Monday, December 28, 2020

It's a slow Agent Orange news week - so here's a little history...The Fairchild C-123 Provided Just What the Air Force Needed in Vietnam


The C-123 Provider, which had a crew of three or four, could carry up to sixty passengers or up to twenty-four thousand pounds of cargo.

One of the lesser-known aerial workhorses of the Vietnam War was the Fairchild C-123K Provider, a short-range assault transport that was used to airlift troops and cargo to and from short runways and even unprepared airstrips. The rugged aircraft provided the United States Air Force with the means to reach remote areas, where it could deliver supplies and evacuate wounded, while the hardy transport plane was later used to spray Agent Orange as part of the U.S. military’s defoliant operations.

Originally designed as an assault glider for the Air Force in the late 1940s, the Chase Aircraft XCG-20 evolved from earlier large gliders. A powered variant was subsequently developed with two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-23 air-cooled radial piston engines—and the first of those prototypes made its initial flight in 1949. While Chase began manufacturing the rugged assault transport in 1953, the contract was subsequently transferred to Fairchild, which produced about three hundred C-123Bs.

A second prototype was also built and fitted with four General Electric J47-GE-11 turbojets in two pods. Known as the XC-123A it had the distinction of being the U.S. Air Force's first jet-powered military transport, even if it was just an experimental prototype.

However, the Air Force opted for the piston-powered version, which was seen as well-suited for use as a tactical transport. Known for its ruggedness and reliability, and more importantly, its ability to operate from those short and even unimproved airstrips, it was just what the military needed for the coming conflict in Vietnam.

C-123 Provider, which had a crew of three or four, could carry up to sixty passengers or up to 24,000 pounds of cargo. It had a maximum speed of 228 miles per hour, a cruise speed of 173 miles per hour and a range of 1,035 miles.

Between 1966 and 1969, a total of 184 C-123Bs were converted to C-123Ks with the addition of two J85 jet engines for improved performance. The jet engines increased the C-123’s payload weight by a third, shortened its takeoff distance, improved its climb rate, and even gave a much greater margin of safety should one of the piston engines fail.

During “Operation Ranch Hand,” eight of the aircraft were also modified to spy defoliant, which was used to destroy the heavy vegetation that provided cover to the enemy soldiers near U.S. forward bases. 

Two additional Providers were also modified under Project Black Spot to the NC-123K configuration, and equipped with a long, 57.75-inch nose fairing that housed an X-band forward-looking radar. The aircraft were also fitted with two rectangular aluminum weapons dispensers stacked within the fuselage and each container housed twelve cells containing three Cluster Bomb Units (CBUs) for use in night time operations. Those two aircraft were first deployed operationally at Osan Air Base, South Korea, between August and October 1968, where they flew in support of operations against North Korean infiltrators approaching by boat.

Upon completion of their Korean assignment, the Providers were deployed to South Vietnam for a combat evaluation of the “Black Spot” weapons system and used in night operations against the Viet Cong. 

As the war in Southeast Asia wound down, the U.S. military transferred many of its Providers to the South Vietnamese Air Force as well as the Royal Thai Air Force. The remaining USAF C-123s were transferred to the U.S. Air Force Reserve, which flew them well into the mid-1980s. Other operators of the Provider also included the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as with the air forces of the Philippines, South Korea and Venezuela.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

VA COVID-19 Updates

COVID-19 vaccines: Stay informed and help us prepare

We’re working to get COVID-19 vaccines to Veterans as quickly and safely as possible. Sign up to help us understand your interest in getting a vaccine when one is available to you. We’ll send you updates on how we’re providing vaccines across the country—and when you can get your vaccine if you want one.

VA releases COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

Who will get a COVID-19 vaccine first?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine.  We have a limited amount of this vaccine to start.

We’ve worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners to develop a phased plan that will help us do the most good for the most people during this time. Under this phased plan, we’ll first offer vaccines to Veterans in our long-term care facilities and frontline VA health care workers.  Vaccinating our health care workers first helps us continue providing care for Veterans.

After 2 groups, we’ll begin to offer vaccines to more Veterans who are at high risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. Your VA health care team will contact you if you’re eligible to get a vaccine during this time.

We will follow CDC guidelines for determining who is considered to be at high risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. Factors that may influence the risk of severe disease include the following:

  • Age. The risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 increases with age.
  • Existing health problems. People with certain health problems (like diabetes, heart disease, or obesity) have a higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
  • Other factors that raise a person’s risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, such as living in a nursing home or other group living facility.


More questions answered at:

VA receives 73,000 coronavirus vaccines in initial distribution


WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday administered its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine as part of national inoculation effort to prevent the disease as the death toll from the virus surpassed 300,000 in the United States.

World War II Army veteran Margaret Klessens, 96, is the VA’s first patient to receive the vaccine, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announced. She is a patient of the Bedford Healthcare System in Massachusetts. The Bedford VA system is a set of three clinics outside of Boston that has seen 473 coronavirus infections and 39 deaths, according to the VA.

The VA has 73,000 vaccines of the initial distribution, according to Christina Noel, a department spokeswoman. It is unclear when the department will get more doses.

Thirty-seven hospitals within the Department of Veterans Affairs have been selected to receive the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine, though VA officials are not confident that every veteran will have quick, easy access to the treatment.


Monday, December 14, 2020

Wilkie Disparaged Congressional Aide Who Alleged Sexual Assault At VA Facility, IG Probe Confirms


Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie disparaged a veteran who claimed she was sexually assaulted at a VA hospital and sought to undermine her credibility, a new investigation from the department's inspector general has found. The report did not, however, substantiate reports that Wilkie actively investigated the former service member or ordered others to look into her background.

The VA IG has since February been investigating allegations that Wilkie took steps to discredit Andrea Goldstein, a Navy Reserve intelligence officer and adviser to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, after she said she was groped at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C. in September.

In a report released Thursday, Inspector General Michael Missal said his office could not substantiate the charge that Wilkie actively sought proof that Goldstein had filed "at least six equal employment opportunity-type complaints" while she was on active duty.

But the VA IG did find that VA officials began to take actions within hours of Goldstein's report that appeared to seek reasons to undermine her credibility. According to the investigation, the same day as the complaint, they began discussing whether Goldstein had complained about verbal abuse from a VA provider. And, the probe found, they ran a background check on Goldstein and circulated the findings before a background check was conducted on the accused, and later launched a media campaign to question Goldstein's credibility, targeting nine national press outlets.


Military Rape Cases Have No Statute of Limitations, Supreme Court Decides


In an 8-0 opinion issued Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that military personnel accused of a rape between 1986 and 2006 -- a period previously subject to a five-year statute of limitations -- can be charged for the crime.

At issue in U.S. v. Briggs is a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, or CAAF, to overturn three rape convictions that occurred within that 20-year period.

Prior to 1996, the UCMJ held that rape was a crime punishable by death and therefore had no time limit for prosecuting the crime. A 1998 CAAF ruling established the five-year time limit, which remained in place until Congress moved to abolish it in 2006.

In the new opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, the justices said the Uniform Code of Military Justice favored the government's interpretation that military rape cases are "punishable by death" and therefore, carry no statute of limitations regardless of when the crime occurred.

The justices also agreed with government's argument that rape is a particularly damaging crime in the military context because it disrupts good order and discipline.


Agent Blue haunts Vietnam War vets


from Paul Kasper via Paul Sutton

Add one more primary color to the poisonous palette of Vietnam: Agent Blue.

Agent Orange, its toxic defoliant cousin, has become well known in the US for its lethal effects on American troops who served in the war 1965-75 – and on their offspring.

Agent Blue, an arsenic-based herbicide, is becoming known because it has no half-life – in other words, it lasts forever in soil, sediments, rivers, canals and public water supplies.

Once it is in the environment, its toxicity is magnified as it moves up the food chain, slowly killing and disabling humans as it accumulates in the body.

Kenneth Olson, professor emeritus of soil science at the University of Illinois and a US Army Vietnam-era veteran, has studied and published on the soils and sediments of South Vietnam, the roles they played in Vietnam warfare and the legacies left behind.

Olson’s recently released paper, “The Fate of Agent Blue, the Arsenic Based Herbicide Used in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War,” is co-authored with Larry Cihacek, also a US Army veteran, who is professor of soil science at North Dakota State University. It is their most recent in a series of papers on Vietnam soils and sediments and herbicide persistence in the environment.

“Agent Blue was sprayed on 100,000 hectares (one hectare is about 2.5 acres) of mangrove forests and about 300,000 hectares of rice paddies just before rice harvest time,” Olson said. That “resulted in destroying the standing crop and contaminated soils and water sediments with arsenic.”


Thursday, December 10, 2020

One phone number to reach VA



The number to call when you don’t know who to call.

You only need to remember one number for information on VA care, benefits, and services or to speak to a live agent for assistance!

Climate change puts the heat on cleanup of Dioxin hotspot


Vice Mayor alerts City Council to Arcata Bay Shoreline dioxin threat

City Council Vice Mayor Paul Patino said he intends to pull the approval of the Wastewater Treatment Facility Plan and Plant Improvement Project from the items scheduled to be rubber stamped by the city council.

The $60 million investment is a response to the threat of sea level rise which involves enlarging levees around the Arcata Wastewater Treatment Facility. Patino is calling on the council to further discuss the project after he learned the mud around the bay shoreline of the wastewater facility has the highest levels of dioxin ever discovered in Humboldt Bay sediments.

“I don’t see how you could mess with that area without it affecting that dioxin,” Patino said. “I think we need to get clear here.”

Dioxin can cause birth defects, cancer and organ failure. It is known to undergo bioaccumulation, meaning it increases in toxicity as it moves up the food chain from plants to predators. It was widely used from the 1940s to the 1980s before the EPA started regulating its use.

Patino raised particular concern with the staff report in the council packet where it states, “This project would involve enlarging the levee surrounding the majority of the outer perimeter of the Arcata Wastewater Treatment Facility (AWTF) by increasing the levee’s height and volume.”

The Arcata City Council is faced with the choice to approve the final application for the project, or first investigate the dangers of the dioxin believed to be largely the result of pentachlorophenol used during historic lumber mill operations up Jolly Giant Creek several blocks south of the town square.




A Danish study found that people with elevated levels of a compound called PFBA were more than twice as likely to have a severe form of Covid-19.

Elevated levels OF a PFAS compound were associated with more severe forms of Covid-19, according to a Danish study now undergoing peer review. The research, which involved 323 patients infected with the coronavirus, found that those who had elevated levels of a chemical called PFBA were more than twice as likely to have a severe form of the disease.

PFBA is one of a class of industrial compounds, often called “forever chemicals,” that has come to contaminate soil, water, and food around the world. It has been presented as relatively safe because it stays in human blood for much less time than some of the other compounds in the class and is a shorter molecule. Both traits are thought to be indications of its innocuousness. PFBA, which was created by 3M, is based on a four-carbon chain and is gone from human blood in a matter of days. It is still in use, while PFOA, which is based on eight carbons and stays in the human blood for years, has been phased out since 2015.


Sunday, December 6, 2020

December 7, 1941


Looking back 38 Years: How dioxin and flooding wiped Times Beach off the map


On Dec. 5, 1982, about a month after residents learned of dangerous dioxin levels in Times Beach, the town along the Meramec River was ravaged by a record-breaking flood. The flood damaged or destroyed most homes in the town.


Internal Documents Detail Who VA Will Vaccinate First

The Veterans Affairs Department's multi-tiered plan prioritizes delivering COVID-19 inoculations to high-risk staff and patients.


The federal agency that will likely receive the largest distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses plans to quickly inoculate some employees upon first receiving the vaccine, according to internal documents describing the phased rollout, but other workers could wait for some time before they're eligible to receive the vaccine. 

Like all jurisdictions around the country awaiting vaccines against the novel coronavirus, the Veterans Affairs Department is planning a multi-tiered, phased approach to inoculate its workforce and constituents based on the availability of doses. Staff will comprise four of the first five populations to receive the vaccine, according to a predecisional, draft document obtained by Government Executive. Employees at department nursing homes and its 25 Spinal Cord Injuries and Disorders Centers would receive the first batch of vaccines, followed by veterans at those facilities. 

VA is one of five federal agencies slated to receive a direct distribution of vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after viable candidates are approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. The department, which runs the largest health care network in the country, has faced criticism for failing to publicize a detailed vaccine distribution plan, with Democratic senators last week imploring VA to develop a comprehensive strategy. VA has told employees it will only finalize its vaccine strategy after a candidate is approved for use. 

After vaccinating its employees and patients at long-term care sites—more than 105,000 veterans receive long-term care through VA—the department under the draft plan would move, in successive order, to inoculate staff in emergency departments, COVID-19 intensive care units and COVID-19 non-intensive care units. Employees in “other congregate living settings” and veterans over the age of 85 would then receive vaccines from VA. The department has not yet set out timelines for each phase of its distribution plan, as it would depend on vaccine availability.


Black veterans more likely to test positive for coronavirus than white veterans


Black veterans are twice as likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, compared to white veterans, according to a new study.

Medical records from over a thousand Veteran Affairs (V.A.) hospitals and clinics, which provide healthcare to more than 5 million U.S. veterans, were analyzed. Between Feb. 8 and July 22 of this year, researchers found that about 16,000 veterans tested positive for the coronavirus, and more than 1,000 died.

Among the veterans who were tested for the coronavirus, 10.2% of Black, 11.4% of Hispanic, and just 4.4% of white veterans tested positive. Despite the racial gap in positive tests, there weren’t any differences in the proportion of deaths from COVID-19. The findings were reported in the journal PLoS Medicine on Sept. 22.

These results were surprising because the racial disparities in positive test results remained, even after accounting for things like where the veterans lived and  medications they were taking, said Christopher Rentsch, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the U.K.

Rentsch’s findings differ from previous research studies. A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Black and Hispanic patients were twice as likely as whites — 5.6 vs. 2.3 deaths per 10,000 people — to die from COVID-19, based on data collected from nearly 400 different hospitals in 21 states. Another study, from the U.K., also found that minorities had the highest risk of death from COVID-19, even after accounting for each person’s health issues, including heart disease and diabetes.


VA, Defense Department under new pressure to help ailing veterans who served at toxic Uzbek base


Hundreds of veterans have come forward after a CBS News investigation revealed new evidence of toxic materials at a remote base the U.S. military used after 9/11. 

More than 15,000 U.S troops passed through Karshi-Khanabad, or K2, a former Soviet air base in Uzbekistan that U.S. forces used to hunt Al Qaeda in nearby Afghanistan.

The investigation was cited at a recent House hearing that put new pressure on the Veterans Affairs and Defense Departments to address health concerns from sick service members. 

Although nearly 2,500 current and former service members have now reported rare cancers or other illnesses they believe are linked to their deployments, neither the Defense Department nor the VA acknowledges a link between K2 and illness.

CBS News' Catherine Herridge spoke to K2 veteran Mark Jackson, whose illnesses have baffled doctors for years. 

"I went from being able to run a marathon to not being able to walk up a flight of stairs," he said. "Turns out my thyroid simply did not function. I was 28 years old."


Birth Defect Research for Children - The Agent Orange Next Gen Campaign

During the Agent Orange litigation, 65,000 veterans reported that their children had been born with birth defects or developmental disabilities. Now veterans are also reporting that their grandchildren are affected. Yet, no government studies have been done on the association between the father’s exposure to Agent Orange and adverse outcomes in their children.

Since 1990, only Birth Defect Research for Children has collected data showing a pattern of birth defects and disabilities in the children of Vietnam veterans.

The Agent Orange Next Gen Campaign will draw attention to how many veterans’ families have been affected and raise funds to continue birth defect research.

Join the Vietnam Veterans of America Charles Kettle Chapter 31 in showing your support for the children and grandchildren of Vietnam Veterans affected by Agent Orange. Wear an Agent Orange Next Gen mask. For each $10 mask sold, a donation will go towards research connecting Agent Orange exposure to the birth defects and illnesses that veterans’ children and grandchildren are facing every day. Please help by ordering your mask today.


Agent Orange disaster and efforts to overcome the consequences

 thanks to Alan Stelzer for forwarding this story...


Part 1

Agent Orange disaster

During their invasion war against Vietnam, the US Army conducted the largest-scale and longest-time chemical warfare in Vietnam, which has caused unprecedented consequences in human history.

In April 2012, an international scientific symposium was held in Yale University, the US, attracting a large number of world leading scientists. The participating scientists discussed the latest scientific research projects on chemical warfare and concluded: The US has conducted the largest, most cruel and inhumane chemical warfare in human history in South Vietnam.

During the 1961-1971 decade, the US Army sprayed some 80 million liters of toxic chemicals, including Pink, White, Green, Purple, Orange, among others. Among the toxic chemicals, Agent Orange (AO) accounted for 61%. This amount of AO containing 366kg of dioxin was sprayed onto one fourth of the area of South Vietnam, of which 86% was sprayed twice and 11% was sprayed 10 times or more.

“Agent Orange/dioxin” that is often used to label the toxic chemical sprayed in South Vietnam by the US Army contains 2,3,7,8 tetracholorodibenzodioxin (called dioxin in short) – the most poisonous chemical compound. According to the World Health Organization, some dozens of nanograms of the chemical compound can kill a person.

Dioxin is an unwanted by-product, which is born during production of other chemicals. If AO is produced properly at 88.80 degrees Celsius in 12 hours, the by-product of dioxin is insignificant.

But in order to get more profits, US Agent Orange manufactures shortened the production time to eight minutes and raised the production temperature to 277.70 degrees Celsius, which made the amount of dioxin in the AO product increase by hundreds of times.


Thursday, December 3, 2020

Is Trump ‘foolish enough’ to veto the defense bill?


FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed today and when signed into law by the President, will add three Agent Orange-related diseases--bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the Department of Veterans Affairs list of conditions linked to herbicide exposure in Vietnam and elsewhere.

WASHINGTON ― House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said he believes it’s still possible President Donald Trump would veto the annual defense policy bill but warned it “would be a huge political mistake.”

The House and Senate versions (which were reconciled Wednesday after months of negotiations) initially passed by veto-proof majorities, and Smith predicted that Republicans would vote to override in the event of a veto. Beyond the bill’s role in setting military personnel and acquisition policy, and securing a pay raise for troops, Smith touted its inclusion of new benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange.


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