Monday, December 11, 2006

Bizarre headline of the day...

"WMD-Related Chemical Discovered in Hong Kong Flowerpot"

How's that for a catchline? Who would not want to know how a WMD-related chemical ended-up in a Hong Kong flowerpot? Sadly, according to Issue 9 (Oct./Nov. 2006) of the International Export Control Observer (it's a gripping read, honest) we might never know.
"[A] cleaning woman discovered the unopened package and turned it over to security personnel from the housing complex. The security personnel noticed that the package had a peculiar smell. The Hong Kong police were called and discovered two bags of white powder and two bottles of liquid inside the package. Labels on the bags of powder read ‚“KHF2” the chemical symbol for potassium bifluoride. The bottles of liquid were unmarked. The shipping invoice indicated that the package originated in Shenzhen, China and had been en route to Iran, scheduled to arrive in December 2005. It remains unclear how the item ended up outside the Hong Kong apartment building. However, one analyst familiar with Hong Kong‚’s export control system speculated that the package was likely abandoned in the flowerpot when an intermediary responsible for shipping the item realized that local customs controls would make it very difficult to transport the item to Iran."

"...Potassium bifluoride is an extremely hazardous substance that is both corrosive and toxic. It is a precursor for various chemical weapons agents, including the nerve agent sarin, and is also used in the extraction of plutonium from spent reactor fuel in the production of fissile materials." (p.6)
In a pitiful attempt to illustrate this story I put "hong kong flowerpot" into Google Images and the above picture came up. The above flowerpot has not been implicated in the running of WMD precursors to Iran, and its depiction should not be seen as any suggestion of such activities. This is a good thing because I'm sure I saw one just like that in my local IKEA recently...

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