Posts Tagged ‘dereliction of duty’

Florida lawmakers call for suspension of Broward sheriff after Parkland massacre as he defends ‘amazing leadership’

February 26, 2018


Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel speaks during a news conference on Feb. 15, 2018, near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland where 17 people were killed the day before. (Amy Beth Bennett / Sun-Sentinel)

Drew Harwell and Mark Berman
Washington Post

Republican state lawmakers in Florida called on Sunday for the suspension of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, accusing him of “incompetence and neglect of duty” in the months before the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and 73 Republican colleagues urged Gov. Rick Scott, R, to suspend Israel, a Democrat who was reelected in 2016.

“Sheriff Israel failed to maintain a culture of alertness, vigilance and thoroughness amongst his deputies,” Corcoran wrote in a letter released Sunday. “As a result of Sheriff Israel’s failures, students and teachers died.”

Israel said he would not resign over his agency’s handling of the shooting, which left 17 dead, mostly teenagers.

Before the letter’s release, Israel said that the agency had stumbled in its handling of red flags about the suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, including at least two warnings that he could carry out such an attack. But Israel said that he should not be held personally responsible.

“I can only take responsibility for what I knew about,” he said Sunday morning in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I’ve given amazing leadership to this agency.”

The sheriff has faced intensifying questions about his office’s response to the massacre after the revelation that an armed deputy on the scene did not enter the school while the shooter was inside. That deputy, Scot Peterson, retired last week after being suspended.

Israel said he believes Peterson’s inactions could have cost lives, but he also has said that he should not be faulted for Peterson’s actions.

“You don’t measure a person’s leadership by a deputy not going in,” he said in the Sunday CNN interview.

State Rep. Bill Hager (R-Boca Raton) sent a letter to Scott, the governor, on Saturday accusing Israel of “neglect and incompetence” and calling for his removal. Israel called the letter “shameful” and “politically motivated.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Sunday afternoon that it would launch an investigation, at the governor’s request, into the law-enforcement response to the shooting.

In a statement, Israel said his office would fully cooperate with the investigation, “as we believe in full transparency and accountability.”

“This independent, outside review will ensure public confidence in the findings,” he said.

National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch, speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” accused the sheriff’s office of “dereliction of duty” and said Israel should face increased scrutiny.

Sheriff: Armed deputy on duty at Florida high school never entered building during massacre

“I wish that as much attention were given to the Broward County sheriff and their abdication of duty as trying to blame 5 million innocent law-abiding gun owners all across the country for this,” Loesch said. “Families and neighbors called the Broward County Sheriff’s Office to report this individual, and they did not follow up.”

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Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) speak to the media on Feb. 15 about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

David Hogg, a senior at the school, called Israel “a good man” during an interview on “This Week” and said that “he cares about the people.” But Hogg said there were breakdowns in procedures. “Were there mistakes made? Absolutely.”

Local and federal authorities received numerous calls about Cruz before the attack, including at least four suggesting that he could carry out a school shooting and a 911 call saying he had pointed a gun at someone.

The FBI has admitted that it never investigated a January tip saying that Cruz could shoot up a school.

In November 2017, a tip came in to the Broward sheriff’s office from a caller warning that Cruz was collecting guns and knives and might be “a school shooter in the making.” Cruz’s mother had died that month, and he was briefly living with a family in Palm Beach County.

The sheriff’s office said that the deputy who took the call never filed a report and that after the massacre, he told investigators that he referred the caller to the sheriff’s office in Palm Beach. However, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office told The Washington Post that it had no record of receiving word of that threat.

Israel said Sunday that most of the tips to his agency were handled appropriately but that, in two of the calls, “we’re not sure if deputies did everything they could have or should have.”

When CNN host Jake Tapper asked Israel if he thought the shooting might not have happened if the agency had done things differently, Israel said, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, O.J. Simpson would still be in the record books.”

He added, “We understand everything wasn’t done perfectly.”

According to a CNN report, police from the neighboring city of Coral Springs have said that three other Broward deputies besides Peterson were outside the school when they responded to the shooting. Israel said Sunday that only Peterson, then the school resource officer, was at the school during the shooting.

A spokeswoman for Israel’s office, in a statement released late Saturday, insisted that there was “no confirmation, at this time, other deputies did not enter the school when they should have.”

She said the claim continues to be investigated.

The Coral Springs police said in a statement that they were “aware of media reports” but were not going to comment because of the ongoing investigation.

Since the Columbine massacre in 1999, it has become widely accepted police protocol to respond to active shooters by rushing to the scene and stopping the threat. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has not responded to a request to release its active-shooter policies, but Israel has said that the deputy should have rushed inside.

In a letter to Scott responding to Hager’s call for the sheriff to be removed from office, Israel wrote that Coral Springs police received the initial 911 call and went inside the school first without realizing that the shooter had left four minutes earlier, suggesting that these officers believed they were pursuing at least one armed attacker.

In his letter, Israel wrote that these Coral Springs officers were followed by others from that department and Broward sheriff’s deputies. However, his letter does not say when any of the responding officers learned that the gunfire had ended and the shooter had fled, nor does it say whether his deputies waited outside the school first before going in.

Israel’s office has declined to make him available for an interview with The Washington Post. His interview Sunday on CNN was his second appearance on the cable network in less than a week. On Wednesday, he participated in a televised town hall that the network hosted in South Florida that included survivors of the attack, their relatives and Loesch, the NRA spokeswoman.

At the town hall, the sheriff was sharply critical of the NRA spokeswoman.

Tapper, who also had hosted the town hall, asked Israel in the interview Sunday whether he had known during his town hall appearance that Peterson had failed to go inside the school during the shooting. Israel said that they were still investigating reports about Peterson at the time and that it was not the appropriate time to tell the families about the deputy’s actions.

“I couldn’t disclose it then,” he said. “That’s not the way you do things, over a news camera. You do it individually. You meet privately with families. You have compassion. You don’t do it at a public forum. And we weren’t ready to do it anyway.”

The Washington Post’s Lori Rozsa in Loxahatchee, Florida, and Michael Scherer, Kevin Sullivan and John Wagner in Washington contributed to this report.



U.S. Navy to File Negligent Homicide Charges in Two Asia Ship Collisions

January 17, 2018

The ex-commander of the USS Fitzgerald will face charges of negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel

The USS John S. McCain with a hole in it following a collision off Singapore in August.
The USS John S. McCain with a hole in it following a collision off Singapore in August. PHOTO: DESMOND FOO/THE STRAITS TIMES/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

WASHINGTON—The commanders of the two U.S. guided-missile destroyers involved in collisions that killed 17 sailors in Asia last year will be court-martialed on charges including negligent homicide, the Navy said Tuesday.

In total, the Navy is filing criminal charges against six sailors, officials said. Another eight will face nonjudicial punishment, a Navy official said, which could include reductions in rank and pay loss.

The former commander of the USS Fitzgerald, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, will face charges of negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel, as will three of his lieutenants, the Navy said. Cmdr. Benson was seriously injured in the June collision with a commercial vessel near Tokyo.

The former commander of USS John S. McCain, Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, will face similar charges, and a chief petty officer from the McCain has already been charged with dereliction of duty. The ship collided with a commercial tanker off the coast of Singapore in August, killing 10 sailors.

The officers couldn’t be immediately reached through the Navy for comment and efforts to locate attorneys for the men weren’t successful.

In July, the USS Fitzgerald sat in a Japanese dry dock following a June collision.
In July, the USS Fitzgerald sat in a Japanese dry dock following a June collision. PHOTO: SPC. 1ST CLASS LEONARD ADAMS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Those facing criminal charges will be subjected to a military proceeding known as an Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian preliminary hearing or grand jury. That hearing will determine how subsequent proceedings play out.

The collisions involving the Fitzgerald and McCain made for the deadliest year of noncombat deaths in the U.S. military since 1989, defense officials said.

After the collisions, a series of reports and investigations revealed that crews had been forced to work for hundreds of hours on ships that bypassed required checks and inspections for months at a time.

Also, in the case of the USS Fitzgerald, the officer on deck failed to comply with rules governing the speed at which the ship was operating, its ability to maneuver and requirements to notify other ships of potential danger, a report released in November said.

Some of the sailors who were assigned to be on watch on deck at the time of the McCain’s collision had been temporarily assigned from another ship, the USS Antietam, and may have been unfamiliar with the McCain, the report concluded.

Both collisions were avoidable, the Navy concluded, saying many of the contributing factors had been long documented.

Before the charges were unveiled Tuesday, the Navy had removed the commodore of the Japan-based Destroyer Squadron 15 and the commander of the U.S.’s Seventh Fleet.

Adm. Scott Swift, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, said he was retiring in September. The U.S. Navy’s top surface warfare officer, Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, is also expected to retire, officials said.

However, no Navy admiral is facing criminal charges, even though several left their posts or were removed following the collisions.

Cmdr. William Speaks, a Navy spokesman, said the criminal charges were lodged against those who had “a direct causal link leading to the collisions.”

Appeared in the January 17, 2018, print edition as ‘Naval Commanders Charged in Crashes.’


Navy files homicide charges against commanders of 2 ships in deadly crashes

Two Navy commanders face negligent homicide charges related to the deadly crashes of two ships off Asia last year, the Navy announced Tuesday.

Former Cmdr. Bryce Benson of the USS Fitzgerald and former Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez of the USS John S. McCain are among those charged, according to USNI News. Additionally, two lieutenants and one lieutenant junior grade of the Fitzgerald also face charges, the Navy said.

Among the charges are dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel and negligent homicide.

A Chief Petty Officer on the McCain also was charged with dereliction of duty. And administrative actions — including non-judicial punishment — will be taken for crew members of both ships, the Navy said.

The decision to file charges was made by Adm. Frank Caldwell, who was given the authority and examined the evidence of what caused the collisions, according to Navy spokesman Capt. Greg Hicks. The charges are to be presented at what the military refers to as an Article 32 hearing, which will determine whether the accused are court-martialed.

The USS Fitzgerald collided with a commercial ship in waters off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.

Officials tell Fox News that two navigation teams on the Fitzgerald failed to speak up about possible risk before a cargo vessel ripped a hole in the side of the ship, killing seven sailors who were trapped in flooded compartments

At the time, the Navy said the collision between the Navy destroyer and the Philippine-flagged container ship, the ACX Crystal, “was avoidable” and occurred because “of smaller errors over time, ultimatly resulting in a lack of adherence to sound navigational practices.”

The Navy continued, “Specifically, Fitzgerald’s watch teams disregarded established norms of basic contact management and, more importantly, leadership failed to adhere to well-established protocols put in place to prevent collisions.”

USS John McCain collides with merchant ship

On Aug. 21, ten sailors were killed after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asia.

The Navy’s guided-missile destroyer collided with the merchant vessel Alnic MC. No one aboard the oil and chemical tanker was injured, the Singapore government said at the time.

The Navy said in a release that the crash could have been avoided, adding that it “resulted primarily from complacency, over-confidence and lack of procedural compliance.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Philippines: President Duterte Foes Amend Impeachment Complaint, Call Duterte Stance on China ‘Dereliction of Duty’

March 20, 2017
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano holds a copy of the impeachment complaint he filed against President Duterte at the House of Representatives on Thursday. photo
MANILA, Philippines — Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said that his group is considering  filing a supplemental complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly being subservient to China.
Alejano’s statement came after Duterte claimed last week that he allowed China to send survey ships to Benham Rise as part of an agreement.
The Department of Foreign Affairs last week said it was not aware of an agreement or policy over the Benham Rise region.
In an interview on CNN’s ‘The Source,’ Alejano said that the president’s action is a matter of national security since there is a conflict of interest with China on the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that Manila claims.
“We’re talking about national interest here, we’re talking about national security here because we have a clear conflict of interest in West Philippine Sea,” Alejano said.
China has repeatedly reiterated its position over the South China Sea, saying it has a historical and legal claim over the vast area.
An international tribunal however, ruled in favor of the Philippines in an arbitration case against China, saying that China’s “nine-dash line” claim over a large part of the South China Sea, including part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, has no basis.
In a speech on Sunday, Duterte also said that he cannot stop China from setting up a reported monitoring station in the Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc.
“We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Hindi nga napara ng Amerikano,” Duterte said.
Duterte added that the country will lose all of its military and policemen if he declares war against China.
Alejano however, said that war is not the only solution, saying that the president could constantly raise issues in the West Philippines Sea.
“He’s not doing that because he’s afraid to offend China,” Alejano said.
He added that if Duterte said he cannot do anything to protect the country’s territory “then that’s dereliction of duty.”
 (Contains links to several previos articles on the South China Sea)

Chinese Businessman Receives Death Sentence in Tianjin Blast — But Will Public Safety Get The Respect It Deserves in China in The Future?

November 9, 2016

BEIJING — A Chinese court on Wednesday gave the head of a logistics company a suspended death sentence over a massive explosion at a chemical warehouse in Tianjin last year that killed 173 people, most of them firefighters and police officers.

Tianjin’s No. 2 Intermediate Court ruled that Ruihai International Logistics Chairman Yu Xuewei paid bribes to obtain permission to illegally store more than 49,000 tons of sodium cyanide and other highly toxic chemicals at the company’s warehouse in the city’s port between 2013 and 2015, when the explosion occurred. Such sentences are usually commuted to life in prison after two years.

Various other Tianjin courts gave lesser sentences to 48 other people. They included 25 local government officials and workers accused of dereliction of duty, abuse of power and bribe taking, 12 other Ruihai employees accused of taking part in the scheme and 11 employees of a company that provided phony certificates supporting the company’s operations.

In a video shown on state broadcaster CCTV, Yu told the judges that he regretted his actions and wouldn’t appeal.

“I want to use this opportunity to apologize to those who died and were hurt in the blasts and their families, as well as all the citizens of the nation,” Yu said.

The explosion was among China’s deadliest industrial accidents in recent years and the resulting investigation was directly overseen by the Cabinet.

Investigators found that the blast was triggered when stocks of nitrocellulose, a flammable compound used as a binding agent with medical applications and as an ingredient of lacquer, became too dry and caught fire in the August heat. The flames then spread to illegal stores of the combustible fertilizer ammonium nitrate, triggering a series of blasts that flattened the warehouse, destroyed an adjacent auto lot and caused extensive damage to neighboring apartment blocks.

The dead included 99 firefighters and 11 police officers, who were not informed of the presence of the 800 tons of ammonium nitrate. Another 798 people were injured, largely because Ruihai illegally built its warehouse too close to their apartments.

The blasts contaminated the air, water, and soil in the immediate area but did not affect the environmental quality of the ocean bay on which Tianjin sits, the investigators said.


Smoke billows behind rows of burned-out cars at the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin, on August 13, 2015. Photo: AFP

China — Explosion in Tianjin early on August 13, 2015. Credit AFP and Getty Images

Tianjin hole in the ground An aerial photograph showing the site of the August 12 deadly blasts in Tianjin. Photo by Reuters

A large hole is seen on the ground in the Chinese port city of Tianjin Saturday. At least 100 people were killed and more than 700 injured in Wednesday’s explosions.
A large hole is seen on the ground in the Chinese port city of Tianjin Saturday. At least 100 people were killed and more than 700 injured in Wednesday’s explosions. EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
© AFP/File | A swathe of the northern Chinese port of Tianjin was devastated by giant explosions which killed 165 people in August 2015

BEIJING (AFP) –  Chinese courts Wednesday jailed almost 50 people over last year’s giant explosions in the port of Tianjin that killed 165 people, state media reported.


The blasts at a chemical warehouse owned by Rui Hai International Logistics on August 12, 2015 sent a huge fireball soaring into the sky and mangled structures kilometres away.

Social media users recorded the scene of what rapidly became the country’s highest-profile industrial accident in years.

A swathe of the northern port was devastated and fears of toxic pollution were rife, with cyanide levels in the disaster zone far above national limits.

Those convicted on Wednesday were 24 company managers and staff members and 25 government officials, the official news agency Xinhua said.

The charges ranged from illegal storage of materials to abuse of power.

The head of Rui Hai, Yu Xuewei, received a two-year suspended death sentence — normally commuted to life in prison — and was fined 700,000 yuan ($103,252) for his role in the disaster.

In the aftermath of the explosions Xinhua described Yu as a former executive at state-owned chemical company Sinochem, and said another of Rui Hai?s owners was the son of the former port police chief.

Those connections helped the company get permits despite numerous safety violations, it reported.

The court ruling confirmed the findings of a government report in February, that government bodies in charge of the port, up to ministerial level, routinely ignored or violated laws and regulations on chemical storage.

Corruption is rife in China and causes widespread anger with the ruling Communist party.

China Arrests 135 for Illegally Buying, Selling Vaccines

May 21, 2016

The Associated Press

May 21, 2016

BEIJING — China has arrested 135 people in 22 provinces for illegally buying and selling vaccines, in the latest scandal shaking the Chinese public’s confidence in vaccine safety.

In an online statement Friday, the national prosecuting office said arrest warrants were issued for 125 people for running vaccine businesses without license.

It said 15 of them have been formally indicted, and two were found guilty. Ten health officials were arrested for on-duty negligence.

The accused health officials had worked at local public health centers and knowingly bought the illegal vaccines and used them on people, the prosecuting office said.

The massive investigation followed a case in March when a doctor in the eastern province of Shandong were found to have sold 2 million doses of improperly stored or expired vaccines. Media reports said she stored the vaccines at room temperature, instead of keeping them refrigerated as required.

Vaccines not stored and managed properly can lose their effectiveness and may not protect people being inoculated. The vaccines in the March case included those for hepatitis B, rabies, mumps and Japanese encephalitis.

The scandal drew criticism from people upset with persistent food and drug safety issues in the country. Beijing quickly ordered an investigation to crack down on illegal businesses of vaccines.



China vaccine scandal stokes anger as regulators come under fire — China’s reputation for poor quality and safety lingers

March 23, 2016

A widening scandal over illegal vaccine sales in China has sparked anger and drawn criticism from the government over glaring loopholes in the regulation of the world’s second-largest medicine market.

Police detained 37 people in Shandong province, official news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday, after a nearly $90 million black market vaccine ring was exposed over the last week.

The vaccines, including ones against meningitis, rabies and other illnesses, are suspected of being sold in dozens of provinces around China since 2011.

The scandal has stirred angry debate, casting a shadow over government ambitions to bolster the domestic drug industry and underlining the challenge it faces to regulate a widespread and fragmented medicine supply chain.

“We don’t know if our children have properly had the vaccine or whether it is ineffective or even if they are at risk,” said Zhang Jieqi, 32, who works at a tourism company in the city of Chengdu and has a child under two years -old.

She said she was angry that the case, which started early last year, had not been made public widely until now.

The government has said the vaccines themselves were real, although traded illegally.

The issue of regulation, from food and drugs to online sales, has become increasingly contentious in China as it looks to cast off a reputation for poor quality and safety.

However, regulators such as a Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) have pointed to a lack of resources and personnel to adequately regulate their sectors.

The vaccine case drew ire from Premier Li Keqiang, who said regulatory bodies – including the CFDA, health ministry and police – needed to work more in tandem, and that “dereliction of duty” would not be tolerated.

“This vaccine safety case has drawn close attention, and shows there are many gaps in terms of regulation,” Li said in a statement posted on the central government’s website late on Tuesday.


Some people said the case echoed a scandal in 2008 when milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine led to the deaths of six infants and made thousands sick.

Xinhua cited the health ministry as saying it had not found any spike in abnormal reactions to inoculations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement that improperly stored or expired vaccines rarely cause a toxic reaction and the most common risk is that they are ineffective.

Nonetheless, the case – centered on a mother and daughter illegally selling vaccines to re-sellers around the country – raises questions about regulators, even as China vows to boost its domestic market and raise exports.

Some parents also went online to vent their anger. One mother said she wanted to take her child out of China to escape “poisoned milk, gutter oil and ineffective vaccines”. Gutter oil refers to sub-standard, recycled cooking oil.

“It seems every day we are being swindled with something,” she wrote on China’s the Sina Weibo site, using the handle “Sunziyue”.

“No one is coming to sort it out.”

(Additional reporting Nick Heath and Jessica Macy Yu in BEIJING; Editing by John Ruwitch, Robert Birsel)


China Has Its Own Anti-Vaxxers—Blame the Internet


Misinformation and Mistrust are Endangering the Country’s Vaccination Program.

While health officials in the United States and parts of Europe wrestle with a growing anti-vaccination, or “anti-vaxxer” movement, China is dealing with a less organized but similarly serious fear of immunizations. Social media reveals traces of vaccination anxiety across the country. On March 9, a man in China’s bustling manufacturing hub of Dongguan close to Hong Kong uploaded a photo of his latest immunization record to the popular social media site Weibo. “I just got a domestically produced vaccine for hepatitis B,” he wrote. “Now I am a little afraid. Domestic vaccines; are they really okay?” A woman in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, wrote Feb. 15 that many of her friends were so nervous about vaccinations that they were either foregoing or delaying getting shots. She wrote: “They reject vaccines, feel suspicious, feel distrustful.”

Vaccine anxiety in the West has often centered on mistrust of the science: fears that injections could compromise one’s natural immunity or (debunked) theories that the shots can trigger autism. By contrast, Chinese people tend to have faith in foreign-made immunizations, but they worry that domestically produced vaccines are contaminated or substandard. A spate of 17 infant deaths at the end of 2013, initially suspected to have links to hepatitis B immunizations—made by several of China’s leading vaccine companies—has heightened concern. A government investigation subsequently blamed pneumonia, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and other causes for the fatalities, clearing the drug makers. The main company involved, Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products, was giventhe green light to restart manufacturing its vaccines on Jan. 2, 2014. But the fear lingers. Feeding the worry is a general distrust of government data and state media reports, combined with a lively Internet sphere that acts as an ideal breeding ground for rumors and scares.

Recent research by Chinese health officials confirms social media’s role as an accelerator of anti-vaxxer anxiety. A study led by researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Hangzhou, close to Shanghai, published Feb. 27, found that the crisis focused public attention and “negative sentiment online in China.” While media reports initially kindled worries, the report concludes, social media posts by “important opinion leaders” were also “very influential.” Even after the relevant vaccines had been confirmed safe by the government, people surveyed in 10 provinces showed vaccination rates for hepatitis B dropped 30 percent while other types of vaccinations in the national immunization program had also fallen 15 percent, the paper said. “It is possible that the negative effect will last long after the crisis,” it added.

These sorts of numbers understandably alarm the government. At a Jan. 3, 2014, press conference in Beijing, Wang Huaqing, one of the directors of the state-run National Immunization Program of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, toldjournalists that he was “very worried” about rising doubts over vaccine effectiveness in China and that if the trend continued, the hard-won gains of several generations of Chinese disease prevention could be lost.

Kathleen McLaughlin


And there is much to be lost. China launched a nationwide vaccination program in 1978 and offers free immunizations against more than 10 diseases, including measles, hepatitis B, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus. It has drastically reduced incidence of these diseases—but some have made a recent comeback. In 2014, China saw 107,000 people infected with measles, a huge jumpfrom the 26,883 infected a year earlier in 2013.

Officials say that in addition to rising public concern about vaccinations, China has a problem with bad vaccination statistics, which are hampering efforts to stamp out disease. In a paper published in January 2015 and co-authored by Wang of the National Immunization Program, the government admitted that even though measles immunizations in China were officially said to be above 98 percent for all citizens, concerns had been roused by a survey of an unnamed county that found a reported rate of more than 95 percent for all residents but an actual penetration rate that was much lower. Only 22 percent of the children in that county between the ages of 8 months and 47 months had received a measles vaccination. The report stated that the vaccination rates only captured children who had been registered at clinics, while many children had never been registered, and were therefore never counted. It extrapolated that the problem could be widespread in China. The findings, the report said, “raised our concern that there may be a discrepancy between reported and real … coverage rates.”

In a strange twist, China’s flawed measles coverage data has become ammunition for at least one anti-vaccination advocate in the United States. The prominent anti-vaxxer Sayer Ji wrote in a Sept. 20, 2014, blog post that the fact that China has seen a resurgence of measles despite having such high immunization rates shows that vaccination simply doesn’t work. “Clearly the vaccines aren’t as effective as claimed,” Ji writes. But according to the recent government study, China’s problem is that it never had the high coverage rate it’s been claiming in the first place. On both sides of the globe, misinformation isn’t just a symptom of a health crisis—it’s a cause.

China Rushes To Complete Tianjin Chemical Clean Up Before Rains Come — 70 still missing and more than 700 people hospitalized

August 17, 2015


Tianjin: Fears rain could release deadly hydrogen cyanide

Firefighters and rescue workers at the site where deadly explosions rocked Tianjin last week, Aug. 17. (Photo/Xinhua)

A new threat has emerged in the aftermath of the devastating Tianjin warehouse explosions last week with the local weather bureau forecasting rain for the next four days, raising fears that the hundreds of tons of toxic sodium cyanide stored on site could turn into deadly hydrogen cyanide.

The local weather bureau of the northern China metropolis announced that thunderstorms are expected from 5 pm to around 11 pm on Monday afternoon, with rain also forecast for the next three days.

The forecast comes a day after Shi Luze, chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army’s Beijing Military Region, confirmed reports that there are “hundreds of tons” of sodium cyanide at the Binhai Port Area where several catastrophic blasts rocked the port city on Aug. 12. The death toll currently stands at 114 with around 70 still missing and more than 700 people hospitalized.

Sodium cyanide, commonly used for chemical engineering, fumigation and mining precious metals, is a white crystalline or granular powder which can be rapidly fatal if inhaled or ingested because it can interfere with the body’s ability to use oxygen. The chemical is water-soluble, so if there is rain it could release poisonous hydrogen cyanide into the air. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes hydrogen cyanide as “rapidly fatal.”

“We are monitoring it closely,” Bao Jingling, chief engineer for the Tianjin Environmental Protection Bureau, said regarding the weather forecast. Though Bao insisted that “currently it isn’t very serious,” members of the PLA’s anti-chemical warfare division were dispatched to the scene Sunday, where they could be seen working in gas masks.

Shi told reporters that workers are trying to clear all sodium cyanide from two separate sites at the port before the rain hits. However, he also reiterated that the chemicals posed no threat to people outside the two-kilometer evacuation zone, which has displaced more than 6,000 Tianjin residents.

“I can responsibly say that there will be no secondary damage to the people,” he said Sunday, a day after the government evacuated a school near the blast site when possible wind changes raised concerns of exposure.

Greenpeace has said that early tests around the blast site indicated that the city’s water supplies have not yet been contaminated with cyanide, but that it did not “disprove the presence of other hazardous chemicals in the water.” The environmental protection group urged that the evacuation zone be expanded to five kilometers, warning that Monday’s expected rain could set off reactions and wash these chemicals into the earth.

Authorities have however tried to downplay the dangers of impending rain, with the official Xinhua news agency reporting: “Meteorological experts say the rainfall will not pose a direct danger to human health, as it has been several days since the blast. But if the rain dissolves the cyanide particles on the ground, underground water and soil will be contaminated. The local weather department has devised an artificial rain reduction plan to reduce possible harms to the environment.”

Meanwhile, China’s top prosecutor, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, has opened an investigation into the blasts to look for “possible illegal acts, such as abuse of power or dereliction of duty and deal with those acts which may constitute crimes,” according to Xinhua.


Shi Luze  史魯澤

Bao Jingling  包景岭

Thai former PM Yingluck to face trial for dereliction of duty over rice scheme

March 19, 2015


Thailand’s former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on January 15, 2015.  Reuters photo

By Thanaporn Promyamyai

Bangkok (AFP) – Thailand’s former premier Yingluck Shinawatra was Thursday ordered to stand trial on charges of negligence over a bungled rice subsidy scheme, in a case that could see her jailed for up to a decade.

The decision is the latest legal move against Yingluck — Thailand’s first female prime minister and sister of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra — that could spell the end of her family’s political dominance.

The Shinawatras, or parties allied to them, have won every Thai election since 2001.

“The panel (of judges) has decided that this case falls within our authority,” said judge Veeraphol Tangsuwan at Bangkok’s Supreme Court, adding that the first hearing will be held on May 19.

Thailand’s attorney general filed criminal charges against Yingluck in February, accusing her of “dereliction of duty” in relation to the populist but economically disastrous rice scheme, which paid farmers in the rural Shinawatra heartland twice the market rate for their crops.

She is not accused of corruption herself but of failing to prevent alleged graft in the programme which cost billions of dollars and inspired the protests that eventually felled her elected government and led to May’s military coup.

The court’s decision comes less than two months after the retroactive impeachment of the former premier, also over the rice scheme, by an assembly appointed by the ruling generals — a move that carries an automatic five-year ban from politics.

Yingluck did not attend the Bangkok court on Thursday but will be legally obliged to attend the first hearing in May.

In a statement on her Facebook page published shortly after the ruling she defended the controversial scheme as one which “lifted the quality of life for rice farmers”.

“As prime minister I was always honest and served the Thai people, who voted for my government,” she said. “I have not done anything wrong at all.”

– ‘Fight against injustice’ –

The army takeover last year was the latest twist in Thailand’s turbulent political landscape, at the heart of which sits Thaksin, who was toppled by a previous coup in 2006 and now lives in self-exile to avoid jail on a corruption charge.

Yet his influence persists in Thai politics with Shinawatra-allied parties still drawing the loyalty of the rural north as well as urban working-class voters for their populist policies.

But the policeman-turned-billionaire telecoms tycoon is loathed by much of the country’s royalist elite, which is backed by parts of the military and judiciary.

Puangthong Pawakapan, a Thai politics expert at Chulalongkorn University, said the charges against Yingluck were an example of history repeating itself given that multiple cases were also brought by Thailand’s courts against her brother prior to his flight.

“It’s quite clear the elite want to force out the Shinawatras from politics,” Puangthong told AFP.

The uneasy calm that descended upon Bangkok after the coup ended months of often-violent street demonstrations has been interrupted by a few small protests in defiance of martial law and more recently by two small bomb attacks in the capital.

The decision to prosecute Yingluck will further “raise the political temperature” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic at Kyoto University.

“It will inspire people to come out and fight against injustice and politicisation of the court,” he said.

The junta has said it will hold fresh elections in early 2016 once reforms to tackle corruption and curb the power of political parties are codified in a new constitution.

But the draft charter has already raised deep concerns in the kingdom, and critics doubt whether it will bridge Thailand’s political divisions.

Benghazi: How to do the hearings right

May 9, 2014


By Charles Krauthammer

The Democrats are portraying the not-yet-even-constituted House Select Committee on Benghazi as nothing but a partisan exercise. They are even considering boycotting the hearings to delegitimize them.

Fine. Although this would give the Obama-protective media a further reason to ignore Benghazi, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is whether the committee produces new, important facts. If it does, it will be impossible to ignore.

We’ve already seen what a single piece of new evidence can do in reviving interest in a story that many (including me) thought the administration had successfully stonewalled. The “PREP CALL with Susan [Rice]” e-mail from deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes was withheld eight months until revealed by court order. It advises the U.N. ambassador to focus on an anti-Islam Internet video, thus contradicting the perennial White House claim that Rice’s blame-the-video five-show fable came just from intelligence community talking points and not from a White House in full campaign mode.

The select committee will be headed by Rep. Trey Gowdy, a skilled 16-year prosecutor. He needs to keep the hearings clean and strictly fact-oriented. Questions only, no speechifying. Every sentence by every GOP committee member must end with a question mark. Should any committee Republican instead make a declarative statement ending in a period, the chairman should immediately, by button, deliver an electric shock through the violator’s seat.

The areas of inquiry are obvious. They are three: before, during and after.


Where and to what extent was there dereliction of duty as memos, urgent pleas and mounting evidence of danger were ignored and the U.S. ambassador was allowed to enter a deathtrap?


What happened during the eight hours of the Benghazi attack, at the end of which the last two Americans (of four) were killed by mortar fire? Where was the commander in chief and where was the responsible Cabinet secretary, Hillary Clinton? What did they do?

The White House acts as if these are, alternatively, either state secrets or of no importance.

For President Obama, we have three data points. At 5 p.m. EDT, he is informed of the attack at a regular briefing with his secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

At around 8 p.m., Obama spends an hour on the phone with Benjamin Netanyahu to tamp down a breaking, politically injurious story that Obama had snubbed the Israeli prime minister. The White House then issues a readout saying the two leaders had agreed there had been no snub.

So the White House is engaged in campaign damage control quite literally in the middle of the Benghazi events — at a time when Ambassador Chris Stevens is still missing and the final firefight that killed two other Americans is still three hours away. We’ve just learned that Obama was not in the Situation Room that night. Then where, doing what?

We know, finally, that at 10 p.m. Obama called Clinton — a call the White House, at first, had not reported — to get an update. What did they discuss, decide, order?

As former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, a half-hour later, State issued a statement deploring the video, setting the premise for the video excuse. Were Obama and Clinton working on a cover story — even before Glen Doherty had joined Tyrone Woods on the roof of the CIA annex where they were to die minutes later?

Yes, that’s speculation. Well, then, give us facts. After all, the White House provided a cascade of hagiographic facts about Obama’s involvement in the Osama bin Laden raid. Yet regarding Benghazi — the most serious operational challenge of his presidency, the 3 a.m. phone call Hillary Clinton had warned about in 2008 — he is nowhere to be seen.


We now know the White House was pushing the “video made them do it” coverup, lest the blame be placed on administration policy. Who was involved in that decision, obviously designed to protect a president campaigning that al-Qaeda was “on the run”?

What difference does it make? The difference between truth and falsehood. The difference between a brazen stonewall that is exposed and one that succeeds.

Nonetheless, these hearings are a big political risk for Republicans. Going into the 2014 election, they stand to benefit from the major issues — Obamacare, the economy, chronic unemployment — from which Benghazi hearings can only distract. Worse, if botched like previous hearings on the matter, these hearings could backfire against the GOP, as did the 1998 Clinton impeachment proceedings. On purely partisan considerations, the hearings are not worth the political risk.

But the country deserves the truth. They’ll get it if the GOP can keep the proceedings clean, factual and dispassionate. No speeches. No grandstanding. Gowdy has got to be a tough disciplinarian — especially toward his own side of the aisle.


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End Of American Greatness?

August 13, 2013

The Weekly Standard has paid tribute to Philip Larkin’s great 1969 poem “Homage to a Government” before. In light of the release this week of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s strategic review laying out the dramatic reductions in our fundamental defense capabilities that current budget scenarios will produce, we’re not embarrassed to give it pride of place again. Indeed, given the broad acquiescence of our political leaders to the feckless hollowing-out of our hollowing-out, we think it would be a dereliction of duty not to do so.

By William Kristol

So here’s Larkin’s mordant lament over postwar Britain’s retreat from responsibility, not to say from greatness. Read it and weep:

Next year we are to bring all the soldiers home

For lack of money, and it is all right.

Places they guarded, or kept orderly,

Must guard themselves, and keep themselves orderly.

We want the money for ourselves at home

Instead of working. And this is all right.

It’s hard to say who wanted it to happen,

But now it’s been decided nobody minds.

The places are a long way off, not here,

Which is all right, and from what we hear

The soldiers there only made trouble happen.

Next year we shall be easier in our minds.

Next year we shall be living in a country

That brought its soldiers home for lack of money.

The statues will be standing in the same

Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same.

Our children will not know it’s a different country.

All we can hope to leave them now is money.

Larkin wrote “Homage” almost a quarter-century after the end of World War II. In the darkest moments of that war, on June 18, 1940, when Britain stood alone, Churchill famously proclaimed: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ ” So it was, and so men say it still—but in a mood of nostalgia for past glory.

Is that our fate? It’s been almost a quarter-century since the American-led victory in the Cold War. Are we now “a different country” than the America that was willing and able to brace itself to its duties not so long ago?

We trust we are not. But the Obama defense review confirms the bleak analysis offered recently in these pages by Gary Schmitt and Thomas Donnelly:

In 2012, the Department of Defense spent a total of $651 billion, including the costs of fighting in Afghanistan. According to the budget plan submitted by the White House a few months ago, projected 2014 spending will be $547 billion. If, as seems nearly inevitable, the “sequestration” provision of the Budget Control Act is triggered, that figure will fall below $500 billion, a loss of more than 20 percent in just two years. .  .  . Alas, no conceivable amount of reform can possibly make up for the deep cuts. .  .  . No budgetary efficiencies can make up for the cuts now already in law and the resulting hollowing-out of the American military.

In presenting his strategic review, Hagel admitted that no savings from reforms and efficiencies can make up for the shortfall in resources. He did speak of trade-offs between quantity and quality in the military and acknowledged those tradeoffs would be increasingly difficult. In fact, it’s worse than that. As the Foreign Policy Initiative explained in a staff analysis, “When it comes to national defense, quantity has a quality of its own, and reducing the Armed Forces to the point that they could no longer sustain critical operations would cripple America’s standing in the world.” As Hagel’s predecessor at the Pentagon, Leon Panetta, put it, we are heading to a situation in which the United States will have the smallest ground forces since 1940, the smallest fleet since 1915, and the smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force.

This is all utterly unnecessary and shockingly irresponsible. We have never been wealthier as a nation than we are today. We have never been technologically more advanced. The challenges we face are less daunting than those our forefathers dealt with. Our young men and women who have volunteered since 9/11 are at least the equals of the generations who have gone before. The attack on 9/11 is still fresh in mind, and the prospect of a world in which terror is rewarded, the enemies of liberty flourish, and nuclear weapons proliferate is clear enough ahead.

The good news is that all this is manageable at a far lower percentage of gdp, with a smaller military and with fewer troops in combat, than was required for most of the last 70 years. The good news is that our current enemies aren’t really that strong or clever or formidable. But they do need to be fought and deterred. That requires a military that is technologically preeminent and globally present. And if our enemies are not deterred, they can still produce terrible destruction and fearsome chaos.

But of course the problem isn’t our enemies. We have met the enemy of American greatness. The enemy is us.