Japanese state mobilizes its young women to give comfort

I was starting to think that the news of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster was slowing down. Of course, it's all just as horrible as ever, and the government's reaction to it is the same list of shameful failures it has been since March last year, but lately there hasn't been anything new to report.
Then today there were a couple of items that added to or even surpassed the list of outrageous events. 
First, the Ministry of Agriculture has persuaded nine university campus queens to join a promotional campaign in which they will be featured eating food from Fukushima Prefecture. It's bad enough that university student associations still hold beauty pageants and elect a Miss Campus, but somehow someone in government latched onto the idea that these young ladies could be used in the revival of the Fukushima economy. It would be a nice idea if all the food from Fukushima were safe and the government and the producers had done an effective job of food monitoring, but, in fact, these efforts have been riddled with failures. This has shattered public trust in any food from Fukushima, as well as some surrounding areas, even though many of the food products are clear of contamination. As the blog post from ex-skf.blogspot.com makes clear, these women will be asked to eat and promote many types of food that have been found to be contaminated. I can't imagine why they let themselves be used in this way, but I have to keep in mind that it's a tough job market out there. These women probably, sadly, believe in what they are doing, and believe it will lead to a good job offer when they graduate. I take small comfort in knowing that the university I work for was not considered prestigious enough to be invited to participate.
Other news, also reported by ex-skf.blogspot.com, is that a citizen with a consumer grade dosimeter has found a mysterious "black powder" on the streets of Minamisoma, a town just near the boundary of the evacuation zone of where many residents - with children - decided to stay put. This powder was measured at a whopping 295 microsieverts per hour! No official survey noticed this fine, black powder which this citizen found throughout the streets of the town. A sample of the powder was analyzed by a professor at Kobe University and the cesium content was found to be:
Cs-134: 485,252 Bq/kg
Cs-137: 604,360 Bq/kg
TOTAL: 1,089,612 Bq/Kg

This is an astounding level. The soil in the parks near my home in Chiba are reported to have a total of 450 Bq/kg, and a gamma dose rate of 0.12 microsieverts per hour (up from a natural background of 0.06). In the evacuation zone of Fukushima this number is in the range of 2 ~ 8 microsieverts per hour. One can only speculate, until further testing is complete, as to whether this black powder is a very concentrated form of nuclear fuel that must contain high levels of uranium and plutonium. 

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