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“I Never Thought I’d Live to See This Day”: The Beginning of the End for Nuclear Weapons

Anything is possible if you believe.

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Today is the day the United Nation’s Treaty on Nuclear Weapons goes into effect. It’s the long planned but seemingly impossible day millions — if not billions — of people have waited for since Hiroshima Day, August 6, 1945.

Today, the U.N. treaty declares that the manufacture, possession, use or threat to use nuclear weapons is illegal under international law, 75 years after their development and first use. Actions, events, vigils and celebrations will be held around the nation and the globe to mark this historic moment.

Even though I’ve spent most of my life working for the abolition of nuclear weapons, I never thought I’d live to see this day. The most striking test of faith came in none other than Oslo, Norway, where my friend, actor Martin Sheen, and I were invited to be the keynote speakers at the launch of something called “The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons,” or ICAN, which went on to the win the Nobel Peace Prize.

I have been arrested dozens of times for nonviolent civil disobedience actions against nuclear weapons, including at the White House, the Pentagon, several Trident submarine bases, the SAC command base near Omaha, Nebraska, the Nevada Test Site and Livermore Labs. Since 2003, I have led the annual Hiroshima Day peace vigil outside the national nuclear weapons labs in Los Alamos, New Mexico. I had been planning with friends a major anti-nuclear vigil, rally and conference near Los Alamos, New Mexico to mark the 75thanniversary of Hiroshima, but instead, we held a powerful virtual online conference seen by thousands that featured Dr. Ira Helfand, co-founder of the Nobel Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility and one of the leaders of ICAN.

On Dec. 7, 1993, with Philip Berrigan and two friends, I walked on to the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, right through the middle of national war games, up to one of the nuclear-capable F15 fighter bombers and hammered on it, to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that some day people would “beat swords into plowshares and study war no more.” For that act, I faced 20 years in prison, was convicted on several felony counts, spent nine months in a tiny cell, several years under house arrest and continued to be heavily monitored by the government. My friends, Dan and Phil Berrigan, who launched the Plowshares movement dreamed of this day. Other friends sit in prisons across the nation today for their recent actions.

But this was something else. This was a first for me. We had been brought to Oslo by the Norwegian government. We stood before some 900 people that Saturday night, March 1, 2013, at the civic forum, which preceded the global gathering of representatives from over 132 nations. (Of course, the United States refused to attend.) The formal meeting would start Monday morning. As far as we could tell, there had never been such a conference before in history.

Martin began his talk by thanking ICAN for their work to build a global abolition movement, and encouraged everyone to keep at it. He read aloud their general call for nuclear-armed states to completely eliminate nuclear weapons—and a treaty banning any state from developing them.  

For the next 48 hours we spoke non-stop, in workshops, to the press, to small groups and large groups. We were given a private tour of the Nobel Peace Prize museum, attended a reception with the Norwegian Parliament and met many members and politicians whom we urged to carry on their initiative for the abolition of nuclear weapons, including Norway’s foreign minister, the Vice President of Parliament, and the Mayor of Oslo.

It was there at that reception that we met Dr. Ira Helfand, who told us that—for the first time in four decades—he felt hopeful about nuclear disarmament. There has never been such an important gathering in history, he said with a smile.

At one point during the ICAN conference, a teenage student asked to speak privately with me. He confided that he was one of the survivors of the massacre a year and a half before, when an insane shooter killed 78 children during their summer camp on an island in a large lake not far from Oslo. My new friend told me how he dodged the bullets and swam far out into the lake and barely survived. He wanted to talk with me about nonviolence and forgiveness. I encouraged him on his journey of healing toward a deeper peace, but was profoundly moved by his connection between the summer camp massacre and the global massacre that can be unleashed through nuclear weapons. He saw now what most people refuse to see. And he was determined to do his part to prevent a global massacre of children.

All of these experiences were so touching and inspiring, but there was something even more powerful afoot. From the moment we landed in Oslo, as we met various dignitaries and longtime anti-nuclear leaders from around the globe, we heard the same statement over and over again: We are going to abolish nuclear weapons.

After a while, Martin and I looked at one another and thought to ourselves: something’s not right with these people. Sure, we do what we can, of course, but we’re not going to live to see the abolition of nuclear weapons. Our new friends were drinking the Kool-Aid.

But we didn’t know who we were dealing with, nor did we yet understand the faith and hope that undergirds lasting global change movements. These were the same people who organized the global campaign to outlaw landmines in 1997. These were the same people who organized the global campaign to ban cluster bombs in 2008. Now, they were telling us calmly, they were setting their sights on nuclear weapons. They intended to use the same tried and true strategy to slowly plot their end. This was going to work. No doubt about it.

All we have to do is get 50 nations to sign a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons, they said; then we can slowly chip away at every other nation in the world, until all that are left of the nine nuclear weapons nations who will eventually be shamed into dismantling their weapons and signing the United Nations’ Treaty. It was a no-brainer.

“Well, good luck with that,” we said.

And here we are. Today, the treaty goes into effect. Today is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.

For my friends and me, this is a day we never quite believed we would see.

“Right now, the treaty does not legally apply to the United States,” said Ken Mayers of Veterans for Peace New Mexico, “because we have not signed or ratified it. But that does not mean we will not be feeling the moral force of the treaty. All nuclear weapons, including the thousands in the U.S. stockpile, have been declared unlawful by the international community.”

Mayers and others will keep vigil today near the labs in Los Alamos, New Mexico, calling for an end to weapons development. Similar vigils will be held across the United States today with banners hung outside nuclear weapons production sites declaring “Nuclear Weapons Are Illegal!”

“The treaty is a turning point,” said Joni Arends, of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. “On the one hand, it is the end of a long process to outlaw nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it is just the beginning of a new movement to confront nuclear weapons states and demand they lift the dark shadow of nuclear annihilation that has loomed over the world for the last 75 years.”

“The U.S. was among the last major countries to abolish slavery but did so in the end,” said Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “To modify Dr. King’s famous quote: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards [the] justice’ of abolishing nuclear weapons. This ban treaty is the beginning of that end and should be celebrated as such.”

Every time we have journeyed up to Los Alamos over the years, we offered the same, simple message: Nuclear weapons have totally failed us. They don’t make us safer; they can’t protest us; they don’t provide jobs; they don’t make us more secure; they’re sinful, immoral and inhuman. They bankrupt us, economically and spiritually.

According to the Doomsday Clock, we are in greater danger now than ever. A limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan is very possible; an all-out nuclear war would end life as we know it. If we spent billions instead on teaching and building nonviolent civilian-based defense systems and nonviolent conflict resolution programs around the world, to be orchestrated by the United Nations, we could make war itself obsolete.

The work of ICAN and the United Nations to get 50 nations to outlaw nuclear weapons and build a process toward their elimination is one of the most exciting, hopeful—if widely ignored—movements in the world today.

Just before Christmas, Dr. Helfand called me. He continues to work morning to night in a Massachusetts clinic treating COVID patients, but he wanted to talk about the treaty. “How can we push Americans to demand that the United States sign the treaty and dismantle our arsenal,” he asked me? “How can we mobilize the movement to make President Biden and the U.S. Congress do the right thing?”

That’s the question. We talked about various efforts we could make, and agreed to do what we could. “The responsibility lies with us,” he said. “We were the first to use nuclear weapons; we must be the ones to end them once and for all.”

A few days later, he sent me an email with the gist of our message. In addition to climate change, the nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons in the world pose an existential threat to humanity. The threat of nuclear war has never been greater, with tensions rising between the United States, Russia and China. Even a limited nuclear war could kill hundreds of millions, and bring about a global famine that would put billions of people at risk. A larger war could kill the vast majority of humanity.

“This is not the future that must be,” Dr. Helfand wrote me. “Nuclear weapons are not a force of nature. They are little machines that we have built with our own hands, and we know how to take them apart. Nations around the world have come together in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It is time for us to move back from the brink and eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us.”

And so, the day has come when that long dreamed of future has become a real possibility. Our task is to make the possible probable, and then actual. Time to get back to work. We need to call President Biden and Congress, write letters to the editor, mobilize the movement, tell the nation: Let’s abolish nuclear weapons now, once and forever, and use the billions of dollars we spend on these weapons to vaccinate everyone, rebuild our nation, protect the environment, abolish war and poverty, and welcome a new culture of peace and nonviolence.

As I learned in Oslo, anything is possible if you believe.

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

Good News

Keanu Reeves Praised As Video of Him Offering Seat to Lady in Subway Resurfaces

Elias Marat

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Keanu Reeves is an actor who has long been loved by audiences —and not necessarily due to his acting skills, but due to how nice the John Wick star is.

And now, Reeves is once again earning praise as a “true gentleman” after resurfaced video footage shows Reeves giving up his seat on the subway.

The clip was shared by Instagram film fan account Cinemonkeys where it has since earned nearly 45,000 likes.

The video footage dates back to 2011, when it was shared on YouTube by a user of the video-sharing platform.

At the time, Reeves was already a superstar riding on the fame he earned from the Matrix, Speed, and a number of other blockbuster hits.

When Reeves notices a woman carrying a heavy bag, he quickly points to his seat and asks if she would like to sit. The woman accepts and Reeves gets up without hesitating to let her take his seat.

Reeves, ever the model citizen, then stands and holds onto a subway pole while carrying his bag.

The video has since been watched over 27 million times and was even cited in a 2019 Time magazine profile of the actor describing Reeves as the “soul mate” of the internet.

The resurfacing of the clip on Instagram once again impressed users of the platform.

“This human being’s soul honestly shines so bright,” wrote one user.

“OMG I love him in every single way,” another person commented.

His kindness knows no bounds,” commented someone else.

Keanu is set to reprise his role as Neo in the upcoming fourth Matrix film directed and written by Lana Wachowski, who co-directed the earlier trilogy with her sister Lilly. He will also return to the silver screen in John Wick: Chapter 4, which will be released in 2022.

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Animals

Drunk Man Rescues Injured Baby Bird By Sending It To Animal Shelter… In An Uber

Elias Marat

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An injured baby bird received a new lease on life after a young man who was inebriated had the good sense to send the little creature to an animal shelter because he and his friends were too drunk to drive.

In the Summer of 2019, a small lesser goldfinch suddenly appeared by itself at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. The center’s chairman, Buz Marthaler, was notified by a volunteer who sent him a photo.

“It was a picture of this bird, and it had come by Uber,” Marthaler told FOX13. “It was just crazy.”

As it turns out, the tiny bird – which was only two weeks old – indeed rolled up to the site by its lonesome, the sole passenger in an Uber vehicle called by concerned citizens who found the injured creature.

Among those good Samaritans was Tim Crowley, who had been “day drinking” on that Saturday before he and his buddies witnessed the little bird fall from the sky.

“Impromptu, sitting in some camp chairs, hanging out, having a few drinks when we had a visitor fall out of the sky,” he explained.

Crowley then snapped a photo of the bird and sent it to the WRCNU, which instructed him to immediately bring the bird in. However, the group obviously couldn’t drive since they had been guzzling booze all day.

So Crowley decided he’d hail a cab for the creature.

“At first it was a joke, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should just call Uber!’” he said. “Then we were like, ‘No, really. Why not? We’re paying them.’”

As it turns out, the bird – since named “Petey Uber” by staff at the rescue center – likely would have perished if not for Crowley’s quick thinking.

Marthaler remains impressed by Crowley’s move and shared the news on its Facebook page.

“While we feel we’ve seen it all and can’t be amazed by anything, there is always someone out there to prove us wrong,” the shelter’s post read. “Thank you to the rescuer who helped this little one get the care it needed in a timely manner and thank you for keeping yourself safe and others on the road safe as well.”

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Animals

Binx the Cat, Who Survived Florida Condo Collapse, Found and Reunited With Family

Elias Marat

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Amid the tragedy of last month’s collapse of a South Florida condo building, there was a tiny bit of good news when a cat named Binx, who lived on the ninth floor of the Surfside building, was found safe and returned to his family.

“I’m glad that this small miracle could bring some light into the lives of a hurting family today and provide a bright spot for our whole community in the midst of this terrible tragedy,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in a Friday press conference, reports NPR.

Levine Cava explained that a volunteer who feeds street cats in the area recognized the cat near the building before bringing him to an animal shelter, where it was then identified.

Gina Nicole Vlasek, the co-founder of the The Kitty Campus rescue group, posted on Facebook that a black cat had been found near the rubble of the group before it was brought to the shelter on Thursday night.

“We are so grateful to be able to help in any small way,” Vlasek said.

“All we needed was a ray of hope in this tragedy,” she continued. “Today was one of the most amazing days.. one of the survivors came to see the cat and to determine if it was her families cat and IT WAS!”

The mayor said that animal control workers are continuing to work to recover any pets that may have survived the horrible collapse.

The 12-story Surfside condo collapsed on June 24. At least 79 people have been confirmed dead, with 61 additional residents remaining unaccounted for.

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