Saturday, July 12, 2014

U.S. military report suggests cover-up over toxic pollution in Okinawa - Agent Orange

U.S. military report suggests cover-up over toxic pollution in Okinawa | The Japan Times


U.S. military report suggests cover-up over toxic pollution in Okinawa

Documents showing sky-high PCB levels in soil raise questions about state of other U.S. bases


In the late 1980s, the United States military discovered levels of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at land on Kadena Air Base that exceeded safe standards by many orders of magnitude, suggests an in-house report obtained by The Japan Times. Despite the possible risks to service members and local Okinawans, it appears the U.S Air Force failed to alert Japanese authorities and has been concealing information about the contamination — which potentially remains dangerous today — for more than 25 years.
According to the documents, base officials discovered the pollution following a November 1986 accident in which 20 gallons (76 liters) of oil spilled from an electrical transformer at an open storage area within Kadena. Subsequent environmental tests conducted by a military laboratory in the U.S. revealed in March 1987 that the spilled oil contained PCBs at a concentration of 214 parts per million (ppm) — but the soil was contaminated at 2,290 ppm. A second round of tests, returned in October 1987, showed soil contamination of 5,535 ppm.
The report — written on Dec. 1, 1987 — concluded that the pollution must have predated the accident: “It appears that the incident [the November 1986 spill] merely ‘opened a can of worms.’ Soil sampling in the open storage yard would have yielded high PCB levels whether the spill had occurred or not.”
The cited results of both the soil and oil tests are far above international safe levels. For example, at the time the pollution was discovered, the level at which cleanup efforts are required for PCBs in soil stood at 3 ppm; in the U.S., it was 25 ppm. Today, Japan’s regulations are much stricter — as low as 0.03 ppm — and the U.S. allows the 25 ppm level only for industrial areas in which people spend short amounts of time that lessen their risk of exposure.
In the last century, PCBs were commonly used as coolants in electrical transformers, but their manufacture was banned in 1979 due to increasing evidence of their health risks. Today they are categorized as persistent organic pollutants that damage the nervous, immune and reproductive systems, as well as being linked to cancers. PCBs do not deteriorate in the environment and they can continue to contaminate the soil for many decades.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, some of the highest levels of soil contamination it has uncovered on Superfund sites in the U.S. have peaked at 750 ppm — far lower than those reported at Kadena.
After Kadena officials discovered the contamination in 1987, they tasked First Lt. Bob McCarty, deputy chief of public affairs for the 313th Air Division, with preparing a plan of action to deal with the crisis. The seven-page document that McCarty wrote — which he provided to The Japan Times last month — details the levels of contamination as well as the possible political, financial and health ramifications of the discovery.
Politically, the report spelled out concerns that news of the contamination might damage the standing of Gov. Junji Nishime, a supporter of the U.S. military presence on Okinawa, in the run-up to prefectural assembly elections in June 1988.
“As a leader of conservative politics on Okinawa faced with a matter holding much potential for scandal, his constituents and fellow conservatives will force him, at least in appearance, to put pressure on USFJ [U.S. Forces Japan] commanders and demand answers to tough questions about the incident,” the documents states.
Calculating the financial repercussions, the report estimates that clean-up costs at the contaminated storage site may reach $190,000 — approximately $400,000 in today’s terms.
However, perhaps the most serious concern raised in McCarty’s report was the fear that Kadena’s contamination — if made public — would prompt demands for widespread tests on other U.S. bases.
“Since the level of island-wide PCB contamination, if any, has not been determined, both USFJ and GOJ [government of Japan] officials will be pressured to test soil samples from high-risk sites . . . at all USFJ installations,” says the report. “The potential for soil contamination at sites on other USFJ installations on Okinawa exists.”
In 1987, according to the document, USAF owned 1,480 pieces of equipment that were potentially contaminated with PCBs.
With the stakes so high and U.S. forces vulnerable to accusations of a cover-up, McCarty told The Japan Times that he felt transparency was the best way forward. He recommended briefings to explain the situation to Gov. Nishime and the mayors of Okinawa City, Kadena and Chatan, the municipalities bordering the Kadena base.
Apparently the merits of this approach were not shared by his superior officers. “I do not believe the report was ever passed along to GOJ or OPG [Okinawa Prefectural Government] officials. If it was, then I was not informed about it,” McCarty wrote in an email.
Okinawan authorities appear to support his suspicions. For example, Seiryo Arakaki, the current chairman of Okinawa Prefectural Assembly’s special committee on U.S. bases, said that he had never heard of the contamination.
“When the U.S. military discovered the pollution, it should have released the information immediately and it should have clarified its clean-up efforts — if any — of the site,” he said.
Arakaki also expressed concern that the PCBs continue to pose a risk. “A new survey must be conducted to find out whether the contamination still exists as well as the extent of the soil pollution. It is questionable whether the U.S. would disclose facts of the environmental contamination so third party, non-governmental checks are necessary.”
Komichi Ikeda, adviser at Environmental Research Institute Inc., Tokyo, believes Arakaki’s fears are justified. Her organization has conducted more than 1,000 tests for PCBs — most involving electrical transformers — but she says she has never encountered levels of soil contamination as high as those reported on Kadena.
“The soil needs to be investigated to see what other dangerous substances — such as dioxins — may be present. PCBs are stable so there may be a long-term risk for the area. With this in mind, groundwater samples need to be taken to assess whether any contamination has spread,” Ikeda said. She urged health checks for both the workers potentially exposed in the 1980s and those currently assigned to the storage site.
A number of previous incidents have highlighted PCB pollution on Okinawa. In the 1990s, trunks of contaminated electrical transformers were reportedly abandoned outdoors on Kadena and the poisons were also detected on land that, until 1995, had been part of Onna Communication Site. Last year, traces of PCBs nine times higher than normal were discovered in wild mongoose tested near MCAS Futenma and Makiminato Service Area (Camp Kinser).
McCarty’s report appears to be the first time that in-house military documents have been made public, and the Pentagon’s apparent failure to disclose the findings to Japanese authorities suggests the lengths to which it will go to hide evidence of contamination on Okinawa.
“I kept copies of my action plan for more than 20 years because I knew the information the plan contained might vanish if I didn’t keep it,” McCarty said.
In recent years, growing awareness of military contamination has angered many Okinawans and mainland Japanese people. Under the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), the U.S. military in Japan is not responsible for the remediation of any pollution within its bases, nor is it obliged to allow Japanese officials access to its installations to conduct environmental tests.
In December, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the two countries would negotiate an environmental stewardship agreement to supplement the existing SOFA, with the “shared goal of reducing impact to Japan’s precious natural landscape.” The first round of talks between the two governments took place on Feb. 11 in Washington with further discussions planned for Tokyo in the near future.
Next month, Okinawa Prefecture will open a new division dedicated to investigating environmental pollution on former base land scheduled for return to civilian usage.
On March 12, The Japan Times asked USFJ for comment on the issues raised in this article but, at the time of publication, no statement had been received.

Black Sailors – Indigenous service in the navy during WWI?

Black Sailors – Indigenous service in the navy during WWI?

Black Sailors on HMAS Geranium in 1926.  National Library of Australia
Black Sailors on HMAS Geranium in 1926. From an album compiled by crew member Petty Officer A A Smith. National Library of Australia nla.pic-an23607993
NAIDOC Week (celebrating National National Aborigines and Islanders Day) is held every second week in July. The NAIDOC theme for 2014 is ‘Serving Country: Centenary & Beyond.’ The theme honours all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have fought in defence of country.
While we are starting to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who fought as Black Diggers during World War I, what do we know of any Indigenous sailors?
The image above shows Aboriginal sailors on HMAS Geranium when it was conducting a mapping survey of waters across the north and west of Australia in 1926. They may well have been recruited for their intimate knowledge of the area. The title ‘Black Watch’ – while a reference to the famous Scottish regiment – may also refer to their role and skills in surveillance.
In fact, the military recruitment and service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders for their skills and knowledge of country has a long history – right from the early colonial period when British soldiers needed guides through the bush. Some Indigenous men managed to join the Australian colonial forces, such as the first recorded Aboriginal man in uniform, Thomas Bungalene, who enlisted in the Victorian Colonial Navy in 1863 – though Thomas seems to have been sent to the navy to ‘benefit from the discipline’.
While recent focus on Black Diggers during World War I has shown there were hundreds who served – often unrecognised and who continued to be unrewarded long after the war – it appears there are no historical records of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander service in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) at this time.
Considering that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders had a long tradition of working in maritime industries – from fishing in the early colony of New South Wales to voyagers such as Bungaree and his circumnavigation of the continent with Matthew Flinders in 1803, to whaling in the southern oceans and pearling in the north and west – it would be surprising if some Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders had not served in the navy before the sailors on HMAS Geranium in 1926.
Seedie Boys on HMAS Pioneer circa 1916. Seedie boys were so named because they were subjects of the Sultan or Seyyid of Zanzibar.  Australian War Memorial collection
Seedie Boys on HMAS Pioneer circa 1916. Seedie boys were so named because they were subjects of the Sultan or Seyyid of Zanzibar. Australian War Memorial collection
Research for our upcoming exhibition War at Sea – The navy in WWI has shown that the RAN was a willing recruiter of non-RAN personnel from its inception in 1913. For example, it followed the tradition of Britain’s Royal Navy in recruiting ‘Seedie boys’ from West Africa in 1915. Early in the war the RAN used the services of Japanese pilots and Melanesian ‘police-militia’ in navigating New Guinea waters and in the occupation of the German colonies in the Pacific.
So too, Chinese seamen were taken on in various roles – particularly during patrols in South-East Asia when crew illness rates were high. Often these non-Australian temporary recruits were tasked with the dirtiest jobs such as cooking, laundry and the worst of them all – loading and stoking coal. The Seedie boys were provided with Second Class uniforms and some recognition of service.
The RAN differed from the Australian infantry in that it was a small, professional service established before the war. It didn’t need the tens of thousands of volunteers that the army was to require. After Federation in 1901, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men were not citizens and therefore could not join the armed forces. While some hid their identity and managed to join up, and others were overlooked when recruitment became more desperate, it would have been very difficult for such men to join the small naval service – which comprised just two to five thousand personnel throughout the war.
But with the RAN’s history of temporarily recruiting non-Australians, and the long history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people willing to serve their country despite Australian racism and lack of recognition of their service – the question arises whether there were any Black Sailors who served along with the Black Diggers in WWI?
While there may be historical documents yet to be discovered, we are very aware that people have their own family stories and history that may not have been formally documented. The Australian National Maritime Museum would like to hear from you.
You can contact the museum’s Indigenous Curator Donna Carstens at; 02 9298 3741 or 0409509057, or curator of the War at Sea exhibition Stephen Gapps at; or 02 9298 3723.
It would be important to include any stories on Black Sailors in the upcoming exhibitionWar at Sea – The navy in WWI which is very much about the often overlooked personal stories and accounts of service in the navy during the war.

My Heritage: Search World War I Military Records for Free

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. On July 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire invaded Serbia, beginning a war unlike any others. The devastating war would last 4 years and see the deaths of more than 9 million soldiers.
Do you have ancestors who served in the Great War? From now until the end of July, MyHeritage is offering freeaccess to the following military record collections:
Now is the perfect time to learn more about this period of your family’s lives. Find your relative’s World War I military records now by searching MyHeritage’s military collections or by clicking “Research this person” directly on your relatives’ Geni profiles. You never know what World War I military records await! 
Explore MyHeritage’s collection of military records and discover the role your relative played in the Great War. Hurry – this offer ends July 31, so start your search today!

One of only three surviving 'Lord Kitchener Wants You' First World Warrecruitment posters sells for world record £30,000 ($51k)

One of only three surviving 'Lord Kitchener Wants You' First World War recruitment posters has gone under the hammer for a world record £30,000.
The incredibly rare poster was responsible for the enlistment of millions of men and has since become one of the most iconic images of the war.
But despite its success and popularity, it was not produced on the same scale as other recruitment posters - and only three originals survived.
Patrick Bogue of Onslow Auctions sold the incredibly rare piece of history, which is only one of three left in the world, for a record £30,000
Patrick Bogue of Onslow Auctions sold the incredibly rare piece of history, which is only one of three left in the world, for a record £30,000
The other two are in the Imperial War Museum in London and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, meaning this poster was the only one in the world that was available for sale.
The poster started off life as the front cover of a 1914 edition of magazine London Opinion which had commissioned renowned artist Alfred Leete.
The Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, which commissioned all the recruitment posters, spotted the artwork and turned it into a poster.
Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, was a well-respected military leader and the poster became one of the enduring images of the war effort
Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, was a well-respected military leader and the poster became one of the enduring images of the war effort
It was then plastered on billboards around the country - but only 10,000 were made.
Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, was a well-respected military leader and the poster became one of the enduring images of the war effort.
The poster was so successful it was copied by the Americans who replaced Kitchener with Uncle Sam.
Kitchener was killed in 1916 when the warship taking him to negotiations in Russia was sunk by a German mine.
The poster for sale was bought at auction in 1983 for £100 and has remained in a private collection ever since.
Experts had tipped it to fetch £15,000 but were shocked when it went for almost double that, setting a new record for the sale of a war poster.
It was snapped up by a London-based collector for £27,540 in an online sale by Dorset-based auction house Onslows.
Patrick Bogue, auctioneer, said: 'When war broke out in 1914 the British army had a real problem on their hands because they only had about 150,000 soldiers.
'Lord Kitchener was a respected leader and strategist who had found fame in the Boer War and during the last days of the British Empire.
'He was too old to serve as a general and so he was hired to take on the mammoth role of recruiting more soldiers.'
Thousands of poster were reproduced and distributed around the British Empire.
The Lord Kitchener poster however, was only displayed in Britain, but it was an instant hit.
Mr Bogue said: 'It was so popular that the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee sought permission to use the front page as a recruitment poster.
'The only thing different was that they changed the wording from 'needs you' to 'wants you'.
'It was a hugely successful poster and was responsible for tens of thousands of men enlisting in the army.
'Only two other original copies exist and they are both in museums.
'The Lord Kitchener poster is the holy grail of historic recruitment posters and this copy is the only one in the world that you could actually buy.
'We had hoped it would sell for a decent amount but we were delighted when it sold for so much.
'It just goes to show how much value is put on such a rare, historic poster as this.'


At the outbreak of war in 1914, many young men were quick to enlist into the Army - spurred on by a desire to serve their country, or simply to avoid unemployment. By the end of September 1914 more than 750,000 men had joined up.

However, within a year of Great Britain's declaration of war in August 1914, it became obvious that the country would not be able to continue fighting with just voluntary recruits.

Although the famous 'Your Country Needs You' poster helped encourage more than one million men to enlist by January 1915 this was not enough to cover the rising number of casualties and the government decided there was no choice but to bring in conscription - compulsory active service.

The Military Service Act became law in March 1916 and imposed conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41, other than the medically unfit, teachers, clergymen and certain industrial workers.

Conscientious objectors who opposed fighting on moral ground were also spared the draft, as were those living in Ireland, and men called up could appeal against the call up at a local Military Service Tribunal.

Throughout the war around 2.5 million men joined the Armed Forces through conscription, with 1.1 million of them joining during the first year.

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TSA Week in Review – 35 Loaded Firearms, 74 Credit Card Knives, BearRepellent and Other Interesting Items Discovered This Week

TSA Week in Review – 35 Loaded Firearms, 74 Credit Card Knives, Bear Repellent and Other Interesting Items Discovered This Week

Due to the Fourth of July holiday, this report reflects the last eight days (7/3 - 7/10).
Bear Repellant
Bear Repellant
Bear Repellant - Eight ounces of bear repellant was detected in a carry-on bag at Phoenix (PHX). While traveling can be a bear at times, bear repellent is not needed in the cabin of an aircraft. You can pack bear repellent in your checked bags if the volume is less than four ounces and it has less than a 2 percent active ingredient of either CS or CN. Most bear repellants exceed these limitations. Learn more about prohibited items here.

Grenade-shaped Vaping Device (SLC)
Grenade-shaped Vaping Device (SLC)
Inert Ordnance and Grenades etc. – We continue to find inert grenades and other weaponry on a weekly basis. Please keep in mind that if an item looks like a real bomb, grenade, mine, etc., it is prohibited. When these items are found at a checkpoint or in checked baggage, they can cause significant delays because the explosives detection professionals must resolve the alarm to determine the level of threat. Even if they are novelty items, you cannot bring them on a plane.  Read here on why inert items cause problems.
Live Smoke Grenade
Live Smoke Grenade

  • An inert grenade was discovered in checked baggage at Denver (DEN).
  • An inert grenade packed in a cargo shipment caused a 1-hour, 18-minute evacuation at the San Francisco (SFO) cargo facility.
  • A grenade-shaped vaping device was discovered in a carry-on bag at Salt Lake City (SLC). Ecig’s and vaping devices are permitted in your carry-on and checked bags…unless they look like a grenade. Read more about e-cigarettes here
  • A live smoke grenade was discovered in a carry-on bag at Seattle (STL).

Artfully Concealed Prohibited Items – It’s important to examine your bags prior to traveling to ensure prohibited items are not inside. If a prohibited item is discovered in your bag or on your body, you could be cited and possibly arrested by local law enforcement. Here are a few examples from this week where prohibited items were found by our officers in strange places.  

Knife In Shoe (DTW), Brush Knife (DEN), Comb Knives (DTW) & (MCI), Credit Card Knife (MSP)
Knife In Shoe (DTW), Brush Knife (DEN), Comb Knives (DTW) & (MCI) Card Knife (MSP)
  • Credit Card Knives - 74 credit card knives were discovered this week. 14 were discovered at Tampa (TPA), 13 at Minneapolis (MSP), 12 at Nashville (BNA), 10 at San Francisco (SFO), three at Bismarck(BIS), two at Colorado Springs (COS), two at Knoxville (TYS), two at Long Beach (LGB), two at Manchester (MHT), two at Rapid City (RAP), two at St. Petersburg (PIE), and the remainder were discovered at Cincinnati (CVG), Duluth (DLH), Fargo (FAR), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Grand Rapids (GRR), Orange County (SNA), Providence (PVD), Sarasota (SRQ), St. Croix (STX), and Williston (ISN). Check out this blog post for more information on credit card knives.
  • Two comb-knives were discovered at Kansas City (MCI), and Detroit (DTW).
  • A brush dagger was discovered at Denver (DEN).
  • A knife was discovered concealed in the sole of a shoe at Detroit (DTW).
Gun Knife & Bullet (NYL), Switchblades (BWI), Double Throwing Knife (ONT)
Miscellaneous Prohibited Items  In addition to all of the other prohibited items we find weekly, our officers also regularly find firearm components, realistic replica firearms, bb and pellet guns, airsoft guns, brass knuckles, ammunition, batons and a lot of sharp pointy things…

Fireworks discovered at PHX & PIT
Fireworks discovered at PHX & PIT
Stun Guns – 17 stun guns were discovered this week in carry-on bags around the nation: three were discovered at San Francisco (SFO) and the remainder were discovered at Atlanta (ATL), Boise (BOI), Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Cleveland (CLE), Dallas Love (DAL), Denver (DEN), Fresno (FAT), Huntsville (HSV), Kansas City (MCI), Nashville (BNA), Norfolk (ORF), Richmond (RIC), Seattle (SEA) and Tulsa (TUL).

Ammunition – When packed properly, ammunition can be transported in your checked baggage, but it is never permissible to pack ammo in your carry-on bag.
Ammunition discovered in carry-on bags at IAH & MEM
Ammunition discovered in carry-on bags at IAH & MEM
After alarming advanced imaging technology, a Jacksonville (JAX) traveler divested a magazine with six rounds of 9mm ammunition from his pants pocket.
After alarming advanced imaging technology, a Jacksonville (JAX) traveler divested a magazine with six rounds of 9mm ammunition from his pants pocket.
42 Firearms Discovered This Week – Of the 42 firearms, 35 were loaded and nine had rounds chambered.

Firearms Discovered at (Left - Right / Top to Bottom) PHX, RDU, ATL, PHX & BOI
Firearms Discovered at (Left - Right / Top to Bottom) PHX, RDU, ATL, PHX & BOI
 42 Firearms Discovered This Week – Of the 42 firearms, 35 were loaded and nine had rounds chambered.

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