Texarkana Gazette on nuclear disaster:
When we think of Damascus, we think of a hot spot in turbulent Syria.
And if we were to mention the possibility of a nuclear weapon exploding in Damascus, we doubt many readers would find the idea completely out of the question.
But what about such a horrific tragedy happening in another Damascus? Damascus, Arkansas, we mean.
The Arkansas town sits just north of Little Rock. And back in 1980, it was the site of a U.S. Air Force Titan-II nuclear missile launch complex.
Yes, there were nuclear missiles ready to roll in Arkansas — and not all that far from Texarkana.
On the evening of Sept. 18 — just 36 years ago this week — a young Air Force technician was doing maintenance on one of the missiles when something happened. Something bad.
He dropped a socket from a wrench.
The socket fell and pierced the side of the missile’s first-stage fuel tank.
About 3 a.m. on Sept. 19 the fuel tank exploded, destroying the launch complex. One airman was killed and at least 20 others were injured. The nuclear warhead was ejected and, fortunately, landed safely away from danger. The Air Force later said there was no danger of a nuclear explosion.
Or was there?
In his 2013 book, "Command and Control," Eric Schlosser argued the danger of an explosion was real. A view echoed in a new documentary of the same name. The film claims that there was a chance much of Central Arkansas could have been destroyed in the accident and the effects would have been felt across the state — including Texarkana — and surrounding states as well.
Both the book and the film put the blame on lax management of nuclear resources, including the practice of allowing young military personnel — some no more than teenagers — to maintain weapons of mass destruction.
Are they right? We can’t say. But the assertions are troubling. Nuclear weapons are essential to our defense. But we must be able to trust that the government is doing the absolute best it can to protect the American people from devastating accidents.
The Damascus launch site is decommissioned now. And we can only hope that the Air Force has corrected any laxness that allowed the incident of 1980 to happen.
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal on candidates’ health:
The health of our two major political party candidates for president has become the latest talked about subject in the campaign. Hillary Clinton’s bout with pneumonia last weekend stirred discussion about her health and her physical fitness to serve as president. Subsequently, Donald Trump’s health came into question because he had not disclosed any information about his medical history.
But after Clinton’s illness, medical information came out about both candidates. Clinton’s campaign was forthcoming about her medical issues after she was seen stumbling after a 9/11 observance. The fact that Clinton has been in public service for a long time as first lady, senator and secretary of state, her health issues have been public knowledge for the most part.
However, until the past few days, Trump had balked at releasing any medical information. He did provide a brief summary of his overall health to Dr. Mehmet Oz on his television show. However, many people have been critical that the information Trump provided didn’t go into enough detail.
From all the reports and doctor statements, it has been revealed that both Clinton and Trump are basically physically fit to handle the duties of president. They do have some medical issues that do appear to be minor and not life-threatening. The same is true about many of us. We may be mostly healthy, but a majority of people have had some sort of medical issue in their life.
So, why all the concern about the candidates’ health? Because being president is a demanding job, both physically and mentally. Look at any photos of past presidents of when they first took office and then what they looked like at the end of their terms. All of them aged considerably, and not just because they were four or eight years older. The job just took a tremendous toll on all of them. American voters need to have the assurance that their candidate is going to be physically able to handle the duties of president for the full term of office.
Another concern about the health of Trump and Clinton is their age. Trump is 70 and Clinton is 68. If Trump wins, he would be the oldest to ever to be elected president. Ronald Reagan was 69 when he first walked into the Oval Office.
Concerns about a candidate’s health is fairly new in political circles. America’s history is loaded with presidents’ health issues. Almost everyone knew Franklin Delano Roosevelt had polio, but few knew he was confined to a wheelchair. He never appeared in public in a wheelchair. John F. Kennedy had Addison’s disease. The most serious case was Woodrow Wilson, who suffered a debilitating stroke near the end of his second term. Only a select few knew of Wilson’s condition. His wife, Edith, essentially took over the role of president.
All of those incidents were in a different time when the press bowed to whatever requests came from the White House not to make certain things public. But things are much different now, mostly because of Richard Nixon and Watergate. No longer is the media willing to keep something hidden from the public. The public itself has come to demand much more transparency from elected officials, and rightly so. Voters have become much more educated and informed of government activity than they were generations ago.
Today, when candidates hesitate about releasing information about themselves, almost immediately the public’s question is what are they trying to hide. The more they try to hide, the more questions arise from the media and the public.