Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2017

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Where I Stand:

Believe it or not, a toothpaste bomb isn’t new

I have heard about toothpaste bombs before.

There is nothing funny about the deadly impact a few toothpaste bombs could have in Russia this month. It should come as no shock that personal security would be a major issue when the world’s greatest athletes take center stage for the Winter Olympic games at Sochi.

That is why it shouldn’t surprise anyone that, in many respects, threats of terrorism have overtaken the hard work and incredible accomplishments that are taking place inside the “ring of steel.”

This is being written just prior to the start of the Opening Ceremonies so it is my hope, as it is the hope of every person of goodwill, that whatever evil intentions may exist during these games will be prevented so that terrorist attacks will not happen and the bad people in our midst will not succeed. And the risk that was Sochi will be a success in all respects.

So, back to the toothpaste. Like so many other people, I have been glued to the news channels all week, almost in disbelief as I watched report after report about the probability of toothpaste tubes full of explosives that could wreak havoc on the Olympic Games. But, unlike almost everyone else, my thoughts were not on the potential destruction surrounding the Sochi Games, although that couldn’t be ignored, but on an open field in New Jersey a lifetime ago.

It was during the run-up to the United Nations decision to create the State of Israel for the Jewish people who had survived the Nazi Holocaust. People around the world were providing the weapons and other materials of war that would be needed by the few hundred thousand Jews in Israel to defend themselves against the millions of their Arab neighbors who would attack them once statehood was declared.

My father, Hank Greenspun, and his dear friend, Al Schwimmer, were two of the many volunteers who were doing what they could to provide assistance. At one point, they were asked to check out a new explosive that a “scientist” had concocted in this home laboratory in Long Island. The potential would be enormous, given that the Israelis were armed only with rocks and little else with which to defend themselves against the sophisticated Arab armies and the hundreds of tanks arrayed against them.

The good news is that the pipe bombs worked as advertised — they were secretly exploded in some out-of-the-way field in New Jersey. Getting the explosive white powder to Israel, through customs and FBI checkpoints, without the ingredients being scrutinized was another matter.

My father decided, while taking a hot, steamy shower in his New York hotel room, that he would empty the powder into toothpaste cans that were popular back in the day. And, so he did, while Al took his, hot, steamy shower.

Two weeks later, they learned that the scientists reverse engineered the powdery substance — it was nothing new and that the reason it was not used in modern bomb-making was because it was extremely volatile. Its volatility was greatest when there was moisture in the air!

As the man in charge of the entire clandestine operation, Teddy Kollek, told my father (after Hank thanked his lucky stars that he and Al didn’t blow themselves to bits), “You could have blown the roof off of the Park Central Hotel.”

So, that story was running through my mind when 66 years later terrorists were contemplating putting explosives into toothpaste tubes. And, as a result, those who are attending the Winter Games have to be on high alert.

My dad and Al were the good guys in the story of Israel’s war on independence. This time, though, at Sochi we all know who the bad guys are. Toothpaste tubes? Explosives? We have really heard this story before.

So, maybe this time, the bad guys will blow themselves to bits!


If it is Sunday, you should be reading The Sunday.

By now you are enjoying your Las Vegas Sun. What else is there to do on a Sunday morning but expand your mind when you have the time to relax and enjoy a good read?

I will tell you what else there is: As of this weekend, the Greenspun Media Group is publishing The Sunday. From now on, in addition to your daily newspaper and our award-winning 24-7 websites with the latest breaking news and information, you can enjoy what we believe will be a thoroughly engrossing weekly news product that is designed with you in mind.

First, it is all local. That means the stories about you and your community is our mission. What is relevant and important to your lives will be in the pages of The Sunday.

Second, it is written and designed to provide as deep a read as you want or as quick an understanding that words, graphics and pictures can provide. Whatever you need, it is our aim to provide.

Third, there will be hundreds of dollars of coupons available inside The Sunday. We know, and our merchants understand, how important it is to all Las Vegans to be able to save money on the things they need or want.

And fourth: It’s free! And it’s available all over town. Pick up a copy and let me know what you think.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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