Uranium Poisoning Still Plagues the Navajo Nation

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They built their homes out of uranium mill waste because “it made good concrete.” They drank the water of lakes that appeared “as if by magic” on the arid reservation in the 1950s and 1960s. What they didn’t know was that these lakes were actually pools covering abandoned uranium mines.

Fifty years ago, reports Judy Pasternak in the Los Angeles Times, cancer rates on the Navajo reservation in the desert southwest were so low that a medical journal published an article titled “Cancer immunity in the Navajo.” Then, from 1944 to 1986, 3.9 million tons of uranium ore were chiseled and blasted from the mountains and plains, with radioactive waste piles, open tunnels and pits left behind. Few companies bothered to fence the properties or post warning signs. Federal inspectors seldom intervened.

Not until 2000 were some families warned that they were living in homes as radioactive as uranium mines. The U.S. government still hasn’t cleaned it up. Read more about the cruel legacy uranium has left for this tribe in Pasternak’s heartbreaking series, running this week.

—April Rabkin

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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