John Hersey’s Hiroshima revealed the horror of the bomb

This book has never been out of print

At the end of this month 70 years will have passed since the publication of a magazine story hailed as one of the greatest pieces of journalism ever written. Headlined simply Hiroshima, the 30,000-word article by John Hersey had a massive impact, revealing the full horror of nuclear weapons to the post-war generation, as Caroline Raphael describes.

❝ I have an original copy of the 31 August 1946 edition of The New Yorker. It has the most innocuous of covers – a delightful playful carefree drawing of summer in a park. On the back cover, the managers of the New York Giants and the New York Yankees encourage you to “Always Buy Chesterfield” cigarettes.

Past the Goings on About Town and movie listings, past the ritzy adverts for diamonds and fur and cars and cruises you find a simple statement from The Editors explaining that this edition will be devoted entirely to just one article “on the almost complete obliteration of a city by one atomic bomb”. They are taking this step, they say, “in the conviction that few of us have yet comprehended the all but incredible destructive power of this weapon, and that everyone might well take time to consider the terrible implications of its use”.

Seventy years ago no-one talked about stories “going viral”, but the publication of John Hersey’s article Hiroshima in The New Yorker achieved just that. It was talked of, commented on, read and listened to by many millions all over the world as they began to understand what really happened not just to the city but to the people of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and in the following days…

Hersey’s editors, Harold Ross and William Shawn, knew they had something quite extraordinary, unique, and the edition was prepared in utter secrecy. Never before had all the magazine’s editorial space been given over to a single story and it has never happened since. Journalists who were expecting to have their stories in that week’s edition wondered where their proofs had gone. Twelve hours before publication, copies were sent to all the major US newspapers – a smart move that resulted in editorials urging everyone to read the magazine…

All 300,000 copies immediately sold out and the article was reprinted in many other papers and magazines the world over, except where newsprint was rationed. When Albert Einstein attempted to buy 1,000 copies of the magazine to send to fellow scientists he had to contend with facsimiles. The US Book of the Month Club gave a free special edition to all its subscribers because, in the words of its president, “We find it hard to conceive of anything being written that could be of more important at this moment to the human race.”

By November, Hiroshima was published in book form. It was translated quickly into many languages and a braille edition was released. However, in Japan, Gen Douglas MacArthur – the supreme commander of occupying forces, who effectively governed Japan until 1948 – had strictly prohibited dissemination of any reports on the consequences of the bombings. Copies of the book, and the relevant edition of The New Yorker, were banned until 1949, when Hiroshima was finally translated into Japanese by the Rev Mr Tanimoto, one of Hersey’s six survivors.

Please read the book. It is one of the three books reflecting the War that formed much of my life. Certainly my feelings about the cruelty of war. My family still has the free copy we received from the Book-of-the-month club.

Sorry. I can write no more this morning. Too many tears.

FDA ban on e-cigarette sales to minors started this week

The US Food and Drug Administration officially started regulating the sale of e-cigarettes on the 8th. Following a ruling that was finalized back in May, the agency now considers e-cigarettes, vape pens, and other related electronic devices “tobacco products,” and will henceforth ban sales to anyone under the age of 18.

Retailers are now banned from selling e-cigarettes to minors.

Going forward, retailers will need to treat e-cigs the same way they treat cigarettes and cigars, verifying the customer’s age against their photo ID. Meanwhile, most manufacturers will need to verify with the FDA that their products don’t carry any additional health risks. The regulations are outlined in the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which governs the sale of tobacco products to minors.


URGENT air bag warning tells Honda/Acura owners to park it

The U.S. government is urging owners of 313,000 older Hondas and Acuras to stop driving them and get them repaired after new tests found that their Takata air bag inflators are extremely dangerous.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday that it has data showing that chances are as high as 50 percent that the inflators can explode in a crash, injuring people by sending metal shrapnel into the passenger compartments.

“These vehicles are unsafe and need to be repaired immediately,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Folks should not drive these vehicles unless they are going straight to a dealer to have them repaired…”

NHTSA’s urgent advisory covers vehicles that are up to 16 years old including 2001 and 2002 Honda Civics and Accords, the 2002 and 2003 Acura TL, the 2002 Honda Odyssey and CR-V, and the 2003 Acura CL and Honda Pilot, NHTSA said. The vehicles are among the oldest involved in the Takata recalls…

The older the inflators are, and the more time they spend in heat and humidity, the more likely they are to malfunction.

Honda said it has ample replacement parts available from companies other than Takata to immediately fix the cars…The company said it has reached out to the owners multiple times, but many vehicles remain unrepaired even in high-humidity areas mainly along the U.S. Gulf Coast that are at the highest risk.

In lab tests, about half of the inflators from these older Hondas in areas along the Gulf Coast blew apart.That should be enough to make the point to folks. If you’re driving one of these — STOP. If you know friends or kin who are driving one of these cars, make them stop.

Illegal abortions are killing women in developing countries and restrictions demanded by the USA make it worse

In developing countries, the maternal mortality rate is a staggering 239 per 100,000 women, with an estimated 303,000 women dying in 2015. One in 10 of all maternal deaths are caused by unsafe abortions; an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions are performed every year.

We know that providing access to legal terminations would stop women dying, but this remains an issue that provokes huge debate. Women who can’t access them legally still have abortions, but they have to pay bankrupting sums, often risking their lives.

Backstreet abortions are usually done in an unclean and unsafe environment. If they don’t kill women, they often put them in hospital with horrific complications, leaving them infertile, facing major abdominal surgery and enormous medical bills.

What is stopping women from accessing safe abortions? The first is restrictive laws in their own countries, which can extend to a ban…Ludicrously, this problem is compounded by the fact that countries with the most restrictive abortion laws often have the poorest family planning provision.

The second barrier is the tight regulation governing donor aid. The US has a ban on any of its funding being spent on terminations for women. The Helms amendment, a 43-year-old law, stipulates that abortions cannot be funded as a method of family planning. This means that no US foreign aid is spent on the provision of abortions or even advising or promoting abortion services for women. Recent headlines suggest that the US will not even allow its funds to be used to provide terminations for women who have been raped by Isis fighters…

We know that abortions, when performed legally, are cheap and safe. Yet the grim reality is that tens of thousands of women who die in the developing world each year from unsafe abortions do so because policymakers have decided their lives are not worth saving.

With changes in this policy, maternal mortality could be reduced for a low cost. The technology exists and is affordable. A misoprostol pill that induces an early stage abortion costs less than a dollar. This is not an issue of resources and funding, but a value judgment on what women may or may not do with their lives.

Another look back to the world of the Republican Party and the ideology of patriarchal religion held dear to the heart of 19th Century conservatives.

The United States still relies on a model generated by a religious bigot who hated equal rights for non-white Americans as much as he opposed reproductive rights for women. Jesse Helms was a racist thug kept in office beyond any reasonable function except to stand in opposition to the concept of equal opportunity for class after class of Americans. The Republican Party still honors his memory.

E-cigarette poisonings reach epidemic levels in young children

Electronic cigarettes have sickened rising numbers of young children, a study of U.S. poison center calls has found. Most cases involve swallowing liquid nicotine.

While most kids weren’t seriously harmed, one child died and several had severe complications including comas and seizures.

This is an epidemic by any definition,” said lead author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital…

The researchers say the results highlight a need for better parent awareness about the importance of keeping the devices out of sight and reach of young kids. They also recommend stricter regulation and applauded long-awaited restrictions the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued…

The study examined poison center calls about exposure to nicotine and tobacco products among children under age 6 from January 2012 through April 2015. The most worrisome findings involved e-cigarettes — battery-powered devices that turn nicotine into an inhalable vapor. Some feature colorful packaging and flavored nicotine that can attract young children.

I find it hard to believe that parents are ignorant of the dangers presented by these materials. Sure, they bullshit themselves to keep up their habit/addiction. Still, they must realize the threat to young children.

RTFA for details on the study. I chalk this one up to stupid.

The truth about Hillsborough

Click to enlargePhotograph/PA

The 96 people who died at Hillsborough at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on 15 April 1989 were unlawfully killed. That verdict, delivered today by the jury at the new inquest into the disaster, represents vindication for the bereaved families who fought for 27 years against South Yorkshire police claims that the behaviour of Liverpool supporters caused the tragedy – as well as against the 1991 verdict of accidental death.

The jurors had been told they could only reach the determination of unlawful killing if they were sure of four essential matters concerning the deaths. They had to be convinced that overall match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield owed a duty of care to those who died; that he was in breach of that duty; that this breach of duty caused the deaths; and that it amounted to “gross negligence”. The jury reached their verdict of unlawful killing by a 7-2 majority. They also concluded:

• Planning errors “caused or contributed to” the dangerous situation.

• Senior officers failed to issue specific instructions on how crowds were to be managed at the Leppings Lane end.

• The response to the build-up of fans at the Leppings Lane end was “slow and uncoordinated”.

• Commanding officers failed to appreciate that ordering the opening of a gate would increase pressure in the terraces.

• Police and ambulance service caused or contributed to the loss of lives by errors or omissions.

• The design of the stadium contributed to the tragedy.

• Club officials should have requested the match be delayed.

After the key conclusions were delivered, someone in court shouted: “God bless the jury.” The jurors were also given a round of applause as they left the courtroom.

Sometimes the wheels of justice grind so slowly as to be imperceptible. Once again, it has required the courage and conviction of victims and their families to fight through for justice.

US government admits common pesticide harms honeybees

The US government has acknowledged for the first time that one of the world’s most widely used pesticides can be harmful to honeybees.

The results of field trials, released…by the US Environmental Protection Agency, show imidacloprid, a common neonicotinoid, can cause hive populations to fall among the world’s most important pollinators…

Declines in the number of bees and the honey they produced were seen when imidacloprid was at the “low level” of 25 parts per billion (ppbn) in the nectar and pollen of the plants, which worker bees carry back to their hive…

Three neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid, are currently banned in the EU. Imidacloprid was the first of the neonicotinoid chemicals to come on the market in the US and has been in wide use since 1994 on crops from corn to vegetables. The global production of the substance in 2010 was 20,000 tonnes, making it one of the world’s most-used pesticides.

The finding fuelled long-standing demands from campaign groups and beekeeper organisations to restrictthe use of neonicotinoids…

A ban on the use of such chemicals would not be enough on its own to revive the honeybee population, which Walker said have also been affected by habitat loss, disease and parasites. “But this is one factor we can control immediately,” said Larissa Walker, from the Centre for Food Safety…

The report was faulted for its relatively narrow focus on large honeybee colonies – instead of the native bee species and smaller colonies that may also be at risk.

Jones said it was the EPA’s assessment that honeybees would make a good surrogate for other species. But Walker and Chris Connolly, who studies the effects of neonicotinoids on bees at Dundee University in Scotland, disagree, arguing that the level at which the EPA had found honeybees were harmed was much higher than the threshold for other bee species…

The pesticide industry continues to lobby against controls on neonicotinoids. They maintain that realistic field studies show nothing out of the ordinary. OTOH, a major field study last April found neonicotinoids have a “dramatic” impact on populations of bumble bees and other wild bees…including the pesticide applied through seed coating. And so it goes.

Railroads ignore the need for updated safety rules after derailments

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A pair of train derailments in 2012 that killed two people in Maryland and triggered a fiery explosion in Ohio exposed a little-known and unsettling truth about railroads in the U.S. and Canada: No rules govern when rail becomes too worn down to be used for hauling hazardous chemicals, thousands of tons of freight or myriad other products on almost 170,000 miles of track.

U.S. transportation officials moved to establish universal standards for when such steel gets replaced, but resistance from major freight railroads killed that bid, according to Associated Press interviews with U.S. and Canadian transportation officials, industry representatives and safety investigators.

Now, following yet another major accident linked to worn-out rails — 27 tanker cars carrying crude oil that derailed and exploded in West Virginia earlier this year — regulators are reviving the prospect of new rules for worn rails and vowing they won’t allow the industry to sideline their efforts…

In the meantime, federal regulators haven’t taken the positive steps that they need to, said Ronald Goldman, an attorney for the families of the two 19-year-old women who died in a 2012 derailment outside Baltimore.

“It’s a lack of will, not a lack of ability, in my opinion,” he added…

Um, lack of integrity?

All sides agree it’s difficult to pinpoint how many accidents are tied to worn rail. Since 2000, U.S. officials blamed rail wear as the direct cause of 111 derailments causing $11 million in damage.

That’s less than 1 percent of all accidents, yet it masks a broader safety dilemma: Years of massive loads rolling over a rail will exacerbate defects in the steel, such as cracks or fractures. Investigators ultimately list the defect as the cause of a derailment, but it might never have been a problem if the rail had not been worn down.

Two accident causes in particular have the strongest correlation with worn-out rails: “detail fractures” that result from fatigued metal, and “vertical splits” in the head of the rail, where it makes contact with a train’s wheels, according to the FRA.

Those problems caused a combined 1,200 derailments with $300 million in damages, three deaths and 29 people injured in the U.S. between 2000 and the present…

The AP requested details on rail wear standards from each of the seven major freight railroads — BNSF Railway, Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific, CSX, Canadian National, Norfolk Southern and Kansas City Southern. They either refused the request or referred questions to the railroad association, which also declined to release the standards.

Railroad have been above the law even longer than oil companies. It’s no wonder they believe their self-regulation is the only way to run a railroad. No doubt.