Saturday, November 25, 2006

A tiny nuclear bomb made with love from Russia:

I appears that my first impression of the Alexander Litvinenko poisoning story was slightly off the mark. I predicted that it would get swept under the rug so as not to offend that oil drenched Russian Czar, Vlad 'the impaler' Putin. On the front page of the NYT today it is reported that British authorities now say Litvinenko was poisoned by a radioactive substance called polonium 210, which is fatal if ingested, breathed, or injected. This is a story that can't be ignored, because both the political and national security implications are too serious to flub off in the interests of maintaining friendly business arrangements with Russian natural gas and oil interests. But while diplomats are scrambling to make sure this whole thing doesn't become an international incident, British scientists and police are scratching their heads trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Polonium 210 is not exactly something any Joe Schmo would be able to get his hands on easily. In fact, the NYT reports that "Polonium is extremely rare in nature. . . Making the 'significant quantities' described in Mr. Litvinenko's body by the British Health Protection Agency would require a nuclear reactor that could bombard the metallic element bismuth with neutrons." Another Times article quotes Dr. F. Lee Cantrell, a toxicologist and director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System, saying: ". . . It's such an obscure thing. It's not easy to get. That's going to be something like the K.G.B would have in a secret facility or something."

K.B.G? Who aid anything about the K.G.B? Where would anyone get that sort of idea? I mean, how many countries in the world have nuclear reactors and would want to kill a vocal opponent of Vlad? There must be at least a hundred, right? See, this is all a plot. According to Sergei V. Yastrzhembsky, [I'll take a vowel Pat] Putin's aide in charge of European affairs, speaking in Helsinki where Vlad is attending an EU shindig, Russia is facing a "well-orchestrated campaign or a plan to consistently discredit Russia and its leader." Yes, indeed, just because there are an "excessive number of deliberate coincidences of high-profiling deaths of people who positioned themselves as opponents to the existing Russian government with the international events in which the Russian president takes part," some people might get the idea he had something to do with all these mysterious "coincidences."

Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. Someone out there is using a nuclear reactor to cook up polonium 210 to make Vlad look bad. If they are, though, they probably read Russian, because the Times says Dr. Cantrell, after doing a quick scan of medical journals, could only find one reference to using polonium 210 as a poison. "It was from 1994, he said, published in Russian."

For his part, Vlad says, "I hope the British authorities won't fuel groundless political scandals. It is a great pity that even such tragic things as human death are used for political provocations." Naturally, his only concern is for the death of a human being. (I'm getting all choked up.) And besides, Putin says, who says anyone got murdered in the first place? "As I know, the medical certificate of British doctors does not indicate that he died a violent death. It does not say that. Hence there is no reason for such talk at all." Right, Litvinenko died of polonium poisoning by accident.

Meanwhile, British anti-terrorism authorities have been stunned to find traces of radioactivity in locations where Litvinenko had been in the days leading up to his poisoning; a sushi bar in Piccadilly, his home and the Mayfair Millennium Hotel (which happens to be near the American Embassy. Old habits die hard.) Anyone in the hospital where he was being treated is also being tested for polonium in their systems. Not to fear, though, apparently most of the radiation in Litvinenko's system would have lodged in his tissues, so there isn't much chance of anyone else getting sick, except possibly for the poisoned himself (or herself). That's a relief, but the Litvinenko family might want to opt for a burial, where polonium is already present, instead of cremation, which might release polonium into the atmosphere.

For anyone hoping this outrageous act of terror is just going to blow over, they've got something else coming, I think. Here we have a British citizen being killed in the capital of the UK by means of what Litvinenko's father Walter has called a tiny nuclear bomb. That's an apt analogy and one that should send shutters through the halls of MI6 and the CIA. Some how, an agent of a foreign government got through all the high-tech security of either, Heathrow, or Gatwick with a small amount of highly toxic nuclear material and not only killed someone with it, but also wasn't too careful about not spreading it around. Imagine if OBL & Co. got their hands on something similar. [Of course, right now, you know Cheney is ordering up some polonium 210 to sprinkle in OBL's beard]

I don't see anyway Tony B-liar can get away with giving Vlad a pass on this one. The Guardian reports that, "Government ministers. . . are said to be 'dreading' the possible repercussions of a public inquest into Mr Litvinenko's death, at which they expect his associates to make damning accusations against the Russian government." Somewhere along the line the Brains Trust at MI6 are going to be able to identify where this polonium 210 came from, because all radioactive materials have a geologic signature, and then the fit will hit the shan. The Russians have really gone too far this time.


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