Your idiot journalists story of the day

Comes from McClatchy.

So, deaths from radiation poisoning, cancer from such, among workers in the American nuclear arms industry. An interesting subject and we do actually know, absolutely, that it happened at least once (bloke playing with plutonium parts of warhead, allows them to get to close together, then calculates who he has killed other than himself before going off to hospital. It’s even in a movie….one of the Cusaks playing him perhaps?).

What we’d really like to know is what is the incidence?

So, McClatchy has a brainwave. Let’s look at the number of people Uncle Sam has compensated for getting cancer having worked at nuclear weapons facilities. Genius!

Except, as explained here, that’s not quite how it works.

Because Congress decided that it couldn’t in fact work out which cancers among the nuclear weapons workers had in fact been caused by their being nuclear weapons workers. And in this Congress was right: no one does know and except for the very few obvious accident cases we know about no one can know.

Therefore Congress compensates anyone who gets cancer having been a nuclear weapons worker.

No, not people who get cancer from having been a nuclear weapons worker, anyone who gets cancer having been a nuclear weapons worker.

And the incidence of cancer among former nuclear weapons workers is about the same as it is in the general population. About one third of us don’t die of other diseases and survive to get cancer these days. So with weapons workers.

But that’s what McClatchy runs with. Some one third get cancer, thus nuclear weapons workers have been poisoned by their jobs: when the incidence is actually the same as the general population.

And they’ve spent a fortune on this. They record at least 100 interviews with sufferers. With American long form journalism that means a budget of at the very least high single digits of hundreds of thousands (you’re going to send a reporter, maybe a photographer, on a plane ride, for a couple of days, to conduct each interview) of dollars and quite likely low single digits of millions of dollars.

And it’s all based on that entirely false logic. If incidence is the same as the general population then there is no story.

It’s absurd: and whichever editor that greenlighted this project, if it’s supposed to be journalism, needs to be fired. If it’s just propaganda, for whatever reason, that’s fine: propaganda is propaganda. but then it probably shouldn’t be coming from McClatchy, should it?

23 thoughts on “Your idiot journalists story of the day”

  1. “(bloke playing with plutonium parts of warhead, allows them to get to close together, then calculates who he has killed other than himself before going off to hospital. It’s even in a movie….one of the Cusaks playing him perhaps?).”

    Isn’t that Joe Don Baker in the TV ‘Edge of Darkness’..?

  2. The FUD brigade are at it again. Unfortunately this kind of fear mongering has dramatic consequences.

    It has long been known that a significant amount of cancer is caused by virus infection, the cancer clusters in Britain can be linked to “new towns” where population mix will encourage virus transmission. Because one such cluster was at a nuclear power plant this muddied the water, it has taken a long time to establish population mix was probably a greater factor, mainly due to to a Wakefield style report that was used for compensation claims.

    The slow uptake of vaccinations (such as HPV) to prevent cancer is one of the side effects of this fear. The science says genetics, diet and other people are greater risk than environment. This flies in the face of anti-nuclear and anti-chemical activists.

    In many ways this is similar to the arguments about pesticide use and irradiation with food, whereas most real world food related death comes from bacteria.

  3. There was a leukaemia cluster around the accommodation for the AWEs at Aldermaston and Burghfield.

    However, the cluster wasn’t the workers (who did get some exposure, particularly early on, although nothing like the exposures workers got from using radium paint to make luminescent instrument dials in WW2), it was their families.

    “Second hand” radiation, as it might be termed.

  4. Hard to tell if it is propaganda or stupidity. Might be both.

    My guess is someone noticed the nigh number of compensation cases, then a tide of confirmation bias and herdthink swept them along. At some point someone may have pointed out the truth, but by then they might have sunk an awful lot of money into the story and ran it anyway. No-one in the media is going to question it.

  5. The first example is of a women who worked with nukes ages 19 and died a whopping 71 years later of cancer. What kind of fucktard would believe her exposure to nukes had anything to do with that cancer?

  6. Bloke in North Dorset

    “The first example is of a women who worked with nukes ages 19 and died a whopping 71 years later of cancer. What kind of fucktard would believe her exposure to nukes had anything to do with that cancer?”

    Hormesis? Which always seems to be forgotten whenever we get nuke stories.

  7. Hotakainen claims no scientific qualifications in his public profiles
    Wise is an expert in Arabic studies and the middle east, and reports on consumer affairs.
    Matt seems to come up with a twitter account and lots of links to this story.
    Ehlinger is an intern, majoring in English and churnalism at Texas Christian University.

    You’re expecting scientific output?

  8. Louis Slotin was an idiot, using outdated techniques (even then in 1946) to measure the effectiveness of the core manufacturing process.

    That he killed himself was unsurprising, that he nearly killed others and likely gave them a medically significant dose of radiation poisoning is unforgivable.

    It is possible that Marion Cieslicki’s 1965 death of acute myelocytic leukemia may be related to the accident, but as Tim quite rightly says, given a 1-in-3 lifetime chance of getting cancer it is statistically unprovable.

    Even for those directly exposed to the demon core, there was no direct proven correlation between longevity or cancer.

  9. “American long form journalism”: an awful lot of American journalism is “long form”, or at least feels like it. ‘Slow’ and ‘dull’ would be other suitable adjectives. I was once amused to see an explanation offered by an American: the US, said he, is a “low context” society.

  10. @dearieme, American journalism in most cases follows the same structure as Discovery TV “documentaries” where they spend the first 5 minutes after every ad break repeating what you have just watched, and 5 minutes before the next break telling you what you will be watching. The cynic in me chalks it down to being paid by the word.

  11. Runcie Balspune,

    > the cancer clusters in Britain can be linked to “new towns” where population mix will encourage virus transmission

    So the Daily Mail is right – immigrants do cause cancer?

  12. “the cancer clusters in Britain can be linked to “new towns” where population mix will encourage virus transmission”

    So any city, in fact. London should be minging with cancer.

  13. I was once amused to see an explanation offered by an American: the US, said he, is a “low context” society.

    He was right. Attend training at an American establishment, and they assume you know nothing so start from the very basics (probably with one eye on a potential lawsuit). By contrast, the French jump in at a level at which the instructor is comfortable and the students are expected to go and fill in any gaps in their knowledge off their own back.

  14. It strikes me as standard American employee full-medical cover. We pay your medical costs for anything you get while employed by us. Broken arm, dental caries, pregnancy, cancer.

  15. I wasn’t sure if I should bother reading this and I’m still not sure.

    The key points that should have been obvious in the story just aren’t where they would make sense. When I clicked on see the numbers instead of getting a good statistical breakdown of the cancers these workers have ended up with including years of employment and diagnosis dates I get a fluff blurb which tells me nothing. Having worked in various businesses I’m sure that there are management cover ups but the story does nothing to show a true systemic problem.

    McClatchy’s minions may have a story but from this rubbish we’ll never know. The pity is McClatchy’s local rag is actually slightly better than the local conservative propaganda piece. I can only guess he feels the need to lower his reporting quality to the competition’s levels.

  16. I was rather surprised to see a local number for industrial/work related deaths in 2015 which seemed high, turns out that, exposure to something that doesn’t kill you for 40 years still counts as an industrial related death (say coal miners with respiratory problems, absbestos dust, etc). Once explained it seems fair, but I did wonder about the ability for the media to confuse the metric with accidental deaths (falling off a roof).

  17. An interesting study would be to compare these figures with a similar industry. There probably aren’t that many similar jobs to handling cores of nuclear weapons but what about people who work in hospitals with X-ray machines? There must be something.

    Also compare it with literally any other occupation.

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