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Obama to Shut Guantanamo Prison

left As one of his first acts in the White House, Barack Obama is preparing to move hundreds of detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison to the US where they will be given legal hearings, trials or face yet-to-be-established special terrorist courts.

Mr Obama has a long-standing commitment to shut down Guantanamo, which has become a symbol of injustice for human rights campaigners, and a lightning rod for anti-US criticism since it opened eight years ago. Closing the prison, which is on a part of Cuba leased to the US, will bring to an end one of the most poisonous legacies of the Bush administration while sending a signal that the "war on terror" is under more enlightened management.

Ministry Of Defence Calman Submission

THE Ministry of Defence has issued a strongly worded put-down of Scottish Government attempts to block the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent. In its submission to the Calman Commission, the MoD recognises escalating tensions between the Westminster Government and the SNP administration at Holyrood, which opposes Trident.

The MoD makes clear it will rebuff demands to move Trident. It also hints at tensions between Holyrood and Westminster.

"Experience has shown that the majority of issues can be resolved through discussion and co-operation," the submission says. 

"However, this becomes much more challenging in areas where the devolved administration in Scotland has views or policies at odds with those of the Government.

"On 14 June, 2007, the Scottish Parliament passed a motion recognising that defence was reserved but opposing the Government's decision to maintain the deterrent capability."

Scottish Ministers have since set up a Scotland Without Nuclear Weapons working group that is looking at devolved laws, such as those on roads and planning, to see if it can remove the weapons "within the context of devolved responsibilities". 

The working group has also looked at the economic impact of removing nuclear weapons and is exploring the implications of seeking observer status at meetings of the Non Proliferation Treaty and considering the licensing and regulatory regime for HMNB Clyde.

The MoD says: "The overriding priority is clearly to ensure that the defence of the nation is never put at risk."

20 Killed In Russian Submarine Fire

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At least 20 sailors and shipyard workers have died following a fire on a Russian nuclear-powered submarine which was undergoing sea trials. A further 21 were injured when a fire extinguishing system in the bow of the vessel failed, and they have been ferried ashore by support vessels.

The submarine has been ordered to suspend trials and return immediately to port in Russia's far-eastern Primorye territory.

The name and class of the vessel, and its location when fire broke out, have not been released. But it was assisted by the Russian destroyer Admiral Tributs,which is normally based at Vladivostok, Russia's main Far Eastern naval port on the Sea of Japan.

The fire broke out in the nose of the vessel and its nuclear reactor, situated in the stern, was not affected by the fire, said Russian Pacific Fleet spokesman Captain Igor Dygalo. There were no radiation leaks, he added.

"I declare with full responsibility that the reactor compartment on the nuclear-powered submarine is working normally and the radiation background is normal," he said.Of the 208 people on board when the fire broke out, 81 were servicemen.

The Admiral Tributs took some of the injured back to port.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev was  being kept abreast of developments, and Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Kolmakov and Navy Commander-in- Chief Vladimir Vysotsky were flying to the scene.

Trident Replacement Faces Time and Cost Risks

 The UK risks delays in deploying a nuclear deterrent unless it keeps tight control of developing and budgeting for a new fleet of nuclear submarines, according to the National Audit Office. They say the project to build three or four new submarines faced considerable challenges if it is to be completed on time and on budget.

It said the Ministry of Defence had made good progress so far but highlighted risks ahead, including design decisions and maintaining strict financial controls.

"These risks are inter-dependent but each alone has the potential to undermine the department's ability to deliver continuous at-sea deterrence in the future," .

The present Vanguard class of submarines is likely to start leaving service from the early 2020s and plans call for its successor to be in service by 2024.  

"They sound long time scales, they're not. We haven't got any slack, so if things start to go wrong, people don't make timely decisions, then there are going to be risks," Tom Banfield, one of the report's authors, told a news conference.

The Defence Ministry is banking on extending the life of the existing submarines by five years but the audit office called for more study on how long they could be safely kept in service.

"Meeting the in-service date is a challenge, but every avenue to reduce both time and cost is being pursued," Defence Secretary John Hutton said in response to the report.

Brian Quail Herald Letter 2

 David McMillan is wrong to claim that if Trident is expelled from Scotland it will simply be relocated to England. Trident is not like a yacht; it cannot simply sail off. It requires a massive support system, as well as its base at Faslane. It needs storage facilities at Coulport (the biggest nuclear arsenal in Europe), where 200 atom bombs are buried deep in the mountains.

England does not have such mountains near Portsmouth or Plymouth. So while Trident can berth in an English port, it cannot operate from anywhere other than where it is now.

A nuclear-free Scotland means a nuclear-free England. Britain will then join the majority of 195 world states that do not deploy nuclear WMD. It will also be in a position to pressure France into getting rid of its "force de frappe". Europe can then join those areas of the world which are nuclear-free by international agreement. The countries of Latin America, the South Pacific and south-east Asia have all forsworn nuclear weapons, and Africa is nuclear-free.

Mr McMillan is also wrong as regards the jobs dependent on Trident. Far from employing 11,000, the number dependent on Trident is only 1800. These could easily be redeployed on socially useful work. In fact, for the £75bn costs of Trident, we could give every worker £1m and tell him to retire. The jobs argument is morally bankrupt. There are some jobs no honourable person should do, no matter how attractive the financial rewards - for example, pushing drugs or planning to launch atom bombs.

US Must Be Able To Threaten A Nuclear Holocaust

left In a remarkable speech on nuclear policy delivered at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), US Defense Secretary Robert Gates painted a dire portrait of international affairs and argued that Washington should expand the doctrine of pre-emptive war formulated by the Bush administration to include possible nuclear strikes.

It is widely rumored that,  President Elect Barack Obama will keep Gates as defense secretary. Gates' speech, given in the waning days of the Bush presidency, has the character of a policy declaration of the next US administration.

Brian Quail's Herald Letter

 Father George Donaldson says the Vatican has endorsed consistently multilateral nuclear disarmament . The trouble is that no British nuclear bomb has ever been on the table at an international disarmament conference. So, as the redoubtable Bruce Kent once succinctly observed: "A unilateralist is a multilateralist who means what he says."

When Trident replaced Polaris it was described by the select committee on defence as "a significant enhancement of the UK's nuclear potential". This despite the fact that the UK government was bound under Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968) to work in good faith towards the reduction of nuclear weapons. Trident is to be replaced by a newer, more effective version in 2020. As far as Britain is concerned, it is "new lamps for old".

It is not possible to endorse nuclear deterrence without being committed to the actual use of the atom bomb should the deterrence situation break down (it makes no sense to issue a threat which you refuse to implement). A conditional intention to massacre is no less decisively wicked for being thus conditional.

Murderous threats are murderous threats. Whatever their ultimate consequences, they already devastate human limits. That is why - in a lovely Americanism - US Pax Christi bishops once described nuclear deterrence as "a sin situation". As the Scottish bishops said at Easter 1982: "If it is immoral to use these weapons, it is immoral to threaten their use."

The teaching of the Catholic Church on WMD is clear beyond dispute. Paragraph 80 of the document Gaudium et Spes, issued by the Second Vatican Council, states: "Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation."

The Labour Party's endorsement of Trident cannot be reconciled with this basic moral position.
Brian M Quail, Glasgow.

AWE Blockaded

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More than 30 people were arrested yesterday during one of the biggest anti-nuclear protests at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston for 10 years. The gates of the site were blocked as people attached themselves to concrete blocks which had to be broken apart by police. Others climbed scaffolding or lay in the road at the demonstration by about 400 people to mark the start of the UN World Disarmament Week.

They were protesting against a decision to modernise the Aldermaston plant in Berkshire and plans to develop a new warhead for nuclear missiles that the government wants to buy to replace the Trident system

Campaign group Trident Ploughshares said it successfully blocked the A340 for two hours using a tripod of scaffolding with a protester perched on top. Nine protesters locked together also blocked a gate into the site for five hours, it said. Thames Valley Police said around 150 people joined the protest which started at 6am.

"The majority of protesters were peaceful. However, 33 people were arrested, mainly for obstruction of the highway, and taken to custody at Newbury, Loddon Valley, Maidenhead and Abingdon police stations," a spokesman said.

For more information see:  blockawe.blogspot.com

 

New US Global Strike Command

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The US Air Force (USAF) is planning to set up a new Global Strike Command for its nuclear weapons as part of a re-organisation after recent mishaps.

The move follows the discovery that six nuclear weapons were mistakenly flown across the US, and that nuclear missile fuses were sent unknowingly to Taiwan.

The blunders resulted in the sacking of two of USAF's most senior officials.

A three-star general will head the new command, part of a project aimed at shaking up USAF's nuclear mission.

"This is a critical milestone for us. It's a new starting point for reinvigoration of this enterprise," said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.

"It is an extremely important mission for the United States Air Force."

In June, Gen T Michael Moseley, USAF chief of staff, and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne were both asked to resign by Defence Secretary Robert Gates after a report revealed that the security of US nuclear weapons and parts had been in question.


Secret Contract for Sellafield Waste

left A WELSH Labour MP has accused the UK Government of covering up a deal that will land taxpayers with a multi-billion- pound liability in the event of a nuclear accident while a private consortium will reap the profits.

Newport West MP Paul Flynn discovered that details of a contract to privatise the management of waste from the controversial Sellafield nuclear power station in Cumbria should have been placed in the House of Commons library in July. If they had been, MPs would have had 14 days in which to raise questions about the deal.

In fact, the contract was not put into the library until last week, by which time the opportunity to scrutinise it had gone.