Monday, September 24, 2007

Nucelar Proliferation & The Expansion Of Life - Facts & Figures

Below is a list of summarised facts and figures about this nuclear issue the humanity is facing right now, as copied from SGI Quarterly (July):

Who has nuclear weapons?
- United States* 10,000
- Russia* 16,000
- U.K.* 185
- France* 350
- China* 130
- India 50
- Pakistan 60
- Israel (undeclared) 100-200
- North Korea appears to have tested a nuclear device in October 2006
* The permanent members of the UN Security Council

Countries which had nuclear weapons and chose to give them up:
- South Africa
- Belarus
- Kazakhstan
- Ukraine

Countries which had programs to develop nuclear weapons which they ended:
- Libya
- Argentina
- Brazil

Number of countries that have signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: 177

Number of countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: 190

Destructive Force:
- The uranium bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy," that killed an estimated 140,000 people in Hiroshima had a yield of 13 kilotons (one kiloton equals 1,000 tons of TNT). Modern-day hydrogen bombs can have yields measured in megatons (one megaton is 1,000 kilotons). The largest ever thermonuclear bomb was tested by Russia in 1961. It had a yield of 50 megatons.

To picture the amount of TNT needed for a 5-megaton explosion, imagine a 1,000-mile (1,600km) long train filled with TNT.

What happens when a nuclear weapon explodes?
- The temperature of a nuclear explosion is several million degrees centigrade. The explosion creates a fireball of white heat. Intense heat and radiation is released in winds of around 1,500 kmph. The mushroom cloud effect is produced by the powerful updrafts lifting debris from the ground up into the air. The top of the cloud can be several kilometers wide. At Hiroshima, in the vicinity of the hypocenter, all that remained of some of the people caught in the open were their shadows burnt into stone. Under these extreme conditions, the human body is vaporized. Those not in the immediate area of destruction would suffer from non-survivable burns, would be blinded and suffer terrible external and internal injuries. Almost all rescue and medical services would have been destroyed.

Further away from the blast, survivors would soon suffer varying effects of radioactive fallout. High exposure levels would cause bleeding from the mouth and gums, gangrenous ulcers, internal bleeding and hemorrhagic diarrhea, vomiting, fever, delirium and terminal coma and death within days. For a lower level of exposure, the longer-term effects for survivors include: fetuses in the early stages of pregnancy being born with deformities, damage to the immune system, major scars and the risk of developing cancer. The next generation would also be at risk to cancer and birth defects.The amount of fallout depends on whether the bomb was detonated in the air or on the ground. The area covered by fallout will vary according to wind speed and direction.

Accidental Launch Risks
- There have been over 30 accidents, false alarms and malfunctions involving U.S. nuclear weapons. Several of these have almost caused a nuclear war.
- On September 26, 1983, the Soviet nuclear early warning system showed that the U.S. had launched a nuclear attack. With only minutes to react, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, the officer on duty, decided that the system was in error, saving the world from a nuclear holocaust.
- In 1995, Russia mistook a Norwegian meteorological rocket launch for a nuclear attack. President Boris Yeltsin activated his "nuclear briefcase" for a retaliatory attack. Minutes before the launch of Russia's nuclear arsenal, the alarm was determined to be false.
- Thousands of U.S. and Russian nuclear missiles remain on hair-trigger alert today. Once launched, they cannot be recalled.

Other Data:
- It has been estimated that since 1945, 50 nuclear weapons have been lost and remain lost at sea.
- Stockpiles of loosely guarded nuclear weapons materials are scattered around the world, offering inviting targets for theft or sale.
- There were about 1,000 offers to sell nuclear materials in Western Europe and Russia in the period 1991-95. In 1995, German police recorded 35 cases of offers to buy fissile materials.
- The U.S. spends $100 million per day on maintaining its nuclear arsenal.
- In the Marshall Islands, from 1946 until 1958, U.S. military scientists tested 67 nuclear devices with the equivalent explosive yield of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs per day for those 12 years. The testing exposed the people of the Marshall Islands to radioactive fallout and contaminated nearby atolls, rendering them uninhabitable.
- Radioactive waste, produced at every stage of the nuclear cycle, from the mining of uranium to the production of weapons or energy, can be radioactive for periods up to hundreds of thousands of years. Indigenous people have been disproportionately affected by the international nuclear weapons and power industries.
- A 1991 study by the IPPNW predicts that radiation from atmospheric testing will eventually have caused 2.4 million deaths from cancer.

Nuclear Proliferation & The Expansion Of Life - An After Thought

Humanity has come to a crossroad - either to carry on living his life in a fleetingly shallow and temporal hedonistic way, or to rise above all else and be awakened to the truth.

More often than not, truth is always a bitter pill to swallow, and along the way heaviness and sensibilities seep in, waking the person up and crashing him down to ground from the air of mundane joys and excitement, all in a flash of a moment. For once, he feels a sense of strange sentiment never felt before; something tinkling in his veins, playing tunes in his mind, and setting his gazes on horizons never set on before. This we would presumptuously named it as 'awakening'.

Education since ancient times hold significant positions in societies. From farmers guiding his children in the work of sowing and harvesting to professors imparting knowledge in lecture halls, education epitomises the very light of being compassion. Its very centre core mission would be to lift one unrefined human being out of his own delusions about the external world and his own inner Universe, to a state of being keenly aware and sharply sensitive toward them. It would be an almost noble sanctity of purity and love, for only a human can teach another human; just as only a life can polish another to become a shining gem.

While we were at schools, we were taught the dangers lurking in our surroundings - fire, electricity, flooding waters, deadly poisons, steely knives, they all pose inherent but imminent dangers. We were all taught to stay away from them. And what about strangers? Not to follow them, not to accept their offerings, and not divulge our particulars to them. From the haven of education, we learn how to protect ourselves, and the very important aspect of our presence called 'safety'.

However, and sadly, we stopped short in teaching ourselves the greater, all powerful and an overwhelmingly pressing danger - nuclear weapons. Does it not occur strange to one that while we are instilled with knowledge of safety and danger for ourselves from our very youthful days, reminded constantly of the content, and thereafter impart them into the next generation, we choose to conveniently overlook and ignore the basic yet most important issue facing us all? Does it not occur weird to him that little has been mentioned about this one single, massive and devastating threat, ready to ignite in any second and terminating every single life-form on this planet, including the very existence of this planet itself? Fundamentally, if something should ever happen, no one would even survive to tell the story beyond. Against the background of our uncertain future, this is one thing for certain.

Irony has its own workings amongst us; we have become short-sighted and be overran with concerns only for and of ourselves. Sometimes a little more encompassing and we may robe in and share our friends' joy and sorrows; at other times we have visions only for our own future.

Nuclear weapons and wars are ironically the best and worst element to bring humanity to come together. No other such entity comes close to adopting this role. In the face of this common danger, humanity must be awakened to the dire consequence, should one deluded human being decides to use it and have the launch button pressed. No amount of protection, no depth of underground tunnels, and no distant retreat into the woods, would ensure anyone any rate of survival. It is almost a sure-death situation that humanity faces, in comparison to matchstick fires, electric short-circuitry or traffic disobedience.

In another round of irony, it is perhaps also in this worst situation that hope is found in restoring not only strength in fighting against this gigantic threat, but also the essential lesson about the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human race.

It can almost be likened to one being turned off by the stench and sight of the mud, but captivated by the fragrance and beauty of the lotus flower. They are both mutually exclusive, yet intricately supporting each other.

While nuclear weapons are created by humanity's basest self, it must then be humanity's responsibility to ensure they are returned to that devilish function, unused. In the wake of the 62nd anniversary of the droppings of atomic bombs, humanity is faced with her greatest threat and ironically, the greatest chance for securing a lasting peace and an era of life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nuclear Proliferation & The Expansion Of Life

August is a month I would not forget. For one, it is my birth month. Secondly and ironically, it is the death month of my father.

Incidentally, it is a month that bears witness to the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr's "I have a dream" declaration, but yet also carries the unimaginably heavy load of deaths of the Hiroshima's and Nagasaki's people.

Humans are born short-sighted. Physically we are only capable of seeing a limited distance, usually not further than 500 metres. Given some good weather and environmental conditions, we may see more than we normally do, but that's all about it.

Mentally we are not spared from such an inborn dysfunction - we more often than not fail to grasp and understand matters and issues that are far away from us, though they may be directly affecting our very lives. It is always the eyes that are playing tricks on us, telling us only to believe what we see. When we do not, our minds would comfort us back to the relaxed, carefree joviality.

This is perhaps why we all need education. Not to impart things we are not known of but to merely re-awaken those senses which we have long forgotten, and re-kindled the sensitivity that is found inside us, since time immemorial. Campaigns are one such medium in fulfilling these objectives, for they place matters right before us, our eyes and reflect to us the messages of truth and reason. In one way or another, our lives are directed and/ or re-aligned by those messages.

Till date, there are about 20,000 nuclear weapons held collectively by five nuclear-armed countries: China, Israel, US, Russia, UK and France. While these weapons are more than sufficient to disintegrate Earth more than once, the figure is still expanding. Humanity could not be further from peace and security, and closer to 'total death' and 'pure destruction'. Nothing would survive from the blast.

However, there remains a shield of barrier, constantly obstructing one to be truly awakened to the severity and magnitude of this issue. Why is this so?

The reason, as I suspect, lies in the returning of an awakened life back to the 'microcosmic' self, a more shallower and superficial entity. Overwhelmed by his own personal interests and pursuits, the devilish functions hidden in the mass arrays of nuclear weapons would soon be undetected and unguarded. Unknowingly, we have let this devil slipped past our defences and took root in our hearts. Unconsciously, we have allowed the pain and misery, which had had happened to thousands of humans, and more rightly so to be happening on us anytime, to fall into unawareness and lifeless repetitions. In short, we have lost touch with our innate humanity, the very breadth that propels us to live, think and behave like human beings. Once lost, we are really not much different from those robots or toys manufactured from factories and delivered to racks for display. They too are not endowed with humanistic qualities and consciousness.

When was the last time we feel death around us? Was it when we saw a dying bird, a dead cat or the passing of someone close? When was the last time we feel insecured? Was it when a fight had broken up near our house, or when our safety was threatened? And when was the last time we felt pain and emotional? Was it when we have hurt someone, or when we have hurt ourselves? When everything has been said and done, what is left behind is the underlying message, that for what we do not see or experience, they are all there always, existing around us and residing in all of us, be it the understanding of emotions, the realisation of pain, or the enlightenment to death.

Nuclear weapons are exactly of such: they require every one of us to understand, realise and be enlightened to the fact that there can be no tomorrow, no future and no life to talk about, if we do not care that much of this one single severity.

It has always been there, this issue of imminent threat and danger of highest level. It is just that this matter requries every single human soul to come together, and drawing forth that invisible threads of determination and conviction, to rid this single mortal devil off from this world we live in. Only when this stream of hope and awakening gathers strength and momentum that it would expand to become a substantial force of humanistic energy that humankind would be able to free himself from the long-overdue shackles of fear and instability. It is only when such a force be present in our world that this planet would be safe from total destruction and inescapable disintegration.

For this world really belongs to us, not them.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Roberto Baggio

I have been doing quite a lot of reading lately, on the topic of 'Roberto Baggio'. For anyone who does not know him, he has been an Italian national footballer ever since he was young, till 16th May 2004, where he hung up his boots forever.

Roberto Baggio is born into a large family of eight on 18th February 1967, in a small town of Caldogno. Ever since he could walk, he had been totally immersed into the activity of 'kicking', whatever he could find and lay his feet on.

This probably laid the very foundation of his life, or perhaps a manifestation of his pure, genuine love for it, that we saw what had become of him in the future - an iconic, unforgettable figure that touches almost every soul that came into contact with him.

Baggio loves soccer. Undeniably, he loved this sport with his whole heart, mind and life. As he fondly recalled, there would not a single day where he did not find something roundish to kick and play. That was how much he had fallen into it. In the many years ahead, he would realise that passion and love have a price to be paid. And the collectors of these 'prices' were nobody else but jealous, scheming coaches who went all the way out to hinder, obstruct and defeat him.

Yet, once and again, he stood up, withstanding the pain of knee injury that tormented and almost crippled him for over three decades, he fought with them head-on, never begrudging his life, never waning a single strand of conviction, and never wavering the slightest in his courage. In the world of money, fame, greed, devices, politics and selfishness, Roberto Baggio's character shines like a brilliant star in the starless, dark, gloomy sky. Anyone who has taken the care to lift up the head, raise the chin and breathe the air would inevitably find that shiny star burning brightly and fiercely, unperturbed by any clouds of pettiness the least, to the point of almost intending to burn up the last ounce of his energy to blaze and light up the paths of those suffered and defeated.

Baggio's heart is as such. Throughout his entire life in the Italian league, he has displayed to the world a true soccer player of the highest class. Not only did he played for gigantic, wealthy and powerful clubs, he was equally at ease in playing for small, unestablished clubs, only to show his superb qualities as a mighty warrior and leader more. However, no matter what honoraries endowed upon him, no matter what decorations given to him, and no matter what awards bestowed upon him, he had but only one wish - to help his beloved country lift up the World Cup trophy.

This and only this permeated his entire being, entire life. Never would he leave this dream, and pursue this dream did he! From a small humble beginning he went on to play in three of the most prominent clubs - Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. However, none of them had treasured him as much as his fans - the ever loyal Fiorentina fans who loved him dearly with their hearts. With their lives and his fused together, they painted a beautiful, touching canvas of 'player' and 'fans', lead actor and supporter, general and soldiers. They would support each other, encourage each other and brace forward with each other, together. It was a magnificently radiating piece of dazzling brilliance of loyalty, understanding and pure love.

Thus when Baggio was heard transferring to Juventus, the eternal arch-rival of Fiorentina, the city was erupted with flames of anger, leaving 50 Fiorentina fans injured. As he recalled in his autobiography, he had not wanted to leave Fiorentina, or at least not to Juventus. His agent had secretly formulated the contract, and he had no way to turn down that offer. Not at that time, not with his ability. There, he was left stranded, in the wilderness of loyalty and betrayal, support and mistrust, love and hatred. Bearing the pain of being mistrusted and called 'the Judas', he left for Juventus, only to be mistrusted by the Juventus fans there - in a match against Fiorentina, he had chosen not to take a penalty kick for Juventus. All the more did he enraged them when he picked up a Fiorentina scarf a fan had dropped to him while leaving the field. Torn in between the two clubs, he showed to the world what would genuinely make of a true soccer player - an almost steel-like determination for winning, but yet an immovable, humane side for beauty, loyalty and life.

Nevermind he is the first Italian who scored in three world cups; nevermind he being the Italian player who was awarded and praised by the Argentina soccer league twice; nevermind he being the one who almost single-handedly carried the Italian team right into the Finals; all it matters to him was to simply fulfill a childhood dream - to enter the World cup, and lift it up in the air. For all one cares, he is just out there to pursue something that has been flying in his mind like a kite since the day he knows about the world. No dreams are too bold for him, no aspiration to high, and no vision too grand. In his boundless heart of mightiness, the world is his stage of passion, love, victories and sorrows.

After all has been said and done, no one in this world could ever, ever be qualified to question his integrity, determination and conviction. In a world filled with craftiness and disgusting ugliness, his existence manifests a charming gracefulness and serenity, like his smile, like his skills. Indeed, he has shown to the world that right in the harsh, cold and unforgiving conditions of competitive sports, there lies life and humanism; right in the middle of the pitch where victories and defeats meant so much to so many, there is but friendship, dreams and beauty. Like a lotus flower blossoming ferociously in the muddy pond, his legacy illuminates fiercely like a shimmering star against a dark, stormy night sky. All in all, he has truly given his all to the world.

Thank you, Roby. Take care, and all the best to you, your family and life.