Cancer Clusters in Florida: the Silence of the State

June 8, 2015

A CounterPunch Special Investigation

This is a story about pediatric cancer clusters in Florida. It begins in Durham, North Carolina at Duke University where Dr. David Banks is a professor in the Department of Statistical Science.

In 2013 Dr. Banks was the new editor of Statistics and Public Policy, a journal of the American Statistical Association. In early February, Banks gave a speech to the Florida Chapter of the ASA at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. There, he met with Dr. Raid Amin, a distinguished statistics professor at the university.

Three years earlier, a team led by Dr. Amin had published a paper, “Epidemiological Mapping of Florida Childhood Cancer Clusters.”

Dr. Amin’s statistical analysis of pediatric cancers in Florida – from the years 2000 to 2007 – concluded that there are significant cancer clusters in two large areas of Florida: the southern region of Florida and in northeast Florida. That struck one of the most sensitive nerves in state government.

Its publication was lightly reported in the press, but to state officials charged with monitoring public health, it followed in the highly publicized wake of two claims of pediatric cancer clusters, one in Port St. Lucie in the 1990’s and another in an unincorporated area of West Palm Beach called the Acreage in 2009. Even today, reading the plaintive cries for help from aggrieved parents is heart wrenching. Read the rest of this entry »


A True Story About Big Sugar and Political Corruption in South Florida: The Strange Suicide of Art Teele

May 28, 2015

In the accompanying picture, that’s me on the left. The year is possibly 1994. I’m standing next to the late Congressman William Lehman from Miami-Dade. Bill Lehman died in 2005. Next to Bill is the civil rights activist and Miami path breaker, Thelma Gibson. The sturdy, imposing African-American to the right was the star of the photograph. Arthur E. Teele Jr. (Sorry, I don’t recall the name of the woman to Art Teele’s left.)

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From left, Alan Farago, Rep. William Lehman, Thelma Gibson, Arthur E. Teele Jr. and an unidentified woman.

At the time, Art Teele was chair of the Miami-Dade County Commission. He died in 2005, too. A decade ago. A decade after this photo was taken. Twenty years after this photograph more or less, Arthur E. Teele blew his brains out in the lobby of One Herald Plaza, the home of the Miami Herald that also no longer exists. He did it for a reason: he believed he was being hounded out of existence by enemies including the powerful Herald.

In the photograph, Art Teele is caught looking off to the side. Bill Lehman is looking down. That happens, especially when photos are staged and there’s a lot going on around you. The moment the camera clicks you are inattentive. But as I look at the photo today, I recall Art Teele often looked that way when you were talking with him. Looking somewhere else. Restless. Read the rest of this entry »


Mr. President, use Everglades backdrop on Earth Day to shun Big Sugar money

April 21, 2015

(This OPED is available on the web through ContextFlorida.)  It makes sense for President Barack Obama to be in the Everglades on Earth Day. According to the White House, he will draw attention to both the Everglades and the massive economic consequences of global warming and climate change.

Obama is likely to echo what a former Friends of the Everglades director said over a decade ago: “The Everglades is a test. If we pass, we may get to save the planet.”

The difference between the time the phrase was first spoken and today is significant. Read the rest of this entry »


Yale, Hunter S. Thompson and the Social Contract: the Good Doctor in Drag

April 5, 2015

Part One

(Printed in Counterpunch) In December 1972, I was a college freshman at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. Christmas break, one of my best friends invited a group of us to share his uncle’s condominium near the ski lifts in Aspen after New Year’s. We had grown up skiing together in New Hampshire. I flew into Denver, a cow town small enough you could roll a basketball down Broadway at four PM and it would roll to the other end of the city. The next day I took a bus to Aspen.

That night when we were fast asleep in the duplex, there was a loud banging on the door. My friend, the responsible party, went downstairs to see about the commotion. I gradually focused on a heated exchange between my friend and an interloper. It was late. We had smoked a little reefer. Who knew. The long and the short of it: the raised voice on the other side of the door was the manager of the US Women’s Ski Team. In the van behind him was the US Women’s Ski Team. They had flown in from Europe and driven straight to Aspen from Denver. Their race began the next morning, and they intended to take possession of said, same condominium they had rented.

After a frantic phone — rotary dial — call, my friend established that his uncle had sold his condominium a few months earlier. Although we had a key that let us in and his promise we that could use the condo, he had forgotten. We were on our own. We offered to share the condo for that night only. The manager of the US Women’s Ski Team gave us an hour to clear out. Read the rest of this entry »


The GOP’s Ten Commandments on Climate Change

March 24, 2015

(printed in Counterpunch and Context Florida)  In public, GOP leaders are climate change deniers. In private, they understand climate change perfectly well. The difference is that disclosure doesn’t serve the party’s purposes. Climate change denial – against the backdrop of accumulating science and fact – is like an electrical charge stimulating the Republican base. Here are the GOP’s Ten Commandments of climate change.

1) Climate change is like the weather: there is nothing we can do about it.

2) We are top predator. Others must adapt to us or die.

3) It doesn’t matter if climate change is man-made: whatever happens is God’s will.

4) Since our God in the only God, we know what is best for you.

5) As the party of limited government, any effort to strengthen environmental regulations is cutting our own throats.

6) As the party of capitalism, we are against any climate-driven protectionism unless it serves our interests.

7) If climate change requires subsidies, existing subsidies will be protected, first. Any additional subsidies will have to adapt to ours.

8) Dissenters on climate change within the party are psychological deviants, to be dealt with and isolated from decision-making.

9) If there is a dispute on climate change between constituencies the GOP represents, the leadership will side with that person who concentrates our political power.

10) We will adapt our behavior to impacts of climate change as they happen, not before.

Alan Farago writes the daily blog, Eye On Miami, under the pen name, Gimleteye. He is president of Friends of the Everglades, a grass roots conservation organization based in Miami, FL. A long-time writer and advocate for Florida’s environment, his work is archived at alanfarago.wordpress.com Column courtesy of Context Florida.


Jeb Bush stuck with anti-science bias

March 17, 2015

(printed in Context Florida) We know how Gov. Rick Scott feels about climate change: his administration refuses to allow the words to creep into any state policy documents.

And what about former Gov. Jeb Bush – the likely GOP nominee for president in 2016?

We know about his brother, George W., and climate change denial. The historical record is clear: lobbyists President Bush appointed to run the White House Council on Environmental Quality imposed changes on EPA policies, subjugating science to ideology.

Jeb says, “I am my own man”, in trying to distance himself from unpopular aspects of his brother’s presidency.

But when Jeb was governor, agency staff that interacted with journalists on the environment were also censored. Under Gov. Bush, for instance, the State Department of Health refused to discuss the most severe threat to public health from toxics in the environment: cancer clusters. Read the rest of this entry »


Travels in India conjure memories of priceless Everglades

February 18, 2015

(Published at ContextFlorida) Although I am at the end of my third visit to India, this is still a nation that feels more remote from my experiences than any other. In the far south, it took nine hours to drive the hill country from Tamil Nadu on the east coast of India to the edge of Kerala on the west. The roads wind through villages, tea and rubber plantations, groves of spices – pepper, cardamon, cinnamon and nutmeg – once worth their weight in gold in European capitals.

The wealth that slipped through India was once so vast that only 100 years ago young princes and princesses played in chests loaded with sapphires, rubies, emeralds and precious metals. Today, the suffering of the disadvantaged is dire. The dirt and pollution are ubiquitous. None of the deficits can obscure the fact that the nation is moving, propelled by two cylinder engines, nuclear power plants and the global economy.

But with so many unique languages and 29 strong and independent states ruled by their own congresses, to an outsider India can seem more a state of mind than a sovereign state. When President Barack Obama on his visit to New Delhi stated that there is no fixing climate change without success in India, I wondered: “How? Who? Where?” Read the rest of this entry »


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