Monday, July 11, 2011

Musings: Everybody Knows

There’s a certain color that comes before dawn, a pale shade of lavender that edges on pink, and it affixes itself to the sky above the mountains. Then it all goes a grayish-white, and stays like that for some minutes, though I don’t know how many, because when the dogs and I are out walking, time is measured by distance, and not by the clock. Then the colors appear, if the conditions are right, as they were today, and so I was treated to an apricot halo atop Waialeale and rosy puff balls hurrying mauka.

New Defense Secretary and former CIA chief Leon Panetta is hurrying to ensure that America keeps pouring blood and money into the Middle East as he blames Iran for arming the “militias” there and threatens to take “unilateral action” to stop them, whatever that means. Meanwhile, he’s also claiming the defeat of Al Qaeda is in reach if we can only kill or capture its leaders — among them, Anwar al-Awlaki, the first American to be openly targeted for assassination by his own government — who are supposedly, and so conveniently, in Yemen and Pakistan, two places where we’re already diddling and would just love to ramp up the action.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense is hurrying to deny that soldiers face any harm from the toxic dust generated by our military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as scientists are calling bullshit. As USA Today reports:

The Pentagon is falsely claiming its research shows that airborne dust in Iraq and Afghanistan poses no health risk to U.S. troops, say three scientists whose review of that research found it riddled with mistakes.

The scientists, who issued their report last year for the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences, were part of a team that reviewed a 2008 study at the request of the Pentagon.

Both studies were conducted to better understand risks as the number of U.S. troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and developed mysterious and severe respiratory conditions skyrocketed after their service. Since the start of the wars in 2003 and 2001, neurological disorders per 10,000 active-duty service members have risen by 251%, while respiratory issues jumped by 47%, according to a USA TODAY analysis of military morbidity records from 2001 to 2010.

[S]cientists Philip Hopke, Mark Utell and Anthony Wexlern say the Army's research was so "ill-founded" that it couldn't be used to determine anything other than that the fine particulate matter levels in the Middle East far exceeded recommended World Health Organization levels.


I found it interesting that Craig Postlewaite, head of the Pentagon Force Protection and Readiness Office, claimed dust from those two countries “is not noticeably different from samples collected in the Sahara Desert and desert regions in the U.S. and China."

So in other words, the whole planet is already contaminated. Which isn’t a surprise, given that dust, and the depleted uranium and other toxic substances it contains, is carried by the winds that circle the globe.

But don’t worry, it’s all good. At least, that’s what those of us who are concerned about DU in Hawaii and the radioactive fallout from Fukushima are repeatedly told. Is that the truth, or more shibai?

Larry Geller delves into that topic in a post on Disappeared News that includes both his own assessment of the Department of Health’s radioactivity reports and a link to a Forbes article that takes a closer look at government reassurances in the wake of Fukushima.

As the Forbes piece by Jeff McMahon notes:

[T]he government … framed the data with reassurances like this oft-repeated sentence from the EPA: “The level detected is far below a level of public health concern.” The question, of course, is whose concern.

Of note locally, he makes an example of the comment made by Hawaii DOH spokeswoman Lynn Nakasone after radioactive cesium-137 was found in milk in Hilo: ”There’s no question the milk is safe.”

That kind of statement failed to reassure the public in part because of the issue of informed consent—Americans never consented to swallowing any radiation from Fukushima—and in part because the statement is obviously false.

There is a question whether the milk was safe.

In spite of the relative level of Fukushima radiation, which many minimized through comparison to radiation from x-rays and airplane flights—medical experts agree that any increased exposure to radiation increases risk of cancer, and so, no increase in radiation is unquestionably safe.


Despite what the government tells you to the contrary.

Which leads me, in closing, to this song, which Dr. Basko played on his radio show this past Saturday. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since because, well, “everybody knows.” Don't they?

2 comments:

Andrew Cooper said...

That "pale shade of lavender that edges on pink" you are seeing is probably what is known as the Belt of Venus (http://www.atoptics.co.uk/atoptics/earshad.htm), actually the Earth's own shadow rising or setting through atmospheric haze.

The effect is commonly visible here in the islands to those who know what they are seeing and care to look.

Casey said...

> In spite of the relative level of Fukushima radiation, which many minimized through comparison to radiation from x-rays and airplane flights...

Saying it is "unquestionably safe" may be too much, but it seems a bit irresponsible to scare people about the trivial levels seen in Hawai`i.

People can easily explain the safety of the radiation level just as noted above: The danger due to increased radiation levels outside of Japan are less than that from a flight on an airplane. Make your own judgements from that.