Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Lyme Disease Epidemic

           The tick season has arrived on Long Island, where I live, and the rest of the New York area, indeed through much of the United States. A deer tick just bit me. When I was a kid growing up in Queens in New York City my family went camping every summer out on Long Island, at Wildwood State Park in Wading River, and deer ticks were unknown.
As a Boy Scout doing intensive hiking and camping all over this region (I was an Eagle Scout) neither I nor anyone I knew was ever bitten by a deer tick,
But now deer ticks and other ticks, and Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, are a huge problem for all of us. Long Island was a hotspot for Lyme when it first emerged in the 1970s and still is, but it’s now just one of many hotspots in the area and across the U.S., indeed Lyme disease has spread around the world.
We’ve been hit by an epidemic.
The Empire State Lyme Disease Association, headquartered in Manorville on Long Island, is a leading organization in the U.S. in the fight against Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses.
Eva Haughie, the association’s president, has counted getting 51 tick bites since 1999 and as a result her contracting Lyme disease nine times. “Ticks love me,” Ms. Haughie was saying last week. The first time she ended up “like an Alzheimer’s patient” and “couldn’t walk.” Long-term treatment with antibiotics has been critical for Haughie.
The association focuses on prevention and Haughie lives that personally. When she goes outdoors, she uses tick repellents including Avon Products’ “Skin So Soft” and lavender and rosemary oil.
 The association runs support groups, organizes conferences, disseminates educational information and engages with government officials.
And it has been dealing with a key treatment problem: the insistence of health insurance companies—following the guidelines of the Infectious Diseases Society of America—that extended care of Lyme disease victims isn’t necessary. The claim is that a few weeks of treatment with antibiotics is all that’s needed. That is mostly true if Lyme disease is detected early, but detection is problematic. Only about half of the people bitten by a tick carrying Lyme develop the tell-tale bull’s-eye rash at the site of the bite. And tests for the disease have often been unreliable.
Long-term care is vital—indeed produces miraculous results—for persistent cases.
That was the message of the documentary “Under Our Skin,” the winner of a host of film festival awards. “Eye-opening...frightening...powerful,” said the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times called the documentary “heart rending” and noted how it “takes aim at the medical establishment.”  
            It tells of how members of the panel of the Infectious Diseases Society of America that issued a key report calling for no long-term antibiotic therapy for Lyme had financial connections to health insurance companies and other conflicts of interest.  It shows how health insurers don’t want to pay for long-term care of Lyme sufferers—so the medical system has been twisted to maintain such care isn’t needed. It exposes how dedicated doctors who’ve provided needed long-term care have ended up severely punished by the medical establishment.
            The producer and director of “Under Our Skin,” Andy Abrahams Wilson, has been making “an update on the original.” It will be out in July and is titled: “Under Our Skin 2: Emergence.”
“What is emerging besides the major epidemic—are truth and hope,” Wilson told me in an interview from Sausalito, California, where his production company is based.
The update follows the Lyme victims featured in the original “Under Our Skin” who were saved by long-term treatment and it finds all of them doing fine.
“We’ve gotten deeper into the conflict of interest issues. We’re continuing to look at the—let’s call them—chronic Lyme denialists,” said Wilson. Among what’s examined is how Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (now a U.S. senator) “forced” the Infectious Diseases Society of America to “reassess” its guidelines on treating Lyme, but after all, the guidelines were not changed. “It is shocking,” Wilson commented. It sure is.
For information about “Under Our Skin 2: Emergence,” visit www.underourskin.org.
Last year, he U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the number of Americans newly infected by Lyme disease each year is 300,000, ten times higher than has been officially reported.  This said a CDC official “confirms Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem.” Likewise, the effort to discourage long-term treatment for persistent Lyme victims is a tremendous public health scandal.
What is the origin of the Lyme disease epidemic?
Another huge scandal is quite likely here.
Michael Christopher Carroll in his best-selling book, Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory, links Lyme disease to Plum Island—an 840-acre island a mile and a half off the North Fork of Long Island on which the U.S. government’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center is located.
Carroll notes that Lyme disease “suddenly surfaced” 10 miles north of Plum Island “in Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1975.” Indeed, that’s how the malady got its name, from the 1975 outbreak in the adults and children in Old Lyme. It was diagnosed by Dr. Wally Burgdorfer, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health. Thus the spirochete in a deer tick that transmits Lyme was named Borrelia burgdorferi.
Carroll in Lab 257 cites years of experimentation with ticks on Plum Island and the possibility of an accidental or purposeful release.
Lab 257 documents a Nazi connection to the original establishment of a U.S. Army laboratory on Plum Island. According to the book, Erich Traub, a scientist who worked for the Third Reich doing biological warfare, was the force behind its founding.
During World War II, “as lab chief of Insel Riems—a secret Nazi biological warfare laboratory on a crescent-shaped island in the Baltic Sea­—Traub worked directly for Adolph Hitler’s second-in-charge, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, on live germ trials,” states Lab 257.  The mission was to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union. This included infecting cattle and reindeer with foot-and-mouth disease.
This became the mission, in a Cold War setting, at Plum Island.
And, states Lab 257, published in 2004:“The tick is the perfect germ vector which is why it has long been fancied as a germ weapon by early biowarriors from Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan to the Soviet Union and the United States.”
“A source who worked on Plum Island in the 1950s,” the book states, “recalls that animal handlers and a scientist released ticks outdoors on the island. ‘They called him the Nazi scientist, when they came in, in 1951—they were inoculating these ticks.” Lab 257 goes on: “Dr. Traub’s World War II handiwork consisted of aerial virus sprays developed on Insel Riems and tested over occupied Russia, and of field work for Heinrich Himmler in Turkey. Indeed, his colleagues conducted bug trials by dropping live beetles from planes. An outdoor tick trial would have been de rigueur for Erich Traub.”
Traub was brought to the U.S. with the end of the war under Project Paperclip, a program under which Nazi scientists, such as Wernher von Braun, came to America.
“Traub’s detailed explanation of the secret operation on Insel Riems” given to officials at Fort Detrick in Maryland, the Army’s biological warfare headquarters, and to the CIA, “laid the groundwater for Fort Detrick’s offshore germ warfare animal disease lab on Plum Island. Traub was a founding father,” says Lab 257.
And Plum Island’s purpose, says the book, became what Insel Riems had been: to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union, ­with the Cold War conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union having begun.
Traub also developed relationships in the U.S. before the war. He “spent the prewar period of his scientific career on a fellowship at the Rockefeller Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, perfecting his skills in viruses and bacteria under the tutelage of American experts before returning to Nazi Germany on the eve of war,” says Lab 257. While in the U.S. in the 1930s, too, relates Carroll, an attorney originally from Long Island, Traub was a member of the Amerika-Deutscher Volksbund which was involved in pro-Nazi rallies held weekly in Yaphank on Long Island.
Lab 257 tells of why suddenly the Army transferred Plum Island to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1954: ­the Pentagon became concerned about having to feed millions of people in the Soviet Union if its food animals were destroyed. The Joint Chiefs of Staff “found that a war with the U.S.S.R. would best be fought with conventional and nuclear means, and biological warfare against humans, ­not against food animals,” says Lab 257. “Destroying the food supply meant having to feed millions of starving Russians after winning a war.”
Also making a link between Plum Island and Lyme disease is in an earlier book, The Belarus Secret: The Nazi Connection in America.
First published in 1982, it was written by John Loftus, an attorney, too. Loftus was formerly with the Office of Special Investigations of the U.S. Department of Justice set up to expose Nazi war crimes and unearth Nazis hiding in the United States.
Given top-secret clearance to review sealed files, Loftus found a trove of information on America’s postwar recruiting of Nazis. He also exposed the Nazi past of former Austrian president and U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and his involvement as an officer in a German Army unit that committed atrocities during the war. Waldheim subsequently faded from the international scene.
            In The Belarus Secret Loftus tells of “the records of the Nazi germ warfare scientists who came to America. They experimented with poison ticks dropped from planes to spread rare diseases. I have received some information suggesting that the U.S. tested some of these poison ticks on the Plum Island artillery range off the coast of Connecticut during the early 1950's. . . Most of the germ warfare records have been shredded, but there is a top secret U.S. document confirming that 'clandestine attacks on crops and animals' took place at this time.”
He points to “the hypothesis that the poison ticks are the source of the Lyme disease spirochete, and that migrating waterfowl were the vectors that carried the ticks from Plum Island all up and down the Eastern Seaboard.” Loftus adds: “Sooner or later the whole truth will come out, but probably not in my lifetime.”

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Folly Beach

            Folly Beach. Yes, there really is such a place. It’s a poster child for the folly of dumping sand on the shoreline in the expensive and fruitless attempt to try to hold back the ocean and protect beach houses.
            In the Long Island village of Quogue, New York, Concerned Citizens of Quogue have included a current article about this beach in South Carolina in their current online newsletter (http://ccquogue.org/) and the group asks the question: “Quogue’s Own ‘Folly’ Beach?”
            Happening in Quogue is a conflict emblematic of the struggle involving the coast that’s been going on for decades on Long Island, heightened by the impacts of Superstorm Sandy. There’s a proposal for $14 million in taxpayer-funded sand dumping along the Quogue shoreline.

            Meanwhile, down south comes this news on the Concerned Citizens website.
            “Folly Beach—Huge waves kicked up by Friday’s storm scoured and swept away newly poured sands on the east end of this island,” begins the article from  The Post and Courier of South Carolina published last month.
And it wasn’t an encore of Sandy that did it, just another blow.
The cost to Folly Beach: some $30 million in dumped sand—gone with the sea.
“In little more than a month,” The Post and Courier says, Folly Beach homeowners “have lost much of the sand” dumped just a month earlier on the shore fronting their places.
 Some $30 million in sand placed on the Folly Beach shoreline. A month later, it’s all gone.
             The newspaper quoted the manager of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Folly Beach project as saying that placing sand on the shore “doesn’t stop erosion. It protects properties. We put the required amount of sand out there. The sand didn’t hold up.”
And this was not the first time in recent years that loads of sand have been dumped on Folly Beach. It has been done again and again, at huge taxpayer cost. “The last time the work was done, in 2005, the cost was $12 million,” about “a third of the current cost,” notes The Post and Courier.
            This rise in price for coastal sand-dumping is “mirroring the soaring cost of beach nourishment across the country,” comments Concerns Citizens of Quogue.
The organization in its current newsletter also brings attention to a letter from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that summarizes comments it has received on the $14 million plan to dump 1.1 million cubic yards of sand on the Quogue oceanfront.
The comments are right on the mark and include:
·         “The relatively few homeowners affected by beach erosion in Quogue should consider relocating their homes landward.”
 
·        “All village taxpayers should not have to pay for a project which will directly benefit a relative few.”

·        “Since the longevity of large scale beach nourishment projects nationwide is variable at best and poor at worst, all concerned need to understand that the long term efficacy of the proposed project is not guaranteed. Funds expended to carry out the project could be wasted and there could be the expectation of the expenditure of additional funds to re-nourish the beach after the material from the first nourishment erodes.”

·        “Oceanfront property owners must know that they are taking on considerable risk when they purchase or otherwise acquire their properties. These property owners, not the municipality, should be responsible for maintaining them.”
         And there is my favorite statement: “The current development pattern on the barrier island in Quogue is unwise and unsustainable. The very large, very expensive, permanent homes which now exist on the oceanfront engender in the owners the understandable desire to protect them, at almost any cost, against the forces of nature, to the detriment of the beach and dunes. In the not so distant past, many people contented themselves with much smaller, less permanent, less valuable beach cottages, structures which they could afford to lose and/or replace if they were damaged by erosion or storms.”
            The DEC called on Quogue village’s “agent” on the sand-dumping project, First Coastal Corporation, to “review this letter” and comments “with the mayor and other village officials” and provide “responses to the issues raised.”
             The Quogue proposal is overshadowed by the plan of the Army Corps of Engineers to dump sand from Fire Island to Montauk Point, first advanced nearly 60 years ago but failing to occur because of the folly it has always represented. Post-Sandy, however, beachfront homeowners and some politicians are pushing for it anew.  A recent cost estimate for the sand-dumping along this 83-mile stretch of Long Island’s south shore: $700 million in taxpayer dollars.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Moms Are Making an Impact!

(On CounterPunch -- www.counterpunch.org-- today.)
            The mothers are making an impact!
            A phenomenon in environmental activism in recent years has been the emergence of grassroots organizations “powered by the voices of mothers, dedicated to protecting children in global communities,” as one group, The Mothers Project, describes itself. http://www.mothersforsustainableenergy.com/ 
            The Mothers Project, founded and headed by Angela Monti Fox, is based in New York City and global in scope. Fox is the mother of Josh Fox, the filmmaker who exposed the dangers of fracking in his award-winning documentaries Gasland and Gasland 2. Indeed, taking on fracking is a major focus of The Mothers Project.
            This week, the anti-environmental, arch-conservative entity named The Independent Women's Forum is staging a panel discussion in Manhattan to try to counter the mothers’ movement. It is titled “From Helicopter to Hazmat: How the Culture of Alarmism is Turning Parenting into a Dangerous Job.” The group, which gets its funding from right-wing foundations and other conservative interests including the Koch Brothers, got its start in 1992 as Women for Judge Thomas defending the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. It fights feminist groups, promotes access to guns and has taken to denying global warming. http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/independent-womens-forum
            Also involved in the event Thursday is the American Council on Science and Health, financed by polluting industries and long described as an industry front group. Its specialty has been issuing reports denying health damage caused by environmental pollutants, notably pesticides and other toxic chemicals. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/10/american-council-science-health-leaked-documents-fundraising
Proclaims an announcement: "’Parents are bombarded with alarmist messages on a daily basis about how the food they eat, the habits they practice and the household products they use threaten their health and the health of their children,’ says Julie Gunlock, event moderator and director of Independent Women Forum’s Culture of Alarmism project. Rather than make women feel more informed, the onslaught of alarmist information makes moms (and dads) feel guilty, confused, even angry.”  http://www.iwf.org/
Comments Angela Fox Monti about the event: “I think this is serious proof that we are making an impact.  I have no doubt that they know about The Mothers Project, ClimateMama, Toxic Baby, Moms Clean Air Force, etc., etc.” Organized moms, she declares, are seen as “a threat because they know politicians tend to cower when mothers show up!”
Monti points to the increase in major diseases “in both children and adults—now being seen by the scientific community as a result of environmental impacts. No longer can we look at simply defective genes for the rise in all cancers, new cancers, autism, ADHD, childhood diabetes and obesity. New research points to environmental impact on embryonic development that will span several generations and can be considered a pandemic when 25 percent of the global population born today will be affected by deleterious environmental impacts.”
Anna Grossman, founder and director of HRP Mamas/The Hudson River Park Mothers Group (http://hrpmamas.clubexpress.com/) says: "In the absence of adequate legislation, and as a mother of two young children, I look to reputable medical organizations and research institutes such as the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center for guidance on keeping my children safe from unregulated chemicals. I wouldn't get medical and safety information from a chemical industry front group or from authors who appear to disregard plain science.”
“I find nothing alarmist in being empowered with the knowledge that EPA is simply unable to protect us from thousands of chemicals,” she says. “The EPA has acknowledged this and it's a known fact. No one is panicking. We are calling for action. Those are two distinctly different things. Trying to paint mothers like me as hysterical is an old and tired stereotype. Parents are agents for change and a tremendous market force. It would seem the chemical industry, as the tobacco industry before it, is terrified of the power of parents to educate their children about companies that don't value their future health or that of their planet. Europe has enacted REACH [Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals] legislation. Why should the USA be left behind?”
Says Bobbi Chase Wilding, deputy director of Clean and Healthy New York (http://www.cleanhealthyny.org/) : "This is clearly a response from an industry feeling the pressure from parents. They want us to go back to sleep. We’re outraged when we learn there’s no law against putting toxic chemicals in baby products. It happens all the time, and they don’t have to be listed on the label.”
“That’s what’s making us impotent: lack of information, lousy laws, and actions by chemical industry front groups like the American Council on Science and Health,” says the mother of two. “While it's their message that health advocates are making people feel impotent, it's exactly presentations like this that are designed to disempower people. There is so much parents can do. There’s a lot of good information that empowers parents to make safer, smart choices. Our message is: don't panic, take action."
A “featured panelist” at the event will be Josh Bloom of the American Council on Science and Health, its activities well-detailed in the book by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Trust Us, We're Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future.  http://www.prwatch.org/books/experts.html

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World's Fair Opens 50 Years Ago -- And I Get Fired for Story About It

            
              Fifty years ago this week, the New York World’s Fair opened—and by the end of the week I was fired for writing about demonstrations on its opening day protesting racism.

“Mr. Moses called and is very upset with you,” Wilson Stringer, vice president of the Sunrise Press newspapers, told me. “You’re fired.”

 Robert Moses had been the public works czar of the New York area for decades. He ran to be  the state’s governor in 1934, and suffered a then record two-to-one defeat. So he amassed power instead by creating state commissions and authorities which he ran.

He pushed the building of parks, a good thing, but also the unbridled construction of bridges, tunnels and highways—highways that shattered traditional neighborhoods and tied up the New York area with loops of roads like the Long Island Expressway, often dubbed the world’s longest parking lot, at the cost of a balanced system of mass transportation. Moses loved the automobile.

It was a road project that Moses announced in 1962 that first caused me to tangle with him. He unveiled a scheme to build a four-lane highway on Fire Island which would have paved over much of the nature and communities on the narrow 32-mile-long ribbon of sand east of New York City. He claimed the highway would “anchor” Fire Island and protect it from storms.

It was my first week on my first job as a reporter for the Babylon Town Leader, a newspaper in the village where Moses lived. He had just announced the Fire Island project.

The Leader for decades had challenged Moses and his projects—quite unlike most of the daily papers in New York City which Moses, as notes the Pulitzer Prize-winning book on him,  The Power Broker by Robert Caro, long had in his pocket.

I began writing story after story in the Leader about the impacts of the proposed Moses highway on Fire Island. We pointed out, too, how the highway Moses built to the west, along Jones Beach, rather than anchoring the beach needed to be regularly bolstered with sand pushed along its edges by bulldozers working at night.

Moses had so much power in New York State he seemed unstoppable. So those endeavoring to save Fire Island turned to the federal government—a Citizens Committee for a Fire Island National Seashore was started. U.S. Interior Secretary Stewart Udall visited Fire Island and embraced the seashore idea.

 Also, conservation-oriented Laurance Rockefeller, brother of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, became chairman of the state Council of Parks in 1963 and liked the seashore concept.

Moses was furious. He confronted the governor insisting that the Fire Island highway must happen and that Rockefeller put a lid on his brother—or he would resign his commission and authority posts. Seemingly he thought New York State would fall apart without him. In this collision, Moses quit his various public positions.

A Fire Island National Seashore, happily, was established in 1964.

            Moses, meanwhile, remained in charge of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.

In 1964, the Babylon Town Leader was bought by the Sunrise Press newspaper chain.

At the Leader I also covered the civil rights struggle then happening on Long Island. I went to the World’s Fair opening day to report on protests led by the then leading activist civil rights organization in the region, the Congress of Racial Equality, protesting racism in hiring by the Fair and racism in general in the New York area. 

All the Sunrise Press newspapers ran as a front-page piece the article I wrote about the demonstrators and their being bludgeoned by the Fair’s Pinkerton officers. My photos on this accompanied the piece.

But no longer did I have the protection when it came to Moses which I had with the Leader under its former management. Moses complained and I was promptly fired.

I placed ads beginning: “Reporter fired because of Robert Moses.” I got another job, at the daily Long Island Press. Moses’ power over much of the area’s press was reconfirmed on my first day there. An editor told me: “Now you understand you’re never to write a story about Moses or any agency he headed.” I was hired to cover police and courts and asked what was to be done if there is a fatal auto accident on one of the highways managed by one of Moses’ former agencies. “Have another reporter write it,” he advised.

Moses is dead. Fire Island has been preserved. The New York World’s Fair is a memory—most of it quickly bulldozed down after it closed.

 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"G.M. Flaw" and the Deeply Flawed Regulatory System

            “U.S. Agency Knew About G.M. Flaw But Did Not Act,” was the front-page headline of the New York Times this week. The article told of a memo released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that related how scandalously, shamefully the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “ignored or dismissed warnings for more than a decade about a faulty ignition switch” in General Motors cars. 
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/31/business/us-regulators-declined-full-inquiry-into-gm-ignition-flaws-memo-shows.html
            “Federal regulators decided not to open an inquiry on the ignitions of Chevrolet Cobalts and other cars even after their own investigators reported in 2007” knowing about fatal crashes, complaints and reports of a defect in the autos, said the article. It continued that in 2010 the agency “came to the same decision”—not to do anything—“after receiving more reports” about the fatal problem.
A separate article on the front-page of the Times’ business section, “Carmakers’ Close Ties to Regulator Scrutinized,” reported on “former top N.H.T.S.A. officials who now represent companies they were once responsible for regulating, part of a well-established migration from regulator to the regulated in Washington.” The “revolving door between the agency and the automotive industry is once again coming under scrutiny as lawmakers investigate the decade-long failure by General Motors and safety regulators to act more aggressively.” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/31/business/carmakers-close-ties-to-regulator-scrutinized.html
In fact, the words “G.M. Flaw” could be substituted for by “G.E. Flaw” in its nuclear plants—like the G.E. plants at Fukushima and the dozens of the same fault-plagued model that are still operating in the U.S., or the words could be replaced by “Pollution Caused by Fracking” or “Poisons in Food.”
From national administration to administration, corporations have run roughshod and those who are supposed to protect us from the danger and death these industries cause have regularly not done their jobs. Sometimes the situation is more pronounced as during the Reagan administration—a thoroughly obvious time of foxes guarding henhouses.
I wrote a book about this extreme situation. The book jacket highlighted some of the Reagan foxes: Rita LaValle, a PR person for Aerojet General Corp. involved in hazardous waste-dumping and water pollution, who became director of the “Superfund” program; John Todhunter, an opponent of restrictions on pesticides with the chemical industry-financed American Council on Science and Health, who became assistant administrator for pesticides and toxic substances at EPA; Kathleen Bennett, who as a lobbyist for the paper industry fought the Clean Air Act, named assistant EPA administrator for air pollution control programs and  supervisor of the Clean Air Act; and on and on.
This sort of thing has an early history. In a chapter titled “Why the Supposed Protectors Don’t Protect,” I related the story of Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a physician who came to Washington in 1882 to become chief chemist for the Department of Agriculture. The U.S. was undergoing a transition from a rural country to an increasingly industrial society with industries arising that processed food—food commonly doused with dangerous chemicals. Wiley endeavored to do something about this. He was a leader in working for pure food legislation and  between his efforts and those of Progressive Era reformers and the publication of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle came passage of the landmark Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.
The act, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, defined as adulterated foods those containing “any added poisonous or other added deleterious ingredient which may render such article injurious to health.”  Wiley, who the U.S. government honored in 1956 with a postage stamp picturing him and has described as the “father of food and drug regulation,” tried to enforce the law as head of the Bureau of Chemistry of the Department of Agriculture, predecessor agency to the Food and Drug Administration, but found that all but impossible.
As a matter of conscience, Wiley resigned from the U.S. government in 1912 and wrote a book, The History of a Crime Against the Food Law.” The law intended to protect the health of people was “perverted to protect adulteration of food,” he wrote.
“There is a distinct tendency to put regulations and rules for the enforcement of the law into the hands of industries engaged in food and drug activities,” declared Wiley. “I consider this one of the most pernicious threats to pure food and drugs. Business is making rapid strides in the control of all our affairs. When we permit business in general to regulate the quality and character of our food and drug supplies, we are treading upon very dangerous ground. It is always advisable to consult businessmen and take such advice as they give that is unbiased, because of the intimate knowledge they have of the processes involved. It is never advisable to surrender entirely food and drug control to business interests.”
Throughout the many decades since, government control, regulation, has been surrendered, in part and sometimes entirely, to business interests. This includes not only the food and drug industries but the auto industry, the nuclear industry, now the gas industry for the toxic process called hydraulic fracturing or fracking, and on and on.  
I titled my 1983 book The Poison Conspiracy and began it by writing about how “the world is being poisoned,” lives are being lost and protection “by government is a sham.” Those in government who are “supposed to protect us...do not because of the power of the industries” they are supposed to regulate. “These corporations have been able to warp, distort and neutralize those social mechanisms of protection.”
For example, regarding nuclear power and Fukushima, Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission when the catastrophe began in 2011, was forced out in 2012 because of nuclear industry pressure after calling for the NRC to apply the “lessons learned” from the disaster. “I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima had never happened.” Jaczko stated as the other four NRC commissioners rubber-stamped the construction in Georgia in 2012 of two new nuclear plants. Jaczko, said U.S. Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, “led” a “fight” against those in the nuclear industry opposed to “strong, lasting safety regulations.” And he paid the price.http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2012/0521/NRC-chairman-resigns-amid-battle-over-lessons-from-Fukushima
            And so do we—whether we drive a G.M. Cobalt car or are impacted by the permitted radioactive emissions or accidental discharges from nuclear power plants or water contaminated by the fracking process or food loaded with genetically modified organisms, GMOs, and chemical poisons.
            What’s to be done? Our elected representatives aren’t innocent in this. There are a few good ones, like Senator Markey, but overall those who on the elective level are supposed to watchdog the lame would-be regulators of the bureaucracies have in large measure been captured themselves by the monied corporate interests. “There is a deeply entrenched network” and the challenge to it “will not be easy,” I conclude in The Poison Conspiracy. Most importantly, there needs to be intense grassroots activism to deal with, to remake, a system of government regulation long broken that needs to be, at long last, truly and fundamentally reformed.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

On the Third Anniversary of the Start of the Fukushima Catastrophe

            With the third anniversary of the start of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe coming next week, the attempted Giant Lie about the disaster continues—a suppression of information, an effort at dishonesty of historical dimensions.

It involves international entities, especially the International Atomic Energy Agency, national governmental bodies—led in Japan by its current prime minister, the powerful nuclear industry and a “nuclear establishment” of scientists and others with a vested interest in atomic energy.

            Deception was integral to the push for nuclear power from its start. Indeed, I opened my first book on nuclear technology, Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power, with:  “You have not been informed about nuclear power. You have not been told. And that has been done on purpose. Keeping the public in the dark was deemed necessary by the promoters of nuclear power if it was to succeed. Those in government, science and private industry who have been pushing nuclear power realized that if people were given the facts, if they knew the consequences of nuclear power, they would not stand for it.”

            Published in 1980, the book led to my giving many presentations on nuclear power at which I’ve often heard the comment that only when catastrophic nuclear accidents happened would people fully realize the deadliness of atomic energy.

Well, massive nuclear accidents have occurred—the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the Fukushima catastrophe that began on March 11, 2011 and is ongoing with large discharges of radioactive poisons continuing to spew out into the environment. 

Meanwhile, the posture of the nuclear promoters is denial—insisting the impacts of the Fukushima catastrophe are essentially non-existent. A massive nuclear accident has occurred and they would make believe it hasn’t.

“Fukushima is an eerie replay of the denial and controversy that began with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” wrote Yale University Professor Emeritus Charles Perrow in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists last year. “This is the same nuclear denial that also greeted nuclear bomb tests, plutonium plant disasters at Windscale in northern England and Chelyabinsk in the Ural Mountains, and the nuclear power plant accidents at Three Mile Island in the United States and Chernobyl in what is now Ukraine.”

The difference with Fukushima is the scale of disaster. With Fukushima were multiple meltdowns at the six-nuclear plant site. There’s been continuing pollution of a major part of Japan, with radioactivity going into the air, carried by the winds to fall out around the world, and gigantic amounts of radioactivity going into the Pacific Ocean moving with the currents and carried by marine life that ingests the nuclear toxins.

Leading the Fukushima cover-up globally is the International Atomic Energy Agency, formed by the United Nations in 1957 with the mission to “seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world.” 

Of the consequences of the Fukushima disaster, “To date no health effects have been reported in any person as a result of radiation exposure from the accident,” declared the IAEA in 2011, a claim it holds to today. 

            Working with the IAEA is the World Health Organization. WHO was captured on issues of radioactivity and nuclear power early on by IAEA. In 1959, the IAEA and WHO, also established by the UN, entered into an agreement—that continues to this day—providing that IAEA and WHO “act in close co-operation with each other” and “whenever either organization proposes to initiate a program or activity on a subject in which the other organization has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement.”

            The IAEA-WHO deal has meant that “WHO cannot undertake any research, cannot disseminate any information, cannot come to the assistance of any population without the prior approval of the IAEA...WHO, in practice, in reality, is subservient to the IAEA within the United Nations family,” explained Alison Katz who for 18 years worked for WHO, on Libbe HaLevy’s “Nuclear Hotseat” podcast last year.

On nuclear issues “there has been a very high level, institutional and international cover-up which includes governments, national authorities, but also, regrettably the World Health Organization,” said Katz on the program titled, “The WHO/IAEA—Unholy Alliance and Its Lies About Int’l Nuclear Health Stats.”

            Katz is now with an organization called IndependentWHO which works for “the complete independence of the WHO from the nuclear lobby and in particular from its mouthpiece which is the International Atomic Energy Agency. We are demanding that independence,” she said, “so that the WHO may fulfill its constitutional mandate in the area of radiation and health.”

            “We are absolutely convinced,” said Katz on “Nuclear Hotseat,” “that if the health and environmental consequences of all nuclear activities were known to the public, the debate about nuclear power would end tomorrow. In fact, the public would probably exclude it immediately as an energy option.”

            WHO last year issued a report on the impacts of the Fukushima disaster claiming that “for the general population inside and outside of Japan, the predicted risks are low and no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated.”

            Then there is the new prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, who last year insisted before
the International Olympic Committee as he successfully pushed to have the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo (180 miles from Fukushima): “There are no health-related problems until now, nor will there be in the future, I make the statement to you in the most emphatic and unequivocal way.”  Abe has been driving hard for a restart of Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants, all shut down in the wake of the Fukushima catastrophe.

            His is a totally different view than that of his predecessor, Naoto Kan, prime minister when the disaster began. Kan told a conference in New York City last year of how he had been a supporter of nuclear power but after the Fukushima accident "I changed my thinking 180-degrees, completely.” He declared that at one point it looked like an "area that included Tokyo" and populated by 50 million people might have to be evacuated. "We do have accidents such as an airplane crash and so on," Kan said, "but no other accident or disaster" other than a nuclear plant disaster can "affect 50 million people... no other accident could cause such a tragedy." Moreover, said Kan, “without nuclear power plants we can absolutely provide the energy to meet our demands." Japan since the accident began has tripled its use of solar energy, he said, and pointed to Germany as a model with its post-Fukushima commitment to shutting down all its nuclear power plants and having "all its power supplied by renewable power" by 2050. The entire world could do this, said Kan. "If humanity really would work together... we could generate all our energy through renewable energy."

            A major factor in Abe’s stance is Japan having become a global player in the nuclear industry. General Electric (the manufacturer of the Fukushima plants) and Westinghouse have been the Coke and Pepsi of nuclear power plants worldwide, historically building or designing 80 percent of them. In 2006, Toshiba bought Westinghouse's nuclear division and Hitachi entered into a partnership with GE in its nuclear division. Thus the two major nuclear power plant manufacturers worldwide are now Japanese brands. Abe has been busy traveling the world seeking to peddle Toshiba-Westinghouse and Hitachi-GE nuclear plants to try to lift Japan’s depressed economy.

            As for the nuclear industry, the “Fukushima accident has caused no deaths,” declares the World Nuclear Association in its statement “Safety of Nuclear Power Reactors...Updated October 2013.” The group, “representing the people and organizations of the global nuclear profession,” adds: “The Fukushima accident resulted in some radiation exposure of workers at the plant, but not such as to threaten their health.”

            What will the consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster be?

            It is impossible to know exactly now. But considering the gargantuan amount of radioactive poisons that have been discharged and what will continue to be released, the impacts will inevitably be great. The claim of there being no consequences to life and the prediction that there won’t be in the future from the Fukushima catastrophe is an outrageous falsehood.

That’s because it is now widely understood that there is no “safe” level of radioactivity. Any amount can kill. The more radioactivity, the greater the impacts. As the National Council on Radiation Protection has declared: “Every increment of radiation exposure produces an incremental increase in the risk of cancer.” 

There was once the notion of there being a "threshold dose" of radioactivity below which there would be no harm. That’s because when nuclear technology began and  people were exposed to radioactivity, they didn’t promptly fall down dead. But as the years went by, it was realized that lower levels of radioactivity take time to result in cancer and other illnesses—that there is a five-to-40-year "incubation" period

Projecting a death toll of more than a million from the radioactivity released from Fukushima is Dr. Chris Busby, scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk who has been a professor at a number of universities. . “Fukushima is still boiling radionuclides all over Japan,” he said. “Chernobyl went up in one go. So Fukushima is worse.”

Indeed, a report by the Institute for Science in Society, based in the U.K., has concluded: “State-of-the-art analysis based on the most inclusive datasets available reveals that radioactive fallout from the Fukushima meltdown is at least as big as Chernobyl and more global in reach.”

A death toll of up to 600,000 is estimated in a study conducted for the Nordic Probabilistic Safety Assessment Group which is run by the nuclear utilities of Finland and Sweden.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, a founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, told a symposium on “The Medical Implications of Fukushima” held last year in Japan: “The accident is enormous in its medical implications. It will induce an epidemic of cancer as people inhale the radioactive elements, eat radioactive vegetables, rice and meat, and drink radioactive milk and teas. As radiation from ocean contamination bio-accumulates up the food chain...radioactive fish will be caught thousands of miles from Japanese shores. As they are consumed, they will continue the the cycle of contamination, proving that no matter where you are, all major nuclear accidents become local.”

Dr. Caldicott, whose books on nuclear power include Nuclear Madness, also stated:  “The Fukushima disaster is not over and will never end. The radioactive fallout which remains toxic for hundreds to thousands of years covers large swaths of Japan will never be ‘cleaned up’ and will contaminate food, humans and animals virtually forever.”

Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, has said: “The health impacts to the Japanese will begin to be felt in several years and out to 30 or 40 years from cancers. And I believe we’re going to see as many as a million cancers over the next 30 years because of the Fukushima incident in Japan.”

            At Fukushima, “We have opened a door to hell that cannot be easily closed—if ever,” said Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at the U.S.-based group Beyond Nuclear last year.

Already an excessive number of cases of thyroid cancers have appeared in Japan, an early sign of the impacts of radioactivity.  A study last year by Joseph Mangano and Dr. Janette Sherman of the Radiation and Public Health Project, and Dr. Chris Busby, determined that radioactive iodine fall-out from Fukushima damaged the thyroid glands of children in California. And the biggest wave of radioactivity in the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima is slated to hit the west coast of North America in the next several months. Meanwhile, every bluefin tuna caught in the waters off California in a Stanford University study was found to be contaminated with cesium-137, a radioactive poison emitted on a large scale by Fukushima. The tuna migrate from off Japan to California waters. Daniel Madigan, who led the study, commented: “The tuna packaged it up [the radiation] and brought it across the world’s largest ocean. We were definitely surprised to see it at all and even more surprised to see it in every one we measured.”

            There is, of course, the enormous damage to property. The Environmental Health Policy Institute of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) in its summary of the “Costs and Consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster” cites estimates of economic loss of between $250 billion and $500 billion. Some 800 square kilometers are “exclusion” zones of “abandoned cities, towns, agricultural land, homes and properties” and from which 159,128 people have been “evicted,” relates PSR senior scientist Steven Starr. Further, “about a month after the disaster, on April 19, 2011, Japan chose to dramatically increase its official ‘safe’ radiation exposure levels from 1 mSv [millisievert, a measure of radiation dose] to 20 mSv per year—20 times higher than the U.S. exposure limit. This allowed the Japanese government to downplay the dangers of the fallout and avoid evacuation of many badly contaminated areas.”

            And last year the Japanese government enacted a new State Secrets Act which can restrict—with a penalty of 10 years in jail—reporting on Fukushima. “”It’s the cancerous mark of a nuclear regime bound to control all knowledge of a lethal global catastrophe now ceaselessly escalating,” wrote Harvey Wasserman, co-author of Killing Our Own, in a piece aptly titled “Japan’s New ‘Fukushima Fascism’.”

            Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the nation’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission has over the past three years consistently refused to apply “lessons learned” from Fukushima. Its chairman, Dr. Gregory Jaczko, was forced out after an assault led by the nuclear industry after trying to press this issue and opposing an NRC licensing of two new nuclear plants in Georgia “as if Fukushima had never happened.”

Rosalie Bertell, a Catholic nun, in her book No Immediate Danger, wrote about the decades of suppression of the impacts of nuclear power and the reason behind it: “Should the public discover the true health cost of nuclear pollution, a cry would rise from all parts of the world and people would refuse to cooperative passively with their own death.”

            Thus the desperate drive—in which a largely compliant mainstream media have been complicit—to deny the Fukushima catastrophe, a disaster deeply affecting life on Earth.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

De Blasio and the Press

            New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had better get used to the media heat—or he will undermine the ambitious—and important—things he is trying to do.

            Storming out of a press conference last week when pressed on his caravan going through stop signs and speeding, documented by a TV crew, was not smart. After de Blasio refused to answer reporters’ questions and rushed for the door, journalists called out challenges about the new mayor’s promised “transparency.”

            Thus the New York Daily News story began: “Mayor de Blasio blew off tough questions Friday about as fast as he blew past the speed limit.” The caption on the accompanying photo: “Mayor de Blasio didn’t answer questions at a press conference regarding speeding revelations.”
            A week before, de Blasio was refusing to talk about a call he made to a high-ranking New York Police Department official after a political ally was arrested on outstanding warrants after an alleged traffic infraction. “Mayor Won’t Discuss Call,” was the Newsday’s headline.
            De Blasio has called himself a “very progressive guy with very progressive goals;” indeed commentators have been comparing him to Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. The central theme of the de Blasio campaign was the “tale of two cities”—how New York City has increasingly become a town where only the wealthy can afford to live. He has committed to change that.
            As a result, like the reform-minded LaGuardia, he will be condemned by conservative forces, including those in the press. That has already begun. The Economist magazine last week attacked how “New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, a union-backed Democrat, wants to hobble charters,” referring to charter schools. A caption on a photo accompanying this story: “Down with good schools, says New York’s mayor.” The article’s headline: “Killing the golden goose.”
            De Blasio’s planned efforts to build back public education in New York City, greatly expand affordable housing and similar initiatives will meet resistance—and press criticism. (LaGuardia ran into a lot of this.)
How should de Blasio best handle this?
The best model would be another former New York City Mayor, Ed Koch.
”He was the most open-to-the-press mayor that New York City has ever had,” Arthur Browne, a reporter for the New York Daily News stated on the death of Koch at 88 last year. Browne recalled how Koch conducted no-holds-barred question and answer sessions with the press daily.
And Koch could be feisty—in fact most of the time he was, to great advantage.
I recall when Koch was running for New York State governor in 1982. I was co-anchoring the nightly news on WSNL-TV on Long Island and he came to be interviewed. I pressed him on his being on what was then largely Republican turf seeking votes. “I’m here to rescue you!” he shot back instantly, with a big smile.
Whether about traffic or police matters or substantive political issues involving his visions for changing the city, that’s how de Blasio needs to deal with the press.  He should engage with the media constantly, answering every question thrown at him, coming back with honesty, strength and, when the occasion provides, humor.
Being thin-skinned, a progressive press-hostile Nixonian, will not help de Blasio’s cause.
De Blasio knows how to shovel snow from in front of his house in Brooklyn and making it into a media event. That’s easy. Keeping his cool, using humor, keeping his eyes on the prize of a better city when caught in inevitable conflicts with media, that’s harder—and most necessary if the new mayor is to succeed.