Tritium is radioactive:

Following Friday’s tip that tritium is not radioactive we received literally dozens of corrections:

Tritium is radioactive with a half-life of 12.32 years. It decays into helium-3 by the reaction… Wikipedia has more detail here.

Where does tritium come from? Tritium is produced naturally in the upper atmosphere when cosmic rays strike nitrogen molecules in the air. Tritium is also produced during nuclear weapons explosions, as a byproduct in reactors producing electricity, and in special production reactors, where the isotope lithium-6 is bombarded to produce tritium. What is tritium used for? Tritium has several important uses. Its most significant use is as a component in the triggering mechanism in thermonuclear (fusion) weapons. Very large quantities of tritium are required for the maintenance of our nation’s nuclear weapons capabilities. Tritium is also produced commercially in reactors. It is used in various self-luminescent devices, such as exit signs in buildings, aircraft dials, gauges, luminous paints, and wristwatches. Tritium is also used in life science research, and in studies investigating the metabolism of potential new drugs. How does tritium affect people’s health? As with all ionizing radiation, exposure to tritium increases the risk of developing cancer. However, because it emits very low energy radiation and leaves the body relatively quickly, for a given amount of activity ingested, tritium is one of the least dangerous radionuclides. Since tritium is almost always found as water, it goes directly into soft tissues and organs. The associated dose to these tissues are generally uniform and dependent on the tissues’ water content.

Tritium is indeed radioactive; it’s not terribly dangerous to people (unless ingested or inhaled), but its glow-in-the-dark characteristic does not come from exposure to glow worms.

Tritium not radioactive? Back to the textbooks fellows:

Fairfax’s shrinking broadsheets:

Penelope Toltz writes: Re. “Fairfax I: never mind the truth, feel the width” (Friday, item 4). As it is some time since the Fairfax papers cared much about content and/or its journalists and has fallen in with the language of the business/marketing world, why would anyone be surprised that what is a cost-saver and will lost a column of newsprint for journalists and readers, was dressed up to look like a “good thing”. I was hoping that the joining of Rural Press and Fairfax would get some ownership from the Fairfax family again and would put the journalism to the front instead of it being thought of those pesky, sceptical bits of writing in between the advertisements. This of all years, we really need a newspaper which attempts to investigate what is happening in our country and tells it like it is to readers. A democracy full of uninformed people is a shaky democracy at best.

Jim Hart writes: In announcing its new format on Friday, The Age claims it is not going tabloid when in fact the paper has been steadily going down that path for years. Friday’s issue was typical with 28 broadsheet pages of news and business on the outside, folded around 56 tabloid pages of sport, form guide and EG. And that’s not counting the glossy sub-tabloid magazine. For a so-called broadsheet, The Age is looking more and more like a Clayton’s tabloid. And some days that’s not just because of the page size.

Ian Nance writes: I buy just one newspaper a week. I get my print news from Crikey each day, but on Sundays enjoy having a coffee with a paper in my lap, so I buy The Sun-Herald. I don’t buy the sports-yobs’ Telegraph, but perhaps I ought to try it, due to a change in “editorial” content I’ve noticed lately. This was typified in today’s edition of The Sun-Herald containing two “Marketorials”. The first was a large article on page three, by Louise Hall, headlined “Nic’s Niece Sees Stars On Set Of Blockbuster” which seemed to be a lift from a promotional press release about the movie Australia, starring Nicole Kidman. Within the layout was a panel headed “Revealed: The Men And Women Of Australia” without the word Australia being in quote marks to suggest a title, and containing the names of the cast. Why was not this piece of non-news placed in the movies section of the paper? A paid placement, perhaps? The other “Marketorial” I noted was for Nintendo Wii in a page 27 half-page article from Caroline Marcus headed, “Virtually A Gaming Addict”, about a kid playing his grand dad’s Nintendo game. The story included strong endorsements from health organisations, then, on turning over to the Our View editorial section on page thirty, I found a panel, totally irrelevant to the ALP Conference editorial, containing a promotion for Nintendo Wii. Editorial ineptness, or sneaky revenue generation?

A future Liberal leader writes…:

Stephen Harrington writes: Re. “A future Liberal leader writes: Multiculturalism is civilisation’s single greatest threat” (Friday, item 10). I would like to pick up on the most offensive aspect (of many) in the ridiculous ranting by Con Helas about multiculturalism published in today’s edition of Crikey. “Attempts by progressives to introduce gay marriage by the backdoor (pun intended) via civil unions are nothing short of a subversive effort to attack the foundation of traditional society.” This kind of argument (generally suggesting that homosexual civil unions will “devalue the institution of marriage”) is invoked constantly by conservative loudmouths as a way of thinly veiling their deep-seated fear of difference. If protecting the “traditional family unit” is really their main concern, why is the spotlight never turned onto divorce? I would have thought that it is a greater disruption to traditional values and the family unit than gay marriage every will be? Likewise, if these people — our PM and co. included — are so concerned about the “sanctity of marriage” when it comes to considering same-sex unions, why do they not complain about programs like Yasmin’s Getting Married or Surprise Wedding? Don’t these devalue the institution of marriage? Oh, no, of course not, because those weddings are between a man and a woman… I am a recently-married heterosexual, and I think that excluding thousands of Australians from marriage-based on nothing more than sheer homophobia and fear of a conservative voter-backlash is a greater insult to those vows than the introduction of gay marriage could ever be. And don’t get me started about the rest of that pathetic diatribe.

Mike Cahill writes: Junta Helas of the Monash Liberal Club? With free-range reasoning like this, how on earth did he get to enroll at a university? I know standards have slipped during the past 11 years in the Coalition, but he must be one of those full-fee payers from overseas!

Glen Coulton writes: You did not tell us Con Helas’s first language; English, it obviously ain’t. He’s the first writer I’ve ever read who managed to get redundant prepositions into two consecutive sentences with his, “I am one of those Liberals with which this publication has a somewhat unhealthy obsession towards. This article would like to explore some issues to which this newspaper often propagates on…”. English-wise, it was all down hill from there. Would it be unkind to suggest that his command of English matches his command of logic?

Patricia O’Donnell writes: The words “will apparently run in the next edition of Lot’s Wife” suggest that you do know that this is an undergraduate attempt at satire. I do hope you know that, even more than I hope that it is.

The AEC:

Robert Bromwich writes: Re. “Winds of change blowing through AEC” (Friday, item 12). In today’s story about the winds of change at the AEC and the comment about “remembering Florida” — they also can look at Ohio in 2004 where the validity of the electoral colleges was formally challenged in the Congress (unlike Florida in 2000 where equally valid claims were available). There are books and DVDs that the AEC (and selected politicians on the coalition side) can purchase from online bookstores — I can provide a potted list for them if they wish.


Alex Can writes: Re. “Iraqi leader runs into a dangerous wall” (Friday, item 16). Thank God for Guy Rundle. His lurid description of the attacks on our troops in Iraq, if correct, augers a new phase of the war. Killing non-US troops will not get the US out of the war so the change in tactics is difficult to gauge, especially against non-performers as the Australian troops have proven to be. Perhaps they are refining their tactics before an assault on the far more numerous and combat efficient US troops. Either way the war is to become far uglier in the run-up to the US presidential elections.

Labor’s fresh thinking:

Chris Bond writes: Re. “I’m Kevin. I’m from Queensland. I’m here to win” (Friday, item 1). So, Labor’s new slogan is “Fresh Thinking”. Brilliant piece of work Kev and team, you’ve finally come out and acknowledged that up until that bowel-moving announcement your thinking has been stale — otherwise why choose that particular slogan! But will a slogan change the thinking? Will a written statement influence the thinking of so many within the party to make it considerably different from what it was(is)?. If it’s as simple as paying some PR/Marketing guru a motza to come up with a statement that changes the thinking of so many, why not try “Save Water” and presto, the nation’s water crisis is over! Really!

The nuclear debate:

Jody Bailey writes: The nuclear energy debate John Howard shaped last year, and swung a big hammer on Saturday in an attempt to drive it between the Labor factions, is secondary to the real nuclear debate, only the Prime Minister would never publicly admit as much. Whether or not we build nuclear power stations depends on our desire, in the future, to have the capacity to build nuclear weapons. Anthony Albanese hinted at it when he said we can’t guarantee that spent nuclear fuel won’t be used to build those weapons. So people, are we frightened enough yet to begin stockpiling our own nuclear weapons capability? We won’t be told so by the Government, in fact they are attempting to tell us we have none, but the choice is ours. And anyway, why would we want to waste what will certainly be a very valuable specialised energy source for things like, for example, batteries that last “forever” in, for example, robots, just to simply boil water.

The ABC:

Mark Freeman writes: Re. “ABC programmers need to be more flexible” (Friday, item 22). I just can’t agree with Glenn Dyer’s comments about ABC TV programming. The first The Sideshow was just great despite my doubts about the format and general indifference to Paul McDermott. I’ve been hoping and praying for decades now that the execrable Bill will be tossed — thereby giving anything else a chance on Tuesday and Saturday. As for the Anzac Day show — I’d hoped that this jingoistic annual orgy would have backed off a little now that the last of the diggers have died. It’s worse than ever and now Denton’s adding to it. 3am any day would be my preferred slot. The ABC suffers mainly from cash starvation and a board of professional denialists. It’s doing remarkably well considering.


Stephen Woods writes: Re. “The Economy: WorkChoices — great economics, confused politics” (Friday, item 28). Mr Thornton writes, “Strong employment … is the surprising consequence of WorkChoices” Am I wrong in believing many of the “new jobs” supposedly being created by “Work(non)Choices” are being filled by workers from overseas? Where is the training for Australian workers? Why is so little money and effort being spent on building skills for Australia’s future? If this coalition government was so concerned for Australia, why are they leaving workers here out of the loop in this often called “boom time”? Again, it seems that Mr Thornton does not see the bigger, or longer term, effect of such employment policies – an Australia with an untrained workforce.

The GST and the economy:

Peter Hill writes: Re. Peter Wachtel (Friday, comments). Not sure that would work, since it is the states and territories which control the rate of GST, either up or down, and last time I checked none of their governments were controlled by the Liberals. It’s a common error, but it’s been seven years now — GST is NOT federal revenue.

Russell Bancroft writes: In response to Peter Wachtel. Peter, you are correct, but you need to keep in mind that any referral of powers by a state is voluntary, and the referral may be withdrawn, in part or in whole, at any time. A withdrawal of referred power has happened before, and has certainly been threatened in recent times by the Victorian Government in relation to the referral of industrial relations powers. There is nothing stopping a future state Liberal government from withdrawing a referral of industrial relations powers, or a state ALP government doing the same. What this means, of course, is that employees of constitutional corporations would remain federal, and the other 20-30% (yes, this is another area for debate) would remain state regulated (or unregulated). In other words, the situation we have today.

Dan Buchler writes: Re. Simon Buckland-Hemming (Friday, comments). Indeed, Mr Dan Buchler was a Treasury officer, but retired from the Treasury in 2004, that is before the Future Fund was established.


Andrew Jakubowicz writes: Re. “Oops. Coonan attends neo-Nazi celebration …” (Friday, item 8). You might want to ask why the NSW Ethnic Communities Council gave the Ustashi (whoops Croatian) gig a full-colour celebratory blurb in their April e-newsletter from which it has now mysteriously disappeared — (it appeared just below a piece on an ecumenical Passover dinner). And no, neither Coonan nor Ferranti-Wells were ignorant of the background — Ms Ferranti is a feral right-winger and Coonan has her own skeletons in the wardrobe in the deals she made for preselection.

The AFL’s remembrance:

Ashley Hornsey writes: Labor leader Kevin Rudd recently copped flak when it was revealed he planned to take part in a mock Anzac Day service for the benefit of a television show. For those who consider the day sacred and not one to be tampered with, fair enough. But what about the AFL holding an Anzac Day ceremony before each of its round 5 games, played out over four days. Let’s just leave the remembrance stuff to the day itself.

Snoop Dogg:

Lee Tulloch writes: Re.”Conviction on drug rap dogs Snoop: visa refused” (Friday, item 17). I was at a party with Snoop Dogg at Sydney’s Establishment on Tuesday, 13 February, 2007. So how come, two months later, he’s suddenly too dangerous to let into the country?


Tim Mackay writes: Re. “A farewell drink in London for the world’s oldest columnist” (Friday, item 24). I know that it is pedantry at its absolute best/worst, but I think Stephen Mayne will find that the area and tube stop is Farringdon, not Farrington. I never got off the tube there but certainly went through the station every day for a few years. Regardless, I hope he and his family enjoyed a celebratory pint or many for the old fella there.

Peter McLennan writes: Re. “Winds of change blowing through AEC” (Friday, item 12). Third paragraph, line 3. Please, please. “Disinterested” is a word far to sharp with meaning to be confused with “uninterested”. Please Crikey, strike a blow. This really matters.

Moira Smith writes: Gerard McEwen (Friday, comments) says “tautology is a form of reverse reasoning to establish a causal relationship e.g. all mass murderers breathe therefore breathing causes people to become mass murderers”. This is, in fact, the logical fallacy called “post hoc ergo propter hoc”, not an example of tautology. Tautology just means repetitious, redundant language. As in “absolutely unique”, “very excellent”, or “on a daily basis”. Or, actually, much of journalistic language in this modern day and age. (The term “journalistic language” could probably be called an oxymoron, but I think that would be rather harsh.)

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 2: “… the latest practical opportunities to go to the polls — December 1 or 7.” No, December 7 is a Friday. Try December 8. Item 6: “… and frankly, my dear, doesn’t give a damn about the country or it’s leaders.” Oops, there’s another one.

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