London Grenfell Tower disaster and after


This 9 August 2017 video is about a member of the British Socialist Equality Party addressing a meeting on the London Grenfell Tower fire inferno.

By Paul Mitchell in London, England:

Survivors, SEP member denounce police inaction over Grenfell Tower fire at latest community public meeting

11 August 2017

The fifth Grenfell Tower fire “community public meeting” was held Wednesday evening at Notting Hill Methodist Church.

It was convened by the Grenfell Response Unit, set up by Theresa May’s Conservative government to supposedly keep survivors and local residents informed of the measures being taken by the Metropolitan Police and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) in the aftermath of the inferno.

Instead, the meeting confirmed that, eight weeks after the fire, few of the promised measures have materialised and that survivors and local residents continue to be treated with contempt. One after another, those in attendance spoke of the lack of help given to those with health problems and the failure to provide decent housing.

One survivor described the appalling impact of having seen “dead bodies, people jumping for their lives and children screaming.”

A local resident close to the tower explained, “I’m traumatised, my kids are traumatised. The Red Cross is a disgrace. I’ve emailed for help twice and got my MP [member of parliament] too, but still there is no response.”

Another said, “I live 40 yards from the tower and have been suffering chest problems from the air pollution since. Knowing that there was asbestos and cyanide, why was no one evacuated?”

A survivor said, “Before this fire, I was working, supporting myself, looking after my sick uncle who has mental health problems and physical health problems, as well as working… But since the fire I haven’t been eating properly, I haven’t been sleeping properly. I have mental health problems now.”

Another member of the audience related how so many people had been complaining to local general practitioners about breathing problems that it had become known as the “Grenfell cough.”

A woman stood up to apologise for not coming to previous meetings, explaining that she had been “burying my two dead lost relatives.”

The meeting in Notting Hill Methodist Church

“I was lucky to get my relatives back. But there are many who haven’t got them back. The police one-to-one [sessions] are just not working,” she concluded.

Another resident asked, regarding the “assistance” being offered, “Is Reiki an adequate substitute for having decent housing for children living in hotel rooms? Why is it taking so long to rehouse them? Forget about Reiki! Forget about yoga! Why aren’t the council providing housing and decent, adequate services?

“You talk about a tragedy. It is an avoidable disaster. You have blood on your hands. You’re an absolute disgrace,” she told the panel.

Judy Bolton, a local resident who lost her uncle, told RBKC leader Elizabeth Campbell, “You should be so ashamed of yourself. You have no understanding or respect for these people in this tower and this community.

“Let me explain why: You say it’s a tragedy, it’s a disaster. This is an atrocity and it’s an atrocity that all of these people here today have said ‘We’re not getting help… our children are in one bedroom.’ This is two months on.

“My daughter goes to school and she comes home and says ‘Mum, there are empty desks in my classroom.’ We’re living with this every day. If you’re coming to this meeting, come prepared, come with a strategy, come with answers. Do not fob us off.”

Another speaker described the support provided for young people by the Grenfell Assistance Centre at the local Curve building as “disgraceful.” The Centre, according to the gov.uk website, is supposed be providing “housing needs, emergency funds, health, social care services, experienced volunteers from the Red Cross and other organisations, food and above all, a kind and sympathetic team of people ready to provide advice on anything.”

The speaker described how young people are “broken, grieving, hurt and want answers.”

Campbell’s condescending and supercilious response to questions about the failure to provide homes—“We’re starting viewings again next week… It’s a slower process than you would have wished for… We’re getting there… We have a timeline… We have a strategy”—were shouted down.

Kensington Conservative leader Elizabeth Campbell

Survivors of the fire replied, “This is a humanitarian crisis and you don’t have any plan;” “You’re not helping anyone and blame the survivors for not accepting the first thing they are given;” “It’s two months and you can’t give a simple answer. You can’t even be prepared for this meeting;” “You keep coming back saying ‘I do not know, I cannot give any guarantees.’”

This reporter addressed the meeting. Introducing myself as a member of the Socialist Equality Party, I noted, “Just like Theresa May’s Public Inquiry these meetings are a cynical damage limit exercise. They are a fraud…

“Those who have attended in good faith have time and again heard representatives of the police insist that nothing can be revealed about the investigation and refuse to explain why no one has yet been questioned under caution, let alone arrested.

“To add insult to injury the Met’s ‘Gold Command’ are joined by representatives of the very organisation they should be investigating!”

I urged those in the meeting, “All the excuses being handed down as to why the guilty have not been arrested, we should reject them. Anyone who reads the national newspapers and watches the news knows that there is a cast-iron case for the prosecution. Indeed, if this level of evidence existed for the likes of us accused of the pettiest crime, we would already be sitting in jail…

“The central lesson of events since the Grenfell fire is that nothing genuine and lasting can be accomplished through the good graces of the Conservative government, the council, the Met … ”

To applause I concluded, “Everything depends on the survivors, local residents and the entire working class taking an independent stand.”

Grenfell Tower: How the warnings of cladding dangers were ignored: here.

Grenfell fire: “It’s like Victorian days, where we have nothing and they have everything”: here.

Four 13-storey blocks in Ledbury estate in Peckham, south-east London, at risk of collapse in the event of a gas explosion. Hundreds of people have been told they will have to leave their homes on an estate of tower blocks in London after safety checks carried out following the Grenfell Tower fire found the buildings had been at risk of collapse for decades: here.

United States teenage girls, more suicides


This video says about itself:

19 November 2016

A touching suicide note of a girl !!! will make you cry

By Kate Randall in the USA:

Suicide rate among US teenage girls hit all-time high in 2015

7 August 2017

A new analysis reveals that the suicide rate among teenage girls in the United States reached a 40-year high in 2015. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that between 2007 and 2015 the suicide rate among girls aged 15-19 doubled, while it tripled for younger girls, aged 12-14. The analysis was based on government records kept since 1975.

The rate of young women aged 15-19 taking their own lives was recorded at 2.9 in every 100,000 girls in 1975. While this rate increased to 3.7 by 1990, by 2007 it showed a decline, to 2.4. By 2015, however, it had doubled, reaching 5.1.

While not showing as dramatic an increase, the suicide rate among teenage boys rose by 30 percent between 2007 and 2015, according to the CDC. However, the rate of suicide among teenage boys has been historically much higher than among teenage girls. The rate of young men aged 15-19 stood at 18.1 in every 100,000 people in 2015, compared to 10.8 percent in 2007.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents aged 15-19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In 2015, half of suicides of people of all ages were committed with firearms. The other leading methods were suffocation, including hanging, at 26.8 percent, and poisoning, 15.4 percent.

Behind these figures stand thousands of fractured families struggling to deal with the tragic deaths of their young family members. Teenagers committing suicide are likely to have a history of depression, a previous suicide attempt and a family history of psychiatric disorders. They are frequently suffering from substance abuse.

However, the reasons teenagers take the desperate action of suicide cannot simply be reduced to these very real mental health struggles. Factors driving young people to take their own lives must also be traced to the growing social and economic tensions in 21st century America.

The most obvious catalyst for the uptick in teen suicide between 2007 and 2015 was the global financial crisis that peaked in 2008. Tom Simon, an author of the CDC report, told CNN: “One of the factors that people have talked about as a potential contributor to the trend is the economic downturn that we saw in 2007-2009. As economic problems go up, suicide rates go up.”

The financial crisis, which the Obama administration declared over by mid-2009, has inflicted economic hardships on millions of US families that persist to this day. The effects on teenagers and their family members have been myriad: unemployment, poverty and hunger, student debt, unpaid medical bills, homelessness. These economic pressures are major factors contributing to mental distress among teens.

In the CDC’s suicide policy guidelines, violence is also regarded as one of the major factors leading to teen suicide: “Exposure to violence (e.g., child abuse and neglect, bullying, peer violence, dating violence, sexual violence, and intimate partner violence) is associated with increased risk of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, suicide, and suicide attempts. Women exposed to partner violence are nearly five times more likely to attempt suicide as women not exposed to partner violence.”

While social media is pointed to by suicide prevention advocates as a vehicle for promoting bullying, prompting suicide and other self-harm, what young people post on Facebook, Snapchat and other social media outlets is itself often a reflection of the brutal realities confronting youth today. As the CDC points out, social media could be used as a tool to fight bullying, and would be used in this way under different social conditions.

The violence of the US ruling elite must also be included in the experience of teenagers. Teens aged 12-19 today have never lived in a world when the US was not prosecuting a war of aggression. The list of countries the US was at war in between 2007 and 2015 include Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. If the actions of the US political establishment and its two big business parties are to serve as a model for US youth, the outlook is bleak indeed.

There is also the example of the thousands of young people who have been gunned down by police during this period. And there is the massive US prison system that incarcerates 2.4 million people, overwhelmingly poor and working class. From 2007 to 2015, the US states that continue to practice the death penalty have executed 365 death row prisoners.

AAP notes that psychosocial problems and stresses, “such as conflicts with parents, breakup of a relationship, school difficulties or failure, legal difficulties, social isolation, and physical ailments … commonly are reported or observed in young people who attempt suicide.” Gay, bisexual and transgendered adolescents also exhibit high rates of depression and “have been reported to have rates of suicidal ideation and attempts three times higher than other adolescents.”

Teenagers living through these problems will receive nothing but scorn and ridicule from the fascistic, misogynist psychopaths that currently occupy the White House. Treatment for young people suffering from mental illness is also woefully underfunded, while hundreds of billions are squandered on war. The CDC estimates that only 10 percent of those needing mental illness and substance abuse treatment receive it.

The staggering new figures on teen suicide must be viewed alongside declining life expectancy, rising infant and maternal mortality, epidemic levels of opioid addiction and other societal ills as an expression of the inability of the capitalist system to meet the social and economic needs of young people and workers in the United States.

US Vietnam war Agent Orange brain cancer and Senator McCain


This video from the USA says about itself:

Sheree Evans Releases Book About Agent Orange and Glioblastoma

14 February 2015

I spent the summer of 2013 riding my motorcycle coast to coast, giving talks about serious health issues that face American veterans. The ride, called “Operation Red Dragonfly,” was organized by a widow in Missouri named Sheree Evans, who goes by the nickname of Tiger.

As I covered more than 11,000 miles in roughly two and a half months, Tiger helped me gain access to many vets who live in the dark with regard to serious [diseases]. I spoke to veteran-oriented audiences all over the US about health hazards they face from serving in uniform. These include contamination from cancer-causing military base toxins, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and Agent Orange, a chemical defoilant sprayed over the jungles of Vietnam during the US war there.

When I first met Sheree Evans, I knew I was dealing with a special person, who was experiencing a bittersweet victory. Sheree’s husband, Tommy Evans, served in the Vietnam War as a Marine. His body was contaminated with dioxins from Agent Orange, a toxic chemical sprayed over the jungles of Vietnam that has claimed more than a million innocent lives.

In February 2011, i wrote an article about Sheree’s tireless efforts to push Tommy’s illness, a rare brain cancer called Glioblastoma, onto the record… so the Veterans Administration would in part, be forced to accept and admit that Agent Orange had a direct relationship to “Glio” as the disease is often referred.

Dedicated and unwilling to take no for an answer, Sheree Evans made history as her husband did, and I wrote about it in an article called, “Wounded by the Vietnamese, Killed by Monsanto.”

Now Sheree has written her first book, which recalls the story of her husband Tommy, and many other vets and their families, all impacted by Glioblastoma and similar illnesses that the U.S. government has fought to avoid responsibility for.

No words can properly underscore the immense value of Sheree Evans‘s new book, “By the Grace of God – A Promise Kept,” it is an extremely important addition to any veteran’s library, the information is vital and potentially life saving.

Even more importantly, the book is created to give hope to others who, like Sheree, are faced with the most difficult hardships because of U.S. government policy and a company called Monsanto, that prospers from the death its products inflict on human beings, there is no excuse for what Monsanto has done.

By Charles Ornstein / ProPublica and Mike Hixenbaugh / the Houston Chronicle in the USA:

McCain’s Brain Cancer Draws Renewed Attention to Possible Agent Orange Connection

For years, Vietnam vets and their widows have been pushing the VA to extend benefits to those exposed to the toxic herbicide and later stricken with glioblastoma. The VA has said no, but advocates hope the agency will now revisit the issue.

When Amy Jones’ dad, Paul, was diagnosed with glioblastoma last month, she wondered whether it might be tied to his time in Vietnam.

Then, last week, when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also a Vietnam veteran, was diagnosed with the same aggressive brain cancer, Jones searched online for glioblastoma and Vietnam vets.

She soon learned the disease is one of a growing list of ailments that some Vietnam veterans and their relatives believe is caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the toxic herbicide sprayed during the war.

“Honestly, it’s not easy to even admit that this is happening, let alone to even talk about it,” said Jones, whose 68-year-old father has had surgery to remove a brain tumor and now is receiving radiation treatments. “It’s only been six weeks. It’s such a devastating diagnosis.”

McCain’s diagnosis comes as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is under increased pressure to broaden who’s eligible for Agent Orange-related compensation. During the war, the military sprayed millions of gallons of the herbicide in Vietnam to kill enemy-covering jungle brush, and in the process, may have exposed as many as 2.6 million U.S. service members — including McCain.

News of his illness has prompted Amy Jones and others to call on the VA to study a possible connection between their loved ones’ Agent Orange exposure and glioblastoma.

Under current policy, the agency makes disability payments to veterans who develop one of 14 health conditions, but only if they can prove they served on the ground in Vietnam, where the chemicals were sprayed. Veterans who served off the coast in the Navy and those with other diseases not on the list — such as brain cancer — are left to fight the agency for compensation on a case-by-case basis.

Those with glioblastoma — or widows seeking survivor benefits — must prove the disease was “at least as likely as not” caused by Agent Orange, a cumbersome process that often takes years and more times than not results in denial.

Although McCain primarily served at sea from the deck of an aircraft carrier — and survived more than five years in a prison camp after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam — the VA would presume he was exposed to Agent Orange because he also spent time on the ground in Saigon.

Still, McCain never has sought to connect any of his health troubles, including prior bouts with skin cancer, with Agent Orange exposure and has a mixed record when it comes to compensating fellow veterans for wartime exposures. His office did not respond to emailed questions about a possible link between glioblastoma and the chemical.

As a senator, McCain voted to approve the original 1991 law that directed the VA to presume every veteran who served in Vietnam was exposed and to begin compensating those with illnesses scientifically linked to it.

McCain’s diagnosis comes as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is under increased pressure to broaden who’s eligible for Agent Orange-related compensation. During the war, the military sprayed millions of gallons of the herbicide in Vietnam to kill enemy-covering jungle brush, and in the process, may have exposed as many as 2.6 million U.S. service members — including McCain.

News of his illness has prompted Amy Jones and others to call on the VA to study a possible connection between their loved ones’ Agent Orange exposure and glioblastoma.

Under current policy, the agency makes disability payments to veterans who develop one of 14 health conditions, but only if they can prove they served on the ground in Vietnam, where the chemicals were sprayed. Veterans who served off the coast in the Navy and those with other diseases not on the list — such as brain cancer — are left to fight the agency for compensation on a case-by-case basis.

Those with glioblastoma — or widows seeking survivor benefits — must prove the disease was “at least as likely as not” caused by Agent Orange, a cumbersome process that often takes years and more times than not results in denial.

Although McCain primarily served at sea from the deck of an aircraft carrier — and survived more than five years in a prison camp after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam — the VA would presume he was exposed to Agent Orange because he also spent time on the ground in Saigon.

Still, McCain never has sought to connect any of his health troubles, including prior bouts with skin cancer, with Agent Orange exposure and has a mixed record when it comes to compensating fellow veterans for wartime exposures. His office did not respond to emailed questions about a possible link between glioblastoma and the chemical.

As a senator, McCain voted to approve the original 1991 law that directed the VA to presume every veteran who served in Vietnam was exposed and to begin compensating those with illnesses scientifically linked to it.

In 2011, however, as many Vietnam veterans aged into their 60s and 70s and annual disability payments to them swelled to more than $17 billion, McCain spoke in favor of an amendment that would have required a higher standard of scientific proof before any new illnesses would be covered.

The goal, McCain said in a floor speech, was to ensure that veterans who actually deserved compensation received it, “but at the same time not have a situation where it is an open-ended expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars.” The amendment was defeated — and since then, Vietnam vet disability payments have grown to $24 billion a year — and the episode damaged McCain’s reputation with veterans groups.

In a statement, a VA spokesman said the agency currently does not recognize a connection between Agent Orange exposure and brain cancer but is examining the topic anew in light of the questions that have been raised. In March, the VA asked a National Academy of Medicine panel studying the effects of Agent Orange to focus special attention on glioblastoma. (Previous reports by the group have not found a connection.) The VA also is asking about brain cancer in a sweeping survey of Vietnam veterans now underway.

VA data provided to ProPublica last fall shows that more than 500 Vietnam-era veterans have been diagnosed with glioblastoma at VA health facilities since 2000. That doesn’t include the unknown number diagnosed at private facilities.

ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot reported last year how widows of Vietnam vets were banding together to push the VA to add glioblastoma to its list of diseases linked to Agent Orange. Through a Facebook group, they support one another and offer advice on navigating the VA’s labyrinthian process for seeking disability and survivor benefits.

Since news of McCain’s illness broke last week, dozens like Jones have joined the group, whose members mostly include widows and surviving relatives, but also some veterans living with the disease. “Every one of us, our phones were blowing up the day it came out” that McCain had glioblastoma, said Kathy Carroll-Josenhans, one of the group’s leaders.

The group now has some 450 members, about double its size in December.

One of their challenges is that the VA’s handling of claims related to glioblastoma has been somewhat inconsistent. Between 2009 and last fall, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, the VA’s in-house tribunal for adjudicating benefit denials, issued more than 100 decisions in cases in which widows have appealed benefits denials related to their husbands’ brain cancer, according to a ProPublica analysis of board decisions. About two dozen won. (Here are two additional approvals from this year.)

Brad Riddell, a 35-year-old communications specialist living in Austin, Texas, is not a member of the Facebook group but immediately thought of his father when he heard about McCain’s illness. His dad, Jerry Riddell, served in a Navy construction battalion in Da Nang during the war and routinely came in contact with Agent Orange, which was used to clear brush before paving roads and runways.

Riddell was in high school when his father had a seizure while driving from work one day. A brain scan later that day revealed a tumor the size of a grapefruit and a medical term that still makes Riddell shudder: glioblastoma.

His father endured three surgeries — including two at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston — before doctors told him there was nothing more they could do. He entered hospice and died in February 1999, just 14 months after the diagnosis.

“I absolutely thought about dad when I heard about McCain,” Riddell said. “Anytime I hear that diagnosis, it just feels like, ‘Man, that person is a goner.’ It’s terrible.”

After his father’s death, Riddell’s mother gave him a bag of his military records and told him to hold onto them: “She said, ‘You need to have all these records in case there‘s ever a connection made between your dad’s cancer and Agent Orange.’”

In the wake of the McCain news, Riddell wonders if it’s time to pull the records out.

Heidi Spencer had a similar revelation a year ago. Her father, Jack Niedermeyer, died of glioblastoma at age 58 in June 2004. Her mother didn’t think to apply for benefits until last year when someone at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post where she works suggested it. Spencer helped her mom fill out the application and the VA approved it in March.

“He never knew his cancer came from Agent Orange. He never talked about his service,” she said of her dad, who worked in a steel mill in Pittsburgh and had six kids.

Spencer, 42, found her dad’s commanding officer in the Marine Corps, who wrote a letter saying her dad had been sprayed by Agent Orange.

“The more you research it, the more it comes into light,” she said. “The VA needs to look at this, they need to link it and they need to look at his [McCain’s] diagnosis and whether or not the Vietnam War played a role in him getting his disease.”

In approving her mom’s claim, the VA wrote that glioblastoma was not recognized as a disease that automatically warranted benefits linked to Agent Orange but that “current medical research has shown a causal relationship between herbicide exposure and glioblastoma multiforme.” This is contrary to the VA’s official policy.

Regardless of McCain’s position on the matter, advocates hope his diagnosis will spark a conversation.

In a statement last week, John Rowan, the president of Vietnam Veterans of America, said he was saddened to learn “yet another Vietnam veteran” had been diagnosed with glioblastoma.

“Unfortunately, brain cancer is not on the presumptive list for exposure to Agent Orange,” Rowan said in a statement, “despite the efforts of our fellow veterans and their family members.”

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom.