Monday, July 08, 2002

BRONSON: What if?

Learning to love the dirty bomb

        Those FBI warnings about terrorism on July Fourth did not worry me. As soon as I heard the target was large gatherings where Americans are celebrating positive things about our country, I figured that pretty much eliminated Cincinnati.

        Now that the Billy Graham Mission is gone, we're lucky to gather a dozen people downtown — and they're probably yelling about racist oppression.

        I figure Cincinnati is one of the safest places in the war on terrorism. Any sleeper cells probably were scared off by our riots and crime wave months ago and moved someplace safer, such as Detroit.

        “Forget Cincinnati,” they e-mailed Osama. “These decadent dogs of Satan are already terrorizing themselves.”


Dirty bombers

               But what if the terrorists lit a birthday cake of TNT frosted with radioactive waste? Would a “dirty bomb” cause more pollution here than those “organ enhancement” ads during WLW Reds games? Would it spread more pandemonium than a shortage of Skyline Chili? I doubt it.

        ABC News showed a computer simulated dirty bomb that looked just like the spreading red stain of Communism in a 1960s newsreel I was forced to watch in grade school.

        But then I switched to the Jim Lehrer News Hour for a second opinion from the world of reality. Real radiation experts — not TV reporters — advised us to chill. If a dirty bomb goes off while you're on a cigarette break, they said, you could get cancer — from the cigarettes.

        “The purpose of terrorism is to scare people, and people are scared to death of radiation,” expert Andrew Karam told Reuters. “What they would do is cost us a lot of money, including cleanup, and cause us to hurt ourselves by acting stupidly.”

        So the worst risk could be devastating fallout — from EPA regulations. Unless harmless levels of radiation can be reduced to less than one potential cancer death in 10,000 (about the same as two City Council meetings), the EPA will order contaminated areas to be demolished or abandoned for decades.

        Imagine an entire city as empty as downtown Cincinnati on a Saturday night.


Deny, deny, deny

               But I think Cincinnati could handle a dirty bomb in the usual way: enthusiastic denial.

        • Downtown Cincinnati Inc., which sees a diamond in every lump of coal, will issue a press release announcing free parking for “Radioactive Madness Sales.”

        • The boycott leaders will take credit for destroying downtown and blame any injuries on the police.

        • City Council will appoint a blue-ribbon, extra-special committee of 700 “community stakeholders” to study and report on the “root causes” of the terrorist “rebellion.”

        • Several Cincinnati Reds players will come up lame with pulled hamstrings — although they are out of town, playing on the road.

        • Bengals boss Mike Brown will find a contract clause that makes the county pay him double for every empty seat in a radioactive stadium.

        • And The Cincinnati Enquirer will announce a special new service to readers: a newspaper you can read in the dark.

       E-mail or call 768-8301.


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- BRONSON: What if?
HOWARD: Some good news
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