KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Gray Lady Weighs in on White Phosporus

Finally, the New York Times editorial page [free registration required] has addressed the use of white phosphorus by U.S. troops against Iraqis. It's about time, and it's right on target—except that we shouldn't be in Iraq in the first place:

Shake and Bake
Let us pause and count the ways the conduct of the war in Iraq has damaged America's image and needlessly endangered the lives of those in the military. First, multilateralism was tossed aside. Then the post-invasion fiasco muddied the reputation of military planners and caused unnecessary casualties. The W.M.D. myth undermined the credibility of United States intelligence and President Bush himself, and the abuse of prisoners stole America's moral high ground.

Now the use of a ghastly weapon called white phosphorus has raised questions about how careful the military has been in avoiding civilian casualties. It has also further tarnished America's credibility on international treaties and the rules of warfare.

White phosphorus, which dates to World War II, should have been banned generations ago. Packed into an artillery shell, it explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate an enemy's positions. It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off. They can burn for hours inside a human body.

The United States restricted the use of incendiaries like white phosphorus after Vietnam, and in 1983, an international convention banned its use against civilians. In fact, one of the many crimes ascribed to Saddam Hussein was dropping white phosphorus on Kurdish rebels and civilians in 1991.

But white phosphorus has made an ugly comeback. Italian television reported that American forces used it in Falluja last year against insurgents. At first, the Pentagon said the chemical had been used only to illuminate the battlefield, but had to backpedal when it turned out that one of the Army's own publications talked about using white phosphorus against insurgent positions, a practice well known enough to have one of those unsettling military nicknames: "shake and bake."

The Pentagon says white phosphorus was never aimed at civilians, but there are lingering reports of civilian victims. The military can't say whether the reports are true and does not intend to investigate them, a decision we find difficult to comprehend. Pentagon spokesmen say the Army took "extraordinary measures" to reduce civilian casualties, but they cannot say what those measures were.

They also say that using white phosphorus against military targets is legal. That's true, but the 1983 convention bans its use against "civilians or civilian objects," which would make white phosphorus attacks in urban settings like Falluja highly inappropriate at best. The United States signed that convention, but the portion dealing with incendiary weapons has been awaiting ratification in the Senate.

These are technicalities, in any case. Iraq, where winning over wary civilians is as critical as defeating armed insurgents, is no place to be using a weapon like this. More broadly, American demands for counterproliferation efforts and international arms control ring a bit hollow when the United States refuses to give up white phosphorus, not to mention cluster bombs and land mines.

The United States should be leading the world, not dragging its feet, when it comes to this sort of issue—because it's right and because all of us, including Americans, are safer in a world in which certain forms of conduct are regarded as too inhumane even for war. That is why torture should be banned in American prisons. And it is why the United States should stop using white phosphorus.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Teaching Prejudice in School

Apparently discrimination is part of the curriculum at Piedra Vista High School in Farmington, New Mexico. Parents there must be proud that their children will grow up to be bigots.

One of the topics in an essay contest there is why limiting marriage to heterosexuals is "vital." The contest isn't set up the way many are—here's the topic, pick your stance, and support it. No, everyone participating in it is supposed to either defend the denial of full human rights to gay and lesbian people or explain why abortion is detrimental to society. The essay contest is being held in conjuntion with one by United Families International, an organization whose primary mission is "to strengthen the family by promoting marriage between one man and woman and the protection of human life, including unborn children."

School's purpose is to teach children to think, not to teach them prejudice. E-mail Principal Donny Ortiz or write him at Piedra Vista High School, P.O. Box 5850, Farmington, NM 87402, to say so.

See update.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Getting Started as a Freelance Editor

Are you thinking about becoming a freelance copyeditor or editor? Perhaps you're ready to leave the corporate world, or you've been laid off, or you'd prefer the flexibility that working for yourself can offer. How do you market yourself to establish and build your business? Do you know what skills you need, and what resources are available for you to develop those skills? What computer resources will be necessary? And what about money—how do you charge for your work, budget for the slow periods, deal with invoicing and contracts?

"Getting Started as a Freelance Editor," a 90-minute interactive audio conference from Copy Editor newsletter, will tell you what you need to know. This first-ever event will bring you together with two seasoned editors with 21 years of freelancing experience between them. Your presenters will be Wendalyn Nichols, editor of Copy Editor, and yours truly.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006
11:30 am–1:00 pm Eastern
10:30 am–12:00 pm Central
9:30 am–11:00 am Mountain
8:30 am–10:00 am Pacific

Pricing (in U.S. dollars):
Audio conference (per dial-in site):
$169 (Copy Editor subscribers)
$189 (nonsubscribers)

$169 (Copy Editor subscribers)
$189 (nonsubscribers)

Audio conference and CD:
$229 (Copy Editor subscribers)
$259 (nonsubscribers)

Here's what you'll learn:

  • First Steps: The freelancer personality * The basic skills you need * Points of entry * The resources that can provide advice and support * The different types of work available * What kinds of software you need * What equipment and reference works you need

  • Building Your Business: Getting the word out * Getting first clients * Ongoing marketing * Determining whether you need a Web site * How to get more skills

  • Managing Time and Money: What to charge for what kinds of work * Whether to charge by the hour, the page, or the job * What work pace is considered usual * How to plan your time * Putting aside money for vacations, sick days, and taxes * Budgeting for an unpredictable income

  • Communicating as a Professional: Dealing with contracts * Invoicing * Dealing with clients who haven't paid on time * Communicating with clients and authors

For more details and to register, go here.

Updated 5/24/06: Now that the audio conference has passed, you can purchase an onscreen booklet on getting started as a freelancer directly from me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What I Give Thanks For

Kathy and Ed: two old hippies in loveKathy and Ed: two old hippies in love

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for many people and things, described here in stream-of-consciousness order:

  • My husband, Ed, who is my best friend, an excellent father to our three children, a talented cabinetmaker, and owner of the world's kindest heart

  • My daughter, Rebecca, who at 22 is intelligent, level-headed, people-smart, and fun to be with

  • My son Neil, who at almost 11 is intelligent, very detail oriented (couldn't have inherited that trait from his copyeditor mom, could he?), serious, big-hearted, and introverted

  • My son Jared, who at 4 is cheerful, boisterous, musically inclined (can't help dancing anytime he hears music), extroverted, and huggy

  • My cats Snuggles and Emily, whose purrs and nuzzling have cheered me up on many a gloomy day

  • My in-laws, D. and A., who though they used to drive me batty, have become my good friends and close family members—and child-care providers and errand-runners so that Ed and I can work full time

  • Being self-employed, which keeps me out of stupid office politics and stuffy business suits and lets me be at home exactly when my children need me to be (which is all the time) and allows me to earn money by doing what I love—reading all day long!

  • The ubiquity of e-mail lists (my favorite is Copyediting-L), which has decreased the isolation of those in my profession exponentially

  • My real-life friends Martha S., Lisa G., Marie S., Karen S., Glenn C., and Barbara M.

  • My numerous cyberspace friends

  • My brother Wally and my sister Becky, whom I wish didn't live in Texas, so far away from my New York State home

  • The Rev. Molly Blythe Teichert, who was the pastor of my Presbyterian church for nearly 11 years and is now moving on to another church, and who taught me that Christianity isn't the right-wing zealots who grab the news headlines (and among whom I grew up) but is instead people who actively love others and work to make the world a better, more loving place

  • The availability of good medications and therapy for treating Ed's, Neil's, and A's attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD)

  • The advances in education that have made individualized education plans (IEPs) possible, so that children in public schools get the educational situations they need to let their intelligence shine; without this, Neil's AD/HD would get in the way of his blossoming genius—and what a great loss to the world that would be

  • The teachers, teaching paraprofessionals, and counselors of Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services, including Sayville Learning Center and Jefferson Academic Center, who have helped Neil's intellect and social skills unfold beautifully

  • A warm house

  • Plenty of food

  • Fellow bloggers, such as Peter Fallon at In the Dark, Erinberry at Jesus Was Not a Republican, KZ at (Not So) Little Feat, Kathy at Liberty Street, and Bill Blinn at Bush Bytes, who have the courage to always tell it like it is

  • My clients, who constantly come up with fascinating and challenging projects for me to work on

  • My church choirmates Donna and Gale, whose wonderful alto voices keep me singing the part I'm supposed to be singing

  • Blogger, which hosts this blog

  • Edward Wang, MD, who repaired my arm after I broke it almost three months ago

  • Roger Ewonkem, MD, who recently prescribed a medication that relieves the restless leg syndrome that had stolen my sleep for 11 years

  • Avocados, shrimp, olives, Southern fried chicken, chicken cooked in my slow cooker, white wine, retsina, whole-leaf green tea and white tea

  • Candles, potpourri, scented oils

  • Purple

  • People with the courage to be open and kind

  • Hugs

  • Political gear: coffee mugs and T-shirts and bumper stickers and tote bags

  • My adopted moms, Winnie and Estelle

  • My in-laws' dog, Sandy, who's addicted to affection and whose fur is as soft as velvet

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sounds Like Grounds for Impeachment

Just 10 days after September 11, 2001, MSNBC reports, Bush was advised that "U.S. intelligence found no credible connection linking the attacks to the regime of Saddam Hussein, or evidence suggesting linkage between Saddam and the al-Qaida terrorist network, according to a report published today in the National Journal." He kept this information from the Senate committee charged with investigating the matter.

The report ... cites government records, as well as present and former officials with knowledge of the issue. The information in the story, written by National Journal contributor Murray Waas, points to an abiding administration concern for secrecy that extended to keeping information from the Senate committee charged with investigating the matter.

In one of the Journal report's more compelling disclosures, Saddam is said to have viewed al-Qaida as a threat, rather than a potential ally.

Presidential brief
The president's daily brief, or PDB, for Sept. 21, 2001, was prepared at the request of President Bush, the Journal reported, who was said to be eager to determine whether any linkage between the Sept. 11 attacks and the Iraqi regime existed.

And a considerable amount of the Sept. 21 PDB found its way into a longer, more detailed Central Intelligence Agency assessment of the likelihood of an al-Qaida–Iraq connection.

The Journal story reports that that assessment was released to Bush, Vice President Cheney, then–national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, then–Secretary of State Colin Powell, and other senior policy-makers in the Bush administration.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has requested from the White House the detailed CIA assessment, as well as the Sept. 21 PDB and several other PDBs, as part of the committee's continuing inquiry into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the months before the start of the war with Iraq in March 2003.

The Bush administration has refused to surrender these documents.

“Indeed,” the Journal story reported, citing congressional sources, “the existence of the September 21 PDB was not disclosed to the Intelligence Committee until the summer of 2004.”

Long-alleged connection
After Sept. 11, the administration insisted that a connection existed between Iraq and al-Qaida. President Bush, in an October 2002 speech in Cincinnati, said the United States had “learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaida members in bomb-making and poisons and gas.”

And Vice President Cheney, in a September 2003 appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, alleged there was “a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s.”

But the National Journal report said that the few believable reports of contact between Iraq and al-Qaida “involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group.”

Saddam considered al-Qaida “as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime,” the Journal reported. “At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks” of al-Qaida with Iraqi intelligence operatives as a way to get more information about how the organization worked, the Journal said.

Journal: Little has changed
The Journal story asserts that little has changed to refute the initial absence of information linking Saddam and the al-Qaida network.

“In the four years since Bush received the briefing, according to highly placed government officials, little evidence has come to light to contradict the CIA's original conclusion that no collaborative relationship existed” between Iraq and al-Qaida, the Journal reported.

Reporter Waas quotes one former administration official, whose assessment is a problematic contradiction of the administration’s longstanding assertions:

“What the President was told on September 21 was consistent with everything he has been told since—that the evidence was just not there.”

If that's not grounds for impeaching the evil chimp, I don't know what is. The only trouble with impeaching him is that Cheney would then be president. Can we impeach both monsters at the same time?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Please Don't Spank or Slap Your Children

My brother Wally, age 3, and me, age 10
My brother Wally, age 3, and me, age 10
My reaction to a Reuters story today [or read it here] was Well, of course! But then I realized that a lot of Americans might see things differently. Those are the 90% of Americans who, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, think that spanking is an appropriate method for disciplining children.

As someone who was slapped across the face, spanked on the buttocks with a hand, and whipped on the buttocks with leather belts as a child, I'm appalled that any percentage of Americans believes that children should be spanked. The story from Reuters says that spanking can fuel aggression and anxiety in children and can cause other behavior problems:

Children who are spanked when they misbehave are more likely to be anxious and aggressive than children who are disciplined in nonphysical ways, research shows. This is true even if spanking is the "cultural norm."

Whether parents should spank their children or use other forms of physical discipline is controversial. Some experts argue that children should not be spanked when they act out, citing evidence that it leads to more, rather than fewer, behavior problems and it could escalate into physical abuse. There are data to support this argument.

Anxiety? Well, of course. But they left out other effects: low self-esteem, fear of adults, a sense of powerlessness, destroyed parent–child relationships, social difficulties in childhood, difficulty forming normal intimate relationships in adulthood, and the potential to pass this destructive way of relating on to future generations.

My brother and sister and I all have major psychic scars from the physical and emotional abuse our parents meted out. I'm on my second marriage (I had self-esteem too poor to allow me to pick someone the first time around who was good for me), my sister's on her third marriage, and my brother (who had the added burden of being gay in a homophobic family) has a hard time seeing himself as worthy of anyone's love.

I remember being 7 years old and being on vacation at my maternal grandparents' home with my siblings and parents, and watching as my father slapped my infant brother's thighs, as my brother lay crying in an infant seat, and then said, "I'll give you something to cry about." What kind of person slaps a child, much less one younger than a year old?

Years of abuse like that are why, when my first marriage ended and I had a chance to take back my birth surname, I decided to instead take the surname O'Moore, the birth name of my maternal grandmother, a sweet woman who had never hit me. I did not want to be associated by name with people who hit children—with the people who had hit me.

What are you teaching your children when you hit them?

  • That it's okay to hit someone smaller and weaker than they are
  • That their feelings don't matter
  • That their bodies are not their own
  • That adults can't control their own anger
  • That love equals hitting
  • That adults aren't to be trusted; one time they'll show affection, and the next time they'll hit
Are those the lessons you really want them to learn? Do you want them to grow up harboring vast stores of anger toward—and even hatred for—you? Do you want to contribute to American society's tendency to violence?

There are ways to teach children good behavior and self-control that don't involve hitting:

  1. The goal of discipline is to teach children acceptable behavior. Whenever possible, teach children what you want to see rather than punishing them.
  3. View children's misbehavior as a mistake in judgment. It will be easier to think of ways to teach more acceptable behavior.
  5. Never hit or shake infants. They do not know right and wrong. They do not misbehave on purpose. They need love and protection, not punishment.
  7. Create a safe environment for children. Baby-proof the house. Distract or remove infants and toddlers when they are doing something they shouldn't be doing.
  9. Provide order and consistency. Whenever possible have regular times for meals, studying and bedtime.
  11. Give toddlers and preschoolers age-appropriate choices and consequences.
  13. Establish family rules that are appropriate for children's ages. Keep them few in number with clear and reasonable consequences for not obeying.
  15. Develop a trusting relationship with children by protecting them from harm, by being honest and trustworthy, and by exhibiting predictable and mature behavior.
  17. Children need to hear more good things about themselves than bad things. Offer praise for appropriate behavior. Praise will increase that behavior.
  19. Adopt a "no-hitting" attitude. No one has a right to hit anyone else in the household ... that includes hitting children for misbehavior.

Please stop using violence against your children. They will be more whole people, and the world will be a better place. Thank you.

Take 2

U.S. Officials' Waffling Raises UN Concern about White Phosphorus

In not getting its story straight about the use of white phosphorus (WP) against insurgents in Iraq, the U.S. government has shot itself in the foot. Reports the New York Times:

On Nov. 8, Italian public television showed a documentary renewing persistent charges that the United States had used white phosphorus rounds, incendiary munitions that the film incorrectly called chemical weapons, against Iraqis in Falluja last year. Many civilians died of burns, the report said.

The half-hour film was riddled with errors and exaggerations, according to United States officials and independent military experts. But the State Department and Pentagon have so bungled their response—making and then withdrawing incorrect statements about what American troops really did when they fought a pitched battle against insurgents in the rebellious city—that the charges have produced dozens of stories in the foreign news media and on Web sites suggesting that the Americans used banned weapons and tried to cover it up.

The Iraqi government has announced an investigation, and a United Nations spokeswoman has expressed concern.

"It's discredited the American military without any basis in fact," said John E. Pike, an expert on weapons who runs GlobalSecurity.org, an independent clearinghouse for military information. He said the "stupidity and incompetence" of official comments had fueled suspicions of a cover-up.

"The story most people around the world have is that the Americans are up to their old tricks—committing atrocities and lying about it," Mr. Pike said. "And that's completely incorrect."

Daryl G. Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, a nonprofit organization that researches nuclear issues, was more cautious. In light of the issues raised since the film was shown, he said, the Defense Department, and perhaps an independent body, should review whether American use of white phosphorus had been consistent with international weapons conventions.

"There are legitimate questions that need to be asked," Mr. Kimball said. Given the history of Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons in Iraq, he said, "we have to be extremely careful" to comply with treaties and the rules of war.

At a time when opposition to the war is growing, the white phosphorus issue has reinforced the worst suspicions about American actions.

The documentary was quickly posted as a video file on Web sites worldwide. Bloggers trumpeted its allegations. Foreign newspapers and television reported the charges and rebuttals, with headlines like "The Big White Lie" in The Independent of London.

Officials now acknowledge that the government's initial response was sluggish and misinformed.

"There's so much inaccurate information out there now that I'm not sure we can unscrew it," Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Defense Department spokesman who has handled many inquiries about white phosphorus, said Friday.

The State Department declined to comment for the record, but an official there said privately that the episode was a public relations failure.

The Italian documentary, titled "Falluja: The Hidden Massacre," included gruesome images of victims of the fierce fighting in the city in November 2004. American and Iraqi troops recaptured the city from insurgents, in battles that destroyed an estimated 60 percent of the buildings.

Opening with prolonged shots of Vietnamese children and villages burned by American use of napalm in 1972, the film suggested an equivalence between Mr. Hussein's use of chemical weapons in the 1980's and the use of white phosphorus by the American-led forces.

It incorrectly referred to white phosphorus shells—a munition of nearly every military commonly used to create smoke screens or fires—as banned chemical weapons.

The film showed disfigured bodies and suggested that hot-burning white phosphorus had melted the flesh while leaving clothing intact. Sigfrido Ranucci, the television correspondent who made the documentary, said in an interview this month that he had received the photographs from an Iraqi doctor. "We are not talking about corpses like the normal deaths in war," he said.

Military veterans familiar with white phosphorus, known to soldiers as "W. P." or "Willie Pete," said it could deliver terrible burns, since an exploding round scatters bits of the compound that burst into flames on exposure to air and can burn into flesh, penetrating to the bone.

But they said white phosphorus would have burned victims' clothing. The bodies in the film appeared to be decomposed, they said.

In their first comments after the Nov. 8 broadcast, American officials made some of those points. But they relied on an inaccurate State Department fact sheet first posted on the Web last December, when similar accusations first surfaced.

The fact sheet said American forces had used white phosphorus shells "very sparingly in Falluja, for illumination purposes, and were fired "to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters."

The Americans stuck to that position last spring after Iraq's Health Ministry claimed it had proof of civilian casualties from the weapons.

After the Italian documentary was broadcast, the American ambassadors to Italy, Ronald P. Spogli, and to Britain, Robert H. Tuttle, echoed the stock defense, denying that white phosphorus munitions had been used against enemy fighters, let alone civilians. At home, on the public radio program "Democracy Now," Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, an American military spokesman, said, "I know of no cases where people were deliberately targeted by the use of white phosphorus."

But those statements were incorrect. Firsthand accounts by American officers in two military journals note that white phosphorus munitions had been aimed directly at insurgents in Falluja to flush them out. War critics and journalists soon discovered those articles.

In the face of such evidence, the Bush administration made an embarrassing public reversal last week. Pentagon spokesmen admitted that white phosphorus had been used directly against Iraqi insurgents. "It's perfectly legitimate to use this stuff against enemy combatants," Colonel Venable said Friday.

While he said he could not rule out that white phosphorus hit some civilians, "U.S. and coalition forces took extraordinary measures to prevent civilian casualties in Falluja."

Friday, November 18, 2005

DuPont Hid Risks of Teflon Chemical

DuPont Co. is not your friend. It is its stockholders' friend, because it hid the findings of studies showing that a Teflon-related chemical breaks down into toxic chemicals that likely cause cancer. Says the Associated Press, via MSBC:

DuPont Co. hid studies showing the risks of a Teflon-related chemical used to line candy wrappers, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags and hundreds of other food containers, according to internal company documents and a former employee.

The chemical Zonyl can rub off the liner and get into food. Once in a person’s body, it can break down into perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts, known as PFOA, a related chemical used in the making of Teflon-coated cookware.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to decide whether to classify PFOA as a “likely” human carcinogen. The Food and Drug Administration, in a letter released Wednesday evening by DuPont, said it was continuing to monitor the safety of PFOA chemicals in food.

The DuPont documents were made public Wednesday by the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization.

Engineer: ‘In every one of you’
At the same time, a former DuPont chemical engineer, Glenn Evers, told reporters at a news conference at EWG’s office that the company long suppressed its studies on the chemical. “They are toxic,” Evers said of the PFOA chemicals. “They get into human blood. And they are also in every one of you. Your loved ones, your fellow citizens.”

From 1981 to 2002, Evers helped DuPont develop new products. He lost his job in 2002 in what DuPont described as a company restructuring.

Evers had a different view: “It is my belief DuPont pushed me out of the company” because he started raising concerns about the chemicals’ safety.

Evers said he decided to talk publicly about the PFOA problem after filing a civil suit against DuPont this month in a Delaware court. Evers’ aim is mainly to “set the record straight” about the chemical and his own career, said Herb Feuerhake, Evers’ lawyer.

But Evers said he also hoped to influence the outcome of an EPA hearing later this month on whether DuPont had withheld from EPA the study on PFOA and possible birth defects. The company could be fined millions of dollars.

After EWG tracked down Evers—who had provided expert,unpaid testimony in two lawsuits against DuPont—the 47-year-old Delaware resident said he talked it over with his priest, who told him, " 'You can’t dance with the devil.' "

Company’s response
DuPont denied allegations that PFOA posed a health risk, saying the Food and Drug Administration had approved the products for consumers.

“These products are safe for consumer use,” the company said in a statement. “FDA has approved these materials for consumer use since the late 1960s, and DuPont has always complied with all FDA regulations and standards regarding these products.”

The company said Evers “had little if any direct involvement in PFOA issues while employed at DuPont. ... Evers expressed a wide range of personal opinions that are inaccurate, counter to FDA’s findings, and which DuPont strongly disputes.”

The environmental group on Wednesday gave the FDA and the EPA copies of DuPont-sponsored internal studies indicating higher dangers from Zonyl than the government knew, including its ability to migrate into the food.

One of the documents, a 1987 memo, cites laboratory tests showing the chemical came off paper coating and leached into foods at levels three times higher than the FDA limit set in 1967. Another document, a 1973 Dupont study in which rats and dogs were fed Zonyl for 90 days, said both types of animals had anemia and damage to their kidneys and livers; the dogs had higher cholesterol levels.

Activists: Fetuses at risk
“What makes this worse is that DuPont knew at that time that Zonyl breakdown-products, such as PFOA, in food were very persistent in the environment and were contaminating human blood, including the fetal cord blood of babies born to DuPont female employees,” EWG Senior Vice President Richard Wiles wrote to FDA and EPA officials.

Wiles asked the agencies to determine whether DuPont should be penalized for withholding the studies. Last year, based on another DuPont document that the environmental group obtained, EPA alleged the company had repeatedly failed over a 20-year period to submit required data about PFOA. The document referred to a study that suggested possible links between PFOA and birth defects in infants.

EPA spokeswoman Eryn Witcher said Wednesday the agency “has an extensive effort under way to determine the sources of PFOA, how the public is being exposed, and whether these exposures pose a potential health risk.”

Earlier dioxin case
Evers’ decision to go public with his concerns may have already had an impact.

In August, he told a Mississippi court that all three of DuPont’s U.S. plants were releasing “massive amounts” of dioxin—a class of organic chemicals that EPA studies have shown pose a possible cancer risk in humans. In that case, an oyster fisherman who claimed dioxin from a DuPont plant caused his rare blood cancer was awarded $14 million in actual damages and his wife received $1.5 million.

He also testified last year in a West Virginia case in which DuPont agreed to a $107.6 million settlement of a class-action suit. Residents around a plant near Parkersburg, W.Va., had said that PFOA contaminated their drinking water supplies. DuPont also remains the target of another class-action suit over PFOA seeking $5 billion.

The Zonyl documents are online at ewg.org/issues/pfcs/20051116/documents.php.

If you own Teflon-coated cookware, throw it out immediately and replace it with cast-iron cookware. Cast iron is easy to clean and adds a little iron to your diet, which is a good thing.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Senior Dem Rep, a Viet Vet, Calls for End to Iraq War

Senior Democratic Representative John Murtha (Pennsylvania), a hawk who voted for the war in Iraq, now says it must end because it's "not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion."

Because he's a decorated Vietnam War veteran and former Marine, perhaps those politicos and citizens still wearing blinders will begin to take them off. The Associated Press, via CNN, reports that as Murtha spoke to reporters, he was choking back tears:

"It is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering, the future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region," Murtha said.

Murtha, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, has earned bipartisan respect for his grasp of military issues over three decades in Congress.

He said announcing a U.S. withdrawal would provide the Iraqi government with an added incentive to have their own security forces take control of the conflict.

Murtha is a close adviser to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California. For months, Pelosi has pushed for the Bush administration to outline an exit strategy, although she has stopped short of calling for an immediate troop pullout.

Some Senate Democrats have called for immediate or phased withdrawal.

Murtha's comments came just two days after the Senate voted to approve a statement that 2006 "should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty" to create the conditions for the phased withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Murtha voted to give the president authority to use force against Saddam Hussein in 2002. In recent months, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee defense panel has grown increasingly troubled with the direction of the war and with the Bush administration's handling of it, particularly following reports of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe.

It's become clear that the Iraq war is really about Bush's vendetta against Arabs and big oil's desire to make huge profits. It's time to stop the insanity. Murtha knows this.

Updated 2:15 p.m.:

The Associated Press, via MSNBC, also reported:

Vice President Dick Cheney jumped into the fray Wednesday by assailing Democrats who contend the Bush administration manipulated intelligence on Iraq, calling their criticism “one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.”

Murtha, a Marine intelligence officer in Vietnam, angrily shot back at Cheney: “I like guys who’ve never been there that criticize us who’ve been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don’t like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.”

The top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, Murtha has earned bipartisan respect for his grasp of military issues over three decades in Congress. He planned to introduce a resolution Thursday that, if passed by both the House and the Senate, would force the president to withdraw U.S. troops.

Updated 2:40 p.m.:

The full text of Murtha's speech and the resolution that he will introduce to the House of Representatives tomorrow can be found here.

Double Standard

Apparently, some in the British government have brains and souls, unlike those in the American administration. After the Pentagon confirmed that U.S. troops use white phosporus in Iraq, Britain confirmed that it does also but is reconsidering the practice:

... former armed forces minister Doug Henderson said the admission by the Pentagon that it was used to flush out insurgents in the assault on Fallujah raised serious questions for the coalition allies.

"It exposes the fact that double standards have applied," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

"You cannot say you are going to invade a country to find chemical weapons and prevent them being used and then admit that you have used chemical weapons yourself in carrying out your endeavours."

The chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Labour MP Mike Gapes, said that the international conventions on chemical weapons may now have to be strengthened to cover white phosphorus.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Surprise, Surprise! Bid-Rigging in Iraq Restoration

How many times can a person say, "Don't do it!" and not get anyone to listen? Since before Bush got into office, I was telling everyone I knew that the man was a Texas good ol' boy, which is Southwestern code for "corrupt as all get-out." I grew up in Texas, and I know a snake-oil salesman when I see one. And a bunch of thick-headed people still voted for the weasel ... twice!

Now comes a report of "a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Washington [alleging] a web of corruption and bid rigging in Iraq by officials who worked with the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-led agency that ran Iraq for more than a year after the 2003 invasion [of that country]." And who ran the coalition government? L. Paul Bremer III, a former U.S. State Department official appointed by Bush. These Bushies have their dirty hands in everything that'll make them loads of bucks:

The complaint accuses an American-Romanian businessman, Philip H. Bloom, of paying officials from the coalition’s south-central region "bribes, kickbacks and gratuities, amounting to at least $200,000 per month," in order to obtain reconstruction contracts through a bid-rigging scam.

According to the complaint, Bloom "conspired with United States government contract employees and military officials to obtain fraudulently government contracts."

A government affidavit alleges that in one instance, the officials rigged bids for contracts in Hillah and Karbala, two cities 50 to 60 miles south of Baghdad. In some cases, Bloom’s companies performed no work, Patrick McKenna Jr., an investigator for the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq, said in the affidavit.

Efforts to reach representatives for Bloom were unsuccessful.

Bloom or companies he controls made bank deposits of $353,000 on behalf of at least two CPA officials and bought them real estate in North Carolina as well as vehicles and jewelry worth more than $280,000 in 2004 and 2005, McKenna said.

The complaint says one of the U.S. officials was the comptroller for the region in Iraq based in Hillah and controlled $82 million in cash.

One official said to admit involvement
Another coalition official, who worked with the first, has been cooperating with investigators and has admitted he "unlawfully received cash and goods" from Bloom, according to the complaint.

Bloom, according to the complaint, ran several companies in Iraq and Romania, including one called GBG Logistics.

According to a biography of Philip Bloom on the Web site of one of his companies, he is an "expatriate America with a war chest of experiences” operating a variety of firms overseas since the 1970s, including Haitian and Puerto Rican airlines. The biography says that "Bloom is possessed off an uncanny knack for finding business, almost psychic in nature."

GBG Logistics says on its Web site that it has worked on a variety of Iraq reconstruction projects. "As one of the first private firms to enter the Iraqi market in April 2003, GBG Logistics is primarily devoted to identifying and developing new business opportunities in the reconstruction effort," it says.

There have been allegations and suspicions of corruption under the coalition government, which ran Iraq from just after the invasion in March 2003 until June 2004 and was headed by former Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, and during the Iraq reconstruction process, but this is the first criminal case to be brought in U.S. courts alleging wrongdoing by coalition officials.

Previously, the Hillah region came under scrutiny after the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction reported in an audit that $100 million in seized Iraqi funds could not be accounted for.

The war in Iraq is to protect Americans' freedom? Bush-shit. It's to protect big business's freedom to steal as much as possible from anyone and everyone.

You gonna listen to me next time?

Iraq Human Rights Team Investigates U.S. Use of Phosphorus

As is often the case when it comes to reporting on U.S. human-rights violations in Iraq, the foreign media have once again beaten the U.S. media to the punch. The BBC reports that a human-rights team from Iraq is in Fallujah to investigate the use of white phosporus by the U.S. military against Iraqis:

Iraq probes US phosphorus weapons

An Iraqi human rights team has gone to the city of Falluja to investigate the use of white phosphorus as a weapon by US forces, a minister has told the BBC.

Acting Human Rights Minister Narmin Uthman said her staff would examine the possible effects on civilians.

The US has now admitted using white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja last year, after earlier denying it.

The substance can cause burning of the flesh but is not illegal and is not classified as a chemical weapon.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad says it will be some time before the human rights team reports back.

In other developments in Iraq:
  • Sunni parties demand an international inquiry into the alleged abuse of more than 170 detainees by Iraqi forces in Baghdad.
  • Three US soldiers are killed in a roadside bomb near Baghdad.
  • A car bomb kills a US marine in Karmah, 80km (50 miles) west of Baghdad.

Italian TV station Rai alleged last week that the US had used phosphorus against built-up areas, and that civilians were killed.

The report sparked fury among Italian anti-war protesters, who demonstrated outside the US embassy in Rome.

The US initially said white phosphorus had been used only to illuminate enemy positions, but now admits it was used as a weapon.

BBC defence correspondent Paul Wood says having to retract that denial is a public relations disaster for the US.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt Col Barry Venable, confirmed to the BBC the US had used white phosphorus "as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants"—though not against civilians, he said.

He said earlier denials had been based on "poor information".

Washington is not a signatory to an international treaty restricting the use of the substance against civilians.

The US-led assault in November 2004 on Falluja—a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency west of Baghdad—displaced most of the city's 300,000 population and left many of its buildings destroyed.

'Particularly nasty'

San Diego journalist Darrin Mortenson, who was embedded with US marines during the assault on Falluja, told the BBC's Today radio programme he had seen white phosphorous used "as an incendiary weapon" against insurgents.

However, he "never saw anybody intentionally use any weapon against civilians", he said.

White phosphorus is highly flammable and ignites on contact with oxygen. If the substance hits a person's body, it will burn until deprived of oxygen.

Globalsecurity.org, a defence website, says: "Phosphorus burns on the skin are deep and painful... These weapons are particularly nasty because white phosphorus continues to burn until it disappears... it could burn right down to the bone."

Britain's Defence Secretary John Reid said UK forces had used white phosphorus in Iraq, but not as "anything other than a smokescreen to protect our troops when in action".

The UK Ministry of Defence said its use was permitted in battle in cases where there were no civilians near the target area.

But Professor Paul Rogers, of the University of Bradford's department of peace studies, said white phosphorus could be considered a chemical weapon if deliberately aimed at civilians.

He told the BBC: "It is not counted under the chemical weapons convention in its normal use but, although it is a matter of legal niceties, it probably does fall into the category of chemical weapons if it is used for this kind of purpose directly against people."

Deeply Irresponsible Bush Wants Servile Citizens

President Bush says those who criticize the way he made the case for the Iraq war are "deeply irresponsible," rewriting the history of how the war began.

Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president, would likely disagree with him. In an editorial for the Kansas City Star published on May 7, 1918, during World War I, he wrote:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

U.S. Military Admits to Using Skin-Melting WP as a Weapon

At first the U.S. Department of State denied that the American military used white phosphorus (WP) as a weapon against Iraqis in Fallujah. But now the Pentagon says the State Department was wrong; the military does use WP, but only against insurgents, not civilians. And the Pentagon says the military used it as only an incendiary weapon, not a chemical weapon:

U.S. denies using phosphorous against civilians
Military says incendiary powder used against Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah

The Associated Press
Updated: 7:18 a.m. ET Nov. 16, 2005

WASHINGTON—Pentagon officials say white phosphorous was used as a weapon against insurgent strongholds during the battle of Fallujah last November, but deny an Italian television news report that it was used against civilians.

Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday that while white phosphorous is most frequently used to mark targets or obscure a position, it was used at times in Fallujah as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.

White phosphorous is a colorless-to-yellow translucent wax-like substance with a pungent, garlic-like smell. The form used by the military ignites once it is exposed to oxygen, producing such heat that it bursts into a yellow flame and produces a dense white smoke. It can cause painful burn injuries to exposed human flesh.

“It was not used against civilians,” Venable said.

The spokesman referred reporters to an article in the March–April 2005 edition of the Army’s Field Artillery magazine, an official publication, in which veterans of the Fallujah fight spelled out their use of white phosphorous and other weapons. The authors used the shorthand “WP” in referring to white phosphorous.

“WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition,” the authors wrote. “We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE (high explosive)” munitions.

“We fired ‘shake and bake’ missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.”

The authors added, in citing lessons for future urban battles, that fire-support teams should have used another type of smoke bomb for screening missions in Fallujah “and saved our WP for lethal missions.”

The battle for Fallujah was the most intense and deadly fight of the war, after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. The city, about 35 miles west of Baghdad on the Euphrates River, was a key insurgent stronghold. The authors of the “after action” report said they encountered few civilians in their area of operations.

Italian communists protest
Italian communists held a sit-in Monday in front of the U.S. Embassy in Rome to protest the reported use by American troops of white phosphorous.

Italy’s state-run RAI24 news television aired a documentary last week alleging the U.S. used white phosphorous shells in a “massive and indiscriminate way” against civilians during the Fallujah offensive.

The State Department, in response, initially denied that U.S. troops had used white phosphorous against enemy forces. “They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters.”

The department later said its statement had been incorrect.

“There is a great deal of misinformation feeding on itself about U.S. forces allegedly using ‘outlawed’ weapons in Fallujah,” the department said. “The facts are that U.S. forces are not using any illegal weapons in Fallujah or anywhere else in Iraq.”

Venable said white phosphorous shells are a standard weapon used by field artillery units and are not banned by any international weapons convention to which the U.S. is a signatory.

I don't believe the Pentagon any more than I believed the State Department. Of course the military's using WP as a chemical weapon. Does any sane person expect the truth from the Machiavellian, black-souled American government and its military?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

An Unrecognizable Country

I've said to my husband, because our political stance is far to the left of mainstream America's, that I sometimes feel as if we're aliens who crash-landed on this planet and can't escape because there aren't any replacement parts for our spaceship. Former President Jimmy Carter expressed this sentiment very well yesterday in a piece in the Los Angeles Times (also found at Common Dreams):

This isn't the real America

In recent years, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican.

These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights.

Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility.

At the same time, our political leaders have declared independence from the restraints of international organizations and have disavowed long-standing global agreements—including agreements on nuclear arms, control of biological weapons and the international system of justice.

Instead of our tradition of espousing peace as a national priority unless our security is directly threatened, we have proclaimed a policy of "preemptive war," an unabridged right to attack other nations unilaterally to change an unsavory regime or for other purposes. When there are serious differences with other nations, we brand them as international pariahs and refuse to permit direct discussions to resolve disputes.

Regardless of the costs, there are determined efforts by top U.S. leaders to exert American imperial dominance throughout the world.

These revolutionary policies have been orchestrated by those who believe that our nation's tremendous power and influence should not be internationally constrained. Even with our troops involved in combat and America facing the threat of additional terrorist attacks, our declaration of "You are either with us or against us!" has replaced the forming of alliances based on a clear comprehension of mutual interests, including the threat of terrorism.

Another disturbing realization is that, unlike during other times of national crisis, the burden of conflict is now concentrated exclusively on the few heroic men and women sent back repeatedly to fight in the quagmire of Iraq. The rest of our nation has not been asked to make any sacrifice, and every effort has been made to conceal or minimize public awareness of casualties.

Instead of cherishing our role as the great champion of human rights, we now find civil liberties and personal privacy grossly violated under some extreme provisions of the Patriot Act.

Of even greater concern is that the U.S. has repudiated the Geneva accords and espoused the use of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, and secretly through proxy regimes elsewhere with the so-called extraordinary rendition program. It is embarrassing to see the president and vice president insisting that the CIA should be free to perpetrate "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment" on people in U.S. custody.

Instead of reducing America's reliance on nuclear weapons and their further proliferation, we have insisted on our right (and that of others) to retain our arsenals, expand them, and therefore abrogate or derogate almost all nuclear arms control greements negotiated during the last 50 years. We have now become a prime culprit in global nuclear proliferation. America also has abandoned the prohibition of "first use" of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear nations, and is contemplating the previously condemned deployment of weapons in space.

Protection of the environment has fallen by the wayside because of government subservience to political pressure from the oil industry and other powerful lobbying groups. The last five years have brought continued lowering of pollution standards at home and almost universal condemnation of our nation's global environmental policies.

Our government has abandoned fiscal responsibility by unprecedented favors to the rich, while neglecting America's working families. Members of Congress have increased their own pay by $30,000 per year since freezing the minimum wage at $5.15 per hour (the lowest among industrialized nations).

I am extremely concerned by a fundamentalist shift in many houses of worship and in government, as church and state have become increasingly intertwined in ways previously thought unimaginable.

As the world's only superpower, America should be seen as the unswerving champion of peace, freedom and human rights. Our country should be the focal point around which other nations can gather to combat threats to international security and to enhance the quality of our common environment. We should be in the forefront of providing human assistance to people in need.

It is time for the deep and disturbing political divisions within our country to be substantially healed, with Americans united in a common commitment to revive and nourish the historic political and moral values that we have espoused during the last 230 years.

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