Overview: War and Weapons

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Author: Metta Spencer

Even before our primate ancestors began to walk upright, there were wars—times when whole human communities or groups within a community tried to kill each other. Scholars have reached this conclusion partly on the basis of Jane Goodall’s discovery that our closest primate relative, the chimpanzee, engages in war,(1) and partly on the basis of archaeological evidence. One site of skeletons was found in Kenya dating back 9,500 to 10,500 years showing that a group of 27 people had been massacred together.(2) Indeed, there is strong evidence that levels of violence were higher in prehistoric times than today.(3) One example is a cemetery about 14,000 years old where about 45 percent of the skeletons showed signs of violent death.(4) An estimated 15 percent of deaths in primitive societies were caused by warfare.

But life did not consistently become friendlier as our species spread and developed. By one estimate, there were 14,500 wars between 3500 BC and the late twentieth century. These took around 3.5 billion lives.(5)

Can we conclude, then, that war is simply an intrinsic part of “human nature,” so that one cannot reasonably hope to overcome it? No, for there is more variation in the frequency and extent of warfare than can be attributed to genetic differences. In some societies, war is completely absent. Douglas Fry, checking the ethnographic records, identified 74 societies that have clearly been non-warring; some even lacked a word for “war.” The Semai of Malaysia and the Mardu of Australia are examples.(6)

We may gain insights about solutions to warfare by exploring the variations in its distribution, type, and intensity. We begin with the best news: We are probably living in the most peaceful period in human history!


Infographic, Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS)

Historical Changes in Rates of War

Steven Pinker is the scholar who most convincingly argues that violence has declined, both recently and over the millennia. Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now, contains a graph showing the numbers of battle deaths by year from 1945 to 2015. A huge spike represents World War II, of course, for that was most lethal war in human history, causing at least 55 million deaths. How can we reconcile that ghastly number with any claim that the modern era is a peaceful epoch?

Pinker’s proof is based on distinguishing sharply between absolute numbers and rates. To be sure, 55 million is a huge number, but the Mongol Conquests killed 40 million people back in the thirteenth century, out of a world population only about one-seventh the size of the world’s 1950 population. Pinker says that if World War II had matched the Mongols’ stupendous rate of killing, about 278 million people would have been killed.

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John Polanyi is a Nobel laureate in chemistry and a professor at the University of Toronto.

We must do more to prevent nuclear war

By John Polanyi December 9, 2019

When Greta Thunberg gives a speech, she wastes no time getting to the point.
“You come to young people for hope,” she told the United Nations General Assembly in September. “You say you understand the urgency…How dare you then pretend that this can be solved by ‘business as usual’?…Change is coming, whether you like it, or not.”
What Greta said is no less true of the most serious danger we face today: nuclear war.
To counter that, the world needs to take two major steps back from the brink of disaster, on which we have teetered for three-quarters of a century. The first of these steps is disarmament, and the second a ban on nuclear weapons.
You may think these overly ambitious aims. But, to many, they represent the minimum that our predicament demands. Fortunately for the world, there are strong precedents for both these steps. Unfortunately, we have yet to heed those precedents.
Why are we faced with this need for change? It stems from the transformative power of modern science, which marks off the age of the atom from all preceding history. This need did not arise overnight, but did happen with remarkable suddenness.
The word “atom” is based on the Greek “a-tomos”: “not divisible”. Scientists, beginning with Ernest Rutherford, began questioning that thousand-year-old supposition. Rutherford and his students realised that they had in their experiments broken the atom apart. Then, a student of my father’s, Leo Szilard, devised a way of harnessing the energy released in the nuclear break-up. His idea was to exploit the chemist’s notion of chain reaction.
In 1935, when I was a child, Szilard sat in the garden of our house in Manchester, calculating, with my father, the temperature that would be reached in a nuclear chain reaction (which Szilard had patented, donating the patent to the British navy). The answer was thousands of millions of degrees centigrade. Ten years later, in 1945, two atomic bombs based on this idea were used in war, and 200,000 people were killed.
That was the start of our new era, as different from earlier times as the iron age was from the stone age. Since the ages of mankind only follow one another at thousand-year intervals, you should reflect on the extraordinary timing of your arrival on this planet. If, rather than being born in recent decades, you had been born in the previous thousands of years, great feats of imagination would not have been required of you. Today, they are needed for your, and your fellow beings’, survival.
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Prevent the weaponization of space

The Russian News Agency TASS has published articles about the Kremlin’s recent statements on preventing the weaponization of space. This appears to be a response to President Trump’s recent statement on potential commercial activities on the moon. Let’s remember the 1966 Outer Space Treaty.

Any attempts to ‘privatize’ outer space unacceptable — Kremlin

GENEVA, August 14. /TASS/. Moscow calls on the global community to develop consensus measures to keep outer space free from weapons, which will contribute to strengthening peace and security, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Office and other international organizations in Geneva Gennady Gatilov said at a plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament on Wednesday.

“We call on all states to have a meaningful, constructive conversation to prevent an arms race in outer space with a view to jointly developing consensus measures to keep outer space free from weapons and thereby strengthen international peace and global security,” the diplomat said.

“There is no time to spare,” he stressed. “Missing this chance will be a crime against future generations.”

Gatilov recalled that, in 2004, Russia assumed the obligation not to be the first to deploy weapons in outer space. To date, 21 countries have become full-fledged participants in that initiative. The head of the Russian mission voiced regret and concern over the fact that none of the Western countries, primarily from among the ones significant in terms of space exploration, expressed a desire to join it until now.

Gatilov stressed that the implementation of intentions to bring weapons to the near-Earth space would have an adverse effect on international security and global stability.

“Thanks to efforts made by individual Western countries, we are entering a new space era,” he noted. “We can say with a high degree of probability that it will be marked by further degradation of trust between nations.”

The diplomat described statements on deploying weapons in outer space and their potential combat use as “an ultimatum to the global community” and the intention to seek uncontrolled dominance in outer space. He noted that this would give an opportunity for individual countries to dictate their terms both in the low Earth orbit and on Earth.

Russia remains committed to “finding reliable ways to keep outer space free from weapons of any kind,” Gatilov noted. One of the ways of achieving that goal would be “a legally binding treaty on preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space based on the principles and norms of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty,” he said. The diplomat explained that the signing of such an agreement and participation of countries most active in space in it would make it possible to remove preconditions for turning outer space into the armed confrontation sphere.”

The Conference on Disarmament consists of 65 countries. It was established in 1979 following the first special UN General Assembly session on disarmament held in 1978 as the only international negotiating forum of the global community to hammer out disarmament agreements.

7 April 2020 https://tass.com/science/1141217

More information on the 1966 Outer Space Treaty is available here: https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introouterspacetreaty.html

Nuclear Vulnerability to Hacking the Missile Controls

By Dr. Bruce G. Blair – one of the co-founders of Global Zero.

New York Times 14 March 2017
Article Excerpt(s):

“It is tempting for the United States to exploit its superiority in cyberwarfare to hobble the nuclear forces of North Korea or other opponents. As a new form of missile defense, cyberwarfare seems to offer the possibility of preventing nuclear strikes without the firing of a single nuclear warhead.

But as with many things involving nuclear weaponry, escalation of this strategy has a downside: United States forces are also vulnerable to such attacks.

Imagine the panic if we had suddenly learned during the Cold War that a bulwark of America’s nuclear deterrence could not even get off the ground because of an exploitable deficiency in its control network.
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Could the Coronavirus Be a Biological Weapon in the Not-Too-Distant Future?

By Deen, Thalif
Inter Press Service: News Agency 20 March 2020

Article Excerpt(s):

“The devastating spread of the deadly coronavirus across every continent– with the exception of Antarctica– has triggered a conspiracy theory on social media: what if the virus was really a biological weapon?

And more specifically, was it an experimental weapon that accidentally escaped from a laboratory in China?

Or as others contend, is it a weapon surreptitiously introduced to de-stabilize a country with more than 1.4 billion people and described as the world’s second largest economy, after the United States.

Both narratives are considered false, and probably part of a deliberate disinformation campaign, according to military experts.

Still, in the US, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas has repeated the charge that the virus was a creation of the Chinese military while others source it to North Korea.

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Here Earl Turcotte – the Chair of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW) – examines the links between nuclear disarmament and other global crises, such as pandemics.

Public Health Crisis Offers New Lens Towards Nuclear Disarmament

Earl Turcotte, The Hill Times, 15 April 2020

“That COVID-19 has created a new global reality is clear. If there is any positive aspect to this unfolding situation, it could be a deeper understanding of the fact that the well-being of people throughout the world is inextricably linked. The COVID crisis might also serve as a cautionary tale, helping us to appreciate the fragility of life and avoid threats to humanity that are within our control.

In 2019, a team of researchers at Princeton University simulated a limited exchange of low-yield “tactical” nuclear weapons to depict “a plausible escalating war between the United States and Russia, using realistic nuclear force postures, targets, and fatality estimates.” They concluded that more than 90 million people would be killed or injured within a few hours and many more would die in the years following.
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Here Senator Douglas Roche discusses the interconnection of conflicts / wars and COVID-19. he obviously admires the Secretary General of the United Nations for his bold proposal to cease warfare during the pandemic.

Warring Parties Must Lay Down Weapons To Fight Bigger Battle Against COVID-19

By Douglas Roche, the Hill Times, 6 April 2020
Article Excerpt(s):

EDMONTON—”The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.” In one short sentence, UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the door to a new understanding of what constitutes human security. Will governments seize the opportunity provided by the immense crisis of COVID-19 to finally adopt a global agenda for peace?

In an extraordinary move on March 23, Guterres urged warring parties around the world to lay down their weapons in support of the bigger battle against COVID-19 the common enemy now threatening all of humanity. He called for an immediate global ceasefire everywhere: “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”

His plea to “silence the guns” would create corridors for life-saving aid and open windows for diplomacy in the war-torn zones in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the central areas of Africa.

But the full meaning of Guterres’s appeal is much bigger than only suspending existing wars. It is a wakeup call to governments everywhere that war does not solve existing problems, that the huge expenditures going into armaments divert money desperately needed for health supplies, that a bloated militarism is impotent against the new killers in a globalized world.
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The Bomb Still Ticks

By George Perkovich April 07, 2020
Summary: Kaplan shows in his new book that the Americans and Russians who built the doomsday machine will not allow it to be dismantled. The more pertinent question is whether they could be motivated to meaningfully downsize and constrain it.

“Nuclear books don’t sell,” a New York book editor advised not long ago. “To have a chance, you would have to feature a really interesting central character.” Fred Kaplan’s excellent new volume, “The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War,” will test this proposition.

Plenty of characters (nearly all male) abound in his fast-paced easy-to-follow narrative: from Curtis LeMay, Robert McNamara, John Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, and so on to Barack Obama and Donald Trump. But what drives the story is an unresolvable dilemma: “[h]ow to plan a nuclear attack that [is] large enough to terrify the enemy but small enough to be recognized unambiguously as a limited strike, so that, if the enemy retaliated, he’d keep his strike limited too” (p. 120).

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Stephen Young is Washington representative for the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. By Stephen Young, 27 February 2020.

House Hearings Should Reveal Recklessness of Administration’s Nuclear Weapons Budget Request

Article Excerpt(s):
“The Trump administration is charging ahead with new nuclear weapon systems and joining a new nuclear arms race with Russia. Not only are these weapons pushing up current budgets by billions, but they are unnecessary add-ons to an already bloated, excessively expensive plan to rebuild the entire U.S. arsenal. Coupled with the Trump administration’s disdain for arms control, these new weapons will lead to a more dangerous strategic environment.

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Canada Played a Critical Role in Nuclear Development. We Should Play a Critical Role in Reparations

This is an interesting article about some (not all) of Canada’s connections to nuclear weapons.

By Matt Korda
CBC News Opinion, 30 August 2019
Article Excerpt(s):

“Canada holds contradictory positions in the world of nuclear weapons. We played an essential role in their development, but we never built any bombs of our own.

No nukes are stationed on Canadian soil; however, they were for 20 years, until we finally sent the last American warheads back home in 1984.

As a people, Canadians are largely against nuclear weapons; however, Canada is part of a nuclear alliance and our government actively participates in NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group.

Almost 60 per cent of Canadians live in regions that have banned nuclear weapons, like Ontario, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories, or in self-proclaimed nuclear weapons-free cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Red Deer, Alta.; however, we currently allow American and British nuclear-capable vessels to visit our ports.

Very simply, in the nuclear arena, Canada is awkwardly straddling a line –– we’re not a member of the nuclear club, but we’re not exactly outside of it either. This position usually works in Canada’s favour, because it lets us simultaneously satisfy both our anti-nuclear impulses and our NATO defence commitments.

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How the Coronavirus Outbreak is like a Nuclear Attack: An Interview with Jeffrey Lewis

This Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ interview with Dr. Jeffrey Lewis – author of “The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States: A Speculative Novel.”

Jeffrey Lewis and John Krzyzaniak
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 20 March 2020
Article Excerpt(s):

“One thing about nuclear command and control, which the virus outbreak underscores, is that it is so hard to get good information in a crisis. The epidemic spiraled out of control so quickly in certain countries that even the best experts were rushing to figure out what was going on.

To me the danger of a nuclear war is not that somebody’s going to get up one morning and say, “Ah, fuck it,” and push the button. It’s that we’re deeply flawed as human beings, and we have imperfect information, and we’re always trying to make decisions under complexity.

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The South China Morning Post published this editoria about the NPT Does it reflect wider Chinese opinions?

Talks Give World an Opportunity to Avoid Nuclear Weapons Nightmare

South China Morning Post, 20 March 2020
Article Excerpt(s):

“The United States sparked fears of a new nuclear arms race when it pulled out of a key missile treaty with Russia little more than six months ago. Hopes of preventing a race are now focused on another pact credited with helping keep us safe since the height of the Cold War – the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which came into force 50 years ago this month. More importance now attaches to a five-yearly treaty review conference set to be held at the United Nations headquarters in New York next month.

The US pulled out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed in 1987 after Washington and Nato accused Russia of violating it by deploying a new type of cruise missile, which Moscow has denied. Russia suspended its own obligations to the treaty shortly afterwards. It is reassuring therefore that the five permanent members of the Security Council, including the US and Russia, have marked the anniversary of the NPT with a joint declaration celebrating “the immeasurable contributions” this landmark treaty has made to international security and prosperity and reaffirming their commitment to it. Such a consensus is increasingly rare these days.

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Do Young People Care About Nuclear Weapons?

By Matt Korda, Inkstick, 27 February 2020
Article Excerpt(s):

“Last month, the International Committee of the Red Cross released a report with a shocking — and seemingly contradictory — pair of statistics.

According to the report, a majority of millennials (54%) believe that a nuclear attack will occur within the next decade. Yet those same respondents simultaneously ranked nuclear weapons as the “least important” out of 12 global issues.

These findings, although seemingly in conflict, may not actually be that surprising. In fact, they reflect an existential question that the nuclear community has been grappling with for some time:


Two of the most common responses to this question are either: “we should scare the youths straight,” or: “we should meme nuclear weapons.” Neither of these is the answer. In fact, millennial Dadaist humor is already rooted in an ironic acceptance of the dystopian years that lie ahead of us. We’re terrified of our futures and apocalyptic memes are our defense mechanism.
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One potential victim of coronavirus? Nuclear inspections in Iran

By George M. Moore, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 17 March 2020
Article Excerpt(s):

” Should the new IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi decide to suspend inspection visits to protect the health of his inspectors, it could metastasize concerns about Iranian nuclear proliferation. The same result would occur if Iran acted unilaterally to bar inspectors based on real or manufactured concerns about further spread of Covid-19.

To date, there is no public information about whether the IAEA will continue to send inspectors to Iran under the terms of the nuclear deal. Suspending inspections, even temporarily, could potentially leave a multi-month gap that Iran could exploit if it chose to fully break out of the nuclear agreement. In early March, the IAEA reported that Iran had amassed over 1,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, nearly triple the amount allowed under the deal.
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Here Dr. Tariq Rauf discusses the impacts of COVID-19 (aka coronavirus) on the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty conferences. There is a possibility the conferences and associated discussions will be pushed to 2021 and beyond.

Relentless Spread of Coronavirus Obliges Postponing the 2020 NPT Review to 2021

By Tariq Rauf

Article Excerpt(s):

“Harvard University epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch in his “very, very rough” estimate (relying on “multiple assumptions piled on top of each other”) has stated that 100 or 200 people were infected in the U.S. a week or so ago. But that is all it would take to widely spread the disease. Lipsitch has predicted that within a year, 40% to 70% of the world’s population could be infected with COVID-19? With the world’s population hovering around 7.5 billion, that translates to some 3 to 5 billion people getting COVID-19 and that perhaps fatalities of 60 to 100 million, according to Lipsitch.
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A World War Could Break Out in the Arctic

By Michael Klare
The Nation, 11 feb. 2020

Finnmark, Norway

Notes: Discusses various elements ranging from the role of the military to the role of the resource extraction industry. Particular focus is on the new military exercises that will be occurring in March 2020 in Scandinavia.

Article Excerpt:

“In early March, an estimated 7,500 American combat troops will travel to Norway to join thousands of soldiers from other NATO countries in a massive mock battle with imagined invading forces from Russia. In this futuristic simulated engagement—it goes by the name of Exercise Cold Response 2020—allied forces will “conduct multinational joint exercises with a high-intensity combat scenario in demanding winter conditions,” or so claims the Norwegian military anyway. At first glance, this may look like any other NATO training exercise, but think again. There’s nothing ordinary about Cold Response 2020. As a start, it’s being staged above the Arctic Circle, far from any previous traditional NATO battlefield, and it raises to a new level the possibility of a great-power conflict that might end in a nuclear exchange and mutual annihilation. Welcome, in other words, to World War III’s newest battlefield.

For the soldiers participating in the exercise, the potentially thermonuclear dimensions of Cold Response 2020 may not be obvious. At its start, Marines from the United States and the United Kingdom will practice massive amphibious landings along Norway’s coastline, much as they do in similar exercises elsewhere in the world. Once ashore, however, the scenario becomes ever more distinctive. After collecting tanks and other heavy weaponry “prepositioned” in caves in Norway’s interior, the Marines will proceed toward the country’s far-northern Finnmark region to help Norwegian forces stave off Russian forces supposedly pouring across the border. From then on, the two sides will engage in—to use current Pentagon terminology—high-intensity combat operations under Arctic conditions (a type of warfare not seen on such a scale since World War II).

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There is ongoing debate in Ireland about allowing the United States’ military to use airports – both as a base for operations, as well as a stopover.

Should the Irish government push for an end to the US military use of Shannon Airport?

News Agency: The Journal (Ireland) 29 January 2020
Article Excerpt:

If in Government, Labour would push for an end to the use of Shannon Airport for US military planes according to party leader Brendan Howlin.
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New York City Divests Pension Funds from Fossil Fuel Companies. Next maybe nuclear weapons?

Jonathan Granoff

In January 2018, New York City decided to divest the city’s $189bn pension funds from fossil fuel companies within the next five years. Now the city looks set to also divest from the nuclear weapons industry.

Last Tuesday (January 28), the Council held public hearings on draft Resolution 0976 which calls on New York City to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and divest from the nuclear weapons industry, and on Initiative 1621 to reaffirm New York City as a nuclear weapons-free zone and establish an advisory committee to implement this status.
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Divest Nuclear!

On Tuesday last week (January 28), New York City Council held public hearings on two measures (draft Resolution 0976 and Initiative 1621) which if adopted would oblige the city to divest its city pension funds from the nuclear weapons industry and establish an advisory committee to develop city action to further implement its status as a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

New York City pensions have approximately $480 million invested in the nuclear weapons industry. The divestment of this amount would probably not make any financial impact on the weapons manufacturers. However, it would serve as a positive example of an action that can be taken by cities and other investors to align their investments with their ethical values. And it would give support to federal initiatives to cut nuclear weapons budgets, such as the SANE Act introduced into the U.S. Senate by PNND Co-President Ed Markey and the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by PNND Member Eleanor Holmes-Norton.
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Risk of Nuclear War Rises as U.S. Deploys a New Nuclear Weapon for the First Time Since the Cold War

By William Arkin, Democracy Now! 7 Feb. 2020
Article Excerpt:

The Federation of American Scientists revealed in late January that the U.S. Navy had deployed for the first time a submarine armed with a low-yield Trident nuclear warhead. The USS Tennessee deployed from Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia in late 2019. The W76-2 warhead, which is facing criticism at home and abroad, is estimated to have about a third of the explosive power of the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) called the news “an alarming development that heightens the risk of nuclear war.” We’re joined by William Arkin, longtime reporter focused on military and nuclear policy, author of numerous books, including “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.” He broke the story about the deployment of the new low-yield nuclear weapon in an article he co-wrote for Federation of American Scientists. He also recently wrote a cover piece for Newsweek titled “With a New Weapon in Donald Trump’s Hands, the Iran Crisis Risks Going Nuclear.” “What surprised me in my reporting … was a story that was just as important, if not more important, than what was going on in the political world,” Arkin says.


AMY GOODMAN: As the nation focused on President Trump’s impeachment trial, a major story recently broke about a new development in U.S. nuclear weapons policy that received little attention. The Federation of American Scientists revealed in late January the U.S. Navy had for the first time deployed a submarine armed with a low-yield Trident nuclear warhead. The USS Tennessee deployed from Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia in late 2019, armed with a warhead which is estimated to have about a third of the explosive power of the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima.
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How to dispose of plutonium?

Russia and the USA agreed to dispose of 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium. This was an agreement made in 2000 – 20 years ago.  

It is unclear how the USA plans on safely disposing of this surplus plutonium – as the 8 November 2018 senate report mentions they are cancelling the MOX program – though no viable alternative exists. Russia has been using fast reactors to burn up the surplus material. 
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What is the current status of sonic weapons?

Are these prohibited under any of the treaties?

I have heard of some sonic weapons that play the person’s own voice back to them at a slight delay, causing the person to stop talking – as well as some that mess with people through ultra-low volumes and/or infrequent noises.

Sonic weapons: Sonic and ultrasonic weapons (USW) are weapons of various types that use sound to injure, incapacitate, or kill an opponent. Some sonic weapons are currently in limited use or in research and development by military and police forces

Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonic_weapon

Radioactive Chemical Gas!

I have been reading “Plutopia” by Dr. Kate Brown – a MIT professor of Science, Technology, and Society.

Dr. Brown discusses that during the early stages of Hanford’s development – the US government temporarily considered using strontium-90 byproducts to create a radioactive chemical gas – that could be used on battlefields. This strontium-90 based gas would be incredibly dangerous – with both immediate and lingering effects. Fortunately, military officials and researchers deemed it too dangerous to create and too dangerous to use – so it was never implementing. Alarming to consider nonetheless.

From October 2018:

The Case Against France

“France is being taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for carrying out nuclear weapons tests in French Polynesia, a Polynesian opposition leader announced on Tuesday.”

“France carried out 193 nuclear weapons tests on islands in the archipelago between 1960 and 1996 until French President Jacques Chirac halted the program.

Around 150,000 military and civilian personnel were involved in France’s nuclear tests, with thousands of them later developing serious health problems.

France has long denied responsibility for the detrimental health and environmental impacts of the tests, fearing that it would weaken the country’s nuclear program during the Cold War.

In 2010, France passed a law allowing military veterans and civilians to be compensated if their cancer could be attributed to the nuclear tests.

Out of approximately 1,000 people who have filed complaints against France, only 20 have been compensated.”

The article additionally discusses German anti-nuclear protests.


Shipping Containers: The Poor Man’s ICBM

Radioactive materials have been found in shipping containers before, such as a batch of Cobalt-60 discovered in an Italian port. It was within a container of scrap metal originating from Jeddah, Saudia Arabia and destined for Genoa, Italy. The container sat around for over a year, until authorities could figure out who was responsible for it and subsequently how to safely handle and remove it.

By Matthew Wallin, 1 September 2011, American Security Project

Excerpt: “60,000 people dead—instantly. 150,000 more exposed to hazardous radiation. All ships and infrastructure at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach destroyed. An exodus of six million people from the greater Los Angeles region. Initial costs of $1 trillion. This is exactly the scenario considered in a 2006 RAND Corporation study of the effects of a possible detonation of a 10-kiloton nuclear device hidden in a standard 20-foot shipping container. In 2010 alone, these ports received a combined total of over 7.2 million 20-foot equivalent containers. Haystack indeed. ”
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Diego Garcia and the Chagossians

Diego Garcia is a remote atoll archipelago in the Indian Ocean – between the Maldives, Mauritius, and the Seychelles. For administrative purposes, it is considered part of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

In the 1500s, the Portuguese used the area as a slave depot. Prior to this, the islands were uninhabited. A cultural group – known as the Chagossians – and who have a distinct language – emerged from the slave trade. During the Cold War, the Chagossians were evicted by the American and British military forces who cited the strategic geographic importance of the islands in relation to global and regional security – within the specific context of air and maritime access.

Various tactics were used to remove the population (population: 1500 in the late 1960s – 3000-4000 in the 2010s) – including inviting the population to neighboring Mauritius for a conference during Christmas in 1965 and subsequently prohibiting return to Diego Garcia. Other tactics included forced removal – such as via blockade of food supplies and/or forced (and allegedly violent) deportation. Alleged military documents – cited in books about Diego Garcia and its associated foreign policies – indicate that suppression of rights of the Chagossians were encouraged during the late 1960s due to the geopolitical significance of the region. By 1973, all Chagossians had been expelled from Diego Garcia.
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What the CANDU reactor has done abroad

This is a CANDU reactor: Darlington

An excerpt:

“Our uranium and nuclear technology launched the UK and USA stockpiles, then the Indian nuclear arsenal, followed by Pakistan and others. We continued to sell our CANDU reactor for ‘peaceful energy use’ which was secretly described as a “military plutonium production reactor” by the insiders ever since the Manhattan Project.”

“Plutonium=forever.” Even if bombs are not made, plutonium goes on and on emitting deadly radiation for centuries.

“… ‘following the atoms’ proves that we are a boy-scout nation with a very dirty secret. It has been underwritten by $30 billion taxpayer dollars, greased with secret bribes to win export deals, and buried in decades of deceit by official Ottawa.”


Beware the Solar Flares!

Is there a risk that a solar flare or solar store – of sufficient strength, such as one comparable to the 1859 Carrington Event – could trigger the detonation and/or launch of a nuclear warhead? Several media articles indicate a solar flare in 1967 almost started a nuclear exchange due to communication and radio signals being jammed.

However (and fortunately) some space weather scientists identified the cause was a solar flare. There was another incident where sunlight reflecting off the atmosphere almost triggered a nuclear launch – as early computer systems interpreted it as a nuclear flash. This would have been around the 1960s. Alarming to think about!

The 1859 Carrington Event was one of the largest solar storms with extensive records. There were a limited amount of electronic devices in this era – mostly telegraph wires – which were reported to have gone absolutely haywire when the storm hit.


Hooray for the Pope!

Yes, it’s a great interview. I particularly like his statements that it’s a sin merely to own nuclear weapons, and that it’s hypocrisy to say you believe in peace while you’re making money from selling weapons. Right on, Francis!

An Open Letter to Justin Trudeau

I am commenting by incorporating the whole of a recent letter from the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons to the Prime Minister and many other government officials. In an election period, all concerned citizens should make known their views to candidates, and ask questions at all-candidates meetings in their riding.
Adele Buckley
Canadian Pugwash, a member group of CNANW


Nuclear Disarmament: Canadian Leadership Required

Open Letter to PM Justin Trudeau
cc. All Members of Parliament and Senators

Dear Prime Minister,

The risk of nuclear catastrophe is growing and urgent action is required to prevent it.

Recent developments include:

• marked deterioration in East/West relations, most notably between Russia and NATO;
• U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran;
• imminent U.S. and Russian withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty;
• poor prospects for renewal of New START in 2021;
• heightened military tension between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan;
• resurgence of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program;
• the development of ‘tactical nuclear weapons’ and hypersonic missile systems;
• increased vulnerability to cyber-attacks; and
• the real possibility that non-state actors will acquire and use nuclear weapons or fissile material.

All of this is occurring within the context of a new nuclear arms race, precipitated in large part, by the U.S. allocation of $1.5 trillion to ‘modernize’ its nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has set the Doomsday Clock to 2 minutes to midnight, the closest it has been since the height of the Cold War. Humanity, literally, faces the prospect that at any moment, human folly, miscalculation or nuclear accident could end life on earth as we know it, if not completely.

Canada can help to prevent this.
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Laser Broom to Tidy Up Space

In 1978, Donald J. Kessler theorized that kessler syndrome would become a significant issue. This is where debris in orbit collides with other items in orbit, causing a cascading chain reaction. This was a plot in the 2013 movie Gravity – where a satellite that was shot down for decommissioning and started a cascading chain reaction that took out communications and research satellites across the world.

Orbital decay would take decades in some cases and it would be virtually impossible to launch new satellites or repair missions to pre-existing satellite if this was occurring .There is already research into a laser broom in attempts to clear some of the pre-existing debris from the planet’s orbit.

Here is a CBC article about a laser broom from 2000: https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/laser-broom-will-sweep-up-space-junk-1.243442

Nuclear terror

Personally I find the thought of Nuclear War pretty scary and to have heard stories from survivors makes it even more real and terrifying. To think that our world could end in a heartbeat threatens to throw me into despair. Its only the kindness of some humans that gives me hope in addition to a belief in a God Creator who is taking care of us.

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Project West Ford and the Copper Needles

Meet Project West Ford — in the 1950s-1960s – the United States of America launched 480 million copper needles into the upper atmosphere for Cold War radio communication. Some of them are allegedly still up there, orbiting in the lower-gravity.

“The same year that Martin Luther King, Jr. marched on Washington and Beatlemania was born, the United States launched half a billion whisker-thin copper wires into orbit in an attempt to install a ring around the Earth. It was called Project West Ford, and it’s a perfect, if odd, example of the Cold War paranoia and military mentality at work in America’s early space program.
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When NASA Shot Copper Needles Into space

On October 21, 1961, NASA launched the first batch of West Ford dipoles into space. A day later, this first payload had failed to deploy from the spacecraft, and its ultimate fate was never completely determined.

“U.S.A. Dirties Space” read a headline in the Soviet newspaper *Pravda. *

**Ambassador Adlai Stevenson was forced to make a statement before the UN declaring that the U.S. would consult more closely with international scientists before attempting another launch. Many remained unsatisfied. Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle went so far as to accuse the U.S. of undertaking a military project under “a façade of respectability,” referring to West Ford as an “intellectual crime.”

Maybe there are still needles up there

“But not all the needles returned to Earth. Thanks to a design flaw, it’s possible that several hundred, perhaps thousands of clusters of clumped needles still reside in orbit around Earth, along with the spacecraft that carried them.

The copper needles were embedded in a naphthalene gel designed to evaporate quickly once it reached the vacuum of space, dispersing the needles in a thin cloud. But this design allowed metal-on-metal contact, which, in a vacuum, can weld fragments into larger clumps.”

Rotarians are Peaceniks!

By Richard Denton
“What are old conservative Rotarian businessmen (and now women), doing at a United Nations (UN) Preparatory talk on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)”, asked a non-Rotarian female peace person.

This is still the concept that many of the public think about Rotary. Some may know us as a service group like Lions and Kiwanis, but that is about it. We need to do a much better job of branding ourselves, of getting our Rotary name out into the public through our community services such as building parks, building youth facilities and Adopting Road clean ups, sponsoring fund-raisers and donating to worthy organizations and other community projects. But we also need to promote our other programs; Rotary student exchanges, but also the work of the Rotary Foundation – Polio Plus, Rotary scholarships that are actually worth more money and can be done in any university, compared to the Rhodes Scholarship that is better known. We need to promote our Peace Fellowships either the yearlong program or the three month program to university students.
We as Rotarians and we need to get the general populace to know about the history of Rotarians being active starting the United Nations and the International Bill of Human Rights.
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Have the women changed things?

Have Rotarians always been so wise? I think you started letting women join a few years ago. Has that changed anything about the organization’s culture?

What is “EMP”?

A Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is a short, intense pulse of a radio wave that is produced by a nuclear detonation.

Its radius is much greater than the destruction caused by the heat and the blast wave of the nuclear weapon. For example, the pulse of an explosion about 100 km high would cover an area of 4 million km2. An explosion about 350 km high could, for example, cover most of North America, with a voltage of a power that is a million times greater than that of a thunderbolt. That is to say, if the detonation of a nuclear bomb is done from a sufficient height, even when there is not such a great physical destruction, it could affect the life of the inhabitants of a whole country or of several countries.

They don’t actually look like this

By the way, killer robots don’t look like robots at all. They are just machines that don’t have human operators. One might look like a vacuum cleaner or a street sweeper.
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Now there’s still a chance to stop them

Polls show that most of the world’s population opposes killer robots. We need to stop them now.