Reed Irvine - Editor
|October A , 1990||XIX-19|
REQUIEM FOR ACID RAIN
Congress is on the verge of passing the Clean Air Act, legislation that will impose costly, stringent new controls on industry, business and consumers to improve the quality of our air. Differences between Senate and House bills are in the process of being resolved in a conference committee. The act that emerges, if signed by the president, will impose tighter controls to (1) curb acid-rain-causing emissions from electric power plants at an annual cost estimated by the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Project (NAPAP) of $2.7 billion to $4 billion; (2) cut smog- creating auto tailpipe emissions of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons at an estimated annual cost of $19 billion to $22 billion by 2005; and (3) reduce hazardous air pollutants by a wide variety of industries and businesses at costs estimated to range from $6 billion to $10 billion a year.
This adds up to costs ranging from $28 billion to $36 billion a year. The White House puts the total annual bill at $25 billion and President Bush has urged Congress to make changes that would cut it to a mere $22 billion. No one would begrudge the cost if it were true that our air is ruining forests, lakes, crops, killing fish and wildlife and endangering the health of half the population, as has been alleged. Fortunately, it is now known that the dangers have been wildly exaggerated. Unfortunately, journalists turned environmentalist advocates have largely succeeded in keeping the good news from the public.
A year ago Charles Alexander told an environmental conference, "As science editor of Time, I would freely admit that on this issue we have crossed the boundary from news reporting to advocacy." Andrea Mitchell of NBC agreed, saying, "Clearly the networks have made that decision now, where you'd have to call it advocacy." Benjamin Bradlee, executive editor of The Washington Post commented, "I don't think there's any danger in what you suggest. There's a minor danger in saying it, because as soon as you say, 'To hell with the news, I'm no longer interested in news, I'm interested in causes, you've got a whole kooky constituency to respond to, which you can waste a lot of time on."
Responding to 3,400 postcards sent by AIM members, Time admitted Alexander had described Time's policy correctly, adding, "And, yes, our stand on the planet is that we support its survival." Mrs. Katharine Graham, the chairman of the board of The Washington Post Co., said Ben Bradlee "may have misspoken himself" but that what he meant was that "it is not unobjective to be for the environment" because this is one of a handful of issues that is "so damn important to the welfare of one's community or one's country or one's civilization that you pay them special mind." Mrs. Graham said The Washington Post would, nevertheless, report on the environment "with detachment or 'objectivity.'"
The $3 billion reduction in the cost of the Clean Air Act that President Bush is seeking could be obtained very easily if both the president and Congress would pay attention to the NAPAP report that was released on September 5. This was a summary of the findings of a 10-year study of acid rain that the government funded to the tune of $537 million. It pulled the rug from under the fear mongers in the environmental movement, the government and the media who have been portraying acid rain as one of those critical problems that must be solved if we are to save the country, civilization and the planet. The advocacy journalists have done much to convince the public that emissions from electric power plants are making the rain so acid that it is killing crops, forests and fish, endangering human health and even destroying buildings.
Here is a good illustration of how bad reporting by the media created irrational fears about acid rain. An article in the now defunct Sunday supplement, Family Weekly, in September 1980, said that factory and utility smokestacks and auto exhausts "spew sulfur and nitrogen into the atmosphere which then enters (sic) the clouds and...Turns raindrops into sulfuric and nitric acid" which "kills fish, stunts crops, erodes statues and threatens drinking water." It labeled this "an environmental nightmare."
This statement was replete with serious errors, but it must have scared the socks off a lot of people. Just imagine! Sulfuric acid raining down from the skies! Of course, it's nonsense. Acidity and alkalinity is measured on a pH scale from 0 to 14, with 7.0 being neutral. The lower the reading the higher the acidity. Rain tends to be naturally acid in temperate zone forested areas. The average pH reading in those areas in pre-industrial times was 5.0. In the last decade "acid rain" has come to mean rain with lower pH readings resulting from the pickup of nitric and sulfuric acid formed from the oxidation in the atmosphere of man- made sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. In western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio, the area of greatest concentration of highly acid rain, the average pH is 4.2. That is less acid than wine (3.5) and lemon juice (2.0), not to mention sulfuric acid (0.3). The people living even in this worst-case area obviously need not fear that rain is making the drinking water unfit for consumption, as that Family Weekly article suggested.
What about the fish being killed, human health being adversely affected, the crops being stunted, forests destroyed and statues eroded--all scenes from that environmental nightmare described a decade ago? Those were the questions that NAPAP was commissioned to answer once and for all. An interim NAPAP report issued in 1987 indicated that the evidence did not support those who were crying calamity. It cast doubt on what The New York Times claimed was a scientific consensus that acid rain was responsible for damaging lakes and streams and might "also damage trees, plant life and human health." Environmentalists were outraged.
Late last year NAPAP released a series of 27 draft reports on all aspects of the acid rain problem. They largely confirmed what the interim report had said about acid rain not being the great environmental crisis that the media had portrayed it. These good tidings brought no joy to the liberal environmentalists. The Washington Post published an article headlined, "These Raindrops Are Anything but Harmless," which said, "From Hawk Mountain (Pennsylvania) to the Chesapeake Bay to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, a sour rain is falling, right here, right now." It noted that the average pH of the rain at Hawk Mountain was 4.2, "acidic enough to to harm salamanders, brook trout and frogs." It said the NAPAP study had found the problem was not as bad as had been feared a decade earlier, but it ridiculed a Wall Street Journal editorial on the NAPAP findings. The editorial had noted that acidic lakes could be treated by applying lime at a fraction of the cost of reducing sulfur dioxide emissions. The Post article said, "That's easy to say from some glass tower on Wall Street, where the last frogs, salamanders and trout are long gone and the only things left to count are money and a few smog-resistant London plane trees." It concluded, "Something bad is settling out of the sky. And it needs to be stopped. Right here. Right now."
The New York Times took a different tack in an editorial on January 29, 1990 titled, "Acid Rain: Plenty Bad Enough." It said the NAPAP reports confirmed the need for quick and costly remedial action, saying, "The acid rain that falls over much of the northeastern United States is mildly acidic from pollutant gases. Like many weak poisons, its effects are subtle and hard to pinpoint. The preliminary results of a monumental 10-year Federal study now establish just how harmful this acid deluge is. They lend urgency to proposals now before Congress that coal- burning utilities sharply cut their emissions of acrid gases." [Emphasis added.]
The editorial noted that an interim NAPAP report in 1987 had indicated, "That no more lakes were likely to become acidified and damage to trees was highly unlikely." The Times implied that this report was politically motivated, saying it was "in accord with the Reagan administration's belief that acid rain was not a serious problem." Claiming that drafts of the final report "paint a darker picture," The Times said the acidification of lakes was slower than had been feared, but it concluded, "Acid rain is indeed a serious threat to the ecology." The only evidence it cited was a claim that "11 percent of the lakes in the southwestern Adirondacks (are) already acidified and 36 percent (are) in danger of becoming so." The writer hadn't noticed that the NAPAP studies had essentially confirmed the 1987 report and exploded the myth that acid rain was turning our lakes and streams acid.
The myth that acid rain is destroying forests is second only to the myth that it is killing lakes, streams and fish. The Times acknowledged that NAPAP's half- billion-dollar study had found "no evidence to link forest decline in North America to acid rain, other than for high-altitude red spruce." It nevertheless held out the hope that bad news about the forests might still turn up. The Times argued that the draft report "does not settle the longstanding issue of the widespread decline in some American forests."
Even though The Times acknowledged that political solutions should follow, not precede, scientific conclusions, it didn't want to wait for the final report of NAPAP, due in September 1990, before passing legislation to deal with this non-urgent problem. It declared that "the politics of acid rain seem to have been settled" and that we had to enforce a 10-million-ton reduction in the sulfur- dioxide emissions that cause it. The president, Congress and the EPA all agreed. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was responsible for getting NAPAP started, urged the Senate to pay heed to the NAPAP findings before rushing ahead with legislation, but to no avail.
The media were given another opportunity to give the public the facts about acid rain in February 1990, when NAPAP invited over 700 scholars and experts from 30 countries to Hilton Head, S.C. to discuss and critique its reports. William K. Stevens was there for The New York Times. He had a long story in the Science section of the paper on February 20 under the headline, "Worst Fears on Acid Rain Unrealized." It was illustrated with a drawing of evergreen trees and industrial stacks belching smoke, with this caption, "Scientists say acid rain from industrial sources is contributing to the decline of the red spruce in the Northeast." That was the bad news. The good news was that the scientists found that red spruce growing high in eastern mountains that were frequently covered by acidic clouds were the only trees that were being damaged.
Stevens reported that NAPAP had concluded, "acid rain causes some significant environmental damage but far less than initially feared." Not all the findings he reported appear in the report issued in September. Here are the ones that survived without modification: 1. There is no evidence that acid rain has caused a general decline of American forests, except for damage to red spruce at high elevations in the eastern mountains. 2. There is no evidence that acid rain harms crops. 3. Risks to human health from acid rain are speculative, but acid rain and dry acid particles could pose a health risk to asthmatics, people with heart or lung disease, children and the elderly. 4. Sulfates formed in the atmosphere from industrial emissions of sulfur dioxide are the major cause of haze and reduced visibility in the East.
These are the ones that have been toned down in the September report: 1. Fewer than 1,200 lakes, only four percent of the lakes in areas where acidification might be expected, had become "fully acidified." It had been feared that thousands of lakes would have become acidified by this time. In the Northeast, the area of greatest concern, the lakes that are going to become acidified have already clone so. The Sept. report says this: "The results of these programs led to a conclusion that is somewhat different from the one originally anticipated. Instead of widespread acidity in U.S. lakes and streams, acidic surface waters are concentrated in specific regions and, in some regions; future acid inputs could place sensitive waters at greater risk. Overall, less than 5 percent of the lakes and 10 percent of the streams from the National Surface Water Survey are chronically acidic. 2. Acid rain damages some construction materials and causes some metals to corrode more rapidly, putting at risk an estimated 35,000 historic buildings and 10,000 monuments in the Northeast. The Sept. report says: "Air pollution and acidic deposition contribute to the corrosion of metals and the deterioration of stone in buildings, statues and other cultural resources. Although air pollution is an important concern for cultural objects, the magnitude of its effect on construction materials has been difficult to assess.
Stevens reported that Dr. James Mahoney, the head of NAPAP, had said that acid rain does not rank at the top or even near the top of a priority list of environmental issues. He also emphasized that "a sizable minority" of scientists at Hilton Head thought that the findings on the absence of damage to forests might be premature. They argued that new data might alter this finding. Some argued that acid rain has an adverse effect on soil nutrients, which could have longer-run adverse effects on trees. Some felt that the conclusion that acid rain did not harm hardwood trees, such as sugar maples, was too sweeping. He noted also that a Canadian expert felt that data on Canadian lakes had been underplayed. He cited no other criticisms of the NAPAP findings.
Stevens mentioned the legislation before Congress mandating a 10-million-ten reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions at an annual cost estimated by EPA at $2.2 billion. (NAPAP's cost estimate is $2.7 - $4 billion.) He did not mention the alternative of treating the acidified lakes with lime at a fraction of the cost, nor did he report any comments on the wisdom of spending billions of dollars a year on a dubious solution to a low priority problem.
This did come up in a Times story a month later headlined, "Acid Rain Report Unleashes Torrent of Criticism." Reporter Philip Shabecoff noted that because of the NAPAP report, some senators were questioning whether the heavy cost imposed by the legislation under debate was justified. The "torrent of criticism" Shabecoff reported was actually a feeble trickle directed at the conclusion that acid rain is not killing forests. Shabecoff's lead critic argued "just because symptoms of forest decline are not currently visible that doesn't rule out the possibility they are underway." The criticisms went downhill from there.
On September 5, 1990, NAPAP released its long-awaited report, labeled "Draft for External Review." It is still subject to change, but, as the distillation of ten years of work, it reflects the best science that money can buy as modified by partial peer reviews and clashing bureaucratic interests. The broad outlines of the findings have not changed since they first emerged last January and February. At that time, most of the media ignored or downplayed the apparently unwelcome news that acid rain is not the destroyer of lakes, streams, fish, forests, crops and human health that they had led the public to believe. In doing so, they were showing their dedication to the environmentalist cause, acting out Ben Bradlee's immortal words, "To hell with the news; I'm no longer interested in news; I'm interested in causes." Bradlee's own paper, The Washington Post, virtually ignored the NAPAP report in January, giving it three paragraphs deep down in the January 30 story about the dangerous raindrops at Hawk Mountain. Come September, it was still not interested in telling its readers they could put aside their fears about acid rain. It ignored the release of the NAPAP report on Sept. 5. Others who did the same included The Wall Street Journal, Time and Newsweek. The conservative Washington Times printed three paragraphs from a poor AP story.
The networks, which are supposedly the main bearers of news to the public these days, ignored the Sept. 5 release except for CBS Evening News, which reported: "A 10-year government study of acid rain, out today, finds no evidence that acid rain caused widespread damage to forests, lakes or streams across the country. Environmental groups immediately questioned the findings of the half-billion dollar study, and said they would continue to seek restrictions on industrial pollution linked to acid rain."
The fears created by more than a decade of exaggerated scare stories about acid rain would be hard to neutralize even if our media were to make a conscientious effort to tell the truth, as we now know it. It would help if President Bush and his top aides, including William K. Reilly, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, would give high-profile speeches on the subject. They could praise the work of NAPAP and point out that this half-billion-dollar investment will pay handsome dividends. It has made it clear that we can save as much as $4 billion a year by scrapping the costly controls on sulfur dioxide emissions proposed in the Clean Air Act. In the absence of such simple honesty, the government is careening ahead with plans to enforce unnecessary, costly and inefficient methods of dealing with acid rain.
The September NAPAP report's most valuable contribution lies in its analysis of the cost and benefits projected for different scenarios for dealing with acid rain. The first scenario is to rely on the gradual adoption by the electric utilities of improved clean technology to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. With this scenario, NAPAP projects a moderate increase in sulfur dioxide emissions over the next 15 years, followed by rapid decreases over the following 25 years when the new power plants will predominate. Under this scenario, it estimates that sulfur dioxide emissions in the year 2030 will be 37 percent below the 1980 level.
The other scenario is the one that is included in the Clean Air Act now before Congress. It requires the utilities to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 10 million tons below the 1980 level by the year 2000. NAPAP estimates that by the year 2030, the rate of sulfur deposited from power plant emissions for the entire East would be only 8 percent lower under this scenario than under the first. In other words, with no controls imposed, the results in 45 years would be almost the same. Cumulative depositions of sulfur over the entire period would be one-third less under the second scenario. The differences as measured by the impact on fish, crops, forests, buildings and human health would not be significantly different.
NAPAP estimates that the added cost of the second scenario to the consumers of electric power will range from $2.7 billion to $4 billion annually in 1990 dollars. The benefits to be derived from these added costs are estimated to accrue largely as a result of a gradual reduction in the acidity of some lakes in the Northeast, permitting increased sport fishing. NAPAP estimates that the water in lakes and streams in the Northeast would begin to become less acid and more suitable for fish about 20 years sooner under the second scenario than under the first. On that premise, it projects benefits to trout anglers ranging from $7 million to $13.6 million in the year 2010, declining to $0.3 million to $3.3 million in 2030. It sees little difference in the benefits under the two scenarios from the effects on human health, crops and forests. It says that maintenance costs for some construction materials will be lower under the second scenario and that there will be differences in the rate of deterioration of cultural resources (monuments and sculptures exposed to the weather). It does not quantify these in dollar terms.
Apparently in deference to the demands of the disappointed environmentalists, the report does not point out that simply spreading crushed limestone over their watersheds at relatively small cost can reduce the acidity of lakes. This is referred to only obliquely in the last paragraph of the report, which states that "mitigative measures appear cost effective for some aquatic systems but cannot be used everywhere and do not protect all resources potentially at risk."
NAPAP makes no policy recommendations, but its report makes it clear that the Clean Air Act's program for dealing with acid rain makes no sense. Our media have fallen down on their job of informing the public. It is up to President Bush to use his "bully pulpit" to give them the facts.
Send the enclosed postcard or your own card or letter to John H. Sununu, chief of staff to President Bush, with similar cards to your local paper.
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DESPITE THE FACT THAT A 10-YEAR, HALF-BILLION-DOLLAR STUDY HAS SHOWN THAT acid rain is not the great threat that it has been said to be, few people know this. The media are doing a poor job of debunking the scare they did so much to promote. Congress is about to burden us with billions of dollars in higher electric bills to pay for measures to deal with acid rain that make no sense. You can help stop this by discriminating the information in this AIM Report as widely as possible. We are limited to one post card with this issue, but the text of the card we have included can be copied and sent to editors and members of Congress. I hope many of you will take the trouble to do so. I have been most pleased to see that so many of our cards are being printed in letters-to-the-editor columns. A member of Phil Donahue's staff told me she had been seeing letters about our Winnie Mandela tape all over the country! Let's do the same with acid rain.
WE CAN COUNT ON THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY TO USE TV TO HEIGHTEN FEARS about acid rain and other grave threats to the planet. Norman Lear and Ted Turner have been leading efforts to use this medium to brainwash the public on environmental issues. One result of this well-planned effort is a program called "E.A.R.T.H. Force" (EF) that premiered on CBS Sept. 16. I didn't see it, but our associate editor, Joe Goulden suffered through the whole two hours, and I asked him to describe it for you. What follows is his report.
EF IS SO NUMBINGLY DUMB WELL KEEP OUR SYNOPSIS SHORT. BADDIES STEAL plutonium from a nuclear power plant. The owner-mogul does not want to notify Federal authorities: "If the government gets into this, they'll shut us down for a year." (In fact, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency keeps platoons of inspectors at a nuclear installation.) So the mogul's henchmen recruit environmental specialists to prevent a meltdown in the plant's reactor. The selection is a parody of Charlie's Angels, or the A-Team. There is a pretty woman maritime specialist ("dolphin hugger," she describes herself). The reclusive anthropologist can cite the chemical contents of Twin Ides. A loud-mouth activist is hectoring cellmates for throwing Styrofoam cups on the floor; they stare at him sullenly as he rants that although "the Parthenon is in ruins, plastic is forever." None is shown to have any knowledge of nuclear reactors. Although meltdown is only horns away, the team starts its labors by relaxing over a fancy sit-down dinner and debating whether they should help the industrialist, regardless of the threat that a chunk of the world is about to be blown away.
THIS GIVES THE OPPORTUNITY FOR MUCH ECO-BABBLE ABOUT WHETHER THE OWNER should be helped: "I can't believe that you're buying into this load of corporate slime!" the activist shouts. Then they buckle down to work and save the reactor by banging on the core with a spray nozzle until cooling rods fall into place. (If this does not make scientific sense in print, it makes even less on the TV screen.)
NEXT OUR ECO-TEAM DISCOVERS THAT THE MELTDOWN PROBLEM AROSE BECAUSE A CIA veteran of the Phoenix program in Vietnam stole plutonium from the reactor to sell to a terrorist for a nuclear weapon. "We're going up against a rogue CIA elephant," someone warns. During the chase Dolphin Hugger balks at throwing explosives into the water for fear of hurting the fish. No problem: she is assured the river is so polluted all the fish are dead. So she happily blasts away and all villains are vanquished. The mogul conveniently dies and leaves his fortune to finance future Eco-Team romps. This occasions more windy oratory: "Maybe he [the mogul] discovered something more important, more important than man and his ambition, or his need to control the world around him, to play with it like a spoiled child tinkers with his toy, until it breaks and he throws it away. We've lived on this planet for 50,000 years, and in the last 200 we've damn near killed it." The good news is that EF ranked 68th among 80 prime-time shows and even Tom Shales of the Washington Post wrote, "As a cause, ecology is both politically correct and conveniently innocuous." But with EF "you'll be on the edge of your seat all right -- searching under the cushions for the channel changer."
IT IS IRONIC THAT THE PEOPLE WHO PRODUCE THIS KIND OF NONSENSE ARE HELPING to block the use of nuclear power even though it is obviously the answer to their concerns about acid rain, global warming and excessive reliance on Middle East oil. Even the hit Fox network cartoon show "The Simpsons" often takes swipes at nuclear power by focusing on safety violations in the nuclear plant where Bart Simpson's father works. In one episode he doltishly leaves work with radioactive material, which falls, from his car into a storm drain. Incessant depiction of nuclear energy as dangerous creates public suspicion of a valuable power source just when the Persian Gulf crisis demonstrates how much we need it. In practical terms, these fears mean that politicians such as Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York let a $5.5 billion nuclear plant sit idle while Long Island lives under threat of a blowout. There is an anomaly. Despite the anti-nuke publicity, in a poll taken by Cambridge Associates last February 67% of those surveyed said nuclear energy should play an important role in meeting our energy needs and 81% thought it would play an important role. These figures suggest that although anti-nuclear activists can scare politicians, Americans recognize propaganda when they see it.
REMEMBER THE MEDIA HYPE OVER THREE-MILE ISLAND? OUR PRESS DIDNT GET nearly so exercised when the National Cancer Institute on Sept. 19 released a three-volume study of persons living near 62 nuclear facilities. NCI found "no evidence that an excess occurrence of cancer has resulted from living near nuclear facilities." Further, "the dose [of radioactive releases] from routine operations is generally much below natural background radiation." Although CBS had given two prime-time hours to "E.A.R.T.H. Force," its Evening News ignored the NCI study. On the other hand, NBC News aired a balanced story by Robert Bazell. Good for them!
CBS HAS JUST REPEATED A SERIOUS ERROR THAT IT MADE LAST JANUARY IN REPORT- ing on the U.S. military action in Panama last year. The CBS Evening News on Jan. 3, 1990 said that a slum district known as "El Chorillo" was destroyed by the fighting and 12-15,000 people were left homeless. That was after The New York Times had run a big story on Dec. 28 quoting residents of the district as saying that Noriega's thugs deliberately started the fire that burned their homes the morning after U.S. gunships attacked Noriega's nearby headquarters. The New York Times headline read, "Residents Say Force Loyal to Noriega Set Fire to Neighborhood in Reprisal." The Washington Post had a similar story the next day, headlined, "Homes Destroyed by Noriega's Men, Residents Said." Both papers said Noriega was angry with the people of El Chorillo because they voted against his candidam in 1989 elections. The Times said residents were told by members of Noriega's Dignity battalions that Noriega had vowed, "If I go, El Chorillo goes with me." They said members of the Dignity battalions began burning homes the morning after the U.S. attack on Dec. 20.
WE POINTED OUT THIS ERROR TO CBS PRESIDENT LARRY TISCH, BUT THERE WAS NO correction. I was shocked to see this same error repeated on "60 Minutes" on Sept. 30 as evidence that civilian deaths caused by our forces in Operation Just Cause were far higher than the 202 reported by the Pentagon. Mike Wallace, who narrated the segment, said that Noriega's headquarters came under heavy fire by U.S. gunships. He said, "When the sun came up on the morning after that grisly night before, El Chorillo was still burning out of control. Reports had already begun to circulate that hundreds of civilians had been killed and thousands wounded in El Chorillo." Those casualty reports were also false, according to the Pentagon, but the question is, were we responsible for the fire.
PRODUCER CHARLES THOMPSON TOLD US HE WAS AWARE OF THE REPORTS THAT Noriega's thugs had torched El Chorillo, but after viewing some 10 hours of U.S. military film he was convinced that our gunships started the fire. He also attached great weight to an Army memo saying the desauction was "the result of our ops." We have that memo. It wasn't an investigative report; it was a memo of a phone call between a major in the Pentagon and a claims officer in Panama who was reporting what another claims officer had told him. The unclassified memo, which Wallace said was secret, quoted the officers saying the estimate of 1,000 civilian casualties was about right and that the El Chorillo fire was the result of "our ops." Wallace used this to bolster a charge that the Pentagon had greatly understated the number of civilians "gunned down or caught in the crossfire as U.S. forces went after the scalp of Gen. Manuel Nodega." He didn't mention that the same memo he was quoting, after mentioning El Chorillo, went on to blame other civilian casualties on "shop owners shooting looters, Dignity battalions shooting Noriega opponents, neighborhood protection/vigilante groups shooting Dignity battalion members, and stray rounds from US-PDF firefights." If "60 Minutes" had evidence that the residents of El Chorillo who told the Post and the Times that Noriega's men deliberately burned down their homes were wrong, it should have presented it. Instead, it blamed the U.S. for Noriega's thugs on his orders committed a crime Panamanian eyewitnesses say.