Friday, January 12, 2018

Iraq snapshot

Friday, January 12, 2018.  Former US Vice President Joe Biden talks burnpits, Iraq begins preparations for elections, Joy Reid has a big fan who may or may not be Joy Reid herself, and much more.

Are fans of war crazed Joy Reid (MSNBC) really that stupid or, as several at MSNBC believe, is Joy creating dummy accounts every day to reply to herself?

Ponder that as you ponder this:

The melodramatic Tweet is susicous all on its own.  And that's before you get to Joy's rush to respond to it.  Does anyone really stand in front of the TV with tears of gratitude streaming down their face as Joy speaks?  Anyone outside of a psych ward?

It feels like a lie, doesn't it?

And the claim about Rachel saving in 2003 as the Iraq War broke out?

Also a lie.

A big lie.

First off, Air America Radio wasn't on the air then.  It wouldn't be until 2004.

Secondly, Rachel wasn't against the Iraq War.

Not before it started.

And not after.

She refused to bring on veterans against the war.  She had the attitude -- same as Al Franken -- that the Iraq War had started so it didn't matter anymore -- calls to end it didn't matter at all.

That is who Rachel Maddow is.

Maybe when Joy was Tweeting under her split personality, she hadn't had all of that day's meds?

Who knows.

But the Tweet's a lie from a liar -- and that's true whether Joy Tweeted it herself or not.

Other questionable exchanges?

Wednesday's US State Dept press gaggle moderated by Steven Goldstein:

QUESTION: Laurie Mylroie, Kurdistan 24.


QUESTION: Hi. Reuters – on Iraq.


QUESTION: Reuters reported that IDPs from Anbar Province are being forced to return home, although conditions aren’t safe, there are still IEDs around, and that’s being done to hold the Iraqi elections on schedule in May.
So two parts to this question. What’s your response to the forced return of IDPs, and what about the elections, that maybe the law can be changed so that people can vote if they’re IDPs --


QUESTION: -- even without going home, or should the elections be postponed?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: So we are clearly concerned by press reports of forced returns. The United States is committed to the safe and voluntary return of all displaced people. And we defer to the Government of Iraq regarding the dates for their elections. 

Elections are scheduled in May. 

Way for the US government to stand up for voting rights.

If, as has taken place in previous elections in Iraq, polling centers can be created for Iraqis not in Iraq, then polling centers could be created for the displaced within Iraq.

Apparently, that requires more thought and effort than the US government is in possession of.

On the topic of the upcoming elections, ASHARQ AL-AWSAT reports on the negotiations by the various blocks:

Sunni blocs decided on an alliance of former prime minister and leader of the National Coalition, Iyad Allawi, with Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jubouri, and former deputy prime minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. However, the majority of Shiite forces, whether represented by State of Law Coalition led by Nuri al-Maliki, or the list representing Popular Mobilization Forces, have not decided even few hours before the deadline.

MP representing State of Law Coalition Rehab Abouda explained that delayed Shiite-Shiite coalition is attributed to the issue of "number one". She told Asharq al-Awsat that the choice of the first candidate at the top of the list seems to be the main obstacle since it will decide who will head the government after the next election.

Commander of the Badr Organization, Karim Nouri, criticized Shiite leaders and told Asharq al-Awsat that "the striking paradox is that political forces supporting holding the elections on time" stalled and did not agree on a name, as he wondered about the forces that demanded a postponement, in reference to Sunni forces.

However, MP Iyad al-Jubouri, member of Allawi-Jubouri-Mutlaq coalition, told Asharq al-Awsat that the disagreement over naming the "main man" was "not the first priority" in the negotiations for forming an alliance.

"The coalition, which includes many Sunni parties and forces with Iyad Allawi had decided," said Jubouri, adding that the coalition was not limited by a certain sect, just like in 2010 elections when the Iraqi List won majority of votes, but was denied the opportunity to form a government, even though it was headed by Shiite candidate.

Moving over to the US, Amy Cherry (WDEL) reports:

Former Vice President Joe Biden said he believes his son's military service may have caused his brain cancer.
Speaking on PBS' News Hour, Biden said toxins found in smoke from burning waste at U.S. military installations in war zones over seas could've contributed to his son's death.

Is this a turning point for the issue?

It has seemed that way before.

June 13th, 2012, then-Senator Mark Udall explained burn pits while speaking to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:

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. 

And October 21, 2009, then-Senator Evan Bayh appeared before the US Senate Veterans Affairs Committee explaining the bill for a registry he was sponsoring, advocating for it.

I am here today to testify about a tragedy that took place in 2003 on the outskirts of Basra in Iraq. I am here on behalf of Lt Col James Gentry and the brave men and women who served under his command in the First Battalion, 152nd Infantry of the Indiana National Guard. I spoke with Lt Col Gentry by phone just this last week. Unfortunately, he is at home with his wife, Luanne, waging a vliant fight against terminal cancer. The Lt Col was a healthy man when he left for Iraq. Today, he is fighting for his life. Tragically, many of his men are facing their own bleak prognosis as a result of their exposure to sodium dichromate, one of the most lethal carcinogens in existence. The chemical is used as an anti-corrosive for pipes. It was strewn all over the water treatment facility guarded by the 152nd Infantry. More than 600 soldiers from Indiana, Oregon, West Virginia and South Carolina were exposed. One Indiana Guardsman has already died from lung disease and the Army has classified it as a service-related death. Dozens of the others have come forward with a range of serious-respiratory symptoms. [. . .] Mr. Chairman, today I would like to tell this Committee about S1779. It is legislation that I have written to ensure that we provide full and timely medical care to soldiers exposed to hazardous chemicals during wartime military service like those on the outskirts of Basra. The Health Care for Veterans Exposed to Chemical Hazards Act of 2009 is bipartisan legislation that has already been co-sponsored by Senators Lugar, Dorgan, Rockefeller, Byrd, Wyden and Merkley. With a CBO score of just $10 million, it is a bill with a modest cost but a critical objective: To enusre that we do right by America's soldiers exposed to toxic chemicals while defending our country. This bill is modeled after similar legislation that Congress approved in 1978 following the Agent Orange exposure in the Vietnam conflict.

As far back as 2008, the US Defense Dept knew about the threats posed by exposure to burnpits as demonstrated by a 2008 assessment.  But no precautions were taken.  And the baby steps taken by the US Congress in the years since have required major pushing and prodding by veterans and their advocates. 

As last year drew to a close, BURN PITS 360 issued the following:
5 Reasons the VA Doctors' Guide to Burn Pits is Totally Inadequate

In March 2016 – a full seven years after burn pits were discontinued in Iraq and Afghanistan - the Department of Veterans Affairs published a guide for VA doctors meant to inform them of the potential health effects of exposure to burn pits. But the “Clinician’s Guide to Airborne Hazards” conveniently leaves the phrase “burn pits” out of the title and fails to give doctors the information that might actually help them evaluate patients with burn pit-related illnesses.

Want to see for yourself? Check out the VA’s “Clinician’s Guide to Airborne Hazards” here.  There are at least five reasons this four-page “Clinician’s Guide to Airborne Hazards” packet just doesn’t cut it when it comes to the information doctors really need to help veterans exposed to burn pits.

  1. The Clinician’s Guide does not say what a burn pit is.
That’s right. The guide to airborne hazards and open burn pits does not even describe what burn pits looked like, how large they were, or the wide variety of items burned in the pits. The VA’s only ‘explanation’ of the burn pits is as follows:

The use of burn pits was a common waste disposal practice at military sites overseas, exposing thousands of service members to potentially harmful substances, including elevated levels of particulate matter (PM). 

Without an idea of the sheer size of burn pits and the way they were tended, doctors would not be able to appreciate the extent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans’ exposure.  Ten pounds of trash burnt in an open barrel produces as much smoke pollution as a modern incinerator burning 400,000 pounds of trash per day. So the amount of smoke produced by a football field-sized open pit burning several hundred tons of unregulated waste per day certainly warrants at least a sentence in a guide meant to help doctors evaluate the significance of potentially toxic exposure.

Additionally, the guide does not mention any of the items burned in the pits. Listing (or simply mentioning) these items – which include plastics, metals, ion batteries, human feces, and much more – would give doctors information about the types of chemicals to which veterans may have been exposed. This brings us to our next point…

  1. Besides particulate matter (PM), the Guide does not list any chemicals or toxins detected in burn pit smoke.
The Department of Defense (DoD) measured levels of particulate matter (PM) that exceeded limits set by U.S. agencies. The VA Clinician’s Guide acknowledges this and briefly notes that toxicology research has already linked high PM levels to cardiopulmonary effects.
However, the VA neglects to mention any of the hundreds of chemicals detected in burn pit smoke.  The chemicals – many of them known carcinogens – include dioxins, the same potent toxin found in Agent Orange.  These chemicals are scientifically known to be hazardous on their own, but likely have even greater, “synergistic” effects when burned together.

  1. The Guide does not include important aspects of particulate matter (PM) and its toxicity.
Even on the subject of particulate matter, the Guide provides little helpful information.  The size of the PM - which is not included - is important information for doctors because the smaller the PM, the deeper the particles are able to travel into the lungs.
Additionally, the particles act as carriers of harmful chemicals in the air, so the toxicity depends on the composition of the particulate matter itself.  Without information about the chemicals carried by the PM, doctors’ ability to gauge the severity of the exposure is diminished.

  1. The Clinician’s Guide does not provide any specific information about the rare conditions (such as constrictive bronchiolitis) that are occurring at higher rates in veterans exposed to burn pits.
Illnesses such as constrictive bronchiolitis and eosinophilic pneumonia are mentioned only as examples of the self-reported “unexpected conditions.”  Though the Guide devotes a whole page to conducting an initial evaluation and deciding if a specialty consultation is warranted, neither section mentions these conditions by name.
This is a dangerous omission given that constrictive bronchiolitis can be fatal and often goes undetected until it has progressed too far.  Constrictive bronchiolitis can only be diagnosed with a lung biopsy.  So the spirometry and bronchodilator tests, which the Guide recommends to assess pulmonary function, may not indicate a problem when there is a very serious one.

  1. Directions on how doctors can view a veteran’s Burn Pit Registry self-assessment and how to document an evaluation using the Registry are buried in an unrelated section of the Guide.
The Clinician’s Guide spends almost the entire first page talking about the purpose of the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry and how medical support staff will explain it to veterans.  Intuitively, it doesn’t make much sense for this information about the Registry and the role of Medical Support Assistants and Environmental Health Coordinators to take up such a large and prominent space in the packet.  Especially while the two-paragraph section about research on the health effects of burn pit exposures is the very last section and takes up about a third of the page.

But most perplexing is the fact that the Registry information actually relevant to clinicians is hidden on the last page (which otherwise does not discuss the Registry).  At the bottom of an unrelated box called “Talking to Veterans about Exposure Concerns,” there is a small note.

The note tells doctors how to access a veteran’s self-assessment from the Burn Pit Registry.  Such information can be used by doctors to get a more complete understanding of a veteran’s proximity to the burn pit, their health concerns during deployment, and other important information that might not be covered in-person.

The note also tells doctors how to document a burn pit-related medical evaluation.  This information is critical because burn pit exposure is such a new phenomenon.  If VA doctors do not track the symptoms and illnesses their patients are experiencing, there is no way to see if trends are emerging or if certain treatments are more effective than others.

The Guide instructs clinicians to “rely on their own evidence based knowledge, expertise, and skills.” But without the facts – the size and scope of burn pits, the items burned, the chemicals released, how to diagnose the related illnesses – doctors are simply unable to apply even the most basic knowledge or skills to the issues their patients are experiencing.  Given the very serious medical conditions at play and the need for more detailed information about the effects of exposure, the VA’s Clinician’s Guide to Airborne Hazards is, frankly, irresponsible.

This article was written by Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick.  CCK is on the cutting edge of burn pit and other toxic chemical exposure issues that veterans face.  CCK has extensive experience helping veterans win their VA disability compensation claim appeals.  Contact CCK for help if your VA disability compensation claim has been denied.  Visit CCK onlineor by phone at 844-291-8569 for more information. 

Burn Pits 360 News

Research:  The Burn Pits 360 Registry is a research study collecting data on burn pit exposures and related illnesses.  The goal is to prove the connection between burn pit exposure and illness.  Before now, this information was only available to the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.  So far, over 5,000 individuals have participated.  Your data will enable Burn Pits 360 to advocate and lobby on behalf of the veterans’ community for VA benefits, policy change, and specialized health care. Join the Burn Pits 360 Registry research study.  To participate, visit us on our website.

Outreach:  Burn Pits 360 team is building a new website to better serve you.  The new site will launch in 2018.  We’ve also been busy preparing for the grand opening of our Burn Pits 360 Warrior Support Center.  The grand opening will be in early 2018.  Stay tuned for more details!

Advocacy:  Burn Pits 360 recently requested a Congressional hearing on the use of burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.  On December 1, we received a letter denying our request.  Burn Pits 360 plans on writing an open letter to the President of the United States regarding this issue.  We will continue to fight on behalf of veterans suffering from the invisible toxic wounds of war.  Support our cause here. 

Again, baby steps by the government and each step required major cajoling. 

Former US Vice President Joe Biden's remarks might help the issue finally receive the attention it requires and the help it needs. Dan Sagalyn (PBS' NEWSHOUR) notes:

The issue appears to be personal for Biden, whose son, Beau Biden, a former Delaware attorney general, died at age 46 in May 2015 from glioblastoma multiforme, the most common form of brain cancer.
As a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, Beau Biden’s judge advocate general unit was activated in late 2008. He served in Iraq for much of 2009 at Camp Victory in Baghdad and Balad Air Force Base, 50 miles north of the Iraqi capital. Both bases used large burn pits. Earlier, he helped train local prosecutors and judges in Kosovo after the 1998-1999 war.
In what appear to be the two-term vice president’s first public comments about the possibility that his late son Beau Biden’s brain cancer was caused by burn-pit smoke, Biden acknowledged he was unaware of “any direct scientific evidence” of a linkage.
But Biden, who was tapped by former President Barack Obama in early 2016 to lead the “Cancer Moonshot” initiative, noted in the­­ PBS NewsHour interview that “a lot higher incidence of cancer [is] coming from Iraq now and Afghanistan than in other wars” and “a lot of work is being done” to research it.
Biden also said that reading “The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers,” a book on the topic by Joseph Hickman, which included a chapter on his son Beau, opened his eyes to the possibility of a link to his son’s cancer.
“There’s a whole chapter on my son Beau in there, and that stunned me. I didn’t know that,” Biden said. He added, the author “went back and looked at Beau’s tenure as a civilian with the U.S. attorney’s office [in Kosovo] and then his year in Iraq. And he was co-located in both times near these burn pits.”
Biden compared living and working near a military burn pit and a factory that pollutes. “We know now you don’t want to live underneath a smokestack where carcinogens are coming out of it,” Biden said.

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, THE DIANE REHM SHOW and PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated: