Totally Bonkers Emergency Plans Countries Prepped For
To misquote my aunt's Facebook post misquoting Martin Luther King Jr., the real measure of a person is in seeing how they react when the shit hits the fan. If the same logic applies to governments, you'll find that, when faced with unprecedented challenges, many of our civic institutions possess the calculated vision of a 5 AM drunk ordering 2,000 AA batteries off Amazon and paying for priority shipping. Like how...
A Rogue British Committee Incited A Pet Genocide To Prepare For The Blitz
Trying to keep track of all the World War II tragedies is as impossible trying to keep track of all the blown-off fingers buried in the sands of Normandy beach. With so many steaming heaps of misery, no wonder some were bound to get lost in the shuffle. Like how Britain started the war with a bang, a whimper, and mass pet graves.
To ensure the wellbeing of every British subject, no matter how many legs, the British government created the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee in 1939. NARPAC was tasked with protecting precious pets and advising owners on how to best care for them in the event of war, when everyone would be busy fighting Nazis, sifting through rubble, or starving. What the government didn't anticipate was that NARPAC would take the rogue A.I. approach to public pet safety: If you love something, put a bullet in its head.
On August 26, 1939, on the eve of war, NARPAC released a pamphlet titled Advice to Animal Owners, which was read out on the BBC and republished in all major papers. In it, NARPAC warned big-city pet owners to evacuate their pooches to the countryside. And if they couldn't, that it "really is kindest to have them destroyed." Included in the pamphlet was an ad for the CASH bolt gun, which the government committee touted as providing "the speediest, most reliable means of destroying any animal, including horses, cats and all sizes of dogs."
The advice was met with disapproval from vets, animal organizations and most of the actual British government. But the damage had already been done. With the threat of bombing and starvation looming over their heads, plenty of panicking pet owners were pushed over the edge, and animal hospitals were flooded with demands for euthanasia. In total, some estimate that in a single week, over 750,000 British pets were put down, with their corpse piles piling up all over London.
China Is Building A 3,000-Mile-Long Green Wall To Keep The Desert From Invading
If you want to solve a problem like China, the steps are simple. First, figure out which direction the problem is coming from. Second, construct a giant-ass wall between you and your problem. There is no third step. This is how dynasties upon dynasties of Chinese rulers took care of their northern issue, i.e. the invasion of Mongolian raiders as numerous as grains of sand in the Gobi Desert. Though today, it's the grains of sand that they're most worried about.
As a result of having more and more people and fewer and fewer trees (those two matters may be related) the encroachment of arid land is a serious global concern. Desertification, (not to be confused with dessertification -- putting sprinkles on every meal) affects over a quarter billion people and one solution has been to put all those people to use in afforestation, or mass tree planting, to correct the issue. And while many green belts are being constructed all over the world, none is as ambitious as China's Communist Party's Three-North Shelter Forest Program, better known as the Green Great Wall, the barrier that keeps the blasted Mongolian desert at bay.
Started in 1987, the Chinese government's "greening office" has been spending billions each year on a (losing) war to stop the invasion of the Gobi Desert, which at its height claimed over 1,000 square miles of land a year. To reclaim the loss of those Luxembourg-sized pieces of land, China hopes that by 2050, this Green Great Wall will consist of 88 million acres of forest spread over a belt three thousand miles long and nine hundred miles wide at its most lush. And the project is only picking up speed, with the Chinese state claiming it has already reclaimed 31% of the desert frontier region in 2017, seriously cutting into the number of sandstorms that rage through Beijing.
Like wise men, the officials behind the Great Green Wall went out to plant trees in whose shade they'd never rest. Except that'll be because those trees will die long before they can provide any shade. Many independent scientists worry that much of the Green Great Wall's success story is typical Chinese propaganda. With a focus of quantity over quality, soil degradation (one harsh 2008 winter killed one-fifth of the weak trees) and infestations (a beetle plague chewed through a billion poplars in 2000), the amount of tree death in the Green Great Wall has been staggering, putting the project's long-term viability in question. It's almost as if an arid ecosystem isn't equipped to deal with a forest popping up like Mother Nature copy/pasted it in.
The Nixon Administration (Allegedly) Kidnapped And Drugged A Woman To Cover Up Watergate
How far would you go to cover up a scandal? During the initial reveal of the Watergate affair, the Nixon campaign did its very best to coerce witnesses into keeping quiet about any ties between the hotel burglars and the campaign conspirators. But sometimes, threats and bribes aren't enough to silence everyone. Especially when the head of your campaign is married to "The Mouth of the South."
If Martha Mitchell, spouse of John Mitchell, Nixon's former Attorney General and then-campaign manager, were alive today she'd be starring in The Real Housewives of Washington D.C. Extravagant and outspoken, Martha was a media darling who wasn't afraid to gossip about politics on the steps of her condo at the Watergate complex -- so specifically the last person the Nixon campaign wanted to know about the shadiest business conducted by a president since Taft acted as a beach umbrella during the signing of the American-Cuban Treaty of 1903.
Unfortunately for Nixon, the Mouth of the South was as observant as she was loud and started sharing her suspicions about her husband becoming the fall guy for a crooked administration with her journalist pals. She even went on record to state that she'd force dear John to choose between his love for her and his love for Tricky Dick -- if it meant keeping him out of trouble. She got his response right there and then in the middle of that interview when one of Mitchell's bodyguards ripped the phone out of the wall.
After blabbing once too often the press, it turned out that Nixon and Mitchell had agreed: "We need to turn off Martha." So the campaign's bodyguard was given license to keep Martha from leaving or talking to reporters at any cost. According to the testimonies of both Martha and an ex-CIA officer involved in the conspiracy, that included holding her hostage in a hotel, restraining her until she was "black and blue" and having an in-house psychiatrist inject her with sedatives. (Fun swamp trivia: That same goon, Stephen King, is now Trump's ambassador to the Czech Republic).
But when Martha was released, her cries of foul play fell on unbelieving ears. Pre-Watergate America already had a hard time accepting their president was part of a conspiracy, let alone that he would allow the kidnapping of an American citizen to cover it up. That wasn't helped by the Nixon team constantly lying to the media that Martha was a delusional alcoholic. Today, Martha isn't best known for being a brave witness in the face of government terror, but for the "Martha Mitchell effect," a psychiatric term used when a patient is declared delusional just because the doctor doesn't have the imagination to believe that, yes, the world can indeed be that cruel and unusual.
Canada Seriously Over-Prepped For The Y2K Bug
When describing Canada, the consensus would be to use words like "polite" and "measured" and "won't fire a shotgun through a closed door like some of its southern neighbors." In many ways, Canada is the nerdy dad of nations, and that includes its over-the-top, wrap-your-computer-in-bubble-wrap response to the Y2K bug.
For a good while, Canada resisted the millennium doomsday prophecies that all computing software would go kablooey when the year of double zero hit. In 1997, only 9% of the reserved nation had any kind of Y2K contingencies. But it slowly dawned on Canadian officials just how disastrous a tech shutdown would be in the midst of a harsh Canadian winter. (A recent ice storm had knocked out Quebec's electrical grid, causing citywide suffering and the deaths of dozens, a bad omen to be sure). In a fit of polite panic, the Canadian government started fearing all kinds of apocalyptic scenarios, from shut-down power plants to "health and safety risks from laboratory failures" as they feared that dangerous viruses on ice would start thawing because the automated systems didn't believe fridges should exist in the year 1900.
To properly prep, the cautious country earmarked a billion-dollar Y2K budget and deemed that "all other business is secondary." This effectively shut down most government branches for two whole years as any new initiatives would just mean more stuff to Y2K-proof. But the budget wasn't just to hire more IT managers. Fearing its frozen wasteland would immediately descend into chaos, the kind that would lead citizens to storm the well-stocked government strongholds, the Canadian Armed Forces was given $350 million to deal with the possible fallout. The resulting Operation Abacus saw the readying of helicopter squadrons, battleships and 13,000 troops, all equipped with enough poutine to be self-sufficient for thirty days.
On New Year's Eve, the Canadian government was hunkered down for the apocalypse -- literally. Provincial governments were on alert and stockpiles of essential supplies had been hidden away in all municipal buildings. Meanwhile, its Y2K tsar was locked into a makeshift bunker with the expectation to coordinate the post-apocalypse without any outside contamination. And then, on January 1st, a shockwave hit Canada. Not a digital one -- a real one, as an earthquake at Lake Kipawa gave the people of Quebec a brief fright that the tech-pocalypse had started. Of course, since you're not reading this on a piece of parchment issued by your local Luddite government, the country's (like the rest of the world's) worrywarting about the bug had immunized tech against any fallout several times over and the overly cautious Canadian government celebrated the new millennium with bright lights and a gazillion K-rations it suddenly had little use for.
Soviet Russia Made Detailed Maps Of Every Part Of The World (In Case They'd Ever Rule It)
It's surprising how often totalitarian states draw power from nerdy obsessions. For the Romans, it was turning all their legionnaires into engineers and Minecrafting their way to victory. For the Nazis, it was using occult artifacts to weave dork-ass spells on their Aryan blood. And for most of the Cold War, the Soviet government rested its plans for world domination not on the power of Kalashnikovs or nukes, but the power of really, really accurate maps.
While Communism's all about classlessness, there existed two very distinct classes of maps in the Soviet Union. Civilian maps were as crap as the recycled toilet paper they were printed on, intentionally distorted by the government so that any spy couldn't use it to find the way to the local Borscht Hut, let alone the Kremlin. But secret Soviet military maps were the cream of the topographical crop. Over decades, Soviet command commissioned millions of highly detailed maps of just about every place in the world, with surveyors and even spies providing details so precise and up to date they'd often appear on the Soviet spy maps before they did on the official municipal ones.
With such an obsession with maps, many modern mapmakers think the Soviets had a use for them outside of military strategy -- and the devil's in the details. Soviet maps came in three scales: regional, local and so up close you could make out the greenery on the windowsills. Maps would have a staggering amount of details, including road conditions and building heights, tables on sound and visibility ranges (snapping a twig is audible at 80 meters, map users beware) and down to even the viscosity of the local lake beds. And it wasn't just major city centers that were meticulously mapped out, even papermill podunks like Scranton, Pennsylvania, got the royal layout treatment.
Even for a ground force-heavy military like the Soviets, that level of detail isn't necessary if you're just going to be rolling tanks through those flower beds. "If it's an invasion map, you wouldn't show the bus stations," claims John Davies, co-author of The Red Atlas : How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World. He and other map-sperts believe the Soviets established this map-centric database with the expectations they'd need it as elected rulers of the world, not its conquerors, using this rolled up paper version of Wikipedia/Google Maps to ease the transition of Soviet world utopia -- it's easier to stroll in like you own the place when you know exactly where all the bathrooms are.
And while the Soviets never took over the world, all that exquisite map-making didn't go to waste. Many a disgruntled Soviet soldier made a small fortune smuggling these maps out when the Iron Curtain fell. And right up until the age of satellite imaging Western governments like the U.S., used the stolen Soviet maps with its superior accuracy, safe in the knowledge that their enemy knew their backyards a whole lot better than they ever did.
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Top Image: WIkmedia Commons/National Archives