Saturday, October 31, 2009

Another KBR scandal?

From The Pump Handle

DC Bureau, a project of the nonprofit Public Education Center, has published a stunning four-part series, “No Contractor Left Behind” on the errors by KBR and the Pentagon that allowed National Guard troops to be exposed to high levels of the carcinogen sodium dichromate while stationed at the Qarmat Ali water plant in Balad, Iraq. Adam Lichtenheld, with reporting by Byron Moore, investigates who knew what when about the orange dust that coated Qarmat Ali – and how the government failed to help soldiers who have developed cancers and other problems since being stationed there. Part I of the series introduces us to the soldiers:

Between April and September of 2003, the Indiana Guardsmen and their comrades from West Virginia and Oregon were subjected to a deadly health threat that would not be tolerated in any workplace in America.

Six years later, these once-vigorous soldiers now find themselves feeble and fraught with worry. Two have died from cancer. Another is in end-of-life hospice care. Dozens more suffer from frequent respiratory problems and chronic illnesses.
As part of a massive push to restore Iraq’s oil production following the US invasion, contracting giant KBR was tasked with rebuilding the Qarmat Ali water plant, which treated water that was injected into oil wells. National Guard troops arriving there to provide security to KBR employees found the facility coated with orange dust that swirled through the air during frequent windstorms. Soldiers began suffering from severe nosebleeds, nasal infections, and skin abrasions – but when they reported their symptoms and asked whether the orange dust might play a role, they were told it was only a “mild irritant.”

In fact, the powder was sodium dichromate, a highly concentrated compound of hexavalent chromium and a potent carcinogen.
The blogger goes on to note in her summary of the report that some of the effected soldiers have been denied medical benefits by the VA; and that Congressional Democrats who campaigned in 2006 on a platform promising to investigate contractor corruption have done little to investigate this incident or the incidents of faulty electrical wiring.

You know, this is the sort of thing I'd like to see investigated and discussed on the supposed news networks. Networks that have a marvelous talent at minimizing the amount of actual news that they fit into a 24 hour day. And yet they remain sure to cover whatever "scandal" du jour has been manufactured by the Becks, Drudges, Hannitys, and Limbaughs of the world.

Which is why a handful of employees of a group like ACORN getting caught on film in some kind of conservative fantasy Borat propaganda scheme meant to demonize the organization for political reasons seems to generate more outrage than actual scandals.

1 comment:

Spocko said...

I'm with you HG, I think that the news networks don't really like to do news. It's too serious. Nobody wants to read about people dying of cancer! Ick.

I of course often think about how to use this to our advantage. We don't push enough silly stories with serious underpinnings. Watch the tv show Leverage. I think the public has an real appetite for corporate revenge stories. Lots of fun Bernie Madoff stories, not so many about the people behind the CDS.

Here is an alternative way to deal with it. Do a COMEDY bit about the electrocuted soliders and the orange dust "They looked like Oompa Lompas!" and then later cut to them dying. That "disrespectful video" would be the story that "gives us a peek at the truly tragic story."

We need better PR people pitching these stories. The earnest stories don't get traction.

Entertainment is first, then news.