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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Don't worry, the government is watching after polluters. yeah right.

 Mchenry, Illinois - Forty-six year old Sandy Wierschke, a once energetic, healthy woman with a career, husband and a child, is dying from brain cancer.

    "I don't know what the future holds for me anymore," she said. "I am just living three months to three months and hoping that I can make it another three months."

    That's how her neighbor Bryan Freund is living, too. He also has brain cancer. Neighbors on either side of his home have also developed brain cancer, CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

    "And at that point between us and the Branhams and the Weisenbergers, we just knew that something was far out of the ordinary," Freund said. "You live MRI to MRI."

    And there are more cases. More than a dozen cases.

    "I am John Smith," said another patient. "I am on my second brain tumor."

    An amatuer video shows residents in McCullom Lake Village. It is a community of a thousand people - but every person in the video either has a brain tumor, lives with a relative with one or lost someone to brain cancer.

    There, in a community of about 1,000 people, 14 residents have developed brain cancer. Nationally the rate is roughly seven out of 100,000.


    Attorney Aaron Freiwald says "absolutely not." He represents the McCollum Lake Village residents in their lawsuits against multi-billion dollar chemical company Rohm and Haas. Rohm and Hass has had a plant there since 1963. It makes specialty chemicals that are used in a variety of industries - from plastics to pesticides. And it has 140 different facilities in 27 countries.

    "These people who lived in McCollum Lake did not know what was going on just a mile or so away. They didn't know. They didn't know until people were found to have brain cancer in these really striking numbers," Freiwald said.

    The company admits that for 20 years ending in 1979, it dumped toxic chemical waste in an eight-acre pit on its property. The goundwater beneath the plant is polluted with gallons of chemicals - some are known human carcinogens. In May, the county tested only 14 of the water wells around McCullom Lake Village and found no contamination.

    But local residents say no testing was done during the time Rohm and Haas was dumping chemicals.

    "They knew that there were chemicals in there - that they were dangerous," Freiwald said.

    Whatever is happening in McHenry, Ill., seems to be going on 800 miles east in Philadelphia. And it's not outside a Rohm and Haas plant - but inside.

    "The doctors knew right away that there was something terribly wrong," said Lee Hsu, whose husband Charles was one of 12 research scientists who has died of brain cancer in the past 30 years, working at the Rohm and Haas facilities north of Philadelphia. "It was the saddest day in my life."

    At least five of the 12 researchers worked on one hallway in this one building - building Number 4.

    Hsu's supervisor, Barry Lange, also died of brain cancer. His widow, Linda Lange, and several other widows are suing Rohm and Haas.

    "I think there could be a cancer cluster there, you know Charles Hsu worked for my husband," Linda Lange said. "I am not a scientist but the numbers alone make me questions it."

    Corporate whistleblower Thomas Haag said: "I was lied to, I was given the run-around, I was stalled and I was brushed off. I don't brush off easily."

    Haag is a trained chemist and former executive at Rohm and Haas. In 1996, he wrote the company's chief of medicine about a possible brain cancer problem at the company. But it wasn't until six years later when two more scientists died and one more was diagnosed with brain cancer that the company decided to conduct its own study.

    "I think the company is wrong from end to end," Haag said. "I think they have committed fraud in not alerting their own employees."

    But Rohm and Haas's chief of medicine Dr. Phil Lewis, said" "for anyone to suggest that there was anything other than the best science here, they really don't know what they're talking about."

    Pitts asked him: "That makes you angry?"

    "It does," Lewis said. "It's an insult. It's absurd."

    Pitts said: "All of these research scientists on the one hallway in a small space developed brain cancer. Coincidence?"

    "First thing, it is important to understand that that could be a coincidence," Lewis said.

    Dr. Lewis said Rohm and Haas conducted its own internal investigation in 2002 and 2007, but found no link between the cancer cases and the company.

    But the federal government told Rohm and Haas their study was seriously flawed. NIOSH, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, a federal agency, is responsible for preventing work-related illnesses. They called for an independent study.

    "They gave us some good ideas," Lewis said of NIOSH. "It was a good, helpful exchange."

    Pitts said: "My reading of their findings was that they were highly critical. They used phrases like 'highly unusual,' 'unsound,' 'disturbing,' 'scattershod approach.'"

    "Yeah, the terrible thing to understand is when scientists talk to themselves, it can get ugly," Lewis said.

    He sums up the cancer cases in McCullom Lake Village and in Building #4 as likely coincidences, but the company has commissioned an independent study.

    "I'm about, let's keep the people well, right? And if there's something that's wrong that's out there that caused them to get sick, let's find out what it is and deal with it," Lewis said.

    "But if the company is responsible, this is a $9 billion company. You could lose a lot of money, if you're proven to be responsible," Pitts said.

    "Don't care, don't care," Lewis said. "I could tell you right now, if I thought there was something that was causing those cancers I'd shut that building down. That's what the company's about. Do the right thing."

    "The folk in McCullom Lake Village will watch this story. What would you say to them?" Pitts asked.

    "I can sympathize with everyone who says, 'I got to find a cause, I got to know what caused this.' What I do know is that ... there is no exposure in McCollum Lake to anything at our plant," Lewis said.

    Speaking with cancer victim Bryan Freund, Pitts said: "You're 47 now."

    "They told me after the diagnosis that the average prognosis is three to five years. So I've got three so far. And there's now guarantee on the rest," Freund said.

    For Freund, the widows in Philadelphia and the neighbors in McCollum Lake Village - all agree that there are no guarantees they'll find what is causing these cluster of cancer cases.

    Is it a coincidence or something more? It will be up to science or the courts to decide.

t r u t h o u t | Mystery Cancer Cluster Hits Illinois Community

I hate these criminal bastards

The results of a Congressional investigation released today detail the collapse of the Clean Water Act enforcement program in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that clouded the question of whether rivers, streams and wetlands remain protected from pollution and development.

The report reveals more than 500 clean water enforcement cases that have been dropped or stalled in the wake of the 2006 decision in Rapanos v. United States.

The investigation, by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar, uncovered new internal documents showing that hundreds of Clean Water Act violations have not been pursued with enforcement actions.

"One of the legacies of the Bush Administration is its failure to protect the safety and health of the nation's waters," said Chairman Waxman. "Our investigation reveals that the clean water program has been decimated as hundreds of enforcement cases have been dropped, downgraded, delayed, or never brought in the first place. We need to work with the new Administration to restore the effectiveness and integrity to this vital program."

In a letter sent today to President-elect Barack Obama, the two committee chairmen write of "an extensive joint investigation by our Committee staffs that finds that the federal government's Clean Water Act enforcement program has been decimated over the past two years, imperiling the health and safety of the nation's waters."

The chairmen forwarded to Obama the results of a review of more than 20,000 pages of documents produced to the committees by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"The actual problems may be even worse than described in the documents," the chairmen wrote. "EPA has withheld hundreds of documents from the Committees. When documents were provided, the EPA redacted the identity of every corporation or individual accused of polluting waterways, as well as the specific waters affected."

The investigation shows that dozens of existing enforcement cases have become informal responses, have had civil penalties reduced, and have experienced delays. Many violations are not even being detected because of the substantial reduction in investigations.

Violations involving oil spills make up nearly half of the Clean Water Act violations that have been detected but are not being addressed.

In addition, the committees’ investigation revealed that the Assistant Secretary for the Army for Civil Works placed the interests of corporate lobbyists over the scientific determinations of career officials in making Clean Water Act decisions about the Santa Cruz River in Arizona.

The regions with the most lost enforcement actions are EPA Region 6, which includes the states of New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana, where 138 enforcement cases were dropped, and EPA Region 8, which includes the states of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, where 106 enforcement cases have been dropped.

In their letter to Obama, the chairman wrote, "The Dallas regional office warned that "[o]ur oil pollution enforcement program has been significantly impacted," dozens of oil spill cases are "on hold," and "no follow-up for penalties or corrective action has been sought."

"The Denver regional office warned that "[w]e have literally hundreds of OPA [Oil Pollution Act] cases in our 'no further action' file" and forwarded a lengthy list of 'violations which we failed to take cases on.'"

"The Kansas City regional office warned that morale 'has plummeted,' that employees 'have lost hope,' and that 'our stress level has been overwhelming [and] has reached critical levels.'" the chairmen told Obama.

"The San Francisco regional office warned that these problems 'are real and must be addressed," noting in one case that "[i]t is time to pull the plug on keeping this case on life support,' the chairmen wrote.

In June 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in the Rapanos case that federal agencies could assert jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act for many waters only after going through a time-consuming and resource-intensive process of demonstrating a "significant nexus" to "traditional navigable waters."

"This Administration has only exacerbated a series of bad Supreme Court decisions by not enforcing the Clean Water Act and by placing development interests above those of the public," said Chairman Oberstar. "By withholding relevant information and misleading Congress our nation's waters have gone unprotected for too long. Only through Congressional action can we restore necessary Clean Water Act protections to our nation's waters."

"We have known for some time that the Clean Water Act is broken and that thousands of streams, rivers and wetlands have lost federal anti-pollution protections," said Joan Mulhern, legislative counsel with the public interest law firm Earthjustice. "But now we know the extent to which the Bush administration has been covering up the problem."

"While the committees' report is very revealing, the EPA's cover-up continues," Mulhern said. "They are still withholding documents on hundreds of dropped enforcement actions, and the information they did give the chairmen redacted identifying information that would tell the American people which water bodies have been contaminated illegally with oil spills, fills, and other industrial discharges by polluters."

"We thank Chairman Oberstar and Chairman Waxman for this investigation and their determination not to let the Bush administration off this hook for this huge breakdown in Clean Water enforcement and its proclivity for allowing polluting industries to set the nation's clean water policies," Mulhern said. "Earthjustice hopes to work closely with Congress and the next administration to get the needed legislative fix enacted as quickly as possible."

"The new administration must immediately reverse this pattern of leaving waters unprotected and hiding the mess from the public, and support swift Congressional passage of the Clean Water Restoration Act." This 2007 bill would clearly define the waters of the United States that are subject to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

Bush Administration Covered Up 500+ Blocked Water Pollution Cases | Water | AlterNet

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Official: Total Defeat for U.S. in Iraq | War on Iraq | AlterNet

On November 27 the Iraqi parliament voted by a large majority in favor of a security agreement with the US under which the 150,000 American troops in Iraq will withdraw from cities, towns and villages by June 30, 2009 and from all of Iraq by December 31, 2011. The Iraqi government will take over military responsibility for the Green Zone in Baghdad, the heart of American power in Iraq, in a few weeks time. Private security companies will lose their legal immunity. US military operations and the arrest of Iraqis will only be carried out with Iraqi consent. There will be no US military bases left behind when the last US troops leave in three years time and the US military is banned in the interim from carrying out attacks on other countries from Iraq. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed after eight months of rancorous negotiations, is categorical and unconditional. America's bid to act as the world's only super-power and to establish quasi-colonial control of Iraq, an attempt which began with the invasion of 2003, has ended in failure. There will be a national referendum on the new agreement next July, but the accord is to be implemented immediately so the poll will be largely irrelevant. Even Iran, which had furiously denounced the first drafts of the SOFA saying that they would establish a permanent US presence in Iraq, now says blithely that it will officially back the new security pact after the referendum. This is a sure sign that Iran, as America's main rival in the Middle East, sees the pact as marking the final end of the US occupation and as a launching pad for military assaults on neighbours such as Iran. Astonishingly, this momentous agreement has been greeted with little surprise or interest outside Iraq. On the same day that it was finally passed by the Iraqi parliament international attention was wholly focused on the murderous terrorist attack in Mumbai. For some months polls in the US showed that the economic crisis had replaced the Iraqi war as the main issue facing America in the eyes of voters. So many spurious milestones in Iraq have been declared by President Bush over the years that when a real turning point occurs people are naturally sceptical about its significance. The White House was so keen to limit understanding of what it had agreed in Iraq that it did not even to publish a copy of the SOFA in English. Some senior officials in the Pentagon are privately criticizing President Bush for conceding so much to the Iraqis, but the American media are fixated on the incoming Obama administration and no longer pays much attention to the doings of the expiring Bush administration. The last minute delays to the accord were not really about the terms agreed with the Americans. It was rather that the leaders of the Sunni Arab minority, seeing the Shia-Kurdish government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki about to fill the vacuum created by the US departure, wanted to barter their support for the accord in return for as many last minute concessions as they could extract. Some three quarters of the 17,000 prisoners held by the Americans are Sunni and they wanted them released or at least not mistreated by the Iraqi security forces. They asked for an end to de-Baathication which is directed primarily at the Sunni community. Only the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held out against the accord to the end, declaring it a betrayal of independent Iraq. The ultra-patriotic opposition of the Sadrists to the accord has been important because it has made it difficult for the other Shia parties to agree to anything less than a complete American withdrawal. If they did so they risked being portrayed as US puppets in the upcoming provincial elections at the end of January 2009 or the parliamentary elections later in the year.

It's Official: Total Defeat for U.S. in Iraq | War on Iraq | AlterNet

Global temperatures are indeed rising. For a more indepth analysys, read the science. http://www.aip.org/history/climate/20ctrend.htm but for gods sake, stop listening to corporate media who get billions from the oil and coal industry annually and opinionators (your idiots like Rush and Hannity.) who don't know a damned thing about it.