Tripewriters and wordy processors.

I can’t resist the temptation to post this excerpt from CNN written by Mike Ahlers.  There has been an email thread going between myself and some colleagues about the qulity of literary skills being exhibited by co-workers and this shows up today.  The secret of good comedy?  Timing.

1962 nuclear test still shaking things up, half a world away, By Mike M. Ahlers
CNN Washington Bureau
Friday, March 11, 2005 Posted: 12:51 PM EST (1751 GMT)

Sedan crater in Nevada, shortly after the 1962 detonation.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — There’s an old saying that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth puts its boots on.

Let it be known that mistakes can travel just as fast — and just as far.

Take the case of Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-California, who at a hearing on Capitol Hill last week spoke about a 1962 nuclear test in the Nevada desert. The test was code named "Project Sedan."

Tauscher’s remarks were little noticed, until they were transcribed — incorrectly — in an unofficial transcript of the hearing. One letter was changed. The "Sedan" nuclear test became the "Sudan" nuclear test.

And the government of Sudan took notice.

Less than a day after Tauscher uttered her words, and after they were incorrectly transcribed, Sudanese officials evidently were alerted to the transcript.

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. charge d’affaires in Khartoum and demanded an explanation about the supposedly secret nuclear tests in the east African country.

The Arab language satellite channel Al-Jazeera picked up the story. It put the Sudanese foreign minister on the air. "The Sudanese government takes this issue seriously and with extreme importance," he told the world.

The Chinese news service picked up the story. In a story appearing only one day after Tauscher spoke, the news service reported that the Sudanese government held the U.S. responsible for "cancer spread in Sudan" caused by "U.S. nuclear experiments in the African country in 1962-1970."

The quickly evolving story got little notice in the United States.

At the offices of the Federation of American Scientists, however, government watchdog Steven Aftergood was reviewing the CIA public translations of overseas newscasts, and came upon the story.

"I thought, Wow!," said Aftergood. "Here’s a historical revelation that will cause the history books to be rewritten. No one’s ever heard of a U.S. nuclear test in the Sudan in 1962."

Aftergood went to work. He tracked down the transcript of a March 2 House Armed Services subcommittee hearing during which the 43-year-old nuclear secret was supposedly revealed.

Aftergood read Tauscher’s comments about a 1962 test involving a 100 kiloton blast that displaced 12 million tons of earth and dug a crater 320 feet deep. He noted that the transcript referred to it as the Sudan nuclear test site, but quickly recognized that the blast described was identical to the "Project Sedan" test — which was conducted to determine if nuclear devices could be used for peaceful purposes such as cratering or earth moving.

"So somehow the notion that the U.S. had conducted a nuke test in Sudan had gotten into the news food chain and had triggered alarms on the part of the Sudanese government," Aftergood said.

Now comes the job of rectifying the error.

A State Department official told CNN that U.S. officials have explained the mix-up to the Sudanese.

And Tauscher this week issued a terse statement: "When speaking at a March 2 briefing … I referred to nuclear testing that occurred on July 6, 1962, at the Nevada Test Site code named ‘Sedan.’ I was not referring to the African country Sudan."

For Aftergood, this is a cautionary tale.

"It is an amazing demonstration of the way information flows in our world today and how it has enormous potential to mislead as well as inform," he said. "In this case, the changing of a single letter altered the meaning from a meaningless code name into a foreign country with repercussions that are still unfolding."

"I think the saving grace in this case was that the concern expressed by the Sudanese government was not classified. They didn’t say, ‘We have a secret source that has informed us that there was a nuclear explosive test in 1962.’ The fact that they laid it out on the table at least makes it possible to correct it in a matter of a day."

So corrections, like mistakes, also can travel with warp speed, although they rarely do.

Take, for instance, the lead of this story. While the old saying about "lies" is often attributed to Mark Twain, Twain scholars say it did not originate with him. They attribute it to another wit.

In other entertaining news….

The company famous for making people fat, obese, overweight, portly et al and causing 3rd degree burns with hot coffee is in the midst of a decision making process that could see all of it’s drive through locations in the US outsourced.  Now, for any of you that don’t quite grasp the concept, think of it this way.  If you have ever called a computer manufacturer, high speed Internet access provider, or most major technology companies like IBM for technical support, there is a good chance you will get a hold of someone in what we call 1st level support, and there is also a very good chance they will be in a country far far away, like India or Pakistan for example.  This is outsourcing, cheap labor costs, and less management overhead.  So, the next time you hit the drive through for your cholesterol loaded fried chicken sandwich and sugar saturated soft drink, you might just have to repeat yourself a dozen times before you get to the window and receive your curry.

If you have Satelite TV or Cable, watch a documentary called Supersize Me, all about said fast food company and the effects that eating it three times a day, or better still, try it and kiss goodbye to your liver.  Here is the link..

I smoke.  No, not pot, cigs, tabs, fags (as we refer to them in the UK, which is always a constant source of amusement for Americans since this is a derogatory term for gay men apparently.  I don’t know how the language got so twisted, but it is the theme for todays blog, so deal with it).  Now, as a smoker, I have to endure a lot of crap from non smokers.  Quit or you will die, it is killing you, I hate smokers, how can you do it, why do you do it?  All these questions and comments are socially acceptable apparently.  Smokers are derided as stupid, irresponsible, and a host of other euphamisms that are bandied around in conversation.  The fact that more than 40% of this countries adults are obese or dangerously overweight seems to escape my fervent detractors.  In fact, heart disease/failure and diabetic ailments of type 1 and type 2 are about to become the number one killer in this country in the very near future.  20% of children in the US are considered overweight or obese and most will suffer diabetic related problems and outright liver failure before the age of 25 if they keep eating the crap they have access to in school and in public life.  92 billion dollars were spent directly on diabetic care last year alone.  I don’t care if fat people want to kill themselves by eating junk food.  What really pisses me off is the fact that generally it is not PC to call fat people fat, or bring it up in conversation while I’m being derided for smoking.  How is it acceptable for a fat, obese, overweight SOB who can barely climb a flight of stairs to criticize me about my smoking, but I’m being offensive if I say anything untoward about their physical appearance, poor health, imminent death etc?

The Panda mating season is upon us.  I can’t wait to see the footage……

Gun control (and a lack thereof).  Aim, keep it steady, squeeze the trigger……

This is a touchy subject, but recent (and not so recent) events keep this in the public eye a lot more than gun manufacturers would like.  Here is a really scary fact.  I can actually go and buy/register a firearm.  Those of you who know me are well aware that I should be allowed to drive, and nothing else.  But the laws and the rules say otherwise.  I hate hand guns.  Having been in the military and experienced their capabilities, I have decided I don’t need nor want a weapon of that lethality in my house.  I used to love target shooting with a rifle, and was actually quite good.  I may take it up again, who knows, but I have no desire to shoot deer, rabbits, squirrels, grouse, people or politicians (yes, there is a difference:-).  In the UK and Australia, most private use and ownership has been outlawed after a series of shootings that shocked the nation, and brought about the kind of change that democracy is supposed to afford.  The UK confiscated or appropriated the hardware, Australia bought it off the owners at "fair market value", and both countries destroyed the weapons.  France and Germany might be moving in the same direction.  Sadly, it will undoubtedly never happen here.  We will continue to read in the press of the horror and savagery inflicted upon innocent people when a firearm is wielded by a moron who should not even be allowed to drive.

That will do it for today.  I have a lunch date with an extraordinary woman of exceptional intelligence, good looks and a very high tolerance for stupidity, ignorance and sarcasm, otherwise I would be eating alone.  Lunch will consist of something far more palatable than a double quarter pounder with cheese, and will not be super sized.  Have a great day, wherever you are.



About rjbirkett

Part time photographer, full time geek, motorcycle zealot, avid reader, and most importantly, unbiased. Unless politics is the subject of discussion.
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