March 14, 2008 conference on DDT and health

February 1, 2008

Poster for 2008 conference on DDT

Steven Milloy must be apoplectic.

On March 14, 2008, Alma College, in Alma, Mich., is hosting a conference examining what is known about the impact of DDT on human health and the environment.

The conference will bring together a number of national and international experts to frame and lead discussions of current knowledge of DDT. Attendees will engage with experts to plan what research or other projects are needed to address questions about the impact of DDT and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

The conference is jointly sponsored by the Center for Responsible Leadership at Alma College, the Ohio Valley Chapter of the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, and the Pine River Superfund Task Force, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) community advisory group (CAG) for Superfund sites in the Pine River watershed in Michigan.

Why Alma College?

For a number of years students and faculty at Alma have helped support the work of the Pine River Task Force. The Superfund sites in the watershed of the Pine River resulted from the massive dumping of byproducts from production of DDT and a fire retardant based upon polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) by Velsicol Chemical Company. In addition to general dumping of wastes, Velsicol was responsible in 1973 for one of the worst food contamination mistakes in history, when PBB was erroneously mixed with animal feed and remained undetected for a year.

While highly contaminated for decades, the Pine River watershed has been fortunate to be the location of Alma College, with a long tradition of community involvement, and also the home of a number of people with remarkable expertise. One of the long time members of the CAG was the late Eugene Kenaga (1917-2007), for whom the conference is named.

Eugene Kenaga

During World War II, Dr. Kenaga served as an officer in a malariology unit in the Pacific Theater, using DDT. For forty-two years he was a research scientists with the Dow Chemical Company, for many years in charge of their entomological research. In 1968 he served on a three-member blue ribbon pesticide advisory panel (for Michigan Governor George Romney) that restricted use of DDT in the state. After the formation of EPA, he served on a variety of EPA advisory panels. He was also one of the founders of the International Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC).


Recently, the College, SETAC, and Task Force have become aware of an international campaign that questions the national and international restrictions on the use of DDT. Knowledge of this campaign led to the decision to bring together international experts and concerned citizens to discuss what is known and needs to be known about the impacts on human health and the environment arising from exposure to DDT and the other POPs.

Serious scholars, academic rigor, real scientists, real science, government agencies charged with protecting human health and environmental quality, the Center for Responsible — will any of the DDT advocates have the backbone to show? They don’t appear to fit any of those categories.

Eugene Kenaga International DDT Conference on Environment and Health
March 14, 2008
Alma College, Alma, Mich.

DDT: What We Know; What Do We Need to Know?

Speakers scheduled for the conference, listed below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

1968: Tet Offensive, Eddie Adams’ Pulitzer

February 1, 2008

In that momentous, often terrible year of 1968, February 1 found the offensive in full swing by the National Liberation Front forces (NFL, or Viet Cong) across South Vietnam. The “General Uprising” kicked off on January 30, the beginning of Tet, the Vietnamese new year celebration (Tet is based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar, shifting from year to year; in 2008 the first day of Tet is February 7). News was just beginning to hit the U.S., in the days before videotape from the field and easy satellite uplinks.

On February 1, 1968, Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams accompanied a South Vietnamese police team trying to clear part of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) of Viet Cong; Adams put his camera up to aim as police chief General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan put a gun to the head of a man suspected of being part of the NFL, Nguyễn Văn Lém. Adams clicked the shutter coincidentally as the police chief fired the gun, killing the suspect.

The haunting photo won Adams the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography. It is an icon of 20th century war and the inhumanity of war (see Sherman’s comments, “war is hell”). Both for copyright and sensitivity reasons, I only link to a copy of the photo.  WARNING, POTENTIALLY OFFENSIVE MATERIAL:  See the photo at the bottom of this column.

The photo ruined the life of Gen. Nguyễn. Adams wrote in Time Magazine:

The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths.

What the photograph didn’t say was, ‘What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American people?’

Adams continued to photograph Southeast Asia. Before his death in 2004, he said he wished he would be remembered for photographs of Vietnamese boat people being pushed out to sea by the Thai Navy, rather than being offered refuge by the Thais. Adams’ photographs of the boat people caught the ire of people around the world and led President Jimmy Carter to grant asylum to the refugees.


Eddie Adams' Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the 1968 Tet Offensive

Via Wikipedia and BBC. Wikipedia caption: Nguyen Ngoc Loan executes Viet Cong Captain Nguyen Van Lem: February 1, 1968. This Associated Press photograph, “General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon,” won a 1969 Pulitzer prize for its photographer Eddie Adams. Film also exists of this event, but owing to the more graphic nature of the film, the photograph is more widely known.


Carnival, carnival

February 1, 2008

57th Carnival of the Liberals awaits your viewing at Worldwide Webers.  It features some serious thinking about sex education, among other thought provokers.

156th Carnival of Education pitches the midway at Creating Lifelong Learners. One of the sideshows, Noirlecroi, caught my eye with a post on how to set up a classroom to teach social studies.  Who knew?

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