#India Shameless abstention from the historic Arms Trade Treaty


In the 15th year of its nuclear tests, India has abstained from the just concluded UN Arms Trade Treaty, having become the largest importer of arms in the world last month. What happened to the stability and security that the nuclear bombs were supposed to bestow on us?

P K Sundaram, dianuke.org

Just as the news of adoption of the first-ever Arms Trade Treaty by the United Nations poured in, I tried searching for India’s stance and I found the Times of India’s breaking report silent. This is not surprising as India has abstained from this historic arms trade regulation pact which received the support of 154 out of 180 countries. While 3 countries – Iran, Syria and North Korea opposed this treaty, India abstained along with 23 others like Russia, China and Saudi Arabia etc.

International-Arms-Trade-Treaty-BananaIndia opposed the proposed treaty since the beginning. Pakistan, being a friendly neighbour when it comes to arms race, has been supportive of India’s stance, but it surprised the world by supporting the just treaty at the last moment.

The US under the Bush administration had vehemently opposed the treaty, but President Obama engineered a reversal of the stance and finally got his country to support the pact, despite immense conservative pressures like those from the National Rifle Association.

India’s insatiable arms obsession

Last month, India made it big into two global lists: it came 137th in a list of 186 countries in the global human development index, and it became the world’s largest  arms importer accounting for the 12% of the world’s total arms trade. India’s share in global arms trade has gone up by 25% – in the period between 2003-2008, it purchased 9% of the total arms transferred in the global arms market.

The report titled Trends in International Arms Transfers published by the reputed Stockholm Institute of Peace Research (SIPRI) listed India as the world’s biggest importer of arms between 2008 and 2012. The global trends of arms transfer reveal a lot. While all the 5 biggest important were Asian countries – India (12 per cent of global imports), China (6 per cent), Pakistan (5 per cent), South Korea (5 per cent), and Singapore (4 per cent), all the major exporters of arms were from the West: US, Russia, Germany and France. China replaced the UK as the 5th largest exporter of arms.

Alarmingly, SIPRI’s press release notes that “Several countries in Asia and Oceania have in recent years ordered or announced plans to acquire long-range strike and support systems that would make them capable of projecting power far beyond their national borders”, while mentioning India’s acquisition of nuclear powered submarine from Russia last year. Israel and the US are biggest beneficiaries of India’s military shopping spree, both signalling and resulting in major implications for its foreign policy.

India: Rising Weapons Expenditures After 15 Years of Going Nuclear

India’s increasing arms imports defy the claims of the nuclear hawks since 1998 that induction of nuclear weapons would bring stability and security for the country.  May 11th this year would mark 15 years of India’s nuclear tests in Pokhran. India’s defence expenditures – on both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon systems – have increased dramatically since then. Contrary to the claims of providing stable security to India, the nuclear weapons have pushed India to acquire more death machines. India’s defence budget has gone up from Rs. 35,277 crore in 1998 to a whopping 2,03,671.1 crore in 2013. In 2012-2013, India spent 1.93 trillion, or $40 billion, marking an increase of 17 per cent over the previous year. India has been recently spending much more on naval and air forces compared to the army, a trend indicative of its rising power projections and self-perception. It’s defence expensesbetween 1992 and 2012 have shot up by 1005%. 41% of which goes into acquisition of new weapons. In 2012, while it’s GDP grew by 6.7%, figures on defence expenditure growth varied between  by 13 to 19%.

Unabated Arms Race in South Asia

Arms race – both nuclear and conventional – is going unbridled in South Asia. Both the countries have been upgrading their nuclear arsenals, qualitatively and quantitatively. While India goes on to define its ‘minimal credible deterrence’ maximally, Pakistan has diversified its nuclear arsenals by including tactical nukes January this year. Add to this the frequent missiles tests, of ever increasing ranges and payloads. South Asia is also home to gigantic military exercises on both sides – recently Indian Air Force did its biggest-ever exercise called Operation iron Fist in Pokhran with nuclear-capable missiles. Pakistan, at the start of this year, had conducted a huge military exercise called Saffron Bandits.

Glaring Poverty Amid Super Power Dreams

Compare the facts on military build-ups with the shame of poverty in both the countries. While more than 40% people go to sleep without food in Pakistanmore than 230 million Indians go hungry daily. 37% of Indian deaths are still caused by “poor country” diseases like TB and malaria. A recent Oxford study has suggested that Nepal is reducing poverty faster than India. India’s While our national budget is hijacked by the security establishment, India last year ranked worst place among the G-20 countries for being a women – in terms of female education, health and safety. In terms of gender equality, in fact India fared worse than Pakistan in the UNDP human development report published in march 2013.

Needless to say, this huge stockpile of arms will push India into further belligerence and uglier conflicts. While India-Pakistan border has found place in the Guinness book of world records to be the world’s largest militarized territorial dispute, Indian political elite has been using heavily-armed tactics to subdue the dissenting sections of society – from the adivasis in the midland to the ethnic minorities in the north-east and elsewhere.

It is time to call the bluff of the political leadership in India which has twisted and perverted the peaceful and Gandhian credentials of our country to pay lip service to peace while indulging in worst kind of adventurism and a criminal distortion of national priorities.

 

Sloppy Mental-Health Talk Will Intensify Stigma


By Atima Omara-Alwala

WeNews commentator

Monday, February 18, 2013

The current gun-control debate could worsen the mental health stigma that already stops many women of color from seeking help, says Atima Omara-Alwala. It’s necessary to get the facts right on mental illness and those who commit violent acts.

 

Let's sweep Mental Illness out from Under the Rug

 

Credit: Geek2Nurse on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0)..

(WOMENSENEWS)–Well-meaning activists and elected officials do a huge disservice when they make assumptions about helping the mentally ill only in light of the extreme violence they are supposedly likely to commit.

For women in communities of color, already contending with higher rates of depression and other mental illness, this can be particularly harmful.

Who wants to come forward about your problems when National Rifle Association spokesperson Wayne La Pierre is saying you belong to a trigger-happy lunatic crowd whose names need to be kept on a registry?

Who wants to be lumped together with Adam Lanza?

The horrific massacre of school children and educators in Newtown, Conn., has spurred interest in mental health but the public discourse has spent very little time at the intersection of race and gender.

If we don’t address mental health reforms overall aggressively, the current gun-control debate could bolster a vicious stigma that already blocks many in underserved communities from seeking help.

Clicking through my Facebook and Twitter feeds that awful December day, I saw a torrent of pithy comments on the need to do something about mental illness and gun control in the United States.

It’s a tenuous link to make since an August 2006 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows only 4 percent of those considered mentally ill actually commit violent acts.

I grew up in a black immigrant family intimately affected by mental illness and disability. When I was a child, my favorite cousin, in her late 20s at the time, developed paranoid schizophrenia. Just before we knew she was ill, she came to stay with us, as she always had when visiting.

I was excited to see this cool big sister figure who took me shopping, to the movies and let me play with her makeup. I was shocked at what my pre-teen eyes saw. A healthy, vibrant full figured woman transformed into an emaciated, exhausted version of herself, her thick curly hair now rapidly thinning. Sores covered her once well-kept face.

Grappling With Illness

I will never forget watching my parents grapple with her diagnosis and try to get her help.

As I grew older I saw friends grapple with the byproducts of mental illness: eating disorders to alcoholism and self-injury. In spite of my knowledge and experiences, the national stats are still stunning.

About 26 percent (57.7 million) of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That number translates into a sobering 1-in-4 adults. Yes, 1-in-4.

Major depressive disorder, or depression, is a leading form of mental disability in people ages 15-44 in the United States and is more prevalent in women, with women suffering two-and-a-half times more likely than men from depression.

The disparity in those suffering from depression widens significantly when you zoom in on female demographics.

Fifty percent more African American women are diagnosed with depression than white women,

according to the National Association for Mental Illness. It’s raised such concern that at the 2007 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference, mental illness and black women were discussed as a major topic because a study from Mental Health America showed a mere 7 percent of black women suffering from depression sought treatment, compared to 20 percent of white women.

The rate of suffering for Latinas is even higher than that of black or white women.

Psychological, biological and environmental factors combine to culminate in mental illness. Traumatic and stressful events, such as a death in the family or divorce or job loss, or even a presumably happy event such as getting married, can contribute to depression.

Unfortunately, the number of those who seek treatment is low, and even lower in communities of color. Here seekers can be more prone to finding mental-health services too expensive; not covered by insurance; or hindered by language and cultural barriers; compounding a larger problem further.

A ‘Weakness’

As a black woman, I am all too familiar with the belief that depression in my community can be especially seen as a “weakness.”

Mental Health America’s 2007 survey found that over half–63 percent–of African Americans believe that depression is a personal weakness. Only 31 percent consider it a medical problem that can be treated. Additional research from the National Association of Mental Illness indicates similar sentiments pervading the Latino and Asian communities.

To be clear I understand why the need for better mental-health treatment has been raised in the context of the Newtown and Aurora, Colo., and other mass shootings. And it’s true that some are homing in on the particular problems of men, who commit up to 94 percent of murder-suicides, according to a 2006 study by the Violence Policy Center.

But we can’t allow the discussion to get sloppy when it comes to mental illness.

Discussing what shifted in the lives of Lanza or Aurora shooter James Holmes to make them killers makes more sense than generalizing about the mentally ill whose percentage of violent crimes against others is low.

Far more frequently, those with mental illness torture and harm themselves.

I would be remiss as a person who has made her living in politics and advocacy if I didn’t use this window, asPresident Barack Obama encouraged, to help “make access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun.”

But we must also do our part to not stigmatize those in need so much so that they will not seek the help they need.

Atima Omara-Alwala is a political strategist, progressive and activist of 10 years who has served as staff on eight political campaigns and other progressive causes with a particular focus on women’s political empowerment and leadership, reproductive justice, health care and communities of color. Her writings on the topics have also been featured at Ms. Magazine, RH Reality Check and Fem2pt0. Currently, she isnational vice president of theYoung Democrats of America and serves on the boards of DC Abortion Fund andPlanned Parenthood Metro Washington Action Fund.

 

#India- wake up—World’s biggest nuke plant may shut: Japan report


by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 25, 2013

The largest nuclear power plant in the world may be forced to shut down under tightened rules proposed by Japan’s new nuclear watchdog aimed at safeguarding against earthquakes, a report said Friday.

Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power‘s vast Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in central Japan could be on the chopping block if the Nuclear Regulation Authority expands the definition of an active fault.

The movement of a fault — a crack in the earth’s crust — can generate massive earthquakes like the one that sparked a tsunami that slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011, setting off the worst atomic crisis in a generation.

The watchdog is planning to define an active fault as one that moved any time within the past 400,000 years, rather than the current 120,000 to 130,000-year limit, an official told AFP, which could spell the end of the TEPCO plant.

“The new guidelines will be put into effect in July, and then we will re-evaluate the safety of each of Japan’s nuclear plants,” said the NRA official, adding no decisions would be made until the new rules were in place.

At least two “non-active” faults underneath the site’s reactors could be ensnared by the new definition, forcing its closure, according to a report in the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper on Friday.

Other Japanese media have carried similar reports.

A company spokesman said TEPCO was conducting more tests on the faults underneath the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s biggest by generating capacity.

The NRA is conducting or planning to conduct investigations into six other nuclear plants in Japan.

At present only two of the country’s 50 reactors are operational, after the entire stable was shuttered over several months for scheduled safety checks. Public resistance has meant the government has been reluctant to give the go-ahead for their re-starting.

The two reactors that are working are both being investigated by seismologists.

In 2007, the government ordered the temporary closure of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake destroyed hundreds of homes in the area and jolted the sprawling plant, which was close to the quake’s epicentre, leading to a small radiation leak.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck off Japan’s northeastern coast in 2011 triggered the tsunami that left about 19,000 dead and set off the emergency at Fukushima.

No one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the nuclear catastrophe, but radiation leaks forced tens of thousands of people from their homes and left swathes of agricultural land unfarmabl

 

Utah teachers get free gun training in response to Newtown shooting #WTFnews #guncontrol


Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

By Laura Zuckerman

Thu Dec 27, 2012 9:52pm EST

 

(Reuters) – Kasey Hansen, a special education teacher from Salt Lake City, Utah, says she would take a bullet for any of her students, but if faced with a gunman threatening her class, she would rather be able to shoot back.

 

On Thursday, she was one of 200 Utah teachers who flocked to an indoor sports arena for free instruction in the handling of firearms by gun activists who say armed educators might have a chance at thwarting deadly shooting rampages in their schools.

 

The event was organized by the Utah Shooting Sports Council in response to the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, this month that killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

 

The council said it has typically attracted about 16 teachers each year to its concealed carry training courses. But Thursday’s event near Salt Lake City, organized especially for educators in the aftermath of Newtown, drew interest from hundreds, and the class was capped at 200 for space limitations.

 

“I feel like I would take a bullet for any student in the school district,” Hansen, a special education teacher in a Salt Lake City school district, told Reuters after the training session.

 

“If we should ever face a shooter like the one in Connecticut, I’m fully prepared to respond with my firearm,” she said, adding that she planned to buy a weapon soon and take it to work.

 

The Newtown massacre reignited a national debate over gun safety. President Barack Obama signaled his support for reinstating a national ban on assault-style rifles and urged Congress to act. The National Rifle Association has called for posting armed guards at schools and rejected new gun-control measures.

 

‘HOW DO I KEEP A GUN SAFE?’

 

The National Education Association and a number of school officials criticized the NRA’s stance, but it got a warmer reception in some parts of the West, where hunting and guns are prevalent.

 

Utah is one of a handful of states that allows people with concealed-carry licenses to take their weapons onto school property, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

 

In Arizona, Attorney General Tom Horne on Wednesday jumped into the debate over school security with a proposal to allow any school to train and arm its principal or another staff member.

 

The plan, which was backed by at least three sheriffs, would require approval by the legislature and the state’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer.

 

Clark Aposhian, head of the Utah Shooting Sports Council and a certified firearms instructor, organized the event on Thursday to provide teachers with permits to allow them to carry concealed handguns in the classroom. He waived the usual $50 fee for the course.

 

“I genuinely felt depressed at how helpless those teachers were and those children were in Newtown,” Aposhian said. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”

 

Utah teacher Kerrie Anderson was not about to participate. She is a choir and math instructor at a junior high school near Salt Lake City, and said her family is “pro-gun” and uses firearms for sports such as target shooting. But she balks at the notion of carrying a weapon into her classroom.

 

“How would I keep that gun safe?” she said. “I wouldn’t carry (it) on my person while teaching, where a disgruntled student could overpower me and take it. And if I have it secured in my office, it might not be a viable form of protection.”

 

Gun-control activists have decried moves to arm teachers and said efforts at curbing gun violence in schools should be tied to tightening firearms laws.

 

“We think it makes a lot more sense to prevent a school shooter from getting the gun in the first place,” said Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

 

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary ranks as the second most deadly school shooting in U.S. history. Police say Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother before going to the school, where he committed the massacre and shot himself to death.

 

(Reporting and writing by Laura Zuckerman; Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Steve Gorman)

 

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