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How US gun control compares to the rest of the world

Thursday, 30 July 2015 00:00 Written by

The Charleston murders have renewed the sporadic debates over whether gun control might have prevented this latest of tragedies.



To quote President Obama the day after the shooting in the AME Church,

“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. It is in our power to do something about it.”

So far, however, the US has not done “something about it.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA), it seems, has so much power over politicians that even when 90% of Americans (including a majority of NRA members) wanted universal background checks to be adopted following the Newtown killings of 2012, no federal action ensued. Certainly, it’s unlikely that any useful legislation will emerge in South Carolina.

The NRA stranglehold on appropriate anti-crime measures is only part of the problem, though.

The gun culture’s worship of the magical protective capacities of guns and their power to be wielded against perceived enemies – including the federal government – is a message that resonates with troubled individuals from the Santa Barbara killer, who was seeking vengeance on women who had failed to perceive his greatness, to the Charleston killer who echoed the Tea Party mantra of taking back our country.

I’ve been researching gun violence – and what can be done to prevent it – in the US for 25 years. The fact is that if NRA claims about the efficacy of guns in reducing crime were true, the US would have the lowest homicide rate among industrialized nations instead of the highest homicide rate (by a wide margin).

The US is by far the world leader in the number of guns in civilian hands. The stricter gun laws of other “advanced countries” have restrained homicidal violence, suicides and gun accidents – even when, in some cases, laws were introduced over massive protests from their armed citizens.

The state of gun control in the US

Eighteen states in the US and a number of cities including Chicago, New York and San Francisco have tried to reduce the unlawful use of guns as well as gun accidents by adopting laws to keep guns safely stored when they are not in use. Safe storage is a common form of gun regulation in nations with stricter gun regulations.

The NRA has been battling such laws for years. But that effort was dealt a blow earlier this month when the US Supreme Court – over a strident dissent by Justices Thomas and Scalia – refused to consider the San Francisco law that required guns not in use be stored safely. This was undoubtedly a positive step because hundreds of thousands of guns are stolen every year, and good public policy must try to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children.

The dissenters, however, were alarmed by the thought that a gun stored in a safe would not be immediately available for use, but they seemed unaware of how unusual it is that a gun is helpful when someone is under attack.

For starters, only the tiniest fraction of victims of violent crime are able to use a gun in their defense. Over the period from 2007-2011, when roughly six million nonfatal violent crimes occurred each year, data from the National Crime Victimization Survey show that the victim did not defend with a gun in 99.2% of these incidents – this in a country with 300 million guns in civilian hands.


Activists hold placards outside the George R Brown Convention Center, the site for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Houston, Texas on May 4 2013. Adrees Latif/Reuters


In fact, a study of 198 cases of unwanted entry into occupied single-family dwellings in Atlanta (not limited to night when the residents were sleeping) found that the invader was twice as likely to obtain the victim’s gun than to have the victim use a firearm in self-defense.

The author of the study, Arthur Kellerman, concluded in words that Justice Thomas and Scalia might well heed:

On average, the gun that represents the greatest threat is the one that is kept loaded and readily available in a bedside drawer.

A loaded, unsecured gun in the home is like an insurance policy that fails to deliver at least 95% of the time you need it, but has the constant potential – particularly in the case of handguns that are more easily manipulated by children and more attractive for use in crime – to harm someone in the home or (via theft) the public at large.

More guns won’t stop gun violence

For years, the NRA mantra has been that allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns would reduce crime as they fought off or scared off the criminals.

Some early studies even purported to show that so-called right to carry laws (RTC) did just that, but a 2004 report from the National Research Council refuted that claim (saying it was not supported by “the scientific evidence”), while remaining uncertain about what the true impact of RTC laws was.

Ten years of additional data have allowed new research to get a better fix on this question, which is important since the NRA is pushing for a Supreme Court decision that would allow RTC as a matter of constitutional law.

The new research on this issue from my research team at Stanford University has given the most compelling evidence to date that RTC laws are associated with significant increases in violent crime – particularly for aggravated assault. Looking at Uniform Crime Reports data from 1979-2012, we find that, on average, the 33 states that adopted RTC laws over this period experienced violent crime rates that are 4%-19% higher after 10 years than if they had not adopted these laws.

This hardly makes a strong case for RTC as a constitutional right. At the very least more research is needed to estimate more precisely exactly how much violent crime such a decision would unleash in the states that have so far resisted the NRA-backed RTC laws.

In the meantime, can anything make American politicians listen to the preferences of the 90% on the wisdom of adopting universal background checks for gun purchases?

Gun control around the world

As an academic exercise, one might speculate whether law could play a constructive role in reducing the number or deadliness of mass shootings.

Most other advanced nations apparently think so, since they make it far harder for someone like the Charleston killer to get his hands on a Glock semiautomatic handgun or any other kind of firearm (universal background checks are common features of gun regulation in other developed countries).

  • Germany: To buy a gun, anyone under the age of 25 has to pass a psychiatric evaluation (presumably 21-year-old Dylann Roof would have failed).
  • Finland: Handgun license applicants are only allowed to purchase firearms if they can prove they are active members of regulated shooting clubs. Before they can get a gun, applicants must pass an aptitude test, submit to a police interview, and show they have a proper gun storage unit.
  • Italy: To secure a gun permit, one must establish a genuine reason to possess a firearm and pass a background check considering both criminal and mental health records (again, presumably Dylann Roof would have failed).
  • France: Firearms applicants must have no criminal record and pass a background check that considers the reason for the gun purchase and evaluates the criminal, mental, and health records of the applicant. (Dylann Roof would presumably have failed in this process).
  • United Kingdom and Japan: Handguns are illegal for private citizens.

While mass shootings as well as gun homicides and suicides are not unknown in these countries, the overall rates are substantially higher in the United States than in these competitor nations.

While NRA supporters frequently challenge me on these statistics saying that this is only because “American blacks are so violent,” it is important to note that white murder rates in the US are well over twice as high as the murder rates in any of these other countries.

Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since 1996

The story of Australia, which had 13 mass shootings in the 18-year period from 1979 to 1996 but none in the succeeding 19 years, is worth examining.

The turning point was the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, in which a gunman killed 35 individuals using semiautomatic weapons.

In the wake of the massacre, the conservative federal government succeeded in implementing tough new gun control laws throughout the country. A large array of weapons were banned – including the Glock semiautomatic handgun used in the Charleston shootings. The government also imposed a mandatory gun buy back that substantially reduced gun possession in Australia.


Mick Roelandts, firearms reform project manager for the New South Wales Police, looks at a pile of about 4,500 prohibited firearms in Sydney that have been handed in under the Australian government’s buy-back scheme July 28 1997. David Gray/Reuters


The effect was that both gun suicides and homicides (as well as total suicides and homicides) fell. In addition, the 1996 legislation made it a crime to use firearms in self-defense.

When I mention this to disbelieving NRA supporters they insist that crime must now be rampant in Australia. In fact, the Australian murder rate has fallen to close one per 100,000 while the US rate, thankfully lower than in the early 1990s, is still roughly at 4.5 per 100,000 – over four times as high. Moreover, robberies in Australia occur at only about half the rate of the US (58 in Australia versus 113.1 per 100,000 in the US in 2012).

How did Australia do it? Politically, it took a brave prime minister to face the rage of Australian gun interests.

John Howard wore a bullet-proof vest when he announced the proposed gun restrictions in June 1996. The deputy prime minister was hung in effigy. But Australia did not have a domestic gun industry to oppose the new measures so the will of the people was allowed to emerge. And today, support for the safer, gun-restricted Australia is so strong that going back would not be tolerated by the public.

That Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since 1996 is likely more than merely the result of the considerable reduction in guns – it’s certainly not the case that guns have disappeared altogether.

I suspect that the country has also experienced a cultural shift between the shock of the Port Arthur massacre and the removal of guns from every day life as they are no longer available for self-defense and they are simply less present throughout the country. Troubled individuals, in other words, are not constantly being reminded that guns are a means to address their alleged grievances to the extent that they were in the past, or continue to be in the US.


People chat in a pub as a television shows Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik sitting in court as a judge reads his verdict in Oslo August 24 2012. Stoyan Nenov


Lax gun control in one nation can create problems in another

Of course, strict gun regulations cannot ensure that the danger of mass shootings or killings has been eliminated.

Norway has strong gun control and committed humane values. But they didn’t prevent Anders Breivik from opening fire on a youth camp on the island of Utoya in 2011? His clean criminal record and hunting license had allowed him to secure semiautomatic rifles, but Norway restricted his ability to get high-capacity clips for them. In his manifesto, Breivik wrote about his attempts to legally buy weapons, stating, “I envy our European American brothers as the gun laws in Europe sucks ass in comparison.”

In fact, in the same manifesto (“December and January – Rifle/gun accessories purchased”, Breivik wrote that it was from a US supplier that he purchased – and had mailed – ten 30-round ammunition magazines for the rifle he used in his attack.

In other words, even if a particular state chooses to make it harder for some would-be killers to get their weapons, these efforts can be undercut by the jurisdictions that hold out from these efforts. In the US, of course, gun control measures at the state and local level are often thwarted by the lax attitude to gun acquisition in other states.


Author:John Donohue: C Wendell and Edith M Carlsmith Professor of Law at Stanford University

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The article was originally published on The Conversation ( and is republished with permission granted to

My disabilities do not define me. I am Jim

Saturday, 25 July 2015 00:00 Written by

I am an educator of educators. I teach others how to be the best teachers. But, I’m also different.

I have learning challenges.

I found my way and my life’s calling thanks to dedicated educators.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I am reminded of my personal journey.

My disabilities could have defined me. But they did not. I do not consider myself dyslexic or learning-disabled.

I am Jim. And here’s the story of how I overcame my challenges and the educators who helped me along the way.

My disability

Born in 1970, I suffered a head injury as a young boy while roughhousing with friends. Perhaps that led to my learning problems. Perhaps it didn’t. Doctors aren’t really sure.

What I do know for sure is that in kindergarten, I could not spell my name – James. That is when I became Jim. Over a period of time, I turned Jim into Mij.

I did not like school. I decided it was about one thing – learning to read and write.

I was poor at both. I didn’t like myself.


The author, James Gentry, when he was in 2nd grade. CC BY


At the age of six, I was diagnosed with dyslexia or a minimal brain dysfunction; with learning disabilities. At the time, awareness about dyslexia was so poor that my mother asked, “Is it contagious?”

Then something changed.

A breed of new educators – called special education teachers – came to my school. A curriculum tailored just for kids like me was started at my school in East Texas.

The curriculum provided reading and writing experiences using specialized learning strategies. For example, I learned I could read books by looking at pictures, orally retelling the stories, acting out stories and reading text.

All this happened because in 1975, Congress passed the Public Law 94-142, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This law provided special education services for all students with disabilities.

Before this law, students with disabilities had limited protections and rights to an education. This law allowed me to receive the special services I needed to learn to read and write.

I began to develop a more positive perception of myself.

How I learned

I wanted to join my peers as a learner, reader, thinker, writer and everything else educational.

But it was hard for me to know left from right.

A crucial event occurred in my second year of first grade that helped crystallize the visual cues I was being trained to see.

It was the summer of 1977. The roads of my small town were being resurfaced with asphalt and tar.

Curious about the process, I did what an inquisitive young boy would do – stepped right into the middle of the warm, gooey stuff. Predictably, it stuck to the side of one of my shoes.

I remember the thrill and joy of sticking and unsticking my shoes.

The next morning, I lined up the pair so they stuck together perfectly. Next, I slid my feet into the correct left and right shoes.

I was elated with my success.

For the first time I was able to place my shoes on the correct feet using the sticky tar as visual and kinesthetic cues that my teachers had taught me, for determining left from right. I was independent.

This was the beginning of understanding visual cues to learn to read, write and ascertain directions. Although it still took a while, I learned to make the connections.

For instance, when one of my teachers told me I needed to write on the correct side, I still did not understand. I asked, “What is the correct side?” She said, “Write from left to right.”

I asked what are left and right. She took my paper, moved the holes of the paper to one side of my desk and said, “The holes face this way, left.”

I looked in that direction and saw these huge windows.

I still remember thinking, “This is like my shoes and that tar.” I knew it was unlikely the windows would move, so I moved the holes of my paper, lines side up, toward the windows before writing every time.

I never wrote on the wrong side again and learned to adjust to my visual landmarks if my desk moved by asking people what was my left.

It worked every time.

Using visual cues

Once I understood spatial relationships, I made new discoveries with letters and numbers, discovering that some have “legs” and “loops” that faced the holes in the notebook paper while others faced in the opposite direction.

For instance, letters and numbers like a, d, 7, 3, 4, and Jj faced the holes, while Bb, L, Ee, Ff, and Cc faced away from the holes. There were confusing ones like Zz, 5, Ss, and 2 which had loops and legs that faced toward and faced away from the holes on the notebook paper. I had to memorize or review them each time.

As I learned to write, I learned to read better too. I was not like my peers, but I could call some words out orally and use pictures to fill in the missing parts.

Using visual cues, working with peers and seeking meaning were the solutions to learning, reading and writing. Also, I could persuade peers to read to me, and I situated the meaning together like a puzzle.

I became a “meaning gatherer.”

Later, using visual cues helped me play football and drive a car. And, to think, it all started with asphalt, tar and some teachers holding my hand.

College and beyond

Learning with learning challenges is never easy. Higher education proved to be a greater challenge.


The author, James Gentry, at his graduation. CC BY


My first English paper was difficult. Spelling was often perceived as an insurmountable challenge by me. I had to type my papers. But the typed paper resembled a drywall due to the amount of white correction tape I used to correct misspelled words.

I again found something that was as life-changing as the tar-on-my-shoes experience for determining left from right – this time, it was the invention and availability of the personal computer.

I purchased an IBM clone with a word processing program that would review and check spelling. Once I used the word processor to complete various written assignments from college, I was like a caveman who discovered fire.

I became like everyone else. I could turn in clean documents without worrying about handwriting legibility or the letters facing the wrong direction.

I was free. I could be a writer.

I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with a 4.0 grade point average. Later, while working as a schoolteacher, I completed my master’s degree in special education and my Doctor of Education degree in curriculum and instruction, again with a 4.0 grade point average.

Making a difference

Not that my learning challenges have gone away. I still face the same learning challenges that I did as a young boy.

But I have learned to use visual cues.

For instance, while driving, I use visual cues – the rings on my fingers and a missing knuckle – to tell left from right. And I depend on technology to help with my writing.

I am now a teacher. And as an associate professor at Tarleton State University, I work with students and their parents to focus on their abilities and not their disabilities – just like my teachers did.

My experiences and challenges have enabled me to listen to my students more. I model every day the value of building relationships and collaborative learning. My school days taught me learning occurs best when done together.

That’s where good teachers make all the difference in the world. As they did in my life.

I give back to my community in many different ways. I am the co-chair of the university’s Diversity, Access and Disability Services Committee. I have the opportunity to train educators to help make a difference.

I have a purpose. I belong.

But more than anything else, I am Jim.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act before it have given me and others like me the opportunity to thrive.

And what a difference that has made in our worlds.


Author::  Associate Professor at Tarleton State University, a member of the Texas A&M University System

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The article was originally published on The Conversation ( and is republished with permission granted to

Obama’s visit to strengthen America’s ties in East Africa

Saturday, 25 July 2015 00:00 Written by

President Barack Obama makes history by becoming the first American president to make official visits to the vital allies of Ethiopia and Kenya this weekend.

All three countries, as well as the African Union (AU), will be looking to reap rewards from Obama’s historic East African visit.

Beneficial economic partnerships

There are many similarities between the two African neighbours and their economic relations with the US. Both are eligible to benefit from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and have huge trade imbalances in favour of the US.

In 2014, US-Kenyan trade was US$2.2 billion. American exports to Kenya made up US$1.64 billion of this. The Ethiopian numbers are similar. American exports to Ethiopia were US$1.67 billion in 2014 with US importing only around US$207 million worth from Ethiopia.

The US mostly exports aircraft, machinery and agricultural products to the East African pair. In return, they export mainly coffee, tea and apparel. American investment into the countries focuses on commerce, light manufacturing and tourism.

Both countries need to use the media spotlight of Obama’s visit to showcase their various opportunities. Ethiopia, for instance, can ride the momentum of recently being named the world’s best tourist destination by Europe’s key tourism body. Tourism contributed an estimated 4.5% to its GDP last year, which equates to nearly one million jobs and more than US$2 billion in revenue.

Kenya can use the spotlight to show international investors it is one of the best African emerging economies to invest in. Its attractions are infrastructure development, a stable political and macroeconomic environment and a stronger services sector compared with other African economies that are largely focused on commodities.

Ethiopia and Kenya have big plans for the future. Ethiopia has its growth and transformation plan, while the Kenyan government aims to become a newly industrialising, middle-income country by following its Vision 2030.

Powering Africa

Kenya and Ethiopia both need more electricity to expand their industries and to diversify into new ones for these plans to succeed. In addition to being beneficiaries of the US’s Feed the Future global food security initiative, both have benefited greatly from Power Africa launched during Obama’s South African visit in 2013.

The Eastern Africa Power Pool, established in 2005 to foster interconnectivity between the power systems of the members countries of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), will soon turn Ethiopia – where it is based – into a renewable energy powerhouse. The country has an abundant amount of renewable energy resources from hydro to wind and solar. But it has minimal experience in such projects and is getting much-needed assistance from the US government as well as American companies.

In Kenya, Power Africa provides financing, grants, technical assistance and investment promotion. The goal is to mobilise over US$1 billion in private investment for geothermal and wind projects.

In total, around 600 million people or 70% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is without electricity. The US government has committed US$7 billion to combat this problem and has helped raise more than US$20 billion in private capital from more than 100 private sector partners.

Promoting peace and stability


Kenyan military participate in US-Kenyan joint military exercises near Lamu, Kenya. Reuters//Pedro Ugarte


Ethiopia and Kenya both face challenges when it comes to domestic and regional peace and security and have been working with Washington to overcome the problem. They are long-term partners with the US military through the Africa contingency operations training and assistance programme, one of the most successful long-term American programmes on the continent. Ethiopia joined in 1998, Kenya in 2000.

America’s security efforts focus on peacekeeping and preventing conflict, strengthening the security sector of its African partners, and countering terrorism and other international threats to the US. Ethiopia and Kenya support this by contributing to UN and AU peacekeeping missions.

Ethiopia is continuously in the top five of countries that contribute to UN missions. It has 8141 personnel in UN missions, with Kenya contributing 956. The country also hosts the international peace training centre in Nairobi.

Addis Ababa and Nairobi both allow the US military to operate from inside their borders. The Arba Minch Airport in Ethiopia hosts Reaper flights for the fight against al-Shabaab in Somalia. The US military also has a base in Manda Bay, Kenya, which serves as an all-purpose location. The Pentagon, specifically the US Navy, recently paid to upgrade the runway.

The future of US-African Union relations

The relationship between the US government and the AU continues to expand under the framework agreed in 2013. Last year, an amendment was signed to increase funding.

Specifically, the partnership focuses on accelerating the implementation of policies and programmes set out in the AU’s strategic 2014-2017 plan. This includes growing areas of partnership in youth, vocational education and higher education.

The AU also has bold plans for the future and has set out priorities for the continent for the next 50 years in agriculture, education, economics and health. The ambitious plan includes a continental free-trade agreement, a customs union and infrastructure for a full regional trade agreement between Africa and the US.

Steps are being taken in the right direction. The AU recently formed an African centre for disease control modelled on America’s centre based in Atlanta.

Nevertheless, the AU is terribly underfunded. The AU budget was approximately US$300 million in 2013 and US$425 million in 2014. On average, 33% is raised from AU member states and the rest is sourced from international and development partners such as the UN, European Union and the US.

Expect a large monetary donation announcement during Obama’s speech at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, a building funded and built by the Chinese. The US wants to see improvements in the AU so that African nations can deliver regional peace and security. In the end, Africa also has to invest the necessary resources if the continent is going to rise as many predict it will.


Author:  Scott Firsing: Research Fellow, International Relations at Monash University

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The article was originally published on The Conversation ( and is republished with permission granted to

46 Drug Offenders get clemency as President Obama Reduces Sentences

Wednesday, 15 July 2015 00:00 Written by

President Barack Obama (pictured) granted a reduction in prison sentences to 46 drug offenders who were charged and convicted under strict sentencing guidelines established in the ’80s. Among the 46, 14 individuals were serving life sentences and another 14 had sentences of 20 years or more.

The commuting of the offenders was done as the Obama Administration aims to overhaul the criminal justice system and implement up-to-date sentencing guidelines across the board.

According to several media outlets, President Obama has granted clemency to nearly 90 individuals since his time in office, the most since President Lyndon B. Johnson.

For decades in the United States, there has been a disproportionate rate of arrests within the African-American community as a result of the drug laws.

White offenders received less time for powdered forms of cocaine while Black and poor citizens faced stiffer penalties if they were caught with the cheaper derivative of cocaine called “crack.” 

This unfair and imbalanced approached to policing drugs in the United States led to thousands of arrests and lengthy drug sentences for individuals who had previously not committed violent crimes.

Therefore, the President’s latest round of clemency is significant.

The White House released a video related to the announcement of the commutations, with President Obama explaining in grander detail the impetus behind his decision.

“These men and women were not hardened criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years. Fourteen of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses, so their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” said Obama in a video from the White House.

On Tuesday, President Obama will make an address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and speak further about the overhaul of the U.S. criminal justice system and other related concerns.

All 46 of the men and women commuted on Monday will exit prison at the same time this November.

View President Barack Obama’s video address regarding the prison sentence reductions below:




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Beyond the Iran deal: nuclear proliferation is a myth

Wednesday, 15 July 2015 00:00 Written by

After nearly two years of incremental and painstaking negotiations, a full deal on Iran’s nuclear programme has at last been struck. In a feat of diplomacy and patience, Iran and the P5+1 – the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China – have managed to construct a deal that limits Iran’s nuclear activity and the sanctions imposed on it.

Early reactions deemed this a “new chapter of hope” in more ways than one; not just a victory for diplomacy, but a major victory in the efforts against nuclear weapons proliferation.

This is misguided. In reality, however, even a nuclear-armed Iran would not have meant that a nuclear weapons proliferation among states was underway.

Proliferation, after all, means rapid spread. And whereas nuclear weapons have proliferated “vertically”, with existing nuclear states adding to their existing nuclear arsenals, there has not been a “horizontal” nuclear weapons proliferation – that is, a fast spread of these weapons to new nations.

On the contrary, nuclear weapons have spread slowly across the world, even though academics, politicians and the media frequently discuss horizontal nuclear weapons proliferation as if it was a matter of fact.

Reality check

Currently, there are only nine states in the world with nuclear weapons among the UN’s 193 members: the US (since 1945), Russia (since 1949), the UK (since 1952), France (since 1960), China (since 1964), India (since 1974), Israel (since 1979, unofficial), Pakistan (since 1998) and North Korea (since 2006).

Other countries have dropped off the list. South Africa joined the nuclear club in the 1980s, but dismantled its weapons in the early 1990s. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine inherited nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union when they became independent states after the Cold War, but they transferred their nuclear arsenal to Russia in the 1990s.

In other words, only a handful of countries in Europe, Asia and North America possess these weapons, while Africa, Australasia and Latin America are devoid of nuclear weapons states.

In fact, the number of nuclear weapons states has actually decreased ever since the 1990s. And even though the Pakistani nuclear weapons scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan confirmed the existence of a global nuclear black market which purportedly provided nuclear technology, expertise, and designs to various countries, including Libya, no horizontal nuclear weapons proliferation has taken place.


Talking it down: Mohammad Zarif and Federica Mogherini. 'Laurent Gilleron/EPA'


Libya eventually voluntarily renounced its secret nuclear weapons efforts in December 2003. Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan have also shelved their nuclear weapons programs.

As of now, there are 31 countries with nuclear power plant units in operation; countries such as Australia, Canada, and Japan are widely believed to have the technological sophistication to become nuclear weapons states in relatively short amount of time should they want to – but they have not pursued that path.

In other words, even though there have been opportunities for nuclear weapons proliferation across a range of new states, such a development has not materialised.

All of the available evidence thus unanimously suggests that no horizontal nuclear weapons proliferation has taken place throughout the 70 years that these weapons have existed. Claims to the contrary lack basis, whether they are made for political or economic reasons, sheer ignorance, or for any other purposes. Horizontal nuclear weapons proliferation is a bogeyman that does not exist. If we are to devise sound strategies and policies regarding nuclear weapons we have to ground them in existing reality. Recognising that there is no horizontal nuclear weapons proliferation is a good place to start.



Author:  Arash Heydarian Pashakhanlou: Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Politics & International Relations at University of Bath

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The article was originally published on The Conversation ( and is republished with permission granted to

So Bill Cosby Confessed To Drugging And Raping Young Women For Fun

Wednesday, 08 July 2015 00:00 Written by


(AP) — Bill Cosby admitted in 2005 that he secured quaaludes with the intent of giving them to young women he wanted to have sex with and that he gave the sedative to at least one woman and other people, according to documents obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

Cosby’s lawyers insisted that two of the accusers knew they were taking quaaludes from the comedian, according to the unsealed documents.

Nevertheless, attorneys for some of the numerous women suing Cosby seized on the testimony as powerful corroboration of what they have been saying all along: that he drugged and raped women.

The AP had gone to court to compel the release of a deposition in a sexual-abuse case filed by former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, the first of a cascade of lawsuits against him that have severely damaged his good-guy image.

Cosby’s lawyers had objected to the release of the material, arguing it would embarrass him. Ultimately, a judge unsealed just a small portion of the deposition.

“The stark contrast between Bill Cosby, the public moralist and Bill Cosby, the subject of serious allegations concerning improper (and perhaps criminal) conduct is a matter as to which the AP — and by extension the public — has a significant interest,” U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno wrote.

Cosby, with his oft-espoused views on topics including childrearing, family life, education and crime, “has voluntarily narrowed the zone of privacy that he is entitled to claim,” the judge wrote.

Cosby, who starred as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” from 1984 to 1992, settled Constand’s lawsuit under confidential terms in 2006. His lawyers in the Philadelphia case did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment on Monday. Constand consented to be identified but did not want to comment, her lawyer said.

“This evidence shows a pattern in which defendant ‘mentored’ naive young women and introduced drugs into the relationship, with and without the woman’s knowledge, in order for him to achieve sexual satisfaction,” Constand’s lawyer, Dolores M. Troiani, argued in court papers.

Cosby, 77, has been accused by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct in episodes dating back more than four decades. Cosby has never been charged with a crime, and the statute of limitations on most of the accusations has expired.

“If today’s report is true, Mr. Cosby admitted under oath 10 years ago sedating women for sexual purposes,” said Lisa Bloom, attorney for model Janice Dickinson, who says she was drugged and raped. “Given that, how dare he publicly vilify Ms. Dickinson and accuse her of lying when she tells a very similar story?”

Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing several women, said she hopes to use the admission in court cases against the comedian.

Cosby, giving sworn testimony in the lawsuit accusing him of sexually assaulting Constand at his home in Pennsylvania in 2004, said he obtained seven quaalude prescriptions in the 1970s. Constand’s lawyer asked if he had kept the sedatives through the 1990s, after they were banned, but was frustrated by objections from Cosby’s attorney.

“When you got the quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?” Troiani asked.

“Yes,” Cosby answered.

“Did you ever give any of these young women the quaaludes without their knowledge?” Troiani asked.

Cosby’s lawyer again objected, leading Troiani to petition the federal judge to force Cosby to cooperate.

Cosby later said he gave Constand three half-pills of Benadryl, although Troiani in the documents voices doubt that was the drug involved.

Cosby had fought the AP’s efforts to unseal the testimony, with his lawyer arguing that the deposition could reveal details of Cosby’s marriage, sex life and prescription drug use.

“It would be terribly embarrassing for this material to come out,” lawyer George M. Gowen III argued in June.

He also said the material would “prejudice him in eyes of the jury pool in Massachusetts,” where Cosby is fighting defamation lawsuits brought by women who say his representatives smeared them by accusing them of lying.

Robreno, the judge, had temporarily sealed some documents in the Constand lawsuit but never ruled on a final seal before the case was settled. Under federal court rules in Pennsylvania, documents must be unsealed after two years unless a party can show specific harm. The judge ruled that Cosby’s potential embarrassment was insufficient.

Robreno asked last month why Cosby was fighting the release of his sworn testimony, given that the accusations in the Constand lawsuit were already public.

“Why would he be embarrassed by his own version of the facts?” the judge said.

Cosby resigned in December from the board of trustees at Temple, where he was the popular face of the Philadelphia school in advertisements, fundraising campaigns and commencement speeches.

Lawyer Gayle Sproul, representing the AP, in court last month called the married Cosby “an icon” who “held himself out as someone who would guide the public in ways of morality.”

Troiani, summarizing her evidence, painted a starkly different picture.

Cosby “has evidenced a predilection for sexual contact with women who are unconscious or drugged. His victims are young, ‘star struck’ and totally trusting of his public persona,” Troiani argued.

Reunited Even In Death: Bobbi Kristina To Be Buried in Whitney Houston's Grave

Monday, 06 July 2015 00:00 Written by


New reports claim Bobbi Kristina Brown, the 21-year-old daughter of Bobby Brown and late Whitney Houston, would be buried on top of her mother's coffin in the same grave.
In not so good news, Bobby Brown and late Whitney Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina's grave has been dug as her family prepares to bid her farewell.

Bobbi will be buried in Westfield, New Jersey with her late mother.

A source exclusively tells RadarOnline: "Whitney's headstone now has a circular brick border garden, and two rosary necklaces have been added. A new sign spelling out 'Love' has also been placed to the back left of the stone".

A source tells the site: "The graves around Whitney are occupied. Bobbi Kristina's remains could be placed atop Whitney's coffin, with mother and daughter together into eternity".

Bobbi, 21, has been on life support and fighting for her life since January 31, 2015 when she was found face-down in the bathtub unresponsive by her husband, Nick Gordon, in the bathroom of their home in Roswell, Georgia.

She was only just last week moved into a hospice where she would reportedly live out her last days.

Canadian economy heading for recession: banks

Sunday, 05 July 2015 00:00 Written by

The Canadian economy is likely headed for recession, two major banks said Thursday, predicting a successive contraction in the second quarter.

Canada, the world's fifth-biggest oil producer, has been hard hit by tumbling global oil prices and its economy shrank 0.6 percent at an annualized rate in the first quarter.

A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction.

Nomura bank said it expected the Gross Domestic Product to contract by 0.5 percent in the second quarter, while Bank of America Merrill Lynch said a 0.6 percent decline in that period was likely.


"The economy has surprised to the downside this year and appears to have entered a recession in 1H 2015, even after policy easing in January," Bank of America economist Emanuella Enenajor said.

Nomura's Charles St-Arnaud said the dip was not just the result of forest fires in Alberta that forced the temporary closure of two facilities that account for 10 percent of the oil sands' output.

"The Canadian economy is likely in recession," he said.

The downturn is likely to hit the Canadian dollar, which could drop down to 70 cents on the US dollar by the end of the year.

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