Forward? Barack Obama’s second term

By Chris Raggett, Assistant editor

Although foreign policy played a small role in the US presidential campaign late last year, the way Barack Obama handles Iran before 2016 could determine how the president goes down in history. So argues Mark Fitzpatrick, the director of the IISS’s non-proliferation programme, speaking at a discussion meeting last week about Obama’s upcoming second term.

Over the weekend, Iran signalled it might return in late February to talks with the international community over its disputed nuclear programme. However, the country has also recently notified the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, that it will be installing new, more efficient centrifuges at its uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz. This would dramatically shorten the time it would take Tehran to ‘break-out’ and make a nuclear bomb after expelling IAEA inspectors. Fitzpatrick, who believes there is the chance that some sort of military action ‘may come into play’ in the next four years to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, has said the installation of new centrifuges would be a ‘game changer‘.

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Sandy blows climate change back onto agenda

Hurricane Sandy makes landfall in the US. Photo copyright EUMETEOSAT 2012

Hurricane Sandy makes landfall in the US. Photo copyright EUMETEOSAT 2012

By Dr Jeffrey Mazo, Managing Editor, Survival; Research Fellow for Environmental Security  and Science Policy

Stuck in my hotel in Washington DC channel-zapping for hours during Hurricane Sandy last week, I was surprised not to hear one mention of global warming in connection with the storm, despite the almost non-stop coverage that pushed even the close-fought presidential election out of the headlines.

Admittedly, this was a limited and idiosyncratic sample of the coverage, and people began blogging and writing about Sandy and global warming quickly enough. And I was in DC for a series of meetings and lectures at IISS-US and SAIS on the consequences of catastrophic climate change. At my (rescheduled) events the question of whether Sandy was a manifestation of climate change came up again and again.

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Tweeting up a storm

Twitter user ComfortablySmug apologises for his Tweet claiming that the New York Stock Exchange was under waterBy Guest Blogger Ryan Connelly

If truth is the first casualty of war, the recent controversy over false Twitter rumours about superstorm Sandy proves that veracity can also take a battering in all types of national emergency. Has a lesson been learned before tomorrow’s US presidential election about misinformation campaigns, or should we be on our guard for something similar?

CNN and the Weather Channel were both embarrassed last Monday night after they reported in Sandy’s wake that the New York Stock Exchange was under three feet of water. Although both channels cited other sources, they soon retracted the information when it became apparent that the original source for the story was mischievous Twitter user @ComfortablySmug. The account also shared the false ‘news’ that the local utility provider, Con Edison, planned to shut off all power in New York City and that state governor Andrew Cuomo was trapped in Manhattan and taken to a secure shelter – before Con Edison and reporters on the ground began to question and contradict him.

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