Category Archives: Unconventional Weapons

A Tale of Two Ebola-Research Mishaps

ebola virionsToday, as the Washington Post tells this story. It has the feel of a single-source anecdote, of being “too good to check.” It is neat, compact, no one is mentioned by name, and there’s a moral to the story: ready-made for narrative-addicted Posties.

But it is what happened, says the Post, to a Russian infectious-diseases lab tech.

The Russian Mishap as told by the Post

She was an ordinary lab technician with an uncommonly dangerous assignment: drawing blood from Ebola-infected animals in a secret military laboratory. When she cut herself at work one day, she decided to keep quiet, fearing she’d be in trouble. Then the illness struck.

“By the time she turned to a doctor for help, it was too late,” one of her overseers, a former bio­weapons scientist, said of the accident years afterward. The woman died quickly and was buried, according to one account, in a “sack filled with calcium hypochlorite,” or powdered bleach.

The 1996 incident might have been forgotten except for the pathogen involved — a highly lethal strain of Ebola virus — and where the incident occurred: inside a restricted Russian military lab that was once part of the Soviet Union’s biological weapons program. Years ago, the same facility in the Moscow suburb of Sergiev Posad cultivated microbes for use as tools of war. Today, much of what goes on in the lab remains unknown.

via Ebola crisis rekindles concerns about secret research in Russian military labs – The Washington Post.

In fact, there is a case of a Russian researcher dying of laboratory-acquired ebola — in 2004. Here’s Judith Miller at the New York Times. University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in 2004. However, the unfortunate Russian researcher in 2004 was in Novosibirsk at the Vector (formerly Biopreparat) facility, not near Moscow.

Now, we’re familiar through work with a similar mishap in the United States, with a somewhat better outcome, that happened about the same time.

The American Mishap

USAMRIIDOn February 11, 2004, a scientist was injecting a test treatment into laboratory animals (mice) deliberately infected with a mouse-adapted strain of Ebola Zaire, at the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in order to study the disease. She inadvertently stuck herself with the needle. It went right through her bio-safety suit glove and her surgical glove into the soft muscle of her hand. (She was trying to inject the sample into the mouse’s belly, whilst holding the mouse in her hand). She was in a Bio Safety Level-4 containment lab at the time, the strictest and most inconvenient of medical precautions.

The accident and its aftermath has been written up by Kortepeter et al. in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases in 2008. Here’s their description of the accident:

The person had been following standard procedure, holding the mice while injecting them intraperitoneally with an immune globulin preparation. While the person was injecting the fifth mouse with a hypodermic syringe that had been used on previous mice, the animal kicked the syringe, causing the needle to pierce the person’s left-hand gloves, resulting in a small laceration. The virologist immediately squeezed the site to force the extravasation of blood. After decontamination of the blue suit in the chemical shower, the injured site was irrigated with 1 liter of sterile water and then scrubbed with povidone-iodine for 10 minutes.

In terms of exposure risk, the needle was presumed to be contaminated with virus-laden blood, although it was suspected that low levels of virus were present on the needle. The animals had not yet manifested signs of infection, and much contamination may have been removed mechanically when the needle pierced the gloves. The local decontamination of the site also reduced potential for infection.

BSL-4 is used for pathogens which are highly contagious, lethal, and for which there are no suitable vaccines or therapies. The most common BSL-4 agents are hemorrhagic fevers, including filoviruses like ebola, Marburg, and Lassa; and CCHF. (We’re probably forgetting a few). Many of the nastiest nasties like Yersinia pestis (plague), yellow fever, Rickettsia spp., are BSL-3 because there exists an approved or experimental vaccine or treatment for them in humans.

BSL-4 implies, among other things:

  1. Hermetically-sealed rooms with highly-engineered HVAC systems to control any air interchange; HEPA filters catch even the tiniest viral particles. The BSL-4 facility is physically isolated from non-BSL-4 buildings or areas. Operations are conducted in accordance with a detailed procedures manual.
  2. Permanent underpressure (so air would never flow out if the seal leaked or was breached; a truly leak-proof seal is a near impossibility, but it can be approached asymptotically).
  3. At a minimum shower-in, shower-out through an airlock.
  4. Minimum number of people allowed in. All personnel must have (extensive) BSL-4 general and facility-specific training.
  5. Everyone inside must wear a positive pressure personnel suit. Every individual’s suit has a segregated air supply.
  6. No clothes from outside go in, no clothes from inside come out.
  7. Anything that does come out, comes out through sterilization measures, usually an autoclave.
  8. Even inside the BSL-4 containment, work with BSL-4 pathogens takes place under hoods or (preferably) in cabinets.

These are international rules and we’d assume the Russians follow them also.

Anyway, she thought the plunger didn’t move, but instantly reported the accident, and took basic first-aid measures. And things started to happen. Because an ebola patient is not infectious for 24 hours, she was allowed to go home and pack for a month away from home. (Home wasn’t very far, because the same facility where she worked hosted her quarantine area). Then she came back to USAMRIID, and walked through the round stainless-steel vault door of RIID’s “Patient Isolation Suite,” or, as everybody called it, The Slammer. There she would stay for 21 days.

If she lived that long.

They made it as comfortable as possible for her. She had a computer and TV, and could stay in touch and read the news — including reports on her own health in the local paper — on the internet. She had a VCR (yeah, not DVD) with a bunch of old movies.

There were basically three possibilities: (a), she hadn’t been infected; (b), she had, and would soon be dead of the disease; or (c), she had been infected, but would be one of the minority that beat the disease. The postdoctoral researcher was young, but adult, and healthy, which helped. And all the skills of all of RIID and its many peer organizations and cooperating scientists were galvanized into action.

An Experimental Hail-Mary Pass

In addition to the other precautions, RIID scientists and their industry and academic peers took a look at whether any experimental therapy might work. A small company in Corvallis, Oregon, AVI BioPharma (formerly AntiVirals, Inc). had been working for years on a concept called Morpholino Oligomers (called PMOs sometimes, abbreviating a longer name), which interposes a synthetic therapeutic molecule — the PMO — between the patient’s cell’s nucleic acids and the single-stranded RNA virus causing the disease. (Viruses use the infected organism’s cellular mechanisms to reproduce themselves). At the time it was a highly experimental therapy, unproven not just for ebola in humans, but for any disease in humans, any primate, or even any laboratory animal.

Because viruses need living cells to reproduce, the scientists at AVI were big believers in direct-to-animal testing, using rodents, ferrets and non-human primates. But with just 21 days max, if Researcher X had been infected, there would be no time for testing. Worse, given the state of technology of 2004, it took about 8 days to make the morpholino in potentially-therapeutic quantities, but it took several days to sequence a pathogen’s genome, and the gene sequence of the infectious virus strain was necessary to start morpholino development! Here, the researchers caught a break: since RIID was working with a known ebola strain, they had a good sequence in-house. The gene sequence of the virus was blasted through the internet to AVI, and morpholino production started. In a very short time, a tiny vial of potentially life-saving — but completely untested — ebola therapeutic morpholino was on a jet from Oregon to Maryland.

It was eight days after the researcher’s lab accident.

A Lucky Break

Medicines are tightly controlled in the various nations of the world. The US has an early-20th-century food-and-drug-act with many subsequent amendments, one that tends to strangle real medical research — like morpholino research — while giving legal cover to bogus nostrums and snake-oils (all the stuff that advertises on radio; it’s all crap). But giving an experimental molecule that hasn’t even been given to a mouse to a human is strengstens verboten. Still, if Researcher X had broken with ebola, they’d have given it to her. But the researcher got a lucky break. She never tested positive for the virus, never developed systems, and walked out of the Patient Containment Suite for the last time on 3 March 2004, 21 days after entering.

If she had broken with ebola, perhaps morpholino research would be further along today. But perhaps she’d be dead; there is that, and we wouldn’t wish her dead to advance science.

Science will still get there.

How Science is Getting There Today

Most of the players have moved on. The top guy in RIID’s program then went over to DHS’s expensive, duplicative, and troubled biodefense program. AVI BioPharma has become Cambridge, Massachusetts -based Sarepta, which continues morpholino research and recently reported successful non-human primate trials for a morpholino therapeutic for Marburg virus. Like ebola, Marburg is a Cat A bioterrorism threat agent, and Sarepta’s research has taken place in collaboration with USAMRIID.

One thing has changed. A 2011 rebuild of several buildings at USAMRIID eliminated the Slammer. RIID is hard up for space, and the Patient Isolation Suite hadn’t been used since 2004. The 2004 incident described here was its first use since 1985; from 1972 when the Slammer opened to 1985, 20 other patients were considered and 17 were admitted, some of which for diseases later downgraded to BSL-2 or -3 pathogens. None of them broke with the disease; it seems like every case was an exercise of due caution. The managers of RIID concluded that any future BSL-4 patients, including suspected ebola exposures, could be adequately contained in local hospitals. The duplicative new DHS BSL-4 facility at Ft Detrick (NBACC), and a triplicative planned new facility (NBAF), an exercise in Nebraska Avenue empire-building which DHS is extremely defensive about, also do not contain any facility for isolating infected researchers.

ISIL VBIED with American Suicide Operator

aby_hurayra_moner_abu_salahMeet al-Hurayra al-Amriki, the last bit of which means “the American.” He blew himself up in an attack on the Syrian Army in Jebel al-Arba’een in Idlib Province on 25 May 14. (Al-Hurayra, “The one with the kitten,” was one of the companions of Mohammed; al-Qaeda’s glamor shot of his suicidal namesake shows him holding a kitten, presumably his love interest).

This long video, captured by the Middle East Media Research Institute, is his “martyrdom video,” the crude mohammedan imitation of the genteel Shinto tea and saki ceremony that saw the kamikazes off. The parallels are remarkable, notably the shallowness of awareness of the propaganda-soaked suicides. Our interest is not in his reasons, nor in his message — the first is shallow, juvenile angst and gang-identification, the death-seeking of a 22-year-old going on 16; the latter the empty boasting of a child-man about to die in futile service to a lost cause and cynical leaders — but in his means. If you skip ahead to about three minutes from the end, you’ll see what’s purported to be the VBIED that he used to make an attack on Syrian government forces, and film that purports to be the explosion that may or may not have injured the Syrians, but presumably was, as SVBIEDs always are, 100% effective in punching “Abu’s” ticket. Did he see the “smile of allah” he so wished for? We’re doubtful.

An ideology that tells you, “Blowing yourself to smithereens in the hopes you indiscriminately kill somebody, practically anybody, is the path to salvation,” may be bearing a message from a supernatural being, but it ain’t God.

As he tells us, he’s the spawn of an Arab palestinian man and an Italian-American woman. Well, this neckbearded numbskull is not the worst result ever of an airheaded broad getting her multiculti mandingo on; he’ll be a forgotten footnote to these decades of barbarism.

As he doesn’t tell us, his real name was Moner Mohammed Abu-Salha. He was from Vero Beach, Florida. His father carried a Jordanian passport; his mother converted to the religion of death and barbarism, and they raised their children — including two other boys and a girl — in the ways of Mohammedanism. The father was a grocer, but the family was improvident with money and lost their home to foreclosure. Yet they managed to find money for visits to the middle east.

Moner was a loser, suspended from high school for fighting, then dropping out. He obtained a ticket-punch GED from a “school” that specializes in that kind of thing, then stumbled through three different colleges, dropping out of each without measurable achievement.

The jihadis who launched this not-so-smart bomb were smart enough to avoid any opsec violations that tell us much about the bomb and its triggering device(s). It is customary to have multiple initiators: a command initiator for the splodydope himself to pull, a remote initiator for the commanders to use if the splodydope loses his nerve or is disabled, and a dead-man switch. Judging from the fireball, there was a lot of low-grade explosive in the truck, probably a mix of ANFO and fillings melted out of ordnance (or complete shells if they were in a hurry). Other jihadi social media postings have suggested that the truck contained 17 tons of explosive, primarily artillery shells.

svbied_truck_01

The vehicle is a commercial dump truck, crudely armored. It’s a good choice as it has plenty of power and a very strong frame, just the ticket for carrying the explosives and the armor. The armor appears to be mild steel plate, little respected by armor buffs, but wait… what are the steel targets at your range made out of? Exactly. This thing isn’t a tank designed to go into combat, fight, disengage and then go back later, keeping the crew safe: it’s designed to go into combat and keep the crewman alive long enough for him to trip the bang switch, or to get close enough to the enemy for his ever-helpful masters to trip the switch for him.

(These masters are surely going to shaheed themselves, surely, one of these days, just not right now).

svbied_truck_03

The armor, then, is meant merely to delay the vehicle’s penetration. In front of the main front armor plate, there is an additional flat front plate, and a sort of cow-catcher plow to remove road obstacles. The heavy armor on the front indicates that they intended a straight, direct assault against their objective.

svbied_truck_06

This second shot of the cow-catcher was taken as the vehicle drove off to perdition. The bags may contain explosives. The cow-catcher was rather high, probably in order to clear the unimproved roads where the vehicle started out. It appears to be welded in place. The cow-catcher also adds to the protection of the vehicle’s powerplant; a mobility kill is a mission kill against a VBIED.

The flags are those of the al-Nusra Front, one of the al-Qaeda-associated jihadi groups fighting against Bashar al-Assad. After literally years of American dithering, there are no significant anti-Assad groups left that are not also anti-American. Arming Syrian rebels now means arming American enemies. Naturally, Washington is all for it.

svbied_truck_02

Visibility from inside the vehicle was poor straight ahead. The driver had a small window in the armor plate in front of him, and an even smaller one in the vertical armor plate in front of that. Standoff between the two plates provides some protection from RPGs as well. Jihadi slogans and Koran quotes painted in the cab bolster his will.

svbied_truck_01

There was no armor visible on the side of the cab.

svbied_truck_04

The nose was not the only vital part of the VBIED to be armored. Jihadi welders added plate to the rear wheel area and the fuel tanks, and armored the tires with big disks attached to the lug nuts. It’s impossible to tell if the steel plate alongside the nose end of the dump body is armor or trim. (The part that is forward of the slanted front of the dump body).

svbied_truck_05

We are not sure what make of truck this is. We have ruled out most of the Japanese brands, Mercedes, Magirus, Renault, and Kamaz. Any ideas?

The armor shows that the enemy is a learning enemy, even if his splodydopes themselves can’t pass on their lessons learned. It’s a far cry from the SVBIED of ten years ago, which was a couple of 155 rounds in the trunk of a taxi driven by some martyrdom wannabe. But it’s not invulnerable.

Vulnerabilities of this kind of SVBIED include antitank weapons and enfilading fire. Accurate .50 M2HB or DShK fire would also be effective, even from dead ahead. If you’re operating in SVBIED country, you want to have flanking outposts on your high-speed avenues of approach, able to light up the cab of your would-be al-Jazeera star from the side. You need them on both sides, and they need aiming stakes so that they know to check fire when their fire would otherwise fall on the opposite outpost. (The enemy will be trying hard enough to kill you. Don’t do his work for him).

That an attack like this is still effective over 30 years after they did it to the USMC in Beirut shows that the attack, while easily frustrated by effective fire, can often be executed in the time it takes defenders to shake off the cobwebs. Also, too many gate posts are expected to stop an attack with a rifle or a rifle-caliber light machine gun; what happens when the attack looks like this? We’ll tell you what: your gate can’t stop the attack, not in time.  Give them something that can hit a moving tank and turn it to slag… and give them no-hesitation ROE. (The enemy will probe your ROE with unarmed civilian vehicles, and then go all lawfare on you if you smoke ‘em. Smoke ‘em anyway. You’ll have sent some jihadi impersonating a civilian to the martyrdom he seeks, and your guys will not go to the martyrdom they most definitely aren’t seeking — win all round.

More on Moner al-Deadmeat:

“A Weapon is Where you Find It” — the Legal Angle

According to a court brief reported in the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog, an 18th-Century definition of “arms” includes: “any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another.” The authors of the amicus curiae brief that cited that Supreme Court precedent: Michael Rosman, Michelle Scott, Lisa Steele and Eugene Volokh filed the brief in a Massachusetts case, seeking to overturn the extreme anti-gun state’s ban on nonlethal self-defense weapons.

First, they had to propose a definition of weapons, or, in Constitution-era legal English, “arms.” They choose to draw on the Supreme Court’s Heller decision of 2008, in which the Court wrote (as quoted in the amicus brief):

The 1773 edition of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary defined “arms” as “weapons of offence, or armour of defence.” Timothy Cunningham’s important 1771 legal dictionary defined “arms” as “any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another.”

it is, in our opinion, hard to beat the concept that arms are any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another. That’s part of why we have our When Guns Are Outlawed… series, in which we cite various odds and ends used as murder weapons, or that draw blood in the course of mishaps.

The most important weapon is the human mind. Then, hands and feet, and only then need you look for items that extend the reach, momentum and striking power of your hands and feet, or that launch a projectile. But the decision to fight is tied to the decision to survive. It’s a conscious decision and it happens in your own cerebral cortex. Once that decision has been made, the impulse to arm oneself to increase probability of survival has been born.

Until next post, let’s all keep our wrath under control, and look to our individual and collective survival.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have oranges.

Once the idea to commit homicide is formed in the ultimate weapon, the human mind, that practically anything that falls to hand becomes a weapon. Even things you’d never expect.

Two men in rural South Africa are suspected of killing a farmworker by throwing oranges at him.

Citing witness accounts, police lieutenant-colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said the suspects had allegedly argued with the man, then collected oranges and begun hurling them at him.

“They started pelting the deceased with all those loose oranges, killing him on the spot,” Ngoepe said. However, he cautioned that an investigation was still under way and aspects of a case he described as complicated still had to be verified.

The man was declared dead at the scene and had “no visible injury”, suggesting he might have suffered blunt trauma, according to Ngoepe. He did not comment on the cause of the argument that led to the assault. Police and prosecutors are awaiting the results of a postmortem examination.

via Two men arrested after South African worker is ‘pelted to death with oranges’ | World news | The Guardian.

So far, there have been no riots, no demands for a ban on deadly assault citrus, no police pursuing permission to provide pulp permits.

Yet.

But give the Regulatory State time. In time, they will realize these things must be done. For the Children™.

In Red Square he’s on display, but in Berlin Lenin Stays Buried

German Communists nostalgic for the days of Stasi surveillance and torture have failed in an attempt to have a gigantic “socialist realism” statue of Russian dictator Lenin exhumed for display.

The real Lenin statue gets the chop: 1991.

The real Lenin statue gets the hook: 1991. German Communists want him back.

Lenin, creator of the Soviet Union, the lawless government which held the undisputed world record for mass murder until the rise of Mao Tse-Tung, was imposed on East Germany by a massive 22-division Soviet army, the Group of Soviet Forces Germany, and a regime of German quislings. Many of the first-generation Stasi were Gestapo retreads, who served their Soviet masters as ruthlessly as they’d served Nazi ones. Only the uniforms changed.

Curators of an exhibition about the German capital’s monuments had proposed to including the Russian revolutionary’s 1.7-metre (5.6ft) head in their show, scheduled for spring 2015. Between 1970 and 1991, the statue had stood on Lenin Square in Berlin’s Friedrichshain district. After its removal, it was cut into 129 pieces and buried in a pit in Köpenick.

Lenin wasn’t melted down because he was a low-budget stone statue: the Workers’ and Peasants’ proletarian paradise couldn’t afford bronze. (People remember him as metallic because he, or at least his prop version was upgraded to bronze in the Ostalgie flick, Good-bye Lenin). 

Movie Lenin gets the hook: Good-Bye Lenin's prop.

Movie Lenin gets the hook: Good-Bye Lenin’s prop. Communism is the terrorist totalitarian ideology that never gave up, just got tenure at university and dreams of a comeback.

But last week the Berlin senate rejected the curators’ proposal to excavate Lenin’s head, arguing that they didn’t know its precise location and would therefore have to dig up the entire pit, long overgrown with shrubs and trees: too costly an undertaking for the city’s cash-strapped authorities.

Politicians and historians have criticised the decision.

What politicians? What historians?

Members of the leftwing Die Linke went as far as suggesting that the mayor, Klaus Wowereit, was ideologically motivated: “They are even still scared of that stupid old head,” the MP Wolfgang Brauer told the Taz newspaper.

Ah, those politicians. Die Linke is the euphemism for the former Socialistiches Einheitspartie Deutschlands, the guys who brought you the land mines along the Berlin Wall, hundreds of murders,  torture chambers in every city in their dystopian cesspool, and systematic and pervasive surveillance. Brauer is a guy who wants to bring all that back. (Complete with Russians to do his thinking for him? Probably).

via Berlin’s giant Lenin statue may have been lost, say city authorities | World news | The Guardian.

It’s all about the art and the history, Brauer mumbles (his mouth is full of Brezhnev’s private parts, still). Hey, didn’t Arno Breker sculpt another famous 20th-Century leader? Where’s that sculpture if it’s all about the history?

Of course, if you want to see Lenin, his mausoleum in Red Square welcomes his devotees daily (and worship of the rotted mummy of the syphilitic old goat is expected). Thanks to Vladimir Vladimirovich, the man’s mortal remains have a continued appeal as a tourist attraction that the many monumental statues of him that slave labor erected across half the globe have not done.

Chill out, it’s only ionizing radiation

radioactive_symbolRecommended from the Comments — straight talk about soi-disant Dirty Bombs.

Recently we read a novel that climaxed as the heroes tried to stop a hostile force from using a radioactive weapon in an American City (think it was NYFC). And the radiation from this thing… had flesh falling off their bones in minutes as they tried to set it up, and then it set the building on fire.

With its radiation, you see.

There are novelists who do research, and then… there was that guy.

Anyway, Larry Grimm, who comments here from time to time, is a health physicist. We think it’s fair to say he’s learned more about the physiology of ionizing radiation than we have, and we know we know it better than that novelist fellow. Here’s a repost of a Q&A with Larry from seven years ago.

Q: What is the biggest concern from a radiological dispersion device?
A: Two things: the irrational fear it can induce and the expense of cleanup. The possibility of the radiation actually hurting anyone is quite small. We fear what we do not understand, sometimes irrationally. The concepts of radiation are poorly taught in high school, and the only other radiation information we get has been sensationalized by Hollywood, politicians, and those looking to make a buck off of our lack of education. You can beat the fear by learning how radiation works and how to manage it safely (protection techniques). Fear and panic kill people, as any good Marine knows. Radioactive materials are chemicals. Sometimes it is easy to clean them up, sometimes hard. For example, cleaning oil off concrete is hard, but picking up chunks of metal is easy. Fortunately, it only takes a radiation detector to find the radioactive material, so it is easier to find and clean up than a non-radioactive chemical. Likely, the biggest problem will be economic disruption while cleanup takes place. Radiation dispersion devices are really disruption, not destruction, weapons.

Q: What steps should I take if a radiological dirty bomb goes off in the area?

A: There are four simple protection techniques: Contamination control, distance, shielding and time. Contamination control and distance are the most useful techniques in a bomb situation.

Remember to help others first. Radioactive materials are rarely immediately life threatening. The worst-case terrorism scenarios indicate that there would not be enough radioactive material to cause immediate harm. Did you ever feel anything or see an effect from getting an X-ray? In 99.999% of radiation exposures, no effect is felt or seen. If I went towards the blast area to help someone, I would not fear the radiation. However, I would be cautious and respectful of the radiation. Therefore, I would use the following techniques no matter if I was escaping the area, trapped in the area, or going in to help.

Contamination control: Keep the radioactive chemical off and out of your body. Button up clothing and wear a mask (or anything to cover nose and mouth.) A radioactive material is always a chemical, which behaves like the chemical wants to behave. The distance technique is the best protector in a dirty bomb scenario. However, if I need to be near the source, or if I am downwind of the blast, I will first practice contamination control. If I suspect that I swallowed or inhaled the chemical, but do not feel ill, I would later seek professional help. Radiation effects take a long time to show up, and I wouldn’t want to add to the congestion at the hospital. However, there could be a nasty chemical associated with a radioactive bomb, so if I felt even slightly ill, I would seek medical help in a hurry.

Distance: In even the worst bomb scenario, you would be safe from the radiation if you get just a couple blocks away and get upwind of potential airborne material. Think of it as standing next to a campfire – get too close to the heat radiation, and it could burn you, but if far enough away, you do not get any heat. Exactly like a campfire, you do not want to be in the smoke, so get upwind. The most likely radioactive material in a dirty bomb would be Cobalt or Cesium. If the terrorist could somehow manage to get 10,000 Curies in the bomb, you only need to be about 300 yards (three football fields) away to be safe from the radiation. If you are not downwind or near the dispersion area, you are safe. Do not “head for the hills”. Leave the roadways open so emergency responders can get through.

Shielding: Anything acts as a shield – a building, a car, a hill, et cetera. Your major concern is gamma radiation. Imagine the gamma as a radio wave. When don’t you get a radio signal? When you are in the middle of a building, in a basement, behind a hill, et cetera. Whatever shielding decreases a radio signal will decrease gamma rays. I handled 12 million curies of Cesium (a 1000 times more than a possible bomb) with a mere 20 feet of water for shielding, and I got no dose!

Time: The less you are around the radiation, the less dose you will get. As most people would use distance, and get away in a hurry, they already used the time technique by not hanging around the radiation. Emergency responders may need to use this technique, and all across the US, they are receiving training on how to use it.

“LEARN ABOUT RADIATION, AND THE FEAR OF IT WILL MELT AWAY. TERRORISTS FEED ON FEAR. FEAR IS BONDAGE, KNOWLEDGE IS FREEDOM.”

Emphasis was Larry’s, but we concur about 10 thousand percent. Do Read The Whole Thing™, as there’s a lot more sense in there, and it’s a bugle in a wilderness of nonsense.

For what it’s worth, we’re not ready to die, but we live about six or seven miles from a known nuclear target. We understand that Risk = Probability X Severity. Assuming a hit on the target, and a typical strat warhead, Severity is less than you’d think; and Probability is one of those things that really rounds to zero, especially when you figure the CEP of the bomb and the fact that it has only perhaps a 1 in 4 chance of its error from baseline bringing it closer to the Manor.

We used to live just about in the shadow of a coastal nuclear power plant. (Actually, we’ve lived near a few of them over the years). But you know, decades after the nuclear age was rung in, there are still more deaders from riding with Senator Kennedy, or falling off the high-wire, or being hit by a falling Concorde, than from nuclear power plants.

Does radiation need respect? Yes. Does it need fear? No. More of the people reading this are going to die from bad choices with respect to diet and exercise than just about anything else. We take a lot bigger risk when saddling up the bicycle (with or without a helmet, latest stats seem to say it’s about a wash) than we do living near strat nuke targets, or nuclear power plants.

Can you die from radiation? Hell, yes. Rare but it happens, like when uneducated people go fooling with abandoned radiomedical equipment, in this case in Brazil (.pdf) in 1985. But even most of the exposed people in that case lived. Unfortunately, an awful lot of people were subjected to nuclear war terror propaganda back in the 50s through the 80s, and now have a completely unrealistic idea of what radiation does.

Like make your skin fall straight off, and set you on fire.

 

On this Day in 1962: Infantry Nuke Test

The USA fired its last above-ground nuclear test at a test site in Nevada on this day, 17 July, in 1962. The operation was a culmination exercise that brought together nuclear warhead tests (code-named Little Feller, as a nod to the W54 warhead’s light weight and low yield) and nuclear weapons employment maneuvers code-named Ivy Flats.

Screenshot 2014-07-17 12.50.48

The test was a pretty-much full-spectrum test of an actual tactical nuke, and a very unusual one — a nuclear infantry weapon called the Davy Crockett. A lot of tripe is written about the Davy Crockett, including that it could not fire a projectile further than its blast radius, but most of that tripe is written by people who either apply unreasoning fear to all nuclear weapons (something that was encouraged during the Cold War by the Soviet Union and its witting and unwitting agents of influence), or by the sort of uninformed juicebox mafiosi that become “national security” writers for Wired. Even more-respected anti-nuclear campaigners often got it wrong, like some of the details on this basically solid page at the Brookings Institution. In fact, this test demonstrated that the weapon was safe, within its limits, and effective.

After many rehearsals, including a live-fire of an actual warhead suspended three feet above the ground (Test Little Feller II on 7 Jul 62), a Davy Crockett crew fired their weapon at a simulated enemy force 2,852 meters distant. They launched the projectile in front of trench-covered friendlies and — much further back — bleachers full of observers, including such VIPs as Robert F. Kennedy (then Attorney General) and Army Chief of Staff Max Taylor. (This test was Little Feller I, even though it was 10 days after Little Feller II). The weapon functioned flawlessly. Within half an hour, military units advanced through the blast zone. The entrenched troops were 1600m from the detonation; the Army calculated that the low-yield W54 would produce immediate casualties from radiation only within 250m, and delayed casualties only within 350m, of its impact point. These radiation effects were much more long-ranged than the heat and blast effects of the .02 kiloton warhead. A tank 100m from detonation would be usable, apart from the effects of radiation, which would have killed its crew.

Here’s a video of the test. We tried to find the original because this one has too much compression and a lot of video artifacts, but sometimes you have to take what you can get:

The actual burst is at about the half-way point, about nine minutes in. Other reports suggest that its yield was later calculated to be 0.018 kt, a little lighter than the 0.022 produced by the confusingly earlier Little Feller I test. As none of the surviving documentation suggests that this yield variation from the nominal 0,02 kt setting upset anyone at the time, it suggests that variance of plus or minus two-thousandths of a kiloton was considered nominal.

It’s interesting to see the other equipment the troops, from the 4th Infantry Division then at Ft. Lewis, Washington, have: Garand M1 rifles, M48 tanks, a Hiller UH-12 helicopter.

The Davy Crockett was actually an ingenious weapon, and for its time, an effective one, if only psychologically. How effective? Decades after it was retired, it was still taught to Soviet tank officers as a battlefield threat to be feared and targeted. When the weapon was withdrawn (due to further miniaturization allowing longer-range and more-accurate delivery of tactical nukes), the GRU managed to convince itself, and the Soviet General Staff, that the withdrawal was all a ruse by those perfidious Americans.

Here’s how it worked: the DC came in two versions, the M28 and M29. The “light” DC had a 2000 meter range, and the heavy 4000 meters. The caliber of the main recoilless gun was different: 120mm versus 155 mm, and even the caliber of the spotting gun, which was used to check trajectory before firing, differed: the “light” Davy Crockett has a 20mm recoilless spotting gun firing the M101 spotting round, and the “heavy” had a 37mm. Because the gun was recoilless, it and its tripod could be light. Both versions could be carried by Jeep or M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, and the M28 could be broken down into manpack loads (if heavy ones) and carried by its own crew.

davy crockett jeep

When XM101 spotting rounds were found in Hawaii, the media went haywire. Typical of the products of their “layers and layers of editors” was this graphic.

davy crockett

What’s wrong with it? Count the legs on the tripod.

The projectile, the M388, was roughly the size and shape of a prize watermelon, and could contain conventional explosives or a W54. It worked with both guns because it was a “supercaliber” projectile. (Imagine a watermelon-sized rifle grenade). A different piston was used in the smaller and larger guns. They also fire two non-nuclear (or simulated nuclear) Davy Crockett rounds.

A war in which battalion commander had their own nukes would have been… interesting. Army planners expected the US warhead stockpile to grow to over 150,000 warheads to support their Pentomic Division warfighting scheme. (That was about five times its actual 1967 peak).

The dummy version was of the M388 the M421. Almost all surviving documentation shows these weapons as non-type-classified, “XM” weapons (i.e. XM388, XM29, etc).

FM23-30-Davy-Crockett-warhead

Authority to deploy the Davy Crockett was devolved almost as low as nuclear weapons commit authority ever got: the battalion commander had full authority to use the weapons as he saw fit, once a general release was granted.

Most Davy Crockett launchers were allocated only one or two warheads, plus several conventional high-explosive ones; this was because the system’s survivability on a tactical nuclear battlefield was somewhat constrained. It had to be fired within field-gun and mortar range of the targeted enemy (4,000m max), it was an unprotected weapons system, and it was

The launch produced a considerable backblast, and would have exposed the firers to enemy retaliation. This gave a small advantage to the light weapon, which was usually fired from its jeep. The heavy weapon had to be dismounted from a charmer personnel carrier or truck and fired from the tripod every time. Then, after exposing its position, it would have to be reloaded before the crew could skedaddle.

The Davy Crockett had a short service life; it was an interim weapon before warheads could be miniaturized into standard gun artillery weapons.

Because the M101 spotting rounds contained depleted uranium, which is now managed as a hazardous material, we’ve learned that 75,318 rounds of spotting M101 were produced. Some 2000 were expended in lot qualification tests at the factory, 44,000 were destroyed by firing into a containment after the weapon was scrapped, and a max of 29,000 were fired from the deployed launchers at a variety of field sites. Apart from the Ivy Flats/Little Feller I test on 17 Jul 62, no Davy Crockett was ever live fired. (There were warhead live tests earlier, during development).

Both versions of the Davy Crockett used the same projectile, the M388.

At the end of FY 62, the USA had 25,540 operational warheads in its stockpile, and growing. About 2,900 of them were Davy Crockett warheads. At the end of 2013, we had 4,804 total warheads, and shrinking. Among the entire classes of nukes that were eliminated were small-yield nukes like the Davy Crockett warhead, and battlefield nukes — like the Davy Crockett warhead.

One Giant Step towards Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament

This three-reentry-vehicle warhead was once standard on Minuteman III missiles. As part of a policy of unilateral disarmament, the MIRVs have been taken out of service.

This three-reentry-vehicle warhead was once standard on Minuteman III missiles. Each warhead could be aimed at a different target. As part of a policy of unilateral disarmament, the MIRVs have been taken out of service.

The United States has met a second strategic goal of the Soviet Union Russian Empire Federation. After giving them the unilateral cancellation of European missile defense, the United States has now unilaterally de-MIRVed its ground-based missiles. This serves no United States security purpose, but does please entities with one kind of relationship to the United States: enemies, foreign and domestic.

MIRVs are Multiple Independently Targetable (re-entry) Vehicles, multiple warheads on a single missile. They complicate a potential adversary’s defensive strategy and decrease his confidence in being able to execute a first strike without retaliation.

Eliminating the MIRVs is a political, not military, decision that makes the missiles less of a threat to any opponent or potential enemy (especially a sophisticated enemy), and is destabilizing, encouraging rogue states to attempt a first strike. But politically, this sets up for the third strategic goal, complete elimination of the now-obsolete single-warhead missiles. The Nuclear Threat Initiative, an anti-nuclear*, left-wing group, crows:

The United States this week finished altering its ground-based, long-range nuclear missiles to each carry just one warhead, the Great Falls Tribune reports.

Crews carried out the final modification of an intercontinental ballistic missile at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, the newspaper reported on Wednesday. The service implemented the alterations under a nuclear-arms pact with Russia.

The New START strategic arms-control treaty called for the change to the nation’s Minuteman 3 ICBMs, which were previously able to carry three “Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles.” The United States maintains roughly 450 of the missiles, deployed at the Montana facility and at bases in North Dakota and Wyoming.

“This was the last Minuteman 3 in the Air Force to be ‘deMIRVed,’ and this is a major milestone in meeting the force structure numbers to comply with the New START requirements,” Steve Ray, a member of Air Force Global Strike Command’s missile maintenance division, said in a released comment.

“This is historic because we’ve had MIRVs in the field for more than 40 years, since 1970 when the first Minuteman 3 came on alert,” Ray said.

In its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the Obama administration said “deMIRVing” the weapons would “enhance the stability of the nuclear balance by reducing the incentives for either side to strike first.”

via U.S. Eliminates Multi-Warheads on All Ground-Based Nuclear Missiles | Global Security Newswire | NTI.

MIRVs do remain in service on submarine launched ballistic missiles, for the time being. But there are fewer missiles, and fewer subs, than there were five years ago, and there will be fewer still by the time a new president and national security team is sworn in.

Even if the incumbents don’t decide the SLBM MIRVs too must go, to please international counterparties and their domestic collaborationists and fifth columnists.

There may yet be political fallout from the executive decision to unilaterally disarm ground-based MIRVs. In 2012, Secretary of State Kerry promised at least one Senator that no further unilateral cuts would be made, but most Senators have been there long enough to have served with Kerry and already have no illusions about what his promise is worth.

*NTI is “anti-nuclear” as far as American nuclear weapons and nuclear allies. Not anti-war, just on the other side.

Electromagnetic Pulse, Scaremongering, and You

People keep saying that an EMP attack on America could kill 90% of Americans. Last month, for example, in Investors Business Daily, not usually a fever swamp of paranoia. But it sounds a little paranoid to us:

That dire warning came from Peter Vincent Pry, a member of the Congressional EMP Commission and executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security.

He testified in front of the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies that an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event could wipe out 90% of America’s population.

These frightening reports and scary numbers are reminiscent, for those of us sufficiently “seasoned” to remember, of the hysteria surrounding nuclear weapons in the Cold War. Hawks amped up the threat to justify our defensive measures, from SAMs to Civil Defense. Doves amped up the threat to justify a preemptive surrender: since resistance is futile, we might as well lie back and enjoy being assimilated. “Better red than dead,” some of them intoned, while one always had a deep-seated suspicion that for many of them the closely-held imperative was “better red than anything,” actually. The Doves were once distributed across parties, with pinks on the Democrat side matched by isolationists on the Republican, and the Hawks were similarly spread. The sixties and seventies, and mostly, the Vietnam War, sped a process of assortation that has made today’s hawk-dove axis a largely partisan one.

RIght now, the EMP threat is being promoted by two groups, those for whom it is a big issue: a mix of scaremongers who have a solution to sell you, and the press, who are always up for a round of predictions of disaster and decline.

Some attention has been paid to the potential cataclysmic effects of a natural phenomenon such as a massive solar storm, an event that has occurred in America’s horse-and-buggy era when it did not matter.

Today an electromagnetic pulse event would be devastating. It wouldn’t need a solar storm, just a solitary nuke detonated in the atmosphere above the American heartland. We would envy the horse-and-buggy era.

As we’ve reported here before, there are qualitative differences between a Carrington Event and a nuclear-generated EMP.

In any event, it would take a complete societal collapse and a passive lack of reaction by institutions and even individuals to produce the sort of societal collapse that these guys fear. One of the more realistic fictional renditions of an EMP attack is William Forstchen’s best-selling One Second After from a couple years ago. But even Forstchen underestimates the degree to which people will survive and recover from such an attack. The human impulse to survival is very strong, and it’s a social impulse: people up against the wall tend to cooperate to the extent that they can, even victims of horrible natural and man-made disasters.

But the EMP fright industry never lets up:

“Natural EMP from a geomagnetic superstorm, like the 1859 Carrington Event or 1921 Railroad Storm, and nuclear EMP attack from terrorists or rogue states, as practiced by North Korea during the nuclear crisis of 2013, are both existential threats that could kill 9-of-10 Americans through starvation, disease and societal collapse,” the Washington Free Beacon quoted Pry as saying.

As we reported early last year, Pry, a former CIA nuclear weapons analyst, believes that North Korea’s recent seemingly low-yield nuclear tests and launch of a low-orbit satellite may in fact be preparations for a future electromagnetic pulse attack.

via EMP Attack On Power Grid Could Kill 9-In-10 Americans – Investors.com.

Are the Norks preparing an EMP? Maybe. But how do they test it? How do they know it works?

A copy of a report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security for the Defense Department, obtained by Pry from sources within DHS, finds North Korea could use its Unha-3 space launch vehicle to deliver a nuclear warhead as a satellite over the South Pole to attack America from the south.

But that understates, or fails to state, the Nork problem. Testing an EMP warhead is a tough thing to do, as is testing any kind of nuclear warhead, compounded by the fact that the foreign supporters of the Nork program, who have included at times Russia China and Pakistan, haven’t ever solved this conundrum, either. And even though the Norks have made this their national priority, they’re still a poor, badly-organized, and ill-led country.

Also, there are some American infrastructure elements, including most military weapons systems and command and control networks, that are already EMP-hardened. So you might succeed in taking down the power grid, but you won’t prevent massive retaliation.

EMP links & Videos

Here are a few more EMP resources. All of these are of the Chicken Little variety, including other takes on Pry’s testimony, and his actual written testimony (as opposed to some newshound’s version of what he said).

http://4thst8.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/what-will-you-be-doing-the-day-after-the-emp/

Here’s a brief video showing how an EMP would take place.

This is a longer (and more alarmist) video. Bill Forstchen, mentioned above, is interviewed in this. (His book is a worst-case scenario, but quite readable, unlike most didactic literature). He has some unpleasant comments about Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, a standout even in a Senate where every single member is a crook.

http://4thst8.wordpress.com/tag/peter-pry/

Pry’s testimony:

http://docs.house.gov/meetings/HM/HM08/20140508/102200/HHRG-113-HM08-Wstate-PryP-20140508.pdf

http://www.empactamerica.org/2012-05-02_Pry-Homeland-Security.pdf

http://www.ferc.gov/CalendarFiles/20120502132652-Pry,%20Homeland%20Security.pdf

http://www.shieldact.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Senate-ENR-Handout.pdf

But even if the EMP scenario is overstated…

…as we think it is, you might still be well served by preparing for it. One thing to think about is this: most of the measures you would take to protect your family from the consequences of an EMP attack would also protect your family many times over from such more common disasters as flooding, urban riots, or a worst-season power outage that lasts several days. That’s why you owe it to yourself to read Bill Forstchen and other survival writers like John Wesley, Rawles.

What’s this “rifle?”

Yes, it’s time again to play Stump the Commenters:

stump_the_commenters_20140612

And here are a few clues that may help you. (Of course, they may further confound you. If so, that’s your problem, Mac).

  1. wile_e_coyote and bookWe will say that no one ever died of it.
  2. What appears to be a kink in the stock is the result of a scan of an image resting across the center gutter of a book.
  3. It is not from an English-speaking country. (Therefore, it did not come in a mail-order box from ACME).
  4. For its inventor, it was not an end in itself, but a means to an end.
  5. It was effective in that, for him.
  6. His work was soon overshadowed by that of others, who built on his successes.

We’ll post an UPDATE here when one of you Wile E Coyote Certified Super Geniuses nails it.