Byron Vaigneur's job as a health supervisor at the Savannah River nuclear weapons plant in South Carolina was to protect workers from the harmful effects of radiation. But he could not protect himself – he was exposed to plutonium while sitting at his desk in 1975 and developed cancer as a result.
The U.S. government has compensated over 52,000 nuclear workers illnesses related to radiation exposure, but the process is complicated. Deaths resulting from exposure while working at the plants and the compensation process for survivors begs the question: How much is a life worth?
In the early 1940s, the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn., employed thousands girls right out of high school. They realized that their work was top secret, but they had no idea of the role the Manhattan Project would play in helping to end World War II.
Just like 54,005 other nuclear workers who have tried to get help from the federal government after getting sick, George "Smitty" Anderson Jr., of Augusta, Ga., never got a penny. He relied on Jesus and morphine to help fight his multiple myeloma.
As the federal government increases spending on nuclear weapons, health and retirement benefits are potential cost-cutting casualties. At the Pantex nuclear plant in the Texas Panhandle, 1,100 unionized workers went on strike to fight the threatened cuts to their benefits.
Ralph Stanton and 15 other nuclear workers were exposed to airborne plutonium oxide in an accident at the Idaho National Laboratory in 2011. He is one of more than 186,000 nuclear workers who have been exposed to recordable levels of radiation on the job since 2001.
The U.S. military has had a presence on the island of Okinawa since 1945. Long after the end of World War II, the small island has continued to be a strategic position for the United States and its allies, and a dispute has raged for more than 20 years over the Futenma base in Ginowan city. (Tiffany Tompkins-Condie, Adam Ashton and Natalie Fertig)
On Monday, The Senate advanced a bill reopening federal agencies through Feb. 8 after Democrats relented and lifted their blockade against the legislation. The shutdown began Saturday after Democrats derailed a Republican measure that would have kept government open until Feb. 16. Democrats wanted to pressure the GOP to cut a deal protecting young immigrants from deportation and boosting federal spending.
Arab lawmakers in Israel's parliament were tossed out from the house on Monday for heckling U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the start of his speech. The main Arab party in the parliament said it would boycott Pence's speech - though it wasn't immediately clear whether they would walk out in protest, heckle or skip the session altogether. The Knesset, which is accustomed to such high-profile visits, had added a new layer of security, and besides the speaker and other dignitaries, lawmakers did not have direct access to Pence.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the boycott a disgrace. He and others gave Pence a standing ovation.