Category: War

PTSD + Agent Orange = extra risk of Dementia

Exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War doesn’t seem to increase the risk of dementia on its own, but it may exacerbate the effects of other risk factors like PTSD…

In an analysis of Veterans Affairs data, having been exposed to Agent Orange and having PTSD together was associated with a significantly increased risk of dementia according to Deborah Barnes, PhD, MPH, of the University of California San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

They reported their findings at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference…

Some 8% of veterans were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, where it was used as an herbicide to clear dense areas of forest…

Many other studies have looked at the health effects of Agent Orange exposure, and there have been mixed results regarding its neurological effects. Some studies found no adverse neurologic effects, while several recent studies have found worse cognitive function with greater exposure. Other studies have shown that verbal memory is the most affected neurocognitive region among Vietnam veterans.

Yet there haven’t been any studies specifically looking at the relationship between Agent Orange and the risk of dementia among these veterans, Barnes said.

Consequently, she and colleagues accessed VA electronic medical record data on 46,737 Vietnam veterans over age 55 who had at least one baseline visit and one follow-up visit, and who did not have dementia at baseline.

They looked at Agent Orange exposure alone and in combination with PTSD…

Barnes noted that there was a significant difference between the exposed and unexposed populations at baseline. Veterans exposed to Agent Orange were younger and had more comorbidities including diabetes, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, depression, and PTSD…

When they looked at PTSD and dementia risk, however, they did find a significant association — and having both Agent Orange exposure and PTSD together was associated with a larger increase in risk of dementia…

“Agent Orange alone doesn’t appear to increase the risk of dementia,” Barnes said, “but it may exacerbate the effects of other risk factors such as PTSD.”

She cautioned that the findings were limited because the researchers weren’t able to measure the actual exposure to Agent Orange; they had to rely on patients’ own reports of exposure…

Soldiers on the line ain’t about to forget exposure to Agent Orange. Until they get Alzheimer’s, anyway.

And, no, that wasn’t meant to be a joke.

Vietnam War vets still suffering from PTSD

A small, but significant, portion of Vietnam War veterans still experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) even 40 years after the war ended, according to the results of a survey-based study.

When examining veterans over the course of a 25-year period, 10.8%, or about 271,000, of male “theater veterans” – those who served in the Vietnam theater of operations – reported experiencing current clinical and subthreshold war-zone PTSD symptoms based on CAPS-5 criteria, said Charles Marmar, MD, of New York University’s Langone Medical Center…

More than a third (36.7%) of all veterans with PTSD directly related to the war also experienced comorbid major depression. In addition, 30.9% met the criteria for current major depressive disorder…

Marmar told MedPage Today that he was surprised at the persistence of symptoms for veterans over the course of time.

“We did know that PTSD symptoms could persist in a minority of war fighters, or civilians for that matter, but it was surprising to find that 11% of those who served in the Vietnam theater had either PTSD or significant symptoms of PTSD that interfered with their functioning,” he said. “So the persistence was an important finding…”

Marmar said he did the study not only to honor the Vietnam generation and answer some questions for them, but to see what the road ahead may look like for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“Nobody has known before this study what the true lifetime effects of military service are on psychological health in an epidemiologically drawn, representative sample,” he said. “People have done studies of longer term effects of war, but not in a proper sampling frame where you’re getting a picture of every man and every woman from all branches of the services in all levels of combat…”

While not involved with the study, Gary J. Kennedy, MD…told MedPage Today…that the results demonstrated the majority of veterans did not suffer from PTSD or depression. However, he pointed out that for those who were impacted, there may be inadequate resources to offer assistance.

“The optimistic finding of rather remarkable resilience is contrasted by the complicated needs of those who do not recover,” he said. “Just as in the post Vietnam era, the VA is not adequately funded to meet the mental health needs of returning service personnel…”

He concluded that similar to World War II veterans, Vietnam war veterans also deserve quality care for their physical and mental well-being, both from clinicians and from the nation itself.

Overdue.

My closest friend till his death was a WW2 vet who still had occasional bouts with PTSD – and little substantive help from the VA. Fortunately, one of his main areas of study – courtesy of the GI Bill – was in psychology and he did a pretty good job of managing things on his own. Still, I’ll never forget a couple of times when he was roused unexpectedly from a sound sleep and thought he was back in Bastogne.

Oops! No need to go to Cape Canaveral to watch a rocket explode on launch

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The USS The Sullivans got more than it expected during a test launch of a SM-2 “Standard” missile…The DDG-68 ship was sailing off the coast of Virginia performing when the missile was boosted out of the Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer’s Vertical Launch System cell and the SM-2 detonated in spectacular fashion…

Here is the official Navy statement:

On July 18 at approximately 9 a.m. (EDT) a Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) test missile exploded after suffering a malfunction as it was fired from the guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) during a planned missile exercise off the coast of Virginia. There were no injuries and only minor damage to the port side of the ship resulting from missile debris. The ship returned to Naval Station Norfolk for assessment. An investigation into the malfunction has been ordered and is being conducted by the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems, which is part of Naval Sea Systems Command. It is too early to determine what, if any, effect this will have on the ship’s schedule.

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I like the understated style of that last sentence. Wonder what they’d say if it took out the aft end of the ship?

First victims of the A-Bomb were American — UPDATED

The explosion was seen nearly 200 miles away, the shock waves felt practically 100 miles away, and 70 years later, America’s first atomic bomb test – code-named Trinity – still reverberates in the tiny towns and secluded hamlets that ring the edges of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico…

New Mexicans and their families who lived downwind of the Trinity fallout zone say the U.S. government should be held accountable for poor health, high rates of cancer, and early death like downwinders at other nuclear sites in Utah, Nevada and Arizona. However, with little to no medical proof definitively linking their illnesses and the blast, a rapidly aging and dying population, and little support from Congress, the hope for compensation, or even an apology, may take another generation to materialize.

Their story began…70 years ago. On the early morning of July 16, 1945, there was a bright flash and massive explosion at the Alamagordo Air Base at White Sands. The first test of an atomic weapon had occurred. However, officials were quick to cover up what had happened. The Associated Press reported that “a remotely located ammunition magazine containing a considerable amount of high explosives and pyrotechnics exploded.”

The AP also reported that “weather conditions affecting the content of the gas shells exploded by the blast may make it desirable for the Army to temporarily evacuate a few civilians from their homes.”

According to a Centers for Disease Control report, those civilians were never warned nor evacuated. Many locals reported “a white substance like flour” that fell for days. The night after the test, it rained; the water was collected in cisterns by locals and consumed later on.

“There have been plenty of people who’ve said: ‘why didn’t you move away?’” said Tina Cordova, a cofounder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium. “We didn’t know, first of all, we were at risk of anything. And by the time we knew were all so overexposed.”

Cordova is recovering from thyroid cancer and says her father passed away nearly two years ago after a long cancer battle that ended with heavy facial surgery…

Cordova has been conducting surveys and compiling the medical histories of every downwinder she can find. The file is huge…

Under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) of 1990, uranium mill workers, miners, transporters, and on-site workers in states across the West are all eligible for compensation. In Nevada, Utah and Arizona, downwinders and on-site workers at nuclear test sites — including those working at White Sands Missile Range — are also eligible. However, New Mexican downwinders are not covered. They hope New Mexico Senator Tom Udall will make it right.

New Mexicans have been left out for a long time,” Udall said. “We hope there will be a situation where justice comes to this case and people be compensated and they will get that apology from the United States of America.”

Sometimes I have to wonder why our government, especially military types, beancounters in Congress, take pride in being such miserable, low-life human beings. We are the wealthiest nation on Earth. Our government will drop billions on some of the most useless, backwards hardware, politics, agencies and other foolishness. But, when it comes it compensating ordinary folks who “probably” had their lives ruined by criminal behavior by official decisions – perish the thought we give someone the benefit of the doubt.

Contemptible behavior. Disgusting. Another example to the rest of the world how little this powerful nation actually cares about our own citizens – much less the population of workers and farmers, citizens of this planet outside our borders.

Most folks in New Mexico who study history beyond batting averages for the Albuquerque Isotopes know this story. RTFA for tales of just a few of the individuals and families destroyed by the side effects of that test.

UPDATE: NM Senator Tom Udall is battling with Senate blivets and backwards chickenhawks to aid Tularosa downwinders.

What good are foreign military bases?

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If you’re like most people in the United States, you have a vague awareness that the U.S. military keeps lots of troops permanently stationed on foreign bases around the world. But have you ever wondered and really investigated to find out how many, and where exactly, and at what cost, and to what purpose, and in terms of what relationship with the host nations?

A wonderfully researched new book, six years in the works, answers these questions in a manner you’ll find engaging whether you’ve ever asked them or not. It’s called Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Harm America and the World, by David Vine.

Some 800 bases with hundreds of thousands of troops in some 70 nations, plus all kinds of other “trainers” and “non-permanent” exercises that last indefinitely, maintain an ongoing U.S. military presence around the world for a price tag of at least $100 billion a year.

Even if you think there is some reason to be able to quickly deploy thousands of U.S. troops to any spot on earth, airplanes now make that as easily done from the United States as from Korea or Japan or Germany or Italy.

It costs dramatically more to keep troops in those other countries, and while some base defenders make a case for economic philanthropy, the evidence is that local economies actually benefit little — and suffer little when a base leaves. Neither does the U.S. economy benefit, of course. Rather, certain privileged contractors benefit, along with those politicians whose campaigns they fund. And if you think military spending is unaccountable at home, you should check out bases abroad where it’s none too rare to have security guards employed purely to guard cooks whose sole job is to feed the security guards. The military has a term for any common SNAFU, and the term for this one is “self-licking ice cream.”…

Bases around the borders of Russia and China are generating new hostility and arms races, and even proposals by Russia and China to open foreign bases of their own. Currently all non-U.S. foreign bases in the world total no more than 30, with most of those belonging to close U.S. allies, and not a single one of them being in or anywhere near the United States, which would of course be considered an outrage.

Remember – we have about 800.

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FBI wants easy access to all our communications or Isis will KILL US ALL!


Quillian and Comey

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned US senators that the threat from the Islamic State merits a “debate” about limiting commercial encryption – the linchpin of digital security – despite a growing chorus of technical experts who say that undermining encryption would prove an enormous boon for hackers, cybercriminals, foreign spies and terrorists.

In a twin pair of appearances before the Senate’s judiciary and intelligence committees on Wednesday, James Comey testified that Isis’s use of end-to-end encryption, whereby the messaging service being used to send information does not have access to the decryption keys of those who receive it, helped the group place a “devil” on the shoulders of potential recruits “saying kill, kill, kill, kill”…

He added: “I am not trying to scare folks.”

Since October, following Apple’s decision to bolster its mobile-device security, Comey has called for a “debate” about inserting “back doors” – or “front doors”, as he prefers to call them – into encryption software, warning that “encryption threatens to lead us all to a very, very dark place”.

But Comey and deputy attorney general Sally Quillian Yates testified…they did not wish the government to itself hold user encryption keys and preferred to “engage” communications providers for access, though technicians have stated that what Comey and Yates seek is fundamentally incompatible with end-to-end encryption.

Comey, who is not a software engineer, said his response to that was: “Really?”…

…Comey’s campaign against encryption has run into a wall of opposition from digital security experts and engineers. Their response is that there is no technical way to insert a back door into security systems for governments that does not leave the door ajar for anyone – hackers, criminals, foreign intelligence services – to exploit and gain access to enormous treasure troves of user data, including medical records, financial information and much more.

The cybersecurity expert Susan Landau, writing on the prominent blog Lawfare, called Comey’s vision of a security flaw only the US government could exploit “magical thinking”…

In advance of Comey’s testimony, several of the world’s leading cryptographers, alarmed by the return of a battle they thought won during the 1990s “Crypto Wars”, rejected the effort as pernicious from a security perspective and technologically illiterate.

A paper they released on Tuesday, called “Keys Under Doormats”, said the transatlantic effort to insert backdoors into encryption was “unworkable in practice, raise[s] enormous legal and ethical questions, and would undo progress on security at a time when internet vulnerabilities are causing extreme economic harm”.

I guess all these years spent successfully stopping enemies of democracy [excluding politicians and elected officials] before encrypted communications were broadly, cheaply possible were just a fluke.

Perhaps time spent hiring and training talented well-educated people to work within a system that respects democratic freedoms may have something to do with it. Perhaps aiding folks, domestic and foreign, to build a better life – instead of simply insisting upon obedience – might diminish the danger from demagogues.

Pigeons wearing bras go to war

The pigeon vest was a vest that was created to protect carrier pigeons as they parachuted through the air strapped to the chest of paratroopers during World War II. Once the paratroopers hit the ground behind enemy lines, they would release the pigeons so they could fly off to deliver important messages.

And what does this have to do with brassieres? The pigeon vest was designed and manufactured by the brassiere company, Maidenform. On December 22, 1944, Maidenform agreed to make 28,500 pigeon vests for the U.S. government, switching, as many companies did, from peacetime production to producing necessary supplies for the war. In addition to the pigeon vest, Maidenform also made parachutes.

RTFA. It all makes sense.

Omar Khadr in his own words

Omar Khadr is standing in his bedroom looking out at the backyard.

It is his second morning of freedom after nearly 13 years behind bars, and he’s embarrassed because he doesn’t know how to open the window…

Open a window. Open a bank account. Get a driver’s license. Get a library card. There are so many small skills to be learned by a man who has loomed large since he was shot and captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15 – a man who has never been allowed to speak publicly.

For the first time since being granted bail earlier this month, Khadr spoke over two days in exclusive interviews for the Toronto Star and a documentary that will air…on the CBC.

Until now, Khadr has existed in caricature drawn and defined by others: victim, killer, child, detainee, political pawn, terrorist, pacifist; he has been compared both to South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela and serial murderer Paul Bernardo.

Michelle Shephard and the Toronto STAR knocked it out of the park. Real journalism, a challenging interview and story. Not because of the difficulty in the subject learning again how to communicate in a free society. Difficulty in accessing print, video, the means of communication in modern society that still hasn’t agreed to free speech.

And maybe more.

There is a great body of growing discussion here in the United States – and around the world – about what must be a revised Western policy in the cradle of the Fertile Crescent, the seat of civilization. Do we continue choosing sides in wars between Sunni and Shia? How do we compensate families for the hundreds of thousands of innocents killed by a war founded on base political lies? How can we rebuild what we have crushed – and prevent the ongoing descent into civil war from resuming?

Educated journalists and politicians take the questions back to World War 1 when the Brits and French decided to remake history and national borders, creating new nations, relegating others to poverty, turning a region into a political desert to be mined for minerals and oil.

Still, the crushing blow that smashed all hope for millions was delivered by a red-white-and-blue blitzkrieg worthy of any army of Panzer Divisions. The “reasonable” among us say we have acquired full responsibility for the United States to care for the region like another territorial property. Bring a halt to civil wars. Rebuild.

Perhaps that is best for the people there. But, send the tab to those politicians who voted for Bush’s War in the first place. Pass a special tax on Americans who re-elected George the Little – and, so far, haven’t charged him and Dick Cheney for their war crimes.

Remember also – the origins of Memorial Day

The purpose of Memorial day [nowadays] focuses on those who lost their lives while serving in the US armed forces.

And that cost has been enormous over the past century. Inspired by Poppy Field, a data visualization of all war deaths since 1900, we built this chart showing the death toll of the seven biggest American conflicts since 1914, along with total military deaths resulting from the conflicts:

The human cost of the Civil War was beyond anybody’s expectations. The young nation experienced bloodshed of a magnitude that has not been equaled since by any other American conflict. The cost of eliminating the tragic and inhuman greed of slavery took more lives on and off the battlefield than any war since.

That memory is the foundation of Memorial Day.

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