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US president has sole power to launch nuclear strike

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WASHINGTON: Concerns on Friday over US President Donald Trump‘s mental state have drawn focus on his power to unleash a nuclear attack.
Two days after Trump supporters, under his encouragement, stormed the US Capitol and shut down Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had contacted the Pentagon’s top general, Mark Milley, to understand how to prevent “an unhinged president” from using the secret nuclear launch codes to order a nuclear strike.
As Milley presumably told her, the US constitution gives the president the sole power to launch a nuclear weapon.
Congress cannot interfere, and the leaders of the Pentagon, the generals and civilians, are bound to transmit his order, whether they agree with it or not.
Everywhere he travels, the president is accompanied by an aide carrying the “nuclear football”, a bag containing instructions, attack plans and codes for initiating a nuclear strike that only the president can use.
Given the need to consider the justification, what equipment to use and what targets are chosen, such a decision would normally be done in consultation with defense chiefs.
But once the president decides – whether after much deliberation or in a fit of anger – “neither the military nor Congress can overrule these orders,” said a December report on nuclear command and control from the Congressional Research Service.
The only restriction on the US leader, in this case, is the legality of the strike. The laws of war would allow a military official to refuse to execute an order to do something illegal.
“But questions about the legality of the order – whether it is consistent with the requirements, under the laws of armed conflict for necessity, proportionality, and distinction – are more likely to lead to consultations and changes in the president’s order than to a refusal by the military to execute the order,” according to the Congressional Research Service report.
If the president does decide to order a strike, he would normally consult the military chiefs for his options.
In the “football”, he would find options for the attack and communications equipment to formally order it.
He would make use of a card of codes unique to himself, called the “biscuit”, to certify his identification as the commander-in-chief empowered to order a launch.
The launch order would then be transmitted to the US Strategic Command, where an officer would confirm it came from the president and execution would take place.
It could be as little as two minutes from order to the launch of a ground-based nuclear-tipped missile, or 15 minutes from a submarine.
“People in the chain of command might technically refuse to obey an order, but a verified order is presumed to be legal,” said Derek Johnson of the anti-nuclear organization Global Zero.
“Pressure to obey would be massive.”
In all of this, there are no exceptions in the system of nuclear command and control for a scenario in which the president is seen to be mentally unstable and ignores the advice of his generals.
In that case, the only option – which Pelosi has called for in the case of Trump – is to invoke the constitution’s 25th amendment on removing a president from power.
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US must lead world on climate crisis, says Biden

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WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden said Wednesday the United States must lead the global response to the climate crisis, as he prepared to sign a raft of orders aimed at curbing rising temperatures and to announce a climate summit in April.
“Just like we need a unified national response to Covid-19, we desperately need a unified national response to the climate crisis because there is a climate crisis,” Biden said in remarks delivered at the White House.
“We must lead the global response, because neither challenge can be met, as Secretary (John) Kerry has pointed out many times, by the United States alone.”
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US issues terror alert over anti-government extremists

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WASHINGTON: The US Department of Homeland Security declared a nationwide terrorism alert Wednesday, citing the potential threat from domestic anti-government extremists after Joe Biden was sworn in as president.
“Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the department said.
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NSA Ajit Doval speaks to American counterpart Jake Sullivan

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NEW DELHI: National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Wednesday held a telephonic talk with his American counterpart Jake Sullivan during which he underlined that India and the US were uniquely positioned to work closely on regional and global issues, including combating the scourge of terrorism and ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the two NSAs agreed to work closely to further advance India-US relations which are built on shared values and common strategic and security interests.
“National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had a telephone call with his US counterpart Jake Sullivan on January 27. NSA Doval conveyed his best wishes to Sullivan on his appointment as National Security Advisor,” it said.
“Doval underscored that as leading democracies, with an abiding faith in an open and inclusive world order, India and the US were uniquely positioned to work closely on regional and international issues including combating the scourge of terrorism, maritime security, cyber security and peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond,” the MEA said in a statement.
It said Sullivan stated that the US was looking forward to working together on the bilateral agenda and the common global challenges.
“The two NSAs agreed to work closely to further advance India-US relations, which are built on shared values and common strategic and security interests. They highlighted the need to work collectively to address challenges in the post-Covid era and further expand the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership,” the MEA said.
Earlier, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to defence minister Rajnath Singh and exchanged views on pressing regional and global issues, including developments in the Indo-Pacific.
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