That first operation was amazingly successful. After a two-hour run, during which power levels of several thousand horsepower were achieved, the reactor was shut down. Six years of study, organization, planning, conniving, fighting for funds, building laboratories, manipulating people, developing new materials and devices had paid off. The first day of Mark I had surprised its most optimistic proponents.
There were many happy people in the Idaho desert the night of May 31, 1953. The happiest was Captain Rickover, who had had the vision, constantly forced the program against opposition, and provided the technical judgment to steer it through areas far beyond those previously known.
Then followed a month of careful, precise building up in power level. Test operations went on night and day, seven days a week. Power was increased in small steps. What could happen on these increasing steps could only be conjecture until the trial run had been completed. Every man at the desert site knew the danger associated with each increase in power."
Writing for The Atlantic in January, 1959, Commander E.E. Kintner provides a first-hand account of powering up one of the world’s first nuclear reactors.
Read more at The Atlantic
As we pressed on, scattered fires became more numerous; presently, at Higashikanagawa, entire blocks were burning. It became necessary to make detours to avoid them. Finally we were forced back to the refuge of the railway tracks. There they sat, the inhabitants, in groups, each family guarding the household goods which it had snatched up in flight. Futon, padded quilts, predominated, but all manner of other goods might be seen, even shoji, the latticed paper-covered doors and windows, and chests of drawers. The quietness was striking. There was no wailing; they conversed in low tones; but generally they sat silent, staring at the destruction. One admired their stoicism, the spirit which had made the shikataganai, ‘it can’t be helped’ phrase, almost the Japanese national motto. There was no confusion, no crying out; even the children were hushed.
But the attitude had its tremendous disadvantage. It was also apathy. Men sat stolidly and watched fires creep onward, which they might in many cases have stopped with little effort. They might have saved entire blocks had they tried, had they had a little leadership. There was another conspicuous feature, the utter lack of leadership. The Japanese official, in ordinary life ubiquitous and often obnoxious with his fussy exactions, seemed to have vanished from the earth—even the police. It is the fault of Japanese officialdom that it can act only according to prescribed routine, hide-bound regulations. There were no rules regarding handling of such earthquakes, no precedents. So the people, accustomed to act only under leadership, remained inactive, and the officials, who should have taken charge, were out of sight – and the fire spread on, unchecked.
The station-master had received authentic news. Yes, Yokohama was entirely destroyed, and Tokyo was in flames.
Henry W. Kinney, “Earthquake Days,” The Atlantic, January 1924.
In 1924, a U.S. journalist in Japan offered a harrowing first-hand account of the Kanto earthquake that killed 100,000
In Kirishi women complain that they are covered with scabs caused by exposure to toxic chemicals from a single-cell protein factory. In Sverdlovsk ninety-three students out of a group from Urals State University summoned to help with the onion harvest subsequently collapsed from “pain in their joints.” Doctors determined that they were suffering from “mass illnesses of the peripheral nervous system.” The soil from which they had pulled the onions was found to contain chemical and pesticide concentrations ranging from 20 to 120 times the permitted levels. The Soviet report notes that schoolchildren “were also affected.”
About 300 children fell ill with stomach cramps and hallucinations and then lost their hair in the Ukrainian city of Chernovtsy in the autumn of 1988. According to Moscow News, the illness triggered an exodus from the city, in which parents, desperate to send their offspring to safety, “stormed the railway station, besieged the airport, and battled to get a seat on a bus.” In all, 40,000 children were sent away. Whatever its etiology, the affliction known in the USSR today as the “chemical disease” has not disappeared. Although no cases of complete baldness have been reported in Chernovtsy since November of 1988, a “softer, weakened” version of the illness caused at least 220 children and fifty-one adults in the city to become partly bald in 1989. The “chemical disease” has also appeared in other locations.
On nuclear fallout from the Chernobyl disaster: “A ghastly tour of a land of radioactive sausage, poisoned onions, and bald children”
Gabriel Schoenfeld, “Rad Storm Rising” (The Atlantic, December 1990)
Time Travel: Niagara Falls, 1883. William Dean Howells recounts a young couple’s visit to the Falls in an early issue of The Atlantic:
They drove directly to the cataract, and found themselves in the pretty grove beside the American Fall, and in the air whose dampness was as familiar as if they had breathed it all their childhood. It was full now of the fragrance of some sort of wild blossom; and again they had that old, entrancing sense of the mingled awfulness and loveliness of the great spectacle. This sylvan perfume, the gayety of the sunshine, the mildness of the breeze that stirred the leaves overhead, and the bird-singing that made itself heard amid the roar of the Rapids and the solemn incessant plunge of the cataract, moved their hearts, and made them children with the boy and girl, who stood rapt for a moment and then broke into joyful wonder. They could sympathize with the ardor with which Tom longed to tempt fate at the brink of the river, and over the tops of the parapets which have been built along the edge of the precipice, and they equally entered into the terror with which Bella screamed at his suicidal zeal. They joined her in restraining him; they reduced him to a beggarly account of half a dozen stones, flung into the Rapids at not less than ten paces from the brink; and they would not let him toss the smallest pebble over the parapet, though he laughed to scorn the notion that anybody should be hurt by them below.
Read more at The Atlantic’s new Life channel.
The Motion Picture Academy, at considerable expense and with great efficiency, runs all the nominated pictures at its own theater, showing each picture twice, once in the afternoon, once in the evening. A nominated picture is one in connection with which any kind of work is nominated for an award, not necessarily acting, directing, or writing; it may be a purely technical matter such as set-dressing or sound work. This running of pictures has the object of permitting the voters to look at films which they may happen to have missed or to have partly forgotten. It is an attempt to make them realize that pictures released early in the year, and since overlaid with several thicknesses of battered celluloid, are still in the running and that consideration of only those released a short time before the end of the year is not quite just.
The effort is largely a waste. The people with votes don’t go to these showings. They send their relatives, friends, or servants. They have had enough of looking at pictures, and the voices of destiny are by no means inaudible in the Hollywood air. They have a brassy tone, but they are more than distinct.
All this is good democracy of a sort. We elect Congressmen and Presidents in much the same way, so why not actors, cameramen, writers, and all rest of the people who have to do with the making of pictures? If we permit noise, ballyhoo, and theater to influence us in the selection of the people who are to run the country, why should we object to the same methods in the selection of meritorious achievements in the film business? If we can huckster a President into the White House, why cannot we huckster the agonized Miss Joan Crawford or the hard and beautiful Miss Olivia de Havilland into possession of one of those golden statuettes which express the motion picture industry’s frantic desire to kiss itself on the back of its neck? The only answer I can think of is that the motion picture is an art. I say this with a very small voice. It is an inconsiderable statement and has a hard time not sounding a little ludicrous. Nevertheless it is a fact, not in the least diminished by the further facts that its ethos is so far pretty low and that its techniques are dominated by some pretty awful people."
— Raymond Chandler, “Oscar Night In Hollywood” (The Atlantic, March 1948)
The fact that Doha, Qatar’s capital, is not the headquarters of a great power liberates Al Jazeera to focus equally on the four corners of the Earth rather than on just the flash points of any imperial or post-imperial interest. Outlets such as CNN and the BBC don’t cover foreign news so much as they cover the foreign extensions of Washington’s or London’s collective obsessions. And Al Jazeera, rather than spotlighting people who are loaded with credentials but often have little to say, has the knack of getting people on air who have interesting things to say, like the brilliant, no-name Russian analyst I heard explaining why both Russia and China need the current North Korean regime because it provides a buffer state against free and democratic South Korea.
Al Jazeera is also endearing because it exudes hustle. It constantly gets scoops. It has had gritty, hands-on coverage across the greater Middle East, from Gaza to Beirut to Iraq, that other channels haven’t matched. Its camera crew, for example, was the first to beam pictures from Mingora, the main town of Swat, enabling Al Jazeera to confirm that the Pakistani military had, in fact, prevailed there over the Taliban."
— Robert D. Kaplan, “Why I Love Al Jazeera” (The Atlantic, October 2009).
Although the slowdown threatens Egypt’s economy—2 to 3 percent of gross domestic product comes from canal revenues—what’s more serious is the political impact. The $4.3 billion in canal fees the government received last year helped subsidize staples like bread; less revenue means less money to buy off the masses, and government officials fear a repeat of the bread riots that gripped northern Egypt in 2008.
But the Suez Canal also symbolizes something more to Egyptians. “The canal has become so woven into modern Egyptian identity,” says Zachary Karabell, the author of Parting the Desert: The Creation of the Suez Canal. “It’s a real aspect of modern Egyptian nationhood.”"
Peter Savodnik, “Exodus” (The Atlantic, April 2010)
“Less traffic through the Suez Canal means less of everything else for Egyptians—including hope.”
Lafcadio Hearn, “China and the Western World” (The Atlantic, April 1896):
Though China’s political fate seems uncertain and its people set in traditional ways, Lafcadio Hearn—a Japan-based journalist known for his writings on East Asian culture—predicts that China will one day pose a formidable economic threat to the West.
Read the full article here.
EDIT: Thanks to akio for pointing out a typo. We’re only human ya’know.
In the second week of March, Shriver told Johnson he would accept the ambassadorship, pending the approval of the French government. Then he left with Eunice for a vacation in Spain. A few days later, on March 16, LBJ’s fear was realized: Bobby Kennedy announced that he would seek the Democratic presidential nomination. On March 22 Secretary of State Dean Rusk called Shriver in Madrid seeking reassurance that Shriver still wished the President to submit his name to the Senate for confirmation; he and Johnson were worried that Kennedy’s announcement might have caused Shriver to reconsider. But Shriver had made up his mind: he would go to Paris.
Although Shriver accepted the appointment without any malign intent, some of those close to RFK saw his decision as an insult to their candidate. What’s more, Shriver, citing his diplomatic obligations, declined to work for the Kennedy campaign—even after Johnson withdrew from the race, on March 31. To some in the Kennedy circle, this was an unforgivable violation of the family code.
Scott Stossel, “Knifed” (The Atlantic, May 2004)
In 1968 the Kennedy family essentially blackballed a brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, who was very close to being chosen as Hubert Humphrey’s running mate. In doing so, they may have accidentally thrown the election to Richard Nixon.
Read the full article here.