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5 Big News Stories That Left Out the Most Important Part

#2. The Chevy Volt Is a Fiery Death Trap (if You Really Try)

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In November of 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that the Chevy Volt's lithium battery had a nasty tendency to murder your entire extended family with fire if you looked at it the wrong way ("looked at it the wrong way" in this context meaning "wrapped it around a telephone pole at 20 mph").

Hybrid haters nationwide leaped at the opportunity to point out just how terribly unsafe these newfangled hippiemobiles are. Oh, and also to remind us that anyone looking for a form of transportation that isn't reliant on burning dinosaur goop is a goddamn communist.

Getty
"Da, comrade. Da."

But They Forgot to Mention ...

If you smacked into the Volt at just the right spot, and then flipped it at just the right speed, the battery would indeed catch fire ... three weeks later, which Volt head developer Bob Lutz wryly noted was probably plenty of time for passengers to exit the vehicle. And that fire only occurred because the NHTSA didn't follow GM's recommended handling procedure for post-crash Volts. But that still didn't stop critics from declaring the Volt to be a liberal-funded crematory on wheels.

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"This car will literally eat your children! And Obama is doing nothing to stop it!"

That's because prior to going all Hindenburg, the Volt was already controversial for the $7,500 tax credit its buyers received to offset the high sticker price, on top of the GM bailout screaming matches that continue to this day. News of the Volt's pyromaniacal tendencies quickly became a huge political story, helping to tank its sales in the process.

For GM's part, they offered to buy back Volts from worried customers while the issue got sorted out. And sorted out it got, when two months later the NHTSA completed their investigation and declared the Volt to be just as safe as its fossil-chomping cousins. Volt sales recovered (though are still a tiny fraction of those of its all-gas peers) and it remains the most fuel-efficient full-size car in production.

Wikipedia
Narrowly edging out the Yocto Gas Miser.

Oh, and that $7,500 tax credit that was the root cause of turning a news story about a broken freaking battery into yet another left-versus-right political shit-fling? That was actually President Bush's idea.

#1. The "Fukushima 50" Sacrificed Their Lives to Prevent Disaster (also, They're All Still Alive)

Akhibara News

It was one of the truly inspirational stories that came out of the horrific Japanese earthquake/tsunami and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant: A group of heroic workers colloquially known as "The Fukushima 50" stayed behind to try to bring the reactors under control. It was reported that the workers had received lethal doses of radiation, but that -- although they expected to die within weeks -- they would carry on as long as necessary to try to protect Japanese citizens.

ABC News
"There's at least a 20 percent chance that some of us will get superpowers instead of dying slowly and horribly."

But They Forgot to Mention ...

They're fine.

You have a right to be surprised; to provide a point of comparison, during the cleanup of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the 1980s, 134 "liquidators" were diagnosed as having radiation poisoning, and 28 of them died within two months of the accident. On the other hand, over a year after the Fukushima disaster, the number of workers who have died from radiation poisoning is ... zero.

Not a single worker has died from radiation-related causes, and in fact none of the workers have even shown symptoms of radiation poisoning. But what about the report from the workers that they were prepared to die from radiation poisoning? Well, that claim came from a single worker who yanked his hypothesis straight out of his ass and told his mother about it, who then passed it on to reporters. That's right -- all the news reports you heard about Fukushima workers expecting to die within weeks or months literally stemmed from the claims of one worried mom.

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"They're not even cutting the crusts off his sandwiches! It's barbaric!"

But that's just short-term risks. Surely we can expect to see that Big C asshole popping up over the long term, right? Probably not. A panel of experts found that the average cancer risk for the workers is 0.002 percent higher than the normal population. Even the most exposed worker (who received a dose of 670 millisieverts, over twice the emergency limit of 250 mSv) only has a 6.7 percent higher chance of getting cancer.

So why all the panic? Well, the effects of different types of radiation are difficult to explain to the layperson, and when you have the queen of the Uruk-hai (aka Nancy Grace) belching out a cloud of undiluted, pants-shitting sensationalism, it's easy to see how misinformation can spread so quickly. But while the press had a field day comparing the accident to Chernobyl, in reality it wasn't nearly as bad. As a matter of fact, Japanese officials are already starting to permit people to return to their homes and businesses, and looking back now, it turns out that the workers were never really in much danger.

Wall Street Journal
Except from Godzilla.

Now, don't get us wrong -- each and every one of those workers is a hero and stood tall in the face of disaster. But why not reward them by gaping in awe of their badassery and not by looking at them with solemn pity, waiting for the next one to keel over?



When he's not selling toxic waste dumps to children's hospitals, Chris writes for his website and tweets. You can email him at raddystuition@gmail.com.

For more slight exaggerations, check out 7 Clearly Fake News Stories That Fooled The Mainstream Media and The 5 Most Ridiculous Lies Ever Published as Non-Fiction.

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