Berylium’s Slow Death

A few decades ago, while on a research assignment for National Geographic books, I met Herb Anderson, one of the builders of the atom bomb. He was living in a ranch house just outside of Los Alamos. Despite all the success that he and his fellow scientists had in nuclear physics, recievi9ng awards, and congratulations of his peers and high government officials, one thing he didn’t have was good health.

Anderson’s breathing was difficult and labored from berylliosis, which he’d gotten during his work as a scientist. He was on oxygen 24 hours a day, walking around his house on what seemed an endless tether connected to his oxygen tanks. If he went out, which was rare, he had to take a portable tank with him.

Dr. Anderson told me that he’d chopped beryllium by hand on the day the news of the discovery of fission had been hand delivered by Niels Bohr to the laboratory of Enrico Fermi in New York’s Columbia University. Working as Fermi’s laboratory assistant, they reproduced the fission experiment that day — the first fission to be created in the US. From there, the eventually went to Chicago and created the first nuclear pile. That, by the way, was the subject of Dr. Anderson’s Phd dissertation, the official report on building the first nuclear pile.

Beryllium is a terrible poison to all humans. Compared to asbestos it is much stronger, and more of a killer. Which is why it must surely be a sin to expose more workers to such poisons today. It’s one thing for a scientist in his lab to experiment with such materials in the hectic days of science of the 1940s to defeat the Nazis.

It’s something else to ruthlessly expose workers to beryllium today in order to save money for the corporations and their stock holders. That is what the Trump administration is trying to do, abettors of the crime of exposing workers to deadly illness.

So why is the Trump administration bent on doing exactly that? What is it, Mr. Trump? Do you think the world has forgotten what it is to poison workers for greed? Will that make America great again?

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Flounder

 

55575691_2551350338269823_9118965148575334400_oIn the 80’s, I spent some time in Florida where my parents lived. St. Petersburg was a town built at sea-level. When the tide was high with a full moon and the wind coming from the wrong direction, the streets would flood; and if there was a storm during those conditions, the manhole covers would fly into the air from the pressure in the storm sewers. The water had no place to drain. That didn’t make me want to live there. However, there was some pretty good fishing there, and occasionally I caught a pretty one. I caught this flounder from the dock behind my brother’s house, on the bayou that faced the mangrove islands.

Mysteries and Suspense

 

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Mysteries and Suspense. The novel I’m crafting has all kinds of fun stuff in it. Secret messages. Escapes on dirigibles; a gunfight in a snowstorm. I’ve been honing my knowledge of mystery and spy fiction in preparation for writing this book The works of Eric Ambler, though not read a lot these days, ought to be read more often. Helen McInness, the same. “Above Suspicion,” and “Assignment Brittany” were two of my favorites. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the fascists get their asses kicked, one way or another in her wartime novels. As is right and should be.