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A leftover fallout shelter sign in New York City from the Cold War. Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Hawaii's false alarm about an imminent missile attack isn't the first time a glitch made it look like the missiles were on the way. There were some even scarier false alarms during the Cold War that could have easily led to nuclear holocaust if military officials hadn't figured them out.

A few of the worst ones, as told in "Raven Rock," author Garrett Graff's account of the U.S. government's plans to survive a nuclear war:

  • November 1979: NORAD computers detected what appeared to be hundreds of Soviet missiles headed toward the U.S. It turned out that someone had accidentally stuck a training tape into the computer system.
  • June 1980: The computers appeared to show 2,200 incoming Soviet missiles — "a full-scale general nuclear attack." This time, the alarm was blamed on the failure of a 46-cent computer chip.
  • September 1983: Soviet warning systems showed five U.S. missiles that appeared to be heading toward the Soviet Union. In reality, its satellites saw the sun's reflection off of clouds and thought it was a missile launch. 

Go deeper

47 mins ago - World

Putin foe Navalny to be detained for 30 days after returning to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, following his arrest upon returning to Russia on Sunday for the first time since a failed assassination attempt last year.

Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.

Biden picks Warren allies to lead SEC, CFPB

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has selected FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Obama-era Wall Street regulator Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Why it matters: Both picks are progressive allies of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and viewed as likely to take aggressive steps to regulate big business.

The perils of organizing underground

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Researchers see one bright spot as far-right extremists turn to private and encrypted online platforms: Friction.

Between the lines: For fringe organizers, those platforms may provide more security than open social networks, but they make it harder to recruit new members.

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