Naturally, the Los Angeles Times Fukushima-denier article was picked up for “curated” aggregation by LA Observed. “With anyone who uses Facebook exposed to bogus but viral hype about supposed high radiation levels, public officials and scientists have put out the word that for them the evidence is in,” a blog post read January 12, 2014. “Things are still dicey to be sure at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power — and likely to get worse before they get better. But that’s a separate question from whether Pacific fish are being seriously contaminated, and the threat of impact here is yet another separate issue.”
Science-challenged reactions to the peril posed by Fukushima to the Southland aren’t confined to mainstream legacy media and news aggregators. One LA Weekly editor opined soon after the meltdowns on her Facebook page that the effect here wouldn’t be worse than getting sunburn on her arm driving with an open window.
A blogger for LA Weekly, which this reporter freelanced for from 1986 to 2012, referred to Santa Monica rain which EnviroReporter.com tested at over five times background in April 2012 as “acid rain” in a blog post covering what we had discovered. When this reporter objected and asked that the word “acid” be removed because it wasn’t accurate or that I would have to correct the mistake in the post’s comments, the blogger became defensive.
“I think there’s a popular perception about acid rain simply being toxic rain, but I’ll change it,” he responded. “I fixed your niggles. It’s the last time I’m picking anything up from you though, given your threats.”
Threats? Asking for a stupid mistake to be corrected is a threat coming from someone he knew for years from mutually contributing to the now defunct Los Angeles CityBeat? He stayed true to his word, though, and nothing critical of the Fukushima fiasco and its impact here has come out of the ever-thinning paper since. The once vaunted LA Weekly now investigates stories like broken parking meters.
Perhaps the blogger, who had previously won a Pulitzer Prize no less with a team of reporters at the Los Angeles Times, should be given some slack considering the shape of science knowledge in the United States at large. In short, the country is as dumb as a stump when it comes to all things scientific.
A National Science Foundation survey of 2,200 Americans released in early February found that 26 percent of those surveyed incorrectly answered the question “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth.” The same survey found that only 48 percent thought that human beings “developed from earlier species of animals.”
Results from a 2012 Program for International Student Assessment showed this race to the bottom is nothing new and getting worse. U.S. students fell behind 29 nations and jurisdictions worldwide in mathematics, falling six slots from 23 just three years prior. Science acumen had American pupils placed behind 22 other education systems in the 2012 survey.
Even mountains of money thrown at American kids’ educations refuse to budge their rankings. Spending more than most countries on our students, about $115,000 per pupil, hasn’t amounted to much. Slovak kids perform at the same level as American ones with a per student expenditure of around $53,000 per pupil (which is less than half for any arithmetically challenged American reading this).
This ignorance isn’t confined to legacy media or U.S. students. One particularly snarky Internet host, “TakePart Live” presenter Jacob Soboroff, hit a new low in a web video called Paranoia of the Deep in February. But Soboroff’s laughable antics harassing fishermen with a Geiger counter to prove his point too could be partially forgiven because of the nonsense he got in an interview with Colin Hill, a professor of radiobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California according to TakePart Live.
Soboroff showed Hill a newly purchased Geiger counter which was reading background outside the medical school and asked if it was anything to be worried about. “It would need to be showing tens of thousands of them,” Dr. Hill said. “It would be 10,000 instead of 0.1.”
Tens of thousands of times background is something to be concerned about when the California Highway Patrol considers three times background a hazmat situation? Preposterous isn’t strong enough a word to describe Hill’s hogwash.
It isn’t easily discernable which is more terrifying – a medical doctor who believes this rubbish or one that teaches it to future medical doctors. One can only wonder how many patients have and will get too much radiation from USC’s glowing school of radiobiology graduates.
Hill is not alone in his hooey. University of California Berkeley nuclear physics professor Kai Vetter went even further in Fukushima denial when interviewed by San Francisco’s CBS affiliate station KPIX-5 January 31. When asked about Radiation Station Pacifica California’s David Crain and his use of an Inspector nuclear radiation monitor, Vetter blew off any remote possibility that such advanced Geiger counters work.
“A Geiger counter is not good enough,” said Vetter. “Not good enough at all.”
Vetter was not done. “We still see Cesium 137 back from the atmospheric tests in the 40s and 50s,” Vetter said. “We still see that. It’s, in a way, part of our natural background now.”
So now one of the fiercest manmade radionuclides is part of our “natural” background radiation? Is that like murder being part a “natural” cause of death because it is so common? Following Vetter’s logic, the answer is yes. And, once again, UC Berkeley has outdone USC but not in a good way. Perhaps most shocking is that Hill and Vetter didn’t think anybody would notice that what they were saying was untrue.
Meltdown denying maven Kim Martini, upon whose shoddy pronouncements so much of this hyperbolic media nonsense has been based was right in one thing: a widely distributed cover story artwork of a Ventura County Reporter feature as fear-stoking fallaciousness. The article was written by this reporter, who had nothing to do with the cover art selected to accompany it.
“There are a bunch of maps being thrown around on the internet as evidence that we are all going to die from Fukushima radiation,” Martini wrote in her November 2013 DSN feature. “This is not a map of Fukushima Radiation spreading across the Pacific. This is a map of the estimated maximum wave heights of the Japanese Tohuku Tsunami by modelers at NOAA. In fact, tsunamis don’t even transport particles horizontally in the deep ocean. So there is no way a Tsunami could even spread radiation (except maybe locally at scales of several miles as the wave breaks onshore). Dear VC reporter, I regret to inform you this cover image could be the poster child for the importance of journalistic fact-checking for years to come.”
Martini had VC Reporter dead to rights. When this reporter saw the massive mistake, I knew that the Fukushima deniers would have a field day with it.
“The last feature was damaged due to the incorrect use of an earthquake shockwave map on the cover to represent what?” I subsequently wrote to the managing editor. “I don’t know. Fukushima contamination certainly did not and does not flow like the illustration. I repeatedly have had to explain that it was not my mistake, but the paper’s, as it angered a number of my readers.”
This wasn’t the last inadvertent sabotaging of this reporter’s work through art or editing. And I was not alone. These ‘own goals’ were a far cry from when the paper ran stories that changed Southern California history, like Rocketdyne Ranch in 2002. The decision to no longer write for publications that mistakenly damage my work was not an easy one. This reporter has had a long and fruitful experience with print media and wants it to survive and thrive.
Newspapers aren’t the only medium in which legacy media has either ignored or fumbled the Fukushima story. Al Jazeera America, which used the VC Reporter cover as its major art in a January 8 story, went on its own meltdowns denier spree subsequently with Debunking Fukushima’s radiation myths which featured a photoshopped giant mutant squid on a beach. AJA’s piece was typical of the kind of false information being spun by an apparently clueless media.
“The first thing that people don’t realize is that radiation is natural,” AJA quoted Malcolm Crick, secretary of the UN’s Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, in the piece. “We are exposed to radiation from outer space… that radiation is there, it provides us with a background exposure as we live on this planet.”
So the cesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium 239/240 are natural? AJA doesn’t even ask. Nor does AJA question Crick’s assertion of Fukushima that “there were no radiation-related deaths or acute diseases among the general public and workers.”
Crick is clearly wrong according to numerous Japanese and international reports. A recent report in the Japanese publication Asahi Shimbun reported December 12, 2013 that 59 young people in the Fukushima prefecture had been diagnosed with or are suspected of having thyroid cancer. All of the thyroid cases were in people younger than 18 when the triple meltdowns began March 11, 2011. That the cancers developed so soon after the disaster started is somewhat of a mystery to scientists but that didn’t prevent Toshihide Tsuda, a professor of epidemiology at Okayama University from expressing alarm.
“The rate at which children in Fukushima prefecture have developed thyroid cancer can be called frequent, because it is several times to several tens of times higher,” he told the newspaper.
One of the first peer-reviewed studies to link Fukushima with American deaths was released by the International Journal of Health Services (IJHS) in January 2012. The study was authored by epidemiologist Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, and Janette Sherman, an adjunct professor and toxicologist at the University of Michigan. It found that deaths rose in 122 American cities after the meltdowns began, “Projecting these figures for the entire United States yields 13,983 total deaths and 822 infant deaths in excess of the expected.”
That’s over 14,000 American dead according to the IJHS. That Al Jazeera America would posit such false blanket statements by Crick that no one was harmed by Fukushima with no AJA pushback is amazing. The few journalism outfits that do push back on Fukushima, or in rare instances uncover original news material which EnviroReporter.com does regularly, do face the wrath from Fukushima deniers. But attacking the credibility of anyone who actually exposes Fukushima radiation in America can come from the most unlikely places including one that has placed heavy emphasis on the Fukushima disaster.
Popular conspiracy Internet radio host Jeff Rense began a rumor last October 28 that this reporter had been threatened and had disappeared probably due to outspoken Fukushima coverage. Nothing of the sort happened, which I had made clear to him.
The story got so twisted that regular program guest Yoichi Shimatsu speculated that my disappearance coincided with the U.S. Department of Energy’s impending deal with Vietnam for nuclear reactors which may be something I might have to do with.
The bogus threat rumor ripped through the Internet in large part because of comments made on the most trafficked news aggregator on the Fukushima crisis, Enenews.com. Claiming over two million visitors a month, Enenews also publishes thousands of comments, including ones about this reporter’s apparent demise.
“I read some comments on ENENEWS that you and a few others have not been heard from for some time now and it was raising some suspicion about your safety,” wrote “Sunnie” from St. Louis in an email to EnviroReporter.com January 29. “I took it to another level, as I have been noticing some ‘untimely’ deaths, etc amongst some Fukushima ‘insiders’ and have been keeping an eye on the situation. I was fearful that you and your wife, Denise, might be among them.”
These kinds of comments on Enenews perpetuated the myth that this reporter and his editor had to hide from some unseen wholly fictional threat. A news organization that has been threatened and hides is not the reality or image EnviroReporter.com wants its readers to have of it. We cover serious subjects and scurrilous chatter perpetuated on the largest Fukushima disaster news aggregator can be harmful.