Monday September 23, 2019
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Is the US Getting Back to Bomb Shelters? North Korea threats revive Nuclear Bomb fear

North Korea threatens America

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Bomb shelter manufacturer engineers Vincent Carubia, left, and Eward Klein study specifications for a fiber glass dome shelter being installed on an estate in Locust Valley, N.Y
Bomb shelter manufacturer engineers Vincent Carubia, left, and Eward Klein study specifications for a fiber glass dome shelter being installed on an estate in Locust Valley, N.Y. VOA
  • He wondered how much good ducking under a desk could do if a bomb powerful enough to destroy a city fell nearby
  • Then there were backyard bomb shelters, which briefly became the rage during the missile crisis of 1962

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the era of nuclear bomb nightmares -of the atomic arms race, of backyard bomb shelters, of schoolchildren diving under desks to practice their survival skills in the event of an attack -seemed to finally, thankfully, fade into history. Until now.

For some baby boomers, North Korea’s nuclear advances and President Donald Trump’s bellicose response have prompted flashbacks to a time when they were young, and when they prayed each night that they might awaken the next morning. For their children, the North Korean crisis was a taste of what the Cold War was like.

“I’m not concerned to where I can’t sleep at night. But it certainly raises alarms for Guam or even Hawaii, where it might be a real threat,” said 24-year-old banker Christian Zwicky of San Bernardino, California.

People of his parents’ generation were taught to duck and cover when the bombs came.

“Maybe those types of drills should come back,” Zwicky said.

He isn’t old enough to remember the popular 1950s public service announcement in which a cartoon character named Bert the Turtle teaches kids how to dive under their desks for safety. But Zwicky did see it often enough in high school history classes that he can hum the catchy tune that plays at the beginning. That’s when Bert avoids disaster by ducking into his shell, then goes onto explain to schoolchildren what they should do.

“I do remember that,” says 65-year-old retiree Scott Paul of Los Angeles. “And also the drop drills that we had in elementary school, which was a pretty regular thing then.”

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Even as a 10-year-old, Paul said, he wondered how much good ducking under a desk could do if a bomb powerful enough to destroy a city fell nearby. No good at all, his teacher acknowledged.

Then there were backyard bomb shelters, which briefly became the rage during the missile crisis of 1962 when it was learned the Soviets had slipped nuclear-tipped missiles into Cuba and pointed them at the USA.

After a tense, two-week standoff between President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that some believe brought the world the closest, it’s ever come to nuclear war, the missiles were removed and the shelters faded from public interest.

Now they, too, seem to be having a revival.

“When Trump took office it doubled our sales, and then when he started making crazy statements we got a lot more orders,” says Walton McCarthy of Norad Shelter Systems LLC of Garland, Texas. “Between now and a year ago, we’ve quadrupled our sales.”

His competitor, California-based Atlas Survival Shelters, says it sold 30 shelters in three days last week. During its first year in business in 2011, it sold only 10.

Bill Miller, a 74-year-old retired film director living in Sherborn, Massachusetts, thinks these days are more nerve-wracking than the standoff in October 1962.

“I think it’s much, much crazier, scarier times,” he said. “I think the people who were in charge in the Kennedy administration had much more of a handle on it.”

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Nathan Guerrero, a 22-year-old political science major from Fullerton, California, agrees, saying he learned in history class that the “shining example” of a way to resolve such a conflict was how Kennedy’s brother and attorney general, Robert Kennedy, brokered the tense negotiations.

“But knowing the way the current administration has sort of been carrying itself, it doesn’t look like they are keen to solving things diplomatically,” he said.

“As a young person, honestly, it’s pretty unsettling,” he continued.

Had he given any thought to building backyard bomb shelters?

“I’d be lying if I said such crazy things haven’t crossed my mind,” he said, laughing nervously. “But in reality, it doesn’t strike me as I’d be ready to go shopping for bunkers yet.” Instead, he studies for law school and tries “not to think too much about it.”

Other Americans are more sanguine about the possibility of nuclear war. Rob Stapleton has lived in Anchorage, Alaska, since 1975, and he is aware that Alaska has been considered a possible target because it is within reach of North Korean missiles.

“There’s been some discussion about it around the beer barrel and I’m sure the United States is taking it seriously, but we’re not too concerned around here,” he said.

Alaska is so vast and spread out, said Stapleton, that he and his friends can’t imagine why North Korea would waste its time attacking The Last Frontier. “I mean sure you’d be making a statement, but you’d not really be doing any damage,” he said. (VOA)

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North Korea Bans Imports of Chinese Pork on Fears of African Swine Fever Epidemic

“North Koreans prefer Chinese pork to domestically produced pork, because it has thicker layers of meat and fat,” said the source

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chinese pork, african swine fever
The import ban seems to have had no effect on the price of pork, making the source believe that Chinese pork is still getting in. Wikimedia Commons

North Korean authorities have banned imports of Chinese pork as an African swine fever (ASF) epidemic rages north of the Yalu River border between the two countries.

According to the latest update from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, China has seen 138 ASF outbreaks since August 2018 and more than a million pigs have been culled since the initial outbreak in Liaoning province, which borders North Korea.

North Korea’s ministry of agriculture confirmed the country’s first ASF outbreak in Chagang province on May 23 and South Korea’s ministry of unification has proposed discussions on how the two Koreas can work together to stop the further spread of the disease.

But RFA sources in North Korea say Chinese pork is still being sold in local markets. “A few days ago I heard from a customs official that North Korea has completely blocked all imports of pork and beef from China to prevent the spread of African swine fever,” said a source from North Hamgyong province in an interview with RFA’s Korean Service on June 2.

chinese pork, african swine fever
Pigs stand in a barn at a pig farm in Jiangjiaqiao village in northern China’s Hebei province on May 8, 2019. Pork lovers worldwide are wincing at prices that have jumped by up to 40 percent as China’s struggle to stamp out African swine fever in its vast pig herds sends shockwaves through global meat markets. RFA

“North Koreans prefer Chinese pork to domestically produced pork, because it has thicker layers of meat and fat,” said the source. “I heard that in some areas, including Pyongyang and Sinuiju, they are trying to control pork sales, but no action has been taken yet in North Hamgyong,” said the source. The source said that the ban is quite rare, especially since diseases among livestock are common during this part of the year.

“There have been infectious swine diseases in the past, but they never banned the import of pork from China. At this time of year, we are usually hit with infectious swine diseases and many pigs are culled, but none of the residents bury the dead pigs,” the source said. The import ban seems to have had no effect on the price of pork, making the source believe that Chinese pork is still getting in.

“The price of pork is between 14 and 15 Chinese Yuan (slightly more than $2) per kilogram, which is the same as before the authorities banned Chinese pork. Even though customs authorities are blocking pork imports from China, there is so much pork being smuggled in,” the source said. Another source, also from North Hamgyong, said the ban is strange, given that North Korean customs officials generally follow the lead of their Chinese counterparts.

“On the first of the month, pork that was to be brought in from China was quarantined at North Korean customs and sent back. It is unusual for our customs office to block this pork shipment because it didn’t have any problem going through Chinese customs,” said the second source.

“That [particular] pork shipment was to be brought in by a Chinese citizen of Korean descent who is a restaurant owner in Rason,” the second source said. “He thought there would be no problem going through customs because he regularly brings in pork from China. But the Wonjong customs office did not let it pass through on orders from the Central Committee,” the second source said.

chinese pork, african swine fever
“North Koreans prefer Chinese pork to domestically produced pork, because it has thicker layers of meat and fat,” said the source. Wikimedia Commons

The second source said the restaurant owner was surprised his shipment was held back. “He has had no problem bringing in pork from China for several years now. Even when swine fever [started] spreading in China, he kept bringing it in. It’s the first time he has been stopped and he’s totally bewildered,” the second source said.

The second source said that the price of pork remains stable despite the ban, and no cases of ASF have been reported in Rason. Even so, residents have become fearful of the disease.

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“[They think] African swine fever is highly contagious and has a fatality rate of 100%, but Chinese pork is still being sold at the local markets and no restrictions have been announced,” said the second source. According to a USDA fact sheet, ASF is deadly only to domestic and feral pigs and does not affect humans. People can, however, spread the virus by coming in contact with the bodily fluids of infected livestock.

According to a source in South Pyongan province, North Korea has not culled pigs in any of its state-run farms where an ASF outbreak has occurred. The pigs instead were supplied to sausage factories at low cost. This has caused a flood of sausages to enter the market, cutting the price of sausage in half. (RFA)

Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.