Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Power of Poetry

Robert Frost once said, “Writing a poem is discovering.” Since I prefer reading poems to writing them I would like to add that reading a poem is also discovering, and sometimes even rediscovering (no disrespect, Mr. Frost). Since working as an intern with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation I have learned to rediscover poetry in a way that I did not expect, and not just any poetry: war poetry.

Here is the irony in all of this: in Georgia I worked at an Air Force museum where we literally played the History channel’s documentary, “WWII in HD” on repeat all day long. I found it interesting and informative, but never moving. Who would have thought that a few simple words about the very same war could evoke so much emotion? Let me give you an example:

Monday, June 27, 2011

“No Regrets for Our Youth”

In a recent publication titled, “An Open Letter to Graduates” NAPF President David Krieger asks several thought-provoking questions to the future leaders of our world. While some of the questions require sincere self-reflection, others empower a sense of responsibility and commitment to change the world for the better. While reading the letter for the first time one question reminded me of a recent conversation I had with my older brother, Joe. “Does your education lead you to believe that money will buy happiness?”

For as long as I can remember, Joe has been one of the people I respect the most in my life. He works extremely hard, thinks for himself, and makes the best of every situation he’s in. On my last trip home he told me that he didn’t feel like he was really helping people in his profession and it was starting to take a toll on his life. This came as a shock to me since he went to a great school and spent the last several years working a well-paying job for a busy medical practice. He said, “It just seems like when I do help people, it’s in a very indirect way and I can’t help but think that I could be doing more.” What I learned from Joe is that the root of a fulfilled life is not success, but how you benefit humanity.

We have all heard the joke, “Money can't buy happiness, but I'd rather cry in a Ferrari.” I have to admit that I too would rather cry in a Ferrari, but here are the facts: a Ferrari won’t promote a safer planet, a Ferrari won’t stand up against injustice, and “a Ferrari” is not a suitable answer for our grandchildren when they ask us what contribution we made to the world during our lifetime. According to David’s letter, the true path to an enriched and happy life is through compassion for others, courage, and commitment. And these qualities are worth far more than a $200,000 Ferrari.

I recently watched a Kurosawa film called, “No Regrets for Our Youth.” The movie follows the story of a spoiled girl named Yukie who only cares about the superficial elements in life. When she falls for a man who is arrested for protesting the Fascist government, she realizes how empty her shallow life had been. This movie is significant because it teaches us that it is never too late to support something bigger; something that will benefit mankind and the generations to come. We all have traits that resemble Yukie prior to her transformation, but if she is capable of change then so are we. David’s letter is addressed to recent graduates, but we can all learn from the questions he asks us to consider. Check it out.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Einstein: Looking Beyond the Hair

There are few people in history who have had the ability to view the world in a different light; to see the workings of nature and humanity with imagination and wonder. Albert Einstein was one of those people. I know what you’re thinking: he’s the really smart guy who looks like he stuck his finger in a light socket, right? Yes, that’s the one. Sure he had scraggly white hair and an absent-minded brilliance that would put any modern day physicist to shame, but if you take the time to read about the life of Einstein you will learn that that he was actually a lot like you and I.

Einstein once said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” It is this curiosity that allowed him to picture what it would be like to ride on a motorcycle at the speed of light, study the bending of starlight, and question the relationship between time and space. It was also this curiosity that compelled him to continue his experiments after failing his university entrance exam in 1895 and being turned down time after time while trying to find a job.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Samurai Sword as a Symbol of Peace

For most people the image of a Samurai sword doesn’t automatically evoke warm fuzzy feelings of peace and tranquility, but despite popular belief we can actually learn a great deal from the Samurai soldier. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Non-violence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a unique weapon in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.” If we fight for peace with a sword that heals, tactical strength and discipline will enable us to cut through violence and injustice.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Star Wars Can Teach Us About Nuclear Energy

Ask epic filmmaker George Lucas where he got his inspiration for the Star Wars Trilogy and he will tell you tell you about Akira Kurosawa. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kurosawa films, fear not. I too just recently learned of the award-winning Japanese director and already find myself totally inspired by his ability to capture the human spirit on film.

Now I have to warn you: upon netflixing a Kurosawa film don’t expect to see any futuristic Endor space battles or Darth Vader cameos. Think more along the lines of Yoda’s timeless wisdom meets traditional Japanese culture. Recently here at the NAPF office I was shown a clip from one of Kurosawa’s later films called “Dreams,” which seemed eerily predictive of the Fukushima tragedy.

Yes Kurosawa was a brilliant director, but I don’t think psychic medium was part of his forte. And that’s the whole point; it doesn’t take a nuclear scientist, foretelling prophet, or award winning director to see how dangerous nuclear energy is. Kurosawa’s dream or should I say nightmare, portrays a nuclear meltdown following the eruption of Mount Fuji. And as horrifying and chaotic as the scene is, the few survivors can’t help but discuss the fact that it was all preventable.

Monday, June 13, 2011

“Lockheed Martin Developing Ninja Robots”

OK..It’s a little off topic, but I just couldn’t resist this one. I know what you’re thinking: this article reads more like something out of a Marvel comic book rather than the Christian Science Monitor, but I assure you it’s real. While our over-the-top technological advancements may provide some short-lived humor, they represent a more serious issue regarding international law and our country’s disregard for it. Now I’m not saying that Lockheed’s robots are going to use their super-human ninja skills to violate the laws of war, but I am suggesting that throughout history the United States’ government has had a tendency to overlook international law for the sake of "defense."

This brings me to the topic of today’s blog: the UCAV. Otherwise known as the “combat drone,” this undetectable killer is capable of dropping guided 2,000 lb bombs at the press of a button. What’s the best part? The Air Force gave them cool super villain names like “Sabre Warrior” and “Hunter-Killer.” And it’s only fitting that UCAV operators are basically trained on video games much like those played on an X-box or Playstation. Unfortunately, the targets are live people, not digital images.

Friday, June 10, 2011

President's Message

Today is an important day in history. It was 90 years ago on this day that Babe Ruth became baseball's all-time home run leader. It was 68 years ago today that the ballpoint pen was patented in the United States. And on this day just 48 years ago during the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy gave the Commencement Address at American University where he discussed the importance of peace and how nuclear weapons would destroy that peace by creating, “a new face of war.” While we have come a long way on the road to peace and nuclear abolition, this “new face of war” still remains.

In light of the recently released Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report, NAPF President David Krieger released a message titled, "How Many Nuclear Weapons Still Threaten Humanity?" On this significant day in history we must be proud of how far humanity has come, but we must also realize that the path to nuclear abolition is one we must continue to walk if we ever want to experience the kind of genuine peace that President Kennedy referred to almost 50 years ago: the kind of peace that we all deserve.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Scope of Nuclear Proliferation

While compiling information for Nuclear Files today, I came across a timeline entry from a document from the Carnegie Endowment that helped visualize just how many countries are involved in nuclear affairs:

“December 2001 - The German cargo ship BBC China is intercepted en route to Libya with components for 1,000 centrifuges. The parts were manufactured in Malaysia by SCOPE and shipped through Dubai.”

In a single event, four separate countries and one company are implicated in the illegal transfer of nuclear technology. More than that, none of these countries are typically “counted” when discussing nuclear proliferation.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Study Says Nuclear Weapons Threat Not Decreasing

As we know all too well at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the threat of nuclear weapons is not going to decrease any time soon. For those who have been keeping up with the Department of Energy blog series, it’s clear that the United States is putting more emphasis on developing new atomic weapons or “modernizing” our nuclear arsenal, rather than phasing out or retiring existing warheads. A recent study from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) revealed that we are not alone. According to the Swedish study, “the five legally recognized nuclear weapons states, as defined by the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty are either deploying new nuclear weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so.” And by doing so, nuclear weapons states are only making the WMD club look that much more appealing to non-weapons states.

Monday, June 6, 2011

W78 Life Extension Program

There is a reason why only two people “like” the W78 Interest Page on Facebook. While these nuclear warheads are currently deployed on 200 Minuteman III missiles, the W78s may only be in service for another five years. So does that mean the National Nuclear Security Administration is planning their retirement? Not exactly. In a recent post I briefly discussed how the Department of Energy’s “Life Extension Programs” are just a fancy sounding way to increase the power and destructiveness of existing warheads rather than to “ensure that the nuclear stockpile remains reliable.” This is precisely the case with the W78 Life Extension Program.

According to a declassified study released by the NNSA, the W78 will have been deployed for more than 41 years by 2021. Somehow this fact justifies exploring the possibility of a new joint warhead approach (this is the part where “increase the power and destructiveness” comes in). In other words, instead of replacing the existing W78 that has already been extensively tested, the DOE wants to combine the W78 and W88 warhead to make an entirely new type of bomb.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Nuclear Deterrence Theory: still alive and kicking

One of the major impediments on the path to sustainable universal nuclear disarmament – meaning a world without nuclear weapons as well as the incentive to acquire them – is the persistent belief in the nuclear deterrence theory. This theory – which, in its most common form, claims that the threat of retaliation in kind will deter an opponent from carrying out a nuclear strike against you – was a cornerstone of the security mindset during the Cold War, yet continues to influence foreign and defence policies of nuclear weapon states, and such aspiring states, today.

Excellent efforts by academics, policy analysts and NGOs (with the support of some governments) have recently been undertaken to debunk the nuclear deterrence theory and as far as the present author is concerned, the reasoning displayed in these works is irrefutable and should convince anyone still in doubt of the uselessness of these instruments.[1] However, although there are hopeful signs that in some states the blind belief in nuclear deterrence is losing its grip on security thinking, in others the theory is still very much alive and kicking.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Letter from a Fukushima Mother

So I decided to take another hiatus from the series on the Department of Energy’s most dangerous and budget-busting projects to call attention to a monumentally important email we received here at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Some of you may have read, “Letter from a Fukushima Mother,” as it has been circulating throughout Twitter, but if you haven’t I highly suggest doing so. The letter written by Tomoko Hatsuzawa, a mother of two living in Fukushima City, expresses the devastating impact of the recent nuclear catastrophe and urges the public to speak out against the government’s use of nuclear power. Please don’t read this letter as an outsider looking in, we need to awaken to the fact that what happened in Japan could and will happen in the United States if we continue to pursue nuclear power as the solution to our energy needs. Here are the facts:
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