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The Doomsday Clock is ticking again. It is now three minutes to midnight
by Abby Ohlheiser

It is now three minutes to midnight, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which is warning that the end of humanity may be nigh. The group behind the famed "Doomsday Clock" announced at a news conference that it was adjusting the countdown to the End of it All by taking away two minutes. It is the closest the clock has been to Doomsday since 1984.

The time is symbolic, sitting at the intersection of art and science, and it has wavered between two minutes and 17 minutes til doom since the clock's inception in 1947. A board of scientists and nuclear experts meets regularly to determine what time it is on the Doomsday Clock.

This time, the clock was adjusted to express the group's dissatisfaction with world progress on "unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals." Those issues, the group said in a statement, "pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity."

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was founded by some of the people who worked on the Manhattan Project. One of them, nuclear physicist Alexander Langsdorf, was married to the artist Martyl Langsdorf. She created the clock and set it at seven minutes to midnight, or 11:53, for the cover of the group's magazine. Her husband moved the time four minutes later in 1949.

Since then, the Bulletin's board has determined when the clock's minute hand will move, usually to draw attention to worldwide crises that, the board believes, threatens the survival of the human species. The group's reasoning focuses almost exclusively on the availability of nuclear weapons and a willingness among the world's great powers to use them.

Here is every time the Doomsday Clock has moved, and why, according to the Bulletin:

1947: 7 Minutes to Midnight

The Doomsday Clock is originally set by an artist. The Bulletin says on its site that the image of the clock, on the cover of its magazine, was supposed to capture "the urgency of the nuclear dangers that the magazine's founders -- and the broader scientific community -- are trying to convey to the public and political leaders around the world."

1949: 3 Minutes to Midnight

Alexander Langsdorf moves the minute hand up by four minutes after a Russian nuclear test. Here's what the magazine said at the time to explain the move: "We do not advise Americans that doomsday is near and that they can expect atomic bombs to start falling on their heads a month or year from now. But we think they have reason to be deeply alarmed and to be prepared for grave decisions."

1953: 2 Minutes to Midnight

The United States tests its first thermonuclear device in October 1952. This is the closest the clock has ever gotten to Doomsday.

1960: 7 Minutes to Midnight

"For the first time, the United States and Soviet Union appear eager to avoid direct confrontation in regional conflicts," the Bulletin says of this move backward from Doomsday. Among other things, the group specifically mentions the formation of several initiatives promoting international scientific cooperation.

1963: 12 Minutes to Midnight

The United States and the Soviet Union sign the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which bans atmospheric testing of nuclear devices. You can read the full text of that treaty here.

1968: 7 Minutes to Midnight

Lots of things contribute to this move: The Vietnam War. The India-Pakistan War of 1965. And nuclear weapons in France and China.

1969: 10 Minutes to Midnight

Most major world powers (but not Israel, India, and Pakistan) sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

1972: 12 Minutes to Midnight

The United States and Soviet Union sign a pair of treaties aimed at slowing the arms race: The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

1974: 9 Minutes to Midnight

India runs its first test of a nuclear device. And, the Bulletin adds, the United States and Soviet Union continue to modernize their own nuclear capabilities.

1980: 7 Minutes to Midnight

The Bulletin simply cites a lack of progress toward nuclear disarmament for this move, noting that the two global superpowers have "been behaving like what may best be described as 'nucleoholics'--drunks who continue to insist that the drink being consumed is positively 'the last one,' but who can always find a good excuse for 'just one more round.'"

1981: 4 Minutes to Midnight

Russia invades Afghanistan. The United States boycotts the Olympic Games in Moscow. And, the Bulletin notes, Ronald Reagan is elected president.

1984: 3 Minutes to Midnight

More pessimism over the state of diplomacy between the United States and the Soviet Union. "Every channel of communications has been constricted or shut down; every form of contact has been attenuated or cut off. And arms control negotiations have been reduced to a species of propaganda," writes the Bulletin.

1988: 6 Minutes to Midnight

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev have signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which bans a specific type of nuclear weapon.

1990: 10 Minutes to Midnight

The Berlin Wall falls, and Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania break out from Soviet control.

1991: 17 Minutes to Midnight

This is the farthest the clock's minute hand has been from doomsday, indicating the group's momentary optimism at the official end of the Cold War.

1995: 14 Minutes to Midnight

Maybe we were a little too optimistic, the Bulletin says. The group notes at the time that there are more than 40,000 nuclear weapons around the world.

1998: 9 Minutes to Midnight

Russia and the United States still have nuclear warheads aimed at each other, and India and Pakistan conduct rival nuclear tests.

2002: 7 Minutes to Midnight

America withdraws from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, 20 years after it was signed. The Bulletin's board is also concerned about "the enormous amount of unsecured -- and sometimes unaccounted for -- weapon-grade nuclear materials," as speculation spreads about the possibility of a nuclear terrorist attack.

2007: 5 Minutes to Midnight

North Korea tests a nuclear weapon, and the West is worried that Iran wants one, too. For the first time, the Bulletin mentions a second concern: climate change.

2010: 6 Minutes to Midnight

The United States and Russia are in talks to renew something akin to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and the Bulletin is slightly more optimistic on international efforts to combat climate change.

2012: 5 Minutes to Midnight

"The challenges to rid the world of nuclear weapons, harness nuclear power, and meet the nearly inexorable climate disruptions from global warming are complex and interconnected. In the face of such complex problems, it is difficult to see where the capacity lies to address these challenges," the Bulletin writes.

2015: 3 Minutes to Midnight.

Speaking of nuclear weapons modernization, climate change and the continued existence of nuclear weapons arsenals, the Bulletin writes that "world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth.”

Abby Ohlheiser is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/01/22/the-doomsday-clock-is-ticking-again-it-is-now-three-minutes-to-midnight-a-k-a-the-end-of-humanity/


Obama shows mixed results in delivering on State of the Union promises
by William La Jeunesse - Fox News

Close Guantanamo. End the Iraq war. Tax the rich. Increase nuclear power. Drill for oil in the Atlantic.

President Obama called for all these initiatives and more in previous State of the Union speeches. Some came to pass; others did not.

Tuesday's State of the Union address is likely to be similar in scope -- filled with political wish-list items, some strikingly ambitious considering Congress is now controlled by Republicans. But when a president makes such pledges -- be it to add a million jobs, to freeze spending or to cut red tape -- should taxpayers believe the claims or dismiss them as political hype?

A look back at his past addresses may help answer that question.

2009

Renewable energy: In 2009, the president said his economic recovery plan would "double the nations' supply of renewable energy in the next three years."

That didn't quite happen. The share of renewable power in the U.S. increased from 10.62 percent in 2009 to 12.6 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Deficit reduction: Obama also pledged to "cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office." On that count, he eventually did -- though it took a year longer than he promised. The deficit fell to $680 billion in 2013 from $1.41 trillion in 2009.

College graduation rates: "By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world," Obama said in 2009, when just 41 percent of Americans graduated from college. That number now stands at 43 percent, a two-point gain in six years and one of the slowest growth rates in the world, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. It ranks the U.S. behind Russia, South Korea and Canada. The College Board ranks the U.S. 12th out of 36 countries.

He also planned to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay and open universal tax-free savings accounts for all Americans. Both efforts failed to fly in Congress.

2010

Nuclear power: In 2010, the president promised to "build a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in the U.S." That didn't happen.

Program cuts: "We will continue to go through the budget line by line to eliminate programs that we can't afford," the president told Congress in 2010. That, too, didn't materialize.

The Congressional Budget Office outlined $100 billion in useful spending cuts in 2009. The Office of Management and Budget identified wasteful and non-performing programs totaling another $100 billion in 2013. The Government Accountability Office identified $37 billion in duplicative programs in 2011.

Spending freeze: "Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years," the president told Congress in 2010. For the most part, that happened. The federal budget remained about $3.5 trillion during that period.

A promise to "change the tone of our politics" was not as successful. Polls show an increase in partisanship among voters and many blame the president, whose latest Gallup approval ratings hover around 45 percent.

He also famously said ObamaCare "would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan." That wasn't true.

But Obama did promise to regulate the banks, reform federal student aid and increase taxes on the rich. All became law.

2011

Immigration: "We should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration," Obama said in 2011.

While he never convinced Congress to pass immigration reform, Obama acted alone, passing a series of executive actions on immigration last November.

Tax reform: In 2011, Obama said the U.S. should "simplify the individual tax code," but he did nothing to push the issue. On Tuesday night, he is expected to call for more taxes on the top earners, on investments and inheritances.

2012

Outsourcing punishment: In 2012, the president promised to "stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas." That effort went nowhere as the White House did not pursue corporate tax reform in Congress, even though the president said it remained a priority in his 2013 and 2014 State of the Union speeches as well.

Regulation elimination: In 2012, the president said, "I've ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don't make sense." The White House says it followed through, eliminating dozens of outdated rules, governing everything from the handling of spilled milk to warm air hand dryers.

However, the 2013 Federal Register contained 78,891 pages, 70 new laws and 2,898 new rules, according to a study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which says U.S. households "pay" $14,768 annually in hidden taxes from unnecessary regulations.

Obama also wanted to "cut through the maze of confusing training programs" to reduce government waste and duplication. According to the Government Accountability Office, the federal government spends $18 billion a year on 47 overlapping job training programs.

Oil and gas drilling: In response to higher gas prices, in 2012 the president said, "Tonight I'm directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources." He did, but the statement is misleading, since the Atlantic Ocean, and most of the Pacific and Alaskan waters, remain off limits. According to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Management, 85 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf in the lower 48 states is not open for exploration or drilling, including 45 percent of the Gulf of Mexico.

2013

Al Qaeda: In 2013, Obama said, "The organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self." A year before, he said, "Al Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they can't escape the reach of the United States of America." In 2009, he said "We will forge a new and comprehensive strategy ... to defeat Al Qaeda and combat extremism."

Despite U.S. efforts, including stepped-up drone strikes, many argue Al Qaeda and particularly its affiliates are more powerful today, not less. Even in the Middle East, voters tell Pew Research, Islamic extremism, including Al Qaeda and its affiliates, are a growing threat.

Health spending: In 2013, the president lobbied for support for ObamaCare, promising to "bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare." He did. Medicare spending slowed from 7.7 percent to 5.3 percent, according to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A State of the Union speech is a mix of policy and politics, aspirations and accomplishments. After six years in office, Obama has overseen an improving economy -- though middle class wages remain flat. Proposals for corporate tax reform and universal preschool remain in limbo.

While there is partisanship and disagreement on almost every issue, this 2013 statement could be the exception. "Our government shouldn't make promises we cannot keep, but we must keep the promises we've already made," Obama told Congress.

Nevertheless, Tuesday's address may include many promises even he knows cannot be kept.

William La Jeunesse joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in March 1998 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/01/20/obama-show-mixed-results-in-delivering-on-six-previous-state-union-promises/


Obama in State of Union: Same-Sex Marriage is ‘America at Its Best’
by Terence P. Jeffrey

(CNSNews.com) - When he was running for president seven years ago, and appearing in a nationally televised forum held by a Christian pastor at a Christian church, Barack Obama said he believed that marriage was a “sacred union” that was “between a man and a woman.”

On Tuesday night, in his State of the Union Address, Obama said that legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States is one of the things he has seen that represents “America at its best.”

“I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long,” Obama said. “I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best.

“I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California, and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, New London,” he said. “I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown, in Boston, in West Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains, from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in 10 Americans call home.

“So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who every day live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper,” he said. “And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.”

On Aug. 17, 2008, two and a half months before the 2008 presidential election, Obama and his opponent, Sen. John McCain, were interviewed back-to-back by Pastor Rick Warren at the Saddleback Church in Southern California.

Warren asked Obama: “Define marriage.”

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” Obama said. “Now, for me as a Christian--for me--for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God's in the mix.”

“Would you support a Constitutional Amendment with that definition?” Warren asked.

“No, I would not,” said Obama.

“Why not?” asked Warren.

“Because historically, we have not defined marriage in our Constitution,” said Obama. “It's been a matter of state law. That has been our tradition. I mean, let's break it down. The reason that people think there needs to be a constitutional amendment, some people believe, is because of the concern that--about same-sex marriage. I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions. I do believe that we should not--that for gay partners to want to visit each other in the hospital for the state to say, you know what, that's all right, I don't think in any way inhibits my core beliefs about what marriage are. I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or different view.”

On Nov. 1, 2008, just three days before the 2008 election, Obama again stated that he did not believe in same-sex marriage.

MTV asked him his view on Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.

“I think it’s unnecessary,” Obama said. “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage. But when you start playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that’s not what America’s about. Usually, our constitutions expand liberties, they don’t contract them."

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/obama-state-union-same-sex-marriage-america-its-best
 
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