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Editorial: Points to ponder

As the song goes, summertime, and the living’s uneasy. OK, maybe that’s not the way it goes. So, here are some deep summer thoughts.

Will the world end with an authoritarian bang or just stupidity’s whimper?

On the one hand, U.S. President Donald Trump seems to be tilting towards a showdown with North Korea, the stuff that dystopian atomic post-apocalyptic Hollywood movies are made of. On the other, it was recently revealed that, in 2011, nuclear technicians at Los Alamos National Laboratory lined up eight rods of plutonium to photograph their handiwork. Problem is, plutonium is unstable, and placing rods that close together could have caused an uncontrollable nuclear chain reaction. That, and other safety issues, have meant the shutdown of the Los Alamos PF-4 plutonium lab for the last four years. So, what’s your bet? Will the critical finger be resting on the nuclear launch button, or on the iPhone camera shutter?

And meanwhile, how will we know?

Last week, the U.S. Pentagon announced it would no longer release the overall results of safety inspections at U.S. nuclear weapons sites. In the past, you could at least find out whether the neighbourhood base had a pass or a fail when it came to how it handled its nukes. Apparently, poor test results were hurting morale. (See above, under stupidity’s whimper.)

Next question: who should get the boot first?

After a run of hot weather in Phoenix, flights were cancelled because of physics; hot air is thin air, and some aircraft need more speed, longer runaways or less weight to take off as a result. Scientists suggest that such cancellations are increasing. In the States, the most at-risk airports for what’s called “weight restriction days” are Phoenix, Denver, New York’s La Guardia and Washington’s Reagan airports.

One solution? For smaller airplanes, ditching passengers at the gate.

But how to pick? Could we suggest starting with any passengers who stick with the claim that there’s no such thing as global warming? (It might not be real justice, but it would be a dollop of the poetic kind.)

Now, a thought on socks, along the lines of, “if a tree falls in the forest”: if your news story on a meeting of world leaders mentions the kind of socks the leaders are wearing somewhere in the first four paragraphs, is it a news story?

And last but not least, is there any petty crime more odious than running away from paying for your cab or your restaurant meal? Both have happened here in the past few weeks. Cabbies are hammered by stand rents, high gas prices, unbelievable insurance rates and just about anything else you can think of; jumping out of your cab without paying is like stealing charitable donations. Odious, any way you slice it. And is there any business more precarious and fickle than restaurants?

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