How To: Cause an International Crisis

---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.

8 Expert Tips and Tricks for Hanging a Picture Right the First Time

Framed pictures are an inexpensive way to make a house feel like a home, and they can take a room from empty to finished-looking in minutes. They can be customized easily to your space and decor, and swapped out if your tastes change. But there is an art to hanging a picture the right way—without destroying your walls. Here’s what you need to know.


There are several steps you need to take before you get anywhere near a drill or hammer. First, consider two factors: the state of the wall you want to decorate, and the weight of the picture. Your wall may be supported by studs, which are pieces of wood or metal that run vertically behind the wall every couple of feet. Screwing directly into a stud can provide more support for hanging items.

If you have a reinforced wall, you could use a basic nail or screw to hang the frame, as long as you insert the nail or screw firmly into a stud. But you should only ever use a nail if you're hanging on a stud, according to Simon Taylor, owner-operator of T&C Carpentry in Whitby, Ontario. Otherwise, the weight of the picture could rip the nail out of the wall.

No stud? No problem. "If the picture is light, then a product like Monkey Hooks"—a kind of cantilevered hook for unreinforced walls—"work great," Taylor says.

For medium to heavy pictures, use wall anchors, which are plastic or metal inserts that provide more support for screwing into an unreinforced wall. There are many styles and strengths available for different materials and weights. “Using a product like E-Z Ancors is an easy way to fix a screw to drywall where there is no stud to screw into. They are strong and easy to install,” Taylor tells Mental Floss. “You can then thread a screw into them to hang your picture, providing it has a hook on the back or a string. A good rule to follow is not to use anything other than an anchor if you are not screwing directly into a stud or backing.” (Plastic wall anchors are fine for most lightweight projects, but for a really heavy picture, or a wall made out of something besides drywall, you'll need a different type of anchor.)

If you’re renting and don't want to damage the walls of your apartment, or you’re not 100 percent committed to the picture's placement, Taylor recommends a non-nail option like the extremely popular 3M Command adhesive hooks. They provide temporary, hole-free hanging and hold strong without peeling paint off the wall when it comes time to remove them.

Others argue that stick-on hooks can be unreliable, especially for heavier frames. “All picture-hanging hardware should really include some type of component that punctures the wall,” says Claire Wheeler, design and project coordinator for Montreal-based Sajo Inc. “This provides a much more secure hanging system than a hanging system that is surface-applied.” The adhesives on these types of products are more likely to fail than any sort of nail or anchored hardware, she tells Mental Floss.


Wheeler says your hanging hardware depends on the size and weight of the frame. Fortunately, most frame manufacturers include some form of hanger on the back of their products.

While she finds that hook tabs (small triangular hangers on ready-to-use frames) work for hanging lighter pictures, a wire system—two anchor points on the back of the frame and a strong wire strung between them for looping over the wall screw or hook—is the better choice for hanging large and/or heavy pictures. The wire system setup allows the weight of the frame to be distributed evenly along the wire for more secure hanging, rather than placing all the weight of the frame on one small hanger point.

“You will notice that most frames, whether you have purchased them in a store or you've had them custom-made, have hardware already installed at the back. It’s usually a pretty safe bet to use what the manufacturer has provided,” Wheeler says.

To hang a picture without the need for advanced math, start with a center hanging point: a hook tab affixed in the appropriate spot, or, if your frame has two tabs on either side of the frame, a wire strung slackly between them.


Assemble all of the gear before you spring into action. In addition to your framed artwork, you'll need the proper hanging apparatus for your project (see #1) and a hammer for pounding in the wall anchor or nail. Use a power drill or screwdriver to insert screws in the wall anchor, if you're using one. A tape measure makes it easier to calculate the right spot for hanging. A sturdy wire for the back of your frame is optional (see #2). And the best way to ensure your picture will be level is to, well, use a level. “A level is a basic tool everyone should have,” Wheeler says. “If you own a hammer, you should own a level.”


Wheeler says you should play around with the height at which you plan on installing the frame: “As a general rule, eye level should land within the bottom half of the frame,” she says.

From a designer’s perspective, Wheeler finds people often choose pictures that are either too big or too small in proportion to the wall area. “You want the picture to have some space to 'breathe,' so to speak, meaning a wall large enough that it doesn’t feel as though the picture is overcrowding the wall," she says. "On the flip side, you also don’t want a picture to look completely lost on a big wall."

She adds, "Proportion is important, but there’s no specific ratio" of picture size to wall area that could be considered a rule of thumb. Ultimately, you're the best judge of your space.


Place the frame against the wall where you want it to hang. "It’s a good idea to have someone with you to judge if it is in the right place," Taylor says. "Having a view of it in place before it’s 'fixed' to the wall will help you decide if it looks right."

After you've picked your spot, draw a short line with a pencil along the center of the frame's top edge as your reference line. If you're hanging a really large picture, get your assistant to hold it in place while you draw.


Lay the frame face-down on a flat surface. Place your wall fastener, such as the wall anchor or Command hook, in the appropriate hook tab or on the wire on the back of the frame and pull the wire taut. With a tape measure, measure the distance from the top edge of the frame to the center of the fastener.


Now back to the wall: Measure the same distance from the center of your penciled reference line down. Mark that spot with your pencil: That's where you're going to install your fastener.

If you're not using a wall anchor, simply affix an adhesive hook, hammer in a nail, or insert a Monkey Hook.

To install an anchor, drill a hole into the wall at the penciled point with a screw that is narrower than the anchor itself. (You don't want the anchor to be too loose in the wall.) Don't screw it too tightly. Next, reverse the drill's direction and pull the screw out. Insert the anchor, hammering it flush against the wall. Finally, drill the screw into the anchor—this action makes the anchor expand slightly and press against the drywall's innards, creating a more secure fit. Be sure to leave a bit of space between the screw's head and the wall so the picture's wire can be hooked over the screw. Hang the picture.


To make sure your picture is straight, rest the level along the top of the frame, against the wall. Then, adjust until the air bubble within the small tube of water is in the center of the tube, which indicates that the bar is parallel to the floor—and, therefore, that your picture is level.

Taylor says that not using a level and assuming the hanging hardware is set evenly on the back of a frame are the two biggest mistakes he sees people make. Pros often use laser levels, but Taylor says a water level will work just as well for most people.

Need some inspirations to get started? Consider hanging a few classic movie posters, printed patents for famed inventions, or a guide to cats.

Live Smarter
How to Rescue a Wet Book

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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