That '62 Sedan Was a Real Bomb

By Al Kamen
Friday, March 11, 2005

Sudan's foreign minister told Al Jazeera television Wednesday that his government wanted to know more about a U.S. nuclear test in Sudan in 1962 that was disclosed last week at a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing.

The Sudanese summoned the U.S. chargé d'affaires to explain what this stunning revelation was all about. Turns out it was a false alarm.

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) checked the subcommittee transcript and, sure enough, there is Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) talking about a previously undisclosed 1962 "Sudan" nuclear test, which "displaced 12 million tons of earth and dug a crater 320 feet deep" with more than a 1,000-foot diameter.

But the FAS said the context makes it clear Tauscher was talking about the 1962 explosion in Nevada code-named "Sedan." "The remarkable crater it left behind can be visited today by tourists."

Both the Federal News Service and FDCH Political Transcripts mistranscribed Sudan for Sedan, and it "has been so recorded in the Nexis news database, where it continues to cause mischief," FAS reported.

Sudan's agriculture minister was reported to have suggested Wednesday that the test may have caused cancers in Sudan.

After talking to embassy officials, the foreign minister said the confusion was cleared up. "They want to confirm the tests did not take place in Sudan but in Sedan, part of the United States in Nevada," he added, according to Reuters.

Oh, never mind.

So True It Sounds Like Fiction

There was news earlier this week that the Department of Homeland Security had hired Bobbie Faye Ferguson , a "onetime actress" and more recently NASA's liaison with Hollywood for seven years, to be a Hollywood liaison for DHS.

The job, similar to ones at several other agencies, pays more than $100,000 a year, according to USA Today. Such liaisons work with moviemakers and television to help on accuracy and such -- and of course to make sure agencies don't look bad.

But wait a minute. Bobbie Faye Ferguson? The one who had a guest role as Monette , a hooker with a heart of gold on the TV series "Designing Women"? The Bobbie Faye Ferguson from Eudora, Ark., who was a former president Bill Clinton pal and buddies with Harry and Linda Bloodworth Thomason ? The one deposed in 1996 by a House committee looking into Travelgate, who later worked on the second Clinton inaugural committee as "director of talent," screening acts for the events?

Seems that after that inauguration, Ferguson went to work as a political appointee at NASA, doing Hollywood liaison work for the space folks. Then she burrowed in as a civil servant there.

So let's see. She's now working for DHS chief Michael Chertoff , who was former New York Republican senator Alfonse D'Amato 's right-hand man during the Whitewater hearings trying to do in Ferguson's old pal.

A truly great country.

Pennsylvania's Shock

Speaking of the Department of Homeland Security, sometimes word of change spreads a bit slowly within the department. This news release came in Wednesday from DHS announcing some grants.

"Secretary Tom Ridge today announced 230 grants to fire departments . . ."

No "Ich Bin Ein Frankfurter"

President Bush 's fence-mending trip to Europe last month may not be long remembered over there the way President John F. Kennedy 's trip to Berlin is remembered or how President Richard M. Nixon 's to Moscow is recalled.

But some people and businesses around Mainz, Germany, where Bush stopped for eight hours to meet German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder , are not forgetting it anytime soon.

In fact, Lufthansa Airlines is still considering seeking compensation from the German government -- which acted apparently at the behest of Bush's security folks -- for millions in losses it incurred when its giant hub in nearby Frankfurt was shut down during Bush's arrival and departure, an airline spokesman said yesterday.

As a result, Lufthansa was forced to cancel 92 flights, affecting 5,730 passengers, a company spokesman in Germany said at the time, causing millions of dollars in losses. An additional 330 flights were delayed a total of 300 hours.

That does not count losses for local stores in Mainz, where the city center was blocked off, or closure of four highways for several hours or the stoppage of river traffic on the Rhine. (This is not like the Potomac but more like Interstate 95 on water, with constant commercial barge traffic.) Shipping authorities said losses could run into the hundreds of millions.

Maybe next time just a nice phone chat or a videoconference would do.

Leahy Losing Top Aide

Luke S. Albee -- longtime chief of staff to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and one of the most highly regarded aides in the Senate, on both sides of the aisle -- is going private, heading off to work for Democratic strategist Steve Richetti . Albee, a 20-year Senate veteran, is perhaps most remembered for his prescient intervention in 2001 in stopping mail deliveries to the office before the Leahy anthrax letter could be delivered.

The Ticket Out of the Frying Pan

It's official, almost. The long-anticipated nomination of Zalmay Khalilzad , now our man in Kabul, to replace John D. Negroponte as ambassador to Iraq could come as early as today, according to a Reuters report. The coveted Baghdad post opened when Bush tapped Negroponte to be national intelligence czar.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company