Rancher defies government to save Fukushima’s radioactive cows


Click to enlargeNew York Times/Ko Sasaki

Angered by what he considers the Japanese government’s attempts to sweep away the inconvenient truths of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Masami Yoshizawa has moved back to his ranch in the radioactive no-man’s land surrounding the devastated plant. He has no neighbors, but plenty of company: hundreds of abandoned cows he has vowed to protect from the government’s kill order…

“These cows are living testimony to the human folly here in Fukushima,” said Mr. Yoshizawa, 59, a gruff but eloquent man with a history of protest against his government. “The government wants to kill them because it wants to erase what happened here, and lure Japan back to its pre-accident nuclear status quo. I am not going to let them…”

Mr. Yoshizawa is no sentimentalist — before the disaster, he raised cows for slaughter. But he says there is a difference between killing cows for food and killing them because, in their contaminated state, they are no longer useful. He believes the cows on his ranch, abandoned by him and other fleeing farmers after the accident, are as much victims as the 83,000 humans forced to abandon their homes and live outside the evacuation zone for two and a half years.

He is worried about his health. A dosage meter near the ranch house reads the equivalent of about 1.5 times the government-set level for evacuation. But he is more fearful that the country will forget about the triple meltdowns at the plant as Japan’s economy shows signs of long-awaited recovery and Tokyo excitedly prepares for the 2020 Olympics — suggesting his protest is as least as much a political statement, as a humanitarian one…

He still searches the evacuation zone for the often emaciated survivors, which he often has to pull by their ears to get them to follow him home. He tries to dodge police roadblocks; it is technically illegal for anyone to live inside the evacuation zone. Nonetheless, he has been caught a half-dozen times and forced to sign prewritten statements of apology for entering the zone. He has done so, but only after crossing out the promises not to do it again…

Mr. Yoshizawa notes wryly that the cows are living much longer than they would have if they had been led off to slaughter.

For now, the local authorities have come up with a very Japanese solution to Mr. Yoshizawa’s defiance: turning a blind eye. Town officials in Namie deny knowledge of him or anyone else living inside the evacuation zone — despite the fact that they have restored electricity and telephone service to the ranch.

Though I’m not certain about the sense of Mr. Yoshizawa’s protest, the essentials, the history of what led up to his dissent, is certainly protest-worthy. Having worked around radioactive materials and components for nuclear power plants, I am concerned about his long-term health. It has always seemed that whatever level the powers-that-be announced as tolerable sooner or later were reduced.

The half-life of Cesium-137 is a tad over 30 years. Present in his own body and the cows.

I wish him well.

Argument over space aliens + handgun hidden in “private parts” = aggravated assault arrest


McCarthy’s boyfriend isn’t named “Data” is he?

Jennifer McCarthy, 48, was arrested Saturday morning and booked into the Santa Fe County jail on a charge of aggravated assault on a household member…

According to a police statement filed in Magistrate Court, McCarthy’s boyfriend told a deputy responding to a disturbance that McCarthy started performing a sex act with a silver handgun, asked, “Who is crazy, you or me?” then took the gun and pointed it at his head.

The gun came into play after the couple had argued about space aliens…

…McCarthy left the couple’s home on Aventura Road in Santa Fe, according to the boyfriend’s account…When she came back, she went into the bedroom and came out dressed in lingerie and with the handgun in her private parts.

The boyfriend, who was not identified in the police statement, grabbed the gun after she pointed it at his head. He said he was afraid she was going to pull the trigger.

The boyfriend went into the bathroom and put the gun in the toilet. He told the deputy that when McCarthy went to retrieve the gun, he got it himself and put it in a trash can outdoors.

That’s where the deputy, who’d been dispatched to the house about 10:50 a.m., found the gun. The deputy arrested McCarthy and booked her on the aggravated assault charge.

RTFA which includes a 911 emergency call from McCarthy. Edited so as not to offend any of the more sheltered readers of the Albuquerque JOURNAL.

Is anyone in New Mexico astounded over an incident like this? I doubt it. After all, just across the valley from me is the county’s official welcoming center and landing site for UFO’s. I’ve never seen anything land there other than model airplanes belonging to local radio-control hobbyists. But – what do I know?

A lonely quest for scientific fact on GMO crops


Rainbow papaya, GMO and grown on Hawaii for decades = 3/4’s of the papaya crop

From the moment the bill to ban genetically engineered crops on the island of Hawaii was introduced in May 2013, it garnered more vocal support than any the County Council here had ever considered, even the perennially popular bids to decriminalize marijuana.

Public hearings were dominated by recitations of the ills often attributed to genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s: cancer in rats, a rise in childhood allergies, out-of-control superweeds, genetic contamination, overuse of pesticides, the disappearance of butterflies and bees.

Like some others on the nine-member Council, Greggor Ilagan was not even sure at the outset of the debate exactly what genetically modified organisms were: living things whose DNA has been altered, often with the addition of a gene from a distant species, to produce a desired trait. But he could see why almost all of his colleagues had been persuaded of the virtue of turning the island into what the bill’s proponents called a “G.M.O.-free oasis.”

Please read the tale from start to finish. Greggor Ilagan is one of those rare politicians who is willing to spend a great deal of time studying the science affecting beliefs underlying political questions. Most of the article, long and well-detailed, deals with his willingness to examine the opinions of advocates on both sides of the questions around GMO crops – and the conclusions he reached.

For me, the telling conclusion he realized in the course of his study, is that dealing with GMO crops – on the Left – individuals don’t seem to think they require anymore real attention to science than does the Right on questions of climate change or human sexuality.

You betcha.