Dec
05
2013

I’m confused about this Mexican Cobalt-60 theft case.

So they found that cobalt-60 that got stolen, and now they’re looking for the corpses of the guys that stole it (they apparently opened up the box, which is NOT A GOOD IDEA TO DO WHEN COBALT-60 IS INSIDE THE BOX). Two things: one, my sympathies for what happened to the robbers is not infinite:

The cargo truck, equipped with a crane, was nearing its destination in the darkness early Tuesday, several hours before the storage facility opened. While waiting for daybreak at a gas station in the state of Hidalgo, north of Mexico City, the drivers were jumped by two gunmen who beat them and stole the truck, said Mardonio Jimenez, a physicist and high-ranking official with Mexico’s nuclear safety commission.

I wouldn’t have sentenced them to death for assault and battery, but it’s not like they got mailed the cobalt-60 by mistake, and opened up the box in their living room.

Two: why the hell did they open the box?  Think about this for a second: you rob a truck.  You loot the truck, and you see a box with this symbol on it:

radioactive

Would you open that box? – Because I would not open that box.  I would, in fact, carefully get out of the truck, wipe down everything that I might have touched, and gotten the hell out of there before all the people with guns who would be looking for that truck and that box found me.  I might even buy a burner phone and let the authorities know that the truck that they were looking for was out in the desert, no, no need for a reward, have a nice day, drop the phone down a sewer grate*.

Again, I wouldn’t open the freaking thing.  So why did they?

Moe Lane

PS: My wife feels that I am assuming that the radiation trefoil is a much more ubiquitous part of Western popular culture than I think that it is.  I do not think that I am so assuming, but the problem is that she’s actually a little bit brighter than I am, which is something that I have to take into account.

*I am not a criminal, but I have played a few Chaotic Good rogues in my time.  This does not make me experienced, but I at least know how far my ignorance extends.

12 Comments

  • Cameron says:

    I would assume that in addition to the trefoil, there would be warning signs saying things like “¡Peligro! Material radiactivo! all over the place.

  • acat says:

    I must side with Mrs. Lane on this one. I suggest a re-reading of “Alas, Babylon”, as it manages to use the difference in understanding between those who received a cold-war-era education and those who didn’t into the story as a minor plot point.
    .
    Mew

  • Catseyes says:

    I tend to agree with your wife, remember Mexico isn’t part of the nuclear club they haven’t had to teach their kids that symbol. So it would be uncommon knowledge south of the border. And it takes a somewhat experienced rogue to learn not to mess with items bearing symbols you don’t know the meaning of. They sound like they were simply unlucky opportunists (i.e., A big truck with a crane that has to be worth some money).

  • dhorton says:

    To f/u on my tweet…

    I used to visit a gold mine about 30 miles north of the border. It used arsenic to pull the gold out of the ore, with a ditch leading to a big retention pond. The problem was that illegals wanted to drink the liquid (being out in the desert). The ditch and pond were fenced as part of the original design.

    Then they put wire on the top of the fence.

    Then they put out Danger/Poison signs.

    Then they put out Danger/Poison signs, in Español.

    Their final solution was to install a potable (drinkable) water line along the fencing, with spigots every 50 ft.

    Because it wasn’t that they couldn’t read English, they couldn’t read PERIOD.

    But you expect people living in a 3rd world country to be able to understand what the international symbol for radioactive material means.

    Yes, some of you PC people will find this racist and so I denounce myself.

  • Jeffstag says:

    Well, if you take away the sci fi book covers you’ve seen, computer games you’ve played, tabletop games you’ve played and movies you’ve seen, how much interaction with that symbol have you had? Maybe you’ve seen it at a doctor’s office on medical equipment and maybe on a few old fallout shelter signs (which wouldn’t be around in Mexico) and that’s probably about it. A poor young theif outside Mexico City might have never actually seen that symbol at all. My wife had a liberal arts education and has zero interest in sci fi (or sci, for that matter) and I’m not entirely sure she couple properly identify that symbol. (I’ld give her about even odds of says it means “shelter”)

    • Moe_Lane says:

      I understand all the arguments about signage and stuff, but… I dunno. Maybe I’m just being Cold War, but the radioactive trefoil was this culture’s favorite fear symbol for pretty much most of my life.

      Thank God for Ronald Reagan, huh?

      • sicsemperstolidissimum says:

        Yeah, but weren’t you raised by leftists who probably fed you all sorts of pink stuff?
        .
        For example, your issues with putting armed robbers to death.
        .
        A leftist upbringing in America would probably oversample fear of radiation, the military, and the other bogeymen that it was advantageous to the USSR for Americans to be afraid of.
        .
        There was no real reason for the Soviets to invest much of anything in that sort of messaging for Mexico. Mexico might have been capable of fighting against the Soviets in foreign policy, but they were not very likely to become a nuclear power, even if they ended up anticommunist.
        .
        That said, perhaps it is just that I was young enough that, despite identifying as a Cold War junkie, I just plain do not understand what the experience was like.

        • Moe_Lane says:

          Eh, it was mostly the knowledge that – at least on the East Coast – you were always living your life within one or another blast radii. Heck, I lived down the road from Fort Monmouth, back when it was a communications hub: we were going to get plastered by the Russians.

    • Crawford says:

      I have a sticker with that symbol on a foot-locker.

  • Catseyes says:

    You need to try playing a rogue in Cyberpunk sometime, you very quickly learn that you have to know who and what your stealing things from, especially if they might be inclined to send people with guns out to retrieve their property. I grew up around trucks my Dad drove trucks for a living and I have seen maybe 3 trucks with a crane on them in 50+ years. I would have thought that the thieves would have considered that they might be stealing something from a cartel. That type of truck isn’t cheap and you don’t see them a lot. If they had stolen a cartels’ truck the outcome would have been the same.

  • Brian Swisher says:

    Well, as Robert Heinlein observed, stupidity is the only capital crime in the universe – the sentence of death is remorselessly carried out.

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