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The On-Going Call for Justice in Vieques

Following CNN’s evocative 2-part primetime series on the health crisis in Vieques last month, there has been an on-going buzz in the media and blog community about the issue.  Over 60 participants recently joined a press call with scientists and the mayor of Vieques providing updates on research into heavy metal poisoning on the island and outcome of the mayor’s recent meeting with Obama administration officials. 


One of the best summaries of the situation on the ground and clearest explanations of our moral responsibility as Americans to do something about it that I’ve read was just written by Robert Keller and published through the Tribune Media Service.  



We can’t continue to allow our fellow citizens to die through inaction.  With the recent decision by the US government to vacate its former findings claiming there was not a connection between the sky-rocketing sickness and death on Vieques and the US weapon’s testing, there is now virtual unanimous agreement over the cause of the sickness on the island.  We need to speak out and create the political will that will allow the Obama administration to do the right thing by these people.  As I said earlier, I think Keller provides a wonderful explanation why:


We owe the residents of the tiny island paradise called Vieques full compensation for the illnesses they are suffering courtesy of the U.S. Navy – and we owe them so much more than that.


We owe them a full accounting of what was done to their Manhattan-sized island, about 10 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico (the island is part of Puerto Rico and hence part of the United States) between 1941 and 2003, when it served as the Navy’s premiere weapons testing site. Bombs were dropped and guns were tested on the eastern portion of the island at least 200 days out of the year for 62 years; an estimated 80 million tons of ordnance pummeled the island’s fragile, tropical ecosystem over that time, contaminating soil, water and air, and bequeathing an array of serious health problems – cancer, birth defects, cirrhosis of the liver and much more – to the island’s 10,000 residents.


We owe them – how can I put this? – a commitment to sanity in the realm of national defense. What kind of defense involves the commission of war crimes against our own citizens? We owe them a national conversation about who we are and what we’ve allowed to happen in the name of national security and global dominance.

Vieques, one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever visited – its stunning features include what may be the world’s largest bioluminescent bay (microorganisms in the water glow when disturbed, as by swimmers) – was commandeered by the U.S. military as a throwaway site for weapons testing. The Navy occupied three-quarters of the island until 2003; it finally left following four years of protests, which were ignited when an errant bomb killed a civilian security guard in 1999.


The Navy left but, of course, it didn’t really leave. It left behind heavy metal contaminants (arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, aluminum); unexploded ordnance (18,700 live shells or bombs that the Navy itself has identified); barrels of unknown, likely toxic substances dumped into the ocean or stored on ships that were deliberately sunk; depleted uranium; Agent Orange; napalm; secrets, lies and a legacy of irresponsibility almost beyond comprehension.

But it’s irresponsibility in the name of national security. This implicates all of us. The story of Vieques demonstrates that there’s nothing peaceful about preparing for war.

This small, fragile island – sometimes called Isla Nena (Puerto Rico’s “little sister”) – along with its impoverished residents, were, like the Downwinders of Utah, Nevada and Idaho, whose health was compromised by nuclear testing, collateral damage of the Cold War and all the pretexts for perpetual war readiness that have succeeded it. Vieques is proof of the flawed vision of militarism, which uses up the world.


The Navy is in the process of cleaning up its mess, but this too is controversial and problematic. It has detonated about a third of the unexploded ordnance it has identified, thus continuing not only the nerve-wracking explosions but the spread of contaminants, a problem exacerbated by the island’s east-to-west prevailing winds, which carry the smoke to the populated portion of the island. In addition, the Navy has proposed to burn hundreds of acres of contaminated vegetation on its former bombing range in order to facilitate the detonation process. This proposal is vehemently opposed by the islanders, who fear the wholesale spread of pollutants in the process.

Meanwhile, the Navy continues to deny that the pollution left over from six decades of weapons testing, including secret experimentation with biological and chemical weapons, is a health hazard to the residents of Vieques. Ignoring inconvenient science is, of course, standard procedure for the military.


Nevertheless, “The pervasiveness of the contamination and the poverty of most of the population leaves Viequenses with no way to escape the poisonous substances,” according to “The toxins are all around them in the air they breathe, the water they drink, the soil where they grow crops, and the food they eat. . . . Children on Vieques are 25 percent more likely to die in infancy than those on the main island of Puerto Rico.” There are, the site explains, far higher rates of cancer and other illnesses among the residents, and the island lacks even a clinic, forcing residents to travel for hours by ferry (with unreliable service) and bus to get treatment.

The damage done to this beautiful island can never be fully undone, but perhaps a better future – for all of us – can blossom here. This is the vision of John Eaves, a lawyer whose firm represents, and has filed suits in U.S. District Court on behalf of, 8,500 residents. Though he titled a legal update he recently gave about the island “Paradise Lost,” he told me: “We see (the suits) as an opportunity for a global solution to Vieques.”


The redress the law suits are seeking, he said, include a hospital on the island, better transportation, windmills for economic development and a research center devoted to the study of environmental cleanup – indeed, to the development of a new science of environmental reclamation.

Military-industrial contamination is, of course, a worldwide problem: the nightmare legacy of modern war. How fitting if Vieques should become home to its solution.”


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hermogenes marrero

posted March 9, 2010 at 12:24 pm

We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the
world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great
promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures
and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must
join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human
rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples
of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future
Earth, Our Home
Humanity is part of a vast evolving universe. Earth, our home, is alive with a unique community of
life. The forces of nature make existence a demanding and uncertain adventure, but Earth has
provided the conditions essential to life’s evolution. The resilience of the community of life and the
well-being of humanity depend upon preserving a healthy biosphere with all its ecological
systems, a rich variety of plants and animals, fertile soils, pure waters, and clean air. The global
environment with its finite resources is a common concern of all peoples. The protection of Earth’s
vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust.
The Global Situation
The dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation,
the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species. Communities are being
undermined. The benefits of development are not shared equitably and the gap between rich and
poor is widening. Injustice, poverty, ignorance, and violent conflict are widespread and the cause
of great suffering. An unprecedented rise in human population has overburdened ecological and
social systems. The foundations of global security are threatened. These trends are perilous—but
not inevitable.
The Challenges Ahead
The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another or risk the
destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life. Fundamental changes are needed in our values,
institutions, and ways of living. We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human
development is primarily about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and
technology to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment. The emergence of a
global civil society is creating new opportunities to build a democratic and humane world. Our
environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and
together we can forge inclusive solutions.
Universal Responsibility
To realize these aspirations, we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility,
identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities. We are at
once citizens of different nations and of one world in which the local and global are linked.
Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the
larger living world. The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we
live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the
human place in nature.
We urgently need a shared vision of basic values to provide an ethical foundation for the emerging
world community. Therefore, together in hope we affirm the following interdependent principles for a
sustainable way of life as a common standard by which the conduct of all individuals, organizations,
businesses, governments, and transnational institutions is to be guided and assessed.

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MIss Diagnosed

posted March 9, 2010 at 8:23 pm

You think this is bad, Lyme Disease is on the rise and the most misdiagnosed, misunderstood disease today. It is Epidemic and may have been made as biowarfare. Look Up Lyme Disease Plum Island. When It is missed in the early stage it becomes a Chronic hard to cure infection. Its existence is denied even with positive test then not treated or not treated properly or long enough making the Lyme Spirocheets (bugs) antibiotic resistant.
Not all the bugs are killed and reproduce. So many left uncured and claimed to be cured are left to deteriorate and even left to die. Many are refused treatment and misdiagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue syndrom, Lupus, MS, ALS, RA, Alzheimer, ADHD, Autism, Mental illnesses such as Bipolar, Depression, and many other illnesses. Google: A plague of ignorance regarding a plague. Also see , Lyme Disease Association. org,

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MIss Diagnosed

posted March 9, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Chronic Lyme Disease is estimated 300,000, of the 28,000 reported it is estimated 10 times higher and not reported to the cdc admitted by the cdc. Yet it gets very little attention.
It is bigger than Aids and Swine flu combined yet everyone is left in dark as to the danger and how to prevent or cure it. Lyme patients are purposely being denied treatment. The Only Doctors with knowledge are LLMD’s are being dragged to court and billed fines for treating patients who otherwise would die.
This is happening all over the world. This is happening in America to our children, our babies are being born with it and our MDs are dening test and or treatment to our lyme babies. It is a politcal disease all because of the IDSA Guidelines which are flawed and they have boken antitrust laws. The Big Pharma have patents for the Lyme Vacine, and are propheting from not treating this disease. It is all political and happening in every state in the country be sure to Do your research as many more people will die of this disease as it rises with tick population left to multiple and Lyme disease being left to spread like wild fire.

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