October 27, 2011
By Scott Johnson, Matt Krupnick and Thomas Peele
A 24-year old former Marine Corps corporal and Iraqi war veteran remained in critical condition at Highland Hospital on Wednesday night after friends said he was hit in the head with a police projectile in Tuesday’s Occupy Oakland confrontation.
Scott Thomas Olsen, 24, of Onalaska, Wis., was admitted to Highland after he was hit on the head above his right eye during clashes with police, said hospital spokesman Curt Olsen, who is not related to the veteran.
Scott Olsen appears to be the first serious injury nationwide of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread to virtually every major American city — and several smaller ones — as millions of people continue to express their anger and disappointment with the country’s banking, regulatory and health care systems.
“It’s absolutely unconscionable that our citizens are going overseas to protect other citizens just to come back and have our own police hurt them,” said Joshua Shepherd, a six-year Navy veteran and friend of Olsen’s, who attended a vigil late Wednesday afternoon for the injured man.
Fellow protesters brought him in after he failed to respond to basic questions. Doctors at the hospital said that Olsen had brain swelling and placed him under immediate supervision.
“He survived two tours in Iraq,” said Adele Carpenter, a friend of Olsen’s and a member of the Civilian Soldier Alliance. “This struggle has high stakes; I really respect the fact that Scott was standing up for what he believes in. He’s really passionate about social justice causes.”
Acting Chief Howard Jordan said the incident is under investigation by Internal Affairs, the Office of Investigator General, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and the federal monitor that oversees Oakland police as a part of the settlement of a police corruption lawsuit. Oakland police will also review training, policies and procedures.
Jordan called the incident “unfortunate,” adding that he wished it did not happen.
“The goal is not to cause injury,” he said.
He said Oakland police used bean bags and gas but do not use rubber bullets or wooden dowels. It is possible that other agencies did, he said. More than a dozen agencies from across Northern California assisted Oakland police under what is called a mutual aid agreement. They are, however, required to comply with Oakland policies.
The Oakland Police Department has requested use-of-force reports from the outside agencies.
Olsen, a systems analyst at a San Francisco IT firm called OPSWAT, had camped out for several nights at San Francisco’s occupation before moving to Oakland a few days ago.
Olsen was one of several hundred protesters who swarmed through Oakland’s downtown well into the morning hours on Wednesday, repeatedly clashing with riot police. In some cases, protesters threw bottles and tipped over garbage containers. Oakland police said two of its officers were injured when a protester doused them with cans of blue and pink paint.
Protesters lambasted the police response as “heavy handed” and criticized the use of projectiles such as the one that struck Olsen.
“He was shot by the people who were supposed to protect him,” said Keith Shannon, 24, Olsen’s Daly City roommate and former Marine Corps colleague. “It shows what lengths the government will go to to suppress opposing points of view.”
Olsen served two tours of duty in Iraq, once to the Iraqi-Syrian border city of Al Qaim from August 2006 to May 2007, and once to Haditha, in 2008. Both cities were hotbeds of al-Qaida and insurgent activity.
In 2010, the Marines issued Olsen an “administrative discharge.” Maj. Shawn Haney, a Marines spokesman based in Quantico, Va., declined to discuss Olsen’s discharge, but said his departure could have been for anything from a medical condition to a punitive measure.
Another young man, a 30-year-old Irish national named Seamus, lay writhing on the ground sobbing Wednesday afternoon clutching a grapefruit-sized bruise above his left hip. He said he and Olsen had been together when Olsen was shot. Seamus said his bruise was the result of a police projectile. Other protesters gathered around Seamus and showed off small rubber buckshot pellets they said police had fired at them.
Olsen’s parents planned to fly to Oakland on Thursday to see their son. Highland Hospital administrators said Olsen remained in critical condition, with no change in his status since his admission Tuesday night. But friends and acquaintances said hospital officials told them Olsen had suffered a skull fracture and was at risk of brain damage.
March 30th, 2011
By: Kevin Maurer
A North Carolina congressman said Thursday that he wants an investigation into reports that levels of a cancer-causing chemical in tap water at a Marine Corps base were downplayed and then omitted from official documents.
Democratic Rep. Brad Miller called for the probe by his House science subcommittee Thursday a day after The Associated Press reported on new documents that indicate massive fuel leaks at Camp Lejeune and high concentrations of benzene found in a water well there in 1984.
“I am just disbelieving of their failure to act. It may have been worse than a failure to act. They may have acted to minimize or prevent the risk from being disclosed,” Miller told the Associated Press on Thursday. “It is hard to imagine they would let this go on. There was too much information that they had to have consciously disregarded.”
Benzene, a carcinogen, is a natural part of crude oil and gasoline. Drinking water containing high levels of it can cause vomiting, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions and death. Long-term exposure damages bone marrow, lowers the number of red blood cells, and can cause anemia and leukemia, according to the EPA.
In 1984, an environmental contractor found benzene at 380 parts per billion at a well near a fuel farm. When a draft report was turned in, the level was changed to 38 parts per billion. The company’s final report on the well, issued in 1994, did not mention the benzene.
The Marine Corps had been warned nearly a decade earlier about the dangerously high levels of benzene, which was traced to massive leaks from fuel tanks at the base on the North Carolina coast. The benzene was discovered as part of a broader, ongoing probe into that contamination.
Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., the Chair Emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the Marines and their families “deserve to know exactly what was in the water.”
“I want to know whether there are still toxic chemicals contaminating the water at Camp Lejeune. If there are, what is the Navy’s plan for dealing with them?” Dingell said.
Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted water at the base before the wells closed two decades ago. Critics say little information on benzene contamination had been publicly known until recently.
“It is hard to believe that they let Marines and their families drink this water for 30 years and didn’t say a word about it when they knew they had a fuel tank farm right by the water supply that was hemorrhaging fuel,” Miller said.
North Carolina’s congressional delegation has been active on behalf of the health claims of former Camp Lejeune residents.
A bill introduced by Miller would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide health care to veterans and their family members who have fallen ill from the water. Miller’s bill is identical to the now-rejected Senate bill introduced by Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C.
Burr called the revelations disturbing.
“It’s very likely that this information will significantly change the direction and broaden the scope of the government’s scientific inquiry into the water contamination at Camp Lejeune,” Burr said.
The Senate passed legislation in September, backed Burr and Hagan, Richard Burr preventing the military from dismissing claims related to water contamination pending completion of several studies.
Among those is a mortality study that would determine if there are higher mortality rates for those who served at the base during the years water was contaminated.
A Hagan spokesman said that the senator would welcome a hearing, but that her top priority is completion of the studies.
“Right now there are Marines and their families who are sick and seeking answers. It is clear that benzene, a known carcinogen, was in the water supply in dangerous amounts,” Hagan said in a statement to AP. “We cannot leave these families with mounting medical problems and half answers.”
July 15, 2010
The Pentagon said on Wednesday it may be forced to take extreme measures — like not paying salaries — if the Democratic-led Congress fails to pass a $37 billion defense spending bill before lawmakers begin an August recess.
A senior Democratic aide said lawmakers would find a way to get it done. “We will pass it this work period. We have to,” the aide said.
Tensions are growing in the Pentagon about the fate of the bill, which has languished in Congress despite repeated pleas for action by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who needs to fund a 30,000-troop surge for the Afghan war.
The White House has added to the drama, threatening to veto the bill over $800 million in education spending cuts that were added by the House of Representatives.
“While we hope and expect the Congress will get this done, we also are obligated now to begin seriously planning for the possibility that they don’t,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.
He noted that “absent more drastic action” certain Army and Marine Corps spending accounts would run dry in August.
The Defense Department would do everything in its power, Morrell said, to continue to protect the United States and support troops “deployed in harm’s way.”
“It may involve asking a lot of hard-working people in this department to report to duty without an ability to pay them or other extreme measures we would rather avoid,” he said. “But we will get the job done, including in Iraq and Afghanistan and where else we operate around the world.”
Gates raised his concerns with Republicans at closed-door talks on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and afterward Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “this is a true emergency.”
“Secretary Gates is not involved in the politics of the add-ons, but he wants the funding for the troops. And he told us clearly today that it has to be done by the end of this month or he will not be able to pay the troops,” McConnell said.