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How To: Cause an International Crisis

YOU WILL NEED
---A perilous (and paranoid) diplomatic climate
---Weapons of mass destruction
---Human error

First: Don't Read Your Mail
That way, you can remain blissfully uninformed about important events that you (and your staff) are likely to misinterpret. Case in point: One the night of January 25, 1995, Boris Yeltsin found himself dusting off the old Cold War-era nuclear command briefcase when an early warning radar station detected a missile rising out of the Norwegian Sea and heading for Russia. Several tense, finger-on-the-trigger minutes later, Yeltsin received word that the rocket, though real, was actually part of a Norwegian scientific mission to study the northern lights—a mission Moscow had been informed of months previously. Turns out, bureaucratic error had stalled the message before it could reach the folks over at the early warning defense system. Worse, this wasn't the first time simple mistakes have pushed the world close to mutually assured destruction.

Second: Put Off That Eye Appointment
Things are not always what they seem. And, if history is any indication, when what you see seems to be a Russian nuclear threat, you probably ought to take a closer look. On November 5, 1956, the American military received four disturbing security warnings: Unidentified planes were flying over Turkey, 100 Soviet fighter planes were spotted over Syria, a British bomber had been shot down over Syria, and the Soviet naval fleet was moving into an attack position. Taken together, those reports sounded like a prelude to a Russian attack on American allies and almost triggered NATO nuclear air strikes against Russia. That is, until further study revealed that the Soviet fleet was just doing routine exercises, the bomber had had a mechanical failure, and the "Soviet fighter jets" were actually a large flock of swans. The lesson here, by the way, went unlearned. Six years later, in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States sent several nuclear-armed jets taxiing down the runway in response to an alarm triggered after an intruder was spotted climbing the fence at a defense station in Duluth, MN. Officials had to drive out onto the tarmac and flag the planes down just in time to stop takeoff after the mysterious intruder was revealed to have been a bear.

Third: Mix Work and Play
War games can be very useful tools and certainly have their place—but that place probably ought to be somewhere where they aren't mistaken for the real thing. At 8:50 a.m. on November 9, 1979, hardened warriors at four of the U.S. military's top command centers were plunged into a blind panic when their computer systems started showing a full-scale Soviet nuclear attack on the United States. Immediately, a retaliation to end all retaliations was prepped for launch. Luckily, before we fired anything, somebody decided it might be a good idea to make sure those hostile enemy missiles actually existed and made a couple of quick calls to Pacific radar stations. The result: Nada. There wasn't so much as a cloud in the sky. Turns out, a computer tape loaded with a first strike scenario war game had been accidentally inserted into a computer that was being used for real-life surveillance.

Fourth: Don't Relax
To cause a really good international crisis, you'll need to be as edgy and paranoid as possible. In 1983, that's how the Soviet Union ended up closer to the brink of nuclear war than it had been since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. To be fair, "˜83 was a really tense year. The United States had invaded Granada, putting it within spitting distance of Cuba; a bombing that killed Americans in Beirut was being blamed on Soviet forces; and the Russkies themselves had recently mistaken a passenger airliner for a spy plane and shot it down—killing hundreds of civilians. In between the hard-line rhetoric coming from the States and their own monstrous screw up, the Soviets were expecting some kind of show down. On November 2, NATO command posts around the world began moving nuclear weapons into attack positions. The Soviets knew it was time for the annual NATO training exercise, but feared this wasn't a test. After all, they'd once seriously considered using war games as a cover for a first strike themselves. For the next nine days, the U.S.S.R. was on high alert. According to some sources, nuclear-armed jet fighters were waiting on the tarmac--engines primed and ready to go--until November 11, when NATO ended what had been just a training exercise after all.

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How to Rescue a Wet Book
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Water and books don't usually go together. If you're one of the many sorting through waterlogged possessions right now—or if you're just the type to drop a book in the bath—the preservation experts at Syracuse University Libraries have a video for you, as spotted by The Kid Should See This. Their handy (if labor-intensive) technique to rescue a damp book features paper towels, a fan, some boards, and a bit of time. Plus, they offer a quick trick if you don't have the chance to repair the book right away.

The Kid Should See This also notes that literary magazine Empty Mirror has further tips on salvaging books and papers damaged by water, including how to clean them if the water was dirty (rinse the book in a bucket of cold water, or lay flat and spray with water) and what to do if there's a musty smell at the end of the drying process (place the propped-open book in a box with some baking soda, but make sure the soda doesn't touch the book).

Of course, prevention is the best policy—so store your tomes high up on bookcases, and be careful when reading in the bath or in the rain. (That, or you could buy a waterproof book.)

[h/t: The Kid Should See This]

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15 Common Stains and Easy Ways to Get Them Out
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There's a stain solution to nearly anything you've spilled, smeared, squirted, or slopped.

1. GRASS

Four people sitting on a bench with the photo cropped from the waist down. All of their denim-clad knees are covered in grass stains.
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Everyone loves a lush, green lawn—except when it’s smeared on your clothes. The next time you’ve got a Kentucky Bluegrass mess, just apply some pre-wash stain remover and let it sit for 15 minutes. You can also go the natural route and mix up a solution consisting of one part vinegar to two parts water. Then, use a old toothbrush or other small brush to work it in. Finally, launder as usual.

2. BLOOD

When it comes to bloodstains, look to the experts: ER nurses. According to them, the first step is to rinse the spot with cold water ASAP and blot it until you’ve gotten as much blood up as possible. Then, dab a bit of hydrogen peroxide directly to the stain and watch it magically rinse away.

If the problem is upholstery or carpet, you’ll also want to use the cold-water-and-blotting method, but this time, add a tablespoon of dish detergent to two cups of cold water. Carpet cleaner intended for pet stains may also work well.

3. KETCHUP

A blob of spilled ketchup on a white background.
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The next time you find yourself with this condiment running down your shirt, don’t despair. First, flush the spot with water, starting with the back side of your shirt. Pretreat the spot with a liquid laundry detergent and let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse well. Repeat this step until you’ve removed as much of the condiment as possible, then treat with a pre-wash stain remover and launder as usual.

4. TOOTHPASTE

Dribbling Crest on your shirt before heading out the door to work is certainly annoying, but it’s definitely not the end of your apparel as long as you act quickly. Remove the excess goop first, then get a cloth wet with warm water and blot the area. Next, add a few drops of laundry detergent to the warm water and continue blotting. Blot with clean, warm water to rinse and allow the spot to air dry.

5. RED WINE

A glass of red wine tipped on its side. Some liquid remains in the glass, while the rest has been spilled out onto a white napkin and tablecloth.
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This solution almost feels like a science experiment: Find the affected area and stretch the fabric over the opening of a bowl, securing it in place with a rubber band. Generously sprinkle salt on top of the fabric, then pour hot water through the fabric into the bowl and watch the stain disappear. Finally, toss it in the washer as normal.

6. GREASE

Got a grease stain? There’s a good chance that the antidote is sitting next to your kitchen sink. Any petroleum-based dish detergent, like Dawn or Sunlight, is designed to cut grease. While you probably use it to get your pots and pans sparkling, it has a similar effect on clothes. Just saturate the grease spot with the soap, let it soak in for a few minutes, then toss in the washer.

7. COFFEE

A yellow coffee cup tipped sideways, sitting on top of a blue dress shirt. The coffee has spilled all over the blue shirt.

If it’s a really fresh stain, you might be in luck (and also scalded). Running the stain under cold water from the back of the stain just might do the trick. If that doesn’t work, rub liquid laundry detergent on it and let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes. For old stains, soak the garment in cold water after you treat with detergent, then rub the fabric every 5 minutes to loosen up the stain. If it’s still stubbornly hanging on after about 30 minutes, soak it in warm water for another 5-15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.

If this all sounds like a lot of work, try a gel stain remover, which does a good job at getting into the fibers of the fabric.

8. DEODORANT

Even if you’re extremely careful, putting on your shirt after you’ve already put deodorant on can be a tricky affair. But you don’t have to find a new shirt after those telltale white stripes show up on your shirt. Rub the smudges with pantyhose, knee highs, foam rubber from a padded hanger, or a dryer sheet. If you don’t have any of those things available, you can even rub the fabric of your shirt against the stain to loosen the residue.

9. MAKEUP

Various circular and square pans containing liquid and powder makeup, with brushes dipping into some of them.

If it’s concealer, eyeliner, blush, eyeshadow, or mascara, just use a little prewash stain treatment and wash as usual. Lipstick or lip balm may be a little more stubborn. If stain stick followed by laundering doesn’t work, try sponging the stain with a dry-cleaning solvent and washing again.

10. SPIT-UP

When the baby douses your shoulder with the remains of her lunch, you’re better off if she's breast-fed. Simply wash your clothes in normal detergent, then hang to dry in the sun. The sun’s bleaching properties should do the trick if the detergent didn’t.

Because of formula’s chemical makeup, formula stains are another matter entirely. After scrubbing at the stain with a stiff brush to remove as much of it as possible, sprinkle the entire stain generously with baking soda. Then pour club soda over the stain and let it soak until the mixture stops fizzing. Then, launder as usual, air dry, and cross your fingers.

11. MUD

The ankles of a pair of mud-splattered blue jeans hanging in front of a washing machine.

First, resist the urge to work on the stain while the mud is still wet. Most of the time, it pays to work on a stain while it’s fresh, but wiping at mud is only going to smear it around and make the stain bigger. Once it’s dry, shake off the dirt or vacuum it up. Then rub liquid detergent into the stain and let it soak for about 15 minutes. Rub the stained area with your fingers every few minutes to loosen the dirt. If the stain remains after 15 minutes, apply some stain stick, gel, or spray, and let it sit for five minutes. Wash with detergent as usual.

12. PAINT

Remove as much of the paint as possible with a paper towel, or, if the paint is dry, scrape it off with a dull knife or spoon. If the paint is water-based, all you have to do is rinse the stain in warm water until the color has run out, then wash as usual. If it’s oil-based, you’ll need to treat the mark with turpentine first, then rinse and launder.

13. INK


A pen in the pocket of a white dress shirt, with a blue ink stain starting to form in the bottom of the pocket.

The ink removal method will depend on what type of fabric you’ve marked with ink, but in many cases, rubbing alcohol or a solution of vinegar and dishwashing detergent will take care of it. Better Homes and Gardens has a quite comprehensive list of fabrics, from cotton to velvet, including detailed instructions for each. Your ink stain doesn’t stand a chance.

14. MARKER

Just because it’s permanent marker doesn’t mean you’ve got a permanent problem. Get the stain damp first, then spritz it with a non-oily hairspray. Blot at the marker stain with a paper towel until you see the color transfer from the fabric to the paper towel. You can also try the same method with rubbing alcohol, putting paper towels underneath the stain to absorb the color.

If you’re up for a bit of an experiment, soak the affected area in a bowl of milk and watch the marker ink change the milk colors. Repeat with a fresh bowl of milk until the stain is gone.

15. FRUIT JUICE

A clear glass tipped sideways on an off-white colored carpet, spilling red juice out onto the rug.

Contrary to most of the other advice for stain removal, you don’t want to get liquid detergent anywhere near a fruit juice stain—it will only set it. Instead, use white vinegar to blot the stain, then rinse with cool water. If the stain persists, try a digestant enzyme paste (unless your fabric is silk or wool) and let it dry for 30 minutes, then rinse.

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