Sunday, 17 April 2011

TRANSIENT ARMY: HOMELESS VETERANS IN THE US

A ghost army walks the streets of most major US centres, hidden in the alleys, on the street corners, the dark places that few people look. Unbeknownst to most, nearly one quarter of all homeless in the United States are veterans; of those, nearly half served in the Vietnam era army, with over sixty five percent having served three years or more within the armed forces. Drug, alcohol and stress disorders are generally the cause. It was not until recent years that the US armed forces integrated a serious mental health program to assess returning veterans, but for many of those still on the street it is too late.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

THE TIGER IS ROUSED: PRE-WAR IMPERIAL JAPAN


The Russo-Japanese War was one of the first flash points of the 20th Century is generally forgotten among the later conflicts of the time period. Rival designs by two of the Imperial powers of the day set the scenes for wars to come, with the usage of trenches, machine guns, coastal bombardment and heavy artillery as well as the integration of naval and land based fighting forces. Sadly, despite many of the Western powers sending observers to watch this new form of warfare unfolding, few lessons were learned and thousands of men were to fall victim to the same mistakes in the Great War.
Above: The Japanese behead a suspected spy in one of their trademark shows of brutality.
Below: The Russians follow suit. The occupational hazards of spying could be severe.

The systematic defeat of Russia was costly but set the scene for further Imperial ambitions to be realised. As the Japanese sphere of influence increased in the decades to come, so did the atrocities that followed in their wake. Increasingly expansionist aims saw them consolidate their positions in Korea, Siberia, Manchuria and later on the rest of China. The most striking and brutal actions of this later campaign was the Nanking Massacre, more commonly known as the Rape of Nanking.

Nanking was the culmination of a policy of racial segregation, dehumanisation and widespread terror as a way of breaking Chinese resistance. It proved to be the precursor to many similar atrocities throughout World War II, not only in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere but also among captured soldiers and civilians in the many Pacific islands they occupied throughout the conflict.

Monday, 4 April 2011

THE DEVIL'S SPINE: MINING THE CERRO RICO

In 1985 when the economic slump caused many Bolivian mining companies to collapse, the impoverished miners were forced to open up as cooperatives and become their own bosses. This has done little to ease the poverty among the societies that survive from digging deep into the earth for misers' metals - mostly lead, tin and zinc. Potosi, one of the poorest mining towns, is cut into the base of the Cerro Rico, translated as 'Rich Mountain', another of the cruel ironies so common in Bolivia. During Spanish rule it was stripped of its precious metals and now the barren slopes are home to the poor, the desperate and those unable to escape the treacherous conditions. Many miners are young, uneducated and destined for an early grave. Few men in Potosi live beyond 50, with nearly half dying from silicosis.