Wednesday, March 29, 2017

New This Week (March 27, 2017)

Negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban begin!
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Negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban begin this week at the United Nations.

People EVERYWHERE are talking about the #nuclearban. (See below.)

I've just published a page with memes to share about the US efforts to stop this historic development.

Here are some more memes to share about WHY so many countries are supporting the nuclear ban:


Vote on resolution to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons in 2017 (L-41)
Green - Yes (123, 76%)
Red - No (38, 24%)
Beige - Abstained
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Japan to Address UN on Nukes. (USA a No-Show?)
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The nuclear weapons era - and the significance of the Treaty of Tlatelolco.
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Iran supports #nuclearban. USA doesn't. (Huh?)
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#nuclearban
 . . . before our luck runs out!
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Three in four Australians think the government should support the UN
negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons. Only one in ten thinks it shouldn't.
(Ipsos Poll, March 2017)
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Outrageous Canada is boycotting nuclear weapons ban talks #cdnpoli
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Hiroshima survivors UK tour 2017 - "Support the global nuclear ban"
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Please follow and engage with these activists
working to permanently ban #nuclearweapons
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They're talking about the #nuclearban in AUSTRALIA.
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They're talking about the #nuclearban in ENGLAND.
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They're talking about the #nuclearban in GERMANY.
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They're talking about the #nuclearban in ROMANIA.
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They're talking about the #nuclearban in NEW YORK CITY.
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

USA: Bringing a Trumpian Posture to the Nuclear Ban Talks. (Bankruptcy.)

The US made quite a show of protesting the nuclear ban talks that started this week at the United Nations.

People are sharing memes like the ones below to help publicize the bankruptcy of the US position. (LOTS more via these #nuclearban activists on Twitter.)


These diplomats say NO to banning #nuclearweapons.
Whose side are they on?
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I've been following the US arguments against #nuclearban closely ...
the picture is beginning to come into focus ...
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Trump diplomatic team tries out explanations for
USA no-show at UN #nuclearban talks
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US: "Time is not right" to ban nuclear arms
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(You can read more about the US protest here: "United States and Allies Protest U.N. Talks to Ban Nuclear Weapons" )

Related posts:

"Deterrence": As a strategy, it makes about as much sense as "proliferation"

A DEAL'S A DEAL! (What part of "nuclear disarmament" doesn't the US understand?)

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Japan to Address UN on Nukes. (USA a No-Show?)

Hiroshima dome and #nuclearban: Japan to address United Nations


Within the last few days, the government of Japan has released dramatic news: it will, in fact, participate in negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban that begin at the United Nations on March 27. (Background: NUCLEAR WEAPONS BAN TALKS: With Japan at the Table (Hopefully) )

Now, Japan is announcing plans to make an opening speech at the conference: "Japan's UN diplomatic sources say officials are now arranging to have Tokyo's envoy to the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, Nobushige Takamizawa, speak." (Source: NHK World)

The governments of the US, as well as the UK, Canada, Australia, and other Western allies are planning to boycott the talks. At the end of last week, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley released this statement and accompanying pictures:


Tweet by US Ambassador to the UN @NikkiHaley:
"We recently met with ambassadors about
the upcoming conference to establish a
treaty banning nuclear weapons. We
would all love to see the day when nuclear
weapons were no longer needed; however,
to ban nuclear weapons now would make
us and our allies more vulnerable, and
would strengthen bad actors like North
Korea and Iran who would not abide by it."


If the only country ever to use nuclear weapons against another country refuses to attend the speech, before the UN, of the country upon which it used them, it will be a historic moment. And a tragic one.


Related posts

Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???



Tlatelolco 50: A Gift to the World

SCIENCE MARCHES: Are All These Countries In the Dark About Nuclear Weapons?

VIETNAM and the NUCLEAR BAN: Out From Under the Shadow of US Nuclear Terror

Why People Want a Pacific (and World) Free of Nuclear Weapons

A Peace-building Commonwealth Wants to Ban Nuclear Weapons

NUCLEAR WEAPONS BAN TALKS: With Japan at the Table (Hopefully)

NOWRUZ: New Day for a World Without Nuclear Weapons

China DOES Have a Role in the Nuclear Ban Movement


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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

China DOES Have a Role in the Nuclear Ban Movement

#nuclearban
 . . . before our luck runs out!
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China's leader Mao Zedong recognized that one of the paramount issues of our time would be the reversal of dominance by a few powerful states holding arsenals of nuclear weapons. Mao more-or-less single-handedly developed and articulated a doctrine to counter that of deterrence and superpower dominance. He recognized that nuclear arsenals could inflict enormous injury (like real tigers) but would ultimately prove to be unsustainable as sources of national power ("paper tigers"). (See "Great Powers and Atomic Bombs are 'Paper Tigers'" by Ralph L. Powell)

To a very real degree, the fact that negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban are going forward next week at the UN stems from Mao's vision. Historically, China has been an important leader in the "third world" / non-aligned movement. Moreover, China's continued limitations on its own nuclear arsenal suggest that it stands on the side of countries trying to figure out how to undo the arms race that the US and Russia have perpetrated, rather than participate in it. Certainly, in its history the People's Republic of China has faced the threat of a nuclear attack by the US at numerous points. (See "Nuclear Signaling and China’s Perception about Nuclear Threat: How China Handled Nuclear Threats in the Cold War" by Tong Zhao)

So when I read the reports yesterday that China will not attend the weapons ban negotiations, my initial reaction was disappointment. I believe that the nuclear weapons ban effort demonstrates the ability of the vast majority of the world's countries to insist that the handful of most powerful countries stop threatening them. For the reasons described above, it seemed to me that China needed to be at the table.


China: the US is a "paper tiger"


Once I settled down, however, it occurred to me: maybe the important question is, What affects China's decision? After all, China is bound to act in its own best interest. Moreover, it may have some analysis of what will work best that is not immediately obvious.

Yes, based on history, we can be confident China wants a nuclear ban . . . . I wondered: Is it possible that China can get what it wants without participating in the negotiations? (Yes: a nuclear ban treaty seems likely to be negotiated with or without China's participation.)

I wondered further: Is there some way in which it is actually to China's advantage to view the negotiations from afar, rather than being at the table? (Yes: they can make an up-or-down decision whether to accede to the treaty, without being compelled to voice objections during the negotiations themselves. They can retain the flexibility to join the negotiations later. They can continue to urge other states to participate.)

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the best option for China right now may be to participate by not participating. (Does that sound like Daoist philosophy? Well . . . . ) China is in the peculiar position of being a very important state, and a state that possesses nuclear weapons, but also a state with a tiny nuclear arsenal compared to the US and Russia. China makes the most of its significant but limited influence -- perhaps -- by hovering in the wings . . . .


"Nuclear Civil Defense Measures" (China, 1970)
The text at top is a warning from Mao about
a nuclear war of aggression against China:
"From now on we must be prepared for this!"
(Source: Chinese Propaganda Posters, Taschen)


What might the "silver lining" be? Remembering that things aren't always what they seem . . . that a "negative" may turn out to be a "neutral" . . . and that a "neutral" may turn out to be a "positive" . . . .

If China did participate in the negotiations, it would be compelled to voice the perspective of a "nuclear weapons state." For instance, China would have to insist that the proceedings "go slow" and "be practical." (You know the principle: speak now or forever hold your peace.) By forgoing the privilege of advancing those arguments, China makes it likely that the treaty that is constructed will have as few "outs" as possible for the nuclear weapons states.

In other words, to accomplish something in its long-term (and vital) interest, China may be forfeiting some near-term (but ultimately unimportant) interest.

(By the way: considering all aspects of a development is a highly-valued outlook in China, embodied in the expression "Old Sai loses a horse.")

The more I think about it, the more I wonder: was the US expecting China to do its dirty work for it? Did the US think that it could, itself, boycott the negotiations, while still relying on China to be at the table and advance all kinds of "nuclear weapons state" perspectives?  If so, there will be some disappointed people in Washington, DC.

I wonder what the conversation between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping will be on this subject when they meet in April.


My conclusion: Don't count China out. China DOES have a role in the nuclear ban movement!


MORE:

Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???


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Monday, March 20, 2017

NOWRUZ: New Day for a World Without Nuclear Weapons

Nowruz Table (via Iceberg Networks)


Today is Nowruz!

Often called "Persian New Year," it is celebrated every year on the first day of spring in countries such as:

Afghanistan
Albania
Azerbaijan
Georgia
Iran
Iraq
Kazakhstan
Kyrgyzstan
Mongolia
Tajikistan
Turkmenistan
Uzbekistan

Nowruz means "new day." It seems meaningful that Nowruz falls just one week before the beginning of the beginning of negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban.  The mythology of Nowruz includes this story: "The Shahnameh dates Nowruz as far back to the reign of Jamshid, who in Zoroastrian texts saved mankind from a killer winter that was destined to kill every living creature."


"Nuclear Winter" from New York Times video


With growing awareness of the way a nuclear winter could effect people globally, it is indeed time for a "new day."

Many of the countries mentioned above that celebrate Nowruz also voted in favor of the resolution to hold nuclear ban negotiations: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as Iran and Iraq.


The 18,000 km2 expanse of the Semipalatinsk Test Site (indicated in red),
attached to Kurchatov (along the Irtysh river), and near Semey, as well
as Karagandy, and Astana. The site comprised an area the size of Wales.
(Source: Wikipedia)


Kazakhstan has a particular reason for wanting to see nuclear weapons abolished forever. The Semipalatinsk testing site was where the former Soviet Union conducted hundreds of nuclear tests, resulting in terrible damage to the people and the land of what became the country of Kazakhstan.

Here are some related posts:

"Victim of Soviet test wants all nuclear weapons destroyed"

"Soviet-era nuclear testing is still making people sick in Kazakhstan"

"Kazakhstan nuclear disarmament leadership honoured in the Scottish Parliament"



*   *   * 


And then there is Iran.

It feels particularly ironic to me, writing from the US, to notice that Iran is a full participant in the nuclear ban talks, while the US plans to boycott the talks. (In fact, the US has organized many of its allies to boycott as well.)

Since Nowruz means "new day," I would suggest to people in the US to start a new day by reflecting on the true nuclear weapons situation as it relates to the US and to Iran.


Iran supports #nuclearban. USA doesn't. (Huh?)
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I have long suggested that people study the details of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) -- and the work of the IAEA with the US, Iran, and other countries -- by reading The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times by Mohammed ElBaradei.

Ayatollah Khameini,
Supreme Leader of Iran,
author of fatwa
against nuclear weapons
In addition, I suggest people learn more about the attitudes in Islam toward nuclear weapons. A very significant religious decision (fatwa) from Iran established that the use of nuclear weapons is forbidden on religious grounds. The range of opinion on this issue within Islam has been documented in a very helpful study by Rolf Mowatt-Larsson, Islam and the Bomb: Religious Justification For and Against Nuclear Weapons.

A modest proposal: people in the West could begin a "new day" by seeking opportunities to engage with both Christian and Islamic views on nuclear weapons  -- as well as with the views of other faith traditions. If we all honored our respective faiths, wouldn't we abolish nuclear weapons a whole lot sooner?


MORE:

Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???


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Sunday, March 19, 2017

New This Week (March 20, 2017)

Happy Nowruz! The big question in 2017: will the "new day" celebrated in numerous countries in Central Asia mean a new day for the world when it comes to nuclear weapons . . . ?

Negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban begin at the UN in one week. The vast majority of the world's countries will be at the table. Conspicuously missing, it seems, will be the countries like the US and its NATO allies, and Russia.

The nuclear weapons states have an obligation under Article VI of the NPT to negotiate disarmament. When do they plan to honor their treaty obligations? (See: A DEAL'S A DEAL! (What part of "nuclear disarmament" doesn't the US understand?) .)


The #nuclearweapons states scheduling the
implementation of their Article VI obligations ...
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Despite news that China will not attend the negotiations beginning March 27, I argue: China DOES Have a Role in the Nuclear Ban Movement.


*   *   * 


I just saw this story:


Hiroshima A-bomb survivor to address U.N. nuke ban treaty conference
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The US refuses to attend the UN nuclear ban talks. But the story of the US and its nuclear weapons will not go untold ....


*   *   *


NEW: Rally and march on Saturday, June 17th 2017 in New York City and around the world in support of negotiations taking place at the United Nations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. See Call to Action: Women's March and Rally to Ban the Bomb.


OPPORTUNITY: Amplify Network 2017 Youth Summit from 17 – 21 June 2017 in New York, USA -- working for a world without nuclear weapons. Deadline is April 3 - significant underwriting provided to participants!


Trump and Nuclear Weapons: There are now twenty-two (22) co-sponsors on Rep. Ted Lieu's House bill to rein in presidential first use of nuclear weapons. (And three (3) co-sponsors on the corresponding bill in the Senate sponsored by Ed Markey.) Please use this script to call and get YOUR representative on that list!

 ... Update March 22: now twenty-three (23) co-sponsors ... !


Call Congress! Support HR669/S200
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Social media effectiveness tip of the week: Add images (like the "meme" above) to your tweets to really get your message across!

(More on social media effectiveness . . . . )

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ban Nuclear Weapons, Stand up for Victims and Survivors

1945    Hiroshima    Nagasaki    2015

Under the shattered structures amidst the excruciating flames.
Parent left child, child left parent,
husband left wife, wife left husband.

Nowhere to escape to.
Figures fleeing in all directions.
This was the Atomic Bomb.

In the midst of this, how eerie--
Mothers' loving arms shielding their babies from death, dying themselves.
There were oh! so many.

From “Mother and Child”, 11th of The Hiroshima Panels by Maruki Iri and Toshi
http://www.aya.or.jp/~marukimsn/gen/gen11e.html


Last week I encourage everyone: dig into Banning nuclear weapons: principles and elements for a legally binding instrument -- by Reaching Critical Will -- and find ways to share elements you find particularly salient.

In my study of this document, one of the first things that caught my eye was two sections stressing the responsibility to victims of nuclear injury:

The treaty should recognise the rights of victims and survivors of nuclear weapons, and acknowledge the disproportionate and ongoing impact of the testing and development of nuclear testing on indigenous communities. (p. 10 - section on Principles and objectives - Human rights principles)

The treaty should recognise that victims and survivors of the use and testing of nuclear weapons have rights, as articulated in the development of international human rights law and other instruments prohibiting inhumane weapons, such as the treaties banning cluster munitions and antipersonnel landmines. (p. 19 - section on Positive obligations - Recognition of rights)

This reminds me of the extensive discussion of these issues at the World Nuclear Victims Forum, which I attended in Hiroshima in November, 2015. That gathering emphasized for me the centrality of people to the problem of nuclear weapons, and the fact that there are people throughout the world who have been injured by nuclear weapons and other aspects of radiation. It led me to ask: What does it mean to say, "We are ALL 'hibakusha'?"

from Hiroshima No Pika
This also reminds me -- particularly during this season of Lent, and with the approach of Good Friday -- of a ceremony we carried out in Chicago two years ago: Good Friday 2015: People Will Find the Way to Eliminate Nuclear Injury.

Everything in us wants to avert our gaze and act like none of this has happened . . . and/or that there's nothing we can do about it. And that's exactly why it's important that the issue of victims and survivors of the use and testing of nuclear weapons is central to this document.


I encourage everyone to read in full the sections of Banning nuclear weapons: principles and elements for a legally binding instrument I've referenced here, as well as the rest of the document.


More notes at: REQUIRED READING: "Banning nuclear weapons" from Reaching Critical Will


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Sunday, March 12, 2017

New This Week (March 13, 2017)

This video captures, for me, the way a global network of activists is able to get the word out and spur people to action, despite the obstacles erected by the powers that be:




(I'm grateful to Vala Afshar, chief digital evangelist at Salesforce.com, for sharing it with the comment, "When you try to contain the truth in a connected, knowledge sharing society.")

How is the global network of activists going to help bring a global ban on nuclear weapons to fruition? This week I'm thinking about the many dimensions of the upcoming nuclear ban talks at the UN. I've suggested people dig in to the awesome Reaching Critical Will document in preparation. I particularly admire the emphasis in the RCW briefing document on the victims and survivors of the use and testing of nuclear weapons (hibakusha).

I'm also continuing to think about who is (and is not planning to be at the table). Most of the Commonwealth nations -- with or without the UK, Canada, and Australia -- will be participating. (PS - Happy Commonwealth Day, March 13.)

Who else is participating . . . ?

*   *   * 

Nuclear Disarmament Opportunity for Youth: Amplify Network 2017 Youth Summit from 17 – 21 June 2017 in New York, USA -- working for a world without nuclear weapons. Deadline is April 3 - significant underwriting provided to participants!

*   *   *

Trump and Nuclear Weapons: There are now twenty-one (21) co-sponsors on Rep. Ted Lieu's House bill to rein in presidential first use of nuclear weapons. (And two (2) co-sponsors on the corresponding bill in the Senate sponsored by Ed Markey.) Please use this script to call and get YOUR representative on that list!

     Update March 15: make that THREE Senate co-sponsors . . . !

*   *   * 

Social media effectiveness tip of the week: Use a scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite, and give thought to the number, timing, and focus of the messages you put out on social media!

(More on social media effectiveness . . . . )

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

REQUIRED READING: "Banning nuclear weapons" from Reaching Critical Will

Banning nuclear weapons: principles and
elements for a legally binding instrument

by Reaching Critical Will.
Brand new: Banning nuclear weapons: principles and elements for a legally binding instrument - by Reaching Critical Will.

This comprehensive document is vital for everyone to read and share as the UN negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban gets under way.

I encourage nuclear abolition advocates to dig into the details, and find ways to share elements that you find particularly salient. As "Banning nuclear weapons" itself says (p. 11):

Acknowledging that public conscience, awareness, and mobilisation is important to the success of any international law is a good way to remind states that they will be held to account for their commitments, and that their policies and practices are embedded within a context of the rule of law, international cooperation, and public oversight.

I'm already mulling key sections that have particularly caught my attention.

Related posts . . . .

Ban Nuclear Weapons, Stand up for Victims and Survivors


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Sunday, March 5, 2017

NUCLEAR WEAPONS BAN TALKS: With Japan at the Table (Hopefully)

Ground Zero, Hiroshima --  . . . photo taken during
World Nuclear Victims Forum -- November, 2015


Ever since the vote last October on holding nuclear weapons ban negotiations, I have been particularly puzzled by Japan's vote against the resolution. I posed a general question -- who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons? -- and this question applied to no country more than it did to Japan.

I realize now that a "no" vote on resolution L.41 doesn't preclude participating in the negotiations themselves. And the more I think about it, the more it makes perfect sense that Japan would vote "no" on the resolution, but will likely participate in the negotiations.


The country's failure to show up for the preparatory meeting for the nuclear
weapons ban negotiations raised eyebrows in Japan. (Source: FNN)


The US pressured its allies to vote "no" and boycott the negotiations. By voting "no" on the resolution, Japan respected the request of the US (without changing the outcome of the vote).

Japan has a unique position in the world vis-a-vis nuclear weapons. As I think about it, it feels very likely that the leaders of Japan would feel an obligation -- bound by honor, in fact -- to be present at the table.

When I looked closely at the statement by Japan following the vote, I saw several things that were consistent with this view.  The statement begins by asserting: "as the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings, Japan has been devoted tireless efforts to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons."

Second, it identified a fairly narrow rationale for its "no" vote: Japan "repeatedly pressed to have consensus-based decision making in the resolution, however it is regrettable that our basic position has not been reflected."

Third, it gave a nod to the US position: "we are concerned about the fact that this recommendation of the disarmament community would undermine the progress of effective nuclear disarmament."

Account (with illustration) by
survivor of Hiroshima bombing
Taken together, these elements -- Japan's unique position, its preference for consensus, its concern about undermining other efforts -- seem to me to point toward eventual participation in the negotiations themselves. The first issue is paramount. The second is not a deal-breaker. The third leaves maximum wiggle room -- especially as the failure of the nuclear weapons states to honor their NPT Article VI obligations is more and more openly talked about. ("Effective nuclear disarmament" is a coded phrase that has, in fact, become eviscerated.)

The statement by the Japan's foreign minister is suggestive: "Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida suggested willingness to participate, saying Japan should assert its stance towards 'a world without nuclear weapons.' But he said the decision will be made by the government." ("Japan remains cautious on UN nuclear ban talks")

See also: "136 Japanese legislators join global nuclear disarmament statement" and "EDITORIAL: Progress toward a nuclear-free world must keep moving forward."

Meanwhile, an important moment is coming up Saturday: the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The intensifying pressure on the government of Japan over its handling of nuclear issues can be expected to contribute to a feeling that Japan must be at the table for the UN nuclear weapons ban negotiations.

China has said it will participate in the talks. It would be difficult for Japan to justify allowing talks to go forward with China at the table while Japan, itself, sat on the sidelines.

In the last few days, there have been new flareups over North Korean missile tests. It's important to remember that this is part of an ongoing conflict involving the US, South Korea, and North Korea. Japan surely wants the problem to be resolved. That simply adds motivation for Japan to be at the table for the nuclear weapons ban negotiations (negotiations which North Korea voted in favor of, it should be remembered).

February, 2016 at Mar a Lago: Prime Minister Abe
experiences diplomacy, Donald Trump style
A wildcard in all this is what Prime Minister Abe thinks about Donald Trump. My best guess is that Abe (and his colleagues) are not reassured by the Trump record to date. This is a reason for Japan to explore every possible option to reach solutions jointly with all available counterparts.

Assuming Japan does participate in the negotiations, it has consequences for other countries who did not support the original resolution. How will it be possible for a country like Canada, or Germany, or France to refuse to participate if Japan is at the table? If Canada participates, it suddenly makes Australia's refusal to participate that much more conspicuous. If Germany participates . . . . And on and on . . . .

The nuclear weapons ban negotiations at the UN will be greatly enhanced by Japan's participation. I hope I'm right in believing Japan will be at the table.


UPDATE March 15, 2017: "Austrian foreign minister calls on Japan to join nuclear ban negotiations" - "Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has expressed hope that Japan will join negotiations later this month on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. . . . 'Japan, as the world’s sole atomic-bombed nation, has a moral voice and can give an invaluable opinion on the issue of nuclear disarmament,' Kurz said in a written interview ahead of the first round of negotiations that begin March 27 in New York."

MORE:

Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???


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Palestine Told in Flowers

On Saturday we fixed up the garden at University Lutheran Chapel here in Berkeley. The topic of "biblical gardens" game up, and we wondered about doing something like that with our garden beds.

Then I remembered: I have first-hand experience of biblical plants -- from the trip I took to Palestine two years. (A trip which, incidentally, was where I met the Berkeley pastor who is the reason I ended up moving to California from Chicago!)

I've re-posted below a blog post about the flowers of Palestine that I wrote during that trip. (Here is a link to the rest of the posts from that trip . . . Faith in the Face of Empire: A journey in search of hope in the land of conflicting narratives.) (And here is a link to one of the many posts on this blog that emerged from that trip: ELCA Resolution on Palestine / Israel: What Does It Mean for Us? )

While I'm at it -- here are a couple of other garden-related posts: A Dream of a "Dream of Red Chambers" Garden for Chicago and One Word: Wildflowers (on the Zero Carbon Chicago blog).


*   *   *


What Might a Blossom Signify?

(originally published March 20, 2015)

Why was this day different from every other day (on our trip)?

Because today was the day that we hiked through the beautiful nature area in Battir.

As we entered the stone steps into the area, we began to get a sense of its grandeur:




The terraced hillside on our right-hand side was filled with olive trees:




Beautiful red poppies dotted the trail from beginning to end:




Wild irises poked up all along the trail as well:




Occasionally, we would pause at remnants left by long-ago inhabitants of the land, such as this vault carved into the rock hillside:




But mainly this walk on the first day of spring 2015 was about renewed life.

Besides the red poppies and the purple irises, it seemed as if there was a flower to claim each of the colors in the rainbow — such as these yellow ones springing up at trailside . . .




and these magenta cyclamen clinging to the rocks at shoulder level . . .




and lone white poppies here and there . . .




As I walked along, in this place so full of meaning, with these distinctive floral sentinels along every inch of the pathway, it suddenly seemed perfectly understandable that people have so often throughout history thought of each type of flower embodying a specific meaning.

What might these blossoms signify?

Every time I lifted my eyes from the trail, I discovered another slice of hillside that was like something crafted by a jeweler:




and the promise of yet more enchanting discoveries just around the corner:




Not all of the plants sported brilliant colors. Yet everything we encountered, whether pine cones . . .




Or thistle stems . . .




. . . was spectacular in its own way.

 Some flowers cried out from the ground for our attention (“Look at us! We’re magenta, too!”) . . .




while others stretched up to confront us eye-to-eye (“Have you ever seen anything as beautiful as me?”) . . .




and a few stubborn fellows seemed to be doing everything they could to ignore us, staking out lonely spots among the rocks and focusing on the sky (“Summer sun? Bring it on!”)  . . .




As we reached the end of the trail, we saw an almond tree whose blossoms framed a structure on crest of the hill in the distance.




It made me think of the Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, who wrote,

If a writer were to compose a successful piece
describing the almond blossom, the fog would rise
from the hills, and people, all the people, would say:
This is it.
These are the words of our national anthem.
(See “Review: Darwish, between the national and the human” by Raymond Deane on the Electronic Intifada website.)

Could a writer write the story of “faith in the face of empire” in the language of flowers?


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