No Harm In A Little Perspective: Nuclear Weapons

A Vintage Threat

Black and white image of a stereotypical 1950s family in a nuclear bomb shelter

Nuclear weapons have a kitschy old school feel

Nuclear weapons have a kitschy old-school feel. The threat of nuclear Armageddon is what our parents grew up with, not us. It is not something we tend to think about from day to day. We did some research, though, and were surprised to find the likelihood of nuclear war today is higher than we might think.

The closest the world ever came to nuclear devastation was completely by accident. On September 26th 1983 Soviet Russia picked up signals that a US ballistic missile was heading their way. The poor sod in charge, Stanislav Petrov, had to make the call whether or not to retaliate with their own missiles. Refusing to be ‘that guy’ who started World War III, Petrov decided it was a false alarm and did nothing. Luckily he was right – and the world was spared millions of deaths. Neat. Close call though.

And now for something completely obvious: This would not have happened if nuclear weapons didn’t exist.

Well duh-doy. Donald Trump wouldn’t keep happening if he didn’t exist. Then again, the world’s nations haven’t signed a treaty promising to rid the planet of him, like they have with nuclear weapons.

Ever since 1970 with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty or NPT, the whole world, including Britain, has been officially committed to global nuclear disarmament. If we all agree with the UN party line: getting rid of nuclear weapons makes the world a safer place.

Meanwhile, in Britain, senior members of every major political party insist that Britain should keep and update its own nuclear weapons in order to make Britain a safer place. Members of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet have even said they would resign if the new Labour leader did not support the renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons programme, Trident. [What is Trident?] A Telegraph column stated recently that possessing nuclear weapons is what keeps European countries protected and free.

Hang on just a tick. How can eliminating nuclear weapons make the world safer while at the same time Britain needs nuclear weapons in order to be safe?

Deterrence Theory: Explained

The logic that solves this conundrum is called deterrence theory.

Deterrence theory is very simple: Take two enemy countries: Country X and Country Y. If Country X possesses nuclear weapons, they are capable of inflicting such enormous damage that Country Y wouldn’t dare attack them.

If both countries have nuclear weapons, their early-warning systems mean that if they are attacked, they will have time to retaliate with their own missile before they are hit. If Country Y was to launch a nuclear missile on country X, deterrence theory suggests that they can expect to have a missile launched right back at them.

False Alarm?

False Alarm?

 

The result is that no one dares do anything.

So – according to this theory – possessing nuclear weapons deters other countries from making aggressive moves. A recipe for everlasting peace?

Perhaps, except when false alarms very nearly lead to nuclear war like it did in 1983. Since we’re only human and liable to make mistakes from time to time, would it not still be safer for the world to get rid of all these weapons of mass destruction? Keep Out of Reach of Humans?

 

The problem with this: now that nuclear weapons exist, we can never un-exist them. They are out there now, like the bad smell of a cooking experiment gone wrong. And like bad smells, not everyone wants to own up to making them.

There are 15,000 nuclear bombs in the world. Here is a map to show you where those bombs are. Five of the eight countries who possess nuclear weapons have signed the non-proliferation treaty, recognising that any aggressive use of their nuclear weapons would be illegal under international law and stating that they will take concrete steps towards worldwide disarmament. These countries are Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.

There are three other countries who have openly tested and declared possessing atomic bombs who have not officially agreed to play nice with their bombs: these are India, North Korea and Pakistan.

Still from Team America of Kim Jong Il

North Korea have got Alec Baldwin. And also nuclear bombs.

 

Meanwhile, Israel is believed to have been developing nuclear weapons since the 1950s and there has been major diplomatic work in the last year to ensure Iran is not making nuclear weapons on the sly.

The key word here is uncertainty. Some reckon that nuclear states like Britain would be mad to get rid of their nuclear deterrents at a time like this. This is because no one can be 100% certain which other countries may or may not possess weapons of mass destruction, and how they intend to use them. Better safe than sorry?

But uncertainty can easily turn into scaremongering: rogue states like North Korea are not the number one threat the UK faces. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament points out that the UK government’s National Security Strategy sees international terrorism, cyber-attacks and climate change are greater threats than nuclear war. These problems cannot be solved with a nuclear deterrent. As the old saying goes, you can’t nuke a terrorist.

Bad for the world, Good for Britain?

What does this mean for the UK’s nuclear weapons programme, Trident? (Tell me again, what’s Trident?). The programme, funding and nuclear technology are outdated and due for renewal – and the House of Commons will vote next year on how, and if, this should be done.

Every major political party, except the Scottish National Party,  supports Trident renewal in principal. So Trident = good?

Not everyone thinks so. The No to Trident campaign argues that the £100 billion needed to renew the programme would be better spent on other methods of national defence, seeing as the threats Britain faces like terrorism and climate change cannot be tackled with nuclear weapons.

This £100 billion cost for renewing the Trident programme is disputed.

According to the Guardian, the Commons library estimates the cost of renewing the programme to be closer to £25 billion.

Whichever estimate convinces you, it’s a lot of monies.

A pricey safety net or necessary investment?

A pricey safety net or necessary investment?

Is Trident an expensive but necessary investment in UK security, or is it a very pricey safety net that we do not need?

The safety of the nation is not the only thing in question. Britain’s status in the world as a nuclear power is what guarantees it a place on the Security Council.

It’s not all or nothing. Britain does have the option of remaining a nuclear power, but reducing its stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The UK has in fact been gradually dismantling its own nuclear warheads from 225 to a goal of 180 by the mid 2020s. This may not seem like much, but it is similar to the agreed joint-reduction of nuclear warheads by the US and Russia that earned President Obama a Nobel Peace Prize.

Are these the concrete steps towards global nuclear disarmament the UK has signed up to under the non-proliferation treaty? Are they enough? Would renewing Trident negate these actions, or is it still a necessary part of Britain’s defence?  

Nuclear weapons explained: When nuclear weapons were invented, we opened a Pandora’s box that cannot be shut.

We now live in a world where we cannot be certain who does and does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Because of this, some would argue that it is better to be safe than sorry, and to use nuclear weapons as a deterrent: the most deadly defence mechanism ever. The counterargument is that nuclear weapons are not what we need to tackle the problems we actually face today, and that they are an unnecessary, expensive and potentially deadly safety net. It is difficult to face the ugly truth of how peace works now, and there are decisions and judgement calls we have to make that we wish would go away, but won’t.

Take Action as part of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

 

What should a refugee look like?

Not what you expected?

In the last few months, hundreds of thousands of people have arrived in Europe seeking asylum. Most of them are coming from Syria, although the majority of people fleeing the civil conflict there have remained in neighbouring countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

A number of countries, including Britain, followed Germany’s example of pledging to accept tens of thousands of refugees. Other states, like Hungary, have been doing all they can to put people off coming.

The reaction from the European public has varied from thousands offering refugees their homes to arson attacks on asylum shelters.

Some people have been confused though. How do we know all these people are really refugees?

A group of young men take a selfie having landed on Lesbos

Is this what a refugee should look like?

To many people, this group of men taking a selfie having landed on Lesbos don’t look like typical refugees. Pictured in the Daily Mail, They look too well-fed, too well-dressed. Their iPads are way too charged.

Meme depicting large muscled men with text over-laid saying refugees?

This meme showing refugees as body-builders is making the rounds

A torrent of images and memes like this have flooded the web showing these men to be hulking body-builders. The problem with this meme, Vice tell us, is that these images are not actually of Syrian refugees and were not actually taken in Europe, but we’ll let that one slide.

Quite a few UK public figures have been asking the same question. In his column for the Daily Mail, Peter Hitchens asked “You really think these crowds of tough young men chanting ‘Germany!’ in the heart of Budapest are ‘asylum-seekers’ or refugees’?

Boris Johnson commented in the Telegraph that the crowds of people trying to enter Germany “seem to be composed overwhelmingly of young, able-bodied men.”

The suggestion these two columnists are making is that these tough young men are not in fact refugees at all: They are economic migrants, attempting to slip illegally into Europe among the genuine refugees. They are not, the argument goes, fleeing war and persecution but simply looking for a more prosperous future. Basically – young strapping lads who want better jobs, not  refugees with rights to asylum,

That’s quite a big conclusion to draw from just looking at people. But looks can be deceiving.

How do we know a refugee when we see one? If these guys aren’t real refugees, then who is?

What does a refugee look like?

A refugee is a specific legal category, defined by the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention as someone who:

“owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

Type ‘refugee’ into Google images and you won’t be too surprised by what comes up. The people in the pictures are mostly women and children, shabbily dressed, and often quite dusty. These are the kinds of images we are used to seeing when we hear about refugees.

Refugees leaving Kosovo

Refugees from Kosovo.

This is why it is, to be fair, quite confusing when we see pictures like the well-built well-dressed young men taking a selfie with an iPad. They don’t seem too badly off…

However, young men are in very specific kinds of danger in a war zone. Military service of up to three years is mandatory for Syrians men aged 18.

Whether those who receive the draft do not support the regime or fear what will happen to them if captured by rebels, many have chosen to flee rather than stay and kill or be killed.

Four years into the civil war, these defections have left the Assad regime facing a manpower shortage, which only leads to further mandatory conscription, where the newly drafted can expect to be shipped to the front lines with little training.

Sanjayan Srikanthan, director of humanitarian policy at the International Rescue Committee told Buzzfeed : “There’s a common fear of being conscripted into fighting, regardless of which side that’s driving people to flee.”

Of course it’s not just about conscription. This all comes on top of the barrel-bombing and airstrikes which Syrian civilians, men and women, rich and poor, young and old, have found themselves in the middle of, and which have left many Syrian towns and cities completely destroyed.

Strapping young lads, or fighting-age men as they are sometimes referred to, might not look like stereotypical helpless refugees. But it is precisely because they are young, fit and male that they face conscription. This, on top of barrel-bombing or fear of the police, is why they choose to leave.

We cannot know who is a real refugee and who isn’t just by looking at them. You do not have to look helpless in order to be in need of help.

But should we be focusing so hard on who is and isn’t a refugee in the first place?

High profile players like Al Jazeera and UNHCR have led the way in insisting that the thousands of people arriving in Europe are refugees and not migrants.

UNHCR poster "Refugee or Migrant (C) Andrew McConnell

The UNHCR was among the leading organisations against using the word migrant

The argument behind this was that the word migrant had become a dehumanising label that allowed governments to keep people out rather than let them in.

The groundswell that followed of European citizens insisting their leaders take their fair share of refugees was proof of how powerful a difference the word refugee made.

However, insisting that we call them refugees did not solve the primary problem of migrants being dehumanised.

On the contrary, it has given politicians and the media a licence to distinguish between crowds of people to pinpoint who was worthy of Europe’s help (the refugees) and who was not (tough young male migrants who were supposedly only posing as refugees).

Is this what happens when we start talking about two different kinds of people? In practice, the difference between a migrant and a refugee is often barely recognisable: Both are leaving intolerable situations.

What does a refugee look like? Explained: Anyone can find themselves in a situation where they have to seek asylum from war or persecution. We are used to picturing refugees as poor and desperate women and children, but war puts young able-bodied men in specific kinds of danger, like being drafted into the army of a regime they no longer support. However – this exercise of sorting between who is and isn’t a refugee can be dangerous. This is because it suggests that refugees’ lives are worth more than those of migrants.  

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2015 UKIP Manifesto Explained In Under 6 Minutes

Become independent, control our borders and believe in Britain – it’s the UK Independence Party’s 2015 Manifesto

Reasons to leave the European Union and go Independent

It’s in the name really: United Kingdom INDEPENDENCE Party.

As UKIP outline in their 2015 manifesto they want out of the EU. Why? They say we’ve lost the rights to make our own laws and the EU has far too much control over our laws, foreign affairs, tax and trade agreements. As more countries join the EU our share of the vote goes down – so even when the UK votes against stuff we often still end up with it as UK law.

Add in the surge in popularity for the idea of an EU army and police force – able to act in Britain of course, and UKIP think it’s time to go.

UKIP want an EU REFERENDUM as soon as possible – if the public vote to go then we can either leave immediately, or activate the Lisbon Treaty, giving us two years to go (this is the option UKIP prefers)

Objectives for a British Exit (BREXIT): sort a good trade deal with the EU and make sure we stay good mates: sharing intelligence, powers of extradition in case our criminals try to escape there, disaster relief and so on. So you give us that, and we’ll go off and do the rest ourselves. OK? Not asking for much, is it?!

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: ECONOMY – TAX REVOLUTION

UKIP will raise the amount before you pay tax to £13,000

Current Tax Rates UK

As it stands: UKIP want to raise the tax free amount

 

The amount before you pay 40% will rise to £55,000 and a new 30% rate will be added for incomes between £43,500 and £55,000 – to help middle earners.

Inheritance Tax will be abolished altogether as UKIP believes assets bought with money you were taxed on should not be taxed again when you die.

NO MORE TAX DODGING FOR BIG BUSINESSES – bring back a law which stops companies choosing which EU country they pay tax in. That’ll learn you.

 

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: IMMIGRATION – GO BACK TO YOUR OWN COUNTRY

Immigration in the UK: Decoded

Take back control of the borders! No more immigration for migrants in unskilled jobs for a five year period and reduce high skilled jobs visas to 50,000 a year. This should ease the pressure on public services which UKIP say are struggling to cope because of immigrants coming in and using them without paying taxes.

UK Public Services paid by Taxes

Public Services paid by Taxes. UKIP want to ease the pressure on these

 

Get lots more border staff and bring in an Australian Style Points System which looks at the skills you have to ensure you can benefit the country before you’re given a visa. The UK currently does a points system ONLY if you’re from outside the EU.

UK Immigration

As it stands: UK points system for Non-EU migrants. UKIP want to extend these to everyone

 

No benefits for migrants including free NHS treatment until they have paid tax and national insurance for five years. This also applies to social housing. All visitors and immigrants must have their own health insurance.

Foreign criminals will not be allowed to enter and migrants who commit crimes resulting in jail time will be deported.

 

 

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: WE LOVE THE NHS… FOR BRITS

Keep the NHS free and spend £12 billion more to ensure it stays that way and is able to function properly.

No more privatisation either. And that cheeky EU/USA secret trade deal that might mean we have to put bits of the NHS up for sale to US companies? You can do one as well.

Let’s have 8000 more GPs and waive tuition fees for medical students who work in Britain for 5 years after qualifying. And 20,000 more nurses, 3000 extra midwives.

£1.5 billion will go into mental health and dementia services. And there will be NO hospital parking charges.

Social care for the elderly will go into the control of the NHS for a simpler system. Social care funding will also rise by £1.2 billion. Home care visits will be longer than the current 15 minute times allotted.

 

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: BENEFITS BRITAIN

No more lowering of benefits if you have an empty spare room – that’s just wrong. What’s also wrong is pretending you’re ill: If you’ve been sick and your doctor thinks you’re well again they will LEGALLY have to grass you in to the government. No-where to hide, scroungers.

However more people will be trained up to help in 800 food banks across the country.

You’ll only get child benefits for two children. BUT you’ll still get 15 hours free childcare AND all primary schools will have to offer childcare from 8AM to 6PM – so you can get back to work and pay for them!

Fathers for Justice rejoice – UKIP will work for 50/50 shared parenting in child residency to become the norm.

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: EDUCATION, EDUCATION

We need more doctors, engineers and nurses so cut Uni tuition fees for science, technology, maths and medicine. From primary school kids will be encouraged by a “science leader” to take an interest in the subject.

Reduce class sizes and teacher paperwork so that quality of teaching is better. And let people go straight onto A levels from 16, rather than having the stress of AS level exams.

First aid training will become part of the curriculum.

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: HOUSING – LOCAL HOMES FOR LOCAL PEOPLE

Create more affordable homes and make sure local people get first access. People with local connections to the area will get priority for council housing and only British Nationals will be helped by Right to Buy schemes.

Get people to rent out their empty homes by upping council tax if it’s left empty for more than two years. And give local people more control over where houses are allowed to be built.

Build 1 million houses on Brownfield sites (land previously used for industrial or commercial space) by 2025 and local people will have more say in where they are built. No tax on selling these if the property’s worth is below £250,000.

Rich home owners breathe a sigh of relief: No mansion tax at all.

 

GETTING AROUND THE WONDERS OF THE BRITISH ISLES

The Manifesto for UKIP says linking London to the North of England via the proposed super-fast High Speed 2  network is silly–Instead spend the money on protecting the legacy of the car industry by taking away road tax for cars over 25 years old.

Who wants to pay to drive? No more toll roads and oppose the EU’s plan to price up European roads.

Also we need more airports around the South East. Take Manston Airport.  We could re-open that as it’s “ideally placed to take low cost airlines” and is “close to the railway network”. Nothing to do with it being in Nigel Farage’s constituency….

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: BRING DOWN ENERGY BILLS

Instead of a really expensive Climate Change Act let’s get Fracking for Shale Gas! And only invest in renewable energy where they can deliver CHEAPLY. And we must save the coal industry because in the past it gave us loads of jobs…

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: WORK – BRITISH JOBS FOR BRITISH PEOPLE

British workers need to come first:  stop the EU encouraging companies to look abroad first and allow them to pick Brits over foreigners.

Enforce the minimum wage and keep zero hour contracts because some people do find them useful.  But make them fairer ensuring people can look for other work and get a good notice period for when they’ll be needed.

Make things better for small businesses by encouraging people to town centres with free parking and cutting business property tax for companies in properties worth under £50,000

And allow young people to start apprenticeships in the place of four non-core GCSE subjects

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: AGRICULTURE – WE HEART FARMERS (When they vote UKIP)

Farmers are great and we need them to give us good British food – so let’s give them a farm payment of £80 per acre and get food labelled so we know which country it’s come from.

Also put cameras in abattoirs to make sure there’s been no maltreatment of animals (if there is the punishment will be tripled) and vote on genetically modified foods.

Not just farmers – get rid of EU rules that screw over British fishermen and make sure that only Brits can fish for 12 miles offshore.

UKIP MANIFESTO: YOU CAN COME INTO THE COUNTRY… AS A TOURIST

 

"BAAAAAH"

“BAAAAAH” Nigel Farage and UKIP want to save the pubs

Save Britain’s heritage by creating a minister to look after old, listed buildings and boost tourism.

 

 

 

Re-instate the good old British boozer as a staple of British society – cigarette packets will be branded again and smoking rooms will be back (though properly ventilated this time).

 

 

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: UPHOLD THE LAW

UKIP promise 3,500 more staff for police and prisons. There will be no privatisation of the police force at all. And no European Union police force on our streets please.

British Law will be the highest power once we’ve removed ourselves from the European Court of Human Rights. Foreign prisoners will be deported immediately – BYE. This will mean lots more places to lock up British baddies.

Qualified prisoners will teach other wrong ‘uns reading and writing – and we’ll pay them! But any money will go towards compensation for whoever they’ve wronged.

Criminals don’t get the vote. Obviously.

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: REFORM – CHANGE POLITICS FOR THE BETTER

Only MPs for English constituencies get a say on English matters. Every two years there will be a public vote on the most popular petition that gets over 2 million signatures.

And if 20% of you don’t like your MP you can trigger a by-election and try to get them voted out!

Also let’s bring in Proportional Representation (PR). It’s much fairer than the current system as the % of votes won by your party = % of seats your party gets in parliament. And it probably means UKIP will get more MPs…

At the moment we have a system called First Past the Post…

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: CULTURE – BRITISH SOCIETY RULES

Union Jack UKIP

Union Jack: UKIP are big on British Culture

UKIP will promote British culture – and reject multiculturalism. Other cultures and religions welcome so long as you accept British culture as top dog. Any ideas should be open to discussion – so let’s have none of this “offense culture” where people are scared to say what they think.

So: No more multi-language formats on official documents. You get English and you’ll enjoy it… OK, fine you can have some Welsh and Gaelic.

There will be 100% zero tolerance on Female Genital Mutilation and in schools and public services there will be a legal requirement to report suspected cases.

St. George’s Day becomes a Bank Holiday. Wales also gets one on St. David’s Day. More holidays = Love UKIP

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: DEFENCE – KEEP BRITAIN SECURE

At least 2% of all the moneys will go to defence – as recommended by NATO. At least £4 billion more will be spent on defence by 2020.

We definitely need to keep Trident. After all if Iran is looking to get a nuclear bomb why shouldn’t we have one??

More needs to be done for our brave British soldiers – so they won’t pay any tax, will get their own hospital and loans to start up their own businesses. And there will NEVER be an EU army on our watch.

 

UKIP MANIFESTO: PENSIONS

When pension age does rise to 69 you’ll be able to retire at 65 but you’ll receive a little less pension money. Your call.

Pension Advice services will get their budgets doubled so you know what you’re going for and it’ll be illegal for anyone to cold call you about pensions.

 

HOW ARE THEY GONNA DO THIS??

First of all save £9 billion a year by leaving the European Union.  Then reduce money going to overseas aid to 0.2% total income. Seems to work for America.

Scrap High Speed 2 and save £4 billion to be used more wisely. Reduce spending by £5.5billion by making public spending more equal across the UK – rather than some of the country getting more than others. Scotland we’re looking at you.

Make Westminster cheaper: Reduce the number of MPs and make sure constituencies are the same size and axe a number of government departments (Sayonara to Energy and Climate Change, International Development, and Culture Media and Sport), and a big clamp down on MPs expenses.

Go Fracking! Establish a sovereign wealth fund from the tax profits of Fracking – all funds go towards social care of older people.

 

WE’VE GOT PROOF!!

At the back: Handy charts and figures from an independent consultant showing how much their policies will save and where spending will go. Oooooh, fancy.

Leader Nigel Farage claims this is the only manifesto to be properly costed.

THE UK INDEPENDENCE PARTY 2015 MANIFESTO

UKIP 2015 Manifesto Decoded: We love Britain, we love the soldiers that keep it safe and we love the British way of life.

 

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What else do you feel the UKIP aren’t quite covering? Let us know in the comment box below.