Baby Teeth, Collected Decades Ago, Can Show the Damage to Human Health of Nuclear Tests

By Lawrence Wittner and Joseph Mangano

In 2020, Harvard University’s T. C. Chan School of Public Health began a five-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that will examine the connection between early life exposure to toxic metals and later-life risk of neurological disease. A collaborator with Harvard, the Radiation and Public Health Project, will analyze the relationship of strontium-90 (a radioactive element in nuclear weapons explosions) and disease risk in later life.

The read more

The Fateful Choice: Nuclear Arms Race or Nuclear Weapons-Free World

The recent announcement by the British government that it plans a 40 percent increase in the number of nuclear weapons it possesses highlights the escalation of the exceptionally dangerous and costly nuclear arms race.

After decades of progress in reducing nuclear arsenals through arms control and disarmament agreements, all the nuclear powers are once again busily upgrading their nuclear weapons capabilities.  For read more

Opposition to Abolishing Nuclear Weapons–and What Could Help to Overcome It

Given the fact that nuclear war means the virtual annihilation of life on earth, it’s remarkable that many people continue to resist building a nuclear weapons-free world.  Is the human race suicidal?

Before jumping to that conclusion, let’s remember that considerably more people favor abolishing nuclear weapons than oppose it.  Public opinion surveys—ranging from polls in 21 nations worldwide read more

The Great Evasion

Two related events—the 75th anniversary of the January 24, 1946 UN General Assembly Resolution 1 (which established a commission to plan for the abolition of nuclear weapons) and the January 22, 2021 entry into force of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (designed to finally implement that goal)—should be a cause for worldwide celebration.

In fact, however, they are a cause for shame.  The nine nuclear powers have read more

Making America Feared Again: The Trump Administration Considers Resuming Nuclear Weapons Testing

Americans who grew up with nightmares of nuclear weapons explosions should get ready for some terrifying flashbacks, for the Trump administration appears to be preparing to resume U.S. nuclear weapons tests.

The U.S. government stopped its atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in 1962, shortly before signing the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963.  And it halted its underground nuclear tests in 1992, signing read more

Let Them Eat Weapons: Trump’s Bizarre Arms Race

In late May of this year, President Donald Trump’s special envoy for arms control bragged before a Washington think tank that the U.S. government was prepared to outspend Russia and China to win a new nuclear arms race.  “The president has made clear that we have a tried and true practice here,” he remarked.  “We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion.”

This comment was not out of line for a Trump administration official.  Indeed, back in December read more

Beating Swords to Plowshares

by Kathy Kelly
May 30, 2020

Inscribed on a wall across from the United Nations in New York City are ancient words of incalculable yearning:

“They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.” – Isaiah 2:4

I’ve stood with activists in front of that same wall singing Down by the Riverside, a song promising we’ll lay down read more

The Coronavirus Pandemic, Like Other Global Catastrophes, Reveals the Limitations of Nationalism

We live with a profound paradox.  Our lives are powerfully affected by worldwide economic, communications, transportation, food supply, and entertainment systems.  Yet we continue an outdated faith in the nation-state, with all the divisiveness, competition, and helplessness that faith produces when dealing with planetary problems.

As we have seen in recent weeks, the coronavirus, like other diseases, does not respect national boundaries, but spreads easily around the world.  And how is it being confronted?  Despite the heroic efforts of doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel, the governments of individual nations have largely gone their own way―some denying the pandemic’s existence, others taking fragmentary and sometimes contradictory steps, and still others doing a reasonably good job of stemming the contagion.  The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) should be at the center of a global campaign to contain the disease.  But its early warnings were ignored by many national officials, including those of the U.S. government, who rejected the WHO’s coronavirus testing kits.  Moreover, the WHO has limited funding―more than three-quarters of which now comes from voluntary contributions rather than from the dwindling assessments paid by individual nations.  Undermined by parochial national concerns, the WHO has been less effective in safeguarding the health of the world’s people than it could have been.

Similarly, the unfolding climate disaster presents a stark contrast between a worldwide problem and the behavior of national governments.  The world’s leading climate scientists have concluded that urgent changes are needed by 2030 to rescue the planet from irreversible climate catastrophe, including extreme heat, drought, floods, and escalating poverty.  And yet, despite an upsurge of social movements to save the planet, national governments have been unable to agree on remedial action, such as sharps curbs on fossil fuel production.  Indeed, two of the biggest oil producers―the Russian and Saudi Arabian governments―are currently opening the spigots in an oil production war.  For its part, the U.S. government has turned sharply against the solar power industry and is heavily subsidizing the fossil fuel industry.  This national irresponsibility occurs despite the urgent pleas of UN leaders.  “The point of no return is no longer over the horizon,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters in late 2019.  “It is in sight and hurtling toward us.”

Warfare, of course, constitutes yet another problem of global dimensions.  Over the centuries, war has shattered countless lives and brought human civilization to the brink of annihilation.  It is estimated that, during the 20th century alone, war (including two world wars) caused 187 million deaths, plus far greater numbers of injuries, widespread devastation, and economic ruin.  Furthermore, nuclear war, unleashed in 1945 as the culmination of World War II, today has the potential to wipe out virtually all life on earth.  And how are individual nations preparing to avert this global catastrophe?  By getting ready to fight wars with one another!  In 2018 (the last year for which figures are available), world military expenditures rose to a record $1.8 trillion, with the governments of the United States and China leading the way.  Ignoring the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the nine nuclear-armed nations, at enormous cost, are currently busy ramping up their nuclear production facilities and producing a new generation of nuclear weapons.  In response to the looming nuclear menace and climate catastrophe, the editors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently reset the hands of their famous “Doomsday Clock” at an unprecedented 100 seconds to midnight.

Nor are these the only global threats that the nation-state system has failed to adequately address.  Among other things, the world is undergoing a refugee crisis of vast proportions, suffering from the predatory policies of multinational corporations, and experiencing widespread poverty and violations of human rights.  Do we really think that the current crop of flamboyant, flag-waving nationalist leaders, busy promising to make their countries “great” again, are going to solve these or other global problems?

Of course, for centuries there have been great ethical, intellectual, and political leaders who have sought to move beyond nationalism by emphasizing the common humanity of all people.  “The world is my country,” declared the adopted American revolutionary Tom Paine, and “all mankind are my brethren.”  Albert Einstein dismissed nationalism as “an infantile disease,” while British novelist H.G. Wells, like Einstein, became a staunch advocate of world government.  The idea of limiting national sovereignty in the interest of global security helped spark the creation of the League of Nations and, later, the United Nations.

But, unfortunately, the rulers of numerous countries, though often paying lip service to international law and international security, have never accepted significant limitations on their own government’s ability to do what it liked in world affairs.  Thus, major military powers hamstrung the League and the United Nations by refusing to join these world organizations, withdrawing from them, vetoing or ignoring official resolutions, and refusing to pay their annual dues or other assessments.  A particularly flagrant example of contempt for global governance occurred in mid-March 2020, when the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, ridiculed the International Criminal Court and threatened its staff (and even their family members) for daring to investigate U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.

Thus, although robust and capable global governance is now more necessary than ever, a primitive, shortsighted nationalism continues to frustrate efforts to come to grips with massive global problems.

Even so, an extraordinary danger presents humanity with an extraordinary opportunity.  The coronavirus disaster, like the other current catastrophes ravaging the planet, might finally convince people around the globe that transcending nationalism is central to survival.

Lawrence Wittner (https://www.lawrenceswittner.com/ ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of

Confronting
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Trump’s Budget Proposal Reveals His Values

It is often said that government budgets are “an expression of values.”  Those values are clear in the Trump administration’s $4.8 trillion budget proposal for fiscal 2021, unveiled early this February.

The budget calls for deep cuts in major U.S. government programs, especially those protecting public health.  The Department of Health and Human Services would be slashed by 10 percent, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has already been proven to be underfunded and unprepared to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, would be cut by 9 percent.  Spending on Medicaid, which currently insures healthcare for one out of five Americans, would plummet by roughly $900 billion, largely thanks to reductions in coverage for the poor and the disabled.  Meanwhile, Medicare expenditures would drop by roughly $500 billion.

Public education constitutes another low-priority item in the Trump administration’s budget proposal.  Calling for a funding cut of nearly 8 percent in the Department of Education, the proposal hits student assistance programs particularly hard.  Despite the soaring costs of a college education, the budget would eliminate subsidized federal student loans and end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which currently cancels federal student loan debt for teachers and other public servants after a decade of loan payments.  The budget would also reduce student work-study funding and increase the percentage of discretionary income student borrowers must devote to repayment.

Some of the deepest cuts in the Trump budget relate to the environment.  The Environmental Protection agency would lose 26 percent of its funding, including a 10 percent reduction in the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup program, a nearly 50 percent reduction in research and development, and a $376 million decrease in efforts to improve air quality.  EPA staffing would fall to its lowest levels in three decades, thereby hampering enforcement of existing environmental regulations. Moreover, there would be cuts to the National Park Service of $587 million and to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of $80 million, including an $11 million reduction in funding for determining extinction risk under the Endangered Species Act.  The administration’s approach to the environment is also evident in the budget’s call for a cut of half the funding for the ecosystem work of the U.S. Geological Survey and for a 74 percent reduction in funding for the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program of the Department of Energy.

The budget targets other domestic programs for sharp cutbacks, as well.  In the area of public transportation, Amtrak’s federal grants would be reduced from $2 billion to less than half that amount.  The budget proposal also calls for ending all federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports PBS and National Public Radio stations.  Although Trump has repeatedly promised not to cut Social Security, his budget would do just that, slashing it by $71 billion worth of benefits earmarked for disabled workers.

Programs aiding impoverished Americans come in for particularly harsh treatment.  Although homelessness and securing affordable housing in urban areas are major problems in the United States, the budget calls for a 15 percent decrease in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Programs that help pay for rental assistance for low-income people have been slashed, while award grants to neighborhoods with deteriorating public and federally assisted housing would be eliminated.

Furthermore, the budget proposes cutting funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal government’s primary effort to feed the hungry, by $180 billion between 2021 and 2030.  Stricter work requirements would be implemented, and are expected to result in nearly 700,000 Americans being dropped from the program’s coverage.  Among them are large numbers of children, who would also lose their enrollment in the free school lunch program.  Explaining the cuts, the Trump budget message stated that “too many people are still missing the opportunity to move from dependence to self-sufficiency.”

It’s also noteworthy that, in a world plagued by wars, a massive refugee crisis, climate disasters, and disease epidemics, the Trump budget calls for slashing State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development funding by 22 percent.  The biggest cuts target diplomatic engagement, food assistance, and international organizations such as the United Nations, which would receive $447 million less for UN peacekeeping efforts and $508 million less for U.S. dues to the world organization.  The budget also calls for slashing more than $3 billion in funding from global health programs, including half of U.S. funding for the World Health Organization.

By contrast, the Trump budget proposes substantial increases for the president’s favorite programs.  Additional spending would be devoted to restricting immigration, including another $2 billion for building Trump’s much-touted wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and another $544 million to hire 4,636 additional ICE enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys.  Moreover, as a

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Which Would You Prefer–Nuclear War or Climate Catastrophe?

To:      The people of the world

From:  The Joint Public Relations Department of the Great Powers

The world owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Boris Johnson, and other heroic rulers of our glorious nations.  Not only are they hard at work making their respective countries great again, but they are providing you, the people of the world, with a choice between two opportunities for mass death and destruction.

Throughout the broad sweep of history, leaders of competing territories and eventually nations labored at fostering human annihilation, but, given the rudimentary state of their technology, were only partially successful.  Yes, they did manage to slaughter vast numbers of people through repeated massacres and constant wars.  The Thirty Years War of 1618-1648, for example, resulted in more than 8 million casualties, a substantial portion of Europe’s population.  And, of course, World Wars I and II, supplemented by a hearty dose of genocide along the way, did a remarkably good job of ravaging populations, crippling tens of millions of survivors, and blasting much of world civilization to rubble.  Even so, despite the best efforts of national rulers and the never-ending glory they derived from these events, large numbers of people somehow survived.

Therefore, in August 1945, the rulers of the great powers took a great leap forward with their development―and immediate use―of a new, advanced implement for mass destruction:  nuclear weapons.  Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin were all eager to employ atomic bombs against the people of Japan.  Upon receiving the news that the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima had successfully obliterated the population of that city, Truman rejoiced and called the action “the greatest thing in history.”

Efforts to enhance national grandeur followed during subsequent decades, as the rulers of the great powers (and some pathetic imitators) engaged in an enormous nuclear arms race.  Determined to achieve military supremacy, they spared no expense, employed Nazi scientists and slave labor, and set off vast nuclear explosions on the lands of colonized people and in their own countries.  By the 1980s, about 70,000 nuclear weapons were under their command―more than enough to destroy the world many times over.  Heartened by their national strength, our rulers threw down the gauntlet to their enemies and predicted that their nations would emerge victorious in a nuclear war.

But, alas, the public, failing to appreciate these valiant efforts, grew restive―indeed, disturbingly unpatriotic.  Accordingly, they began to sabotage these advances by demanding that their governments step back from the brink of nuclear war, forgo nuclear buildups, and adopt nuclear arms control and disarmament treaties.  The popular clamor became so great that even Ronald Reagan―a longtime supporter of nuclear supremacy and “winnable” nuclear wars―crumpled.  Championing nuclear disarmament, he began declaring that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”  National glory had been sacrificed on the altar of a cowardly quest for human survival.

Fortunately, those days are long past.  In the United States, President Trump is determined to restore America’s greatness by scrapping nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements, spending $1.7 trillion on refurbishing the entire U.S. nuclear weapons complex, and threatening to eradicate other nations through nuclear war.  Meanwhile, the president’s good friends in Moscow, Beijing, London, Paris, New Delhi, and elsewhere are busy spurring on their own national nuclear weapons buildups.  As they rightly insist:  The only way to stop a bad nation with the Bomb is with a good nation with the Bomb.

Nor is that all!  Recently, our rulers have opened up a second opportunity for a planetary destruction:  climate catastrophe.  Some scientists, never satisfied with leaving the running of public affairs to their wise rulers, have claimed that, thanks to the burning of fossil fuels, rising temperatures are melting the polar icecaps, heightening sea levels, and causing massive hurricanes and floods, desertification, agricultural collapse, and enormous wildfires.  As a result, they say, human and other life forms are on their way to extinction.

These scientists―and the deluded people who give them any credence―are much like the critics of nuclear weapons:  skeptics, nay-sayers, and traitorously indifferent to national grandeur.  By contrast, our rulers understand that any curbing of the use of fossil fuels—or, for that matter, any cutbacks in the sale of the products that make our countries great―would interfere with corporate profits, undermine business growth and expansion, and represent a retreat from the national glory that is their due.  Consequently, even if by some remote chance we are entering a period of climate disruption, our rulers will refuse to give way before these unpatriotic attacks.  As courageous leaders, they will never retreat before the prospect of your mass death and destruction.

We are sure that you, as loyal citizens, are as enthusiastic as we are about this staunch defense of national glory.  So, if you notice anyone challenging this approach, please notify your local Homeland Security office.  Meanwhile, rest assured, our governments will also be closely monitoring these malcontents and subversives!

Naturally, your rulers would love to have your feedback.  Therefore, we are submitting to you this question:  Which would you prefer―destruction by nuclear war or destruction by climate catastrophe?  Nuclear war will end your existence fairly quickly through blast or fire, although your death would be slower and more agonizing if you survived long enough to die of radiation sickness or starvation.  On the other hand, climate catastrophe has appealing variety, for you could die by fire, water, or hunger.  Or you might simply roast slowly thanks to unbearable temperatures.

We’d appreciate receiving your opinion on this matter.  After all, providing you with this kind of choice is a vital part of making our nations great again!

Lawrence Wittner (https://www.lawrenceswittner.com/ ) is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).