.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

PLOnium

Yesterday there was a kerfuffle as Al Jazeera released a report suggesting that Yasir Arafat was killed by Polonium-210, a highly radioactive substance:
Eight years after his death, it remains a mystery exactly what killed the longtime Palestinian leader. Tests conducted in Paris found no obvious traces of poison in Arafat’s system. Rumors abound about what might have killed him – cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, even allegations that he was infected with HIV.

A nine-month investigation by Al Jazeera has revealed that none of those rumors were true: Arafat was in good health until he suddenly fell ill on October 12, 2004.

More importantly, tests reveal that Arafat’s final personal belongings – his clothes, his toothbrush, even his iconic kaffiyeh – contained abnormal levels of polonium, a rare, highly radioactive element. Those personal effects, which were analyzed at the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, were variously stained with Arafat’s blood, sweat, saliva and urine. The tests carried out on those samples suggested that there was a high level of polonium inside his body when he died.

“I can confirm to you that we measured an unexplained, elevated amount of unsupported polonium-210 in the belongings of Mr. Arafat that contained stains of biological fluids,” said Dr. Francois Bochud, the director of the institute.
The anti-Israel crowd is loving this, saying it "proves" that Israel assassinated Arafat.

Reuters throws some cold water on the claim:
Darcy Christen, spokesman for the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, told Reuters on Tuesday it had found "surprisingly" high levels of polonium-210 in Arafat's belongings.

But he stressed that clinical symptoms described in Arafat's medical reports were not consistent with polonium-210 and that conclusions could not be drawn as to whether the Palestinian leader was poisoned or not.
Also not mentioned is that Al Jazeera itself once aired accusations that Mahmoud Abbas was part of a conspiracy to assassinate Arafat - and Abbas responded by shutting down the Al Jazeera offices in the West Bank!

Anyway, I had some fun on Twitter about this, because of all the hue and cry over polonium, people seem to have forgotten about a much deadlier element. My tweets:
A rare and dangerous element, that has killed thousands of people, mostly in the Middle East #PLOnium

Outbreaks of #PLOnium almost destroyed both Jordan and Lebanon a while back, but no one seems to remember that

A very unstable element, #PLOnium has been known to blow up airplanes and buses

#PLOnium has been known to even attack athletes, but only those from a single country exactly 40 years ago. Not worth remembering, though.

Despite similarities, #PLOnium does not mix well with its sister element, #Hamasium.

Even with its known dangers, some people like to be close with #PLOnium, thinking that it won't hurt them.
PLOnium is much, much deadlier than polonium, but for some reason people think that it is inert - or even beneficial. And those who note how dangerous it is are outshouted by PLOnium's many supporters, who know it is deadly but think that it only has one target that they want to see killed as well.

PLOnium is especially popular at the UN.

See also Challah Hu Akbar.