment, administrative work and a variety of other tasks. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Birth Defect Research for Children - August Newsletter

Dear Birth Defect News Readers,
For 37 years, Birth Defect Research for Children has been there for you: We have provided all parents with free information about their child's birth defects. We have helped families connect with each other through our Parent Matching Program. We have prevented birth defects through  the Healthy Baby  Resource. We have helped veterans of Vietnam and the Gulf War learn if their children's birth defects and disabilities are linked to wartime exposures. We have helped communities investigate toxins linked to birth defects. We have sponsored the only National Birth Defect Registry that collects information on all kinds of birth defects (structural and functional) and the health, genetic and exposure histories of both parents. The registry now has 10,000 cases.
Now we need your help. Funding for environmental health research is disappearing and our organization is struggling to continue all our services.
We are supported totally by public donations and some small grants. We need your donations to keep on doing the work we have done for nearly 40 years.
Just click on THIS LINK and go to our donate page. We appreciate any gift you can make.
Also, we are pleased to announce we have opened our more than 100 fact sheets to be downloaded without having to fill out any form. You can see them here.
With my appreciation,
Betty Mekdeci
Executive Director
976 Lake Baldwin Lane Suite 104
Orlando FL 32814

Soil testing considered at Riverside Park, prompts tense exchanges

WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) — A group called Citizens for a Clean Wausau has pushed for testing of Riverside Park. The group is concerned about possible dioxin contamination in the soil.
In July the Parks and Recreation Committee requested a plan from REI engineering to take soil samples at the park.
Tuesday the firm brought it’s proposal back to the committee. It specified six locations to draw soil samples from across Riverside Park.
Tom Killian, a spokesperson for Citizens for a Clean Wausau, voiced disapproval over the initial plan at the meeting.
“In its current state, this would not be recognized as sufficient, acceptable or legitimate as a testing plan,” said Killian.
Killian’s comments prompted several tense exchanges during the meeting.
“I feel like this has gone around and round and round for a number of meetings,” said Jamie Polley, Director of the Marathon County Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department. “And now we’ve come to another proposal and Mister Killian is picking it apart.”
Polley went on to ask for specific soil sample location recommendations from Citizens for a Clean Wausau.
“I’m, frankly, growing very fatigued of this constant hashing over something,” said committee member David Nutting. “We either will do something, but finance is really going to draw the conclusion. Finance is going to say whether they’ll spend the money and do this or not. That’s what it really comes down to.”
Killian later told the committee he felt he was being “castigated” and seemingly attacked.
“We presented three zones of testing. We presented the depth. We recommended the testing. We even went so far as to recommend the specific EPA method of dioxin testing. This was done in great detail and I know it was in depth,” said Killian. “So perhaps you missed some of those things Miss Polley.”

Lawmakers to VA: Provide Health Care to All Veterans Made Sick by Burn Pits

A bipartisan group of congressmen is pressuring the Department of Veterans Affairs to extend health benefits and disability compensation automatically to veterans battling illnesses thought to be caused by exposure to open-air burn pits.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Florida, and Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-California, have both introduced legislation that would direct the VA to study illnesses thought to be related to exposure to the toxic fumes emitted by waste disposal sites in Iraq and Afghanistan and designate any linked illnesses as presumed to be caused by exposure, thereby automatically qualifying affected veterans for VA health care and disability benefits.
Both also have signed on to support each other's bills, while Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; Rep. Peter King, R-New York; and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania, have thrown support behind Ruiz's bill.
Bilirakis, who introduced the same measure in 2018, said the government needs to heed the lessons of Vietnam veterans, who fought nearly 20 years to establish a presumptive service link for exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides.
"It's not a coincidence that so many of the exposed veterans are all suffering from the same diseases," Bilirakis said in a statement last month. "We saw similar patterns with veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange in earlier wars. Sadly, many of those veterans died while the VA took decades to study the issue."

Everyone has a role to play in preventing Veteran suicide

Suicide is a complex issue, but there are simple actions that anyone can take to support the Veterans in their lives. Use the resources and information below to learn more about what you can do to help.
Showing your support can be as simple as sending a message. Your words could be exactly what a Veteran in crisis needs to hear, and our message generator can help you find the right words to start a conversation.

Roundup lawsuits shed light on Monsanto's internal — and controversial — PR strategies

ST. LOUIS — More than a year after Bayer gobbled it up, Monsanto has managed to stay in the headlines, thanks to a mountain of lawsuits that allege its moneymaking weedkiller Roundup causes cancer. Like Monsanto, Bayer insists the widely used product is safe, but three big jury verdicts have found otherwise.
 “It’s been a little bit more noisy than expected,” Liam Condon, president of Bayer’s crop science division, conceded during a recent visit to the company’s St. Louis-area facilities. “The noise is completely related to glyphosate,” he added, referring to the active ingredient in Roundup. “For sure, there’s a speed bump with the glyphosate litigation, but that’s not going to last forever.”
But the product liability lawsuits — the company is now being sued by more than 18,400 plaintiffs — haven’t just raised questions about a weedkiller that’s been on the market since the early 1970s, they’ve also offered a rare glimpse into Monsanto’s internal public relations strategy when under fire.
To shape public perception about Roundup, the biotechnology giant formerly headquartered in Creve Coeur engaged in a coordinated push to counteract negative publicity — efforts that included moves to discredit critical journalists and activists, and also aimed to influence search engine results online, according to records divulged in the lawsuits against the company.
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, Los Angeles-based trial lawyers who have handled many of the anti-Roundup cases, have been selectively posting Monsanto documents, including internal correspondence, starting in 2017.
The latest trove of documents, released in July, detail a range of glyphosate-targeted efforts from Monsanto officials over the years.

After June’s 2-year hike in VA mortgage fees, Congress is ready to do it again

Most Americans would agree Congress seems to be gridlocked. But, there’s at least one exception to the impasse: Hiking fees for mortgages backed by the Veterans Administration.
Two months ago, Congress approved a two-year hike in funding fees for VA mortgages to pay for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, passing on the some of the costs for caring for ill Vietnam vets to military families buying homes with VA mortgages. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on June 25.
Under the Blue Water bill, which takes effect on Jan. 1, the first-use fee for a VA mortgage rises to 2.3% from 2.15%, while the subsequent-use fee increases to 3.6% from 3.3%.
Now, another bill is pending that would extend the two-year life of the hikes by six years. It has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and now is pending in the Senate. The new legislation provides grants to adapt homes for disabled veterans and includes educational benefits for military spouses and children.
You won’t find many people who object to caring for disabled veterans and their families. It’s when you talk about the source of the funding that you get some push-back.
 “These are all worthwhile benefits, and we want to see veterans get the care they deserve, but why is Congress choosing to pay for these benefits on the backs of military families?” said Chris Birk, director of education for Veterans United, the largest VA lender.
In the last two decades, Congress has either increased VA loan fees or extended temporary fee hikes about a dozen times, often to pay for veteran-related programs.
Using current mortgage rates, every 25 basis point hike in the fee cuts 78,871 military or veteran buyers from the home market, according to a report by NDP Analytics. When rates rise, the impact is bigger.
 “In the environment of rising interest rates, an increase in the VA funding fee would magnify the negative impacts of rising interest rates on loan originations,” the report said.
If mortgage rates were to rise by 1.5%, as they could over the next six years, the number of military families culled from the market by a 25 basis point hike increases to 243,374, according to the report.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Monsanto Emails: ‘Let’s Beat the Shit Out of’ Moms Worried About Cancer-Linked Weedkiller

WASHINGTON – A Monsanto executive said he wanted to “beat the shit out of" a mothers’ group that urged the company to stop selling its Roundup weedkiller, according to internal emails obtained by lawyers for victims who say the pesticide caused their cancer.
The July 2013 emails, reported today by New Food Economy, reveal an exchange between Dr. Daniel Goldstein of Monsanto and two outside consultants about how to respond to an open letter from Moms Across America, a grassroots advocacy group.
The emails were obtained during the discovery process for litigation against Bayer, Monsanto’s parent company, over Roundup, which three separate juries have found caused cancer in people.
Moms Across America’s letter to then-Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant cited scientific studies linking glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, to cancer. It also decried the company’s marketing of seeds for genetically modified foods: “We Moms know your Mom would be proud of you if you put the health of the nation first and stopped selling GMO seeds and spraying Glyphosate (Roundup®) and other harsher pesticides,” the letter said.
In the emails, Goldstein wrote that the group was making “a pretty nasty looking set of allegations” and that he had been “arguing for a week to beat the shit out of them.”
Using identical scatological language, one of the consultants – Bruce Chassy, then a professor at the University of Illinois – also advocated attacking the moms’ group. The other consultant – Wayne Parrot, a University of Georgia crop scientist – disagreed: “You can’t beat up mothers, even if they are dumb mothers but you can beat up the organic industry,” which he falsely claimed “paid for and wrote that letter.”
“These ugly emails reveal the utter contempt that Monsanto has for public health and for consumers, including mothers who only want to protect their kids’ health,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Bayer is reeling from its monumental blunder of buying Monsanto, and these emails should remind them that they acquired the company that gave us DDT, Agent Orange and PCBs.”

With Isakson Resignation, Veterans Will Lose Powerful Voice In Washington

Advocates say veterans, especially those living in Georgia, will lose a powerful voice in Washington, D.C. when Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson resigns at the end of the year.
Isakson is currently serving his third consecutive term as chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, a position he’s held since 2015.
 “Anytime your senator is the chairman of a committee, especially a big committee that one of the cabinet members has to answer to, you get a lot of extra attention,” said Joe Chenelly, executive director of AMVETS.
Chenelly says Isakson used his position to elevate the concerns of veterans in Georgia and across the country.
He also praised Isakson’s willingness to work across the aisle, calling the Veterans Affairs   committee “the most bipartisan” on Capitol Hill.
Chenelly pointed to Isakson’s recent work on the 2018 MISSION Act, which gives veterans access to healthcare outside of the VA system.
The measure it not without its critics, but Chenelly says it never would have passed in the first place if  Isakson hadn’t been willing to reconcile the concerns of Democrats and Republicans on his committee.
 “He has always tried to make sure that there was respect when the committee worked on very controversial issues, that everybody was heard, that everybody had at least something to gain,” said Adrian Atizado, with the group Disabled American Veterans.

Dioxin one of two chemicals found at industrial site in Verona, Mo.

VERONA, Mo. -- Verona, Mo. is continuing to struggle with local soil and water being contaminated. According to the EPA, recent tests show two dangerous chemicals were found in the ground near a previously contaminated industrial site.
That site sits on the west edge of town and was previously known for making Agent Orange. The soil at the site was contaminated with the chemical dioxin. Dioxin is known to cause cancer and other serious health problems.
The EPA declared the land a "superfund" site and fenced it off. They also spent years cleaning dioxin from the soil and removing contaminated equipment.
Some still fear their wells are land are still contaminated.
More than a 100 people came to the high school this evening to hear about the clean up efforts by the EPA.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Health Status of Female and Male Gulf War and Gulf Era Veterans: A Population-Based Study.

The health of women Gulf War (deployed) and Gulf Era (nondeployed) veterans is understudied; although most studies examining the health effects of deployment to the Gulf War adjust for gender in multivariate analyses, gender-specific prevalence and effect measures are not routinely reported. The National Academy of Medicine recommended that the Department of Veterans Affairs assess gender-specific health conditions in large cohort studies of Gulf War veterans.
Data from this study come from the follow-up study of a national cohort of Gulf War and Gulf Era veterans. This study was conducted between 2012 and 2014, and was the second follow-up of a population-based cohort of Gulf War and Gulf Era veterans that began in 1995. Measures included self-reported medical conditions and frequency of doctor visits as well as validated screening instruments for mental health conditions.
Overall, female veterans (both Gulf War and Era) reported poorer health than their male counterparts as measured by the prevalence of self-reported disease. The top five prevalent conditions in both Gulf War and Gulf Era veterans were migraine, hypertension, major depressive disorder, arthritis, and dermatitis. Female Gulf War veterans were found to have a higher prevalence of disease than male Gulf Era veterans.
Women veterans, particularly deployed veterans, from this era have significant medical needs that may justify increased outreach from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Our findings highlight the importance of asking about military service, particularly for women veterans, in the clinical setting, both in the Department of Veterans Affairs and in the private sector.

Local coalition lobbies against aerial spraying

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County commissioners plan to send a letter to Pope Resources and state agencies that oversee herbicide spraying to ask for alternative methods and to ensure adequate testing is in place to protect watersheds.
County residents continue to push public officials both at the county level and at the city of Port Townsend after aerial sprays that included glyphosate were applied by helicopter on private property last week.
Glyphosate is the active chemical in Roundup and the subject of a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto. States such as California list it as a cancer-causing chemical, but the federal Environmental Protection Agency won’t approve those labels for the product.
 “We have taken a position of wanting to work with our constituents,” County Commission Chair Kate Dean said in her response to public comments Monday. “There’s an upward pressure that has to keep moving.
 “We are just another version of you in that we try to use our collective voice to apply upward pressure.”
Pope Resources legally applied herbicide at multiple sites in the county last week with a chemical approved by the state Department of Agriculture and permitted by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Japanese researcher helps Vietnam tackle AO/dioxin-related health issues

Tokyo (VNA) – A Japanese researcher has just announced a project on training Vietnamese health workers in addressing problems related to Agent Orange (AO)/dioxin chemical that was sprayed on the country during the war.
Japan's national broadcasting organization NHK quoted Professor Kido Teruhiko from the Kanazawa University and officials from the Japan International Cooperation Agency as saying the project will last for three years in the Vietnamese central province of Binh Dinh’s Phu Cat district.
Kido unveiled the detection of a high level of AO/dioxin contained in milk of nursing mothers in the area, adding that the rate of local underweight children is also high.
As such, he has planned to train the health workers to check the dioxin level in breast milk and provide healthcare consultations for local mothers.
The professor is experienced in studying AO/dioxin impact. He hopes to use results of his research to improve the well-being of Vietnamese people.
The US army sprayed some 80 million litres of toxic chemicals, 61 percent of which was Agent Orange containing 366 kilograms of dioxin, over nearly one quarter of the total area of South Vietnam from 1961 to 1971.

20 Years Ago, Route 66 State Park Rose From The Ashes Of Times Beach

Marilyn Leistner, the last mayor of Times Beach, gazed at a grass-covered mound, the size of four football fields, where the remains of her town are buried.
 “Everything that was near and dear to the people in this community. All the houses and the city equipment. Everything that they didn't take with them that was left in their homes is buried here,” she said, softly.
The “town mound” isn’t in the brochures, but it is the most unusual landmark at Route 66 State Park, which opened 20 years ago on the site of Times Beach.
The park is next to the Meramec River, just off Interstate 44 about 17 miles southwest of St. Louis. The creation of the 400-acre park was the final chapter of an environmental disaster that destroyed Leistner’s close-knit community of 2,000 people.
Times Beach made national headlines in December 1982 when state and federal health officials declared the town uninhabitable because its unpaved roadways were polluted with dioxin, a toxic chemical.
In February 1983, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a buyout of Times Beach. Structures were bulldozed and buried. The contaminated soil was scooped up and incinerated. The cleanup took 14 years and cost $110 million.
Hundreds of homes are in the landfill, plus four churches, assorted businesses — even the Times Beach water tower, Leistner said. She would like to see a plaque placed at the mound to commemorate the town and its history.
Leistner, 81, believes it’s her duty to continue telling the story of Times Beach to reporters, researchers and area schoolchildren now several generations removed from the catastrophe.
 “The whole country needs to know what happened here, so it doesn't happen again,’’ Leistner said.

EPA plans public meeting about 'Agent Orange' Superfund cleanup site in Verona, Missouri

An industrial site in the small town of Verona, Missouri that once manufactured the Vietnam War-era herbicide Agent Orange remains a concern to local officials, who fear the site may be polluting water wells in the area.
The 180-acre Syntex tract on the west edge of town was declared an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Cleanup site in 1983, and tons of dioxin-contaminated soil and equipment were removed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Dioxin was a byproduct of manufacturing Agent Orange, and later from the production of the antibacterial chemical hexachlorophene at the site. Now, Verona mayor pro tem Claude Carr said he fears water wells are being contaminated by chemicals he believes are coming from the site.The Verona Well Field is located in Battle Creek, Michigan. Site contamination impacted three aquifers and 27 drinking water wells over a 160-acre area. EPA determined that the sources of contamination were three 1-acre facilities. The Thomas Solvent Company used two facilities for storage, blending and containerization of solvents; the Grand Trunk Western Railroad operated a paint shop on the third facility. Leakage from containers and underground storage tanks, spillage, and direct dumping contaminated the soil and groundwater with hazardous chemicals. Following cleanup, operation and maintenance activities are ongoing.

Friday, August 23, 2019

It's not the Agent Orange - it's "the normal response to war - acute stress."

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald on August 23, 1985
"The Royal Commissioner, Justice Evatt, laid the blame for the veterans' problems on the normal response to war - acute stress."
CANBERRA: The Agent Orange Royal Commission has made a clear finding there is no link between chemical defoliants sprayed over Vietnam and the health problems suffered by veterans of the war.
In a nine-volume 3,000-page report tabled in Federal Parliament yesterday, the Royal Commissioner, Justice Evatt, laid the blame for the veterans' problems on the normal response to war - acute stress. The Commission on the Use and Effects of Chemical Agents on Australian Personnel in Vietnam, to give it its full title, was set up soon after the Hawke Government was elected.
The Veterans Affairs Minister, Senator Gietzelt, told Parliament yesterday the Government accepted the report's central finding, but criticised its "extravagant and unnecessary " language.
"The Royal Commissioner, Justice Evatt, laid the blame for the veterans' problems on the normal response to war - acute stress."
The report said its not guilty finding "is not a matter for regret but for rejoicing ... This is good news, and it is the Commission's fervent hope it will be shouted from the rooftops. "

Following Hurricane Harvey, Baylor studies Disaster Research Response mode

For the past two years, at the request of residents, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and around the Houston area have been studying the health impacts on the population following Hurricane Harvey.
Dr. Cheryl Walker, professor, and director of the Center for Precision and Environmental Health at Baylor College of Medicine said they were able to determine what each person tested was exposed to and how they were affected when the flooding subsided.
"Even though dioxin was measured in the flood, unless people were actually putting their hand and their wristband in those floodwaters, they would not have been necessarily exposed, and that's what we saw," said Walker.
She said they asked about people physical and mental health following Hurricane Harvey.
"We saw there was no detectable dioxin exposures in any of our cohorts, but we did see, for example, high levels of exposure to pesticides and some other industrial chemicals," said Walker.
She said the study also found a big variation in exposure due to location.

VA Provides Interim Guidance On The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act Of 2019

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently issued Circular 26-19-23 to provide interim guidance on the provisions of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 (Blue Water Act) that affect VA’s Loan Guaranty Service. The amendments made by the Blue Water Act will apply to loans that are closed on or after January 1, 2020.
The Blue Water Act increases the maximum VA guaranty amounts for purchase, construction, and cash-out refinance loans that exceed the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit. VA advises that for loans above $144,000, the maximum amount of the guaranty will be 25 percent of the loan amount, regardless of the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit. The Circular provides examples of how to calculate the maximum guaranty available for a loan in situations in which the veteran does and does not have the full entitlement available. (VA notes that for Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans, it will continue to guaranty 25 percent of the loan amount without regard to the veteran’s available entitlement or the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit.)

How do we get rid of plastic waste without that toxic taste? This engineer has the answer

IPOH, Malaysia August 22 — An environmental engineering expert has suggested that the government consider the “fast pyrolysis” technology as a disposal method for the country’s plastic waste.
Environmental engineer Frank Wilson, who has 40 years experience in water and waste treatment, said “fast pyrolysis” technology does not emit any hazardous toxins such as dioxin, which can be found in other technologies which involve incineration.
 “Unlike the technologies which involve incineration that requires oxygen to burn and produce dioxin, fast pyrolysis does not involve any burning as it is the process of heating organic matter in the absence of oxygen and making it decompose to produce flue gas, liquid oil, diesel and biochar (fertiliser),” he told Malay Mail.
 “Normal pyrolysis operates at 450 degrees Celsius, but fast pyrolysis operates at the temperature of 950 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, all organics vaporise and virtually no ash is formed.
 “The condensed gases include naphtha and high-quality diesel,” he added.
His comments follow an announcement by the government recently that they are looking at turning plastic trash in the country into alternative fuel and source for producing cement.
Wilson said that technology also produces less flue gas compared to direct combustion in the way of incineration.
He added that said once the pyrolysis process begins no external heating is required and the remaining gas can be used to produce electricity and sold to the grid.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Former VA physician charged with the deaths of three veterans

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged a former Veterans Affairs pathologist with the deaths of three veterans and a scheme to cover up years of drug and alcohol use on the job that caused him to misread thousands of fluid and tissue samples of ill patients.
Robert Morris Levy was indicted on three counts of involuntary manslaughter and 28 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and false statements to law enforcement officials. The Department of Veterans Affairs has told members of Congress and investigators that Levy was responsible for at least 15 deaths and the inappropriate treatment of many other patients.
During 12 years as chief pathologist here and in leadership roles on multiple oversight boards and medical committees, Levy, 53, read almost 34,000 pa­thol­ogy slides of aging veterans. He had their lives in his hands, prosecutors said in unsealing their indictment. But his addiction and attempts to cover it up even after VA paid for a lengthy inpatient treatment program led to multiple deaths and other life-threatening trauma for veterans, they said.
 “Diagnoses rendered by Levy and the information he entered in patients’ medical records largely influenced decisions about the course of medical treatment” for patients at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks, the indictment said.

Senator asking questions about Army lab shutdown

It’s been almost a month since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shut down an Army infectious disease research lab, and a local lawmaker wants answers.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, sent a letter on Friday to acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, wanting to know how the shutdown of the Fort Detrick, Maryland, facility will affect its ongoing work and whether anyone was exposed to a dangerous agent as a result of the “deficiencies” the CDC found in a June inspection.
 “I was disappointed to have learned of this situation through press reports, rather than from the Army directly, even though it happened several weeks ago,” Van Hollen wrote.
USAMRIID received a cease and desist letter from the CDC on July 18, a spokeswoman confirmed to Military Times on Friday.
Violations with the lab’s wastewater treatment system prompted the shutdown, she said, leading to a suspension from the Federal Select Agents Program, which allows facilities to handle biological and chemical agents.
One of those is Ebola, for which USAMRIID has been working to develop a vaccine. In March the lab received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to inject monkeys with live virus in order to test the effectiveness of treatments.

Do you use civilian medical services? Do they know you're a veteran? They should.

While the VA healthcare system sees about  7 million veteran patients a year, that leaves 13 million in the civilian healthcare system. And, according to the Warrior Centric Health Foundation, those civilian facilities need to be more aware of the needs of veteran patients.
"Warrior Centric Healthcare Foundation's purpose is primarily to ensure that America delivers on its promise if you will," said Warrior Centric Healthcare Foundation Chair Evelyn Lewis. "That promise is that we would care for those who have borne the battle. It's an adapted statement from Abraham Lincoln's words."
The 501(c)(3) was established in 2013 when Lewis and a research team discovered the problem with veteran identification in the civilian healthcare system.
"The largest misconception among the general public, and indeed those that run hospitals in other healthcare facilities, is that all veterans get their care at the VA. That is not true," Lewis said.
And the way that civilian doctors typically identify veterans has some major flaws, according to Lewis.

Why legal principles on war and environment matter

Oh, the army tried some fancy stuff to bring them to their knees. Like Agent Orange defoliants, to kill the brush and trees. We’d hike all day on jungle trails through clouds of poison spray. And they never told me then, that it would hurt my health today. (Agent Orange Song—Country JoeMcDonald)
Many of us remember shocking images of environmental destruction from conflicts across the globe; from the spraying of the poisonous chemical Agent Orange over the forests in Viet Nam in the 1970s, to the burning oil wells in Kuwait in the 1990s.
Sadly, Viet Nam and Kuwait were not isolated cases. Armed conflicts around the world, and their aftermath, continue to impact the health and well-being of people and the environment through pollution, infrastructure damage and the collapse of governance. The use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict as well as the burning of oil fields by the Dae’sh terrorist group are poignant recent examples.
Since 1999, the United Nations Environment Programme has conducted over twenty post-conflict assessments, using state-of-the-art science to determine the environmental impacts of war. From Afghanistan to Kosovo to the Gaza Strip and Sudan—armed conflict causes significant harm to the environment and the communities that depend on natural resources.

“No Comment”: VA Takes No Action to Spare Veterans From a Harsh Trump Immigration Policy

Top officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs declined to step in to try to exempt veterans and their families from a new immigration rule that would make it far easier to deny green cards to low-income immigrants, according to documents obtained by ProPublica under a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Department of Defense, on the other hand, worked throughout 2018 to minimize the new policy’s impact on military families.
As a result, the regulation, which goes into effect in October, applies just as strictly to veterans and their families as it does to the broader public, while active-duty members of the military and reserve forces face a relaxed version of the rule.
Under the so-called public charge regulation, which became final last week, immigrants seeking permanent legal status in the U.S. will be subject to a complex new test to determine if they will rely on public benefits. Among the factors that immigration officers will consider are whether the applicant has frequently used public benefits in the past, their household income, education level and credit scores.
Active-duty military members can accept public benefits without jeopardizing their future immigration status; veterans and their families, however, cannot

Sunday, August 18, 2019

ESPN documentary shows Rocky Bleier’s emotional return to Vietnam

Rocky Bleier thought he made peace with what happened in a rice paddy in Vietnam on Aug. 20, 1969.
What the former Pittsburgh Steelers running back didn’t have though was closure until a trip back there last year.
Bleier’s visit to Vietnam — the first time he had been back since being injured in battle — is the subject of ESPN’s “The Return”, which debuts Tuesday at 8 p.m. EDT on ESPN2. A shorter version began airing Saturday on “SportsCenter” as part of its weekly SC Featured series.
 “It was a different catharsis than I anticipated,” Bleier said. “Unlike the average veteran who returned after service and had to repress those feelings, I came back to a high-profile industry and became a story. In some regards it was cathartic (during his playing days) that I had to talk about it.”
Bleier’s story remains one of perseverance. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 16th round in 1968 only to be drafted into the U.S. Army during his rookie season. Three months after being deployed, Bleier was shot through his thigh and suffered a grenade blast where shrapnel severely damaged his right foot and both legs when his “Charlie Company” unit was ambushed during a recovery operation in the Hiep Duc Valley.
Of the 33 soldiers in the infantry unit, 25 were injured and four killed.
Watch “The Return”, which debuts Tuesday at 8 p.m. EDT on ESPN2

Disrespect: Deliveries Can’t Be Made To Mail Box With Legally Park Car

Neither snow nor rain nor a parked car?
A Willow Springs woman said the U.S. Postal Service isn’t delivering important packages because cars are blocking her mailbox.
The postal service said the cars need to move.
The problem? It’s a legal parking spot.
Even with a car parked there, it’s possible to open the mailbox. But the USPS office told the customer it’s against their policy. But CBS 2 has learned that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best practice.
Patty Gioia depends on regular deliveries from the USPS because of medications for her husband.
 “He is a Vietnam veteran, two time cancer survivor due to Agent Orange,” Gioia said.
When his regular delivery of medications didn’t show up in their mailbox, she called the Willow Springs postmaster.
 “I said ‘well my husband needs his medication.’ And she said ‘well your mailbox is blocked.'”

Picking our poison: The trouble with pesticides

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “pesticides” include products developed to kill anything considered a pest — insects, worms, plants, fungi, and rodents. It’s worth examining how much risk to the planet and our health we are willing to pose for the elimination of a plant or bug.
The market for these chemicals grew after World War II. Their indiscriminate use was marked by a hopeful naiveté that chemical application targeting dandelions, beetles and other "pests" would do away with arduous yard work without consequences.
Then, as now, Americans believed that “if a product could be sold, it must be safe, (and) embraced the new chemical products for the home and yard,” according to historian Virginia Jenkins. She quotes a 1947 article that stated DDT was considered “effective, yet safe to use.” By the 1950s, “(advertisements) no longer told the consumer which chemicals were in the products; the consumer was simply assured that the weed killer was easy to use and effective.”

Friday, August 16, 2019

Wait continues on additions to VA’s Agent Orange connected illnesses

In March, Veterans Affairs officials said they may have a decision on adding four new diseases to the list of Agent Orange presumptive benefits eligibility by the start of the summer. Five months later, they still haven’t moved ahead.
 “They told us they were ready to go, and we haven’t gone anywhere,” said Rick Weidman, executive director for policy at Vietnam Veterans of America. “It feels like they just don’t want to spend any money on this.”
Vietnam veteran advocates feel a sense of urgency because the the youngest who served there are in their early 60s.
Last November, researchers from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine announced they had compiled “sufficient evidence” linking hypertension, bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms with exposure to Agent Orange and other defoliants used in Vietnam and surrounding countries in the 1960s and 1970s.

VA Home Loan Limits to Disappear, Fees to Rise

Veterans and military service members will have more borrowing power but will pay slightly higher fees when they use VA home loans in 2020.
The changes are part of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, signed into law in June and effective Jan. 1, 2020. The new law eliminates VA loan limits and increases the VA funding fee. It also provides disability benefits to certain Vietnam War veterans and their children.
VA loan limits are the maximum loan amount the Department of Veterans Affairs can guarantee without borrowers making a down payment. VA funding fees are one-time fees borrowers pay in lieu of mortgage insurance to help cover the government’s costs for backing the loans. If a borrower defaults, the VA repays the lender a portion of the loan.