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Nuclear Scanning Catches a Radioactive Cat On I-5 594

Posted by kdawson
from the paging-dr.-schrodinger-line-4-please dept.
Jeff recommends Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat's story from a community meeting with Northwest border control agents. Seems their monitoring for dirty bombs from the median of Interstate 5 caught a car transporting a radioactive cat. "It turns out the feds have been monitoring Interstate 5 for nuclear 'dirty bombs.' They do it with radiation detectors so sensitive it led to the following incident. 'Vehicle goes by at 70 miles per hour... Agent is in the median, a good 80 feet away from the traffic. Signal went off and identified an isotope [in the passing car]. The agent raced after the car, pulling it over not far from the monitoring spot.' Did he find a nuke? 'Turned out to be a cat with cancer that had undergone a radiological treatment three days earlier.'"
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Nuclear Scanning Catches a Radioactive Cat On I-5

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:12AM (#22842860)
    Schrodinger
  • Lolcat (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:13AM (#22842862)
    Schrödinger cat is not amused
  • Ha, ha (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bruce_the_loon (856617) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:14AM (#22842866) Homepage
    Now, how do you explain that you've just had radiation treatment to the mindless TSA buffoon who's found you're radioactive?
    • Re:Ha, ha (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:55AM (#22843238)
      Why should I explain the details of my cancer treatment to some TSA agent? My medical history is private and should be protected by law from unnecessary disclosure.
      • Re:Ha, ha (Score:5, Interesting)

        by budgenator (254554) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:19AM (#22843500) Journal
        When I had a cardiac stress stress test there was a sign that informed patients that cross the boarder would trigger radiation detectors for at least three days. I work in a dental office and we are the only office that accepts the DHS's dental plan so we have many patients that are Customs Agents, he told me it took the Canadians 3 days to get their trash cleaned up enough to get it across the boarder without triggering the detectors.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by chrish (4714)
          Yeah, some people are lazy and still throw out the waste from our Home Fusion reactors instead of shipping them to one of the government-owned CANDU reactor sites. What's even more WTF is that the fuel comes with a pre-paid shipping label, you just have to shove it in a box, slap the label on, and call Purolator to come pick it up.
      • Re:Ha, ha (Score:4, Insightful)

        by iCharles (242580) on Monday March 24, 2008 @09:52AM (#22844448) Homepage
        HIPPA vs. Homeland Security: who will win?
      • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:32PM (#22847058) Homepage

        "Why should I explain the details of my cancer treatment to some TSA agent? My medical history is private and should be protected by law from unnecessary disclosure."
        Your right to privacy is protected! You also have the right to be apprehended and held incommunicado indefinitely, which has been your right for some time now [doesn't ANYONE read the .sigs anymore?]. Anything you don't say can and will be used against you. It's the new American way.

        When U.S. citizens were children, most didn't learn their civics lessons. They didn't need to because they were going to be Pro Football or Baseball players, or actresses, or pick any other excuse you would like. They don't bat an eyelash now when they hear "if you have nothing to hide" or "we are benevolent protectors" (except to wonder what the word benevolent means.) Henry David Thoreau said that people will get exactly the kind of government they deserve, and that is indeed what the U.S. citizens have received.
    • Re:Ha, ha (Score:4, Informative)

      by justthisdude (779510) on Monday March 24, 2008 @09:03AM (#22844080)
      For a little reality check, a friend went in for liver cancer treatments this morning. Mt. Sinai is in New York city, and the treatment involves Yttrium-90, so when the prepped her they told her she needed a note from her doctor because she will probably get scanned and stopped at the Lincoln Tunnel when she goes home.
      • Re:Ha, ha (Score:5, Informative)

        by Muad'Dave (255648) on Monday March 24, 2008 @09:55AM (#22844476) Homepage
        For those that are curious, Y-90 has a half life of 64 hours and decays into (stable) Zr-90 via the emission of a 2.28 MeV beta- particle. It has a fairly high specific activity of 2.5x10^5 Ci/g (naturally, given its short half life). It is mainly produced from Sr-90, which is fairly dangerous if ingested because the body treats it like calcium - it ends up locked in your bones where it irradiates surround tissue - like bone marrow that produces blood cells. Here [iso-solutions.com] is a datasheet from a supplier - you can get it in activities of 1 Curie! That's 37 GBq.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChemGeek4501 (1044544)
      It won't be a TSA person - it's usually state police that have portable gamma spectrometers in addition to the survey instrument that was on the road, that way they can identify the isotope if it were a gamma emitter. It's an amazingly sensitive and sophisticated system, and the folks that are usually running it are some of the brighter bulbs in the state police box.
    • Happens all the time (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dj245 (732906) on Monday March 24, 2008 @09:18AM (#22844180) Homepage
      My father is an immigration inspector on the Canadian border. Apparently this is not uncommon and people are usually surprised when he asks them if they have had any recent medical tests. The only news here is that it was a cat this time.

      The detectors are very sensitive. Aparently the steel in many shipping containers built in China sets it off because the chinese are recycling a lot of the steel that was in now-decommissioned nuclear reactors.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:15AM (#22842874)
    Please, please, please, somebody tag this catscan.
  • cool. (Score:5, Funny)

    by RelliK (4466) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:17AM (#22842886)
    Did the cat have any superpowers?
  • LOL @ Privacy Tag (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumFTL (197300) <justin,wick&gmail,com> on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:20AM (#22842898)
    Emitting nuclear radiation is the equivilent of shouting "hey, here, look in my vehicle. I've got something NUCLEAR!" No wonder there's no privacy. I'm sure if the vehicle was glowing no one would feel bad about them being pulled over. This just happens to glow in a very different way.
    • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:47AM (#22843020)
      True, but since there are legitimate reasons for emitting radiation they should take that into account. The last thing people (or cats) undergoing radiation therapy for cancer need is to be stopped and searched on every corner
      • by fbjon (692006) on Monday March 24, 2008 @06:23AM (#22843314) Homepage Journal
        So then, why haven't a human been caught in this net before? It seems there should be more radioactive people than cats being driven around.


        Also, the story has a slight smell of urban legend. Snopes hasn't picked it up yet, though.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ucklak (755284)
          The cat probably had a thyroid condition [thepetcenter.com] - like my cat.
          You can give the cat thyroid medication twice daily or zap it.

          The 3 days is kind of strange though. I was told that the cat has to stay at the clinic for a week to get rid of most of the radiation.
        • So then, why haven't a human been caught in this net before?
          A human has. Or, at least, has been caught in something similar.
          A friend of mine was undergoing medical tests last year and he was stopped at the entrance to the San Diego city dump when getting rid of some trash. Not freeway speeds, of course, but he was in a moving, closed vehicle. Apparently people dump radioactive stuff.
        • Re:LOL @ Privacy Tag (Score:5, Interesting)

          by budgenator (254554) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:35AM (#22843568) Journal
          The are all the time, I had a stress test and the office told me that crossing the boarder would trigger the alarm for at least three days and that they had Dr's statements for Customs available for the asking. Customs turn back trash trucks at the boarder for radiation all the time now, you'd be amazed at how much nuclear waste Hospitals used to dump into our landfills unnoticed.
        • Re:LOL @ Privacy Tag (Score:5, Informative)

          by slashqwerty (1099091) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:00AM (#22843672)
          So then, why haven't a human been caught in this net before? It seems there should be more radioactive people than cats being driven around.

          They have [newscientist.com].

        • Re:LOL @ Privacy Tag (Score:4, Interesting)

          by prisoner-of-enigma (535770) on Monday March 24, 2008 @09:30AM (#22844252) Homepage
          My cat just received treatment for a benign thyroid tumor causing hyperthyroidism. It cost a bloody fortune (US$1,100) but it was either that or medicate him twice a day for the rest of his life (euthanasia was not open to consideration). The clinic was RadioCat [radiocat.com] in Marietta, GA. Take a look at their logo and tell me if it doesn't bring back memories of Napster's...but I digress.

          The clinic kept him for three days after the treatment, both to observe and to let some of the radioactivity die down. After he came home, we had to keep him separate from our other cats (we have five total). We were cautioned not to dispose of his litter in the trash; it should be flushed. The clinic said the county dumps have radiological sensors that scan everything going into the dump, and the litter would definitely set off the sensors. It would cause an investigation that would have the trash company trace back where that particular trash truck picked up garbage from and could cause a lot of unneeded trouble. We were advised not to hold the cat for more than 20-30 minutes per day and to wash our hands thoroughly after any contact with the cat.

          I knew our pet would be "hot" when he came home, but I had no idea the cat could set off a roadside sensor. Either this fellow didn't let the lab keep the cat for the required 3-4 days before transporting him or the sensor was amazingly sensitive. If so, I'm actually quite happy about it. If somebody is transporting a radioactive cat is found, they're detected, nobody gets their fur in a fluff, and everybody goes their way. If somebody is transporting a dirty bomb or components thereof, they're detected and law enforcement deals with it. I see nothing here to complain about.
  • by KillerCow (213458) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:21AM (#22842900)
    ...until some law-abiding citizen going about his lawful business gets stopped and accosted for no reason beyond "the machine said so" during a routine blanket surveillance sweep. Enjoy the slide into a police state.
    • by dlanod (979538) on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:04AM (#22843076)
      I can see the interrogation now...


      FBI goon: "What's the matter??? CAT GOT YOUR TONGUE?"

    • by dbIII (701233) on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:14AM (#22843120)
      To make things worse a dirty bomb detector is a bit like having an Easter Bunny detector. It may create employment and the impression that something is being done to detect the kiddies but it's worth considering what phyicists think of the idea instead of various poorly educated coke-addled political advisors.
    • by Rocketship Underpant (804162) on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:24AM (#22843144)
      It occurs to me that if someone actually wanted to transport a dirty bomb across the US, all they have to do is have a car a few miles ahead containing a radioactive cat, and they'll know for certain if and where there are radiation checkpoints.
      • by cheater512 (783349) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:40AM (#22843204) Homepage
        Or, if they cared about their sexual organs, they would use lead which would render the fancy detectors useless if done properly.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:21AM (#22842902)
    have 18 half-lives.
    (captcha: murders)
  • by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:27AM (#22842918)

    Signal went off and identified an isotope

    Holy smokes! Isotopes [thefreedictionary.com] everywhere!

    I'm surprised they needed a detector to find something that, by definition, comprises all of matter.

  • So let's say... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ForestGrump (644805) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:30AM (#22842936) Homepage Journal
    1. I'm remodeling my house. I go down to Home Despot/Slowes and buy a dozen smoke detectors. Would I get pulled over for being a suspected terrorist?

    2. I'm a cancer patient undergoing radiation therapy. What can be done to prevent the horror of being pulled over by the KGB? Would it be reasonable to issue "radiology patient" tags, like they issue handicapped tags for the handicapped?

    3. What is the false positive rate of such monitoring? Here, we have a cute example of a sick cat setting off a false positive. What about other incidents like this that fail to get into the newspaper?

    Grump
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tirerim (1108567)
      If you're worrying about the KGB, you should be more worried about them making you radioactive [wikipedia.org] than investigating you for already being radioactive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by piojo (995934)

      1. I'm remodeling my house. I go down to Home Despot/Slowes and buy a dozen smoke detectors. Would I get pulled over for being a suspected terrorist?

      Whether they would search you without permission would be a more interesting question. I think the police are well within their rights to pull you over and ask why you're emitting radiation. After all, the constitution doesn't prevent us from being stopped and asked questions.

      2. I'm a cancer patient undergoing radiation therapy. What can be done to prevent the horror of being pulled over by the KGB? Would it be reasonable to issue "radiology patient" tags, like they issue handicapped tags for the handicapped?

      3. What is the false positive rate of such monitoring? Here, we have a cute example of a sick cat setting off a false positive. What about other incidents like this that fail to get into the newspaper?

      I'm not sure this matters. Are people's rights being trampled as a result of this monitoring? I'd feel more strongly about this story if there was mention of someone getting arrested, hassled, held, etc. On the other hand, if they de

      • Re:So let's say... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by David Jao (2759) <djao@dominia.org> on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:29AM (#22843168) Homepage

        3. What is the false positive rate of such monitoring? Here, we have a cute example of a sick cat setting off a false positive. What about other incidents like this that fail to get into the newspaper?
        I'm not sure this matters. Are people's rights being trampled as a result of this monitoring? I'd feel more strongly about this story if there was mention of someone getting arrested, hassled, held, etc. On the other hand, if they detect cancer patients, they must pull people over pretty frequently, and the program may never catch a terrorist... well, good thing I'm not in politics.

        The false positive rate does matter, regardless of whether or not rights are being trampled. When you conduct any sort of large scale surveillance activity, the base rate fallacy [wikipedia.org] implies that most of the triggering events will be false positives. With too many false positives, your surveillance program is worse than useless -- it wastes money that could otherwise be better used on other security initiatives.

        I know there is some emotional appeal in arguing that "if it saves even one life, etc. etc. then it's worth any amount of money" but in the real world that's just not true. In the real world, spending one billion dollars to save a life might be a bad idea if spending that same money on some other program would save two lives. In comparing the relative merits of two or more different security proposals, the false positive rate is one important factor to consider, because it affects the cost/benefit analysis.

        Of course, people's rights matter as well, because that also affects the cost/benefit analysis. Unfortunately, the American public is seemingly too dumb to perform any sort of analysis involving more than one variable. Since the false positive rate involves math, it doesn't have any political appeal at all. Hence the Republicans fixate only on the terrorists, and the Democrats when not fixating on the terrorists focus only on civil liberties to the exclusion of all else.

        • Re:So let's say... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Znork (31774) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:18AM (#22843774)
          In the real world, spending one billion dollars to save a life might be a bad idea if spending that same money on some other program would save two lives.

          Indeed. Considering that traffic has killed approximately 280.000 Americans since 9/11 one could wonder how many lives would have been saved, had the 'war on terror' money been spent on improving road safety.

          One could also question wether terrorists would find terror a useful weapon if nobody cared more than they do about traffic risks.

          I wonder what would happen if Al Qaeda claimed they'd infiltrated the safety departments of several multinational car manufacturers, as well as the DMV and a multitude of road planning commissions.
    • Let's say, then: (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Wilson_6500 (896824) on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:04AM (#22843078)
      1) Depends on the design of the detector. There's no chance the alpha particles from the Am-241 will be detected, as the cardboard box the smoke alarms are in will stop those, but the photons might be. The cat's scan residue (rimshot, please, along with everyone else in this discussion--but I would guess it's Tc-99 residue from a Tc-99m scan) was picked up by this detector system, so assumedly the Am-241 gammas might as well. That said, I don't know what activity is usually used smoke detectors (and I'm too lazy to look it up), or what activity is usually administered to cats during vet. nuclear med. procedures; questions like these are ones of quantity. You might well be stopped. From their perspective, you might well be buying twelve Am-241 sources to line the casing of a bomb.

      2) I was under the impression that oncologists were in the habit of doing just that--giving "doctor's notes" to patients with outpatient implanted brachytherapy seeds or devices. Being treated with a linear accelerator would not be likely to leave a perceptible amount of radiation in your body (photoneutrons from high energy linacs might cause some activation, but I don't think that it's generally a serious concern as far as setting off radiation alarms). Would it also bother you that you might well set off radiation alarms at nuclear power plants, if you happened to work at one, while being treated for your cancer?

      3) From a machine perspective, this was not a false positive. From a judicial/social standpoint, it was. I don't have much more to add beyond that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by glwtta (532858)
      All I'm getting from you is a lot of Freedom hating. Why do you want the terrorists to win?
    • by freedom_india (780002) on Monday March 24, 2008 @06:41AM (#22843374) Homepage Journal
      Let me play FoxNews plus Gonzales for a while:

      1. I'm remodeling my house. I go down to Home Despot/Slowes and buy a dozen smoke detectors. Would I get pulled over for being a suspected terrorist?
      Yes. You would get pulled over and charged. You need to prove to the Police and the judge beyond doubt that the detectors are for your home. A work contract signed by your contractor, a REAL ID and a passport are necessary to get discharged from the case.
      Plus if you live in Montana or California, tough luck. These states support terrorism by rejecting REAL ID and thus endangering you! (endangering you by your rendition to Gitmo).

      2. I'm a cancer patient undergoing radiation therapy. What can be done to prevent the horror of being pulled over by the KGB? Would it be reasonable to issue "radiology patient" tags, like they issue handicapped tags for the handicapped?
      Yes. That badge would need to be accompanied by REAL ID. The badge itself would be built by the highest bidder who has offered better quality, 3D hologram embossed with your wife's or Eva Longoria's photo on the badge and also has Bluetooth enabled. Oh BTW, your insurance would not pay for the badge which would cost $399 each.

      3. What is the false positive rate of such monitoring? Here, we have a cute example of a sick cat setting off a false positive. What about other incidents like this that fail to get into the newspaper?
      Those details are "deemed classified." Much like information about cellphone tower coverage which companies used to provide publicly but stopped in 2003/04 when Bush deemed them classified at their instigation. Similarly if you continue questioning about false positives, you would be classified as a "person of interest" and be subject to such intense surveillance that the movie Enemy of State would be outdated. Heck, even your stool shit would be studied after scraping it from toilets.
  • by Circlotron (764156) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:33AM (#22842946)
    You mean they didn't just invent the cat scanner?
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:33AM (#22842948)
    Passivly monitoring traffic for this kind of thing is harmless, and i'm sure no one would mind as long as the agent used a little common sense and didn't immediately assume the person in the car was osama.
  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:34AM (#22842958)
    Of course, it's not serious journalism to simply quote from a random funny story tossed out in an otherwise dull talk. Good speakers often have a collection of slightly oddball fake stories to put the audience at ease. Journalism means actually chasing up the story, interviewing the supposed cat's owner and the agent. If they actually exist, that is.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:42AM (#22842994) Homepage Journal
    The summary says the car was populated by a "cat", but doesn't mention if there was a human driver. Either that, or the car was driven by a 60's beatnik with a fondness for Jazz music. "Hey dude, I just pulled over this radiocative cat, man, I mean he was smokin'."
    Cosmic.

  • by exekewtable (130076) on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:00AM (#22843068)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger's_cat [wikipedia.org]

    OMG, they measured and saw it! the paradox is solved!
  • by Detritus (11846) on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:01AM (#22843070) Homepage
    I remember reading something about them discovering a truck loaded with contaminated steel at the gate of some federal facility. Sometimes radiation sources, like cobalt-60, get mixed in with scrap metal that is going to be recycled. The steel plants are scared to death that they will accidentally melt down a load of scrap that contains a radiation source, resulting in a lot of spoiled steel and a huge decontamination bill. They have their own radiation detectors to check incoming material.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rrkap (634128)
      You're probably thinking about the 1983 incident that happened in Juarez Mexico. Part of a piece of cancer therapy equipment fell off when the unit was being transported in a pickup truck. The two guys sold it to a scrap metal dealer. It turns out what they had was a source capsule containing 1000 pellets of Co60. The truck broke down shortly afterward and the now radioactive vehicle gave very high doses of radiation to several people (including the children of the driver of the truck). However the big
  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:08AM (#22843086) Homepage
    ... just how radioactive was this cat? If it's sufficiently radioactive to show up at quite a distance in a moving vehicle, how much full-body radiation are the people around the cat getting?

    I do not want a hot cat sitting in my lap.
  • by Aussie (10167) on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:33AM (#22843178) Journal
    C: The man didn't have the right form.
    S: What man?
    C: The man from the cat detector van.
    S: The looney detector van, you mean.
    C: Look, it's people like you what cause unrest.
    S: What cat detector van?
    C: The cat detector van from the Ministry of Housinge.
    S: Housinge?
    C: It was spelt like that on the van (I'm very observant!). I never seen so
          many bleeding aerials. The man said that their equipment could pinpoint
          a purr at four hundred yards! And Eric, being such a happy cat, was a
          piece of cake.
    S: How much did you pay for this?
    C: Sixty quid, and eight for the fruit-bat.
    S: What fruit-bat?
    C: Eric the fruit-bat.
    S: Are all your pets called Eric?
  • This is Nothing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gambolt (1146363) on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:39AM (#22843200)
    A lot of my family is from Oak Ridge TN, where the nuclear payload for the atomic bombs dropped in WWII was fabricated there is now a national lab.

    It's common knowledge that frogs are a problem for the feds around there. That's amphibians, not the French.

    Here's the problem. Frogs live in the ponds by the cooling towers. The frogs are radioactive. The frogs jump out on the road and get squished. There are then lots of radioactive tires rolling in and out of town. The multi-million doallar system purchased to keep people from sneaking radioactive material out of the area is therefore useless.

    Why the hell is the water in the coolant ponds radioactive? Isn't that a bad sign? Nobody cares, they are all used to it by now. The thing with the frogs sure is funny though.
    • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Monday March 24, 2008 @06:00AM (#22843246) Homepage Journal
      They would monitor for leaks by collecting biological samples, oxidizing them down to ash, then mixing the ash in liquid scintillator then counting the rate of flashes in the fluid.

      She said all the pine needles in the woods near Oak Ridge are highly radioactive.

      She also monitored the lobsters caught in the Pacific next to the San Onofre plant near San Diego. Once they sent up extra lobsters: some to assay, and some to eat!

    • Hey, that piece of information ought to be classified and you ought to keep your trap shut instead of blathering out in open like this.
      If the terrorists read about this, then they would plan like below:
      1. Come to Oak Ridge, TN with an empty 2-tonner truck.
      2. Squash and drive over thousands of radioactive frogs in a matter of weeks shouting their usual battle cry "death to infi..."etc.
      3. Buy a Geiger counter locally and check for enough radioactivity.
      4. Skip to Mexico/border country and get a dirty bomb (I w
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Monday March 24, 2008 @06:26AM (#22843328)
    "Feed cat Plutonium pellets with kibble. Wrap cat in detcord. Place timer on cat and set for five minutes. Release mouse on crowded street. Release cat after mouse. Run. Remember to face Mecca at 4:29 after you release cat." "Oh, don't forget to plug ears."
  • At what cost? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nomen Publicus (1150725) on Monday March 24, 2008 @06:35AM (#22843350)
    So, how much does it cost per year to detect radio-active cats? Wouldn't it be cheaper to put up a sign saying "Radio-active materials are monitored" and spin a lie a couple of times a year using a story such as "We detected a radio-active cat, aren't we clever?"
  • Insightful?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by adkeswani (1261278) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:19AM (#22843498)
    I check the comments expecting to see a series of Score:5 Funny.

    Instead, I find that most comments are Insightful and Informative.

    Come on people, a RADIOACTIVE CAT!

    Oh well, I guess this may be given an Insightful too...

  • 150 comments so far and no one's mentioned this [newscientist.com] yet from 2002?

    Americans undergoing radioactive medical treatments risk setting off anti-terrorism sensors in public places, and subsequent strip searches by police, warn doctors at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
  • So stupid... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flajann (658201) <[flajann] [at] [linuxbloke.com]> on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:49AM (#22843622) Homepage Journal
    A radioactive cat that just underwent cancer treatment? A cat is not a radiological bomb. Obviously, their detectors are way too sensitive.

    But more importantly, this is an innocent person that was harassed by the Homeland Insecurity types over something he'd done legitimately. What a waste of time and effort.

    If someone really does have a radiological weapon, all he has to do now is shield it in layers of lead to escape detection -- or have a radiological cat as a decoy.

    I suppose they'll harass people who just underwent cancer treatment as well. Wow. I feel so secure now.

    Of course, chemical-based bombs can do a lot of damage as well, but obviously this detector won't pick that up. What a waste of taxpayer's dollars.

    Low-tech can always thwart high-tech, anytime. The would-be terrorist on a shoestring budget can always find a low-tech way to circumvent these million-dollar high tech measures. Meanwhile, some egg-heads in government revel in the false sense of security they now have.

    Of course, it begs to reason how much of a real "treat" of "terrorism" there really is. Oh, but the big government contractors are loving the windfall from the paranoia. Well, that's the US for ya. Fear for Profit! Yeah, the American Way.

    • Re:So stupid... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Pigeon451 (958201) on Monday March 24, 2008 @09:49AM (#22844414)
      How was the person harassed? The agent pulled him over, questioned him, then let him go. Justified, since they detected radiation source. Doesn't sound like harassment to me. If they ran up to him with guns drawn, cuffed him, questioned him for several hours, then yes, that would be harassment.

      Compare this to metal detectors at clubs or airports. EACH person is individually scanned and searched. Is this harassment? An overstep of people's rights? How many people carrying weapons do they really find? It is a deterrent, as well as a detection system.

      As far as low-tech, agreed, low tech can cause minor problems such as bombing a building and is much easier. A few causalities, makes the news, etc. A nuke going off though, however, that is significant. Destroy a city, widespread panic and fear, international news. Much like the WTC incident.

      • Re:So stupid... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by flajann (658201) <[flajann] [at] [linuxbloke.com]> on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:48PM (#22846328) Homepage Journal
        "How was the person harassed? The agent pulled him over, questioned him, then let him go. Justified, since they detected radiation source. Doesn't sound like harassment to me. If they ran up to him with guns drawn, cuffed him, questioned him for several hours, then yes, that would be harassment. "

        Justified from whose perspective? The cat? The cat's owner?

        As one who have been repeatedly been pulled over, visited, and questioned by police when I've done nothing wrong, there is no justification for intruding on the peace of mind of the innocent.

        Sorry, but unless that man actually were carrying a radiological device, bothering him is an intrusion on his peace and his life, even if they did "let him go." So does that mean that they will keep pulling him over every darn time he gets cancer treatment for his cat, or drives with his cat somewhere they have detectors? Would you want to be pulled over again and again and again when you've done nothing wrong? If that were to happen to you, would you not see that as harassment?

        We really need to revisit the Rights of the Innocent in this country. Basically, all the rights of the innocent have been systematically stripped away, made easy with your latest and greatest technologies. Perhaps you don't mind the NSA tapping your every phone calls and email correspondences and putting them through their supercomputer farms just to see if you are a terrorist or not. But I think most people would have a problem with that!

        As far as I'm concerned, if I haven't done anything wrong, then don't bug me. If you (law enforcement, NSA, Homeland Insecurity, FBI, etc.) do, you are invading my peace and my privacy as well. It IS harassment, plain and simple, and I for one will NOT stand for it. And neither should you if you care anything about your own rights.

        Perhaps you should see the Minority Report. Basically, we're talking about the same thing here.

  • by zerofoo (262795) on Monday March 24, 2008 @08:11AM (#22843740)
    My cat was recently treated for a hyperactive thyroid. The vet injected the cat with radioactive iodine and kept the cat in isolation for two weeks.

    After I was allowed to take the cat home, I was told to avoid having the cat sit on my lap, and I had to collect the cat's litter box scoopings and store them outside for two weeks. The vet told me if I discard the litter box contents into the trash, I would probably get a visit from homeland security. Evidently, they also scan garbage, and if they find any radioactive trash, HS tries to figure out where it came from.

    If they trace it back to your house, they will show up with a warrant to search the premises.

    When I told her she must be joking, she told me it happened to one of her clients.

    That's creepy on a bunch of levels - the fact that HS can trace garbage back to your house, and the fact that HS can "pay you a visit" after snooping through your garbage.

    -ted

  • by mattt79 (1005999) on Monday March 24, 2008 @09:54AM (#22844460)
    Something similar happened to me about ten years ago. My toddler aged daughter was undergoing nuclear scans to track her cancer treatments, and I was told that for the next 48 hours I should wear gloves when changing her diapers. A week later I get a call from some "government agency" asking why my garbage was emitting radioactivity! After I explained about the underlying medical issues, (including the fact that I-131 has a half-life of a couple days) there was no further problem.

    But here's the kicker, since I use a community dumpster, the only way the could identify me was to get the information from mail in my (presumably radioactive) trash.

    I learned two things from the encounter,

    1 - I need to get a shredder.

    2 - That someone has what may be the worst job in the world... radioactive dumpster diving.

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