Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Musings: Guinea Pigs

The wind sang a sweet shush-shash song in the ironwoods outside my bedroom all night long, delivering a lullaby that was suitably lulling until a waning half moon peeked through the trees in the first inkling of dawn.

Roused, like the roosters, by the light, Koko, Paele and I soon were out walking, heading into that brisk wind, which carried the faintest trace of rain from the black fringe blowing mauka above a swath of pale apricot-colored sky.

President Obama is blowing smoke over in the UK, telling both Houses of the British Parliament that the U.S. and Britain remain, according to a New York Times report, “’indispensible’ nations for peace and stability” — even as the two countries continue to feed the carnage and instability in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, and “turn up the heat” in Libya with air strikes that are almost certainly killing the civilians they’re intended to protect.

We’re supplying the drones, while France — and soon Britain — are using attack helicopters, supposedly to ensure more precise killing. Oh, yes, those "surgical" air strikes.

It brought to mind a long article I recently read in the Los Angeles Times that detailed a Predator drone attack that went way wrong in Afghanistan, killing 15 to 23 people (depending on whether you believe the U.S. military or elders from an Afghan village). All of the dead and injured were unarmed civilians, including two little boys.

The story, though difficult to read, showed clearly the problems associated with drone warfare. It seems that even advanced technology can’t override the biases and assumptions that come into play when you’ve got guys eager to gun somebody down — at no personal risk to themselves.

While we’re on the topic of the military, I got an email with a link to an article published on Al — as in short for Alabama — .com about Austal USA and the ferry-builder’s fast foray into American military contracts. It noted:

Its most prominent commercial contract was a $190 million deal to build two ships for Hawaii Superferry Inc. That deal turned into a quagmire for the shipbuilder. A judge made the Hawaiian company stop operating the ferry service because of environmental concerns. That caused Superferry to file for bankruptcy, forcing Austal to eat a $23 million loan it made to the company.

Still, that $23 million was chump change, considering what came next:

In 2008 Austal won a $1.6 billion deal with the U.S. Army and Navy to build 10 high-speed vessels, which were basically militarized versions of the ferries it built for Hawaii.

But no, we weren’t guinea pigs.

Speaking of guinea pigs, France's Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety is saying another 70,000 people should be moved from an area outside the Fukushima evacuation zone because it's contaminated by radiation from the crippled nuke plants.

What I find interesting are all the assurances of “don’t worry, no problem,” from officials in Japan and elsewhere, even as every report from the plant indicates damage is greater than initially thought and reported, and it’s not yet clear just how much radiation has leaked out.

Meanwhile, The Mainichi Daily News is reporting that thousands of nuclear plant workers suffered internal radiation after apparently inhaling radioactive substances while visiting Fukushima Prefecture.

A special earthquake-resistant building that serves as a base for emergency workers at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant had its doors strained by hydrogen explosions at the No. 1 and 3 reactors in March, making it easier for radioactive substances to come in. "We had meals there, so I think radioactive substances came into our bodies," a male worker in his 40s said. "We just drink beer and wash them down," he added.


Anonymous said...

A friend of mine flew in from New Mexico to Kauai. Her husband had given her one of those portable geiger counters.

The meter went "off the charts" in the air. She almost lost it.

But what can you do....wear a lead suit on the plane and a tin hat? Bentonite clay? Apple Pectin?

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

You just live until you die!