Friday, July 06, 2012

Bombings, burn pits, parades

In the continued Iraqi violence, Alsumaria reports 1 person was shot dead outside his Baquba home by an unknown assailant using a machine gun and police shot dead a supect on a highway leading into Baghdad from the south.  Anwar Msarbat (AK News) reports a Hit car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left six people injured. All Iraqi News reports on the Hit bombing but insists it was a roadside bombing. 

Saturday, Austin, Texas will see a parade.  Tara Merrigan (Austin American-Statesman) reports, "The parade, which will start at 9 a.m. at the Congress Avenue Bridge and end at the Capitol, will include the 36th Division Infantry Band from Camp Mabry, a Reserve Officers' Training Corps color guard from Westwood High School, motorcycle clubs, muscle car clubs and a roller derby club. The event will feature veterans from the Iraq War and previous wars."  This will be followed by a veterans jobs fair.  The following day it's Portsmouth, New Hampshire's turn.  Laurenne Ramsdell (Foster's Daily Democrat) notes, "The Welcome Home Parade will proceed from Junkins Avenue onto Pleasant Street, then onto State Street, Wright Avenue, Daniels Street and then through Market Square. The parade will continue onto Congress Street and Fleet Street before it loops back toward Junkins Avenue."  This Sunday parade will also be followed by a jobs fair, held in "the lower parking lot at City Hall."  These are among the many parades that have been taking place across the country.  If you know of one in your area, feel free to note in an e-mail and it will be included here.  A parade in Alabama did not go so well recently and it's thought that one of the reasons was lack of awareness that it was taking place. 

Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans and contractors who do return to the US face a variety of obstacles including readjustment, the lousy job market and much more.  Many also have to address injuries.  One group returns often unaware of their injury or with it unrecognized.  That's a group who were exposed to burn pits overseas.  The burn pits were used to burn all waste -- including medical, including car batteries, everything.  The exposure to the fumes have seriously harmed many.  In 2009, following the work done by then-Senator Byron Dorgan and the Democratic Policy Committee on this issue, DPC members then-Senator Evan Bayh championed a federal registry for burn pit victims.  His bill never got out of Committee despite strong efforts on his part.  

In the Senate currently, Senator Mark Udall champions the Burn Pit Registery and we'll note his remarks at the June 13th Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing;

Senator Mark Udall:  Sitting in the audience today is Master Sergeant Jessey Baca a member of the New Mexico Air National Guard and his wife Maria.  [to them] Just give everybody a waive here, you two.  Master Sgt. Baca was stationed in Balad, Iraq and exposed to burn pits. His journey to be here today was not easy.  He has battled cancer, chronic bronchitis, chemical induced asthma, brain lesions, TBI, PTSD and numerous other ailments. Maria has traveled that difficult road with him.   They know first hand the suffering caused by burn pits and they need to know the answers.  It is because of them and so many others like them that we are here today.  Last year, I introduced S. 1798, the Open Burn Pits Registry Act with Senator Corker.  Representative Todd Akin introduced it in the House.  It is not a partisan issue.  We have each met with veterans and active duty members of the military and they have told us how important it is that we act now.  In both Afghanistan and Iraq, open air burn pits were widely used at forward operating bases.  Disposing of trash and other debris was a major challenge.  Commanders had to find a way to dispose of waste while concentrating on the important mission at hand.  The solution that was chosen, however, had serious risks.  Pits of waste were set on fire -- sometimes using jet fuel for ignition.  Some burn pits were small but others covered multiple acres of land. Often times, these burn pits would turn the sky black.  At Joint Base Balad Iraq, over 10 acres of land were used for burning toxic debris.  At the height of its operations, Balad hosted approximately 25,000 military, civilian and coalition provision authority personnel.  These personnel would be exposed to a toxic soup of chemicals released into the atmosphere.  According to air quality measurements, the air at Balad had multiple particulates harmful to humans: Plastics and Styrofoams, metals, chemicals from paints and solvents, petroleum and lubricants, jet fuel and unexploded ordnance, medical and other dangerous wastes.  The air samples at Joint Base Balad turned up some nasty stuff. Particulate matter, chemicals that form from the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas garbage or other organic substances, volatile organic compounds such as acetone and benzene  -- benzene, as you all know, is known to cause leukemia --  and dioxins which are associated with Agent Orange.  According to the American Lung Association, emissions from burning waste contain fine particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. All of this was in the air and being inhaled into the lungs of service members.  Our veterans have slowly begun to raise the alarm as they learn why -- after returning home -- they are short of breath or experiencing headaches and other symptoms and, in some cases, developing cancer.  Or to put it more simply, by Maria Baca, when she describes her husband's symptoms, "When he breathes, he can breathe in, but he can't breathe out.  That's the problem that he's having.  It feels like a cactus coming out of his chest.  He feels  these splinters and he can't get rid of them."  The Dept of Army has also confirmed the dangers posed by burn pits.  In a memo from April 15, 2011, Environmental Science Engineering Officer, G. Michael Pratt, wrote an air quality summary on Baghram Airfield.  And I would respectfully ask that the full memo be included in the record.  Referring to the burn pits near Baghram Airfield,  he said there was potential that "long-term exposure at these level may experience the risk for developing chronic health conditions such as reduced lung function or exacerbated chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, atherosclerosis  and other cardio pulmonary diseases.  Many of our service members are coming home with these symptoms.  I believe, like you do, Madam Chair, that we are forever in debt for their service, so we must ask the question, "How did these burn pits impact the health of our returning heroes?"  This bill is a step towards finding the answers we owe them.  The legislation will establish and maintain and Open Burn Pit Registry for those individuals who may have been exposed during their military service.  It would include information in this registry that the Secretary of the VA determines is applicable to possible health effects of this exposure. develop a public information campaign to inform individuals about the registry and periodically notify members of the registry of significant developments associated with burn pits exposure.  It is supported by numerous groups including BurnPits 360, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Association of US Navy,  Retired Enlisted Association, the Uniformed Services Disabled Retirees and the National Military Family Association.  Madam Chair and Ranking Member Burr, thank you for your attention to this important issue.  I look forward to working with both of you and members of your distinguished Committee on this important legislation.  Thank you and a pleasure once again to be with you today. 

In the House, Todd Akin fights for burn pit registry.  Rick Maze (Navy Times) reported last Friday that Akin's bill had made it out of the House Veterans Affairs Health Subcommittee and was headed for a full Committee vote.  That remains the status this week.  Information on burn pit issues can be found at BurnPits360.

The following community sites -- plus Ms. magazine blog,  Cindy Sheehan, Tavis Smiley, Susan's On The Edge,, Jody Watley and Pacifica Evening News -- updated last night and this morning:

Jody Watley Gets Glam in Las Vegas
17 hours ago 
As we noted last Sunday, the Green Party USA held their political convention (in Chicago) and nominated Cynthia McKinney to be their candidate for president. The convention started the Friday before. For any wondering, the four-day convention finally got a 'shout-out' on Monday's Democracy Now! As a headline. Not a segment. A political party of the left holds a national convention, has many speakers -- many of whom are running for offices -- and it's reduced to a headline.
It is expected that Jill Stein, who more than leads in the delegate count will be the next Green Party presidential candidate.  She has qualified for matching funds and earlier this week her campaign released the following video.

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