Price Of Nuclear Secrets Plummeting

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Vol 40 Issue 14

Frank Zappa Fan Thinks You Just Haven't Heard The Right Album

NEDERLAND, CO—In spite of your insistence that you are not into Frank Zappa, avid fan Roger Von Lee believes that you would change your mind if you heard the right album. "You're prejudiced, because the only Zappa you know is 'Valley Girl' and 'Don't Eat The Yellow Snow,'" Von Lee told you Tuesday. "Seriously, you need to check out Hot Rats or Absolutely Free. Zappa and the Mothers were at their peak, and Zappa's jazz-rock fusion experiments predate Bitches Brew. That'll totally convince you that Zappa's the shit." Von Lee added that if those two don't get under your skin, he can recommend another 15 to 20 albums that will for sure.

Boxer Hopes He Can Make Money Punching Things In Retirement

CHICAGO—Shortly after announcing his retirement, heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, 38, said Monday that he hopes to continue to make money punching things. "I have a few other skills, but I'm probably best at punching," Lewis said. "Cows, computers, sheets of glass—if the price is right, I'll punch it good. I may be retired, but I'm still a powerful good puncher." Lewis added that he would also be willing to hire himself out by the hour for displays of fancy footwork.

Almost No Effort Made To Stop Kid From Eating Cigarette Butt

HALLOWELL, ME—While waiting for a bus Tuesday, Stan Geraldson watched 2-year-old Jason Kemper pick up a spent cigarette butt and place it in his mouth, but made only a minor attempt to stop him. "Hey, ah, you shouldn't..." Geraldson told Kemper, whose mother was engaged in a conversation a few feet away. "Don't... eat that." Geraldson said he would have done more to stop Kemper if the item had been fiberglass or something.

Dollar Losing Value Against The Quarter

NEW YORK—After falling 6 percent in the past three weeks, the U.S. dollar hit a 208-year low against the U.S. quarter, which had been valued at exactly 0.25 dollars since its introduction in 1796. "The dollar continues to slide against most major currencies," Morgan Stanley analyst Richard Jemison said. "At the end of the day Tuesday, the quarter was trading at .267 yen, .203 euros, and US$0.28. But what we're really seeing here is not just a dollar weakened by a sluggish economy, but an exceptionally resilient quarter-dollar." Jemison was quick to point out that the dollar remains very strong against the nickel.

Visiting Liberian Dignitary In No Hurry To Leave

WASHINGTON, DC—Liberian interim government chairman Gyude Bryant is strongly considering extending his first diplomatic visit to the U.S., the West African leader announced Monday. "It feels like I just got here," said Bryant, whose nation has just begun the work of rebuilding its infrastructure after 14 years of civil war. "Why rush back to Liberia? I'm barely settled into my hotel suite. I haven't even used the whirlpool." Bryant, head of the Liberian government since former president Charles Taylor was forced into exile, said he may as well stay at least until the violence in the city of Buchanan dies down, which would allow him to check out the Smithsonian.

U.S. Kids Sleep-Deprived

The National Sleep Foundation recently announced that American children are not getting enough sleep. What do you think?

The Hunt For Bin Laden

The commission probing the Sept. 11 attacks presented in detail the mistakes made in the search for Osama Bin Laden. What were some of the near-misses?
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Family

Report: Dad Wants To Show You Where Fuse Box Is

YOUR LOCATION—Noting that it’s important to be prepared in case of emergencies but it’s also a good thing to know in general, your dad announced today that he wants to show you where the fuse box is.

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    The arrival of summer means that the nation’s beaches will soon be crowded with swimmers, tanners, surfers, and more, so it’s important for everyone to be conscious of each other’s space and needs. Here are some etiquette tips to ensure that everyone has a safe and relaxing time at the beach:

Price Of Nuclear Secrets Plummeting

WASHINGTON, DC—Top-secret information about the design, construction, and delivery of nuclear weapons has never been more affordable than it is today, CIA Director George Tenet announced Monday.

Plans for weapons like Pakistan's medium-range Shaheen II missile are cheaper than ever.

"We're seeing items like warhead blueprints and uranium-enrichment instructions go for a fraction of what they used to cost," Tenet said. "There's never been a better time to snag a deal on low-mass, high-yield weaponry schematics. Countries like Iran and North Korea are finding that it's a real buyer's market."

Tenet said he expects prices to continue to decline.

"These bargain prices will create more buyers, which will in turn widen the black market to include more sellers," Tenet said. "If this trend continues, then by 2010, nuclear secrets will be well within the reach of Uzbekistan, Morocco, and pretty much anyone else with enough money to buy a used car."

The trend toward cheaper, more readily available nuclear secrets began in the early '90s, when Pakistani scientists sold plans and equipment for uranium-refining gas centrifuges to Iran and Iraq. While the price initially hovered around $100 million, the expanding market quickly drove prices down.

"Three years ago, a complete W-88 warhead data suite went to the Chinese for a sum in the mid-nine figures," CIA nuclear-weapons specialist Mitch Romano said. "Now, you can pick up that W-88 data in Central Asia for a tenth of that cost—and they'll deliver it free."

Romano cited another example of plunging prices.

"About six months ago, one of our wiretaps recorded the sale of plans for a two-foot, 12-megaton warhead to a Quebecois separatist cell for slightly more than $1 million," Romano said. "Yesterday, the plans surfaced again, this time on the Internet. It was eBay item #2899538529, and it had a 'Buy it now' price of $18,500."

Romano assured the public that the CIA has the seller, a San Diego-based car-audio retailer with the screen name of BatVette65, under strict surveillance.

"He's got tons of new deals every week," Romano said. "Right now, he's got plans for an artillery-launched supergun nuke and a set of blueprints for cool old vintage Soviet-era silos."

Romano said that, although prices are plunging, quality is improving.

"We're not talking about a waist-high stack of floppy disks storing instructions for some clunky old atom bomb," Romano said. "We're talking detailed specs on a U.S.-produced Special Atomic Demolition Munitions suitcase device. Those are great little bombs that you can't even get on the straight market anymore, because of the Spratt-Furse law."

Martin Woess, an atomic-intelligence branch operative from Great Britain's MI-6, said prices are so low that virtually any political organization that wants a nuclear program can afford one.

A set of nuclear secrets is priced to sell at an outdoor market in Altay, Mongolia.

"Last week, we investigated reports that a cell in Edinburgh had sold classified British intelligence information to an American group," Woess said. "The group turned out to be the Young Republicans organization at the University of Virginia."

"NATO has since classified the group as a Class D potential nuclear threat," Woess added.

At least one intelligence expert expressed trepidation over the booming nuclear-secrets economy.

"It was an embarrassment to our country that Abdul Qadeer Khan sold nuclear secrets and technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea," said General Mohammed Kanazwa, a senior officer for Pakistani military intelligence. "But it was all the more embarrassing when we found out that he had sold them in the 'Bargains Under $100' section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer."

As dire as the news may seem, Tenet stressed the difference between acquiring the technical know-how necessary to build a nuclear-weapons program and actually initiating such a program.

"Although nuclear-weapons intelligence may be selling for less than a thousandth of its Cold War price, the buyer would still require qualified personnel and hard-to-find materials to actually construct a device," Tenet said. "They may be able to get plans for a bomb for a few pennies, but weapons-grade plutonium, when available, sells for hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars a pound."

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