Column: missle test worries |

Column: missle test worries

Barry Smith

I’m a little worried today.

It’s not that unusual, I guess, to have concerns in your day-to-day life. But usually you can trudge ahead with the routine, get through another day and not have to worry about the end of the world.

We made it through that whole Y2K thing, right?

But then, suddenly, a rocket lights up the night sky over Nevada and you begin to worry.

So I went searching for answers.

Unfortunately, the daily news is not the best place to look for reassurance. Here’s what I found:

– Start with the missile test, which hundreds of people noticed because it looked like the “War of the Worlds” might have started over Northern Nevada, except nobody told Orson Welles to get on the radio and alert the public.

Never mind the fact that the Pentagon failed to mention to us that they would be going ballistic over our heads – except, curiously enough, for the “unofficial source” who phoned Carson City’s dispatchers with a cryptic warning.

The real scary part is that we sent up a mock warhead and then … missed.


We can’t shoot down our own rockets? So, if the Chinese or Canadians decide to bomb us, we should do what?

– Well, apparently don’t go to Alaska.

A “flaming meteor” lit up the skies over Southeast Alaska the other night – the same night as the rocket, I think, although it was a different time.

”It was incredible. I was getting into my car, getting ready to go to work, and the sky lit up. It was like broad daylight. Then I saw a red streak across the sky,” said Amy Steele, a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in Whitehorse.

”Some people reported smelling something pungent,” Steele said.

If a meteor comes close enough to Earth that you can smell it burning, then I start to worry about the end of the world. Scientists said they think it burned up before it actually hit the ground.

Otherwise, I suppose, we would have heard something about a big crater.

– Speaking of global catastrophes, the London Observer notes that our planet has been plunged through a recent cycle of “icy climatic catastrophes.”

Scientists say the world was turned into a cosmic snowball coated in ice sheets half a mile thick.

Fortunately, “recent” is a relative term. They’re talking about a few hundred million years ago.

”As improbable as it may sound, we see clear evidence that striking climatic reversal – the most extreme imaginable on this planet – happened as many as four times between 750 million and 580 million years ago,” say Harvard University scientists Paul Hoffman and Daniel Schrag in the current issue of Scientific American.

And I thought they were talking about the weather in Nevada.

– Back to stuff flying around in the sky.

Outside St. Louis, Mo., this month, a miniature-golf course owner and four police officers saw something that looked like a floating two-story house with a glowing red interior.

It flew over Melvern Noll’s head as he stood on his golf course about 4 a.m., traveling silently at a snail’s pace.

”I kept my eyeballs on it,” said Noll, 66. ”It was all lighted up and so low that someone could have waved at me out the window.” He estimated it was about 1,000 feet above the ground.

He drove over to the police station and told dispatchers. Four officers saw the thing as moved over Lebanon, Ill.

A couple of the police witnesses told reporters that the object resembled a drawing of a ”stealth blimp” that appeared in Popular Mechanics magazine.

In the meantime, a team from Las Vegas is on its way to investigate the sighting. I have to think that if anybody can figure out what it was, it will be a team from Las Vegas.

– On the other hand, it’s the stuff headed for Las Vegas that has me worried.

Down in Oak Ridge, Tenn., they’re getting a little peeved that nuclear waste is beginning to pile up.

It seems the U.S. Department of Energy would like to ship nuclear waste to Oak Ridge to burn in DOE’s toxic-waste incinerator there. But the folks in Tennessee won’t let it happen, because they want to know where the leftover radioactive waste is going to be stored.

Three guesses.

Yup, the DOE is telling Tennessee that the real holdup is those whiners out in Nevada who don’t want to store nuclear waste at the Nevada Test Site. Something about having to get through a messy environmental-impact assessment.

While this is a little different from the whole Yucca Mountain issue, it still reminds us that one of our concerns there is just how safe it is to ship nuclear waste across the country – a small flaw in the plan the DOE isn’t eager to expose.

– Well, how’s this for making you feel better ….

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Every day, hundreds of America’s commercial truck and bus drivers climb into their rigs with serious physical or mental problems, power up their 80,000-behemoths and head for the highway.

“The drivers’ medical problems range from life-threatening heart conditions to unreported epilepsy, from uncontrolled diabetes to undiagnosed but highly dangerous sleep disorders.

“It’s not that drivers want to be unsafe or, in some cases, even realize they’re unsafe. But when the wheels aren’t rolling, there’s no money coming in. For their families, sometimes for their love of the road, they’ll risk their health – and the safety of other motorists – to keep driving.”

There. See why I’m worried?