I like blowing stuff up as much as the next guy. Actually, I probably like it more. But here's a news item that makes me think there's more than big, fun explosions going on out in the Nevada desert:
The US military plans to detonate a 700 ton explosive charge in a test called "Divine Strake" that will send a
mushroom cloud over Las Vegas, a senior defense official said. ... Tegnelia said the test was part of a US effort to develop weapons capable of destroying deeply buried bunkers housing
nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. ... "We also have -- are you ready for this - a
700-ton explosively formed charge that we're going to be putting in a
tunnel in Nevada," he said. "And
that represents to us the largest single explosive that we could
imagine doing conventionally to solve that problem,"
700 tons is a big boom. It's a pile of explosives the size of a small apartment building and the weight of 10 M1/A2 Abrams tanks. There isn't an aircraft in the world that's close to being able to deliver that kind of payload. The only way to deliver 700 tons is by train, which seems impractical.
Thinking "conventionally," does the Pentagon imagine that they will someday face a dug-in enemy who, even when the ground above is taken and secured and suitable for rail transportation, will have to be blasted out of his bunker?
That sounds kind of far-fetched, even for a military that is responsible for making sure we're prepared for far-fetched things.
I think there's something else going on here than a simple conventional explosion. I think the Departments of Defense and Energy are doing preliminary testing on a new generation of low-yield nuclear weapons. 700 tons is a lot of conventional explosives, but it's a nuclear capgun.
That's not to say that this will be a nuclear explosion. I don't think you could pop a nuke without someone figuring it out. If I had to guess -- and, again, my guess is completely uninformed -- I'd say they're setting off a conventional charge the size of a small nuke to see if a blast of that size would, in fact, bust the type of bunker they're thinking of busting in places like Iran and North Korea.
According to this Federation of American Scientists article, there is research into such weapons despite some hesitancy to make nukes smaller and easier to use.
Last year (2001), Senate
Republicans John Warner (R-VA) and Wayne Allard (R-CO) buried a small provision
in the 2001 Defense Authorization Bill that would have overturned these earlier
restrictions. Although the language in the final Act was watered down, the Energy
and Defense Departments are still required to undertake a study of low-yield
nuclear weapons that could penetrate deep into the earth before detonating so
as to "threaten hard and deeply buried targets."
The Washington Post, according to the FAS document, quoted a Pentagon official talking at the time about the need for such nuclear bunker busters:
now is something that can threaten a bunker tunneled under 300 meters of
granite without killing the surrounding civilian population.
The announcement by the Pentagon about the Nevada test said:
The aim is to measure the effect of the blast on hard granite structures.
It could be a coincidence, but I'm guessing it's not.
A Republican candidate for Congress in California posts a photo of a Turkish street on his campaign website with this caption:
We took this photo of downtown Baghdad while we were in Iraq. Iraq
(including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people
believe it to be. But, each day the news media finds any violence
occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it - in part
because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight
You don't think that I haven't been to the U.S. military and the
State Department and the embassy and asked them over and over again,
let's see the good stories, show us some of the good things that are
going on? Oh, sorry, we can't take you to that school project, because
if you put that on TV, they're going to be attacked about, the teachers
are going to be killed, the children might be victims of attack.
Oh, sorry, we can't show this reconstruction project because then
that's going to expose it to sabotage. And the last time we had
journalists down here, the plant was attacked.
I mean, security dominates every single thing that happens in this country.
Reconstruction funds have been diverted to cover away from reconstruction to -- they've been diverted to security.
Soldiers, their lives are occupied most of the time with security issues.
Iraqi civilians' lives are taken up most of the time with security issues.
So how it is that security issues should not then dominate the media coverage coming out of here?
It may seem very radical and extreme, but conditions in sweatshops are extreme, too.
So said Theresa Haas (above), a Penn State biology major who marched around the campus dressed primarily in Saran Wrap, which is produced in an environmentally destructive petrochemical process that -- I have no doubt -- Ms. Haas will protest against at some future date.
Haas and her friends attracted a lot of attention, though some witnesses seemed confused what the naked students were protesting.
"It was random; I didn't understand it," Shatonya Perry
(senior-nursing) said as she sat dining at the lower level of the HUB.
"Their banner was blurry, and they walked too fast."
The students have a website where you can send a message to the president of Penn State, who apparently controls the worldwide clothing market. Here's the text of the message I sent to Penn State's president:
I've never been to Penn State but I'm glad you have naked students walking around the campus. Keep up the good work!
Terrifying Florida Senatorial candidate Katherine Harris visits voters in a Kissimmee restaurant. The men in the crowd focus on her breasts. The guy in the tie looks like he's about to break out drooling.
Sharon Stone, who generally validates my long-held belief that women get sexier as they get older, apparently accosts teenagers in public places to plead with them not to have unsafe sex. That would be obnoxious-but-noble were it not for the advice she actually gives:
"Young people talk to me about what to do if they're being pressed for sex? I tell them (what I believe): oral sex is a hundred times safer than vaginal or anal sex. If you're in a situation where you cannot get out of sex, offer a blow job. I'm not embarrassed to tell them."
Perhaps not, Sharon, but we're embarrassed for you. If a girl is in a situation where she "cannot get out of sex," she's being raped.
The winner of this year's Putting the Cart Before the Horse Award: Chinese doctors who met with the media to discuss a patient who had a pair of scissors lodged in her throat before they removed the scissors.
One can imagine the conversation between doctor and patient:
You just wait here a couple of hours. I've got to get to make-up and then sit for a couple of interviews. As soon as that's done, we'll do something about your incredible discomfort. Here are some magazines.
Pointing to the scissors on x-rays during a TV appearance before the surgery, one doctor said this:
"You see the sharp points across each other. We're going to use our special surgical tools to get them out."
What those "special surgical tools" were the doctors did not specify, though whatever they were I, had I been the patient, would have preferred that they be used quickly.
Media members attending the hopefully-hastily-called press conference asked if doctors knew how the scissors got into the woman's throat. They didn't know because the woman was unable to talk, since she had a pair of scissors down her throat.
So you stand up one day at work and get dizzy, and the next thing you know you're in the hospital and people you've never met are asking you about your next of kin.
Ah, the joys of being a middle-aged man.
It turned out to be a little thing, but it looked, at first, like it might be a big thing. The assumption, once I crossed into the medical world, is that I was embarking on a journey that ends with people saying things like "he was so young" and "I just saw him last week and he seemed OK." As it turned out, it was a wake-up call, nothing more than formal notice that all those things I've intended to do about my health need to be done, and with a certain sense of purpose.
I arrive home with big piles of medication to take and a doctor-imposed structure on my life: Do this, don't do this, really, really don't do that anymore no matter how much fun it was in college.
But I'm fine. Blogging may be light this week due to follow-up appointments and the need to catch up at work. After that, full speed ahead, but without cookies.