- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Japanese whaling program serves scientific purposes

I would like to comment upon the United States' threats of sanctions against Japan for its whale research program. I am councilor for the Institute of Cetacean Research in Tokyo, which conducts the whale research authorized by the Japanese government. Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta has threatened to impose sanctions because Japan's research program diminishes the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission's conservation program.
The purpose of the IWC's parent treaty is to manage whaling in a sustainable manner. Contrary to this, however, the United States has, since the early 1980s, taken the position that all whales should be protected irrespective of the conservation status of stocks. This position subverts the purpose of the treaty, causing the IWC to be dysfunctional. Only from a perversely political perspective could the small number of whales Japan takes from the abundant stocks of the Pacific for research purposes be seen as diminishing the effectiveness of the IWC. Further, Japan's actions are perfectly legal under the treaty. Trade sanctions are unwarranted.
The United States has certified Japan three times for diminishing the effectiveness of the IWC program. Similar "certifications" have been used against six different countries no less than 12 times on whaling-related matters. No trade sanctions were applied in any of those cases.
The primary purpose of Japan's current research program is to examine the impact of whales on the fisheries of the North Pacific, where whales are becoming increasingly abundant and are consuming the fish that fisheries catch to feed people. The taking of a small number of whales required for the research poses no risk or threat to these abundant species. Currently, 60 percent of the world's major fishery resources are either overfished or fully fished. Meanwhile, whales are consuming three to five times the amount of seafood per year as are caught for human consumption. For these reasons, Japan's whale research programs should be welcomed.
The result of the U.S. boycott of international meetings held in Japan last week on environmental issues is clearly anti-environmental. It threatens good governance and the international cooperation required to properly manage all marine resources and address real environmental issues.
The Institute
of Cetacean Research

Teen credits 'Life Choices' program for improved self-esteem

My name is Tameka Henson, and I would like to thank you for printing the article on Teen Life Choices and bringing people's attention to the program. I think TLC is a great place for teens to improve their self-control, address their problems, and build self-esteem. TLC helped me to control my attitude and become responsible. Ever since I attended the program, I have been getting A's and B's, and I was valedictorian of my eighth-grade class at Fletcher-Johnson Educational Center. On behalf of Teen Life Choices, I thank you.

On behalf of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincerest thanks for your Aug. 22 story on our Teen Life Choices program ("Teens choose to make lives better").
We at Catholic Charities are extremely proud of our program and the positive role it has played in the lives of teens in Ward 7. Your story truly captured the essence of the program and the youths who are reaping the benefits.
I am personally amazed by the program participants' enthusiasm and spirit, characteristics made evident in your story. You have provided the opportunity for their voices to be heard and for their story to be told.

Catholic Charities of the
Archdiocese of Washington

On behalf of Teen Life Choices, I would like to thank you for writing the story on our center. Thanks for showing that, even in the most dangerous areas of Washington, you can still find a safe place to enjoy yourself and learn a thing or two.
This was my first experience here at Teen Life Choices, and I must say I never had a better summer in my life.
Many of the guest speakers that came to the center really made me think about my life and which path to take: the safe one or the dangerous one.
Thanks for placing a positive highlight on our center and showing the world that there is a place of safety for youth.

Isn't it time to give Persian Gulf War veterans benefit of the doubt?

For years we have listened to elected officials and bureaucrats claim that when our nation's war veterans return from combat we must not split hairs in caring for their battle-related injuries and illnesses. In 1998, Congress passed and the president signed the Gulf War Veterans Act, which listed a number of toxic substances to which the veterans may have been exposed. Now, two years later, the Institute of Medicine has come forward with a report on one of those substances, the chemical warfare agent sarin.
The report concludes that "there is sufficient evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to sarin and a dose-dependent acute cholinergic syndrome that is evident seconds to hours subsequent to exposure [and symptoms begin to disappear] in days to months." The report cites "limited or suggestive evidence of an association between exposure to sarin at doses sufficient to cause acute cholinergic signs and symptoms and subsequent long-term health effects." Finally, it reports "inadequate/insufficient evidence to determine whether an association does or does not exist between exposure to sarin at low doses insufficient to cause acute cholinergic signs and symptoms and subsequent long-term adverse health effects." In the case of low-dose exposures, the committee recommended that additional studies should be conducted and also that surveillance continue of the health of the survivors of a 1996 terrorist attack in Japan involving the use of sarin.
These conclusions raised several questions during one Institute of Medicine briefing upon the release of this report. Notably, it was asked what the signs of acute sarin exposure are. The institute responded that among the symptoms were muscle cramping, stinging eyes, excessive sweating and miosis (contraction of the pupils of the eyes). It was then asked whether these symptoms would be distinguishable (in the absence of knowledge of an actual sarin attack) by a typical lay individual, a troop commander, or medic from the general sweating, eyes stinging from sweat, and the stomach churning anxiety of the type that might be experienced while actually engaging in or preparing for combat. The answer was no, that quite possibly an untrained observer would not be able to tell the difference.
Also in the report is an analysis of the symptoms being suffered by the victims of the Tokyo subway sarin terrorist attack of 1996. Remarkably, the individuals who were exposed to the deadly gas during the attack and who exhibited signs of acute sarin exposure have symptoms similar to those being reported by Gulf War veterans. And while many of these symptoms were noted in a control group of unexposed individuals, the rate at which they were reported was two to eight times greater in the exposed Japanese populations.
Coincidentally (or not), this was the same phenomenon that was observed when Gulf War veterans were compared with their fellow soldiers who were not deployed to the Middle East in studies published over the past several years.
With the issuance of this report and the publication of the many congressional reports and scientific articles that contributed to these conclusions, the secretary of Veterans Affairs now has 60 days to determine whether Gulf War veterans suffering from the symptoms being reported by the survivors of the sarin terrorist attack in Japan will be given the benefit of the doubt by ruling that their illnesses are service connected.
Do we really give our veterans the benefit of the doubt? Or will we continue to study this until no doubts, and perhaps no veterans, remain?


The author is the director of the Interdisciplinary Sciences, Chronic Illness Research Foundation and the former director of an investigation into the "Health Consequences of the Persian Gulf War" conducted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs from 1993 to 1995.

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