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McCain Promise to Cut US Nuclear Arsenal

 

John McCain has vowed to make big cuts in the US nuclear arsenal if elected president and called for Russia and China to join a global effort to tackle nuclear proliferation.

The Republican candidate called for the strengthening of existing non-proliferation deals and the negotiation of new ones, warning that the world faced no greater threat than the spread of nuclear weapons. "The cold war ended almost 20 years ago, and the time has come to take further measures to reduce dramatically the number of nuclear weapons in the world's arsenals," he said in a speech at the University of Denver.

The remarks revealed stark differences between Mr McCain and President George W. Bush on several important non-proliferation issues. Mr McCain has sought to distance himself from Mr Bush in public while relying on his help to mobilise Republican donors behind closed doors.

The Arizona senator said he would consider signing treaties long opposed by the Bush administration - including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a fresh arms reduction deal with Russia - and vowed to scrap plans to develop a controversial "bunker busting" nuclear weapon.

Peace Campaigners Under Police Surveilance

As they travelled through the City of London on private business on 31st July 2005, two peace campaigners - John Catt, an 80 year old pensioner at the time and his daughter Linda (with no criminal record between them) - were stopped and their vehicle searched under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 by City of London police. They were both threatened with arrest if they refused to answer police questions.

Unbeknown to them the vehicle in which they were travelling had triggered an alert as it passed an automatic vehicle number plate recognition camera - part of the cops' 'Ring of steel' around the City of London.

After they made a complaint about both the manner and the circumstances in which they were stopped, it was revealed that it had resulted from a police marker being placed against their vehicle on the Police National Computer (PNC) by Sussex Police.

A follow-up formal complaint to Sussex Police discovered that the PNC marker had been placed against their vehicle as a result of being spotted near EDO MBM demonstrations in Brighton. Sussex Police justified the big brothering stance on the grounds that the vehicle had been seen at three demos outside the arms factory, which "were associated with a campaign which gives rise to crime, disorder and the deployment of significant resources. Sightings of the vehicle may give rise to crime, disorder and the investigation, prevention and detection of crime" . A damning verdict indeed. The complaint was rejected - guilt by association is all in a days work.

Last week their appeal to the independent Police Complaints Commission has also fallen on deaf ears

UK Government Against Cluster Bomb Ban

The British Government is opposed to signing of a Treaty to ban cluster bombs, which have maimed and killed thousands of civilians worldwide.

Countries that have suffered the impact of the bombs, humanitarian groups and former commanders of British forces have called for the UK to drop its insistence on retaining cluster munitions, a stance, they say, that is likely to scupper hopes of securing an agreement at an international conference  in Dublin this week.

More than 100 countries are taking part in the talks. Delegates will point out that the vast majority of cluster bomb victims are non-combatants. Opponents of the weapon received the backing of Pope Benedict XVI, who called for a "strong and credible" Treaty to end their use.

UK Government Disappointing at NPT Talks

CND has welcomed the UK Government's reaffirmation, given at the  NPT Conference in Geneva, that it will not use - or threaten to use - nuclear weapons against countries that don't have them. That commitment, made in 1995, appeared to be broken by then Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon in 2002, when he indicated that Britain would be prepared to use nuclear weapons against Iraq. Opinion polls show that opposition to such a strike is overwhelming.

Otherwise, CND expressed disappointment at the UKÂ’s performance r at the Geneva talks. None of the new thinking on multilateral disarmament which has characterised UK Government policy over the past year was included in the UK's opening speech. The brief speech amounted to a series of platitudes, which failed to mention any of the recent statements from senior Government figures that have stressed the importance of disarmament initiatives.

The speech fell back on the claim that Britain has undertaken substantial nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War without recognising that much of this has been the decommissioning of redundant weaponry that has been superseded by new, more powerful systems.

Westminster Boffins Worried About Their Tea

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Whitehall officials worried about the survival of the great British cup of tea in the event of a nuclear attack on the UK in the 1950s, new documents have revealed. The tea situation would be "very serious" if there was a widespread attack on the UK by both A bombs and H bombs, officials drafted in to draw up contingency plans for food supplies in the event of a nuclear war said.

"The tea position would be very serious with a loss of 75% of stocks and substantial delays in imports and with no system of rationing it would be wrong to consider that even 1oz per head per week could be ensured. No satisfactory solution has yet been found," noted one official.

The formerly top secret documents dating from 1954 to 1956 were released under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Archives in Kew.

A paper drawn up in April 1955, noted: "The advent of thermo nuclear weapons .. has presented us with a new and much more difficult set of food defence problems."

Glasgow MSP at Geneva Conference

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Glasgow MSP Bill Kidd attended the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in Geneva this week to support an international ban on nuclear weapons. 

Hel addressed a meeting of NGOs at the Conference and set out the opposition of Scottish CND and the SNP to the renewal of the Trident.weapons system.

  Bill said  “It is an enormous privilege to have been invited to speak on ScotlandÂ’s behalf against the renewal of nuclear weapons.  For the first time ever Scotland has a Government and a Parliament opposed to nuclear weapons with a clear vision of a Nuclear Free Scotland.  Opposition to the UK GovernmentÂ’s decision to spend a minimum of £25 billion and possibly three times that amount on a new generation of Trident to sit in the Clyde is growing every day".  

The Review Conference in 2010 will determine the future for nuclear non-proliferation.  The actions of the UK in renewing Trident are threatening any opportunity there may be to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, to end the spread of nuclear weapons across the world and to dissuade other governments and countries from entering a new arms race.” 

CND Concern at War Costs

CND has expressed deepening concern at the huge increases in the financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The MoD ‘Spring Supplementary EstimateÂ’ increases the budget for Afghanistan by 48% and Iraq by 52% compared to the estimates given only 3 months ago. Costs are doubled compared to the last financial year.

 

A report published  by the Commons Defence Select Committee describes as “surprising” the increases, including a near doubling of capital costs in Iraq compared to the estimate of 3 months ago and a five-fold increase from indirect resource costs for both Iraq and Afghanistan compared to last year. Despite the draw-down of UK troops in Iraq costs have ballooned from £955m in the winter estimate to £1,449m in the latest figures.

 

When indirect costs of the operation are included the Iraq billion alone comes in at £1,648 million for the year, with the combined operational costs for the current financial year now forecast to reach £3.297bn - a 94% increase on the previous figure of £1.698bn.

Security Council approves new sanctions against Iran

The UN Security Council has extended sanctions against Iran  for refusing to halt sensitive activities that could result in the production of a nuclear bomb.

For the first time however, the 15-member Council was not unanimous on an Iran resolution, despite the British and French sponsors delaying the vote by three days in a bid to secure unanimity. A total of 14 countries voted in favour, while Indonesia abstained on the ground that Tehran is cooperating with the UN nuclear agency in clarifying outstanding questions about its nuclear programme, which Iran says is for energy purposes.

The UN vote was scheduled as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna was discussing a report by IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, in which he confirmed that Iran had failed to halt uranium enrichment in line with UN demands. His report raised concerns about documents which the IAEA believed to be connected to nuclear weapon research.

Iran said the documents were fabricated and rejected allegations about missile development.

The sanctions imposed  ban dual-use goods being traded with Iran, which have both military and civilian purposes, and provide for the inspection of shipments suspected of carrying any banned items.

The Three Trillion Dollar War

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According to a new book by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and author Linda J. Bilmes. In "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict," they warn that the war's "true budgetary cost," excluding interest, "is likely to reach $2.7 trillion." Aside from the price of munitions, contractors, transport, fuel and other fixed costs, their calculations are based on the government's continuing obligation to provide medical care and disability payments for the thousands of wounded Iraqi and Afghanistani veterans over the coming decades.

Those costs represent a moral debt on which we cannot default — and they will grow larger every day that we maintain the occupation. Even if the war could be ended immediately, the fiscal obligations incurred by the invasion and occupation will continue. Beyond the mandatory disability payments, medical and psychiatric care and additional benefits to which the troops are entitled, the nation will face years of increasing military budgets to restore the equipment and readiness of our battered armed forces, especially the Army and the National Guard.

Even in the "best-case" scenario envisioned by Stiglitz and Bilmes, with our troop presence declining rapidly, the U.S. commitment in Iraq is still likely to cost no less than $400 billion over the next several years, on top of the $800 billion or so that we have spent to date. Those figures, which don't include veterans' benefits, add up to $1.2 trillion. What the authors call their "realistic-moderate scenario" for a prolonged presence in Iraq will cost twice as much or more.

International Disarmament Conference in Oslo

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Norway's Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere,  opened an international conference in Oslo on disarmament, under the theme "The Vision of a World Free of Nuclear Weapons".

The aim of the two-day conference is to explore how states can contribute to achieving the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. Peace Prize Laureate and IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and former senator and CEO/Co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative Sam Nunn are keynote speakers at the conference.

Since September 2005, Norway has headed the Seven-Nation Initiative on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, aimed at further reducing the number of nuclear weapons and strengthening international efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.