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The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the Doomsday Clock ahead 30 seconds, to 2 minutes before midnight (=mankind's proximity to global nuclear catastrophe), the closest it's been since 1953, at the height of the Cold War.--1/25/18

There are no checks and balances on the president's authority to launch a nuclear strike…But between the time he authorises one and the time it's carried out there are other people involved.
—Mark Fitzpatrick, Int’l Institute of Strategic Studies, as reported in BBC, 1/17/17

The idea of a rogue president taking such a monumental decision on his own is unrealistic. He gives the order and the secretary of defence is constitutionally obliged to carry it out. The secretary of defence could, in theory, refuse to obey the order if he had reason to doubt the president's sanity, but this would constitute mutiny and the president can then fire him and assign the task to the deputy secretary of defence.
—Frank Gardner, BBC, 1/17/17

Nuclear blast map of the US (enter your location) and mobile nuclear blast map of the US

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UPDATE 12/3: Rep. Sen. Lindsey Graham urged the Pentagon to evacuate dependents of US military living in South Korea (Reuters). 11/28: Despite Trump's warning he will "totally destroy" North Korea, should it continue testing missiles, North Korea launched a ballistic missile today (New York Times). Rep. Ted Lieu, (D-Los Angeles County, CA), releases letter received from Lt. Gen. Jousas, former Deputy Commander of US Armed Forces, Korea. 10/11: Trump threatens broadcast news media after NBC News reports, that, according to multiple sources in the room, Trump wanted to increase the US nuclear arsenal tenfold to 1960s numbers (Reuters). 9/26: Brinksmanship between North Korea and the Trump Administration continues. As the US imposes stronger sanctions, NK threatens military action, saying the US has "declared war" on them. Trump says US is ready to use "devastating" force on North Korea, as the regime begins to move fighter jets. (CNN) 9/21: Hawaii prepares for nuclear attack, just in case, while trying not to scare residents and tourists. (Washington Post) 8/28: North Korea has just launched a missile toward northern Japan. 8/11: (1) Note the increasingly inflammatory, threatening rhetoric toward North Korea emerging from the White House, and reflect on its similarities to the build-up to the Iraq War. NK US nuclear targets include Guam, Hawaii, Anchorage, Seattle, and San Diego and secondarily, San Francisco. (2) Inexplicably, Trump threatened unspecified military action in Venezuela today (Reuters). Contact your representatives to let them know you are concerned, given that, according to the US Constitution, POTUS cannot start a war without their consent (see below to take action now). 8/8: North Korea considering pre-emptive strike on US territory of Guam (note that North Korea has threatened this since at least 2013). Trump threatens North Korea after some US agencies (not all) assess NK has miniaturized a nuclear warhead to fit within a ballistic missile--something they were not supposed to be able to do for a year or more (CNN). (Note the Pentagon actually expressed this assessment in 2013: see, for example, NPR.) Older Updates.

LEARN: As nuclear missile threats and tension increase between the US and North Korea following UN sanctions on North Korea, read Alex Wallerstein's blog, Restricted Data: Nuclear Secrecy. He's a science historian specializing in the history of nuclear weapons and secrecy around them. According to his analysis, the US is not only the only country to have used nuclear weapons to kill, but is also the most likely nation to do so in the future. He cites growing US citizen support for using nuclear weapons against other countries' citizenry, citing a 8/17 study suggesting "'a clear majority' would be willing to kill millions of Iranians, if they believed it would save a much smaller number of American lives" (Sagan & Valentino, Revisiting Hiroshima in Iran, International Security, 42:1, MIT Press). Although the mainland US and Hawaii are NOT under imminent threat of a nuclear attack now, should the unthinkable ever happen, the safest thing you can do is not to flee, but to get indoors immediately, preferably in a windowless room, close doors and external windows, and stay there for 24-48 hours (even being inside a car is preferable to being outside).

SCARED? Although the terrifying nuclear threats made back and forth between Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, may be making it hard for you to sleep at night, keep in mind that governments around the world are comprised of tens of thousands of people, and those people are as nervous as we. For example, North Korean government officials are attempting to set up meetings with DC analysts in order to try to understand what Trump really means when he talks (Fifield, 9/26/17, Washington Post). In May, the New York Times published an article describing what foreign governments are advised to do by the White House when meeting Trump: "keep it short and give him a win," by praising his electoral victory. (Baker, 5/18/17, New York Times) Governments around the world have made their opinions of Trump known, and they seem to understand he speaks impulsively, often changes his mind, speaks to his base, and that his words alone don't tend to lead to actions. Kim Jong Un must continually bash the United States to his own base of governmental supporters so as to maintain an illusion of personal and national strength, and ensure his continued authoritarian rule. He and his government knows to strike the US or our allies would be national suicide, and he's too narcissistic to commit suicide. Trump, too, impulsively speaks to his base, burnishing his image in their eyes as the strongman Mafia-type his father would be proud of. But the US is not a monarchy, and Trump is learning that his will doesn't make it so. All of that being said, Sen. Graham's early December warning needs to be taken seriously--he is briefed on global threats; we are not.

During Hurricane Harvey, I volunteered to help another set up and maintain a spreadsheet of people needing rescue by the Cajun Navy, and then became a dispatcher from home, helping boaters and certified rescue swimmers reach drowning people and animals, and coordinating supply drops. Those who, on the second day, merged with our little effort and made it into a huge database of hundreds, then thousands, were alt.gov (in short, a twitter handle which indicates a current or former government employee striving to save democracy from the Trump Administration). There many such individuals working behind the scenes to preserve our country. Although the Administration can and is certainly doing damage, the US is not in the hands of a few dozen Trump synchophants, and the world is larger than Trump's hands. (See "Take Action," below, for things you can do, and organizations that are actively working to contain the threat.)

SYRIA. On 6/18, a US Navy fighter jet shot down a Syrian fighter jet, the first time the US has done so. It was also the first time the US had shot down ANY other country's aircraft since 1999. There are contradictory reports about the coalition having first contacted Russia by phone over an established de-escalation line to try to de-escalation the situation. Russia warned on 6/19 that any coalition aircraft (most of them our ours) flying "west of the Euphrates" will be air targets. The coalition responded it will defend coalition forces coming under attack (ABC News). If Russia were to down a US jet, it's hard to see how we wouldn't quickly end up in a war with a nuclear power. In September, Russia stated it would target Syrian areas of US operations if its troops came under fire (Washington Post). Since then, however, concern has shifted to North Korea. By November, The US was looking to make agreements with Russia over Syria (Washington Post), and a joint statement was issued the next day calling for supervised elections in Syria. The US and Russia were "nearing" agreement on how to resolve the Syrian civil war, according to Time, on 11/10/17.

STATE DEPARTMENT. The State Department's job is the protection of American citizens around the world. The Trump administration fired four senior State Department officials early on–those four with the most experience in diplomacy over many administrations–and still has dozens of high-level State positions yet to fill. It's hard to imagine what would happen were our country or one of our allies to experience a diplomatic crisis, terrorist attack, or invasion. The article, Rex Tillerson and the Unravelling of the State Department (Zengerle, 10/17/17, New York Times) chronicles events this year: "...American foreign policy is adrift in the world."

A dissent memo was signed by over 1,000 State Dept. employees worldwide, objecting to Trump's immigration ban. Rex Tillerson (with no foreign policy or government experience, which is unprecedented) is Secretary of State. Upon his confirmation, the House introduced legislation (H.J. Res 41) to eliminate the need for oil companies to reveal payments made to foreign contributions for access to their resources. Tillerson has long been associated with Russia and Putin as Exxon's CEO. Exxon has oil rights to a section of Russia the size of Wyoming. Look for the Trump Admin. to turn a blind eye to Russia's upcoming "expansion" invasions into Ukraine/Crimea and the Baltics, disrupting global foreign relations and agreements held since WW2, and to distract from this with other shocking new orders and conflicts (also see Foreign Policy section). Also look for the Trump Administration to attempt to make things easier for American oil companies to drill and sell oil abroad, and for domestic environmental regulations which restrict that activity to fall away.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Trump has said he wants to strengthen and expand nuclear weapons, beginning a new arms race in contrast to decades of nuclear policy (we’ve been disarming to lessen the threat of an intentional or accidental world nuclear catastrophe). He has stated he plans to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, signed last year, which was designed to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons and launching them against our ally, Israel, which they have repeatedly vowed to do (hello, World War III). In early February, Trump vaguely warned Iran that it is now "on notice" and raised sanctions against them. In July, Trump "reluctantly" recertified the deal, and is engaged in an attempt to sideline the State Department by working with his "advisors" on foreign policy (Baker, New York Times, 7/17/17). As of December, he continues to prevaricate.

Trump has suggested that South Korea and Japan should have their own nuclear weapons, and that the world will be “safer” if more nations had them. Trump said if conflict between Japan and nuclear-armed North Korea were to break out, "it would be a terrible thing but if they do, they do." "Good luck," he added. "Enjoy yourself, folks...The case could be made to let [Japan] protect themselves against North Korea, they'd probably wipe them out pretty quick.” (Jacobs & Pengelly, The Guardian, 4/2/16) Recently, North Korea has been launching test missiles into the sea toward Japan, demonstrating the ability to travel far enough to hit the entire United States. Although it's unclear North Korea's missiles can survive re-entry into the atmosphere were they to be launched against us, Japan, South Korea, and Guam are close enough that wouldn't be necessary. Trump clearly doesn’t understand that even a limited nuclear exchange far away would affect most life on earth, including here in the U.S. According to Richard Turco of UCLA, detonating 50-100 bombs, (which is just 0.03% of the world’s total nuclear weapons), would throw soot into the atmosphere to pollute the environment and block out sunlight, creating a climate calamity unprecedented in history. An exchange larger than that would likely end life on earth as we know it. (See "Take Action," #2, below, and read about the Ploughshare Fund's efforts to prevent this.)

Trump’s Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, is heading an agency he didn’t know existed. Our last two Energy Secretaries have been Dr. Samuel Bodman, a chemical engineer, and Dr. Steven Chu, who won the Nobel Prize in physics. Although Perry thought his position meant he would have control over oil and gas policy, in reality, the Energy Secretary controls our nuclear weapons. Perry has no qualifications whatsoever for the post. He's now on the National Security Council, replacing Bannon.

When, how, and why would Trump launch a nuclear strike? See Trump and the nuclear codes (Gardner, BBC, 1/17/17) Trump has poor impulse control and seems to be most out of control from sunset Fridays until dusk on Saturdays, when his daughter and son-in-law observe Shabbat. Trump's generals have publically maintained they would order a first strike if Trump ordered it. In November, Air Force General Hyten stated he would resist an illegal Trump nuclear strike order (11/18/17, The Guardian). Note that Trump's cabinet contains several generals. Actions speak louder than words, and it's hard to imagine anyone agreeing to end life on Earth in order to gain a few moments of Trump's favor. However, others have noted that, should a general refuse the order, Trump could simply order the Pentagon to execute the order directly, and they would (BBC).

Nuclear accident? Many people don’t know that our nation’s nuclear arsenal is on hair-trigger alert. This makes it exquisitely vulnerable to accidental launch. Once our missiles are launched, they cannot be recalled. Here is a chilling history of near-apocalyptic accidents in the past, and what hair-trigger alert really means (Schlosser, New Yorker, 12/23/16). Even if we weren't threatening other countries with nuclear annhilation, we would still be in a precarious, extremely dangerous situation--one most of us don't want to think about, because it is so dire--and we must act immediately to reduce the threat.


(1) Contact your representatives now with your grave concern about the threat of a nuclear exchange with North Korea (particularly with a barely functioning Trump administration, including State Department, in power). Briefly remind them North Korea is a nuclear power, and impulsive Trump has the nuclear codes. Of course they know this, but with everything happening at once, even the brightest amongst us have difficulty keeping the threat of nuclear annihilation on the front burner.

You have two House Representatives (depending on where in your state you live) and two Senators (which are the same for your entire state’s population). Find their contact info. quickly, here: https://www.nationalpriorities.org/take-action/contact-your-representative/. When you call, remind them, politely, that the midterm elections take place in 2018, and you are keeping track of all Congressional Democrats’ and Republicans' actions. Remember, the most effective actions you can take are (in descending order): phoning your representatives’ offices (and if lines aren't answered, write and send letters via the mail to flood their offices), phoning other states' offices and explaining you'll be calling their voters in advance of the next election; visiting in person, writing letters to your reps; writing op-eds/letters to the editor of news outlets, participating in town halls, protesting; writing emails to your reps, tweeting to your reps. (For more ways of reaching your representatives, please see the Stop Trump section.)

(2) Support the Ploughshares Fund, which played a critical role in securing the historical nuclear agreement with Iran last year, and has been working toward nuclear weapon safety for some time. Sign their new petition and call on Congress to keep us safe by making it illegal for Trump, or any President, to single-handedly start a nuclear war. The law (HR 669, introduced in late January, 2017, by Sen. Markey and Rep. Lieu, and stuck in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs) would require Congress to declare war before the president could authorize nuclear strikes, except in response to a nuclear attack. In other words, it would block Trump's ability to start nuclear war on a whim. Call your House representative at (844) 241-1141 and urge them to support HR 669! Here is contact information for members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(3) The Union of Concerned Scientists is fervently working on this issue. Consider supporting them!

(4) The Union of Concerned Scientists and Ploughshares Fund both attempted to convince President Obama to take our nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert before he left office, but they were unable to do so. This would be one vital issue to throw yourself into by contacting Congressional representatives by phone, mail, and in person, and assembling a group of like-minded others to do the same. It is probably the most important human survival issue of them all. Effective strategies for approaching your Congressperson are detailed in Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. There are indivisible groups all over the U.S. now.

(5) See Take Action (Foreign Policy section) and Stop Trump in Political Action section, below.

Take action on:

Foreign Policy: NSC, UN, Russia, NATO

Stop Trump