News in Brief: Valdez Cleanup Workers Never Studied; Gulf Workers Anxious, and More

Despite widespread reports of illness, the impact of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on the long-term health of cleanup workers was never studied, reports McClatchy. To many observers, including Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, this lack of information may impact the workers of the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast.

The lack of published, peer-reviewed information agitates activists who see first hand the chronic health problems of the oil spill on cleanup workers. With inconclusive studies and hearsay reports driving the data, though, the oil industry has so far gotten a pass from regulators. Alaska oil industry watchdogs say that the lack of health information is eerily similar to the Valdez cleanup effort and ultimately may compromise worker health and safety on the Gulf Coast.

McClatchy in an earlier report found that BP’s cleanup worker safety plan, approved by the Coast Guard actually “exposes them to higher levels of toxic chemicals than generally accepted practices permit.”

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The Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously voted to approve Gen. David Petraeus’ nomination to command US and NATO forces in Afghanistan after a day of hearings, Democracy Now! reports.

Most notably, the present head of the United States Central Command made no commitments to the administration’s planned withdrawal date of July 2011, calling it “the beginning of a process, not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits and turns out the lights.” Democracy Now! suggests the general may ignore the withdrawal date altogether. He also addressed contentious rules of engagement in the hearing, calling for a review of rules that are intended to protect innocent civilians from the line of fire.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that Taliban-affiliated Afghans launched an attack outside of a NATO airfield near Jalalabad, starting a battle that killed eight militants and wounded two US soldiers. The battle broke out on the last day of the deadliest month of the nine-year war in Afghanistan. Official reports say that 101 soldiers were killed throughout the month of June.

While a Taliban spokesperson claimed that the attack took the lives of 32 soldiers, a NATO spokesperson downplayed the attack’s significance and disputed the Taliban’s figures.

“While designed to garner media attention, this attack only temporarily disrupted operations as our forces successfully repelled the attack,” said a spokesperson in a press release.

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Benigno Aquino III was sworn in as the 15th president of the Philippines, The Guardian UK reports. With an anti-corruption, populist platform, the quiet legislator won in a landslide in the May 11 elections. His win, the paper explains, “reflects the Flipinos’ longing for moral and political renewal.”

As part of his commitment to “true and complete justice for all,” he also pledged to open an independent inquiry on the country’s former leader, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Accused of failed power grabs, rampant corruption, human rights abuses and the death of nearly 1,200 peace activists, Arroyo still enjoys considerable popularity in the country and won a seat in the House of Representatives in the May elections.

While introducing his cabinet of Arroyo defectors and allies, Aquino vowed, “today … [is] the end of a leadership that has long been insensitive to the suffering of the people.”

The former legislator is the son of the late president Cory Aquino and the late Sen. Benigno Aquino, who was widely suspected of being assassinated by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The 1983 assassination is widely believed to be the trigger of the country’s People’s Power revolt that ultimately led to the dictator’s downfall.