U.S. "GROSSLY UNPREPARED" FOR UNLIKELY THREATS
Washington, D.C. (SatireWire.com) — In a haunting Senate hearing today on risk assessment and emergency readiness, officials from dozens of government agencies conceded the United States is "grossly unprepared" to deal with thousands of highly unlikely threats, including falling chunks of the Moon should it explode into pieces, or the simultaneous spontaneous combustion of every person east of the Mississippi.
Or anything to do with vampires or poisonous housecats.
As senators listened aghast, officials from the Centers for Disease Control, FBI, FDA, NASA, and National Endowment for the Arts confessed that despite the safeguards implemented since September, the country remains at implausible risk.
"I can tell you that today, right now, if Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo develops the ability to shatter the eardrums of American textile workers with a mere thought, we're going to be in trouble," testified CIA Director George Tenet.
CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan was equally disheartening in his analysis.
"If some undetectable disease is introduced that spreads so quickly and is so deadly that anyone within a 10,000-mile radius dies before they're even exposed, we have not dedicated adequate resources to handle that effectively at this time, no," Koplan said.
Asked what diseases might fit this category, Koplan shifted uncomfortably as he acknowledged the CDC did not know of any, nor had it directed drug companies to prepare a vaccine to combat them. That response infuriated and terrified Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
"What do you mean you 'don't know of any'?" asked Roberts. "The entire nation, and perhaps the entire world, could be killed by this virus and you've never even heard of it? I won't even bother asking what you're doing about killer bees."
While some senators and agency directors focused on external threats — under withering cross examination, Mary Ryan, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, confessed that Canada could attack at any time. — many wondered if internal dangers were being adequately addressed.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration administrator John Henshaw, for instance, was noticeably cowed after Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott turned his attentions on office supplies.
"Mr. Henshaw, like million of Americans, I want to believe my country can protect me, but also, like millions of Americans, I have a stapler that I use to fasten important papers," said Lott, holding up a Swingline #545 desktop model. "What if this stapler suddenly turns on me, decides to attack me, inflicting hundreds of puncture wounds on my person like this (clack) aaaargghh!! (clack) arrrgghh!! (clack) eowarrrgghh!! so that I bleed to death?"
After a long silence, Henshaw, refusing to make eye contact with Lott, offered no reply.
"Well, God help us," intoned Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who then ordered the Senate's sergeant-at-arms to remove all staplers from the Capitol building and congressional offices.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, however, urged senators to stop the hearings, explaining that airing such dangers publicly could expose weaknesses that America's enemies would exploit. Biden, however, said the American people deserved to know what their government was doing to safeguard them, and asked Ridge if his team had considered the possibility that a rogue nation might create a Category 5 hurricane the size of Asia that would have the ability to suck up the entire U.S. wheat harvest.
"Boy, I don't think so," Ridge replied as several senators ran screaming from the building as a precaution. "Also, I haven't given much thought to the potential for an army of lethally radioactive wallabies that could crawl into all our beds at night, pretending to be pillows."
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, meanwhile, testified that HHS was ill-prepared to respond if every American, from infant to the elderly, suddenly began smoking cigarettes and continued to do so, non-stop, 24 hours a day. However, Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., had Thompson's testimony stricken from the record, arguing that it described a "goal," not a threat.
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