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The battle of 9/11’s ailing first responders

Jerry Mazza
Online Journal
Sunday, February 14th, 2010

As Susan Edelman reported in the NY Post’s billable billions, the legal battle of ailing 9/11 first responders for compensation at Ground Zero will bring literally billions in billable hours to defense lawyers. These fees could amount to half of the money payable to some 10,000 first responders and recovery workers from toxic injuries, whose suits could total some $4 billion.

Of course, the workers were not racking up triple- to four-digit hourly fees plus expenses. They did get to inhale for some period of time Ground Zero’s toxic brew straight from Pandora’s open box. That would be . . .

  • Over 400 tons of asbestos, which inhaled in any quantity, cannot be expelled by the lungs.
  • 90,000 liters of jet fuel containing benzene, a carcinogen that suppresses the immune system and causes leukemia.
  • Mercury from over 500,000 fluorescent lights that is toxic to the nervous system, and damaging especially to the kidneys.
  • 200,000 pounds of lead and cadmium from personal computers toxic to the respiratory tract, especially damaging to kidneys.
  • Polycystic aromatic hydrocarbons that cause lung, laryngeal and throat cancers.
  • 130,000 gallons of transformer oil, which contains PCBs ad causes serious skin rashes and liver damage.
  • Crystalline Silica from 420,000 tons of concrete, sheetrock and glass (tiny particulates that lodge in the heart, causing ischemic heart disease).

The above facts come from filmmaker Heidi Dehncke’s amazing documentary, Dust to Dust: the health effects of 9/11. I reviewed this film in my article 9/11’s Second Round of Slaughter. In fact, some 2,500 contaminants erupted from the explosions of the World Trade Center that felled Towers One, Two and Seven, plus the two, fuel-laden jetliners, turning into a toxic gray dust that hung in the air as well as settled in people’s lungs, including first responders, and on area streets, vehicles, buildings, residences, both outside and inside the city for months.

You can add to the list of deadly pollutants the red dust of nanothermite, an explosive discovered in the pile by physicist Steven Jones and his team of scientists. The red dust, aerosolized from the military explosive thermite by nanotechnology, was likely sprayed on walls and girders within the Towers. Ironically, Tower 7, the third tower to go down, was not hit by an airliner to ignite the heat-sensitive thermite. Actually, T-7 came down at 5:20 PM at the request of the building owner, WTC lessee, Larry Silverstein. He claimed at 3 PM on 9/11 that there was so much pain and suffering that “we decided to pull it,” the term for a planned internal demolition by explosives. Yet, two hours and 20 minutes was not enough time to set up an internal demolition for that building. It had to be done well in advance. Not so surprisingly, the red nanothermite dust was found in the Tower 7 ruins as well.

The original pieces of red dust nanothermite were picked up and stored by dedicated 9/11 Truthers, one of whom, Jeanette MacKinlay, underwent brain surgery for a cancerous tumor on Wednesday in a Los Angeles hospital. May whatever force of truth and justice that we are blessed with be by her side and help her to recover. For, after all is said and done, these are the people who give their lives for truth and justice. Try to put a price tag on that.

You can find a highly detailed analysis of Tower 7’s demise in David Ray Griffin’s book, The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7, which I reviewed in Just Say No to NIST.

Returning to the lawyers for the plaintiffs, they also made a pile of money from the Victims Compensation Fund, which dispersed some $7 billion to victim families, with a similar payment schedule, a 30 to 40 percent cut of the settlements and judgments plus expenses. The VCP offered the option of a trial to sue or to take the money and hush up. Just about all of the families took the money. The 90 or so families that didn’t were “convinced” over some eight years to take the money.

So far, one family is struggling still for a trial, as is the ever-heroic Ellen Mariani, whom I have mentioned often. The hitch is Mrs. Mariani, whose husband Neil Mariani died on Flight 175, received neither a trial nor any money. This is probably because she brought both a “suit for wrongful death” and a subsequent RICO suit against George Bush and his administration. Both were rejected for “national security reasons.” Hardly a reason (besides vindictiveness) to then deny her the financial benefits non-challengers received.

The presiding judge, Alvin K. Hellerstein already “hopes he will settle as many cases as possible” without going to court. Funny, here is a judge to whom trials are anathema. What could it be that he and the court system fear so much about trials? Would the discoveries of trials send a lot of people to jail? Could it possibly have been an inside job, and the government is now totally occupied in a major CYA ops? Or is just one of those “conspiracy theories.” It would seem to this writer that the administration’s explanation of what happened on 9/11 was the real conspiracy theory.

Lest I digress, it’s a matter of “cui bono,” who profits, asking you to follow the money. And the big money, the billable billions, is with the big firms of defense attorneys, as it was with the airlines and their attorneys. Some $15 billion was doled out by the US government to the airlines, half in cash and half in tax credits and subsidies. Remember, too, hundreds of millions were made in the stock market on 9/11 in puts and calls, the puts for airline stocks to fall, the calls for defense stocks to rise. Somehow, many knew this would happen, because an inordinate number of individuals made big bucks on either puts or calls on 9/11.

We should also remember that it was FEMA and the EPA, both federal government agencies, that claimed it was safe for workers to toil in Ground Zero so quickly after 9/11, as it were all right for employees to return to their Wall Street jobs, and neighborhood residents to return to their dust-laden homes. This is why I titled my article, “9/11’s second round of slaughter,” one not so obvious but that surfaced later as a horrendous blowback the home-grown perpetrators neither banked on nor cared about.

Returning to the workers’ defense lawyers, the amount that they have already received to fight some 10,000 claims is close to $200 million, plus $75 million for “administrative expenses.” I’d love some accounting transparency on both figures. Yet, as Ms. Edelman points out, “How much money is up for grabs” from the remaining funds is the question. There is a $1 billion taxpayer fund that could be worth $3 billion with liability-insurance coverage. There is the WTC Captive Insurance Co., a nonprofit governed by Mayor Bloomberg, a managed $1 billion fund, including the $600 million and policies held by WTC contractors.

At the same time the fund spent $275 million from 2004 to Dec 31, 2009, “it doled out only $320,000 to five workers with minor injuries.” It’s no wonder “workers are livid.” Though the WTC insurance fund was down at $923 million at the end of December, and dwindling through its investments since 2004, “expenses” took another $28 million in the last three months of 2009 the records show. Yet “the fund recently won a $200 million settlement with city insurance companies to help cover legal expenses, which takes the total available to near $1.1 billion, though costs keep accruing.”

Edelman’s most interesting point is, if that amount were distributed today, it could mean an average of $100,000 per worker, “many of whom have suffered debilitating illnesses or died.” Having seen and met these damaged workers at WeAreChange benefits, I can safely say it is a heart-rending picture.

Yet the lawyers are out for “untold billions in liability insurance” to be squeezed out of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, the former owner of the Twin Towers, and from construction companies and a barge operator which transported all the evidence, i.e., rubble to Fresh Kills, from whence much of the steel was shipped to China to be smelted into oblivion, even returning in the keel of a Navy vessel to flaunt in our faces. That was the evidence of the largest crime scene in American history that was sent to the dump before any real investigation took place.

Given the levels of corruption, we now get some accusations via AP IMPACT that the first of the first responder cases include some with credibility problems. David Caruso writes, “As the first cases in a massive battle over illnesses linked to 9/11 near trial, an Associated Press investigation has found that several of the initial 30 suits contain inconsistent or exaggerated claims about how the workers got sick or how much time they spent at ground zero.

“One demolition worker who said he developed health problems after toiling for six months in the toxic ruins of the World Trade Center has actually been severely ill since the 1990s. In a previous medical malpractice case, he said he was so sick between 2000 and 2003 that he couldn’t work regularly. He never mentioned 9/11 during his testimony in that lawsuit.”

It turns out that in over 9,000 legal claims filed against New York City about 60 have gotten close scrutiny by the court. Thirty are now in consideration as candidates for trials in May. Judge Hellerstein will be cutting the number for the first trials to 12. He’s counting on them to form “a road map to settlements” for additional claims from rescue and recovery workers who claim they became ill after the city “failed to protect them from poisonous trade center ash.” One billion-plus dollars in damages are in the offing.

The truth is, as also documented in Dust to Dust, workers were not encouraged to even wear paper face masks, let alone respirators. Safety was the first casualty at the Ground Zero clean-up as Mayor Giuliani, who had 30 months (two and a half years) to complete the clean-up, pushed workers to work day and night to finish the project in a mere eight months. In sharp contrast, the first responders in Washington, D.C., had to wear respirators to work at the Pentagon disaster site, no excuses accepted. This was not mentioned in the AP article. This is not to say that there may not be some workers padding hours at Ground Zero, exaggerating illnesses or seeking more than they may deserve.

But I will bet my bottom dollar that the vast majority of these men and women gave unstintingly, and under a criminal push for speed. I honor them as heroes despite any “bad apples” that may turn up among the 10,000 workers. I would also advise those “apples” to straighten up and not dishonor their colleagues in opportunistic endeavors. Yet lord knows, seeing what they saw, hearing the explosions on that day, realizing those Towers were really going down in pre-planned internal demolitions, they had to suffer some loss of innocence in the line of duty, another tragic symptom.

Remember, in addition to the subsequent illnesses of the workers, some leading to death, you had the deaths of 343 firefighters and paramedics, and 78 police officers on that awful day, plus the nearly 3,000 civilians who perished. It had to be traumatic to any and all present on that day and after, not to mention to the world at large. If AP or any other bona fide organization wishes to further scrutinize workers’ applications for compensation, let them come forth and do so. No one should be sheltered from scrutiny as no one should be denied justice, including the dispensers of justice themselves and the Bush administration.

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