Strong opinions, weakly held

Links for April 3

A few links that caught my eye:

  • Securing Arizona – If Arizona is a microcosm of America, we’re in big, big trouble. The state has huge financial problems brought on by the real estate bubble and recession, and the right wing government is looking for solutions in all the wrong places.
  • Music industry will force licenses on Amazon Cloud Player—or else – Jacqui Cheng explains why record companies aren’t going to accept Amazon’s new Cloud Player without a fight.
  • App Store Shenanigans – Chris Dixon looks at a few ways iOS App Store vendors game the review process and trick people into downloading their applications. Even with Apple’s restrictions on what gets published on the App Store, it’s amazing how much total crap makes it in.
  • Why Paying Bribes Should Be Legal – Kaushik Basu argues that bribes can be prevented if you legalize paying bribes. Then you can enlist people who are being solicited for bribes into the enforcement process. This reminds me of an old Bruce Schneier piece, Aligning Interest with Capability.
  • Number of the Week: PCs Make Americans $500 Billion Richer – Economists try to estimate the value delivered by personal computers.
  • Shooting an Elephant: Why GoDaddy’s CEO Was Wrong – You may have seen this on Twitter. Basically, GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons wanted to shoot an elephant and found a loophole that would enable to do so. He made a video of his hunting trip I because he was so proud of himself.
  • TMI: Fear, Fukushima and Facts – Anil Dash with the one post you have to read about the risks of human exposure to radiation.


  1. A few minutes on the Chernobyl wikipedia page reveals that Anil Dash post to be misleading at best.


  2. Lyn Millet aka Medley pointed out on my blog that the National Research Council disagrees with Anil Dash’s source’s assertion that “low doses carry no risk.”, concluding that: “The committee concludes that current scientific evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a linear, no-threshold dose-response relationship between exposure to ionizing radiation and the development of cancer in humans.”


  3. Dan, BL, thanks for the additional data — my father-in-law may have been speaking casually (I was quoting from a personal email) and not with scientific accuracy, but I’m not exactly sure. I’ll ask for a clarification and see if Wikipedia and/or NRDC really are in conflict with the information I was sharing.

  4. Note that’s the NRC, not the NRDC. I’m pretty skeptical of anything the NRDC says, they’re pretty serious about playing the fear card in pursuit of funding, but the NRC I take seriously.

  5. @BL, the section of Wikipedia that you quoted agrees with Anil: 28 deaths from radiation sickness, (216 from non-cancer deaths), long term cancer rates for the emergency workers was no higher than the general population.

  6. That section does but if you read on: ” The Chernobyl Forum concluded that twenty-eight emergency workers died from acute radiation syndrome including beta burns and 15 patients died from thyroid cancer, and it roughly estimated that cancer deaths caused by Chernobyl may reach a total of about 4,000 among the 600,000 people having received the greatest exposures, while “among the 5 million persons residing in other ‘contaminated’ areas” where doses were lower, the report projected cancer mortality “increases of less than one per cent”, (less than 50,000) cautioning that this estimate was “speculative”. Fred Mettler puts this last number at “perhaps” 5000, for a total of 9000 Chernobyl associated fatal cancers, saying “the number is small (representing a few percent) relative to the normal spontaneous risk of cancer, but the numbers are large in absolute terms”.[89] The same report outlined studies based in data found in the Russian Registry from 1991 to 1998 that suggested that “of 61,000 Russian workers exposed to an average dose of 107 mSv about 5% of all fatalities that occurred may have been due to radiation exposure.”

    “Another study critical of the Chernobyl Forum report was commissioned by Greenpeace, which asserts that “the most recently published figures indicate that in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine alone the accident could have resulted in an estimated 200,000 additional deaths in the period between 1990 and 2004.”[94] The Scientific Secretary of the Chernobyl Forum questioned the choice by the report authors to selectively use non-peer reviewed papers and only those non-peer reviewed papers as their source material while Gregory Härtl (spokesman for the WHO) expressed concern that the conclusions were motivated by ideology.[95]

    The German affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) argued that more than 10,000 people are today affected by thyroid cancer and 50,000 cases are expected in the future.[96]”

    And there is a section on birth defects.

  7. The “harmless low-dose” theory is not implausible but it’s also not proven, as Dan noted above. Asserting a belief in it is of course not inappropriate for a personal email. But it’s not uncontroversial.

  8. eg. for one alternative take: http://allthingsnuclear.org/post/4406180702/how-many-cancers-did-chernobyl-really-cause

    Suggests the answer is maybe 35,000 or 70,000.

  9. Er, 70,000 excess cancers, 35,000 excess deaths.

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