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So after a long and rewarding time in Ohio, I bid adieu to the Columbus countryside and headed on my way up to Boston yesterday! After a brief stay with a friend of mine in the area, and some amazingly delicious made-to-order pizza for dinner, I then went to bed as I had an early morning.

I awoke at 4:00am to catch a bus to head up to Lewiston, Maine where I had a day of canvassing  and promoting for our screening that night at Bates College ahead of me. Once I got to Lewiston, I met up with our student contact Umar on the campus, who made the day seem like a breeze for me! He got a table for me right at the entrance that I was able to canvass and promote from and I got some great exposure and talked to a great amount of students who were mostly willing to sign our postcards to Senators Collins and Snowe demanding they support a world without nuclear weapons!

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Well after what seemed like months in the making, we have finally launched the Road to Zero Tour! We are very excited to begin this tour and are anxious to hit the campus streets in Ohio, Massachusetts and Maine delivering our message and building support for a world without nuclear weapons.

We believe that this tour is essential to bring youth into the effort to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, because once the power of youth is tapped and behind this cause, extraordinary things will happen. And to help us garner that support, we are enlisting the help of a brand new documentary film that was released in theaters and will be released on DVD very soon called Countdown to Zero. It is a fantastic film that clearly and convincingly makes the case for a world without nuclear weapons. It is from the same makers of the Academy-Award winning An Inconvenient Truth and we will be screening it at campuses in the three states we will be visiting.

Here is the info. for the screenings we have booked thus far:

Ohio State – Monday, Nov. 15th @7:00pm at the Ohio Union Cartoon Room 2

Kenyon College – Tuesday, Nov. 16th @8:00pm (Location: TBD)

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We have an exciting announcement! AIDemocracy is going out on tour in about a week to campuses in Ohio, Massachusetts and Maine to build the grassroots student movement for a world without nuclear weapons!

We’re gonna be screening the film Countdown to Zero, a film from the same Academy-Award winning makers of “An Inconvenient Truth” that does a fantastic job explaining the nuclear threat and why it is so critical that we eliminate nuclear weapons everywhere. You can check out the trailer and find out more about the film at its website.

We’re also going to be encouraging students to speak out about nuclear weapons – either by signing a declaration, taking their photo with a sign saying they don’t want nuclear weapons, write and/or call their Senators, etc. Basically we’re looking for a commitment to a world without nuclear weapons.

However, to pull all of this off, we need some help. We need to find spaces for us to screen the film on the campuses we want to visit in these states, like Ohio State, Boston University, Harvard, University of New England, etc. If you can help us book a space on a campus in any or all of these states, let Patrick, our Global Peace and Security Fellow know ASAP. The tour will take place between Saturday, Nov. 13th to Tuesday, Nov. 23rd, so time is of the essence!

And as an added bonus, we’re able to offer a $100 incentive to any student who can help us organize the event and do some canvassing on campus the day of the screening (5-7 hours work).

Remember, all we need at the moment is help finding a space on campus. We will take care of the rest. Contact us to help get this tour on the road so we can put nuclear weapons where they belong!

If you have not, then you’re in luck because AIDemocracy has made it very easy to contact your Senator and urge them to ratify New START without delay!

New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is the first treaty in more than a decade that calls for significant reductions in the strategic nuclear arsenals of both the United States and Russia, the two nations that possess over 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons. And it also provides for intrusive inspections and verification that each party to the treaty is holding up their end of the bargain. The treaty has received overwhelming support by both Democrats and Republicans, and it is a key first step towards achieving a world without nuclear weapons, a goal that President Obama has explicitly set for the United States.

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In addition to holding a briefing on the dangers of nuclear weapons with our Issue Analysts, we also wanted the whole AIDemocracy network to be “in the loop” when it comes to one of the greatest threats we face today.

The network briefing took place on Wednesday, October 6th. I facilitated the discussion and provided an introduction to the development of, use and dangers of nuclear weapons. Specifically, I spoke about the three major threats that nuclear weapons pose for the world today: nuclear terrorism, nuclear accidents and miscalculated nuclear launches. I also spoke about nonproliferation and disarmament efforts, including the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the NPT (Nonproliferation Treaty) and others.

Feedback for this session was also very positive and I look forward to organizing more of these briefings for the entire AIDemocracy network!

On Wednesday, October 13th, our Issue Analysts were afforded the opportunity to learn more about one of the greatest threats we face as nation and as a planet, nuclear weapons. Alex Toma, the Executive Director of the Connect US Fund was on-hand as our speaker and she gave a terrific, brief overview of nuclear weapons. She covered their origins and development, their use during World War II and the Cold War, the theory of deterrence and MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) and how these weapons pose a threat today through either the potential for nuclear terrorism and/or accidental or miscalculated nuclear launches.

Feedback from our Issue Analysts has been overwhelmingly positive! We had Issue Analysts specifically writing for the Global Peace and Security Program in attendance, but we also had some who were not writing specifically for GPS, but other AID programs, which was fantastic!

We are anxiously looking forward to offering more of these briefings for our Issue Analysts, so stay tuned for more details!

Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Iran is ready to resume talks with the West regarding its nuclear program. He stated however, that any negotiations will fail if the West does not clearly come out against Israel’s suspected nuclear arsenal. He made it clear that there will be no achievements whatsoever if the West does not change its policy towards Israel, Iran’s archrival. The West, especially the U.S., will have to make great sacrifices in its foreign relations with Israel in order to meet Iran’s demands, which is something that is highly unlikely to happen. It may appear that Iran is using Israel’s suspected nuclear program in a way to move tensions away from its own.

EU foreign affairs and security Chief Catherine Ashton has suggested the talks to be held in Vienna in November with the P5+1 Countries (the U.S., the U.K., China, France and Russia plus Germany) while U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said it was up to Iran to set a date. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has signaled that October or November seems like a suitable time for talks with P5 + 1.

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By Will Carter
Will is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Will below or take a look at the Student Issue Analysts.

The role of young people in politics is constantly evolving. The past half-century alone has seen significant advancement in the political clout of young adults in the United States. As a result, today’s American youth possess the ability to greatly alter the future of our nation and the world by, among other things, working for an end to worldwide nuclear proliferation. I envision the young people of America working as a dynamic, well-organized grass-roots organization to simultaneously inform our generation about the dangers and drawbacks of nuclear proliferation, and motivate these young Americans to assert their views via political activity.

Informing young adults about the current nuclear proliferation situation is critical to this plan. I believe that a vast majority of young Americans would oppose the current state of an informal worldwide nuclear stalemate, if they were simply aware of proliferation’s inherent disadvantages. I envision a proficient use of technology to swiftly, and cogently dispense this information. Utilities of specific effectiveness would be facebook groups and blogs because to the rate at which they dispense information, and their established relevance with young adults, along with print materials such as newspapers and magazines due to their high circulation rates.

Simply informing our youth about the situation is only half the battle; stimulating political action requires material that motivates these young adults to become politically active, and efforts to make these political activities more convenient for them. Once the infrastructure for information distribution has been constructed, eloquent, rhetorically succinct material is crucial to inspire our nations youth to take action against nuclear proliferation. This action can be made more convenient for them by providing links on blogs and websites to voter registration forms, and online petitions. These political actions will inform our elected officials of our generation’s dissatisfaction with the status quo.

My name is Will Carter. I am a junior at Hampden-Sydney, where I am majoring in government and economics. I am interested in the issue because I think that many members of my generation are ill informed about it. I envision students in the country acting as an organized grassroots organization to alter the political incentives that face our legislators.

This past month, authorities in Moldova (a former USSR territory) arrested a group of traffickers who were trying to smuggle two kilograms of highly radioactive uranium, specifically uranium 238 for the price of $11 million US dollars. Although this type of uranium is not what would be needed to be used for the production of nuclear weapons (nor is it even enough), it nevertheless could still produce a so-called “dirty bomb,” spreading radiation in concentrations above what is considered safe for humans to be exposed to. You can find out more about this arrest and arrests similar to it here.

From my perspective, these incidents tell me several things. The first is that the ease of access to nuclear material in the territories of the former Soviet Union is a security issue that needs to be addressed immediately. The second is that the black market for these materials is thriving and shows no sign of stopping, which is certainly aided by how freely available the materials are to gain access to. The third is that nuclear terrorism needs to be recognized as the number one national security threat the US and the world faces. The reason being because the people most likely to purchase this smuggled nuclear material are terrorists themselves who seek to use a “dirty” bomb, or worse, a nuclear bomb, against their enemies. The fourth and final observation I gleamed from these various smuggling incidents is the need to expedite the process towards getting to nuclear zero (a world without nuclear weapons).

The elimination of nuclear weapons will undoubtedly require the halting of the production of new nuclear materials and the safe storage and/or reprocessing of old nuclear material, like that stored all over the territories of the former Soviet Union. Taking these steps will dramatically reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism. However, in the current political environment, the successful negotiation of an FMCT (Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty) is still a long way off. However, we do have an immediate step that we can take. We can ratify New START. Ratifying New START will not only reduce the threats posed by nuclear weapons, but it will also be an enormous step in building trust again between the US and Russia, which may go a long way to also helping Russia secure the nuclear materials that smugglers seem to so easily get their hands on. President Obama has already made a commitment to secure all loose nuclear materials across the globe by 2013. An ambitious goal to be sure, and only attainable if a first step is taken to START the process.

We should help in this critical effort, so if you would like to take action on getting New START ratified, follow this link to our action page where you can write and/or call your Senators urging them to ratify New START once they return from Congressional recess in September!

It seems that given all of the fire and brimstone that Republicans love to shout will be raining down upon us for our shameless “tax and spend” policies of recent years, you would think that they themselves, to remain consistent with their statements, would be hawks when it comes to federal spending. And indeed they are, when it comes to spending on providing adequate health care of America’s citizens and various other social welfare services. However, there seems to be a rather large exception for when it comes to military spending, particularly when it comes to nuclear weapons, and especially when the spending can directly affect how much money comes into a particular state.

Take Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) as an example, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is tasked with the responsibility of voting the New START out of committee so it can be put to a vote before the full Senate for its ratification. Recently, he has stated that he feels the federal funds for the upkeep of the nuclear weapons complex, of which the Obama administration has already allocated $80 billion for (which is already an unprecedented increase), is somehow $10 billion short of what is needed. There is much debate in Washington about where he actually is getting that figure from, and most accounts say that he is pointing to inaccurate and outdated figures, but that’s not what the larger issue is here. What is at play here is Sen. Corker’s willingness to delay the ratification of New START, thus tampering with our nation’s national security efforts, all because he wants some more funding for the Uranium Processing Facility planned for the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Do you know what they call this type of frivolous and unnecessary spending? You should, and so should Sen. Corker because he and his party have used the term constantly to derail various other spending projects, especially by Democrats. It’s called “pork.” However, don’t count on Sen. Corker using that term when talking about acquiring more money for this facility in his home state. Why would he anyway? Hypocrisy and irresponsibility seem to be a suit that’s tailor-made for him.

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