Monday, July 20, 2009

Bits and Pieces - July 20, 2009

Stephen Walt, who, with John Mearsheimer, opened the conversation on the Israel lobby, lists ten other topics in international relations that can't be discussed.

The toilet in the International Space Station has broken down. And it sounds like the Americans are charging the Russians to use their toilet? Shades of the Cold War.

The Brits have lowered their terrorist attack threat level from "severe" to "substantial." Wonder how that correlates to the American color levels, which are being reconsidered by the Department of Homeland Security. In any case, lowering the level is a good sign, along with the reopening of the Statue of Liberty's crown.

Would North Korea detonate conventional explosives to save up their plutonium?

Now that Yucca Mountain has been shut down, what will we do with spent nuclear reactor fuel elements? Advocates of recycling (once called reprocessing) are gearing up. Also, GE and Hitachi are going for the far-out technologies. They're looking at fast-neutron breakdown of actinides (which would require reprocessing) and laser isotope separation as well.

Another defense boondoggle bites the dust! The airborne laser has been canceled. The dream of a death ray has fueled this program since the 1970s, through technical problems and the tactical problem that it would have to be pretty close to the target to work. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates deserves congratulations.

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