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Here’s something: Remember nuclear weapons?

They’re illegal.

As of this weekend.

Well, technically, the deciding moment happened on Saturday, but the ban officially kicks in 90 days later, on January 22, 2021.

No nuclear-armed state plans to recognize the ban. But even so, military experts from the Pentagon to the Kremlin are clearly rattled: Last week, news broke of a letter the Trump administration has sent asking national governments to walk away from this “dangerous” treaty. The letter describes this as a consensus shared by the United States, Russia, China and all of the NATO allies.

When the military-industrial experts of America, Russia, China and NATO all share the same panicked indignation — that probably means something good is happening. …

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Socratic dialogue, circa 2020. Image credit here.

Yes “all lives matter”, but you can’t say that.

But why?

We’re saying “Black lives matter” now. When you insist on “all lives matter,” it’s like you’re correcting that. This is like a call-response in church — we say “Black lives matter,” and you say “Amen”. If you improvise your reply, it’s like you’re sabotaging the service.

I can see that. I can. But … we’re not in church. We are living together in a sprawling, free, open society. So, isn’t it also grand if all different kinds of Americans express similar values, but each in their own words and ways? Isn’t that also beautiful? For example, I thought it was inspiring how unanimously outraged all of America was when we first saw the videos of poor Mr. …

Sometimes a doctor must place a large-caliber catheter into one of the body’s biggest veins: the internal jugular in the neck, the subclavian in the chest, or the femoral in the thigh. These are “centrally-located” — in close to the torso — and the catheters accessing them are thus called central lines.

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This happens about 5 million times a year in America. So even rare complications happen with regularity.

The catheters are too large to just jam in. Once a site in neck, chest or thigh has been cleaned and anesthetized, that large vein, often deep under the skin, is carefully punctured with a finder needle. It’s not uncommon to accidentally hit the artery next door. I’ve done this, as have most acute care physicians. …

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Coronavirus, image created by JunGSA from the Noun Project

The radio toned at 3 a.m., a single long tone. No big deal, just a heads-up. If the patient had been “priority one” sick, or if paramedics had needed medical orders by radio, the tones would have been frantic and oscillating, and everyone would have stopped to listen. This was not that, and the paramedic’s voice was low-drama: They were arriving, they’d need a room.

Their patient was an elderly gentleman recuperating from a stroke at a Long-Term Acute Care hospital (an LTAC, or “acute rehab”). He’d developed fever and cough, and had just tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19. …

After an exhaustingly long day, a group of us were still discussing “fomites,” objects that can carry contagious particles. Dr. Anil Shukla, chair of emergency medicine at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, Massachusetts, had just laid out for us when, where and how he planned to take off his scrubs after a shift, and where in the garage and for how long he would quarantine said scrubs, prior to washing.

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“You should write a book about this,” someone said to me — I was a journalist before I was an ER doctor, so I get this a lot. Before I could squelch the idea, they were already on to debating Hollywood megastars who might portray us, when the book became a movie. …

As we all hunker down at home, hoarding toilet paper and hiding from the deadly sniffles, I offer only cold comfort: The ongoing project of documenting one nuclear weapons accident or near-miss a day — every day, for the rest of the year — stumbles grimly forward.

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tennis anyone?
  • So here’s a wacky one! Sometime in the 1950s or 60s, an “inert TX21 Weapon” was accidentally “dropped from an aircraft during a development test.”

The TX21 was our largest H bomb — the design detonated at Castle Bravo — more than 1,000 times as explosive as Hiroshima. (Not twice as explosive. Not three times as explosive. Not ten, or twenty, or one hundred times as explosive.

I recently decided to post an account of a new nuclear weapons-related mishap or near disaster — each day — for the rest of the year.

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Today, I’d like to share an account of the greatest near miss of them all: the first atomic bomb test, which went ahead despite concern it would ignite the atmosphere.

Detonation of a modern nuclear warhead briefly creates a temperature of 200 million °F — about 4 times hotter than the center of the sun.

Could such heat actually light the Earth’s atmosphere on fire? This was an open question in 1945.

The Nazis looked at this possibility and said: No thanks. …

Once upon a time, Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and her husband Bill was a freewheelin’ ex-president of the U.S. of A., jetting here and there to collect huge sums for brief speeches. “I gotta pay our bills,” he told NBC News a few years ago in defending the practice. So he collected $1.5 million from the Swiss bank UBS for “a series of question-and-answer sessions with UBS Wealth Management Chief Executive Bob McCann,” $600,000 to shoot the breeze with the guys at Goldman Sachs, $500,000 from the government of Abu Dhabi for a 20-minute talk on climate change. (For the record: I do a 30-minute talk on climate change, and I bet it’s smarter. …

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Witch hunts start out with a hunt for a witch. But almost immediately the witch-hunters see witchcraft everywhere. Eventually they even turn upon each other.

Witness the events this past week when The New York Times, CNN and Hilary Clinton were among liberal forces who fell to accusing other democrats and liberals of being Russian government “assets”, “agents”, “puppets”.

In an article titled “What, Exactly, is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?”, The New York Times reported about the Congresswoman from Hawaii that “an array of alt-right internet stars, white nationalists and Russians (my emphasis) have praised her.”

(Again, I have to protest The New York Timeson-going use of “Russian” as a blanket term synonymous with criminals or traitors. Substitute any other national or ethnic category — “Chinese,” or “Israelis”, or “Italians” — and it will grate on you. But Russians are apparently untermenschen and can be spoken of collectively.) …

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“I said, ‘I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars.’ I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in,’ I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired.” — Vice President Joe Biden, from a video clip in January 2018, recounting how he threatened to withhold $1 billion in aid until Ukraine’s government agreed to fire its top prosecutor.

But that was noble!

It was completely different from Donald Trump’s recent call to the new Ukrainian president! …


Matt Bivens, MD

Born in DC, studied at UNC-Chapel Hill, now living in Massachusetts. ER physician, EMS medical director, recovering journalist & Russia-watcher.

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