Saturday, January 30, 2016

World War I: ‘1916: A Global History,’ by Keith Jeffery

Keith Jeffery argues in this new historical study that in 1916, the Great War expanded from the bloody fields of Europe and attained global reach, becoming, he believes, a true world war, one that in many important ways continues today.
He begins his march through 1916 in December 1915, as the Allies finally determined that their ill-conceived invasion of the Dardanelles at Gallipoli was a failure and withdrew, an operation that concluded in January. From there, he visits France and the iconic Battle of Verdun that started in February and lasted for most of the year.
He then examines the Italian-Austrian Front before turning to the Irish rebellion on Easter Day. The subsequent chapters examine the sea war, principally focusing on the North Atlantic and North Sea battles, and the Eastern Front, where the Central Powers fought against Imperial Russian forces.
As his study of the calendar year continues, Jeffery visits Asia — India, China, Southeast Asia — and Africa, mostly focusing on East and South Africa, then he returns to Belgium, where the Battle of the Somme, possibly the most iconic and certainly the bloodiest battle of the war, commenced in July and cost more than a million lives before it sputtered to an inconclusive halt in autumn.
The final three chapters concern more repercussive developments, particularly in the Middle East and Balkans, where the Allies, in particular, set the stage for a century of violent conflict among pan-Islamic, Arabic and Semitic peoples. After that, Jeffery offers a skirting overview of Woodrow Wilson’s abandonment of American neutrality, then he concludes in December with the bizarre and mysterious assassination of the Siberian monk, Grigorii Rasputin, an event that Jeffery and most historians believe led to the Russian Revolution.
Jeffery’s almost literal march around the globe and through the calendar of 1916 unfolds with workmanlike precision. His complete knowledge of the war’s history is impressive and astonishing, and his revelations of research conducted for this volume are highly impressive. He reaches into obscure archives and minor publications of the time and demonstrates thorough knowledge of both the domestic and international political pressures that were at work around the globe.
As Jeffery scans and summarizes these vast materials, describing the clash and competition of states and cultures, though, he often tends to gloss over the horrific human cost of the war, especially in the farthest reaches of civilization.
He details unfathomably bloody battles, often in obscure locales, enormous dislocations of people, deliberate genocidal eradications, mass migrations of refugees, rape and pillage of innocents, gatherings of slave laborers and forced conscriptions of colonial troops. He almost dispassionately cites numerical statistics with encyclopedic efficiency but with little acknowledgment of the humanity.
What is not lost on him, though, is the irony that what should have been just another spat between France and Germany could so tragically reach into the lives of people who had no idea what the whole conflict was about, many of whom, actually, could not have found Europe on a map.
The astonishing number of sideshows that developed into significant national movements, including the Irish Rebellion, the establishment of Australia’s and New Zealand’s national identities and the birth of Turkish pride, seems to indicate an awakening of militant nationalism around the world.
The stirrings of ethnic, cultural and religious distinctiveness emerged forcefully as the war raged and geopolitical control became vital to the European powers. Many of these movements, Jeffery argues, particularly the pan-Islamic awakening, found their modern origins in that fatal year.
Jeffery’s account is enlivened by individual anecdotes. Most of these profile intrepid and uncommonly courageous people who have been obscured if not utterly lost to history, but they played vital and dynamic roles. He writes of the Scottish nurses who were shipped to the Eastern Front to work with the Russian wounded and of other women and men who served as spies, diplomats, emissaries, mercenaries, ambulance drivers and medical assistants, humanitarians in this most inhumane of conflicts. These fascinating individual stories are all too brief in his study; still, they remind us of the greatest shame of war: the ultimate anonymity of so many who risked so much and often died so courageously.
Students of the war will learn little here that they didn’t already know; others may find themselves numbed by the recitations of statistics and parade of obscure place names, many of which have changed over time. Maps would have helped this otherwise well-composed and closely researched volume, but it otherwise offers a nice addition to the centennial commemoration of a global tragedy.
Clay Reynolds is a professor of arts and humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas. His latest novel is Vox Populi.
1916: A Global History
Keith Jeffery
(Bloomsbury, $30)

Simon the Westcountry Royal Navy hero cat


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Simon wasn’t the only Royal Navy hero to stoically suffer wounds in battle, but he was surely the only one to enjoy a saucer of milk afterwards.

He also had the distinction of being a cat, and remains the sole member of his species to have been awarded the Dickin Medal – ‘the animals’ Victoria Cross’.

Sixty-six years ago the rat-catching, morale-boosting efforts of Able Seacat Simon were known around the world. Thanks to a new ‘autobiography’, a fresh generation is learning how the plucky pus became the most famous crew member on a Plymouth warship.

With a little help from author Lynne Barrett-Lee he has given his first-paw account of the life aboard HMS Amethyst before, during and after the Yangtse Incident.

The frigate was taking supplies from Shanghai to the British Embassy in Nanjing in April 1949 when she became caught up in the civil war in China between the nationalist Kuomintang and the communist forces of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Amethyst was fired upon by the PLA resulting in the deaths of 22 crew including the captain. Simon was wounded by shrapnel.

The ship was stuck up the river for four months, at the mercy of the communist forces. Young Simon’s double duties as rodent exterminator, despite his injuries – helping protect Amethyst’s food supplies – and cheering up the crew would become news around the world.

The episode was retold in a 1957 film, the Yangtse Incident: The Story of HMS Amethyst, there have been books since and Simon has been celebrated in literature (Paul Gallico, author of The Snow Goose dedicated his novel Jennie to Simon).

And yet writer Lynne came to the subject knowing none of the above.

“I had never heard of the Yangtse Incident, HMS Amethyst,” she admits. “I was contacted by an editor at Simon & Schuster who sent me some links and asked if I fancied turning the story into a novel.”

Lynne has had a string of successes as a novelist in her own name and as a ghost writer of several best-selling biographic stories – including one about a dog.

“As soon as I read about HMS Amethyst and Simon I thought it was an absolutely brilliant story.” The combination of the heroic episode with a brave animal at the centre of the action had her hooked. “I am a cat lover,” she says, explaining the extra attraction of having a feline as the subject.

As well as the accounts written after the event, Lynne also had the benefit of reading a copy of the coxswain’s log, which she found online. “That helped me with the real characters and where they were on board at any time.”

Lynne decided to write the book from Simon’s point of view, and for readers of all ages. Her start point is how the young cat joined the ship – he was found wandering around a Hong Kong dockyard by an 17-year-old Ordinary Seaman, George Hickinbottom.

How the black-and-white mog found a place in the hearts of the crew is down to psychology. “They were war-hardened men who had been through a lot which made them even more keen to make friends with this warm and furry thing,” Lynne says.

“They could sit down in the quiet times with a cat on their lap and tell him their secrets.

“They can admit to him that they are frightened.”

There was another reason why the men were happy to have Simon on board, as well as for his rat-killing talents. “Cats are considered very lucky on ships. It used to be said that they had ‘magic in their tails’ and could ward off storms.”

By the time the Yangtse attack came along, Simon was hardly battle hardened but, unlike most cats, he was not freaked by sudden bangs. “He had already been on board for over a year and would have got used to life on board a warship, which is full of loud noises – bells, whistles, shouted orders and guns being tested.”

That would help him get through the 100-plus days of the Yangtse Incident.

Lynne has now moved on from the story of how Simon and the remaining crew made their escape, of the Amethyst’s triumphant homecoming to Devonport and how he reacts to receiving thousands of fan mail letters – so many that the Royal Navy appointed an officer as the cat’s secretary – and to a book about a dog and a tornado.

She has her own Simon for company, though.

“I have two rescued cats, Harvey and Lola and Harvey is a dead ringer for Simon,” she says.

“I think I’ll take him to book signings. He is like that: it wouldn’t worry him. He is not solitary or aloof. He does not realise he is a cat.”

Able Seacat Simon is published by Simon & Schuster

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The history of... tattoos

A heavily ‘inked’ British sailor during the First World War. The future George V also got a tattoo while serving with the Royal Navy. © Bridgeman

When did we British start getting tattoos?

It’s often claimed that it originated in the 18th century when sailors serving on Captain James Cook’s Pacific expeditions saw the tattoos of the native Polynesians and decided to get some for themselves. However it’s clear that tattooing was known about and practised in western Europe well before this. Nevertheless, as well as giving us the word ‘tattoo’ (from the Tahitian ‘tatau’), those sailors set a trend that spread throughout the Royal Navy and, by the early 19th century, most British tars sported a tattoo.

Who got tattoos?

For decades after this, tattoos were largely the preserve of minority cultures – at both ends of the social spectrum. While they remained associated with sailors, soldiers and the criminal underclass, by the late 19th century they were also popular with the well-to-do. The future Edward VII was tattooed with a cross while visiting Jerusalem in 1862 and, 20 years later, the future George V obtained a large dragon tattoo while serving with the Royal Navy. Inevitably this set a trend among the upper classes.

Were they restricted to upper-class men?

Decidedly not. Many upper-class women sported tattoos too. Winston Churchill’s mother reputedly had a snake tattooed on her wrist. Virginia Courtauld (wife of philanthropist and patron of the arts, Stephen Courtauld) had one on her ankle.

How was tattooing carried out?

Initially by hand but in 1891 New York tattooist Samuel O’Reilly introduced the first electric tattoo machine. Tattooing was still painful but it was now quicker and cheaper and, as more people started getting tattoos, they fell from favour with the upper classes.

Why the popularity today?

For much of the last century, tattoos were associated in the eyes of many with groups to be avoided or feared but from the 1980s they began to be seen less as signs of potential social deviance and more as legitimate pieces of self-expression. This process was aided by the popularity of tattoos among role models such as sportsmen, singers, actors (and David Cameron’s wife, Samantha), and it’s thought that in Britain today one adult in five has a tattoo.

Weather Prevents Salvors from Boarding Listing Car Carrier

Weather Prevents Salvors from Boarding Listing Car Carrier

By Mike Schuler on Jan 28, 2016 02:19 pm

2016MBST028_001The Panamanian-flagged car carrier Modern Express continues to drift eastward in the Bay of Biscay as salvors assess options for saving the stricken ship. On Thursday, the Modern Express was located approximately 168 nautical miles west of La Rochelle, France and drifting eastward at a rate of about 1.3 knots. A salvage team from SMIT […]
The post Weather Prevents Salvors from Boarding Listing Car Carrier appeared first on gCaptain.

Friday, January 29, 2016

25-year-old architect wins WWI memorial design competition

Dive Brief:

  • The United States World War One Centennial Commission has announced the team of 25-year-old Chicago architect Joseph Weishaar and New York sculptor Sabin Howard as their choice to design a World War I monument to be built on 1.8 acres in Pershing Park in Washington, DC, Curbed reported. The commission hopes to complete the monument by November 2018 to mark the centennial of the end of the war.
  • The winning entry, "The Weight of Sacrifice," was chosen over five finalists after being whittled down from a field of 360 entries. The design features a sunken wall with war scenes to symbolize a shadow of the war and a new statute honoring General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing.
  • Project costs are expected to reach between $30 million and $35 million, and the commission has raised $1 million so far. The project still faces approval hurdles, as it must receive the OK from multiple historic preservation organizations, some of which are against demolishing the existing Pershing Park.

Dive Insight:

The memorial is facing significant criticism, according to Curbed, most recently from Washington Post critic and Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Kennicott, who wrote, "All five of the designs obliterate the (M. Paul) Friedberg park, rather than building on it." He added, "None of the proposals, selected in July from 360 entries, rises to a standard the commission should champion."

The Cultural Landscape Foundation released a statement that if the current building plans go forward, Pershing Park would no longer be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Weishaar, a 2013 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, works as a project architect with Brininstool+Lynch in Chicago.

The National Desert Storm War Memorial organizers also face challenges to their plan to complete a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, by November 2018 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm.

Recommended Reading 25-Year-Old Architect Wins Contest to Design WWI Memorial

National Museum of the Royal Navy wins award for restoration of Storehouse 10

Post image

Colleagues and volunteers at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard are celebrating after it was announced that the museum won the ‘Best Restorationaward at Portsmouth Society’s 2015 Design Awards.
The award was given for the restoration of Storehouse 10 at the dockyard, which is nearly 240 years old.

Major restoration works in 2012 transformed the ground floor into the HMS – Hear My Story exhibition. A new glass link was installed between Storehouse 10 and the neighbouring Storehouse 11, which houses the main part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

A team led by architects Purcell created a sensitive design for the transformation of the historically-significant building.

A plaque-unveiling ceremony is set to take place in the south wing of the storehouse museum on Saturday 30th January.

The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor Frank Jonas will be unveiling the plaque at 12:15pm. Members of Portsmouth Society will join Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of the NMRN, and museum colleagues for the ceremony.

Professor Tweddle said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have won this award as it marks a truly special effort by the team to transform Storehouse 10 into what it is today.

“Thousands of people visit it every year and this restoration work means this historically important building will continue to be a superb backdrop to our naval story.”

Rod Edwards, until recently Chairman of the Portsmouth Society, said judging this year was particularly difficult with a number of strong entries. He was joined by judges John Pike (former Conservation Officer at Portsmouth City Council) and Karen Fielder from the University of Portsmouth School of Architecture.

Peter Goodship, Chief Executive of Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, which owns Storehouse 10, said: “We are delighted that Storehouse 10 has received a second Best Restoration award following that awarded in 1993 following the major restoration and reconstruction of the clocktower destroyed in the Second World War. The enclosure of the colonnade has returned the storehouse to its original built form and has been sensitively carried out retaining spirit of the building’s original use.”

Navy Corpsmen continue support of Marine operations, training

Navy Corpsmen continue support of Marine operations, training

For more than 239 years, Navy corpsmen have been known as the enlisted force which has supported Marine operations and training both garrison and the field. Corpsmen carry out their responsibilities in harsh conditions alongside Marines. They are required to complete a secondary, more rigorous course which furthers their abilities to function in high stress situations and field conditions in addition to the basic medical training required of all corpsmen. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Curtis)For more than 239 years, Navy corpsmen have been known as the enlisted force which has supported Marine operations and training both garrison and the field. Corpsmen carry out their responsibilities in harsh conditions alongside Marines. They are required to complete a secondary, more rigorous course which furthers their abilities to function in high stress situations and field conditions in addition to the basic medical training required of all corpsmen. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Curtis)

Related Topics: Health Readiness
COMBINED ARMS TRAINING CENTER CAMP FUJI, Japan — For more than 239 years, Navy corpsmen have been known as the enlisted force which has supported Marine operations and training both garrison and the field.
These corpsmen carry out their responsibilities in harsh conditions alongside Marines. They are required to complete a secondary, more rigorous course which furthers their abilities to function in high stress situations and field conditions in addition to the basic medical training required of all corpsmen.
The additional training is crucial, because corpsmen attach to operational units to provide continuous care to service members within, according to Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Morty Ervin, a hospital corpsman with the Yokosuka Naval Hospital, Japan, who is assisting corpsmen with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment; currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force under the unit deployment program.
“Working directly with Marines in less-than-ideal conditions provides corpsmen with a greater understanding of the real-world application of their training,” said Ervin, a Denver, Colorado, native. “It allows corpsmen to build a better relationship with Marines through shared experience.”
The interoperability of corpsmen and Marines is exemplified in training exercises such as Exercise Fuji Samurai, which is held annually at Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji during the month of January.
The exercise includes countless fire and maneuver drills and other combat-based training evolutions which take place over two weeks. During this time, Marines and corpsmen face the challenges of CATC Camp Fuji, as they spend night after night subject to the winter elements.
“This place gives my corpsmen a chance to endure the same training, cold weather and natural elements the Marines undergo here in Japan,” said Navy Lt. Christopher Rossetti, the assistant battalion surgeon attached to 3rd Bn. 5th Marine Regiment. “Knowing that they are able to scale the challenging terrain alongside the Marines and do as they do makes me confident they can stand ready to serve in any place in the Asia-Pacific region.”
During most training evolutions, corpsmen are present to ensure procedures are carried out safely and immediate medical evaluation and care can be provided immediately, in case of emergency.
“It has been a great experience working closely with the green side corpsmen,” said Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Welch, motor transport operator, CATC Camp Fuji, serving as an ambulance driver for the exercise. “Before working out here on Fuji, I didn’t know how involved they are in our training. Whenever we have ranges or any kind of live-fire training, the corpsmen are there right by our sides.”
Among the many training events, Marines and corpsmen participated in combat marksmanship drills, during which shooters must show proper weapons handling, combat-style shooting and confidence with the M16A4 service rifles and M4 service carbines.
“Corpsmen carry rifles and participate in training just as Marines do,” said Rossetti, a Willowbrook, Illinois, native. “When corpsmen attach to Marine units in the field, they get more specific experience and training with line companies and infantry assets. They are almost indistinguishable from Marines when they are participating in Marine operations. It is this ability to engage in training and operations in less-than-ideal conditions which fosters the strong relationship between Marines and corpsmen.”
Exercise Fuji Samurai encompasses training with artillery, convoy safety, fire and maneuver, and offensive combat tactics.
"It's a rite of passage to serve with the Marine Corps and to be able to carry the Eagle, Globe and Anchor on my chest," said Ervin. “Going through training with Marines serving alongside them has given me a sense of camaraderie, brotherhood and alliance with the Marines. I love my Marines and I'd do anything for them."
CATC Fuji continues the work of Marine Corps Installations Pacific through its training facilities to stand as the strength behind America’s ability to respond quickly to crisis in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region. MCIPAC strengthens power projection with our allies and partners; enables strategic launch and recovery of military capabilities to save lives and to preserve regional peace, stability and security; and enables operational force readiness.
Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

Abandon Car Carrier Drifting East in Bay of Biscay As List Worsens

By Mike Schuler on Jan 27, 2016 12:18 pm

The PCTC Modern Express seen listing in the Bay of Biscay, Wednesday, January 27, 2016, after the arrival of the Abeille Bourbon. Photo credit: Marine NationaleThe French Navy is continuing to monitor the abandoned pure car and truck carrier Modern Express in the Bay of Biscay one day after the vessel developed a severe list. An update Wednesday from the France’s Maritime Prefect Atlantic said the ship continues to pose a hazard to navigation as it drifts eastward at 3 […]
The post Abandoned Car Carrier Drifting East in Bay of Biscay as List Worsens appeared first on gCaptain.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Royal Navy used foreign steel in new aircraft carriers as British workers are laid off

HMS Queen Elizabeth
Import: Some of the steel used in the Queen Elizabeth-class ships came from Turkey and Spain

Thousands of tonnes of foreign steel has been used to build the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers, we can reveal.
David Cameron last week insisted British steel was being used for the £6.2billion Queen Elizabeth-class ships.
The crisis-hit industry is still reeling from the announcement Tata will shed 1,050 jobs at its plants in Port Talbot, South Wales, Corby and Hartlepool.
That is on top of the 1,200 posts it axed last year in Scunthorpe and Scotland- along with 2,200 workers fired at SSI’s foundry in Redcar, Teesside.
But the Mirror, which is campaigning to Save Our Steel, can reveal that 5,000 tonnes of steel for the huge carrier project has been imported.

GettyThe sun rises behind the Tata steelworks in Port Talbot
Axed: Hundreds of jobs have gone from the Tata steelworks in Port Talbot

The Ministry of Defence was asked how much British steel had been used in major military projects since 2010.
Tory Minister Philip Dunne said: “Supply chains are complex and the Ministry of Defence does not hold a complete, centralised record of steel procurement for projects and equipment, either in terms of quantity or country of origin, over the past six years.

Read more: UK steel being ignored by some of Britain's biggest construction firms

“But for the largest defence procurement project during this period, construction of the two Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers, some 77,000 tonnes out of a total of 82,000 tonnes of steel used was manufactured in the UK.”

BAEPhilip Dunne
Minister: Philip Dunne says supply chains are complex

It means six per cent of the total steel used on the carriers was bought from abroad.
We told on Friday how foreign steel could be used to build the Navy’s new Type 26 frigates.

Steelworkers’ union Community General Secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “They just don’t get it; instead of proactively seeking to use British steel wherever possible, they seem happy to sit back as our industry collapses.

“All public sector procurement, particularly within the defence sector, should be using British steel, not cheap foreign alternatives.”

Labour MP Stephen Doughty, who uncovered the figures, challenged ministers to “come clean” on where the steel came from.

RexSave Our Steel Rally, Sheffield, Yorkshire, Britain - 21 Nov 2015

Battle: Campaigners at a Save Our Steel Rally in Sheffield

“We should have high-quality, British-made steel at the heart of our submarines, ships, planes and military vehicles,” said the Cardiff South MP, whose constituency includes a Celsa steelworks.
“It is extraordinary that the Ministry of Defence does not hold a complete record of steel procurement for projects and equipment, either in terms of quantity or country of origin for crucial defence equipment projects.

Read more: Final blow as Chinese steel is used to build windfarm near Port Talbot

“We should be ensuring our national security needs are intimately linked to our economic security.”

Mr Cameron was grilled over the Government’s backing for UK steel at last Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

Daily Mirror Save Our Steel Campaign

Accusing Labour of playing politics with the crisis, he added: “When the Labour party was in power, what happened to employment in the steel industry?
“It was cut by 35,000 – cut in half. Where were the carve-outs from the energy bills then? Where were the special arrangements for taking votes in Europe that we have put in place?

“Where were the rules to make sure that we buy British steel when it comes to public procurement, as we will for HS2 and the carrier programme?”

The 65,000-tonne, 920ft Queen Elizabeth carriers are being built at Rosyth dockyard and will be the Navy’s biggest and most powerful ships.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to launch next year.

But it will take to the seas without British planes because the US-made F-35 Lightning II jets will not be ready in time.

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ANALYSIS-It is still three minutes to midnight - BOAS

To: Leaders and citizens of the world

Re: It is still three minutes to midnight

In the past year, the international community has made some positive strides in regard to humanity's two most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change. In July 2015, at the end of nearly two years of negotiations, six world powers and Iran reached a historic agreement that limits the Iranian nuclear program and aims to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weaponry. And in December of last year, nearly 200 countries agreed in Paris to a process by which they will attempt to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide, aiming to keep the increase in world temperature well below 2.0 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

The Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate accord are major diplomatic achievements, but they constitute only small bright spots in a darker world situation full of potential for catastrophe.

Even as the Iran agreement was hammered out, tensions between the United States and Russia rose to levels reminiscent of the worst periods of the Cold War. Conflict in Ukraine and Syria continued, accompanied by dangerous bluster and brinkmanship, with Turkey, a NATO member, shooting down a Russian warplane involved in Syria, the director of a state-run Russian news agency making statements about turning the United States to radioactive ash, and NATO and Russia repositioning military assets and conducting significant exercises with them. Washington and Moscow continue to adhere to most existing nuclear arms control agreements, but the United States, Russia, and other nuclear weapons countries are engaged in programs to modernize their nuclear arsenals, suggesting that they plan to keep and maintain the readiness of their nuclear weapons for decades, at least—despite their pledges, codified in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to pursue nuclear disarmament.

Promising though it may be, the Paris climate agreement came toward the end of Earth's warmest year on record, with the increase in global temperature over pre-industrial levels surpassing one degree Celsius. Voluntary pledges made in Paris to limit greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to the task of averting drastic climate change. They are, at best, incremental moves toward the fundamental change in world energy systems that must occur, if climate change is to ultimately be arrested.

Because the diplomatic successes on Iran and in Paris have been offset, at least, by negative events in the nuclear and climate arenas, the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board find the world situation to be highly threatening to humanity—so threatening that the hands of the Doomsday Clock must remain at three minutes to midnight, the closest they've been to catastrophe since the early days of above-ground hydrogen bomb testing.

Last year, we wrote that world leaders had failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from the danger posed by climate change and nuclear war, and that those failures endangered every person on Earth. In keeping the hands of the Doomsday Clock at three minutes to midnight, the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board mean to make a clear statement: The world situation remains highly threatening to humanity, and decisive action to reduce the danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change is urgently required.

A promising Iran agreement within a dangerous nuclear situation. The year 2015 abounded in disturbing nuclear rhetoric, particularly about the usability of nuclear weapons, but contained at least one real achievement: the landmark Iran nuclear deal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom reached with Iran in July 2015 ends several decades of uncertainty about Tehran’s nuclear capabilities. The agreement will test the resolve of all parties to move forward and build trust, but it has the potential to transform the nuclear nonproliferation landscape in the Middle East as well as provide impetus for sorely needed innovations in the nonproliferation regime. The JCPOA covered the bases, capping the numbers and kinds of uranium-enrichment centrifuges Iran can possess, placing limits on that country's stockpile of enriched uranium, and converting the sensitive Fordow facility into a research center. The agreement also irreversibly transforms Iran’s Arak research reactor so Iran cannot produce and retain plutonium. The inclusion of long-term monitoring of Iran’s uranium and other nuclear supply chains will strengthen confidence that Iran has no clandestine sites. A credible effort to monitor Iran's compliance with the accord could demonstrate new technologies and approaches for reducing the risks of nuclear proliferation.

The ability of key nuclear weapon states to cooperate on nuclear non-proliferation is one of the few bright spots in the world nuclear landscape; the United States and Russia continue to make reductions in deployed nuclear warheads under the new START treaty. But nuclear modernization programs—designed to maintain capabilities for the next half-century—also proceed apace. The Russians will have fewer launchers, but their future force will be more mobile and have more flexibly targeted warheads. The United States plans to spend $350 billion in the next 10 years to maintain and modernize its nuclear forces and infrastructure, despite rhetoric about a nuclear weapons-free world. With no follow-on arms control agreement in sight and deeply disturbing nuclear rhetoric issuing from Russia, the risks of short launch times, of large warhead stockpiles, and of narrowing channels for averting crisis recall the dark days of the Cold War.

Conflict over free passage in the South China Sea is another worrisome development. China's territorial claims to islands there—some of which it has enlarged for military purposes—are contested primarily by countries in the region. But as legally justifiable as they may be, recent US efforts to assert a right of free passage in the South China Sea by sending a naval vessel and airplanes close to those islands have the potential to escalate into major conflict between nuclear powers.

The prospects for nuclear arms control beyond the United States and Russia are, in the near term, unfavorable. China, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are all increasing their nuclear arsenals, albeit at different rates. China’s recent agreement to help Pakistan build nuclear missile submarine platforms is a matter of concern, but probably less so than other developments in Pakistan’s arsenal, including improvements to its ballistic missiles and air-launched cruise missiles and its aggressive rhetoric regarding the use of tactical nuclear weapons to “de-escalate” a conventional conflict (rhetoric that is unfortunately similar to Russia's own "de-escalation" doctrine). Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un announced at the end of the year that his country had developed a hydrogen bomb and followed through with a test on January 5, 2016. So far, experts assess that it likely was not a two-stage thermonuclear weapon, but there is little doubt that North Korea will continue to develop its nuclear arsenal in the absence of restraints.

The world may be used to outrageous rhetoric from North Korea, but officials in several other countries made irresponsible comments in 2015 about raising the alert status of nuclear weapon systems, acquiring nuclear capabilities, and even using nuclear weapons. We hope that, as an unintended consequence of such rhetoric, citizens will be galvanized to address risks they thought long contained. The more likely outcome is that nuclear bombast will raise the temperature in crisis situations. The maintenance of peace requires that nuclear rhetoric and actions be tamped down.

Listing Car Carrier ‘Modern Express’ Abandoned in Bay of Biscay – PHOTOS and VIDEO By Mike Schuler

By Mike Schuler on Jan 26, 2016 07:07 pm

Photo credit: Salvamento MaritiimoA Panamanian-flagged car carrier has been evacuated after a loss of stability incident in the Bay of Biscay. Spain’s search and rescue agency Salvamento Maritimo responded Tuesday afternoon following a distress call from the roll-on/roll-off car carrier Modern Express located 148 miles off Cape Ortegal. All 22 crew members of the ship were evacuated by two […]
The post Listing Car Carrier ‘Modern Express’ Abandoned in Bay of Biscay – PHOTOS and VIDEO appeared first on gCaptain.

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