Saturday, September 6, 2014

Zephyr Teachout -- The Most Refreshing Candidate for New York Governor in Decades

            The most refreshing candidate for New York governor in decades—and I’ve interviewed several—was on Long Island last week. Zephyr Teachout is challenging incumbent Andrew Cuomo in a primary this coming Tuesday to decide who will be the Democratic nominee for governor.

She is an expert on governmental corruption. Indeed, her book Corruption in America is soon to be published by Harvard University Press. And Ms. Teachout’s emphasis on investigating and exposing corruption isn’t simply academic. Previously she was national director of Washington, D.C.-based Sunlight Foundation, a non-partisan organization working for “transparency and accountability” in federal, state and local governments with a focus on documenting how money is perverting democracy.

There can be no more important time—in this state and nation—for a specialist in corruption,

Ms. Teachout (an unusual name going back 350 years to her Dutch roots, she explained) is a professor of constitutional law at Fordham Law School.

She was in Sag Harbor last Sunday at a “meet-and-greet” at the Sag Harbor studio of artist Julie Keyes. It attracted people from all over Long Island. Steve McCormack, a teacher, came 50 miles from Miller Place and explained that he is “active in Democratic affairs” but has become disgusted with “walking door-to-door for candidates who are in cahoots with big business.”

Ms. Teachout sat down for a 20-minute interview with me in which she blasted Mr. Cuomo for his abrupt shutdown of a Moreland commission the governor formed to investigate corruption in state government. Last month, in a Page One story, the New York Times detailed how Mr. Cuomo dissolved the commission after it began investigating entities close to him. And this despite Mr. Cuomo’s claim when he formed the commission that it would be “totally independent...Anything they want to look at they can look at—me, the lieutenant governor... any senator, any assemblyman.”

“It’s an outstanding display of hubris to create a commission to investigate corruption and shut it down after it did exactly that,” said Ms. Teachout. ” The “rule of law” was twisted “to not apply to Cuomo’s business associates.”

She was equally critical of Mr. Cuomo’s “interference” with another Moreland commission he set up to investigate the Long Island Power Authority. The governor “imposed a foregone conclusion” on this panel “pressuring it” to decimate LIPA and have a New Jersey-based utility, PSEG, become the main electric utility on Long Island.

Ms. Teachout said “Long Island should have been put first” by “the fixing of what was wrong” with state-created LIPA and “not privatize” the utility system. Lost now is “accountability” and “the long-term costs of this privatization are not known.”

Moreover, she said she has a “very different energy vision” than does Mr. Cuomo. She seeks to have the state get all of its power from renewable energy sources.

She declared that she is a strong opponent of nuclear power and the Indian Point nuclear plants just north of New York City “have to be closed. Nuclear power is unsafe.” (Mr. Cuomo is also for the closure of Indian Point. However, the Republican nominee for governor, Rob Astorino, is for keeping Indian Point open and for building new nuclear power plants in New York State.)

Ms. Teachout is against fracking—the drilling into shale for gas—which she called “a threat to the water supply.” She faulted Mr. Cuomo for not making a decision on whether fracking should be allowed in New York State while also, she said, “taking $1 million in political contributions from pro-fracking interests.”

She said she and her running mate, Tim Wu, a Columbia Law School professor and a leader in challenging monopolization of media, are “old-fashioned trust-busters.” There is “too much power concentrated in the hands of a few and it’s bad for the economy and bad for democracy.” Former New York Governors Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt were trust-busters, she noted. “It’s a long American tradition.”

Their campaign, she said, was “gaining momentum every day.”

Among others at the event for Ms. Teachout was Julie Penny of Noyac who commented, “I’ve been massively disappointed in Cuomo. We need someone who will work for us.”  She added, “It’s too bad Cuomo refuses to debate Teachout on the issues that matter to us and have such repercussions over our lives. “

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Science May Be Objective But That Doesn't Mean That All Scientists Are Because of Their Drive to Push Their Institutions and Projects

             Earlier this summer, a group of Congressional representatives—led by Tim Bishop of Long Island—hosted a reception in East Hampton for a fellow congressman, Bill Foster of Illinois.
             An emphasis was on how Foster is one of only three scientists in the House of Representatives. His invitation to the fundraiser was headed with, “Why Don’t Americans Elect Scientists?”  Foster stated: “The complex economic and technological issues our nation faces today will require leaders who think through the critical issues of the day, using logic and facts rather than resorting to mindless party-line talking points...Part of that solution has to be to elect more scientists and engineers to Congress.”

A biography of Foster accompanying the invitation noted that for 22 years he worked at Fermilab and “participated in leading-edge scientific research, designed and built state-of-the-art physics experiments.” Fermilab in Illinois, with 1,750 employees, is operated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Considering especially the debate among Congressional representatives on climate change, science is indeed important.  Foster is a Democrat, like Bishop of Southampton, and the other representatives who hosted him on June 28th, Steve Israel of Huntington on Long Island and Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan. Democrats in Congress, and Democratic President Barack Obama, have been blasting Republicans in Congress who deny climate change and global warming are happening. The science on climate change and global warming is clear, they emphasize.  They charge the GOPers have a politicized “anti-science” agenda.

Bishop’s Republican opponent this year, State Senator Lee Zeldin of Shirley, Long Island is holding his own fundraiser on September 8th with as his main guest former Representative Allen West of Florida, typical of those GOPers. “When asked if he felt that climate change was causing the Earth to become warmer, West responded with a firm ‘No,’” according to published reports.  West is a hero of the Tea Party in which climate change denial is strong.

Yes, utilizing science rather than a dubious political line when it comes to climate change and global warming is a good thing. But, on the other hand, scientists often also have their own political agendas rooted in promoting scientific institutions and their projects.  Science might be objective—but that doesn’t mean all scientists are.

Many of us are familiar with President Eisenhower’s warning in his farewell address to the nation in 1961 about the rise of a “military-industrial complex.” Not widely known is that the original draft of that speech warned not just of a “military-industrial complex” but of a “military-industrial-scientific complex.” The president’s science advisor, James Killian, later president of MIT, pleaded that the word “scientific” be eliminated, and it was. Nevertheless, President Eisenhower went on warning, “Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists and laboratories.” He declared that “in holding scientific research and discovery in respect…we must also be alert to the equal and opposing danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.”

David E. Lilienthal, first chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), used similar words in his 1963 book Change, Hope, and the Bomb. He wrote how now “scientists are ranked in platoons” and ” the independent and humble search for new truths about nature has become confused with the bureaucratic impulse to justify expenses and see that next year’s budget is bigger than last’s.” He spoke about the “elaborate and even luxurious [national] laboratories that have grown up at Oak Ridge, Argonne, Brookhaven.”

In that line he was referring to Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) set up by AEC on a former Army base in Upton on Long Island and now operated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

One need only examine what happened to Bishop’s predecessor in the lst Congressional District, three-term Representative Michael Forbes of Quogue, Long Island in 1999 after he challenged BNL, to see the concerns of President Eisenhower and Mr. Lilienthal playing out. Mr. Forbes was concerned about radioactive leaks from nuclear reactors at BNL and spoke out forcefully. He was opposed in a primary for the Democratic nomination by Regina Seltzer of Bellport, Long Island whose husband had been a BNL scientist. BNL personnel manned phone banks for Seltzer. She took the nomination from Forbes by 45 votes, but lost the general election. Meanwhile, a highly capable representative was driven out of Congress.

There have been many studies into scientists being influenced by ties to government and corporations and perverting their analyses.

Being anti-science, as such, is wrong. But so is having an uncritical belief in scientists



Friday, August 29, 2014

Secret Diablo Canyon Report Revealed

            As aftershocks of the 6.0 Napa earthquake that occurred Sunday in California continued, the Associated Press this week revealed a secret government report pointing to major earthquake vulnerabilities at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plants which are a little more than 200 miles away and sitting amid a webwork of earthquake faults.

It’s apparent to any visitor to the stretch of California where the two Diablo Canyon plants are sited that it is geologically hot. A major tourist feature of the area: hot spas.     “Welcome to the Avila Hot Springs,” declares the website of one, noting how “historic Avila Hot Springs” was “discovered in 1907 by at the time unlucky oil drillers and established” as a “popular visitor-serving natural artesian mineral hot springs.”

Nevertheless, Pacific Gas & Electric had no problem in 1965 picking the area along the California coast, north of Avila Beach, as a location for two nuclear plants.

It was known that the San Andreas Fault was inland 45 miles away. Then, in 1971, with construction underway, oil company geologists discovered another earthquake fault, the Hosgri Fault, just three miles out in the Pacific from the plant site and linked to the San Andreas Fault.

In 2008 yet another fault was discovered, the Shoreline Fault—but 650 yards from the Diablo Canyon plants.

The Shoreline Fault, and concerns about the vulnerability of nuclear plants to earthquakes in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, are integral to a 42-page report written by Dr. Michael Peck, for five years the lead inspector on-site for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at Diablo Canyon.

Peck’s report was obtained by the Associated Press, which has done excellent journalism in recent years investigating the dangers of nuclear power, and the AP issued a story Monday on the report.

Peck writes: “The new seismic information resulted in a condition outside of the bounds of the existing Diablo Canyon design basis and safety analysis. Continued reactor operation outside the bounds of the NRC approved safety analyses challenges the presumption of nuclear safety.”

He also states: “The Shoreline [Fault] Scenario results in SSC [acronym in the nuclear field for Structures, Systems and Components] seismic stress beyond the plant SSE [Safe Shutdown Earthquake] qualification basis. Exposure to higher levels of stress results in an increase[d] likelihood of a malfunction of SSCs. The change also increases the likelihood of a malfunction of SSCs important to safety...”

Peck notes that the “prevailing” NRC “staff view” is that “potential ground motions from the Shoreline fault are at or below those levels for which the plant was previously evaluated and demonstrated to have a ‘reasonable assurance of safety.’”  

He disagrees and says that the NRC staff “also failed to address the Los Osos and San Luis Bay faults,” faults that the Shoreline Fault are seen as potentially interacting with, and that “new seismic information” concludes that “these faults were also capable of producing ground motions”

Also, he says: “The prevailing staff view that ‘operability’ may be demonstrated independent of existing facility design basis and safety analyses requirements establishes a new industry precedent. Power reactor licensees may apply this precedent to other nonconforming and unanalyzed conditions.”

 “is that it comes from within the NRC itself, and gives a rare look at a dispute within the agency. At issue are whether the plant’s mechanical guts could survive a big jolt, and what yardsticks should be used to measure the ability of the equipment to withstand the potentially strong vibrations that could result.”

The AP story also says, “Environmentalists have long depicted Diablo Canyon—the state’s last nuclear plant after the 2013 closure of the San Onofre reactors in Southern California—as a nuclear catastrophe in waiting. In many ways, the history of the plant, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco...and within 50 miles of 500,000 people, has been a costly fight against nature, involving questions and repairs connected to its design and structural strength.”

Calling the Peck report “explosive,” the environmental group Friends of the Earth this week described it as having been “kept secret for a year.”

Said Damon Moglen, senior strategy advisor at Friends of the Earth,
 "Inspector Peck is the canary in the coal mine, warning us of a possible catastrophe at Diablo Canyon before it’s too late. We agree with him that Diablo Canyon is vulnerable to earthquakes and must be shut down immediately.”

Moglen said: “Given the overwhelming risk of earthquakes, federal and state authorities would never allow nuclear reactors on this site now. Are PG&E and the NRC putting the industry’s profits before the health and safety of millions of Californians.”   

“Rather than the NRC keeping this a secret,” Moglen went on, “there must be a thorough investigation with public hearings to determine whether these reactors can operate safely.”

Peck is still with the NRC, a trainer at its Technical Training Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Michael Mariotte, president of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, commented Monday
that in “plain English” what Peck’s report acknowledges is: “The NRC does not know whether Diablo Canyon could survive an earthquake, within the realm of the possible, at any of the faults around Diablo Canyon. And the reactors should shut down until the NRC does know one way or the other. Of course, if the reactors cannot survive a postulated earthquake, the obvious conclusion is that they must close permanently. The question is whether the NRC will ever act on Peck’s recommendation or whether the agency will continue to sit on it until after the next earthquake.”

Mariotte also says: “The irony is that this should have been the big news a year ago; Peck wrote his recommendation—in the form of a formal Differing Professional Opionion—in July 2013. And the NRC still hasn’t taken action or even responded to it.”

In his report Peck also states that the NRC is supposed to be committed to a “standard of safety” and “safety means avoiding undue risk or providing reasonable assurance of adequate protection for the public.”

Meanwhile, PG&E has not only been insisting that its Diablo Canyon plants are safe, despite the earthquake threat, but has filed with the NRC to extend the 40 year licenses given for their operations  another 20 years—to 2044 for Diablo Canyon 1 and to 2045 for Diablo Canyon 2.

An analysis   done in 1982 by Sandia National Laboratories for the NRC, titled “Calculations for Reactor Accident Consequences 2,” evaluated the impacts of a meltdown with “breach of containment” at every nuclear plant in the U.S.—what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants as a result of an earthquake. For the Diablo Canyon nuclear plants, it projected 10,000 “peak early fatalities” for each of the plants and $155 billion in property damages for Diablo Canyon 1 and $158 billion for Diablo Canyon 2—in 1980 dollars.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Solar Power as an Alternative to Dangerous Nuclear Power in Space

            A demonstration that in space as on Earth solar power is an alternative to dangerous nuclear power is to come this week when a solar-powered spacecraft called Rosetta will rendezvous with a comet at 375 million miles from the Sun.
            The Rosetta space probe, energized with solar power, is to meet up Wednesday with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will begin making observations, relaying back to Earth high-resolution images and information from its sensors, of the two-and-a-half mile wide comet Rosetta will subsequently send a lander down to the comet that will drill into it and perform a variety of experiments. For a year, Rosetta will fly alongside the comet, named after the two Ukranian astronomers who discovered it in 1969.
            For decades, the United States and the Soviet Union, and now Russia, stressed the use of atomic energy as a source of power in space—and there have been accidents as a result.
The most serious were the falls back to Earth of a U.S. satellite with a SNAP-9A plutonium-238 radioisotope thermal generator on board in 1964, disintegrating as it fell, dispersing plutonium worldwide, and of the Soviet Cosmos Satellite 954 in 1978, with an atomic reactor on board, also breaking up, and spreading nuclear debris for hundreds of miles across the Northwest Territories of Canada.
The late Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, long connected the SNAP-9A accident and its dispersal of plutonium with a global increase in lung cancer.  Canada demanded compensation for the Cosmos-954 accident which the Soviet Union eventually paid, in part.
Now all satellites are solar-powered as is the International Space Station. But there has been a push to continue to use nuclear power on space probes with NASA and formerly Soviet and now Russian space authorities insisting that solar power cannot be harvested far from the Sun.
However, the European Space Agency declares on its website— —“The solar cells in Rosetta’s solar panels are based on a completely new technology, so-called Low-intensity Low Temperature Cells. Thanks to them, Rosetta is the first space mission to journey beyond the main asteroid belt relying solely on solar cells for power generation. Previous deep-space missions used nuclear RTGs, radioisotope thermal generators. The new solar cells allow Rosetta to operate over 800 million kilometres from the Sun, where levels of sunlight are only 4% those on Earth. The technology will be available for future deep-space, such as ESA’s upcoming Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer.”
            ESA notes: “ESA has not developed RTG i.e. nuclear technology, so the agency decided to develop solar cells that could fill the same function.”
Rosetta, launched in 2004, “relies entirely on the energy provided by its innovative solar panels for all onboard instruments and subsystems,” says ESA.
NASA has begun to follow ESA’s lead.  It went with solar power for its Juno mission to Jupiter that is now underway. Launched in 2011, energized by solar power, the Juno space probe is to arrive at Jupiter in 2016. 
At the distance at which Rosetta will encounter Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko or at which Juno will be doing experiments involving Jupiter or ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer will work, energy from the Sun is but a small fraction of what it is on Earth. Still, it can be effectively utilized.  (NASA’s last space probe mission to Jupiter, Galileo, launched in 1989, was plutonium-powered and NASA officials insisted, including in sworn testimony countering a challenge to Galileo in federal court, that this was the only energy choice. There were numerous protests against Galileo and have been to subsequent nuclear space shots led by the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space (
Rosetta is named after the Rosetta Stone, a slab of basalt found in Egypt in 1799 with inscriptions carved on it that enabled the deciphering of hieroglyphics, the ancient language of Egypt. “As a result of this breakthrough, scholars were able to piece together the history of a lost culture,” notes ESA.
Likewise, “Rosetta’s prime objective is to help understand the origin and evolution of the Solar System,” says ESA. “The comet’s composition reflects the composition of the pre-solar nebula out of which the Sun and the planets of the Solar System formed, more than 4.6 billion years ago. Therefore, an in-depth analysis of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by Rosetta and its lander will provide essential information to understand how the Solar System formed.”
ESA adds, “There is convincing evidence that comets played a key role in the evolution of the planets, because cometary impacts are known to have been much more common in the early Solar System than today. Comets, for example, probably brought much of the water in today’s ocean. They could even have provided the complex organic molecules that may have played a crucial role in the evolution of life on Earth.”
Rosetta “will be undertaking several ‘firsts’ in space exploration,” says ESA. “It will be the first mission to orbit and land on a comet.” And, Rosetta will be “the first spacecraft to witness, at close proximity” the changes in a comet as it approaches the Sun. Rosetta’s lander “will obtain the first images from a comet’s surface and make the first in-situ subsurface analysis of its composition.”
The Rosetta lander, given the name Philea, is to touch down on the comet’s surface in November and “remain operational through the end of 2015....A drilling system will obtain samples down to 23 cm below the surface and will feed these to the spectrometers for analysis, such as to determine the chemical composition. Other instruments will measure properties such as near-surface strength, density, texture, porosity, ice phases and thermal properties...In addition, instruments on the lander will study how the comet changes during the day-night cycle, and while it approaches the Sun.”
The lander is being called Philea for Philea Island in the Nile where an obelisk was found that supplemented the use of the Rosetta Stone in the deciphering of hieroglyphics.
The cost of the mission is 1.3 billion Euros ($1.75 billion at current exchange rates) and ESA asks the question: “Why spend such a huge amount of public money on studying remote stones in space?”
 ESA responds: “ESA’s task is to explore the unknown. In the case of Rosetta, scientists will be learning about comets, objects that have fascinated mankind for millennia” and “are thought to be the most primitive objects in the Solar System, the building blocks from which the planets were made. So Rosetta will provide exciting new insights into how the planets, including Earth, were born and how life began.”
There can be things that can still go wrong on the mission. Gases from the comet could affect Rosetta flying with it. Philae could fail to get hooked to the comet, although a “harpoon” system has been devised for it to anchor itself to the comet’s surface.
But if the Rosetta mission is a success it will be a superb example of a space mission that represents no nuclear threat to life on Earth and of a quest with the highest of purposes—exploring the mysteries of the Solar System and the origins of life.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Lyme Disease Epidemic

           The tick season has arrived on Long Island, where I live, and the rest of the New York area, indeed through much of the United States. A deer tick just bit me. When I was a kid growing up in Queens in New York City my family went camping every summer out on Long Island, at Wildwood State Park in Wading River, and deer ticks were unknown.
As a Boy Scout doing intensive hiking and camping all over this region (I was an Eagle Scout) neither I nor anyone I knew was ever bitten by a deer tick,
But now deer ticks and other ticks, and Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, are a huge problem for all of us. Long Island was a hotspot for Lyme when it first emerged in the 1970s and still is, but it’s now just one of many hotspots in the area and across the U.S., indeed Lyme disease has spread around the world.
We’ve been hit by an epidemic.
The Empire State Lyme Disease Association, headquartered in Manorville on Long Island, is a leading organization in the U.S. in the fight against Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses.
Eva Haughie, the association’s president, has counted getting 51 tick bites since 1999 and as a result her contracting Lyme disease nine times. “Ticks love me,” Ms. Haughie was saying last week. The first time she ended up “like an Alzheimer’s patient” and “couldn’t walk.” Long-term treatment with antibiotics has been critical for Haughie.
The association focuses on prevention and Haughie lives that personally. When she goes outdoors, she uses tick repellents including Avon Products’ “Skin So Soft” and lavender and rosemary oil.
 The association runs support groups, organizes conferences, disseminates educational information and engages with government officials.
And it has been dealing with a key treatment problem: the insistence of health insurance companies—following the guidelines of the Infectious Diseases Society of America—that extended care of Lyme disease victims isn’t necessary. The claim is that a few weeks of treatment with antibiotics is all that’s needed. That is mostly true if Lyme disease is detected early, but detection is problematic. Only about half of the people bitten by a tick carrying Lyme develop the tell-tale bull’s-eye rash at the site of the bite. And tests for the disease have often been unreliable.
Long-term care is vital—indeed produces miraculous results—for persistent cases.
That was the message of the documentary “Under Our Skin,” the winner of a host of film festival awards. “Eye-opening...frightening...powerful,” said the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times called the documentary “heart rending” and noted how it “takes aim at the medical establishment.”  
            It tells of how members of the panel of the Infectious Diseases Society of America that issued a key report calling for no long-term antibiotic therapy for Lyme had financial connections to health insurance companies and other conflicts of interest.  It shows how health insurers don’t want to pay for long-term care of Lyme sufferers—so the medical system has been twisted to maintain such care isn’t needed. It exposes how dedicated doctors who’ve provided needed long-term care have ended up severely punished by the medical establishment.
            The producer and director of “Under Our Skin,” Andy Abrahams Wilson, has been making “an update on the original.” It will be out in July and is titled: “Under Our Skin 2: Emergence.”
“What is emerging besides the major epidemic—are truth and hope,” Wilson told me in an interview from Sausalito, California, where his production company is based.
The update follows the Lyme victims featured in the original “Under Our Skin” who were saved by long-term treatment and it finds all of them doing fine.
“We’ve gotten deeper into the conflict of interest issues. We’re continuing to look at the—let’s call them—chronic Lyme denialists,” said Wilson. Among what’s examined is how Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (now a U.S. senator) “forced” the Infectious Diseases Society of America to “reassess” its guidelines on treating Lyme, but after all, the guidelines were not changed. “It is shocking,” Wilson commented. It sure is.
For information about “Under Our Skin 2: Emergence,” visit
Last year, he U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the number of Americans newly infected by Lyme disease each year is 300,000, ten times higher than has been officially reported.  This said a CDC official “confirms Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem.” Likewise, the effort to discourage long-term treatment for persistent Lyme victims is a tremendous public health scandal.
What is the origin of the Lyme disease epidemic?
Another huge scandal is quite likely here.
Michael Christopher Carroll in his best-selling book, Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory, links Lyme disease to Plum Island—an 840-acre island a mile and a half off the North Fork of Long Island on which the U.S. government’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center is located.
Carroll notes that Lyme disease “suddenly surfaced” 10 miles north of Plum Island “in Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1975.” Indeed, that’s how the malady got its name, from the 1975 outbreak in the adults and children in Old Lyme. It was diagnosed by Dr. Wally Burgdorfer, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health. Thus the spirochete in a deer tick that transmits Lyme was named Borrelia burgdorferi.
Carroll in Lab 257 cites years of experimentation with ticks on Plum Island and the possibility of an accidental or purposeful release.
Lab 257 documents a Nazi connection to the original establishment of a U.S. Army laboratory on Plum Island. According to the book, Erich Traub, a scientist who worked for the Third Reich doing biological warfare, was the force behind its founding.
During World War II, “as lab chief of Insel Riems—a secret Nazi biological warfare laboratory on a crescent-shaped island in the Baltic Sea­—Traub worked directly for Adolph Hitler’s second-in-charge, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, on live germ trials,” states Lab 257.  The mission was to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union. This included infecting cattle and reindeer with foot-and-mouth disease.
This became the mission, in a Cold War setting, at Plum Island.
And, states Lab 257, published in 2004:“The tick is the perfect germ vector which is why it has long been fancied as a germ weapon by early biowarriors from Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan to the Soviet Union and the United States.”
“A source who worked on Plum Island in the 1950s,” the book states, “recalls that animal handlers and a scientist released ticks outdoors on the island. ‘They called him the Nazi scientist, when they came in, in 1951—they were inoculating these ticks.” Lab 257 goes on: “Dr. Traub’s World War II handiwork consisted of aerial virus sprays developed on Insel Riems and tested over occupied Russia, and of field work for Heinrich Himmler in Turkey. Indeed, his colleagues conducted bug trials by dropping live beetles from planes. An outdoor tick trial would have been de rigueur for Erich Traub.”
Traub was brought to the U.S. with the end of the war under Project Paperclip, a program under which Nazi scientists, such as Wernher von Braun, came to America.
“Traub’s detailed explanation of the secret operation on Insel Riems” given to officials at Fort Detrick in Maryland, the Army’s biological warfare headquarters, and to the CIA, “laid the groundwater for Fort Detrick’s offshore germ warfare animal disease lab on Plum Island. Traub was a founding father,” says Lab 257.
And Plum Island’s purpose, says the book, became what Insel Riems had been: to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union, ­with the Cold War conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union having begun.
Traub also developed relationships in the U.S. before the war. He “spent the prewar period of his scientific career on a fellowship at the Rockefeller Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, perfecting his skills in viruses and bacteria under the tutelage of American experts before returning to Nazi Germany on the eve of war,” says Lab 257. While in the U.S. in the 1930s, too, relates Carroll, an attorney originally from Long Island, Traub was a member of the Amerika-Deutscher Volksbund which was involved in pro-Nazi rallies held weekly in Yaphank on Long Island.
Lab 257 tells of why suddenly the Army transferred Plum Island to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1954: ­the Pentagon became concerned about having to feed millions of people in the Soviet Union if its food animals were destroyed. The Joint Chiefs of Staff “found that a war with the U.S.S.R. would best be fought with conventional and nuclear means, and biological warfare against humans, ­not against food animals,” says Lab 257. “Destroying the food supply meant having to feed millions of starving Russians after winning a war.”
Also making a link between Plum Island and Lyme disease is in an earlier book, The Belarus Secret: The Nazi Connection in America.
First published in 1982, it was written by John Loftus, an attorney, too. Loftus was formerly with the Office of Special Investigations of the U.S. Department of Justice set up to expose Nazi war crimes and unearth Nazis hiding in the United States.
Given top-secret clearance to review sealed files, Loftus found a trove of information on America’s postwar recruiting of Nazis. He also exposed the Nazi past of former Austrian president and U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and his involvement as an officer in a German Army unit that committed atrocities during the war. Waldheim subsequently faded from the international scene.
            In The Belarus Secret Loftus tells of “the records of the Nazi germ warfare scientists who came to America. They experimented with poison ticks dropped from planes to spread rare diseases. I have received some information suggesting that the U.S. tested some of these poison ticks on the Plum Island artillery range off the coast of Connecticut during the early 1950's. . . Most of the germ warfare records have been shredded, but there is a top secret U.S. document confirming that 'clandestine attacks on crops and animals' took place at this time.”
He points to “the hypothesis that the poison ticks are the source of the Lyme disease spirochete, and that migrating waterfowl were the vectors that carried the ticks from Plum Island all up and down the Eastern Seaboard.” Loftus adds: “Sooner or later the whole truth will come out, but probably not in my lifetime.”

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Folly Beach

            Folly Beach. Yes, there really is such a place. It’s a poster child for the folly of dumping sand on the shoreline in the expensive and fruitless attempt to try to hold back the ocean and protect beach houses.
            In the Long Island village of Quogue, New York, Concerned Citizens of Quogue have included a current article about this beach in South Carolina in their current online newsletter ( and the group asks the question: “Quogue’s Own ‘Folly’ Beach?”
            Happening in Quogue is a conflict emblematic of the struggle involving the coast that’s been going on for decades on Long Island, heightened by the impacts of Superstorm Sandy. There’s a proposal for $14 million in taxpayer-funded sand dumping along the Quogue shoreline.

            Meanwhile, down south comes this news on the Concerned Citizens website.
            “Folly Beach—Huge waves kicked up by Friday’s storm scoured and swept away newly poured sands on the east end of this island,” begins the article from  The Post and Courier of South Carolina published last month.
And it wasn’t an encore of Sandy that did it, just another blow.
The cost to Folly Beach: some $30 million in dumped sand—gone with the sea.
“In little more than a month,” The Post and Courier says, Folly Beach homeowners “have lost much of the sand” dumped just a month earlier on the shore fronting their places.
 Some $30 million in sand placed on the Folly Beach shoreline. A month later, it’s all gone.
             The newspaper quoted the manager of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Folly Beach project as saying that placing sand on the shore “doesn’t stop erosion. It protects properties. We put the required amount of sand out there. The sand didn’t hold up.”
And this was not the first time in recent years that loads of sand have been dumped on Folly Beach. It has been done again and again, at huge taxpayer cost. “The last time the work was done, in 2005, the cost was $12 million,” about “a third of the current cost,” notes The Post and Courier.
            This rise in price for coastal sand-dumping is “mirroring the soaring cost of beach nourishment across the country,” comments Concerns Citizens of Quogue.
The organization in its current newsletter also brings attention to a letter from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that summarizes comments it has received on the $14 million plan to dump 1.1 million cubic yards of sand on the Quogue oceanfront.
The comments are right on the mark and include:
·         “The relatively few homeowners affected by beach erosion in Quogue should consider relocating their homes landward.”
·        “All village taxpayers should not have to pay for a project which will directly benefit a relative few.”

·        “Since the longevity of large scale beach nourishment projects nationwide is variable at best and poor at worst, all concerned need to understand that the long term efficacy of the proposed project is not guaranteed. Funds expended to carry out the project could be wasted and there could be the expectation of the expenditure of additional funds to re-nourish the beach after the material from the first nourishment erodes.”

·        “Oceanfront property owners must know that they are taking on considerable risk when they purchase or otherwise acquire their properties. These property owners, not the municipality, should be responsible for maintaining them.”
         And there is my favorite statement: “The current development pattern on the barrier island in Quogue is unwise and unsustainable. The very large, very expensive, permanent homes which now exist on the oceanfront engender in the owners the understandable desire to protect them, at almost any cost, against the forces of nature, to the detriment of the beach and dunes. In the not so distant past, many people contented themselves with much smaller, less permanent, less valuable beach cottages, structures which they could afford to lose and/or replace if they were damaged by erosion or storms.”
            The DEC called on Quogue village’s “agent” on the sand-dumping project, First Coastal Corporation, to “review this letter” and comments “with the mayor and other village officials” and provide “responses to the issues raised.”
             The Quogue proposal is overshadowed by the plan of the Army Corps of Engineers to dump sand from Fire Island to Montauk Point, first advanced nearly 60 years ago but failing to occur because of the folly it has always represented. Post-Sandy, however, beachfront homeowners and some politicians are pushing for it anew.  A recent cost estimate for the sand-dumping along this 83-mile stretch of Long Island’s south shore: $700 million in taxpayer dollars.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Moms Are Making an Impact!

(On CounterPunch -- today.)
            The mothers are making an impact!
            A phenomenon in environmental activism in recent years has been the emergence of grassroots organizations “powered by the voices of mothers, dedicated to protecting children in global communities,” as one group, The Mothers Project, describes itself. 
            The Mothers Project, founded and headed by Angela Monti Fox, is based in New York City and global in scope. Fox is the mother of Josh Fox, the filmmaker who exposed the dangers of fracking in his award-winning documentaries Gasland and Gasland 2. Indeed, taking on fracking is a major focus of The Mothers Project.
            This week, the anti-environmental, arch-conservative entity named The Independent Women's Forum is staging a panel discussion in Manhattan to try to counter the mothers’ movement. It is titled “From Helicopter to Hazmat: How the Culture of Alarmism is Turning Parenting into a Dangerous Job.” The group, which gets its funding from right-wing foundations and other conservative interests including the Koch Brothers, got its start in 1992 as Women for Judge Thomas defending the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. It fights feminist groups, promotes access to guns and has taken to denying global warming.
            Also involved in the event Thursday is the American Council on Science and Health, financed by polluting industries and long described as an industry front group. Its specialty has been issuing reports denying health damage caused by environmental pollutants, notably pesticides and other toxic chemicals.
Proclaims an announcement: "’Parents are bombarded with alarmist messages on a daily basis about how the food they eat, the habits they practice and the household products they use threaten their health and the health of their children,’ says Julie Gunlock, event moderator and director of Independent Women Forum’s Culture of Alarmism project. Rather than make women feel more informed, the onslaught of alarmist information makes moms (and dads) feel guilty, confused, even angry.”
Comments Angela Fox Monti about the event: “I think this is serious proof that we are making an impact.  I have no doubt that they know about The Mothers Project, ClimateMama, Toxic Baby, Moms Clean Air Force, etc., etc.” Organized moms, she declares, are seen as “a threat because they know politicians tend to cower when mothers show up!”
Monti points to the increase in major diseases “in both children and adults—now being seen by the scientific community as a result of environmental impacts. No longer can we look at simply defective genes for the rise in all cancers, new cancers, autism, ADHD, childhood diabetes and obesity. New research points to environmental impact on embryonic development that will span several generations and can be considered a pandemic when 25 percent of the global population born today will be affected by deleterious environmental impacts.”
Anna Grossman, founder and director of HRP Mamas/The Hudson River Park Mothers Group ( says: "In the absence of adequate legislation, and as a mother of two young children, I look to reputable medical organizations and research institutes such as the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center for guidance on keeping my children safe from unregulated chemicals. I wouldn't get medical and safety information from a chemical industry front group or from authors who appear to disregard plain science.”
“I find nothing alarmist in being empowered with the knowledge that EPA is simply unable to protect us from thousands of chemicals,” she says. “The EPA has acknowledged this and it's a known fact. No one is panicking. We are calling for action. Those are two distinctly different things. Trying to paint mothers like me as hysterical is an old and tired stereotype. Parents are agents for change and a tremendous market force. It would seem the chemical industry, as the tobacco industry before it, is terrified of the power of parents to educate their children about companies that don't value their future health or that of their planet. Europe has enacted REACH [Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals] legislation. Why should the USA be left behind?”
Says Bobbi Chase Wilding, deputy director of Clean and Healthy New York ( : "This is clearly a response from an industry feeling the pressure from parents. They want us to go back to sleep. We’re outraged when we learn there’s no law against putting toxic chemicals in baby products. It happens all the time, and they don’t have to be listed on the label.”
“That’s what’s making us impotent: lack of information, lousy laws, and actions by chemical industry front groups like the American Council on Science and Health,” says the mother of two. “While it's their message that health advocates are making people feel impotent, it's exactly presentations like this that are designed to disempower people. There is so much parents can do. There’s a lot of good information that empowers parents to make safer, smart choices. Our message is: don't panic, take action."
A “featured panelist” at the event will be Josh Bloom of the American Council on Science and Health, its activities well-detailed in the book by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Trust Us, We're Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World's Fair Opens 50 Years Ago -- And I Get Fired for Story About It

              Fifty years ago this week, the New York World’s Fair opened—and by the end of the week I was fired for writing about demonstrations on its opening day protesting racism.

“Mr. Moses called and is very upset with you,” Wilson Stringer, vice president of the Sunrise Press newspapers, told me. “You’re fired.”

 Robert Moses had been the public works czar of the New York area for decades. He ran to be  the state’s governor in 1934, and suffered a then record two-to-one defeat. So he amassed power instead by creating state commissions and authorities which he ran.

He pushed the building of parks, a good thing, but also the unbridled construction of bridges, tunnels and highways—highways that shattered traditional neighborhoods and tied up the New York area with loops of roads like the Long Island Expressway, often dubbed the world’s longest parking lot, at the cost of a balanced system of mass transportation. Moses loved the automobile.

It was a road project that Moses announced in 1962 that first caused me to tangle with him. He unveiled a scheme to build a four-lane highway on Fire Island which would have paved over much of the nature and communities on the narrow 32-mile-long ribbon of sand east of New York City. He claimed the highway would “anchor” Fire Island and protect it from storms.

It was my first week on my first job as a reporter for the Babylon Town Leader, a newspaper in the village where Moses lived. He had just announced the Fire Island project.

The Leader for decades had challenged Moses and his projects—quite unlike most of the daily papers in New York City which Moses, as notes the Pulitzer Prize-winning book on him,  The Power Broker by Robert Caro, long had in his pocket.

I began writing story after story in the Leader about the impacts of the proposed Moses highway on Fire Island. We pointed out, too, how the highway Moses built to the west, along Jones Beach, rather than anchoring the beach needed to be regularly bolstered with sand pushed along its edges by bulldozers working at night.

Moses had so much power in New York State he seemed unstoppable. So those endeavoring to save Fire Island turned to the federal government—a Citizens Committee for a Fire Island National Seashore was started. U.S. Interior Secretary Stewart Udall visited Fire Island and embraced the seashore idea.

 Also, conservation-oriented Laurance Rockefeller, brother of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, became chairman of the state Council of Parks in 1963 and liked the seashore concept.

Moses was furious. He confronted the governor insisting that the Fire Island highway must happen and that Rockefeller put a lid on his brother—or he would resign his commission and authority posts. Seemingly he thought New York State would fall apart without him. In this collision, Moses quit his various public positions.

A Fire Island National Seashore, happily, was established in 1964.

            Moses, meanwhile, remained in charge of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.

In 1964, the Babylon Town Leader was bought by the Sunrise Press newspaper chain.

At the Leader I also covered the civil rights struggle then happening on Long Island. I went to the World’s Fair opening day to report on protests led by the then leading activist civil rights organization in the region, the Congress of Racial Equality, protesting racism in hiring by the Fair and racism in general in the New York area. 

All the Sunrise Press newspapers ran as a front-page piece the article I wrote about the demonstrators and their being bludgeoned by the Fair’s Pinkerton officers. My photos on this accompanied the piece.

But no longer did I have the protection when it came to Moses which I had with the Leader under its former management. Moses complained and I was promptly fired.

I placed ads beginning: “Reporter fired because of Robert Moses.” I got another job, at the daily Long Island Press. Moses’ power over much of the area’s press was reconfirmed on my first day there. An editor told me: “Now you understand you’re never to write a story about Moses or any agency he headed.” I was hired to cover police and courts and asked what was to be done if there is a fatal auto accident on one of the highways managed by one of Moses’ former agencies. “Have another reporter write it,” he advised.

Moses is dead. Fire Island has been preserved. The New York World’s Fair is a memory—most of it quickly bulldozed down after it closed.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"G.M. Flaw" and the Deeply Flawed Regulatory System

            “U.S. Agency Knew About G.M. Flaw But Did Not Act,” was the front-page headline of the New York Times this week. The article told of a memo released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that related how scandalously, shamefully the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “ignored or dismissed warnings for more than a decade about a faulty ignition switch” in General Motors cars.
            “Federal regulators decided not to open an inquiry on the ignitions of Chevrolet Cobalts and other cars even after their own investigators reported in 2007” knowing about fatal crashes, complaints and reports of a defect in the autos, said the article. It continued that in 2010 the agency “came to the same decision”—not to do anything—“after receiving more reports” about the fatal problem.
A separate article on the front-page of the Times’ business section, “Carmakers’ Close Ties to Regulator Scrutinized,” reported on “former top N.H.T.S.A. officials who now represent companies they were once responsible for regulating, part of a well-established migration from regulator to the regulated in Washington.” The “revolving door between the agency and the automotive industry is once again coming under scrutiny as lawmakers investigate the decade-long failure by General Motors and safety regulators to act more aggressively.”
In fact, the words “G.M. Flaw” could be substituted for by “G.E. Flaw” in its nuclear plants—like the G.E. plants at Fukushima and the dozens of the same fault-plagued model that are still operating in the U.S., or the words could be replaced by “Pollution Caused by Fracking” or “Poisons in Food.”
From national administration to administration, corporations have run roughshod and those who are supposed to protect us from the danger and death these industries cause have regularly not done their jobs. Sometimes the situation is more pronounced as during the Reagan administration—a thoroughly obvious time of foxes guarding henhouses.
I wrote a book about this extreme situation. The book jacket highlighted some of the Reagan foxes: Rita LaValle, a PR person for Aerojet General Corp. involved in hazardous waste-dumping and water pollution, who became director of the “Superfund” program; John Todhunter, an opponent of restrictions on pesticides with the chemical industry-financed American Council on Science and Health, who became assistant administrator for pesticides and toxic substances at EPA; Kathleen Bennett, who as a lobbyist for the paper industry fought the Clean Air Act, named assistant EPA administrator for air pollution control programs and  supervisor of the Clean Air Act; and on and on.
This sort of thing has an early history. In a chapter titled “Why the Supposed Protectors Don’t Protect,” I related the story of Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a physician who came to Washington in 1882 to become chief chemist for the Department of Agriculture. The U.S. was undergoing a transition from a rural country to an increasingly industrial society with industries arising that processed food—food commonly doused with dangerous chemicals. Wiley endeavored to do something about this. He was a leader in working for pure food legislation and  between his efforts and those of Progressive Era reformers and the publication of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle came passage of the landmark Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.
The act, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, defined as adulterated foods those containing “any added poisonous or other added deleterious ingredient which may render such article injurious to health.”  Wiley, who the U.S. government honored in 1956 with a postage stamp picturing him and has described as the “father of food and drug regulation,” tried to enforce the law as head of the Bureau of Chemistry of the Department of Agriculture, predecessor agency to the Food and Drug Administration, but found that all but impossible.
As a matter of conscience, Wiley resigned from the U.S. government in 1912 and wrote a book, The History of a Crime Against the Food Law.” The law intended to protect the health of people was “perverted to protect adulteration of food,” he wrote.
“There is a distinct tendency to put regulations and rules for the enforcement of the law into the hands of industries engaged in food and drug activities,” declared Wiley. “I consider this one of the most pernicious threats to pure food and drugs. Business is making rapid strides in the control of all our affairs. When we permit business in general to regulate the quality and character of our food and drug supplies, we are treading upon very dangerous ground. It is always advisable to consult businessmen and take such advice as they give that is unbiased, because of the intimate knowledge they have of the processes involved. It is never advisable to surrender entirely food and drug control to business interests.”
Throughout the many decades since, government control, regulation, has been surrendered, in part and sometimes entirely, to business interests. This includes not only the food and drug industries but the auto industry, the nuclear industry, now the gas industry for the toxic process called hydraulic fracturing or fracking, and on and on.  
I titled my 1983 book The Poison Conspiracy and began it by writing about how “the world is being poisoned,” lives are being lost and protection “by government is a sham.” Those in government who are “supposed to protect not because of the power of the industries” they are supposed to regulate. “These corporations have been able to warp, distort and neutralize those social mechanisms of protection.”
For example, regarding nuclear power and Fukushima, Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission when the catastrophe began in 2011, was forced out in 2012 because of nuclear industry pressure after calling for the NRC to apply the “lessons learned” from the disaster. “I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima had never happened.” Jaczko stated as the other four NRC commissioners rubber-stamped the construction in Georgia in 2012 of two new nuclear plants. Jaczko, said U.S. Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, “led” a “fight” against those in the nuclear industry opposed to “strong, lasting safety regulations.” And he paid the price.
            And so do we—whether we drive a G.M. Cobalt car or are impacted by the permitted radioactive emissions or accidental discharges from nuclear power plants or water contaminated by the fracking process or food loaded with genetically modified organisms, GMOs, and chemical poisons.
            What’s to be done? Our elected representatives aren’t innocent in this. There are a few good ones, like Senator Markey, but overall those who on the elective level are supposed to watchdog the lame would-be regulators of the bureaucracies have in large measure been captured themselves by the monied corporate interests. “There is a deeply entrenched network” and the challenge to it “will not be easy,” I conclude in The Poison Conspiracy. Most importantly, there needs to be intense grassroots activism to deal with, to remake, a system of government regulation long broken that needs to be, at long last, truly and fundamentally reformed.