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Cold War Homefront - Daily Life

Cold War was fought on both sides as much with consumer goods as with military might
Happy days, the Cold War. It had its downs - Vietnam, mutually assured wipeout, etc - but at least you knew where you stood: with us or against us. Compared with today's paranoia - a suicide bomber might ambush the local bus or your bank disappear overnight - that of the Cold War appears attractively simple. Walk into the V&A's new exhibition, Cold War Modern: Design 1945-70, and you can hear that terror, a blast from that nuclear past. The exhibition's central premise - that the Cold War was fought as much with Tupperware and toasters as warheads and diplomacy - might seem laughable if it weren't so evidently true.

Welcome to Berlin's Stasi-themed bar
A security camera over the door, an interrogation table in the corner, ID cards for regulars: Stasi-themed bar Zur Firma ("the Company") opened in Berlin near the former East German Ministry of State Security. The owners call it satire, "a themed restaurant," but those spied on by the Stasi are likely to find the bar much less amusing. East German youth group shirts and plates with the Stasi symbol hang on the wall, and a mock security camera monitors the entrance. Black red and gold signs promote East German cooking with the slogan: "Come to us, or we'll come to you."

Retro dictionary of communist words and expressions in Hungary
Want to learn how people in Hungary behind the Iron Curtain lived, what they drank and smoked in the communist era and what worried them? A new "retro dictionary" or mini encyclopedia of words and expressions from the communist-era which ended in 1989 seeks to recall memories, building on a nostalgia for the last decades of communism when Hungary was the "happiest barrack" in the communist bloc. "We carried out an internet poll and words were pouring into my email box which people think of with nostalgia. Among these there are of course words which do not bring back pleasant memories at all," said Gabor Kiss.

Cold War workers who were exposed to radioactive materials rally for compensation
Former Cold War workers gathered in Oak Ridge to demand help for workers made sick from exposure to hazardous materials in the government's nuclear weapons facilities. The U.S. Department of Labor responded with data that 41,322 people have received $3.8 billion since the department took over responsibility for these claims in 2004. Activist Janet Michel, who suffers from autoimmune disease after working in Oak Ridge's uranium enrichment plant, championed the compensation program a decade ago and reforms 6 years later. She says changes are still needed: "There's too much death and there's too much denial."

FBI director J Edgar Hoover planned mass arrests in 1950
FBI director J Edgar Hoover had a plan to apprehend 12,000 Americans he deemed a possible threat to national security, declassified files disclose. The FBI chief sent his suggestion to President Harry Truman just after the start of the Korean War in 1950. He asked the president to declare the mass arrest needed to counter "treason, espionage and sabotage". The FBI director planned to detain the suspects in US military and federal prisons. "The index now contains approximately 12,000 individuals, of which approximately 97% are citizens of the United States," wrote Hoover.

Report: 4,000 died in U.S. after working on nuclear projects
At least 4,000 people died as a result of nuclear projects during the Cold War, and 36,500 became ill with radiation-related diseases. The nation built 70,000 atomic bombs, beginning in 1945. The radiation they were exposed to sometimes took years to affect them. Some of them may have died as a result of their work, but were not listed among project deaths by the government. Hundreds of thousands of people, including soldiers, were exposed to radiation from nuclear tests. "Nobody had a clue what would happen years later from inhaling those particles," R.J. Ritter. The government admitted the problem in the 1980s, but finding records of those affected remains difficult.

Cartoons as political weapons
David Wallis has an interesting article about political cartoons. I like all the historical background, although I don't entirely buy the one-sidedness of the censorship he suggests: Adolf Hitler understood the power of cartoons. Long before WWII, David Low depicted Hitler as a dolt, which infuriated the fuhrer so much that the Gestapo put the British cartoonist on a hit list. The CIA also appreciated the huge influence of drawings. Declassified documents detailing the 1953 U.S. overthrow of Iran's PM Mohammed Mossadeq reveal that something called the "CIA Art Group" produced cartoons to turn public opinion against the democratically elected leader.

Berlin opened a museum to show objects from East Germany
Berlin has opened a museum to show everyday objects from the former East Germany and recall an era that has been all but effaced in less than two decades. Everything on display in the DDR Alltagsmuseum (GDR Daily Life Musuem) was donated by people who lived in the communist. Museum has tried to make its displays interactive so that visitors do not stare coldly at a static slice of life under communism.