Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

June 27, 2019

Reporter's Notebook: US Dusting by Helicopters: Censored News in Indian Country

Military helicopter above Tohono O'odham Nation, June 27, 2019

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
June 27, 2019

Tonight I received images of a US military helicopter 'dusting' Ali Jegk, a remote community on the western side of the Tohono O'odham Nation on the border.
The last time I received a report of a US helicopter dusting a community, it was in 1993, at the time when many Navajos died of the hantavirus.

The report came from northeast of Gallup, New Mexico, at Red Rock, and was followed by many Navajo deaths from hantavirus.  Navajos reported seeing a yellow dust falling from a helicopter.
Although the United States blamed the hantavirus deaths on rodent feces in pinyon gathering places, I knew this wasn't true because I lived in the largest pinyon gathering area, in the Chuska Mountains on the Navajo Nation, and Navajos were not dying there.
Many Navajos, including council delegates, said they felt the hantavirus outbreak was due to biological warfare stored at Fort Wingate, which was decommissioned and under demolition at the time, east of Gallup.
Later, a drug firm attempted to profiteer from the deaths. This was halted by the Navajo Nation Council.
As a staff reporter for Indian Country Today, I wrote the following article. The article was destroyed by editors who turned the article into a promotion for the drug. The newspaper refused to print a retraction, and later terminated me without cause. It is one of many articles censored after the Indian Country Today newspaper was sold to new owners.
The UN Observer and International Report at the Hague published the true version, as shared below. Thank you to publisher Paul Rafferty for publishing this. Paul was also one of the first to publish the U.S. torture photos from the prison of Abu Ghraib.
In regards to dusting by US military  helicopters, then and now, the truth is rarely revealed.

U.S.: Drug Profiteering, Bird Flu and Navajo Hantavirus
By Brenda Norrell (censored by Indian Country Today)
U.N. OBSERVER and International Report

While states prepare for the possibility of Avian or bird flu pandemic, corporate analysts question if the bird flu scare was a hoax designed to benefit Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the companies manufacturing the antiviral drug Tamiflu.

Rumsfeld’s rise in wealth from the sales of Tamiflu was recently revealed and resulted in questions about the pandemic scare.

Fortune magazine reported that after the bird flu scare, stocks rose and Rumsfeld, already one of the richest men in the Bush cabinet, benefited by at least $1 million in 2005, with profits continuing.

Tamiflu is manufactured and marketed by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche. Gilead Sciences, Inc. receives a royalty of about 10 percent from sales.

Rumsfeld served as chairman of Gilead Sciences, Inc., before joining the Bush administration. Rumsfeld still holds between $5 million and $25 million in the company, according to Rumsfeld’s financial disclosures.

Rumsfeld lists this position on his biography on the Department of Defense website: “Until being sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld served as Chairman of the Board of Gilead Sciences, Inc., a pharmaceutical company.”

In July, the Pentagon ordered $58 million worth of Tamiflu for the treatment for U.S. troops. Then, the U.S. signed a two-year deal to help states buy more than half a billion dollars worth of Tamiflu, with states in the U.S. required to pay three-quarters of it. Tamiflu is the primary drug of treatment for the strain of bird flu, H5N1.

Some states are now beginning the costly stockpile of Tamiflu. The states’ share will be $447 million, and the federal share will be $149 million.

However, Tamiflu has not been successful in the treatment of all bird flu cases around the world. In August, California became one of 13 states in the U.S. to purchase the drug and ordered $53 million.

On the Navajo Nation, tribal members still question another deadly outbreak, the hantavirus.

After the 1993 hantavirus outbreak on the Navajo Nation, the Centers for Disease Control said the hantavirus here was carried by field mice.

However, Navajos pointed out that the field mice have always been present on the Navajo Nation. Further, Navajos point out that the area with the heaviest concentration of field mice was not hit by the hantavirus.

These areas include the Tsaile and Chuska Mountains near the Arizona and New Mexico border where the large population of mice harvest pinions.

Navajo Councilman David John of Red Mesa, Ariz., was among the Navajo leaders who questioned if the hantavirus was released by the US military at Fort Wingate Army Depot in New Mexico, either intentionally in the form of a military germ warfare experiment, or accidentally as the site was being decommissioned at the time.

The Army Depot site was the actual center point of the radius of the first outbreak of Navajo hantavirus deaths in 1993, according to a map of the initial deaths compiled by Navajo Indian Health Service in Window Rock, which was not made public at the time of the outbreak.

As the military post was decommissioned, the buildings at Fort Wingate Army Depot, east of Gallup, N.M., were being torn down.

Genevieve Jackson, then Navajo councilwoman from Shiprock, N.M., was among the Navajo Nation Council leaders that urged the tribe not to become involved in the study of, or stockpiling, of the anti-viral drug ribavirin, used in the treatment of hantavirus.

During one tribal council session, Jackson questioned the origin of the hantavirus outbreak and possible corporate drug profiteering from the tragedy.

Since that time, watchdog groups in Washington have documented the “revolving door”, between politicians, lobbyists and pharmaceutical companies.

Companies that manufacture both Tamiflu and ribavirin have been linked to elected leaders in Washington.

Copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News

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