3 Things You Can Tell About America from the US Election Presidential Candidates

Co-author Jakob Possert

The United States has started casting its votes for its presidential frontrunners for the 2016 US election. There are currently a solid half dozen candidates to lead the Democrat and Republican contest, you can freshen up on who those candidates are here. Soon only two of these people will matter to anyone and the US election will really start. Before the rest end up consigned to history, we take a look at the full spread of candidates to see what we can tell about what’s going down in America right now.

Nuclear Bombs Explained: how likely is nuclear war?

 Nuclear Bombs Explained: How many are there in the world?

Nuclear Bombs Explained: Map of the world showing which countries have nuclear weapons

Nuclear Bombs Explained: Blue = NPT states (with nuclear weapons), Red = other states with Nuclear Weapons, Brown = Suspected of having weapons, Navy = NATO nuclear weapon sharing states, Green = Formally had nuclear weapons

There are around 15,000 nuclear bombs in the world. Who do these belong to, I hear you ask?

– NPT-designated nuclear weapon states (China, France, Russia,United Kingdom, United States)
– Other states with nuclear weapons (India, Pakistan, North Korea)
– Other states believed to have nuclear weapons (Israel)
– States formerly possessing nuclear weapons (Belarus, Kazakhstan,Ukraine, South Africa)

That sounds like a lot of weapons.

Nuclear Bombs Explained A Mark 28 thermo-nuclear bomb is downloaded from a B-52H Stratofortress aircraft during Exercise GLOBAL SHIELD '84.

Nuclear Bombs Explained; the cold war saw stockpiles of weapons

Yeah, but it could be a lot worse. In the early 1980s the number of Nuclear Bombs was around 70,000.

Countries were stockpiling weapons due to the “Cold War”. This was a war without actual fighting, with countries like the USA and Russia gradually building up their weapons stockpile; each daring the other to fight.

Eventually, the Cold War began to thaw out, and countries with Nuclear Bombs decided that making more was a really daft idea. So they signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the NPT countries listed above). The treaty aims to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and to eventually disarm and get rid of them altogether. Don’t hold your breath any time soon.

 

Hiroshima: the world’s first nuclear bomb

Recently the world marked the 70 year anniversary of the Hiroshima Bomb. This was the first nuclear weapon.

Should the Hiroshima bomb have been used?

Nuclear Bombs Explained The US Battleship USS California sinks in Pearl Harbor. Hiroshima Explained

Hiroshima Explained; the Americans had a score to settle after Pearl Harbor

An article by the Center for Strategic and International Studies explores the reasons why the bomb was used;

The Americans wanted to end the war as quickly as possible, and at the lowest cost (financially, as well as the cost of American lives). The USA had spent a ton of money the “Manhattan Project”, their top-secret project to design the nuclear bomb.

$1,889,604,000 had gone into the Manhattan Project. Given that this was in 1945, the build would have cost a lot more today. Not using the bomb would have meant all that $$$$ was wasted.

As well as this, the attack on Pearl Harbor meant that the USA really didn’t like Japan. In 1941 Japanese planes attacked the base at Pearl Harbor killing 2,000 Americans and destroying 20 ships and 200 airplanes. The next day America declared war on Japan and joined World War II. By the end of the war the US had a score to settle.

The Americans were also thinking about how the world would be after the war. The Soviet Union (now Russia) was becoming a dominant force in the world. Dropping the Hiroshima bomb was a sign of strength – don’t mess with us. It’s been claimed that impressing Russia was the real reason for dropping the bomb; others argue it was just an added benefit.

As the article says “weapons were created to be used”. What else would one do with a nuclear bomb?

However, there were alternatives. US generals believed that conventional bombing and using the navy to blockade Japan would have forced the country to surrender within months. The lives of Americans would have been at risk, but it would have saved the consequences of a nuclear attack.

 

 

Nuclear Bombs Explained: what are the chances of them being used now?

Nuclear Bombs Explained; a satellite radar dish

Nuclear Bombs Explained; satellite “early warning” systems have failed in the past

Higher than you might think.

Relations between Russia and the West have recently gone sour again, and countries like Iran are trying to get in on the nuclear act. Though the Cold War is now over, the USA and Russia still have hundreds of Nuclear Bombs on “hair trigger alert”. This means that the nuclear weapons could be deployed within minutes. So don’t make any sudden moves.

There have been several examples where errors by computers and humans have almost led to nuclear bombs being deployed. In 1979, a technician accidentally inserted a tape with a training exercise into the computer monitoring incoming threats. The computer showed an incoming Russian attack and the Americans nearly fired their weapons in retaliation.

In 1983 a Russian satellite mistook reflections from the sun as American missiles launching. And in 1995 the Russian warning system noticed the launch of a missile. The Russian President activated a device that would allow a launch of nuclear bombs. It turned out the “missile” was an US/Norwegian scientific rocket being sent up to study the Northern Lights. Norway had warned Russia about the experiment but the message had failed to get to the right departments. The world potentially nearly ended because a memo went to the wrong office.

 

Nuclear Bombs Explained: a nuclear war is now a possibility?

Nuclear War Explained: President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin sit awkwardly in silence

Nuclear War Explained: things are still tense between the USA and Russia

At the moment there is quite a lot of tension in the world. Note, we have zero intention of scare mongering, just a few things worth bearing in mind;

Russia has managed to p£$$ everyone off for taking an area of land called Crimea away from Ukraine. This has caused a drastic heightening of tensions between the USA and Russia. Because of this, Russia’s President Putin has lowered the bar for when Russia would use nuclear weapons.

Many experts now say that nuclear war with Russia is a possibility. A report from the London think-tank Chatham House states “the probability of inadvertent nuclear use is not zero and is higher than had been widely considered.”

Iran has just signed a deal to cut back on its nuclear activity. However countries like Israel still suspect they are up to no good and will “receive a sure path to nuclear weapons.” Why so suspicious, Israel?

China is worrying everyone by building military bases in the south China sea. It could be only a matter of time before someone decides to stand up to China.

And there are alarming reports that North Korea has an army of computer hackers that could cause havoc at the push of a button. Which is always good.

All these countries have (or at some point have been suspected to have) nuclear weapons. It’s unlikely these countries will be dropping a nuke any time soon – but all it would take is one country being pushed too far, again. So, are we heading for World War III? Let’s just hope world leaders learn from the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

Want to understand a bit more?

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is pushing to scrap the UK’s nuclear programme.

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The 4 Worst Strikes in History

With another strike looming, Scenes of Reason looks back on the worst international strikes in history.

 

 

2005 New York City Transit Strike

 

new-york-transit-strike-2005

New York Transit Strike

Buses and subways were halted from December 20 to 22. Millions who relied on public transportation were effectively grounded.

Reason: The strike, on behalf of the Transport Workers Union, demanded from the Metropolitan Transit Authority pension, wage and retirement increases in unsuccessful contract negotiations.

Result: Workers were apparently adequately satisfied, as transit operations were back in full order in the late morning of December 22nd.

 

 

 

2009 UK Postal Strike

postman-pat

UK Postal Strike

Ten’s of millions of post went undelivered between 2009-10.

Reason: There was a threat that a new letter-route machine would result in a huge loss of jobs. The robots are coming!

Result: Higher pay and an agreement to maintain 75% of workers in full-time positions.

 

2012 Quebec Student Protests

 

lucky-strike

Quebec Student Strike

Student’s refused to go to school and instead took to the streets in protest over a planned rise in tuition fees. The protests lasted over six months and during its peak involved approximately 250,000 people. The activity blurred the line between striking and rioting as on several occasions the police turned violent. A square red flag was used as a symbol for the strikes.

Reason: Rise in tuition fees, from $2,168 to $3,793.

Result: Student associations returned to class when the ministerial decree announced a tuition freeze.

 

2014 South African Miners Strike

 

South African Miners Strike

Miner Strike

Workers at South Africa’s major platinum producers – Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum, and Lonmin refused to work over their wages.  It was the longest and most expensive strike in South African History.

Reason: Went on strike demanding that wages be immediately doubled.

Result: Settled for a more modest pay increase spread over three years.

 

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Two Sides To Gun Control in the USA

 

Gun Control.

Tougher laws on who gets guns. Celebrities seem to want it. President Obama’s tried to do something about it. And after a recent shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, Americans are now googling “gun control” rather than “gun shop”.  So why is it so difficult to change the laws on gun control in the USA? Why can’t gun use be made illegal instead of ‘controlled’?

 

What’s the law on Gun Control in the USA?

 

It’s legal to own and carry a weapon.

Gun Control - a man shoots a rifle and is knocked over by the recoil

Guns are legal. As is laughing at this fail.

Americans; if you are 18+ you can buy a shotgun in any state. If you’re 21 and over you can buy handguns.

Drinking laws in America mean that you can buy a gun at 18, but not buy an alcoholic drink until 21. Seems fair.

Since 1968, people who have committed a crime punishable by more than one year in prison, who are busted with illegal drugs or have mental health issues aren’t allowed to buy guns.

 

What makes this legal?

Gun control sketch talking about Open Carry laws

Just going for a walk. With my gun.

The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law in the USA.  It’s a set of principles stating how the country is governed and it outlines the rights and freedoms of the country’s citizens.

Part of the Constitution called the Second Amendment states;

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

 

Americans have the right to keep a weapon for self-defence. Recently more and more states are bringing in “right to carry” laws, which mean you are legally allowed to carry a gun in public.

Find out more about the US constitution and why the UK doesn’t have one

 

Why are we talking about this?

President Obama on Gun Control "We cannot tolerate this any more"

Recent killings have re-opened the gun control debate

The USA has the highest gun ownership in the world. On average the US has 88 guns for every 100 residents. That’s compared to only 6 in the UK. However this DOESN’T mean that all Americans have guns. In fact only 32% of Americans own a gun or live in a household where there is one. Meaning certain individuals are buying up more and more guns.

According to gun control campaigners The Brady Campaign, 18,000 US children and teenagers are injured and killed due to guns every year.

Over the past few decades a number of shootings have got people asking if guns are a good idea.

These events include; the Columbine Massacre in 1999, where Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed twelve students and one teacher. The most deadly attack by a single person in American history was the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, where 32 people were killed. And in 2012, a gunman killed 12 people during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado.

The recurring fact: civilians taking guns into a crowded public place and killing people. In the past few weeks gun control is on the agenda again. This time it’s because of the tragic killings of nine people by a man called Dylann Roof, in Charleston, South Carolina.

 

Pros (Why we need more gun control)

Gun Control - a man pulls out several heavy duty weapons

Self Defense? Oh, really.

– More guns mean more deaths. Simple.

– It’s not just about murder; it’s also about suicides. Around 2/3rd of gun deaths in the US are suicides. A report showed that people were more likely to commit suicide in areas where gun ownership was high. Should we be making it easier for people to take their own life?

– No gun control = US government cannot protect its citizens. The statistics show Americans want change. Around 54% of Americans would like tougher gun laws and around 90% agree with background checks before being able to buy a weapon. Though it’s worth noting this is just one survey.

– The Second Amendment is outdated. Controversial? Maybe, but some argue the most important part is where it talks about a militia (military force made up of civilians in emergencies).  When the constitution was written it was unsure if America would actually be a success. Invasion from other American states was a real threat. The idea was that the people should be allowed to protect themselves if invaded. But with the chances of an American invasion now very low is this rule still relevant?

– A gun study looked at shootings from 1982 to 2012. In 49 out of 62 cases the killer used legal weapons. So if you want to reduce the shootings, make ’em illegal!

– It doesn’t mean we’re going to take your precious guns away. Tougher checks just mean that people who shouldn’t have shooters don’t get them. Simple as that.

 

Cons (Why we shouldn’t have gun control)

Gun Control - Two police officers suddenly have guns thrust in their face

Ummm, I have the right to protect myself.

– In the UK, banning handguns didn’t do much to lower homicide. Although death by guns went down, overall murders went up. As the saying goes; Guns don’t kill people, people do.

– Having a gun means you can protect yourself if attacked. How many victims of knife crime or muggings would still be alive if they’d had a gun?

– A ban on assault weapons put in place in 1994 has not been renewed. The reason? The banning of these weapons didn’t reduce the number of shootings.

Gun Control - a woman fires a rifle and drops it due to the recoil

Question: Are guns more danger to the user?

– The Second Amendment is just as relevant now as then. Just because the individual states now get along fine, doesn’t mean America isn’t under threat from other countries and extremists.

– And about suicide; do we have the right to take away people’s choice over taking their own life? It’s their choice. And if you get rid of guns, people will find other ways, which might be more painful and slow.

 

 

Real Talk;

Responses to #guncontrol on Twitter.com

#guncontrol on Twitter.com

 

Gun Learnings; rather than talking about gun control most people are worried about whether to take down a flag.

What do you think? Should the USA bring in tougher gun laws?

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Why is there a Chinese Great Wall of Sand in the middle of the South China Sea?

Umm, I thought China already had a Great Wall?

 

chinese great wall of sand china south sea, great wall of china

This is the Original Great Wall of China.

 

Yeah, but this new one isn’t thousands of years old. It was only spotted last month. Lets break it down.

On the left is the Great Wall of China. It was built in 700 BC to defend China’s borders from invaders.

 

 

 

chinese great wall of sand china south sea, ariel view of the great all of sand in the china south sea

Chinese Wall of Sand.

And on the right is the Chinese Great Wall of Sand.

It appeared in 2015 and is there… to defend China’s borders. Well, if it worked before, why not do the same again.

China has been building the “wall” in the South China Sea. Chinese ships pumped sand onto existing coral reefs to build and extend patches of land.

 

They are then adding concrete and creating airbases out in the middle of the ocean. Oh, and they are also installing weaponry on the islands. Not suspicious at all.

 

Why the need for a Great Wall of Sand?

chinese great wall of sand china south sea, cat jumps out on other cat hiding under grass

China and surrounding countries set up military bases in the hope of claiming the territory of the Spratly Island Chain. Meowww…CAT FIGHT!

An ocean is a big place; it’s quite difficult to know which bits belong to different countries. After all you can’t exactly just put your flag in the water. Back to the drawing board I suppose.

China claims that the whole of the South China Sea is Chinese Territory. Fair enough, I mean it does have their name in it.

But other countries like Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei (no we hadn’t heard of it either) and Vietnam say some parts are theirs.

chinese great wall of sand china south sea, malcolm in the middle gif golf cart sinking into water

How do you define sea borders without a flag? I have a sinking feeling about this.

All the countries disagree over who owns the Spratly Island Chain. This is a small group of islands in the South China Sea.
So did the countries do the sensible thing and talk it out? Not a chance. Most of the countries involved have built separate military outposts along the Spratly Island Chain to stake their claim.

The islands are hundreds of miles from China. This hasn’t stopped the Chinese marking their territory by pouring tons of sand into the sea and building on existing coral reefs to create military bases. At the moment, these are separate bases.  As the Chinese keep on building people have joked that they are building a second wall of China in the sea.  It’s ambitious, I’ll give them that.

 

 

What do other countries think about events in the South China Sea?

China and the USA haven’t been the best of friends recently. The USA is suspicious of China’s military expansion and worries China will evolve into a dangerous superpower. And China dislikes being told what to do by the Yankees.

China and other countries are about to attend the Shangri-La dialogue. This is meeting is for world leaders in the Pacific/Asia area to discuss security and military events. I wonder what they will be talking about?

Chinese Great Wall of Sand Twitter Reaction

Twitter reaction to the Chinese Great Wall of Sand.

 

What we learned today: China loves walls. Like, seriously loves them.

Is China sensible to protect its borders? Or is there a better way to develop relationships with other countries apart from building sand castles?