Browsing articles from "December, 2014"

Kazakhstan Accepts 5 Long-Held Detainees From Guantanamo

Dec 31, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Kazakhstan Accepts 5 Long-Held Detainees From Guantanamo

Five men who were held for a dozen years without charge at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent to the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan for resettlement, the U.S. government announced.

The two men from Tunisia and three from Yemen had been cleared for release from the prison by a government task force but could not be sent to their homelands. The U.S. has sent hundreds of prisoners from Guantanamo to third countries but this is the first time Kazakhstan has accepted any for resettlement.

Their release brings the prison population at Guantanamo to 127, according to a Pentagon statement on Tuesday.

The U.S. identified the Tunisians as 49-year-old Adel Al-Hakeemy, and Abdallah Bin Ali al Lufti, who military records show is about 48.

The Yemenis are Asim Thabit Abdullah Al-Khalaqi, who is about 46; Muhammad Ali Husayn Khanayna, who is about 36; and Sabri Mohammad al Qurashi, about 44.

All five had been captured in Pakistan and turned over to the U.S. for detention as suspected Islamic militants with ties to al-Qaeda. None of the men were ever charged and a government task force determined it was no longer necessary to hold them.

The U.S. does not say why they could not be sent home but the government has been unwilling to send Yemenis to their country because of unrest and militant activity there while in the past some Tunisians have feared persecution.

Nearly 30 prisoners have been resettled in third countries this year as part of President Barack Obama’s renewed push to close the detention center over opposition from Congress.

Toddler Fatally Shoots His Mother At Idaho Wal-Mart

Dec 31, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Toddler Fatally Shoots His Mother At Idaho Wal-Mart

Veronica J. Rutledge, 29, of Blackfoot, Idaho, had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

She had that gun with her when she took her son and three other children shopping at Wal-Mart in Hayden.

They were in the town about 40 miles northeast of Spokane, Wash., to visit family.

Emilie Ritter Saunders of Boise State Public Radio tells NPR’s Newscast Unit: The Kootenai County sheriff’s office says the 2-year-old boy, who was seated in a shopping cart, reached into his mother’s handbag, found the loaded gun and shot her.

By the time law enforcement reached the store, Rutledge was dead.

Sheriff spokesman Stu Miller says the incident was captured on surveillance video.

“It’s a tragedy. Accidental. Probably could have been prevented through some safety and security measures,” Miller told Boise State Public Radio.

Three other children, who were relatives of the woman, witnessed the shooting.

“A very sad incident occurred at our store today involving the death of a female customer,” Wal-Mart said in a statement, KREM-TV reported. “We are fully cooperating with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s deputies as they investigate this matter.”

The victim’s father-in-law, Terry Rutledge, told The Associated Press that Veronica Rutledge “was a beautiful, young, loving mother.”

“She was not the least bit irresponsible,” he said. “She was taken much too soon.”

Jordan Stops Bombing ISIS After Jet Goes Down In Syria

Dec 31, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Jordan Stops Bombing ISIS After Jet Goes Down In Syria

Robert Siegel talks to Rula Al Hroob, a member of the Jordanian Parliament, about the capture of First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh by the Islamic State last week.

Episode 594: Board Games

Dec 31, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Episode 594: Board Games

A board room.i
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A board room.

CEO pay comes up a lot in the news. The stories often include someone complaining that it’s too high. Then there’s someone on the other side, defending CEO pay. But that’s usually that’s where the stories stop.

On today’s show: an actual story about CEO pay, with a beginning, middle, and an end. It’s the story of two guys who tried to cut the pay of the CEO at a small pneumatic tool company on Long Island.

**Note: This story first aired on This American Life. It was part of Episode 543: Wake Up Now.**

Music: Sam Smith’s “Money On My Mind.” Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook/ Spotify/ Tumblr.

Plastic Bag Industry And Allies May Dispose of California’s Ban

Dec 30, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Plastic Bag Industry And Allies May Dispose of California’s Ban

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A man carries plastic single-use bags past the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Starting in July 2015, California could become the first state to ban single-use plastic bags, unless a referendum delays the measure from taking effect.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP


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Rich Pedroncelli/AP

A man carries plastic single-use bags past the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Starting in July 2015, California could become the first state to ban single-use plastic bags, unless a referendum delays the measure from taking effect.

A man carries plastic single-use bags past the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Starting in July 2015, California could become the first state to ban single-use plastic bags, unless a referendum delays the measure from taking effect.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Last October, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that would ban single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores, and allow shops to sell customers buy environmentally friendly bags for 10 cents. Senate Bill 270 was set to take effect in July 2015.

But now, The American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents several business groups and plastic bag manufacturers, says it’s collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the ban in November of 2016. If that referendum qualifies, The Associated Press reports the ban on single-use plastic bags would be suspended until a vote on the measure takes place.

The Sacramento Bee is reporting that the Alliance only had 90 days to collect the more than 800,000 signatures. Roughly 500,000 signatures were needed to qualify for the referendum. The Bee also reports, “Some of those signatures could be invalid. … And now counties must conduct random samples to determine if enough of them are legitimate.”

In a statement, the American Progressive Bag Alliance said SB 270 wasn’t about helping the environment, but was actually all about money, as it allowed stores to sell environmentally friendly bags for 10 cents each:

“It was a back room deal between the grocers and union bosses to scam California consumers out of billions of dollars in bag fees without providing any public benefit. We are pleased to have reached this important milestone in the effort to repeal a terrible piece of job-killing legislation, and look forward to giving California voters a chance to make their voice heard at the ballot box in 2016.”

Capital Public Radio is reporting that the challenge to the law is itself facing a challenge, from the group Californians Against Waste.

“Mark Murray with Californians Against Waste says plastic bags pollute the environment and never biodegrade. ‘The plastic bag manufacturers are the only ones with a profit motive on this issue. They’re the ones selling $200 million worth of plastic bags into California,’ he says.

Murray says environmental groups will fight the referendum — and push for more local plastic bag bans until California voters can settle the issue.”

U.S. Warship Joins Hunt For Missing Plane

Dec 30, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on U.S. Warship Joins Hunt For Missing Plane

This April 2007 photo released by the U.S. Navy shows the guided missile destroyer USS Sampson during a test cruise off the coast of Maine.i
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This April 2007 photo released by the U.S. Navy shows the guided missile destroyer USS Sampson during a test cruise off the coast of Maine.

ASSOCIATED PRESS


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ASSOCIATED PRESS

This April 2007 photo released by the U.S. Navy shows the guided missile destroyer USS Sampson during a test cruise off the coast of Maine.

This April 2007 photo released by the U.S. Navy shows the guided missile destroyer USS Sampson during a test cruise off the coast of Maine.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The United States has dispatched a destroyer to Indonesia to help search for the missing AirAsia jet. The USS Sampson is expected to arrive later on Tuesday, reports Channel News Asia.

“The US Navy is working closely with the government of Indonesia to identify additional surface or airborne capabilities that best assist their search efforts,” the Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement, according to Agence France Presse.

The search for AirAsia Flight QZ8501 with 162 passengers and crew resumed under stormy skies Tuesday morning. Some 30 ships and 15 aircraft have joined the search for the flight that went missing early Sunday morning.

Search teams have spotted oil on the water and floating debris but they have not proved to have come from the missing jet.

The Los Angeles Times reports: “What might have been an oil slick about 105 nautical miles off Belitung island near the Karimata Strait, which connects the archipelago nation to Singapore, was determined Tuesday morning to be ‘a group of rocks,” said Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency. “A weak signal from an object in the water detected by an Australian surveillance plane turned out to be from a personal locator beacon, not the AirAsia jet’s emergency transmitter.”

Officials say the search zone is roughly 250-miles wide. It centers in the Java Sea, the plane’s last known location, between Sumatra and Borneo.

How California’s New Rules Are Scrambling The Egg Industry

Dec 30, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on How California’s New Rules Are Scrambling The Egg Industry

These enriched cages from the JS West farm in Atwater, Calif., in 2010 comply with the state's new law. They are larger and allow chickens to perch and lay eggs in enclosed spaces.i
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These “enriched cages” from the JS West farm in Atwater, Calif., in 2010 comply with the state’s new law. They are larger and allow chickens to perch and lay eggs in enclosed spaces.

Jill Benson/AP


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These enriched cages from the JS West farm in Atwater, Calif., in 2010 comply with the state's new law. They are larger and allow chickens to perch and lay eggs in enclosed spaces.

These “enriched cages” from the JS West farm in Atwater, Calif., in 2010 comply with the state’s new law. They are larger and allow chickens to perch and lay eggs in enclosed spaces.

Jill Benson/AP

Within just a few days, on Jan. 1, all eggs sold in California will have to come from chickens that live in more spacious quarters — almost twice as spacious, in fact, as the cages that have been the industry standard.

It’s been a shock to the egg industry, and to grocery stores. Eggs are one of those staples that any self-respecting grocery retailers absolutely, positively have to keep in stock. “You have to have bread, milk, lettuce. You have to have eggs,” says Ronald Fong, the president and CEO of the California Grocers Association.

That’s why, right now, California’s grocers are doing whatever it takes to get their hands on eggs that are stamped with with a new, almost incomprehensible label: CA SEFS Compliant, which stands for California Shell Egg Food Safety Compliant.

That stamp means that those eggs comply with a new regulation, the result of a voter initiative that passed with over 60 percent of the vote in 2008.

At the JS West egg farm, south of Modesto, Calif., one chicken house has the new, spacious cages that egg producers and animal welfare advocates say keep chickens happier.

Cage-free chickens in Harold Sensenig's barn near Hershey, Pa., get to roam and perch on steel rods, but they don't go outside.

Proposition 2, as it’s called, required eggs in California to come from chickens that have enough room to fully extend their limbs and turn around freely. It was a direct challenge to the egg industry, because most egg-laying chickens can’t do that in standard henhouses, where they live in small cages, five or 10 birds to a cage.

State officials had to figure out how to translate Proposition 2’s requirement into specific regulations. California’s state veterinarian, Dr. Annette Jones, turned to animal welfare experts at the University of California, Davis. “We actually did hire some scientists at UC Davis to do a study for us, to kind of give us their feel, based on some field trials that they did, of how much space” the law required, Jones says.

In the end, they decided that each chicken is legally entitled to at least 116 square inches of floor space.

As a result, as of Jan. 1, most egg producers in the U.S. cannot sell eggs in California.

Free-range houses allow chickens to move around freely, but critics say the birds are more frequently injured than those in cages.i
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Free-range houses allow chickens to move around freely, but critics say the birds are more frequently injured than those in cages.

Dan Charles/NPR


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Free-range houses allow chickens to move around freely, but critics say the birds are more frequently injured than those in cages.

Free-range houses allow chickens to move around freely, but critics say the birds are more frequently injured than those in cages.

Dan Charles/NPR

Egg producers have responded in several ways.

Some have tried to challenge the California rules in court. So far, that’s failed. Jones says that other egg producers have built new henhouses — either free-range houses, where chickens can walk around on the floor, or houses with larger “enriched cages,” featuring perches and enclosed hutches where chickens can lay their eggs. “In general, poultry farmers are trying to move in that direction, to provide more space and the ability for their hens to exhibit more natural behaviors,” she says.

But building new barns takes time and costs a lot of money. Fong, from the grocers association, says most egg producers so far have taken a simpler, cheaper route. “They are complying with the new standards by reducing the flock size,” he says. They’ve kept their cages for now, but they’ve halved the number of birds in each cage.

This means, of course, fewer chickens in each house and fewer eggs delivered to supermarkets.

People in the egg industry say that this is one reason the egg industry in California has gone into a sharp decline. According to government statistics, the number of egg-laying chickens in California has fallen by 23 percent over the past two years.

In the rest of the country, though, egg production is expanding, and egg brokers who supply the California market have been ringing up egg producers all across the country, offering high prices for eggs that meet California’s new rules.

Free-range eggs from Pennypack Farm in Pennsylvania.

Fong says they’re succeeding in lining up enough supplies. “It is going to be business as usual come Jan. 1,” he says.

California’s consumers, though, will pay. “We can confirm that egg prices have gone up at least 35 percent. Some have reported going up 70 percent,” Fong says.

The situation may be more extreme in California, but egg prices are soaring in lots of places. Much of the increase is due simply to increased demand; people are just eating more eggs. In addition, Mexico is buying more U.S. eggs because disease in Mexico’s chicken flocks has cut its domestic production.

With prices so high, more egg producers are likely to expand, building new henhouses. Because of California’s law, those houses are more likely to give chickens more room to spread their wings.

Can’t Pay Your Fines? Your License Could Be Taken

Dec 30, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Can’t Pay Your Fines? Your License Could Be Taken

Desiree Seats, 23, lost her license for two years before she even got it because of an unpaid fine. Without a license, she couldn't find the jobs she needed to start earning money.i
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Desiree Seats, 23, lost her license for two years before she even got it because of an unpaid fine. Without a license, she couldn’t find the jobs she needed to start earning money.

Joseph Shapiro/NPR


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Joseph Shapiro/NPR

Desiree Seats, 23, lost her license for two years before she even got it because of an unpaid fine. Without a license, she couldn't find the jobs she needed to start earning money.

Desiree Seats, 23, lost her license for two years before she even got it because of an unpaid fine. Without a license, she couldn’t find the jobs she needed to start earning money.

Joseph Shapiro/NPR

Drive drunk, drive recklessly, and the state can suspend your driver’s license. But many police and motor vehicle administrators worry about a recent trend: A large number of suspensions are for reasons that have nothing to do with unsafe driving.

These reasons include unpaid traffic tickets, falling behind on child support, getting caught with drugs, bouncing checks; or minor juvenile offenses like missing school, using false identification to buy alcohol, or shoplifting.

Increasingly, people who study driver safety say this makes little sense. A study in 2013 from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators raised concerns that police and state and local motor vehicle officials find too much of their time and budget tied up going after people with suspensions for minor lawbreaking that has nothing to do with safe driving.

“They want to focus on the people who pose a risk to the general population that’s driving on the roadway. And those are usually the people who are suspended for … things like hit-and-run crashes, DUIs, unsafe speed, reckless driving — those actions that we as a society consider severe and dangerous on the roadway,” says Robert Eger, who wrote a study for the motor vehicle administrators.

In Milwaukee, Desiree Seats, 23, knows how a suspended license can be limiting, and how having a valid license can open opportunities: She lost her license before she even got it.

This summer, Seats went for her first driver’s license and passed the road test. But instead of being given the license, she was told it already was suspended.

More From This Investigation

The proliferation of court fees has prompted some states, like New Jersey, to use amnesty programs to encourage the thousands of people who owe fines to surrender in exchange for fee reductions. At the Fugitive Safe Surrender program, makeshift courtrooms allow judges to individually handle each case.

Kyle Dewitt was sentenced to three days in jail after he was unable to pay fees associated with catching a fish out of season.

People line up to take part in an amnesty program to clear up outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrants in August 2013, in Ferguson, Mo. For those living on the economic margins, the consequences of even a minor criminal violation can lead to a spiral of debt, unpaid obligations, unemployment and even arrest.

About six years ago, when she was 16, Seats had been caught shoplifting jeans and a shirt at a suburban department store. She went to court and was fined on a juvenile charge, but the fine never was paid. Seats says she didn’t know about the fine and that neither she nor her mother would have had the money back then to pay it.

She still owed $315, and that kicked in a license suspension for two years from the day she was eligible to receive one.

Eger, a retired police officer who is now a professor at the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey, Calif., found that nationwide about 40 percent of people whose licenses are suspended lose them for reasons other than bad driving.

It all started with laws passed by Congress in the late 1980s. First, a law took away the driver’s license of men who didn’t pay child support. Then came one for people caught with drugs.

Next, state lawmakers added hundreds of reasons that had nothing to do with unsafe driving. Eger found that at least 18 states will suspend someone’s driver’s license for failure to pay the fines on nondriving traffic violations. And four states will suspend it for not paying parking tickets. Among the other reasons: school truancy, bouncing a check, not paying college loans, graffiti and littering.

Eger says that no research shows that suspending a license will make someone likely to change his behavior.

But Colleen Eubanks of the National Child Support Enforcement Association says just the threat of losing a license makes a difference. “It’s an effective tool for motivating people to pay their child support,” she says. Billions of dollars of child support are collected each year using this tactic.

“Driving is a privilege, and if you’re not willing to support your children and [you] expect society to do it,” she says, “then you should lose the privilege of driving.”

But there’s also evidence that when people lose a license for reasons unrelated to safety, they take suspensions less seriously. At least 75 percent of people who have had their licenses revoked just keep driving, according to the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“You don’t need a license to drive; you just need a car,” says Jim Gramling, a former Municipal Court judge in Milwaukee. After Gramling retired from the court, he went to work as a volunteer lawyer at the Center for Driver’s License Recovery and Employability, an organization he helped start. It’s a place where those with low income can get legal help.

Courts will order arrest warrants when people don’t pay court fines and fees. At the end of his time as a judge, Gramling dropped those arrest warrants for impoverished defendants. But they still had to pay off their fines. Similar ticket amnesties have been tried around the country — including this month in Ferguson, Mo. Those programs have had limited success.

In Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union took a different approach and argued in a 2013 lawsuit that the state discriminated against poor people when it took away their driver’s licenses for failure to pay court fines and fees. About 200,000 drivers had their licenses suspended that year for not paying the fines. But a court has largely rejected the argument.

Jim Gramling, a former Municipal Court judge in Milwaukee, helped create the Center for Driver's License Recovery and Employability, an organization that provides legal help to people with low incomes.

Jim Gramling, a former Municipal Court judge in Milwaukee, helped create the Center for Driver’s License Recovery and Employability, an organization that provides legal help to people with low incomes.

Joseph Shapiro/NPR


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Joseph Shapiro/NPR

Gramling says people with money just pay off their fines — and avoid court. But people with little money often struggle when they get tickets.

“Often they’re living lives where they can’t afford to leave a job early, or at all, to go to court. They can’t hire a lawyer, can’t afford a lawyer. So they often let the cases go by default and don’t challenge tickets that maybe should be challenged,” he says. “It’s tough.”

In Milwaukee, Seats went to the Center for Driver’s License Recovery; lawyers and case managers there helped her negotiate paying off her fine in small amounts over several months and get the suspension lifted.

She had already bought a car — a used, nine-year-old Hyundai Elantra. With a dependable car and a valid license, she figured she had everything she needed to start making money.

Seats, the mother of a 4-year-old boy, now works as a personal care assistant, helping a woman with a disability fix meals, bathe and get dressed.

A few days after getting her license, she also started a second job delivering newspapers, and she has also applied for a job delivering pizza. And the freedom of being able to drive helps her attend a technical college as well, where she’s studying to become a pharmacy assistant.

“I’m very goal-oriented,” she explains as she drives to the house of the woman she helps with chores. “I have a lot of goals that I want to accomplish, in a set amount of time. And that’s what I’m working on now.”

Scientists Discover That Drunk Birds Sing Like Drunks

Dec 29, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Scientists Discover That Drunk Birds Sing Like Drunks

Recent research has shown that zebra finches sing differently when drunk, but not whether they know enough of the lyrics to get through Don't Stop Believin'  or I Will Survive.i
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Recent research has shown that zebra finches sing differently when drunk, but not whether they know enough of the lyrics to get through “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” or “I Will Survive.”

Liza Gross/Courtesy Public Library of Science


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Liza Gross/Courtesy Public Library of Science

Recent research has shown that zebra finches sing differently when drunk, but not whether they know enough of the lyrics to get through Don't Stop Believin'  or I Will Survive.

Recent research has shown that zebra finches sing differently when drunk, but not whether they know enough of the lyrics to get through “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” or “I Will Survive.”

Liza Gross/Courtesy Public Library of Science

If you’ve ever listened to karaoke at a bar, you know that drinking can affect how well someone can sing. Christopher Olson and his colleagues at Oregon Health and Science University recently set out to find if the same was true for birds, specifically zebra finches.

People mingle at a cocktail party.

Zebra finches, like those in this cage, have complex songs that are learned throughout adolescence.

Songbirds, like this male tricolored blackbird, develop regional accents, researchers found.

“We just showed up in the morning and mixed a little bit of juice with 6 percent alcohol, and put it in their water bottles and put it in the cages,” Olson told All Things Considered‘s Arun Rath. “At first we were thinking that they wouldn’t drink on their own because, you know, a lot of animals just won’t touch the stuff. But they seem to tolerate it pretty well and be somewhat willing to consume it.”

The finches long have been used as a model to study human vocal learning, or how people learn to communicate using language, Olson said. Obviously, alcohol affects human speech, so Olson and his team checked for similar problems with the birds.

The blood-alcohol levels achieved — .05 to .08 percent — would be laughed off by many college students, but because birds metabolize alcohol differently it was plenty to produce the effects the scientists were looking for.

Listen to the audio, and you’ll hear that the finches’ song gets a bit quieter and just a little slurred, or as Olson puts it, “a bit less organized in their sound production” — like a roommate calling from a bar to get a ride home.

In the future, Olson wants to find out whether alcohol affects not just how birds sing, but how they learn new songs — like a roommate partying so late they’re still drunk at class the next morning.

Mae Keane, The Last ‘Radium Girl,’ Dies At 107

Dec 29, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Mae Keane, The Last ‘Radium Girl,’ Dies At 107

Employees of the U.S. Radium Corporation paint numbers on the faces of wristwatches using dangerous radioactive paint. Dozens of women, known as Radium Girls, later died of radium poisoning. The last radium girl died this year at 107.i
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Employees of the U.S. Radium Corporation paint numbers on the faces of wristwatches using dangerous radioactive paint. Dozens of women, known as Radium Girls, later died of radium poisoning. The last radium girl died this year at 107.

Argonne National Laboratory


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Argonne National Laboratory

Employees of the U.S. Radium Corporation paint numbers on the faces of wristwatches using dangerous radioactive paint. Dozens of women, known as Radium Girls, later died of radium poisoning. The last radium girl died this year at 107.

Employees of the U.S. Radium Corporation paint numbers on the faces of wristwatches using dangerous radioactive paint. Dozens of women, known as Radium Girls, later died of radium poisoning. The last radium girl died this year at 107.

Argonne National Laboratory

Before turning the page on 2014, All Things Considered is paying tribute to some of the people who passed away this year whose stories you may not have heard — including Mae Keane.

In the early 1920s, the hot new gadget was a wristwatch with a glow-in-the-dark dial.

“Made possible by the magic of radium!” bragged one advertisement.

And it did seem magical. Radium was the latest miracle substance — an element that glowed and fizzed, which salesmen promised could extend your life, pump up your sex drive and make women more beautiful. Doctors used it to treat everything from colds to cancer.

In the 1920s, a young working-class woman could land a job working with the miracle substance. Radium wristwatches were manufactured right here in America, and the U.S. Radium Corporation was hiring dial people to paint the tiny numbers onto watch faces for about 5 cents a watch.

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They became known as the radium girls.

In order to get the numbers small enough, new hires were taught to do something called “lip pointing.” After painting each number, they were to put the tip of the paintbrush between their lips to sharpen it.

Twelve numbers per watch, upwards of 200 watches per day — and with every digit, the girls swallowed a little bit of radium.

“Of course, no one thought it was dangerous in these first couple of years,” explains Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner’s Handbook.

In 1924, a woman named Mae Keane was hired at a factory in Waterbury Connecticut. Her first day, she remembers she didn’t like the taste of the radium paint. It was gritty.

“I wouldn’t put the brush in my mouth,” she remembered many years later.

Poison Bottle

After just a few days at the factory, the boss asked her if she’d like to quit, since she clearly didn’t like the work. She gratefully agreed.

“I often wish I had met him after to thank him,” Keane said, “because I would have been like the rest of them.”

Other women weren’t so lucky. By the mid-1920s, dial painters were falling ill by the dozens, afflicted with horrific diseases. The radium they had swallowed was eating their bones from the inside.

“There was one women who the dentist went to pull a tooth and he pulled her entire jaw out when he did it,” says Blum. “Their legs broke underneath them. Their spines collapsed.”

Dozens of women died. At a factory in New Jersey, the women sued the U.S. Radium Corporation for poisoning and won. Many of them ended up using the money to pay for their own funerals.

In all, by 1927, more than 50 women had died as a direct result of radium paint poisoning.

But Mae Keane was among the hundreds who survived. Over the years, she had some health problems — bad teeth, migraines, two bouts with cancer.

There’s no way to know if her time in the factory contributed.

“I was left with different things, but I lived through them. You just don’t know what to blame,” she said.

Mae Keane died this year. At 107 years old, she was the last of the radium girls.

Deborah Blum says the radium girls had a profound impact on workplace regulations. By the time World War II came around, the federal government had set basic safety limits for handling radiation.

And, she says, there are still lessons to be learned about how we protect people who work with new, untested substances.

“We really don’t want our factory workers to be the guinea pigs for discovery. ‘Oops’ is never good occupational health policy.”

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