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The Contamination Threat

What you need to know
Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 10:54 AM

Executive Summary

  • The "usual suspects" of dangerous radioactive contamination
  • Recently reported incidents of contamination
  • How bioaccumulation and biomagnification exacerbate the impact of contamination
  • Prudent advice post-Fukushima

If you have not yet read Part I: Fukushima's Legacy: Understanding the Difference Between Radiation & Contamination, available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

Sources of Radioactive Contamination

As mentioned in Part I, polonium provides an excellent and dramatic example of something that is perfectly safe on the outside of the body and perfectly deadly on the inside. That's the difference between radiation and contamination.

"Radiation, just like with any toxic chemical, is related to dose," said Cham Dallas, a professor and toxicologist at the University of Georgia's Institute for Health Management and Mass Destruction Defense. "If you get a big dose, then you'll die sooner."

And with polonium-210, a dangerous dose can be a matter of micrograms: smaller than a single speck of pepper, he said.

If you ingest polonium-210, about 50% to 90% of the substance will exit the body through feces, according to a fact sheet from Argonne National Laboratory. What is left will enter the bloodstream. About 45% of polonium ingested gets into the spleen, kidneys and liver, and 10% is deposited in the bone marrow.

Radiation poisoning from polonium-210 looks like the end stage of cancer, Dallas said.

Liver and kidney damage ensue, along with extreme nausea and severe headaches. Victims often experience vomiting, diarrhea and hair loss. The alpha particles emitted from the decaying substance get absorbed in the body, which is what causes harm. Death may come in a matter of days, sometimes weeks.

(Source)

Yes, polonium-210 is highly radioactive a half gram of it in a vial will heat itself up to 500 degrees Celsius all on its own just because of radioactive decay but it is not at all lethal until and unless it is ingested.  Once it gets inside, then a fleck the size of a grain of pepper is lethal.

The much-feared plutonium-238 is also an alpha emitter.  On the outside of your body it is not much of a problem.  Inside it is extraordinarily harmful.

Iodine-131 (I-131) is another "fairly harmless on the outside, but deadly on the inside" sort of substance.  Even a vastly sub-lethal dose of I-131 in terms of your whole body load will be damaging if not deadly, because iodine is viewed by your body as a delicious and rare treat, with your thyroid gobbling it up, radioactive or not, and storing it for future use.

As the thyroid does this, the I-131 gets concentrated into a very small body mass where the radioactive load experienced by the thyroid is far higher than any surrounding tissues.  At a high enough dose, the thyroid will be destroyed which is a survivable experience, as anybody who's had their thyroid removed can attest.

The real difficulty actually comes with...  » Read more

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Off the Cuff: Down From Here?

Odds are the market top is behind us
Wednesday, February 5, 2014, 11:24 PM

In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and Mish discuss:

  • Down From Here?
    • Odds are the market top is behind us
  • Lack of Fear
    • Despite the evidence, too much investor optimism remains
  • Why the Fed Cares More About Growth Than Consumers
    • Because the banks can't function without it
  • Europe on the Verge
    • Expect the big players to fail this time
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The Unraveling Continues

Time to buckle up
Monday, February 3, 2014, 8:03 PM

The U.S. stock markets had a bad day, as did Japan's and Europe's. Of course, the whole world is linked now, so that's no surprise.

As goes one, so go the others. » Read more

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Off the Cuff: Vicious Volatility

And the case for a major market pullback
Friday, January 31, 2014, 10:46 AM

In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and Brian Pretti discuss:

  • Emerging Mayhem in Emerging Markets
    • Weakness at the periphery is accelerating
  • Vicious Volatility in the Financial Markets
    • Investors have whiplash from this week's price moves so far
  • The Case for a Big Market Pullback
    • Even the bulls think a correction at this point would be healthy
  • False Safety
    • Treasurys will be a safe place to part capital....until they aren't
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How Things Unravel

Slowly, and then all at once.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 11:46 PM

In a recent article, I noted the various signs that things are unraveling at the periphery. In the comments that followed, plenty of people (myself included) expressed the belief that the various Powers That Be are doing everything they can to limit the damage as much as possible.

After a full weekend of burning up the phone lines and the midnight oil, the central banks of the world seemed to have calmed things down a bit by Tuesday (1/28/14), as evidenced by directional reversals in the prices of various currencies, gold, and stocks.  Everything that needed to head back the way it came, from a central banker perspective, was headed back in the "right" direction. » Read more

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Is This It?

Global market weakness is now quickly escalating
Friday, January 24, 2014, 11:59 AM

Is this it?  Are we seeing signs that after a very long period of Fed inspired insanity, et al. (courtesy of folks who lack any imagination beyond sustaining the unsustainable), are we finally entering a long-awaited financial correction?

Using our ‘outside in’ methodology, there’s lots to suggest we are entering such a phase.

All is not well on the periphery, with weaker economies now flashing serious warning signs in their bond and currency markets. It's enough that it’s time to... » Read more

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Off the Cuff: 'Bizarre' Capitalism

When speculation is the only way to get ahead
Thursday, January 23, 2014, 6:13 PM

In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and Charles discuss:

  • 'Bizarre' Capitalism
    • Speculation, not productive work, is now the driver of gain
  • China's Future
    • Scary signs that cronyism and capital flight are big risks
  • Eroding Public Trust
    • Dangerous when your money system is trust-based
  • Canary Candidates
    • Which country will be the first to keel over?
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Why Your Own Plan Better Be Different

Because the cavalry isn't coming
Tuesday, January 21, 2014, 3:40 PM

Executive Summary

  • Why the insolvency hole the U.S. is in may be much deeper than appreciated.
  • Current 'best case' assumptions show us doubling the size of our economy TWICE over the next 75 years. Why that's just not achievable.
  • Why the above assumptions get even worse when the energy story is taken into account.
  • Why action at the individual level is your best bet now.

If you have not yet read Part I: "Endless Growth" Is the Plan & There's No Plan B available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

A Big Hole

When the Treasury Department estimates that the U.S. has a ~$65 trillion NPV (Net Present Value) shortfall in its main accounts, it's saying that using its assumptions, the U.S. government would need to have $65 trillion today in an account, earning a stated rate of interest, in order to be solvent.

Since the U.S. government don't have that have that kind of scratch, it's insolvent. 

But the real picture is likely worse. The Fed calculates the NPV shortfall to be closer to $100 trillion. And if you believe Lawrence Kotlikoff's math, the figure is closer to $200 trillion. Either way $65 trillion, $100 trillion, or $200 trillion the sum cannot be paid.

So it won't be.

And the real trouble is that all of these numbers make the same implicit assumption: The future will more or less resemble the past. That is, some form of future growth exponential future growth of the economy is at the heart of every single calculation.

But we might question that, because somewhere between here and there, economic growth will have to come to an end. Or at least a pronounced deceleration. Why? Quite simply, because the earth is finite.

Now, we might comfort ourselves with the belief that our future date with hard limits is lifetimes away. But when we do, we shortchange ourselves (if we're wrong) and our progeny (if we're right). After all, the time to make an adjustment is when the resources and energy exist to make that change.

And that's now. Or, really, decades ago... » Read more

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Off the Cuff: All Hail the Mighty Fed!

Powerful? Yes. Wise? Hmm....
Thursday, January 16, 2014, 1:58 PM

In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and Mish discuss:

  • All Hail the Mighty Fed!
    • It's proven it wields more financial influence than the world thought
  • The Economy vs. The Markets
    • Despite its goal to influence the former, it only can the latter
  • A Congress of Millionaires
    • The rich are indeed running the show
  • The (Un)Affordable Care Act
    • Is anyone saving money under this plan?
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The NSA Scandal Is Just Getting Worse

Snowden's revelations are beginning to snowball
Wednesday, January 15, 2014, 6:32 PM

Now that the NSA scandal is hitting corporations (collaborators, if you will), does this mean people will pay more attention to it than when it was "just" our privacy being seriously invaded?

With every revelation from the Snowden documents, we've found that the snooping by the NSA was far more pervasive, sophisticated, and unlimited than practically anybody suspected. It's all but certain that even more startling releases are to come. » Read more