The US military tested Agent Orange and other herbicides by secretly spraying them in Panama at the height of the Vietnam War, according to the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Members of the U.S. military, as well as civilians, may have been exposed to the extremely toxic chemical. Though it says all reports are unproven, the military reportedly tested the chemical over Panama because its tropical forests are similar to those in Vietnam. In Vietnam, The US sprayed Agent Orange to rapidly kill the tropical forests in which they suspected Viet Cong guerillas were hiding.
According to one American veteran, the military sprayed Agent Orange near populated areas in Panama, including a beach, a club, and a lake from which Panama City gets its drinking water. In addition to those who may have been exposed to the chemical in the ’60s and ’70s, an environmental sciences expert said Agent Orange could last in the soil for decades.
Panama is already seeking up to $500 million from the US for cleanup, and they expect claims of personal damages as well. Some point out that the US did not know how dangerous Agent Orange could be for those exposed. The Veterans Administration now recognizes nine diseases and disorders to be linked to Agent Orange exposure.
Aug. 18, 1999
You think the United States’ immigration laws are tough? Check out Canada’s. As a boatload of more than 100 illegal Chinese immigrants who arrived in that country last week face almost certain deportation from Vancouver, the dog which made the journey with them gets to stay.
After 60 days on a small fishing trawler overloaded with refugees, the dog was described by the Canadian SPCA as “Kind of frightened, kind of scared, [and] kind of bewildered.” Probably a fair characterization of the refugees’ state of mind, too.
Canadian immigration officials say they will not grant amnesty to the refugees because several have indicated that they came to Canada to improve their economic condition. Legally, that is not reason enough to grant them refugee status in Canada.
The dog didn’t indicate why he made the trip.
Aug. 17, 1999
As crime rates were steadily steadily falling, the prison population hit an all-time high last year, according to the LOS ANGELES TIMES. The Justice Department, which issued a report on prison population, concluded the record is the result of “three strikes” and other sentencing reform laws that send more people to prison for longer. In 1998, the prison population increased by 60,000 inmates, reaching 1.3 million.
The growth of the prison population is straining prison capacity nationwide. For example, even as California works on a $5 billion prison-construction project, its Department of Corrections predicts the prison population will outstrip construction by 2002.
Aug. 16, 1999
A Stanford University professor was allowed to test a powerful psychiatric drug on young inmates at a state correctional center in California, reports THE LOS ANGELES TIMES. Over an eight week period in 1997, Depakote — an anti-seizure drug often used to treat epilepsy and mania — was administered to 61 male inmates between the ages of 14 and 18 to see if the drug would reduce their aggression levels. The experiment is now being investigated by the California Youth Authority (CYA), the state attorney general, and the state inspector general. California law dictates that “no biomedical research shall be conducted on any prisoner in this state”; a second law, however, states that prisoners can be administered drugs only available through studies if it is in “the best medical interest of the patient.” The debate will likely focus on whether the testing was in the teenagers’ “best interest.”
All of the juvenile inmates signed a consent form agreeing to participate in the trial, which was partially funded by drug maker Abbott Laboratories. Under federal law, Stanford is responsible for ensuring that their research meets federal and state laws. However, the CYA “admit[s] that their system for protecting the teenagers they imprison broke down,” according to the Times. Robert Presley, California’s top correctional officer, said that such testing would not occur again in the state’s prisons without being approved by the governor and codified into law. “In the legal sense, and maybe in the moral sense, we missed the boat on this one.”