Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scheer: It's not working, Riki Ott: Downplay of Public Health Risk From Oil and Dispersants

Two More Candidates for the McChrystal Treatment

By Robert Scheer
Truthdig: June 07, 2010

It's not working. Time for the president to concede that the economy is at
best stagnating and at worst about to take another steep nose dive. I don't
know if we are headed for another Great Depression, as Nobel Prize economist
Paul Krugman dared suggest recently, but it is amply clear that the Obama
strategy, inherited from George W. Bush, of bailing out Wall Street in the
forlorn hope that it would repair the economic damage the fat cats inflicted
on the rest of us has not worked.

The housing market remains in dire shape, and with it the nest eggs of
Americans who are responding by squelching their appetite for consumption.
The Wall Street hustlers were made whole, but not so the people whose home
mortgages the banks are foreclosing, or businesses and their customers
looking for the credit that the banks had promised to free up.

The president conceded last week that our economy is 8 million jobs in the
hole despite his bailout and stimulus program. With deficits running wild,
heartless Republicans get to claim that six months more of unemployment
insurance to 1.7 million out-of-work people whose benefits have ended is
more than we can afford.

Of course it's not. That would be a $34 billion outlay to people who would
actually spend the money instead of using it for acquisitions, as the big
banks have done with far larger gifts of taxpayer funds. That the
Republicans who favor huge military spending and tax breaks for the rich and
who launched the Wall Street bailout are being hypocritical scoundrels when
they say we don't have the money to help ordinary folks is obvious. But the
problem is that Barack Obama embraced the GOP strategy, and the failures of
the bailouts to turn the economy around, along with the cost of two wars,
are now his problems to explain.

What we need is for the president's economic hotshots, Timothy Geithner and
Lawrence Summers, to grant damaging interviews to Rolling Stone as Gen.
Stanley McChrystal recently did in self-destructing. Perhaps then President
Obama would have the gumption to fire the misleaders of his economic team.
It was always bizarre that those two, who did so much to wreck the economy,
were put in charge of the effort to salvage it. Their previous records
should have provided ample warning that their economic outlook begins and
ends with the demands of Wall Street.

It was Geithner who, as head of the New York Fed, presided over the $180
billion bailout of AIG, which, as revealed by the 500-page documented record
of that travesty released last week by the Financial Crisis Inquiry
Commission, was a scam to pass taxpayer money to Goldman Sachs and the other
large banks that had created the problem. And it was Summers who as
President Bill Clinton's treasury secretary pushed through the Commodity
Futures Modernization Act, which guaranteed "legal certainty" for the toxic
derivatives packages that Goldman and the others sold. At the time Summers
assured Congress that "the parties to these kinds of contracts are largely
sophisticated financial institutions that would appear to be eminently
capable of protecting themselves from fraud and counterparty
insolvencies. ."

For such not-so-prescient but very convenient insight, Goldman Sachs
rewarded Summers with $200,000 for two speeches he gave to its executives
while he was an adviser to candidate Obama. Not surprisingly, the new
financial regulations proposed by this administration and soon to be signed
into law let Goldman and the others so much at fault off the hook.

There is enormous and justifiable populist outrage out there over the antics
of a runaway Wall Street that is not being held accountable. Obama could tap
into that outrage by taking his cues from a true populist, Democratic Sen.
Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. One of only eight senators to vote against the
Clinton-backed 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had done so much
to protect the economy, Feingold voted against the Bush bailout too and is
now breaking with Obama on his so-called financial reform:

"The bill does not eliminate the risk to our economy posed by 'too big to
fail' financial firms, nor does it restore the proven safeguards established
after the Great Depression, which separated Main Street banks from big Wall
Street firms and are essential to preventing another economic meltdown. The
recent financial crisis triggered the nation's worst recession since the
Great Depression. The bill should have included reforms to prevent another
such crisis. Regrettably, it did not."

The president's record on the economy is even worse than his performance in
Afghanistan, and a reversal of course is much in order. If he doesn't get
the message now, the voters will give it to him loud and clear come the
November midterm elections.


The Big Lie: BP, Governments Downplay Public Health Risk From Oil and

by Riki Ott
The Huffington Post: July 7, 2010

PENSACOLA BEACH, Florida -- When Ryan Heffernan, a volunteer with Emerald
Coastkeeper, noticed a bag of oily debris floating off in Santa Rosa Sound,
she ran up to BP's HazMat-trained workers to ask if they would retrieve it.

"No, ma'am," one replied politely. "We can't go in the ocean. It's

Ryan waded in and retrieved the bag. That was Wednesday, June 23, the first
day visible oil hit Pensacola Beach. Ryan had been swimming off the beach
the day before, as she said, "to get in my last swim before the oil hit."
The trouble is that not all of the oil coming ashore is visible. Dispersed
oil - tiny bubbles of oil encased in chemical dispersants - are in the water
column. On Thursday Ryan was treated at a local doctor's office for skin
rash on her legs.

Three days later on Pensacola Beach, I watched BP's HazMat-trained workers
shovel surface oiled sand and oily debris into bags early in the morning.
The workers followed the waterline like shorebirds, scurrying up the beach
in front of breaking waves and moving back down with receding waters.

The late morning sun retired the workers to the shade of their tents and the
job of "observing," while it brought out throngs of beach-goers -- children,
parents, grandparents -- who happily plunged into the "contaminated" ocean
without a second thought.

I was astounded. Why did people think the ocean was safe for swimming?

There were five HazMat tents, four front-loaders, and at least two dozen
HazMat workers on the beach. HazMat workers wore yellow over-boots
duct-taped to their long pants' legs to minimize risk of contact with the
water. The white surf popped with visible black tar balls as it rolled
towards the beach. Waves left an oily signature of tar balls on the beach,
melting in the sun. The treads of my Chacos weighed down with oily sand
despite trying to avoid the mess. Most people were barefoot. Hotels set up
oil cleaning stations on their premises - and signs saying the water
advisory (put in place after Ryan's incident) had been lifted.

What's wrong with this picture?

Lots. For starters, Ryan's story from Pensacola Beach is not an isolated
incident. I have received emails and heard personal stories from Louisiana
to Florida of people who have developed skin rashes and blisters from going
in the ocean. People describe stings by "invisible jellyfish." Turtle patrol
volunteers who walk beaches daily write of blisters and bronchitis. And then
there are individuals like Sheri Allen who took her dog for a walk on a
beach in Mobile Bay in May.

Sheri wrote me that her "arms and legs were burning, even after the shower.
The following morning ... (there were) ... small blood blisters. By evening
the blisters had begun to welt. By the fourth day, the areas had got larger
and swollen." She went to see a doctor but the sores remain and they have
begun to scar her arms and legs. For several days after Sherri's incident,
her husband found fish kills on the beach.

William Rea, MD, who founded the Environmental Health Center-Dallas, treated
a number of sick Exxon Valdez cleanup workers. He once told me, "When you
have sick people and sick animals, and they are sick because of the same
chemical, that's the strongest evidence possible that that chemical is a

It's not just skin rashes and blisters. At community forums, I commonly hear
from adults and children with persistent coughs, stuffy sinuses, headaches,
burning eyes, sore throats, ear bleeds, and fatigue. These symptoms are
consistent across the four Gulf states that I have visited. Further, the
symptoms of respiratory problems, central nervous system distress, and skin
irritation are consistent with overexposure to crude oil through the two
primary routes of exposure: inhalation and skin contact.

Most distressing to me are stories about sick children. "Dose plus host
makes the poison," I learned in toxicology. A small child is at risk of
breathing a higher dose of contaminants per body weight than an adult.
Children, pregnant women, people with compromised or stressed immune systems
like cancer survivors and asthma sufferers, and African Americans are more
at risk from oil and chemical exposure - the latter because they are prone
to sickle cell anemia and 2-butoxyethanol can cause, or worsen, blood

Public officials have failed to sound an alarm about the public health
threat because three federal agencies - DHHS, EPA, and OSHA - cannot find
any unsafe levels of oil in air or water. Perhaps the federal air and water
standards are not stringent enough to protect the public from oil pollution.
Our federal laws are outdated and do not protect us from the toxic threat
from oil - now widely recognized in the scientific and medical community.

BP is still in the dark ages on oil toxicity. BP officials stress that, by
the time oil gets to shore, it is "weathered" and missing the highly
volatile compounds like the carcinogenic benzene, among others. BP fails to
mention the threat from dispersed oil, ultrafine particles (PAHs), and
chemical dispersants, which include industrial solvents and proprietary
compounds, many hazardous to humans.

If oil was so nontoxic, then why are the spill response workers giving
hazardous waste training? Our federal government should stop pretending that
everything is okay. What isn't safe for workers isn't safe for the general
public either.

Ryan's rash was getting better until she sat on Pensacola Beach to watch
fireworks on July 4. The next day her skin erupted in fiery red burns. She
is worried about her health. So are many other people along the Gulf.

Perhaps it is time for the government to protect public health first and
BP's profit second.

Click here to see Riki Ott's photos.

Riki Ott, PhD, is a marine toxicologist from Alaska, volunteering in the
Gulf. She has written two books on surviving the Exxon Valdez oil spill -
Sound Truth and Corporate Myths on biological impact of oil to people and
wildlife, and Not One Drop on emotional impact of disaster trauma and
litigation to people and community. Ott is working with
Emerald Coastkeeper and others to petition the EPA to delist toxic chemical
products in oil spill response.

Copyright © 2010, Inc.


  1. In 1989 Exxon told the cleanup workers the same story, that the crude oil is not toxic. Some of us are living proof of the toxic exposure, and many others have died. Please view the YouTube video, and help get the message to Gulf residents, BP crude oil cleanup workers, and President Obama. Respirators need to be supplied to oil cleanup crews.
    Thank you.

  2. We do not know what human health effects might occur after long-term exposure to food and water contaminated with benzene. In animals, exposure to food or water contaminated with benzene can damage the blood and the immune system and can cause cancer.

    Cancer is not something that will show up after a week of exposure to toxic chemicals - it can and does take years to form and cause its insidious damage. Telling the Gulf Locals to stay inside is not the answer.... the poison is everywhere, carried, as it were on the winds.......