Dog Bites

Gulf War Bitches
Veterans' research is going to the dogs. Literally. Which is good news for the thousands of U.S. veterans afflicted with Persian Gulf War Syndrome, the mysterious muscle and joint pains, memory loss, skin rashes, fatigue, kidney problems, and other ailments afflicting some of those who served in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

Researchers at the Lackland Air Force Base “Working Dog Center” in San Antonio, Texas, are studying the Gulf K-9 corps to see if the bowsers suffered “any infectious diseases or environmental exposures” — read, exposure to uranium armaments and biological warfare — “that may be related to human illnesses reported by Gulf War veterans,” according to a Department of Defense (DOD) memo this March. Alarmingly, 45 of the 128 canine Gulf vets have died, though the DOD says their demise was not war-related. Meanwhile, the tail-wagger is this: If something's happening to the pooches, it would rule out those convenient arguments that the syndrome is psychological. “It's interesting that they're studying the dogs,” says Gulf War specialist Dan Fahey of the veterans' rights group Swords to Plowshares. “I hope they put as much energy into studying the humans.”

Democrats at Work
Local Democratic Party Chair Matthew Rothchild appears ready to step aside — but apparently the successor pool is pretty shallow. Lined up to take the gavel is Claudine Cheng — like Rothchild, a lawyer in City Attorney Louise Renne's office and a fellow Willie Brown supporter. In fact, Cheng used to work in Brown's law office. This year will be the first time that the Central Committee has been legally allowed to endorse a candidate in the mayor's race, and the impact could be significant — especially if the committee does not endorse Brown. But put that thought out of your mind — the Rothchild-Cheng changeover ain't no makeover.

Flag Day
When the container ship APL China sails into Oakland this week, she'll be flying the blue, orange, and white flag of the former U.S. Territory of the Marshall Islands. For the geographically uninformed, the Marshall Islands include Bikini, blasted into itsy-bitsy pieces by U.S. atom bomb tests. And that — nuclear — is about the reception the ship can expect from local sailors, who are planning a protest in front of American President Lines' main port gate. Their objection: China's German officers and Filipino crew.

Under U.S. law, U.S.-flagged ships must hire U.S. crews. But the APL China became the first of APL's fleet to sail under a foreign flag after Congress nixed a 49-year-old shipping subsidy program that kept American President Lines tethered to the Stars and Stripes.

Under the subsidy, U.S. shipping companies got $212.5 million a year from the government. APL got between $3 million and $4 million per U.S.-flagged ship per year. Without the subsidy, APL's Gil Roeder says, U.S. flagging is too expensive.

But without U.S. flagging, local sailors are out of work.
“It's a rotten situation,” says Gunnar Lundeberg, president of the Sailors Union of the Pacific.

A new subsidy, working its way through the Senate, proposes giving shipping $100 million a year. The Marshall Islands, on the other hand, get $44 million a year, or 88 percent of their annual budget, from the U.S. government. And that doesn't even include the $183.7 million forked over in 1983 — just Uncle Sam's way of saying “I'm sorry” for turning Bikini into a beach blanket.

By Amy Linn, Larry Bush, and Ellen McGarrahan

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