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KBR May Have Provided Tainted Water to US Troops in Iraq March 16, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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And the hits keep coming for KBR. Click – KBR – in case you missed their previous antics.

US contractor may have provided tainted water to soldiers in Iraq

A spate of illnesses among US troops at several bases in Iraq may have been caused by untested and possibly tainted water supplied by a private contractor then owned by Halliburton, according to a Pentagon audit to be released today.

The inspector general of the US defence department found a rise in diarrhoea, cellulitis and skin infections reported by troops who used the polluted water for personal tasks such as shaving and laundry at US bases, including three serviced by the defence contractor KBR.

The audit said the military provided water of questionable quality at two further bases.

Until last year KBR had exclusive rights to provide food, shelter, laundry services and transport to US forces serving in Iraq. At the time of the outbreaks KBR was controlled by Halliburton, the former employer of vice president Dick Cheney.

Independent Pentagon auditors found that at camp Q-West, a base 40 miles south of Mosul, KBR added chlorine to wastewater before distributing it for personal hygiene. At another base, Camp Ar Ramadi in Anbar province, 45% of soldiers surveyed said their personal hygiene water had an unusual odour or colour. The tests were carried out between March 2004 and January 2006.

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Sad News Regarding Several Security Contractors Missing Since 2006 March 14, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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This disappointing story was reported yesterday by the Washington Post:

Five Severed Fingers Identified as Belonging To Guards Held in Iraq

 “The four Crescent contractors whose fingers have been identified are Jonathon Cote, 25, of Getzville, N.Y.; Paul Reuben, 41, of Buffalo, Minn.; Joshua Munns, 25, of Redding, Calif.; and Bert Nussbaumer, 26, of Vienna, Austria. The fifth finger belonged to Ronald J. Withrow, 40, of Lubbock, Tex., a contractor and computer specialist for JPI Worldwide who was abducted Jan. 5, 2007, near Basra.”

 Our prayers go out for these men and their families.

Are you receiving the proper amount in Workers’ Compensation benefits? March 12, 2008

Posted by Herb Chestnut in Uncategorized.
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I had an Informal Conference today.  For those of you who have not gotten to this stage yet, an Informal Conference is your opportunity to discuss a problem you are having with your claim with the District Office of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP).  The conference is normally held by telephone and involves the claimant (you) or your attorney, the insurance carrier (or its attorney) and a claims examiner from the OWCP.  There is no special method required to request the conference.  A letter from one of the parties  identifying an issue to the District Office where you claim is pending is all that is required.  Even though the conference sounds, like its name, informal, it is a very important part of the process.

Getting back to my conference, one of the issues was average weekly wage (AWW).  Generally, AWW is calculated by first determining if the claimant worked substantially the whole year prior to the injury.  If so, was this work with the same employer or, at least, similar employment?  If so, the wages are simply calculated, divided by 52 and an AWW is determined.  There are several problems which rear their ugly heads, such as: what constitutes “substantially the whole year” and what type of job qualifies as “similar employment”.  According to cases decided under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act (LHWCA), 37 weeks is the benchmark for the term “substantially the whole year”.  Therefore, if you have worked 37 out of the last 52 weeks, you may qualify. 

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Iraq Contractor KBR Has Dodged $500 Million in U.S. taxes March 10, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) sure is a piece of work.  Lets recap a week or so of posts concerning KBR.

 1. KBR has been passing along to the American taxpayer, AIG’s inflated premiums for Defense Base Act coverage, so that KBR (and other contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan) could be insulated from liability for injuries to its employees.

2. KBR is presently being sued in Federal Court for allegedly intentionally causing the deaths of six KBR truck drivers in 2004.

3. Now we discover that the 10,000+ Americans working for KBR, were really working for a Caribean company, not an American one, saving KBR as much as $100 million a year in U.S. Medicare and Social Security Taxes. By claiming its own employees, many of which were hired in Texas and shipped directly to Iraq from there, to be employees of the Cayman Islands corporation Service Employers International Inc, KBR also avoids having to pay for unemployment insurance. That means KBR employees coming home from Iraq are ineligible to recieve unemployment. I bet that wasn’t part of the orientation movie. I also bet it wasn’t part of the pitch to the Department of Defense before they were granted a no-bid contract for work in Iraq.

Fisher v. KBR – Fifth Circuit to Consider Jurisdiction Over Contractors in Iraq March 7, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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The sad back story of this court case has come to be known as the “Good Friday Massacre.” Friday, April 9, 2004, hundreds of insurgents attacked a KBR convoy, killing 6 civilian drivers, injuring 14, and leaving another driver still missing to this day.

To make a long story short, KBR a former subsidiary of Halliburton has been accused of knowing that this particular convoy would be attacked, but sent these civilians into the firefight in a risky attempt to pad its bill to the Department of Defense. However, the factual arguments are on hold while a bitter fight ensues concerning jurisdictional questions.

The case, titled Fisher v. Halliburton, 454 F. Supp. 2d 637 (S.D. Tex. 2005), brings up a rarer situation than most Defense Base Act cases. The plaintiff(s) here allege that the Defense Base Act does not bar a traditional tort suit in federal court because the defendant, KBR, intentially harmed the injured and deceased drivers. The plaintiff is right, and though difficult to prove, this is a common exception in most workers’ compensation schemes, including the Defense Base Act and even the state laws here in Georgia.

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Do Americans View Contractors in Iraq as “Expendable Profiteers?” March 7, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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In a recent Houston Chronicle article, Steven Schooner, senior associate dean of the George Washington University School of Law and apparent expert on military outsourcing, revealed this as a possible explaination of the lack of public knowledge and debate concerning American, non-military casualties, in Iraq.

“The public all too frequently perceives contractor personnel in Iraq as expendable profiteers, adventure-seekers or marginalized members of society who are not entitled to the same respect or value that they would assign to members of the military.”

I’m not sure that this is a realistic observation of Americans, but for various reason’s our level of overseas civilian presence hasn’t been highlighted in the media, certainly not by television media. Though short, this piece highlights some of the key reasons why the plight of injured contractors once they return would be far from a front burner issue.

Below is the full Feb. 28, 2008 article by David Ivanovich of the Huston Chronicle

WASHINGTON — At least 353 civilian contractors died in Iraq last year, with contractors accounting for more than one in four deaths associated with the U.S. occupation, the Labor Department reported. With those fatalities sparking new questions about the Pentagon’s privatization of military functions, Steven Schooner, senior associate dean at the George Washington University School of Law and an expert on federal procurement law and military contracting, spoke with Chronicle reporter David Ivanovich.

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