Tag Archive: World War II

The Telegraph

‘Tsunami bomb’ tested off New Zealand coast

Photo: ALAMY

The tests were carried out in waters around New Caledonia and Auckland during the Second World War and showed that the weapon was feasible and a series of 10 large offshore blasts could potentially create a 33-foot tsunami capable of inundating a small city.

The top secret operation, code-named “Project Seal”, tested the doomsday device as a possible rival to the nuclear bomb. About 3,700 bombs were exploded during the tests, first in New Caledonia and later at Whangaparaoa Peninsula, near Auckland.

The plans came to light during research by a New Zealand author and film-maker, Ray Waru, who examined military files buried in the national archives.

“Presumably if the atomic bomb had not worked as well as it did, we might have been tsunami-ing people,” said Mr Waru.

“It was absolutely astonishing. First that anyone would come up with the idea of developing a weapon of mass destruction based on a tsunami … and also that New Zealand seems to have successfully developed it to the degree that it might have worked.” The project was launched in June 1944 after a US naval officer, E A Gibson, noticed that blasting operations to clear coral reefs around Pacific islands sometimes produced a large wave, raising the possibility of creating a “tsunami bomb”.

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Washington Examiner

By Joel Gehrke | FEBRUARY 4, 2014 AT 1:57 PM

Justice Antonin Scalia predicts that the Supreme Court will eventually authorize another a wartime abuse of civil rights such as the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

“You are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again,” Scalia told the University of Hawaii law school while discussing Korematsu v. United States, the ruling in which the court gave its imprimatur to the internment camps.

The local Associated Press report quotes Scalia as using a Latin phrase that means “in times of war, the laws fall silent,” to explain why the court erred in that decision and will do so again.

“That’s what was going on — the panic about the war and the invasion of the Pacific and whatnot,” Scalia said. “That’s what happens. It was wrong, but I would not be surprised to see it happen again, in time of war. It’s no justification but it is the reality.”

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Watch Full Movie  “The Courageous Heart Of Irena Sendler Here

Irena Sendler bátor szíve from Merenyi Zoltan on Vimeo.


Irena Sendler: In the Name of Their Mothers premiered May 2011.
Check Local Listings to see when it’s airing on your local PBS station.

“I sit here as a testament to those people who were committed to saving a Jewish child’s life.”
— William Donat

Irena Sandler In the Name of Their Mothers is the story of a group of young Polish women, who outfoxed the Nazis during World War II and saved the lives of thousands of Jewish children.

A Polish mother and child

Julien Bryan Collection, USHMM

A Polish mother and child in the aftermath of the bombing of Warsaw, 1939.

Irena Sendler, a petite social worker, was not yet thirty years old when Nazi tanks rolled into Warsaw in September of 1939. When the city’s Jews were imprisoned behind a ghetto wall without food or medicine, she appealed to her closest friends and colleagues, mostly young women, some barely out of their teens. Together, they smuggled aid in and smuggled Jewish orphans out of the ghetto by hiding infants on trams and garbage wagons and leading older children out through secret passageways and the city’s sewers. Catholic birth certificates and identity papers were forged and signed by priests and high ranking officials in the Social Services Department so that the children could be taken from safe houses in Warsaw to orphanages and convents in the surrounding countryside.

The scheme was fraught with danger. The city was crawling with ruthless blackmailers, and the Gestapo were constantly on the look out for Jews who had escaped from the ghetto. “You are not Rachel but Roma. You are not Isaac but Jacek. Repeat it ten times, a hundred, even a thousand times,” says Irena, who knew that any child on the street could be stopped and interrogated. If he was unable to recite a Catholic prayer he could be killed.

Magda Rusinek tells us how she taught the children “little prayers that every child knows in Polish. I would wake them up during the night to say the prayer,” says the Sendler collaborator who had joined the Polish Resistance as a teenager. “And then I had to teach them how to behave in a church, a Christian Church.”

“They treated me like their own child,” says Poitr Zettinger, recalling how the sisters would warn him when the Gestapo came to the convent. “They would tell me when I should hide so I’d run up to the attic. I’d hide in a cupboard there.” William Donat, a New York businessman, describes the conflicts inherent in the extraordinary situation. “I was baptized and I was converted and, became a very, very strong Catholic. I was praying every day for perhaps a little more food and for Jesus to forgive me for the terrible sin that I had been born a Jew.”

Sendler and her cohorts kept meticulous records of the children’s Jewish names so that they could be reunited with their parents after the war. Donat was one of the few whose parents survived.

Irena Sendler

2B Productions

Irena Sendler at age 95 in Warsaw.

In 1942, as conditions worsened and thousands of Jews were rounded up daily and sent to die at the Treblinka death camp, less than hour outside Warsaw, Sendler and her cohorts began to appeal to Jewish parents to let their children go. Sixty years later, Irena still has nightmares about the encounters. “Those scenes over whether to give a child away were heart-rending. Sometimes, they wouldn’t give me the child. Their first question was, ‘What guarantee is there that the child will live?’ I said, ‘None. I don’t even know if I will get out of the ghetto alive today.”

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Irena Sendler

Died: May 12, 2008 (aged 98)
Warsaw , Poland

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ulterior motive.

Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried.She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger kids.

Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.

The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking which covered the kids/infants noises.


During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. Ultimately, she was caught, however, and the Nazi’s broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out, in a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.


In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected. Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming.

Later another politician, Barack Obama, won for his work as a community organizer for ACORN.

I’m doing my small part by forwarding this message.
I hope you’ll consider doing the same. It is now more than 67 years since the Second World War in Europe ended.
This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, In memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated!

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Army Times

Dec. 11, 2013 – 08:37PM

The U.S. government lobotomized roughly 2,000 mentally ill veterans — and likely hundreds more — during and after World War II, according to a cache of forgotten memos, letters and government reports unearthed by The Wall Street Journal.

“They got the notion they were going to come to give me a lobotomy,” Roman Tritz, a World War II bomber pilot, told the newspaper in a report published Wednesday. “To hell with them.”

Tritz said the orderlies at the veterans hospital pinned him to the floor, and he initially fought them off. A few weeks later, just before his 30th birthday, he was lobotomized.

Besieged by psychologically damaged troops returning from the battlefields of North Africa, Europe and the Pacific, the Veterans Administration performed the brain-altering operation on former servicemen it diagnosed as depressives, psychotics and schizophrenics, and occasionally on people identified as homosexuals, according to the report.

The VA’s use of lobotomy, in which doctors severed connections between parts of the brain then thought to control emotions, was known in medical circles in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and is occasionally cited in medical texts. But the VA’s practice, never widely publicized, long ago slipped from public view. Even the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it possesses no records detailing the creation and breadth of its lobotomy program.

The Wall Street Journal’s reporting series began with Wednesday’s Forgotten Soldiers and included a documentary, archived photos, maps and medical records.

The Journal quoted the VA’s response to its inquiry: “In the late 1940s and into the 1950s, VA and other physicians throughout the United States and the world debated the utility of lobotomies. The procedure became available to severely ill patients who had not improved with other treatments. Within a few years, the procedure disappeared within VA, and across the United States, as safer and more effective treatments were developed.”

The newspaper reported that musty files warehoused in the National Archives show VA doctors resorting to brain surgery as they struggled with a vexing question that absorbs America to this day: How best to treat the psychological crises that afflict soldiers returning from combat.

Between April 1, 1947, and Sept. 30, 1950, VA doctors lobotomized 1,464 veterans at 50 hospitals authorized to perform the surgery, according to agency documents rediscovered by the Journal. Scores of records from 22 of those hospitals list another 466 lobotomies performed outside that time period, bringing the total documented operations to 1,930.

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The Lobotomy Files: Inside the Mind of Roman Tritz

WSJDigitalNetwork WSJDigitalNetwork

Published on Dec 12, 2013

Roman Tritz was one of thousands of WWll veterans who were lobotomized by the Veterans Administration. The nation forgot, but Mr. Tritz remembers. WSJ’s Michael M. Phillips reports. See the complete project at http://WSJ.com/LobotomyFiles.

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Lobotomy – PBS documentary on Walter Freeman

ting196 ting196

Uploaded on Jan 27, 2008

The Lobotomist, Walter J. Freeman


Click the links to learn more.



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Family friends via KHQ-TV

Delbert Belton, who was wounded in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, died Thursday after he was beaten in Spokane, Wash.

An 88-year-old wounded veteran of World War II died Thursday after he was brutally beaten, apparently at random, in the parking lot of his lodge in Spokane, Wash., authorities said.

Spokane police said they were seeking two suspects in the attack Wednesday night on Delbert “Shorty” Belton, a retired aluminum company worker who’d lived in the city for most of his life after he was discharged from the Army after the war. Belton died of his injuries Thursday morning, police said.

The suspects were described as black males of average build, 16 to 19 years old, wearing black clothing and red sneakers. Police Lt. Mark Griffiths said they apparently attacked Belton at random.

“It appears he was assaulted in the parking lot, and there was no indication that he would have known these people prior to the assault,” Griffiths said at a news conference.

Spokane Police Department

Police released these surveillance camera photos Thursday of two young men believed to be the suspects in the beating death of Delbert Belton of Spokane, Wash. Click to enlarge the images.

As police released surveillance camera photos of two young men believed to be the suspects, a makeshift memorial overflowing with flowers, U.S. flags and messages of sympathy sprouted Thursday outside the Eagles Lodge in North Spokane.

Friends and family remembered Belton as a warm, generous man who helped many people over the years.

Belton was waiting for a friend at the lodge because he didn’t want her to walk in alone, Lillian Duncan, a longtime friend, told the Statesman-Review of Spokane.

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Published time: June 12, 2013 11:25

Striking public sector workers march in protest through central London (AFP Photo)

Striking public sector workers march in protest through central London (AFP Photo)

The UK has been going through its deepest recession since World War II, a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies claims. Workers experienced unprecedented pay cuts of 6 per cent over the last five years since the Global Financial Crisis began in 2008.


Between 2010 and 2011, 70 per cent of employees who stayed in the same job fronted real wage cuts, while a third of those workers faced nominal wage freezes or cuts (12 per cent experienced freezes and 21 per cent experienced cuts).

The last time that such a high proportion of workers faced real wage cuts was between 1976 and 1977, when inflation exceeded 15 per cent. The proportions of nominal wage freezes and cuts are said to be the highest since the series of wage cuts began in the mid-1970s, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies latest report.

The period since the recession began in 2008 has seen the longest and deepest loss of output in a century. Real wages have fallen by more than in any comparable five-year period; productivity levels have dropped to an unprecedented degree, the British think tank revealed.

Average real hourly wages amongst workers who stayed in the same job have fallen faster in the private sector than in the public sector over the last few years, such that the public-private sector wage gap has increased substantially over this period.


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by Naomi Wolf (Notes) on Friday, June 14, 2013 at 11:40am

I hate to do this but I feel obligated to share, as the story unfolds, my creeping concern that the NSA leaker is not who he purports to be, and that the motivations involved in the story may be more complex than they appear to be. This is in no way to detract from the great courage of Glenn Greenwald in reporting the story, and the gutsiness of the Guardian in showcasing this kind of reporting, which is a service to America that US media is not performing at all. It is just to raise some cautions as the story unfolds, and to raise some questions about how it is unfolding, based on my experience with high-level political messaging.

Some of Snowden’s emphases seem to serve an intelligence/police state objective, rather than to challenge them.

a) He is super-organized, for a whistleblower,  in terms of what candidates, the White House, the State Dept. et al call ‘message discipline.’ He insisted on publishing  a power point in the newspapers that ran his initial revelations. I gather that he arranged for a talented filmmaker to shoot the Greenwald interview. These two steps — which are evidence of great media training, really ‘PR 101″ — are virtually never done (to my great distress) by other whistleblowers, or by progressive activists involved in breaking news, or by real courageous people who are under stress and getting the word out. They are always done, though, by high-level political surrogates.

b) In the Greenwald video interview, I was concerned about the way Snowden conveys his message. He is not struggling for words, or thinking hard, as even bright, articulate whistleblowers under stress will do. Rather he appears to be transmitting whole paragraphs smoothly, without stumbling. To me this reads as someone who has learned his talking points — again the way that political campaigns train surrogates to transmit talking points.

c) He keeps saying things like, “If you are a journalist and they think you are the transmission point of this info, they will certainly kill you.” Or: “I fully expect to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.” He also keeps stressing what he will lose: his $200,000 salary, his girlfriend, his house in Hawaii. These are the kinds of messages that the police state would LIKE journalists to take away; a real whistleblower also does not put out potential legal penalties as options, and almost always by this point has a lawyer by his/her side who would PROHIBIT him/her from saying, ‘come get me under the Espionage Act.” Finally in my experience, real whistleblowers are completely focused on their act of public service and trying to manage the jeopardy to themselves and their loved ones; they don’t tend ever to call attention to their own self-sacrifice. That is why they are heroes, among other reasons. But a police state would like us all to think about everything we would lose by standing up against it.

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NSA: No Such Agency

by Eric Margolis

Recently by Eric Margolis: Turkey’s Riots Threaten a Decade of Progress

In June, 1942, the United States Navy achieved one of history’s greatest naval triumphs over the Imperial Japanese Navy, thanks to a combination of brilliant leadership, plain good luck, and code-breaking.

US carrier-based dive bombers led by the intrepid Commander Wade McClusky Jr. swiftly sank three Japanese carriers. A fourth Japanese carrier was sunk soon after.

Midway turned the course of the Pacific naval war and spelled inevitable defeat for Japan in World War II.

US Navy code breakers had secretly deciphered Japan’s naval codes, so US Admiral Nimitz knew the Japanese fleet’s movements and timing. Nimitz positioned three US carriers northwest of Hawaii and ambushed the oncoming Japanese fleet heading for Hawaii.

Code breaking played a key role in the Allied WWII victory. The British and Soviets also broke many German military codes. The decisive battle of Kursk and the U-boat war were primarily won thanks to code breaking. Ever since, the US has made signals intelligence (SIGINT) a key part of military operations.

Fast forward to last week’s furor over electronic snooping under the PRISM program by the US National Security Agency (NSA) into America’s nine big internet providers. We should not have been surprised. Surveillance and spying cannot be stopped unless forcefully constrained. Intelligence, like fire, to quote Ben Franklin, is “a useful servant; but a terrible master.”

The National Security Agency is America’s largest but least known spy agency. In the military, we used to jokingly call NSA, “No Such Agency.” I was invited to join NSA at the end of my US Army days, but declined.

Investigative author James Bamford has written fine books and articles about the top secret workings of NSA. Way back in the 1960’s, we knew that NSA could listen in to almost every foreign embassy in Washington and many military transmissions around the globe.

When I was covering Moscow, NSA managed to eves drop on the private phone of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. We also know that NSA’s secret “ECHELON” system was hovering up phone and fax messages around the globe.

That was fine – overseas. At home, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot listen to the private communications of Americans.

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The GIs who raped France: We know about the mass rape of German women by Stalin’s soldiers. Now a new book reveals American troops committed thousands of rapes on French women they were ‘liberating’


By Guy Walters





Targets: Some American GIs saw French women as spoils of war according to an explosive new book

Targets: Some American GIs saw French women as spoils of war according to an explosive new book


The handsome American soldier was Elisabeth’s tenth client that evening. Working her trade on the top floor of a dingy apartment block in Paris, she felt that she had seen them all.

For the past four years, the men had been Germans, and now, since the city had been liberated in August, 1944, they were Americans. It made little difference.

Elisabeth held out three fingers of her hand to indicate the price of her body — three hundred francs.

‘Too much,’ said the soldier.

Elisabeth sighed. She had seen that before as well. Wearily, she kept the three fingers held up, almost as an insult.

There was no negotiation — three hundred was little enough as it was.

‘Two hundred,’ the soldier insisted.

‘Non,’ said Elisabeth. ‘Three hundred or nothing’.

The soldier approached her, hate in his eyes. Elisabeth glowered back, starting to feel scared.

‘In that case,’ said the soldier, ‘it will be nothing.’

The soldier then placed his huge hands around Elisabeth’s neck and started to squeeze. She struggled as hard as she could, lashing out, but it was in vain.

After a minute or so she slumped down, her lifeless body falling on to the stained sheets. The soldier then calmly removed his trousers and had sex with her. For nothing.

Afterwards, he went through Elisabeth’s belongings and stole her cash and jewellery. He then went round the block, found another prostitute and took her to dinner and the movies.

For the GI, it had been a swell evening. Paris was just as they said it was.



Even by the standards of war, this was a particularly grim episode. But while such barbaric murders were extremely rare, a new book reveals that the violation by American soldiers of the women whom they had been sent to Europe to free and assist was far more common than has first been thought.

It is, of course, a horrific fact of war that soldiers rape the women of the lands they conquer.

Many troops — but certainly not all — see female flesh as a justified spoil, something they deserve after fighting with the husbands, fathers and sons of the women they abuse.

Rape is also a way by which one nation signifies that it now has dominance over another.

Grateful: French women are seen waving American flags in Paris in August 1944 following the city's liberation, but the book alleges that thousands of French women were raped by GIs after freeing the city from the Nazis

Grateful: French women are seen waving American flags in Paris in August 1944 following the city’s liberation, but the book alleges that thousands of French women were raped by GIs after freeing the city from the Nazis

Welcome: A French woman embraces an American soldier as troops parade through Paris in August 1944

Welcome: A French woman embraces an American soldier as troops parade through Paris in August 1944

We can have your women, rape says, and there is nothing you can do because we are in charge.

Many thousands of German women and girls, for example, were raped by Russian troops in the battle for Berlin at the end of World War II.

Until now, we in the former Allied Western nations tend to regard rape as something carried out by countries other than ourselves.

Through films such as Saving Private Ryan and The Longest Day, we are conditioned to think of the Allied troops as being above such behaviour.

However, an explosive new book published by an American academic sensationally debunks that myth.

My book seeks to debunk an old myth about the GI, thought of as a manly creature that always behaved well — the GIs were having sex anywhere and everywhere.’

Professor Mary Louise Roberts


In What Soldiers Do, Professor Mary Louise Roberts of the University of Wisconsin argues that American GIs committed rape thousands of times during the War. And, more surprisingly still, many of their victims were French.

As Professor Roberts says: ‘My book seeks to debunk an old myth about the GI, thought of as a manly creature that always behaved well — the GIs were having sex anywhere and everywhere.’

In total, it is estimated that some 14,000 women were raped by American GIs in Western Europe from 1942 to 1945. In France, 152 American soldiers were tried for rape, of whom 29 were hanged.

But the statistics do not reveal the full story. There were undoubtedly thousands of rapes in France, many of which went unreported by the victims who were keen to avoid the dreadfully unfair stigma that rape carried with it during those days.

But why did the Americans rape their allies? For the average GI, France was as much an ‘erotic adventure’ as a military expedition, and the war was, in part, ‘sold’ to conscripted soldiers as an opportunity to meet attractive French women.

Many of the soldiers’ fathers had been in France during World War I, and had come back with lurid tales of the supposed looseness of French women.

All smiles: The population of Valognes welcoming US soldiers in 1944

All smiles: The population of Valognes welcoming US soldiers in 1944

Hotspot: The Channel port of Le Harve, pictured after a bombing raid during the war, was particularly badly affected by crime

Hotspot: The Channel port of Le Harve, pictured after a bombing raid during the war, was particularly badly affected by crime

Their sons, now off to fight in the same land, regarded France as essentially a giant brothel, with thousands of nubile French girls eager to be taken by manly GIs.

As Professor Roberts rightly observes, the average GI ‘had no emotional attachment to the French people or the cause of their freedom’.

Magazines aimed at the troops such as Stars And Stripes showed pictures of cheering women during liberation parades, accompanied by headlines such as ‘Here’s What We’re Fighting For’.

The magazine even published ‘useful’ French phrases, such as the translations for ‘I am not married’ and ‘You have charming eyes’.

It was almost as if the magazine was telling the GIs: come and get it, boys.

And that’s exactly what they did. Throughout the summer of 1944, from the moment they had pushed back the Germans during the D-Day landings in June, the Americans unleashed throughout northern France, in the words of Professor Roberts, a ‘tsunami of  male lust’.

‘Normandy women launched a wave of rape accusations against American soldiers,’ Roberts writes, ‘threatening to destroy the erotic fantasy at the heart of the operation. The spectre of rape transformed the GI from rescuer-warrior to violent intruder’.

Destroyed: To make matters worse the American troops were the same ones who had destroyed many French towns and cities in bombing campaigns that many thought was a display of US machoism

Destroyed: To make matters worse the American troops were the same ones who had destroyed many French towns and cities in bombing campaigns that many thought was a display of US machoism

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More Americans Committing Suicide than During the Great Depression

Suicide rates are tied to the economy.

The Boston Globe reported in 2011:

A new report issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the overall suicide rate rises and falls with the state of the economy — dating all the way back to the Great Depression.

The report, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that suicide rates increased in times of economic crisis: the Great Depression (1929-1933), the end of the New Deal (1937-1938), the Oil Crisis (1973-1975), and the Double-Dip Recession (1980-1982). Those rates tended to fall during strong economic times — with fast growth and low unemployment — like right after World War II and during the 1990s.

During the depths of the Great Depression, suicide rates in America significantly increased. As the Globe notes:

The largest increase in the US suicide rate occurred during the Great Depression surging from 18 in 100,000 up to 22 in 100,000

We’ve previously pointed out that suicide rates have skyrocketed recently:

The number of deaths by suicide has also surpassed car crashes, and many connect the increase in suicides to the downturn in the economy. Around 35,000 Americans kill themselves each year (and more American soldiers die by suicide than combat; the number of veterans committing suicide is astronomical and under-reported). So you’re 2,059 times more likely to kill yourself than die at the hand of a terrorist.

NBC News reported in March:

Suicide rates are up alarmingly among middle-aged Americans, according to the latest federal government statistics.

They show a 28 percent rise in suicide rates for people aged 35 to 64 between 1999 and 2010.

RT reports:

In a letter to The Lancet medical journal, scientists from Britain, Hong Kong and United States said an analysis of data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that while suicide rates increased slowly between 1999 and 2007, the rate of increase more than quadrupled from 2008 to 2010, Reuters reported.

Earlier this month, NY Daily News wrote:

The Great Recession may have been at the root of a great depression that caused suicides to soar among middle-aged Americans, a government report speculates.

The annual suicide rate for adults ages 35 to 64 spiked in the past decade, according to a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And a shaky economy that nose-dived into the worst financial crisis since the Depression may be the biggest reason why.


The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said the annual suicide rate jumped 28.4% from 1999-2010.

It was the biggest increase of any age group, said the CDC, citing “the recent economic downturn” as one of the “possible contributing factors” for the increase.

“Historically, suicide rates tend to correlate with business cycles, with higher rates observed during times of economic hardship,” the report said.

David Stuckler (a senior research leader in sociology at Oxford), and Sanjay Basu (an assistant professor of medicine and an epidemiologist in the Prevention Research Center at Stanford), write in the New York Times:

The correlation between unemployment and suicide has been observed since the 19th century.

(And see these articles by the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.   This is obviously true world-wide.  For example, last year the New York Times reported:

The economic downturn that has shaken Europe for the last three years has also swept away the foundations of once-sturdy lives, leading to an alarming spike in suicide rates. Especially in the most fragile nations like Greece, Ireland and Italy, small-business owners and entrepreneurs are increasingly taking their own lives in a phenomenon some European newspapers have started calling “suicide by economic crisis.”


In Greece, the suicide rate among men increased more than 24 percent from 2007 to 2009, government statistics show. In Ireland during the same period, suicides among men rose more than 16 percent. In Italy, suicides motivated by economic difficulties have increased 52 percent, to 187 in 2010 — the most recent year for which statistics were available — from 123 in 2005.)

Indeed, more Americans are killing themselves today than during the Great Depression. Specifically, there were were 123 million Americans in 1930.  The maximum suicide rate during the depths of the Great Depression was 22 out of 100,000  Americans.  That means that up to  27,060 Americans killed themselves each year.


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Sealed ‘black cells’ stall radioactive waste cleanup at Hanford nuclear reservation

By Scott Learn, The Oregonian
on March 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM, updated March 17, 2013 at 5:19 PM

BReactor.jpg View full size Hanford’s B Reactor, the world’s first at full-scale, was built during World War II to produce plutonium for nuclear bombs. Jamie Francis, The Oregonian

RICHLAND, Wash. — In the late-1990s, the Hanford nuclear reservation‘s British contractor designed the world’s largest nuclear waste treatment plant around a fateful feature: “black cells.”

Fifteen years, a new set of contractors and $8 billion of construction later, the U.S. Department of Energy is still trying to figure out whether they’ll work.

The cells, enormous concrete boxes lined with stainless steel, will hold mixing silos to process waste from 44 years of making plutonium for nuclear bombs.

They’ll be highly radioactive and inaccessible to humans for the treatment plant’s life. They’re also central to Hanford’s plans to treat 56 million gallons of nuclear waste stored in 177 underground tanks.

Recent disclosures of fresh leaks in six of those tanks, a half-dozen miles from the Columbia River, has brought renewed urgency to finishing the treatment plant, already delayed by two decades.

Yet concerns about black cell performance — raised by oversight groups and high-profile Hanford whistle-blowers — have stalled the most urgent construction.

The plant’s latest startup deadline, 2019, is once again at risk. Its projected $13.4 billion cost, tripled since 2001, could go up by billions more.

DOE has assembled five teams of nuclear experts to solve black cell threats.

But trust is low. Critics, the U.S. Government Accountability Office and an impatient Congress among them, note that DOE and its contractors have declared many of the same issues fixed in the past.

In January, the GAO questioned whether the plant, already more than half-built, could succeed. Significant black cell failures could render it “unusable and unrepairable,” GAO said, “wasting the billions of dollars invested.”

A witches brew

Hanford covers 586-square-miles of southeast Washington desert, bordered by bone-dry Rattlesnake Mountain and a U-shaped stretch of the Columbia.

The remote spot fit the bill for the World War II Manhattan Project.

Clean river water could cool nuclear reactors. And there was space for the enormous processing plants — called Queen Marys by workers — that extracted plutonium-239 from the reactors’ uranium rods.

Hanford plutonium fueled the Fat Man bomb that flattened Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, helping compel Japanese surrender but killing an estimated 80,000 people. Nine reactors produced Cold War plutonium through 1987.

It all left a monumental mess.

Workers dumped 450 billion gallons of waste on land, contaminating groundwater that connects to the Columbia; extensive cleanup is proceeding. Another 56 million gallons, the worst of the worst, went into underground tanks expected to last just a few decades.

That tank waste is a witches brew, heavy with uranium, plutonium, strontium, cesium, heavy metals and acids. It ranges from liquid to a peanut-butter sludge. The waste inventory, based on haphazard records, is often sketchy.

Those complications make the treatment plant “the riskiest, most complex project in the nation,” with worst-case projections comparable to nuclear plant accidents, said Robert Alvarez, a former investigator for a committee headed by U.S. Sen. John Glenn and adviser to Clinton-era secretaries of energy.

“This project can’t be treated as some sort of sideshow,” Alvarez said. “We’re talking about protecting one of the largest freshwater streams in America.”

Black cells

The treatment plant may be rocket science, but the overall concept isn’t.

Tank waste gets piped to a “pre-treatment” building, where it’s sorted into high-level waste (really awful) and low-activity waste (just awful).

Sorting allows the much smaller volume of high-level waste, destined for the highest-cost storage, to go through separate processing.

The two streams feed to two “vitrification” plants. Gigantic, 2,100-degree melters will convert the waste to molten glass. Then it’ll be poured into steel canisters for long-term storage.

Spinning nuclear waste into glass is fairly well tested around the globe.

PTplant.jpg View full size Major construction has stalled on the pre-treatment building, home to 15 black cells. Jamie Francis, The Oregonian

Hanford’s trouble mainly comes in the pre-treatment building, 12 stories high, lined with 15 black cells, full of pipes and mixing vessels with capacities up to 473,000 gallons.

The black cells will be so radioactive that human beings won’t be allowed in, and remote access is limited. They’ll have to operate with “perfect reliability” for 40 years for the plant to work as designed, GAO says.

“One of the huge design failures is black cells,” said Tom Carpenter, executive director of the watchdog group Hanford Challenge. “Everything bad that’s flowed out of the waste treatment plant really started with that decision.”

Instead of the black cells, designers could have chosen the “canyon” approach used in the past at Hanford and at other U.S. nuclear waste sites. Picture a huge, high-walled warehouse with some worker access and ceiling-mounted cranes to lift removable tank tops and fix problems.

But Hanford’s late-1990’s contractor, British Nuclear Fuels Limited, opted for black cells used in Britain’s Sellafield nuclear waste reprocessing plant, with sealed vessels and no access.

Off-limit cells would keep workers safer by containing leaks and reducing radiation exposure, the thinking went. The cells also took less room and were expected to cost less.

In retrospect, the decision opened a Pandora’s box of stubborn safety challenges, all closely related.

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Hanford Nuclear Reservation: DOE Outlines Potential Impact Of Budget Cuts To Radioactive Waste Cleanup


FILE – In this July 14, 2010 photo, workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation work around a a tank farm where highly radioactive waste is stored underground near Richland, Wash. Several workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation are raising concerns about the safety of the plant’s design and complaining they’ve been retaliated against for raising those concerns , even as the U.S. Department of Energy announces another round of cost hikes and potential delays.  (AP Photo/Shannon Dininny)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Federal officials say budget cuts may disrupt efforts to close the radioactive waste tanks currently leaking at Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

In a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday, the Department of Energy said it will have to eliminate $92 million in funding for the Office of River Protection at Hanford, which will result in furloughs or layoffs impacting about 2,800 contract workers.

The Energy Department recently found that six tanks at Hanford are leaking radioactive waste, perhaps as much as 1,000 gallons a year. Those tanks have long surpassed their intended lifespan and officials are now searching for a solution to stop the leaking.

Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman wrote in his letter that the layoffs and furloughs may curtail progress related to closing the tanks.


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