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January 24 2016 | Pitchforks - USA | 0 comments
$1,000,000,000,000 Over 30 Years
photo: Richard Harris

"...The fight, as a recent New York Times article indicates, concerns a variety of nuclear weapons that the U.S. military is currently in the process of developing or, as the administration likes to say, "modernizing." Last year, the Pentagon flight-tested a mock version of the most advanced among them, the B61 Model 12. This redesigned nuclear weapon is the country's first precision-guided atomic bomb, with a computer brain and maneuverable fins that enable it to more accurately target sites for destruction. It also has a "dial-a-yield" feature that allows its handlers to adjust the level of its explosive power.

Supporters of this revamped weapon of mass destruction argue that, by ensuring greater precision in bombing "enemy" targets, reducing the yield of a nuclear blast, and making a nuclear attack more "thinkable," the B61 Model 12 is actually a more humanitarian and credible weapon than older, bigger versions. Arguing that this device would reduce risks for civilians near foreign military targets, James Miller, who developed the nuclear weapons modernization plan while undersecretary of defense, stated in a recent interview that "minimizing civilian casualties if deterrence fails is both a more credible and a more ethical approach."

Other specialists were far more critical. The Federation of Atomic Scientists pointed out that the high accuracy of the weapon and its lower settings for destructiveness might tempt military commanders to call for its use in a future conflict.

General James E. Cartright, a former head of the U.S. Strategic Command and a retired vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conceded that possessing a smaller nuclear device did make its employment "more thinkable." But he supported developing the weapon because of its presumed ability to enhance nuclear deterrence. Using a gun as a metaphor, he stated: "It makes the trigger easier to pull but makes the need to pull the trigger less likely."

Another weapon undergoing U.S. government "modernization" is the cruise missile. Designed for launching by U.S. bombers, the weapon--charged William Perry, a former secretary of defense--raised the possibilities of a "limited nuclear war." Furthermore, because cruise missiles can be produced in nuclear and non-nuclear versions, an enemy under attack, uncertain which was being used, might choose to retaliate with nuclear weapons.

Overall, the Obama administration's nuclear "modernization" program--including not only redesigned nuclear weapons, but new nuclear bombers, submarines, land-based missiles, weapons labs, and production plants--is estimated to cost as much as $1 trillion over the next thirty years. Andrew C. Weber, a former assistant secretary of defense and former director of the interagency body that oversees America's nuclear arsenal, has criticized it as "unaffordable and unneeded." After all, the U.S. government already has an estimated 7,200 nuclear weapons.

The nuclear weapons modernization program is particularly startling when set against President Obama's April 2009 pledge to build a nuclear weapons-free world. Although this public commitment played a large part in his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize that year, in succeeding years the administration's action on this front declined precipitously. It did manage to secure a strategic arms reduction treaty (New START) with Russia in 2010 and issue a pledge that same year that the U.S. government would "not develop new nuclear warheads." But, despite promises to bring the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification and to secure further nuclear arms agreements with Russia, nuclear disarmament efforts ground to a halt. Instead, plans for "nuclear modernization" began. The president's 2016 State of the Union address contained not a word about nuclear disarmament, much less a nuclear weapons-free world.

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January 24 2016 | Open Spaces - Brussels | 0 comments
photo: Richard Harris

It actually got cold for a brief moment. Here the stream that connects the canal with the river.
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January 24 2016 | Architecture - Brussels | 0 comments
Low 2
photo: Richard Harris

The midday sun splits the Grand' Place.
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January 24 2016 | Architecture - Brussels | 0 comments
photo: Richard Harris

Along the canal. I like the yellow but it desperately needs a couple more coats; Then if they cleaned the façades we'd have something.
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January 14 2016 | Brussels | 0 comments
All The Latest Figures
photo: Richard Harris

The Brussels region is home to 180 nationalities, with 108 different languages spoken, and more than 55% of residents were not born Belgian.

These are some of the findings from a newly published report - the third edition of a major research project by the Brussels regional government and tourism agency Visit Brussels - which updates the previous stats from 2009 and 2011.

"The European and international institutions have made a significant impact on Brussels and have transformed the city from a national capital into the polyglot, international city that it is today," says Alain Hutchinson, the Brussels commissioner for Europe and international organisations.

The study found that public-sector international organisations - from the European Commission and Nato to the European Space Agency - are responsible for 121,000 jobs or 16.7% of all employment in the Brussels region.

Here are some more facts and figures about international Brussels from the report.

Organisations of the European Union present in Brussels

Office space occupied by the European Commission

Intergovernmental organisations such as Nato and Eurocontrol, not forgetting the World Organisation for Animal Health

The number of individual lobbyists estimated to be working in Brussels and its surroundings, with a combined annual budget somewhere between €953 million and €1.17 billion

€160 million
Annual expenditure by the 8,686 lobby organisations and individual lobbyists recorded in the European institutions transparency register

Pupils studying at 29 international schools

Foreign journalists in Brussels. The top nationalities are German (102), French (85), British (83) and Italian (66)

Number of journalists who register at the European Council for accreditation during a typical EU summit

Diplomats - the highest number in the world

Jobs generated by international institutions in Brussels (not including private-sector companies) - 81,000 directly and 40,000 indirectly

5 months
Average length of an internship at an international organisation

Official population of the Brussels region in 2015

Of these residents have foreign nationality (22.5% have non-Belgian EU nationality)

Of the Brussels population had foreign nationality at birth

Etterbeek has the highest concentration of non-Belgian EU citizens in the Brussels region. Ixelles is close behind on 34.4%, then Saint-Gilles (28.7%) and the two Woluwés.

Languages spoken in the Brussels region

Brussels residents think they speak good English

Click here for the complete report which includes EVERYTHING you need to know about the European and other organizations.
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