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The Continuing Crisis

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The existence of the 50-year-old, ultra-secure computer protocol required for a U.S. president to launch nuclear weapons is well-known, through newspapers, books and Hollywood films, but according to papers released by Britain's National Archive in November, a similarly complex protocol has been in place in that country only since 1998. Before that, a person could arm a nuclear bomb simply by removing two ordinary screws and (according to BBC News) using "an Allen key to select high yield or low yield, air burst or groundburst and other parameters."

Yikes! The China Daily newspaper reported in November that local markets and beauty salons in Guangdong province were selling low-priced hair bands made from used condoms.

"Fires during surgeries a bigger risk than thought," headlined a November Boston Globe article, citing data from hospitals in Pennsylvania (28 operating-room fires a year for the last three years) and Massachusetts.

People Who Have a Way With Words: Washington state Rep. Jim Dunn, responding in October to a reprimand by colleagues about unwanted sexual remarks made to a female staff member, said he couldn't recall exactly what he told her, but that he was "sure it was very inappropriate, because I do that kind of thing."

Russia's checkerboard serial killer (who said he aimed to commit 64 murders even though only charged with 49), explained in court in October how he got started, at age 18, by killing a classmate: "A first killing is like your first love. You never forget it."

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