Monday, September 4, 2017

North Korean nuclear crisis: What's the difference between an atomic bomb and a hydrogen bomb?

By Chris Buckley

North Korea claimed that a nuclear blast on Sunday was a big advance from its previous five tests because it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb.
But some experts suspect the North may have tested a “boosted” atomic bomb.
How are a hydrogen bomb and a regular atomic bomb different? And why would that matter to the United States and its allies? Here’s what the experts say.
How do nuclear weapons work?
Nuclear weapons trigger an explosive reaction that shears off destructive energy locked inside the bomb’s atomic materials.
The first atomic weapons, like those dropped by the United States on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the Second World War, did that with fission — splitting unstable uranium or plutonium atoms so that their subatomic neutrons fly free, smash up more atoms and create a devastating blast.
How is a hydrogen bomb different?
A hydrogen bomb, also called a thermonuclear bomb or an H-bomb, uses a second stage of reactions to magnify the force of an atomic explosion.
That stage is fusion — mashing hydrogen atoms together in the same process that fuels the sun. When these relatively light atoms join together, they unleash neutrons in a wave of destructive energy.
A hydrogen weapon uses an initial nuclear fission explosion to create a tremendous pulse that compresses and fuses small amounts of deuterium and tritium, kinds of hydrogen, near the heart of the bomb. The swarms of neutrons set free can ramp up the explosive chain reaction of a uranium layer wrapped around it, creating a blast far more devastating than uranium fission alone.
The United States tested a hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll in 1954 that was more than 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Britain, China, France and Russia have also created hydrogen bombs.
What would a successful hydrogen test mean?
North Korea claimed that it successfully staged a hydrogen bomb test in January 2016, but experts were sceptical.
A successful test this time would show that the North’s nuclear program has become more sophisticated and that the country is closer to making an atomic warhead that could be fitted on a long-range missile able to strike the mainland United States. The underground blast, which caused tremors felt in South Korea and China, was the first by the North to surpass the destructive power of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
If the North has the capability to build a hydrogen bomb, it could open the way to making warheads that pack much more destructive power in a smaller space. It could also enable North Korea to enhance the threat from its limited stocks of enriched uranium.
What will experts look for?
Analysts who advise governments on nuclear weapons will study the shock waves from the blast measured by monitoring stations. They will also look for clues from traces of nuclear gases that could float into the atmosphere.
Those traces may tell if this test was really a hydrogen bomb, or perhaps something less than a full-scale thermonuclear device. But it can take weeks for the gases to leak out and be detected.

Horrendous Saudi Crimes - Yemen Red Crescent founder dies after being denied treatment

Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Leading doctor Abdullah Alkhamesi, 76, becomes latest victim of collapse in healthcare as conflict continues.
The founder of the Red Crescent humanitarian organisation in war-torn Yemen has died after being denied access to life-saving treatment, his family said, making him the latest victim of the collapse of the nation’s healthcare system.
Abdullah Alkhamesi, 76, a leading doctor, established the organisation in the early 1970s, and it has since saved countless lives.
On Thursday, however, the ailing Yemeni became a victim of conditions on the ground which, according to the UN, have left less than half of the country’s health facilities able to operate, and even then with limited functionality. Alkhamesi, who worked with international aid agencies in Yemen for decades, was a former head of the Yemeni doctors’ union.
His son, Zubair, told the Guardian the family were initially unable to find stents – expandable tubes used in narrowed arteries – needed for his father’s heart surgery. He could not be transferred abroad for treatment because of restrictions on movement imposed by Saudi Arabia. He died in a hospital in Sana’a, and was buried on Friday.
The conflict in Yemen is between Houthi rebels controlling the capital Sana’a who are allied with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and forces loyal to another president, the ousted Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has led a military intervention to counter the advance of the Iran-backed Houthis, with the ultimate aim of reinstating Hadi. The UK has been criticised for selling arms to Saudi Arabia despite the high casualty rate of its US-backed airstrikes in Yemen.
“First, [the hospital] couldn’t find the stents. [Then] they found one and they found another one, and they bought some from an Indian nurse. Stents cost them $1000, it’s just crazy. It’s massive money in Yemen,” Zubair Alkhamesi said. “They collected all of them, they made the operations and then the doctor said he needed more, but they didn’t have any more.
“He got the stents but he didn’t get better, since then he deteriorated and there was no way to get him out to Cairo, or Amman, the queue was very long, there’s a queue for names for patients, the Saudis have stopped the planes.”
The Saudi-led coalition has imposed restrictions on Yemeni airspace, leading to the closure of Sana’a airport in August 2016. Less than a dozen humanitarian flights are allowed into Yemen each week, landing in Sana’a and Aden. There are no commercial flights. The UN has estimated that the airport’s closure means 20,000 patients have been denied potentially life-saving healthcare abroad. Few flights, if any, are scheduled each month to transfer patients who need to be treated overseas.
Zubair, said his father was taken to hospital two weeks ago and he spent most of that time in intensive care. “Of course, he died because of lack of access to life-saving medicine,” he said. “It’s very hard to get anything in Yemen now, you can’t get the medicine, you can’t get the stents. You have to go and bribe the people and find everything through the back door, everything is very, very expensive, doctors would say buy this now and go sometime and it would take you a week to find this medicine.”
Born in 1941, Alkhamesi was part of the first group of around 30 people sent to Russia by Imam Ahmad bin Yahya, the former Yemeni ruler, to train as a doctor. He founded the Red Crescent in 1973, and remained as its general secretary until the early 2000s.

US Should Stop Supporting Likely Saudi War Crimes – OpEd

The United Nations top official on human rights recently told the U.N. Security Council that the U.S.-supported, Saudi Arabian-led coalition of Sunni nations fighting Shi’ite Houthi rebels in Yemen bore a disproportionate responsibility for attacks on civilians. Since the civil war in Yemen began in March 2015, more than 2,700 civilians have been killed and dozens of hospitals and schools have been attacked, leading the United Nations to warn of violations of international law.
The problem is that the United States is supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s air strikes by providing intelligence for targeting and also by refueling coalition’s war planes, thus extending the range of their bombing. Domestically, Saudi Arabia has a horrendous record on human rights that it is exporting to Yemen via bombing civilians there. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein exacerbated the Sunni-Shi’ite division throughout the Islamic world, and the war in Yemen is actually a joust for influence in the Persian Gulf between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran, which are bitter regional rivals. Saudi Arabia does have substantial interests at stake in Yemen, which borders the autocratic kingdom, but the United States does not and should cease providing weapons and the aforementioned support, which is tainting the U.S. with support for a country that very well may be committing war crimes.
Yemen is a small, poor, and insignificant (from the perspective of U.S. vital interests) country just South of Saudi Arabia. It doesn’t even produce much oil; but of course Saudi Arabia does—and that’s why the Saudis are getting so much U.S. support, despite Saudi Arabia’s despicable foreign and domestic policies. The U.S. government ousts dictators in Iraq and Libya and loudly criticizes Iran’s bad human rights policies; in contrast, the United States mutes its criticism of Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record, sweeps under the under the rug that the 9/11 attackers were mostly Saudi nationals, and ignores that Saudi Arabia is the biggest exporter of militant Sunni Islamism by its support for radical schools around the Islamic world. Why does the world’s only superpower tolerate a major ally supporting potential U.S. enemies (the U.S. has the same toleration for Pakistan doing a similar thing)?
The reason dates back to World War II, when Saudi King Abdel Aziz bin Saud traded U.S. access to Saudi oil for U.S. protection of that oil. Yet although Saudi Arabia is the anchor of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil cartel, the country does not have the control over the world’s oil market that both policy makers and the public believe. OPEC, like most cartels, has failed to achieve long-term control over the price of its commodity. For example, right now, world oil supply exceeds demand—because of new non-OPEC sources of supply, such as from new fracking technology in the United States and because of slack demand due to sluggish economies around the world—thus driving the price down. In fact, Saudi Arabia has even given up trying prop up the price by reducing production. The Saudis, who produce oil very inexpensively compared to other producers, are afraid of losing market share to those exporters and so are keeping production high, despite the low world price. And forecasts for the oil market estimate that such factors—including increased Iranian oil output into the world market due to the lifting of international sanctions against that country because of its nuclear agreement with the great powers—will continue for some time.
But once upon a time—in 1973—didn’t Arab oil producers launch an embargo and production cutback that brought U.S. economic ruin and lines at gas stations? No, subsequent economic studies of the 1970s have shown that U.S. stagflation (inflation plus slow economic growth) was caused by poor U.S. government economic polices rather than by the Arab oil embargo and production limits. Gas lines in the United States were caused because the U.S. government still had price controls on oil. (Japan had no price controls, thus allowing price rises to naturally curtail demand., and thus no gas lines.)
Moreover, if the oil embargo and production cutback were so successful, why haven’t the Arab countries ever tried it again during other wars in the Middle East. Similar to what brought about the fracking technology recently, higher oil prices in the 1970s just increased supplies—non-OPEC sources of energy were found and conservation practices became more prevalent. Finally, industrial economies are much more resilient to oil price hikes than is commonly perceived and have become even more so since the 1970s, because oil consumption accounts for a smaller percentage of developed nations’ GDP.
Contrary to official and popular belief, oil is only strategic when needed to power military forces in a war. Fortunately, as I note in my book No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East, the United States produces enough oil domestically to supply its military in a fairly large war several times over; this ability is rising as the U.S. substantially increases oil production via fracking. As for getting oil supplies to the United States during a war somewhere in the Middle East, if oil production is reduced from one or more countries in conflict, increased prices will cause non-affected producers to produce more oil. Moreover, in the past, valuable oil exports have traveled around and even through wars.
If the United States had a truly vital interest in holding its nose and supporting an autocracy like Saudi Arabia, that would be one thing. However, ignoring the despotic kingdom’s domestic oppression and likely international war crimes—in the erroneous belief that Saudi Arabia can successfully trump global market forces to manipulate long-run oil prices—is unnecessary, ethically questionable, and only increases the likelihood of blowback terrorism against the United States from the victims of Saudi aggression.

Victims of Turkey's Islamization: Women

By Burak Bekdil

On Feb. 6, 1935, Turkish women were allowed to vote in national elections for the first time, and eighteen female candidates were elected to parliament – a decade or more before women even in Western countries such as France, Italy and Belgium. Eight decades later, Turkish women look like unwilling passengers on H.G. Wells' Time Machine traveling back to their great-grandmothers' Ottoman lives.

Turkey's strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once proudly said that "Women should know their place," and that "Gender equality is against human nature". His deputy prime minister said that women not to laugh in public. It was not shocking to anyone when Turkey's Ministry of Family and Social Policies found in 2016 that no fewer than 86% of Turkish women have suffered physical or psychological violence at the hands of their partners or family. According to the ministry's findings, physical violence is the most common form of abuse: 70% of women reported they have been physically assaulted.

More recently, Kadin Cinayetlerini Durduracagiz Platformu, a women's rights organization, reported that 28 women were murdered by men in July 2017 alone. The same month, eight other -- luckier -- women were physically assaulted for "wearing shorts or 'indecent' outfits or smoking in public." The report concluded by saying, "The state remains silent."

70% of Turkish women report having been physically assaulted by their partners or family.

Turkey increasingly features all possible social and political reflections of Islamism: authoritarianism, majoritarianism and officially-tolerated intolerance to everything Islamists may deem "un-Islamic." Women are often the target group, and might not avoid intimidation even if they dress in line with the Islamic code.

Hayrettin Karaman, an Islamic scholar and the darling of Turkey's pro-Erdogan Islamists, recently argued that smoking cigarettes sends signals about women's morals. He wrote in his Aug. 3 column:

When I see a woman who wears a headscarf but also smokes in public, I get the impression that she's saying: 'Don't mind the fact that I am covering my head. Don't give up on me, I have a lot more to share with you.'

Naturally, many Turkish men took the cleric's words as a message of sexual availability. This kind of thinking is common in conservative Muslim societies. It did not used to be that way in secular Turkey. It is simply an outcome of Turkey's top-down government-induced social Islamization. That has two disturbing aspects: willing social participation of people who comply, and inequality before law.

In 2014, 17-year-old K.C. was raped and beaten by two men. She filed a complaint with the police, and the two suspects were detained. All normal, up to this point. One of the suspects made a deal with K.C.'s family: he paid a sum of about $5,700 to the family and agreed to marry K.C. The family arranged a bogus wedding ceremony, took pictures and presented them to the court to save the man. Under pressure from her family, K.C. changed her testimony and said she was not raped. The rapist had suddenly become her fiancé. Both suspects were released, an Islamic religious ceremony was arranged and the rapists were acquitted. Not really a happy ending. K.C.'s "husband" started to beat her regularly and the girl once again went to the police and told her real story. Her husband was her rapist and she had been forced to marry him.

Not every woman, however, who seeks protection from law enforcement authorities is so lucky.

On August 10, two women, Derya Kilic, 19, and Seray Gurer, 22, were sexually harassed by two unidentified men. According to their testimonies, the women then asked for help from two police officers in the street. Security footage shows a police officer starting to beat one of the women. In her later testimony, filing a complaint against the police, Kilic said the officer who hit her tried to "justify" the sexual harassment by saying they were "dressed inappropriately." She said:

We wanted help from them because we could not see the license plates of the motorbikes that harassed us. But one of the police officers said the harassers were right because we were 'dressed inappropriately.'

This is where creeping Islamization has brought us. Better days are not ahead.

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This Labor Day the Struggle Continues - by Bernie Sanders

Labor Day was established in 1894 by President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, as a concession to the labor movement days after he used federal troops to crush a strike by railroad workers which resulted in 30 deaths and some $80 million in property damages. Workers then, and workers now, were fighting for decent wages and working conditions and the end of human exploitation.
Today, at a time of massive income and wealth inequality and an outrageous level of corporate greed, we must never forget the struggles and ideals of those who came before us. We must continue the fight for a government and an economy that works for all, and not just the wealthy and powerful.
"At a time of massive income and wealth inequality and an outrageous level of corporate greed, we must never forget the struggles and ideals of those who came before us. We must continue the fight for a government and an economy that works for all, and not just the wealthy and powerful."
Labor Day is a time to remember that for hundreds of years the trade union movement in our country has led the fight for equal rights and economic and social justice. And it is a day to pledge our continuing support to protect workers’ rights which have been under fire for decades.
The reality is that over the past 40 years, the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country have rigged the economy against the American middle class, the working class and the most vulnerable people. The result is that the very rich are getting richer while most working families are struggling.
In America today, the typical male working full-time is making about $2,100 less than he did 43 years ago, while millions of women are working two or three jobs just to cobble together enough income to pay the bills. Back in 1979, nearly 4 out of 10 private sector workers had a defined benefit pension plan that guaranteed a secure retirement after a lifetime of hard work. Today, only 13 percent do.
In 1980, CEOs made 30 times more than the average worker. Today, chief executives of the largest corporations in America make about 347 times as much as their typical employees.
Meanwhile, the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country have never had it so good. The top 0.1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Fifty-two percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. One family, the Walton family of Walmart — the worst union-busters of all — owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans.

As a result, people all over this country are asking the hard questions that need to be asked:

Why is it that, despite all of the incredible gains we have made in technology and productivity, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages?
Why is it that we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major industrialized country while we have seen a 10-fold increase in the number of billionaires since the year 2000?
How does it happen that many of the new jobs being created today in America are part-time, low wage jobs?
Why is it that since 2001, over 60,000 factories have shut down in America and millions of good-paying manufacturing jobs have disappeared? Why are the new manufacturing jobs being created in this country pay in some cases half of what manufacturing jobs used to pay?
Why are we in a race to the bottom with low wage countries like China, Mexico and Vietnam?
Why are we the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care for all or to provide paid family and medical leave?
Why have we lost our position as the best educated country in the world and now find millions of people paying off outrageously high student debts?
Why is our infrastructure — roads, bridges, airports, levees, dams, water systems and wastewater plants, mass transit, schools and housing — crumbling and in need of major repair?
The bottom line is that there are a number of reasons as to why the middle class in this country continues to shrink, while those on top are doing phenomenally well. The most important being that we increasingly have governments, at the national, state and local levels, that are beholden to wealthy campaign contributors rather than the needs of their constituents.
Our job is to bring our people together around a progressive agenda that works for all, and not just the few. Our job is to create an economy based on human needs, not the greed of the billionaire class.
We must rebuild the American labor movement and make it easier, not harder, for workers to join unions. Forty years ago, more than a quarter of all workers belonged to a union. Today, that number has gone down to just 11 percent and in the private sector it is now less than 7 percent as Republican governors across the country have signed anti-union legislation into law, drastically cutting labor membership in this country.
It is not a coincidence that the decline of the American middle class virtually mirrors the rapid decline in union membership. As workers lose their seat at the negotiating table, the share of national income going to middle class workers has gone down, while the percentage of income going to the very wealthy has gone up.
The benefits of joining a union are clear. Union workers earn 27 percent more, on average, than non-union workers. Over 76 percent of union workers have guaranteed defined benefit pension plans, while only 16 percent of non-union workers do. More than 82 percent of workers in unions have paid sick leave, compared to just 62 percent of non-union workers.
In order to revitalize American democracy we must overturn Citizens United, move to public funding of elections and end voter suppression.
We must demand that the wealthy and large corporations begin paying their fair share of taxes.
We must break-up the large Wall Street financial banks and make sure that no institution in America is too big to fail.
We must raise the minimum wage to a living wage, $15 an hour, and end the unconscionable and inequitable pay gap that currently exists between male and female workers.
We must re-write our disastrous trade policies and make sure that trade agreements benefit workers and not just CEOs of large corporations.
We must rebuild our crumbling infrastructure with a $1 trillion dollar investment and create up to 15 million good-paying jobs.
We must pass a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care system and guarantee health care as a right, not a privilege.
We must make public colleges and universities tuition free for working families so that everyone can get a higher education regardless of income.
Today, on Labor Day, we must recommit ourselves to bringing all working people together in the fight for a just and humane world.

‘We’ve Got to Fight’: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Lead Twitter Outrage Over Trump’s Reported Move to End DACA


President Donald Trump‘s reported decision to end DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that offers work permits to people who entered the country illegally as minors — has incensed the internet, with politicians, everyday Americans and people who have benefitted from the program expressing shock and disgust over the move expected to be officially announced Tuesday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders forcefully condemned the news on Twitter Sunday night, saying that if Trump indeed ends the program “it will be one of the ugliest and cruelest decisions ever made by a president in our modern history.”
“Taking legal protections away from 800,000 young people raised in this country is absolutely counter to what we stand for as a nation,” the Vermont senator and former Democratic presidential candidate also tweeted.

If Trump decides to end DACA, it will be one of the ugliest and cruelest decisions ever made by a president in our modern history. 
Taking legal protections away from 800,000 young people raised in this country is absolutely counter to what we stand for as a nation.

On Sunday night, Politico broke the news that Trump had decided to end the program, but would delay the enforcement for six months to give Congress a window to act. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns about ending the program.

Administration officials told The New York Times and the Washington Post that Trump’s decision is not yet final, and he could still change his mind before Tuesday’s official announcement.
In the meantime, social media was flooded with messages expressing revulsion that he would end the program.
Hillary Clinton tweeted that there was “no time to waste” in battling Trump’s reported decision.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman tweeted Monday that they would sue the president if he rescinds DACA.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy called on Republicans to join Democrats in passing legislative protection for “Dreamers,” the nearly 800,000 undocumented people who were brought to the United States as young children and have been temporarily excluded from deportation under the DACA program.
“Dear Republicans, your moment has come. Every Democrat will join you,” Murphy tweeted. “Show the courage and grace to save these children, and our nation.”

President Obama, who used executive actions to launch DACA in June 2012, is also expected to speak out if Trump officially decides to end the program, Politicoreported Monday, citing a person close to Obama.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to defend the DACA program. 
Ryan was among several Republican leaders to denounce the reported move, and on Friday also urged Congress to save DACA.
“I actually don’t think [Trump] should do that and I believe that this is something Congress has to fix,” Ryan told his hometown radio station WCLO in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Republican Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado said Thursday that he’ll attempt to force a vote on a House bill that would uphold DACA protections.
“#DACA participants grew up here, went to school here, and should be allowed to stay here. The time has come to take action,” Coffman tweeted.