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[Washington Babylon]

Chemical Weapons and Self-Defense

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From the Seattle Times:

Scientists have discovered a lotion that can save the lives of U.S. soldiers exposed to chemical weapons — a product vastly superior to the standard-issue decontamination powder. Naturally, the Defense Department wants to scrap the powder and switch to the more-effective lotion.

But there’s a problem: After being lobbied by the companies making the powder, several members of Congress pushed through two earmarks worth $7.6 million that forced the military for the past two years to keep buying the inferior product. The product, known as M291, is made from a resin sold exclusively by a Pennsylvania chemical company, which is then processed into powder by a New York company, then assembled into individual kits at a facility in Arkansas.

Among the lawmakers who championed the earmarks are Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; Arlen Specter, R-Pa.; and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Clinton, who is poised to become secretary of state, received nearly $7,000 in campaign donations from the beneficiaries of these earmarks in recent years. Specter got more than $47,000…

Staffers for Sens. Clinton and Schumer met with Daniel Kohn, president of Truetech, a Riverhead, N.Y., company that mixed the powder from the resin and produced the kits. “In self-defense, we’ve gone to our representatives in Congress and we’ve said: ‘You know, let’s lay our cards on the table — we’re in business to provide a living and jobs in your district,’ ” Kohn said in a recent interview.

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