From Our Readers

Agent Orange Déjà Vu; The High Price of Casinos

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Agent Orange Déjà Vu

Vietnam veterans fought an uphill battle to win “presumed exposure” to Agent Orange; and not until 1991 did they gain disability, medical and survivor benefits that the Veterans Administration had denied them for 20 years. Recently another set of veterans, Air Force pilots and crew who flew Agent Orange-contaminated cargo planes on domestic missions after the war, have been systematically denied disability claims by the same agency. Westover Air Reserve Base is one of three bases from which the contaminated planes were flown from 1972 to 1982. Prominent health scientists within government and universities support the plausibility of their claims; the Air Force does not, although it ultimately cordoned off and disposed of the planes they flew as hazardous waste.

This recent news conjures up a sense of déjà vu, given compulsive government deceit throughout the Vietnam War. The U.S. government adamantly denies that it employed chemical or biological warfare in spraying Agent Orange and other herbicidal defoliants on Vietnamese forests, mangroves, food crops and populated villages. Yet, when the war began, the U.S. military’s definition of biological warfare included crop destruction by chemical plant growth regulators (such as Agent Orange) for the purpose of killing or injuring humans, animals or plants.

Agent Orange was flown to U.S. Air force bases in Vietnam in 55-gallon drums where they were stored for filling aerial spray containers for C-123 cargo planes and helicopters and for backpack applicators used to kill vegetation on the base perimeters. The orange-banded drums carried no safety precautions. Nor were health advisories given to military personnel who handled Agent Orange, as was required by federal law. Uninformed about hazards, GIs routinely cleaned empty drums by rinsing them and disposing the water, contaminated with Agent Orange residue, on base. GIs used empty barrels to store gasoline, for shower stalls and barbecues, and as cisterns for collecting water and food storage bins. The American war in Vietnam, riddled with deceit, lives on in the bodies of Vietnam veterans and their children; in the estimated 3 million uncompensated Vietnamese poisoned by Agent Orange, including third generation victims; and in the veterans who flew aboard post-war contaminated C-123 planes without any forewarning from the Air Force. To learn more about third generation Agent Orange victims in Vietnam please go to


The High Price of Casinos

Casinos have a natural lifespan and when there are too many of them, that lifespan is shorter. When we vote in November, we should consider the long view. The purpose of a casino is to take the wealth out of an area and give it to someone like casino magnate Shelden Adelson. He made $11 billion last year and it didn’t fall from the sky. It all came from other people who earned it but lost it in a casino.

The casino gives “mitigation funds” because neighboring communities and Springfield will all be harmed. Some gamblers will lose not only their paychecks, but also their retirement funds, their cars and houses. Crime will increase as people become desperate.

The MGM casino plans to offer entertainment, restaurants, theater and retail opportunities. When the casino offers these amenities, other venues will lose business and close up. Then when the gambling public has no more to give, the casino will close up and the mitigation funds will end. New Jersey casinos are closing now. Nevada is in the worst financial condition of any state in the nation.

When MGM closes, we will be left with fewer jobs because so many people will be unable to make purchases. If you think you will not be affected by a casino because you will not gamble, think again. It will be our obligation to take care of all those made destitute by the casino. We better save those mitigation funds to build shelters.

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For more information on exposure and the DVA read A Re-Analysis of Blue Water Navy Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure

Perhaps the plight of the Vietnam Blue Water Navy Veterans who have died because of a DVA ruling on herbicide exposure should be considered wrongful deaths and be brought up on civil charges!

Exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to numerous health problems, including non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, prostate cancer, Type II Diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and other issues. In 1991, legislation was enacted that empowered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to declare certain illnesses "presumptive" to exposure to Agent Orange and enabled Vietnam veterans to receive disability compensation for these related conditions. However, in 2002, the VA limited the authority of the Act to only those veterans who could provide orders for "boots on the ground" in Vietnam. As a result, veterans who served in the waters off the coast of Vietnam were forced to file individual claims with the VA to restore their benefits, which are then decided on a case-by-case basis. After 40 years the evidence needed for these Veterans to obtain benefits no longer exists. Please help correct this inequity.

I urge you, the public, to communicate to Representative Jeff Miller R-FL, the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, that HR 543, The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013, now has 236 cosponsors. Call Phone: (202) 225-4136.

This is enough for a discharge petition to force it to the House floor. This would be an embarrassing situation to this committee. After 14 years of being disenfranchised by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Blue Water Navy deserves its day on the House floor for a vote.

The estimate is that 30,000 Veterans of the Blue Water Navy are being denied health care today. With the fiasco facing this nation with the deaths of Veterans in care of the DVA, let’s not add to the count. Please ask Representative Miller to bring forth this bill for a full vote of the House.

Posted by Raymond Melninkaitis on 7.16.14 at 14:53

A couple of weeks ago my friend purchased ice cream from Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium in Northampton and sat outside to enjoy it. About 15 minutes later a store employee came outside and asked him to leave because he had been "hanging around too long" when in fact he hadn't even finished his ice cream. When he shared the he purchased the product in the store and was doing nothing but enjoying it she accused him of being uncooperative and called the cops. The cops came and my friend refused to leave until at least the other people who were also sitting there, and had been before he arrived and weren't even customers, would leave. The cop became irritable, my friend took his badge number and eventually the other couple said they would leave and then so did my friend. My friend, who lived in Northampton for years and is local to the area is a PhD tenured professor. He also has "dark" skin which I can only conjecture was the reason he was treated in such an abysmal fashion. He's also been a customer of this establishment for years. He's disgusted and dismayed and doesn't even want to step foot in Northampton again let alone visit Ben & Bill's. I’m shocked and outraged at the way my friend was treated.

Posted by RobertK on 8.27.14 at 17:31



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