Doomsday Clock Creeps Forward

By Robert E. Pierre
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 27, 2002; 1:59 PM

CHICAGO, Feb. 27 The world has changed considerably since 1947 when the so-called Doomsday Clock made its debut as an attempt by concerned scientists to draw attention to the potential for nuclear Armageddon. But as of this morning at least on the nuclear clock the world is right back where it started: seven minutes before midnight.

The clock was symbolically moved forward two minutes at a news conference at the University of Chicago. The reason? A growing concern about the security of stockpiled nuclear weapons around the country, the rising disparity between rich and poor and the increasing willingness of the United States under President Bush to go it alone.

"Despite a campaign promise to rethink nuclear policy, the Bush administration has taken no significant steps to alter nuclear targeting policies or reduce the alert status of U.S. nuclear forces," said George A. Lopez, a Notre Dame professor who chairs the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which publishes the clock.

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While the threat of the Soviet Union intentionally attacking the United States has decreased, Lopez said global security remains elusive because the eight known nuclear powers still maintain 31,000 nuclear weapons. That's a decrease of only 3,000 since 1998. Also disturbing, the scientists said, was the recent crisis between India and Pakistan. The events of Sept. 11 did not prompt the clock's movement on their own, but should have served as a wake-up call to the world, he said.

"The international community has hit the snooze button rather than respond to the full alarm," Lopez said, who added that the solution requires cooperation.

Rooting out poverty, he said, is key to making the world safer.

"Poverty and depression breed anger and desperation," Lopez said. "Success depends on eradicating the conditions that feed such terror."

This is the third time the Doomsday Clock has moved since the end of the Cold War in 1991. It was last moved in June 1998, from 14 minutes to nine minutes before midnight. The clock has been reset 16 times its 55-year history.


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