Friday, April 25, 2008

When the Courts and Executive Branch Fail, Congress Must Step In

Jenna Orkin

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in the case of Benzman vs. EPA, issued on Tuesday which, ironically, was Earth Day, gives government officials carte blanche to lie to the public and endanger their lives if competing interests such as the economy so dictate.

The court readily accepted that the defendants "disclosed information they knew to be inaccurate and that this had tragic consequences for the plaintiffs." Their conclusion, however, was that this was simply "a poor choice" rather than one that rose to the level of "conscience-shocking."

In an era when the highest echelons of government debate whether poking someone's eyes out constitutes torture, this should come as no surprise.

Nor should the other freewheeling parts of the decision which conclude that no scientifically valid testing/cleanup program needs to be performed now because the EPA has already completed an invalid one. 1

The decision does throw into question where responsibility ultimately falls since the court excuses EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman largely on the grounds that she was just obeying orders from the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Whatever the implications of this neo-Nuremberg defense, Congressman Jerrold Nadler stated Tuesday that Congress needs to do what neither the courts nor the executive branch will:"[P]ass the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, authored by myself, Congresswoman Maloney and Congressman Fossella, to provide medical care and compensation to thousands of Americans whose health has been compromised. The decision also makes clear that Congress needs to demand a proper test and clean up of the affected areas."

1. "Plaintiffs’ challenge to the clean-up program is rendered moot by the completion of that program. Cf. Fund for Animals, 460 F.3d at22 (Bureau of Land Management’s completed program). A completed cleanup program cannot be effectively remedied under section 706(2)because a court cannot undo a completed program. See id."

Jenna Orkin is one of the original plaintiffs in the case.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

To Die Trying? 9/11 Community Health Forum Highlights the Struggle for Proper Health Care

Jenna Orkin*

The 9/11 Community Health Forum at Borough of Manhattan Community College today presented graphic testimony about illnesses suffered not only by Ground Zero workers but also by residents, students and office workers in Lower Manhattan.

Organized by the Beyond Ground Zero Network and 9/11 Environmental Action, the forum opened with the testimony of Lea Geronimo, 37, an office worker who has suffered multiple cysts and uterine lesions causing bleeding that has sometimes lasted a month. Other affected panelists included Craig Hall, 39, who said that when he mentioned to a small gathering downtown that his wife had had a cyst on her thyroid, four other people in the room reported the same complaint.

These two examples alone hint at the broad spectrum of symptoms beyond the respiratory that are being exhibited by people exposed to what some are calling the 'toxic air' of 9/11. In addition, cancers, particularly of the circulatory system, are also appearing in abundance among Ground Zero workers as well as in another panelist, Stuyvesant High School alumnus, Amit Friedlander.

Last to testify to the panel of doctors and government officials was Joseph Zadroga whose son, Detective James Zadroga, died in 2006 of World Trade Center-related illness at the age of 34.

For several years, Joseph Zadroga has been a tireless advocate for sick workers, describing his son's "slow death" while the City stonewalled his efforts to get medical treatment and financial compensation. This writer remembers the father's early testimony that when Jimmy died with his daughter sleeping next to him, Joseph broke the news to the child whose mother had also recently died, partly from the stress of taking care of her sick husband. Young Tyleranne said, "I knew he was sick; I just didn't know it would be this fast." She was four years old.

At the forum this afternoon Zadroga Senior added a new detail to the story: When Jimmy was too tired to take phone calls from bureaucrats, his father would impersonate him. In one such call, a hospital administrator asked how he was doing. Zadroga answered, "I feel like biting the bullet," police-speak for committing suicide. The administrator encouraged him to talk to someone. Zadroga answered he didn't feel like it; he intended to "bite the bullet" that afternoon. The administrator told him to have a nice day and hung up.

The open mic portion of the forum offered more searing stories: Of children who've never known a life free of medication; of a mother who unknowingly endangered her child by not recognizing that his symptoms represented asthma. A number of community members spoke in tears, reminding this writer of the meetings at Stuyvesant High School in the fall of 2001 when parents pleaded to the Board of Education who responded that the stories were 'mere anecdotes.' (Our response: "So do a study. Be our guest.")

Also in attendance at today's forum was John Feal, who lost part of his foot doing rescue and recovery at Ground Zero. His Fealgood foundation has donated over $200,000 to needy Ground Zero workers as a result of which, several months ago, Feal got a call from a worker who needed a new kidney. The worker, Paul Grossfeld, asked Feal if he'd post a notice on his website.

Feal responded No, but he'd give Grossfeld his kidney.

The kidney was not compatible so Feal donated it to a woman whose husband then donated his kidney. That one was also incompatible but went to still another woman whose husband's kidney then went to Grossfeld.

As often happens at these events, the community, supported by messages from Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Senator Hillary Clinton, transcended their individual tragedies to attain heights of eloquence. But the news was ultimately discouraging. Like the Mt. Sinai program for Ground Zero workers, the Centers for Excellence that treat the community seem to rely unduly on steroids. While localized in effect, these nonetheless treat symptoms rather than underlying causes which, doctors in the field acknowledge, they understand little about.

*Jenna Orkin has connections too numerous to describe to the organizers and participants in today's event.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Can President Have Prisoner's Eyes Poked Out?
Surely poking someone's eyes out would result in 'organ failure' as per the Justice Department's own definition of torture.
Google Involvement in Intelligence
Security Guidance for Lawyers with CIA Clients
Secret Session of House
Secrecy News writes:

"Since 1830, the House has met behind closed doors only three times,"according to the Congressional Research Service: "in 1979 to discussthe Panama Canal, in 1980 to discuss Central American assistance, andin 1983 to discuss U.S. support for paramilitary operations inNicaragua."

On March 13, the House went into secret session once more to considerclassified matters concerning the Foreign Intelligence SurveillanceAct. After some extended discussion of the unusual practice, followedby a security check, public access to the proceedings was barred.

Iraq Meltdown
Obama Wins Backing of 9/11 Commission Co-Chairman, Lee Hamilton
Murdoch Daughter Hosts Obama Fundraiser
Obama and Condi - Too Close for Comfort (Ideologically Speaking)
A Conscientious Objection: McKinney or Nader
Depleted Uranium Turns Earthworms into Glowworms
For Techies and Doglovers Alike