Later On

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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

More Than 600 Reported Chemical Exposure in Iraq, Pentagon Belatedly Acknowledges

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I assume the Pentagon acknowledged the problem only because the NY Times was going to break the story. As with Agent Orange (dioxin) from the Vietnam war, the Pentagon refused to acknowledge the problem, denigrated veterans who were suffering from the effects of exposure to the toxin, and in general showed the military’s notion of “Honor,” which now seems to amount to “Cover Your Ass.” It is extremely difficult to respect the military as an organization.

C.J. Chivers reports in the NY Times:

More than 600 American service members since 2003 have reported to military medical staff members that they believe they were exposed to chemical warfare agents in Iraq, but the Pentagon failed to recognize the scope of the reported cases or offer adequate tracking and treatment to those who may have been injured, defense officials say.

The Pentagon’s disclosure abruptly changed the scale and potential costs of the United States’ encounters with abandoned chemical weapons during the occupation of Iraq, episodes the military had for more than a decade kept from view.

This previously untold chapter of the occupation became public after aninvestigation by The New York Times revealed last month that while troops did not find an active weapons of mass destruction program, they did encounter degraded chemical weapons from the 1980s that had been hidden in caches or used in makeshift bombs.

The Times initially disclosed 17 cases of American service members who were injured by sarin or sulfur mustard agent. And since the report was published last month, more service members have come forward, pushing the number who were exposed to chemical agents to more than 25. But an internal review of Pentagon records ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has now uncovered that hundreds of troops told the military they believe they were exposed, officials said.

The new and larger tally of potential cases suggests that there were more encounters with chemical weapons than the United States has acknowledged and that other people — including foreign soldiers, private contractors and Iraqi troops and civilians — may also have been at risk.

Having not acted for years on that data, the Pentagon says it will now expand outreach to veterans. One first step, officials said, includes a toll-free national telephone hotline for service members and veterans to report potential exposures and seek medical evaluation or care.

Phillip Carter, who leads veterans programs at the Center for a New American Security, called the Pentagon’s failure to organize and follow up on the information “a stunning oversight.” Paul Reickhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the military must restore trust by sharing information. . .

Continue reading. It’s yet another instance of the military refusing to help their own troops.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2014 at 4:47 pm

Muck reads

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From Terry Parris, Jr., at ProPublica:

“It’s not just bullets you need to watch out for.”  For the public, gun ranges are the most common way of getting lead poisoning outside of the workplace. And with an estimated 40 million annual recreational shooters and 10,000 gun ranges in America, the risk of contamination, if left unchecked, is high.The Seattle Times, through a “first-of-its-kind” analysis of occupational lead-monitoring data, found that shooting-range owners repeatedly violated workplace safety laws and the agencies that are supposed to monitor lead poisoning have been slow to act.— The Seattle Times via @JimNeff4

Sick and vomiting residents. A chemical smell. A dead 18-month-old German shepherd. For years, state agencies ignored, dismissed and outright botched investigations into complaints by residents in southwestern Oregon about helicopters spraying weed killers near their homes. Last October, the state got so many complaints about a single incident that officials finally acted, fining a pilot $10,000 and revoking his spraying license for a year. — The Oregonian via @robwdavis

Tracking suspects in violent felonies, kidnappings, and you. This tracking device goes by names such as StingRay, Hailstorm, AmberJack and TriggerFish. It allows police to follow the cellphones of not only suspects but also anyone within range. A Charlotte Observer investigation, using heavily redacted documents, found that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are using this secretive surveillance system – and have been for eight years.  “It serves a legitimate purpose. I think the police don’t abuse it,” said a county judge who says he’s approved hundreds of surveillance requests. — The Charlotte Observer via @dougobserver

Prone restraints can be deadly for adults, too. Over the last 15 years, at least 24 developmentally disabled adults have died after being restrained, most of them residential facilities and group homes, according to 100 Reporters. Nine of those were ruled homicides, yet charges were filed in only one of those cases. According to one disability rights advocate, “prosecutors are reluctant to bring cases they fear they can’t win, relying heavily on staffers testifying against each other.” — 100 Reporters (Also read ProPublica’s coverage on schoolchildren being restrained and pinned down.)

What’s behind the deaths listed as “medical” on Rikers Island? Ninety-eight inmates have died at Rikers Island in the last five years. An Associated Press review of hundreds of documents showed that in 15 of those deaths, lack of care was cited as a factor, even as experts say “New York City is better equipped to deal with inmate health needs than perhaps anywhere else.” — The Associated Press via @JustinElliott

This cost saving measure is costing residents 20 percent or more in property taxes. Over the last 30 years, municipalities in Wisconsin cut costs by replacing their assessment offices with cheaper and more cursory outside contractors. The resulting sloppy work has cost residents 20 percent or more on property tax bills, a Journal Sentinel investigation found. “By them not policing assessors, they are screwing over millions of taxpayers across the state. It’s a huge disservice,” one assessor said. — Journal Sentinel via @Brizzyc

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 October 2014 at 1:07 pm

A scathing indictment of the (highly artificial) sports culture

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Somehow it reminds me of nothing so much as factory farming: playing music to the cows to increase milk production in the “whatever it takes” spirit. Or the way slaughterhouses are now designed by animal behaviorists to minimize problems due to the cattle becoming fearful or angry: soothing and reassuring environments right up until the hammer falls. Or how casinos have no windows, no clocks, and seating only at the game tables. Free/cheap booze, though…

All examples of how the behavior of animals must be managed to improve corporate profits.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 October 2014 at 5:32 pm

Cats as pets, reconsidered

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I still like cats, but I do keep them indoors at all times

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2014 at 7:51 pm

Really, very like the script for a medical disaster movie

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A “breaking news” email from the LA Times:

Frontier jet reportedly made 5 flights before being taken out of service in Ebola incident
Los Angeles Times | October 15, 2014 | 12:41 PM

The Frontier Airlines jet that carried a Dallas healthcare worker diagnosed with Ebola made five additional flights after her trip before it was taken out of service, a flight-monitoring website reported today.

Denver-based Frontier said in a statement that it grounded the plane Tuesday immediately after the carrier was notified by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the Ebola patient.

The Airbus A320 was put away for the night Monday after it carried the woman and 132 other passengers from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on Flight 1143. But Tuesday morning the plane was flown back to Cleveland and then to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., back to Cleveland and then to Atlanta and finally back again to Cleveland, according to Daniel Baker, the chief executive of the flight monitoring site Flightaware.com.

This is more or less the beginning of any number of movies. 12 Monkeys, anyone?

BTW, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Dallas hospital was incompetent—this emergency was way over its head, and it’s interesting to read of how much was not done properly in order to save money. The manager of that hospital sees it as a business with his job to maximize profit. That it involves healthcare is secondary. And note the degree to which the problems stem from management and administration, and not from the healthcare workers, who were doing the best they can with the shoddy equipment, inadequate supplies, and inadequate staffing—and, as we see, inadequate training. Training is always a big, fat target for cost-cutters because it cuts a real cost and the damage resulting is usually unobserved. In the case of the Dallas hospital, all those dollars saved by inadequate training and staffing and the incompetent management of the crisis suddenly look penny-wise, pound-foolish.

For more info:

C.D.C. Says It Should Have Responded Faster to the Dallas Ebola Case

Nurses at Dallas hospital describe poor safety measures with Ebola victim

Our Superbug Problem

In the meantime, of course, we continue to use enormous quantities of antibiotics fed to livestock in a determined effort to breed microbes and infectious diseases that are resistant to all the antibiotics at our disposal. Because we roll that way. The third article includes this:

Medically unsound practices may be part of the superbug problem. In India, antibiotics have been available over the counter for decades. This practice has led to the development and spread of ESBL-producing organisms and, more recently, the NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1) gene, which confers resistance to the strongest antibiotics available. The NDM-1 strain was first reported in 2010 among patients in India and Pakistan and those in theU.S. and Britain who had received medical care in those countries. Since that time, the NDM-1 gene has spread around the globe. Responding to concerns of Indian physicians and the international community, this year the Indian government mandated that a prescription would be required for all antibiotics, but this rule is not strictly enforced.

While India may indeed be at fault for overuse of antibiotics, the US is certainly in no position to point fingers. I would be the antibiotic usage in the US agricultural industry far exceeds that used for medical purposes in India. And note that in the US all the animals get the antibiotic, whether sick or not: we’re in a hurry to make sure our animals harbor only those microbes most strongly resistant to antibiotics. Why? To make a little bit more money: faster meat production, for example.

That tells you pretty much all you need to know about America’s current system of values.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 October 2014 at 1:09 pm

Wind Power Is Actually Cheaper Than Coal, Says Leaked Government Report

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Wow! That’s a game changer. I would bet the coal industry is sending pallets of money down to Washington to get that report killed. Look for US government-funded counter-studies within months if not weeks. (And the GOP will of course dismiss it out of hand: it’s European, and physics and chemistry and so on are very different over there…  metric and stuff.)

Written by LeisureGuy

13 October 2014 at 1:25 pm

Voluntary compliance quickly becomes voluntary noncompliance—since it’s basically okay (“voluntary,” remember)

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It never changes. Industry will always push for voluntary guidelines, with a fallback to monitored voluntary guidelines, so long as they do the monitoring.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2014 at 12:42 pm

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