- Champagne Charities
- Many good people want to make a donation to help the
victims of the quake/tsunami/nuclear disaster, and I must urgently advise
you how to allocate your money so that it is not misappropriated, rerouted
or used to reward high-paid NGO executives.
- In the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, after doing rescue
work in worst-hit Khao Lak, Thailand, I rode the back of a bus (because
my unwashed clothes and body reeked of decomposed bodies) to Krabi to check
on the situation there. I got off directly to a hotel to take a hot shower,
and was dismayed to see Western staffers from a major
- charity sitting in the lobby drinking Lanson champagne
- right in public view of passersby on the sidewalk. Only about 30 steps
away, volunteers and doctors were sorting though body bags to identify
victims. These real rescue workers, as opposed to high-end charity executives,
had no choice but to eat cheap box lunches in an open area where everything
stank of death.
- The hotel receptionist told me that I had to pay high-season
rates because all the charities were paying for top-dollar suites. The
room I got was the last one available and had no hot water, so my payment
was futile since cold water does not remove the oils from decomposed bodies.
The next day I moved to a rundown guest house where an old lady provided
me a large thermos of boiled water for my shampoo and bath and fed me a
simple but decent meal of rice and wild herbs.
- Before that in Khao Lak, in a parking area with a bulletin
board with photo postings of bloated rotting corpses, a Mercedes limo pulled
up, and a slim tall blonde woman got out with a European NGO staffer in
a custom-tailored Italian suit. She was laughing loudly. I went up to her,
and said politely as possible in a hushed voice: "Could you show a
little decency? These people are searching for the bodies of their children."
- So be warned. Even hospital administrators can be crooks.
Give money to known and reliable emergency workers from your area heading
to Fukushima. Donate only to church staffers in Japan who can be trusted
not to push Bibles onto shellshocked victims or pocket the cash. Right
now, a German pastor who worked with me during the 1995 subway gassing
is trying to locate our old friends in the Japan National Council of Churches
who have a proven spotless record of honesty, personal commitment and self-sacrifice
over many decades. These are the sort of people who can be trusted the
use the funds wisely and with genuine compassion.
- Otherwise wait to make a contribution during the recovery
and reconstruction phase, because right now the money can't buy much in
the affected region and local people are working in solidarity to help
each other, and your money could end up being a distraction.
- I personally enjoy champagne, but this is not the moment
for celebration or wasteful spending.
- The Iodine Panic
- In areas downwind of Fukushima 1 nuclear plant, it is
advisable for emergency workers and residents to take potassium iodide
(KI) tablets, which normally contain a 130 mg dosage. KI acts to protect
the thyroid gland, which naturally tends to absorb iodine, thereby preempting
the body from capturing radioactive iodine-131. The thyroid controls the
endocrine system, which runs your immune system.
- People living farther afield have no compelling reason
to consume iodine tablets. By the time radiation arrives over Hawaii or
mainland USA, radioactive iodine will have been diluted to levels far below
threshold danger levels. Hoarding or preemptive consumption of KI will
deplete the limited supply for victims close to the nuclear site and in
- For those not living in northeast Japan, there is good
reason not to consume KI tablets. Its side effects affect the parotid gland,
which produces saliva, and may also lead to heart palpitations, vomiting,
rashes, and swelling in the neck and throat. These side effects especially
affect adults over 40 years of age.
- As for the Tokyo and Kanto Plain area, prevailing winds
in the springtime season will continue to drive most of the radioactive
particles eastward over the Pacific. In event of more concentrated fallout,
health authorities are likely to prepared doses to be administer, especially
- The Japanese diet offers a steady source of trace amounts
of KI, which occurs naturally in the kelp used to make the soup base known
as dashi. Thus the national population has some level of natural protection.
- Neutron Absorbers
- In answer to queries about neutron absorbers, here is
a brief layman's introduction.
- Boron-10 is the most common neutron absorbing metal used
to reduce radiation levels in nuclear plants, especially in emergencies
like the one in Fukushima. B-10 is one of two isotopes that comprise natural
boron, but is usually refined before use in nuclear facilities. B-10 is
mixed into the coolant water for nuclear reactors to help prevent meltdowns;
and boric acid, somewhat less effective, is also sprayed on contaminated
areas. These procedures are being done at Fukushima 1, but the emergency
team on site is running low on boron supplies.
- The absorption process works as follows: When a neutron
is emitted from uranium, it moves at high speed and collides into a boron-10
atom. B-10 is deficient with only 5 of its own neutrons, as compared with
more prevalent and stabler Boron-11, which has six neutrons. The fast-moving
neutron impacts itself into boron-10 and splits the atom into lithium-7
and a nucleus of helium-4. The neutron is thus neutralized.
- As for the "radiation blanket" used in China's
uranium mines, although we have no way of verifying the formula, it is
probably an admixture of some of the following elements: samarian-149,
hafnium, gadolinium and, much less likely, cadmium.
- The international community needs to identify surplus
stocks of these neutron blockers, which should be offered to the Japanese
- The Home Front
- As for homemade alchemy, it is not advisable to be painting
one's home with boric acid, which is normally used for stopping ants. In
large amounts, it can be toxic to your pets and children.
- If in the unlikely event of fallout of high concentrations
or a "radiation spike", the more effective defense whenever outdoors
is to wear a cheap disposable raincoat, plastic bags around the shoes and
a fine-mesh face mask. These should be disposed of properly in a plastic
bag identified with a bright marker as "Low-Level Contamination",
and left outdoors and not brought into living quarters.
- Cesium, the isotope with the longest half-life, will
appear only in low levels and as a long-term threat. Once absorbed into
soils, cesium-137 is taken up by the roots of plants such as grasses and
grain crops. After eating large amounts of contaminated grains over months,
animals and humans will gradually concentrate the cesium in their tissues
and organs, making milk and breast milk unfit for consumption, while adding
to cancer risk.
- In event of atmospheric contamination, it will take weeks
for the radiation-spike scenario to play out, so there will be plenty of
time for public-health preparation and the location of non-contaminated
food supplies. If your town or neighborhood has no warning system, it is
important to inquire with the local weather station if they have equipment
to measure "sievert hours", which indicate the exposure time
level dangerous to health. You and your neighbors may want to visit city
council members urging them to organize a local radiation-warning and an
emergency advisory system.
- Boron and GE
- Long before becoming president, the actor Ronald Reagan
was host of early television's General Electric Theater, which was sponsored
by soap powder company Boraxo. The borax (sodium borate) mines of the American
West also produced boron used in making separation rods for nuclear reactors.
GE designed the Fukushima reactors that partially melted down. So where
is Boraxo now that we need it?
- End Note: The title of this Monitor issue is taken from
"Full Metal Alchemist", a manga and anime focused on the secretive
abuse of advanced science in the service of a dominant elite and the war