September 2009 (vol. 25, #6)
Millions of American lives could be saved, in the event of a nuclear detonation, for an investment of $0.005 each–though the current regime is not spending even that much.
The most expedient of expedient campaigns is to distribute wallet-size cards with the most essential life-saving information (see Doctors for Disaster Preparedness Newsletter, May 2009). Steve Jones described the technique for distribution at the 2009 DDP meeting, and performed a live demonstration with a hotel security officer (CDs and DVDs available).
Mr. Jones, who is volunteer Special Projects Director for Physicians for Civil Defense, has distributed up to 13,700 cards in a day. They have gone to hospitals, school districts, police and fire departments, and to United Parcel Service.
“Any rejection of cards meant I was talking to the wrong person: 100% participation, no final refusals. One lower administrator refused by saying, ‘I won't risk my job to hand out those things.’ His boss overruled him, and it turns out he did risk his job by refusing.”
The biggest coup was the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Dept. The human resources managers took cards for 1,200 employees and promised to attach them to paychecks.
Continuing his work on Martha's Vineyard, Jones was featured in the Cape Cod Times on Oct 15. The paper was most interested in the SIRAD dosimeter cards, which he provided to some public safety officials. Costing about $21 each, these credit-card size devices change color when exposed to radiation.
“No instrument, however, is as effective as knowledge in an emergency,” Jones says. “It's what you know that saves you, not some gadget or even the SIRAD badge.”
After the death of Robert S. McNamara, who became U.S. Secretary of Defense in 1961, most commentary focused on his role in the Vietnam War. But more relevant today is his enduring effect on nuclear strategy, writes Michael Anton (CBS News 9/15/09). His concept was to calculate the power needed to assure destruction of the other side, leave a little margin for error, then build that and no more. This “mutual assured destruction” (MAD) strategy had policy implications: the abandonment of civil defense and the demonization of missile defense as inherently destabilizing.
Today, the only aspect of this legacy that is being rejected is deterrence. The Obama Administration downgraded planned antimissile interceptors in Europe, and cancelled a program to update and secure the reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Obama signed an agreement with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev to drastically limit both the number of nuclear warheads and the number of strategic launchers–even before completion of the ongoing nuclear posture review. This could make the U.S. more vulnerable to a first strike, as well as limiting its flexibility to respond to proliferating threats.
While the U.S. is agreeing to give up real hardware, “not a single Russian launcher” with “remaining service life” is to be withdrawn, according to Gen. Nikolay Solovtsov, commander of Russian Strategic Missile Troops.
Apparently off the table are tactical nuclear weapons, in which the Russians have an astounding 10-to-1 advantage.
The U.S. is being asked to pay “many times over for an essentially empty box,” writes Professor Keith B. Payne, a member of the Perry-Schlesinger Commission to assess U.S. capabilities. Additionally, he reminds us of repeated Russian violations of START, including the testing of the SS-27 ICBM with MIRVs (Wall St J 7/7/09).
Notwithstanding progress in U.S. unilateral disarmament, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is reviving (Sombrero, October 2009). It will promote ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 2010 (which would prevent underground testing of decaying nuclear warheads), and work on “Health Effects of Global Warming.”
Meanwhile, North Korea boasts of being a “proud nuclear power”; Al Qaeda says it would use Pakistani nuclear weapons against the U.S.; and Iran not only has the knowledge to build an atomic bomb but successfully launched the solid-fueled Sejil missile with a 1,500-mile range in May (Wall St J 9/18/09).
Civil Defense Capabilities
The first professional documentation to admit to the lack of radiation monitoring capability in first responders was presented by Kirk Paradise at a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology conference last February. Although all response operations depend on monitoring, most responders would have to operate “blind” in a high-radiation environment. The few devices now issued would be totally inadequate in an event measured in square miles in area. Instruments from the civil defense program of the 1960s to 1990s remain in use in only seven states. At least every other firefighter and police officer should have a new-generation base rate meter/dosimeter. It should be possible to manufacture them for $50-$100 each–but they currently do not exist.
Radiation physicist Allen Brodsky warns of the dangers in current homeland security training programs, using “pagers” that warn of danger at 3 times background levels. While useful in detecting clandestine nuclear material, these are not appropriate in recovery or life-saving operations. Early in the atomic age, Brodsky spent 5 minutes retrieving instruments in an area with an exposure rate one million times higher than that responders are now told to fear. He is healthy 53 years later and writes: “I would do the same thing ten times or more today to save the lives of others.”
Knowledge versus Panic
Jones's mother survived the 1942 Coconut Grove fire in which nearly 500 died, many crushed against doors that opened the wrong way. Brodsky shows photographs taken after panic killed more than 800 Shiite pilgrims in a 2005 stampede in Baghdad (Actions for Survival: Protections from Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Terrorism). Current Homeland Security policy could result in panic, or death from preventing rescue operations by absurd radiation standards. The enclosed yellow card offers a half-penny antidote: copy and disseminate.
Consider a narrow river valley below a high dam, in which people would be drowned for a considerable distance if the dam burst. When pollsters ask about fear of the dam bursting, concern is lowest far downstream, and increases closer to the dam. Surprisingly, however, the concern drops to zero within a few miles of the dam, just inside the point where concern is maximal. The people most certain to be drowned profess unconcern! That's because of psychological denial: the only way to preserve sanity while looking at the dam every day is to deny the possibility that it could burst (from Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed).
Life-saving Facts (from Brodsky, 2008 draft)
Blast: A blast wave travels about 5 seconds per mile in air, and 1 second per mile in ground, so a rumble in the ground is felt first. A person 10 miles from the detonation may have about 40 seconds from the flash to drop and cover. Protect your eyes. A truck bomb in Nairobi killed 213, injured 4,500, and blinded 150 with flying glass.
Heat: While thermal radiation travels with the speed of light, it lasts several seconds; you can decrease burns by decreasing the duration of exposure. Move into a shadow, or cover!
Fallout: A fallout cloud may take many hours to arrive. Unless evacuating, use the time to prepare shelter. Stay calm.
Inhaled Radionuclides: If caught outdoors in radioactive dust, cover your mouth with a dry cloth while breathing through the mouth. A man's cotton handkerchief with four folds (16 layers) will remove 94.2% of particles of the size that could reach the lungs; three layers of toilet paper will remove 88.9%.
Decontaminate Yourself. If uninjured, do not inundate medical facilities to check for radioactivity or be decontaminated. Wash or dust off and remove clothing.
Know Your Units. Distinguish total dose from dose rate, and be prepared to convert rads/hr into rads/min by dividing by 60, or rads/sec by dividing by 3,600. Many life-saving actions can be completed within seconds. Old radiation protection standards are in rads and rems; the newer SI units are confusing and potentially dangerous. If a reading in sieverts (Sv) is taken to be in rem, then 1 Sv might be mistaken for 1 rem instead of 100 rem. Appendix F discusses “Scientific Advantages and Absurdities of SI Units in Radiation Protection.”
Topical Iodine. Brodsky quotes a 1989 paper by Miller (see CDP, July 1990), which suggested applying 8 cc of tincture of iodine to the abdomen to block thyroid uptake of radioactive iodine. Cresson Kearny found this to be impractical (CDP, September 1990). Guy E. Abraham summarized information on the bioavailability of iodine applied to the skin (Original Internist, June 2008, http://optimox.com). Note that 88% evaporates from the skin within 3 days, hence the need for an occlusive dressing. The part that is absorbed forms a skin depot, and bioavailability is gradual. Oral KI is much better!
[I ordered a draft copy of the 300-page book, $29 + $5 S/H to Allen Brodsky, Copy Central, 11065 Cathell Rd., Berlin, MD 21811, email@example.com.]
EMP Attack Could Wipe Out U.S.
An electromagnetic pulse caused by a nuclear explosion 200 miles above the U.S. could wipe out the electric power grid for years. Without electricity, America could not survive 6 months, writes Ronald Kessler (Newsmax.com 9/9/09).
Iranians have written extensively about wiping out the U.S. with an EMP attack, and the North Koreans might also be in a position to accomplish it. A missile launched from a submarine could also do the job.
EMP expert Peter Vincent Pry thinks that the leftist press perceives warnings of the EMP threat as a way to push for anti-missile defense. Strategic defense, however, is neither necessary nor sufficient to guard against this catastrophe– which could also be caused by a great geomagnetic storm.
The entire power grid could be protected for $20 billion. But a mere $200 million to $400 million could harden 100 to 200 large transformers. The power grid has 300 of them, and they are indispensable for its operation. Only a couple countries in the world produce them for export, and it takes at least a year to build one, said Dr. Pry.
$800 billion for “stimulus”; $0 to protect the power supply.
Send a copy of this article to your elected representatives today, or download the full article from NewsMax, and ask what they plan to do about it.
A World Without [U.S.] Nuclear Weapons
The nuclear freeze advocated by PSR in the 1980s has been observed now for two decades–in the U.S. Our leaders speak of the vision of a nuclear-free world–as nukes proliferate.
“Over half the world's population lives in states that possess nuclear weapons,” writes VADM Robert R. Monroe. “Every such state in the world–with the sole exception of the United States–is modernizing its arsenal. Rogue states and terrorist organizations worldwide seek them unceasingly.”
The U.S. nuclear deterrent doesn't exist today, he says. Our stockpile consists of Cold War massive retaliation weapons. Because of the test moratorium, we can neither develop new warheads nor assure the reliability of the old ones. Scientists, engineers, designers, and test personnel with test experience are almost gone. Without testing, we have no knowledge of what's possible, and thus of new threats we may face. We can no longer produce plutonium pits (triggers). Rebuilding the highly specialized design, testing, and production teams would require years of actual experience.
“Historically, efforts to ban weapons have been unblemished by success,” Monroe reminds us. Virtually all the nations of the world subscribed to the 1928 Kellogg-Briand pact to outlaw war as an instrument of national policy–as they prepared for the most destructive war in history, which left 60 million dead (Air & Space Power J, Fall 2009).
A Cure for Radiation Sickness?
In 2003, Professor Andrei V. Gudkov came up with the idea of using a protein produced by intestinal bacteria to protect against radiation damage. A single injection improved survival in mice subjected to lethal irradiation (Science 2008;320:226-230) by suppressing apoptosis, the cellular suicide mechanism. The drug has protected irradiated monkeys and has passed initial safety tests in human subjects. The Israeli government could purchase the drug on short notice as a protection against terrorist attacks (ynetnews.com 7/17/09).