The Commonwealth Blog

Submit Questions for Today's Teleconference with Kennette Benedict

Feb 9, 2012 @ 11:20 AM


In the early days of the new year, the famed Doomsday Clock moved one minute closer to midnight, indicating a worsening threat to mankind of nuclear armageddon and other disasters. The clock, maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, is a widely watched sign of the world's vulnerability to man-made catastrophe, and this latest change moved the clock's hands from six to five minutes before midnight.

Just two years ago, the Bulletin had moved the hands from five to six minutes, signaling hope that the world was making serious efforts to tackle its problems. The 2012 move was made because "that trend has not continued or has been reversed," according to the Bulletin.

Kennette Benedict, the executive director and publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, will join Commonwealth Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria C. Duffy for a members-only teleconference on February 9 to discuss the Bulletin's January 10 Doomsday Clock announcement, and how the public and media responded to the news that it now stands at 5 minutes to midnight. Benedict will also describe how her organization's board members and experts assessed current risks related to nuclear weapons, climate change, nuclear energy, and biosecurity at the 3rd Annual Doomsday Clock Symposium, which preceded the announcement.

From 1992-2005, Benedict directed the international peace and security program at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She also established and directed the foundation's initiative in the former Soviet Union from 1992-2002. Before joining the foundation in 1987, she taught at Rutgers University and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Duffy was U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense and special coordinator for cooperative threat reduction from 1993-1995. In this role, she negotiated agreements with former Soviet countries to dismantle their weapons of mass destruction, and she coordinated U.S. assistance to these countries to meet those goals.

Join these two security experts for this timely program. Members were sent information via email on how to access this members-only program.

Submit your questions below. (Click on the headline above to get the single-page display for this blog; the comments section will then appear below this text.)


Welcome to our teleconference. Please submit your questions. Our moderator, Dr. Gloria Duffy, will try to ask as many of them as possible during the teleconference.

Was the recent re setting of the Clock from 6 minutes to 5 minutes until midnight influenced by several factors or by the actions of any particular country, i.e. Iran, North Korea, Syria, Pakistan?

Was the resetting of the Clock from 6 minutes to 5 minutes until midnight influenced by a number of factors at once or by any specific country's actions, i.e. Iran, North Korea, Syria, Pakistan?

Do any politicians pay attention to the Doomsday Clock? Do you get any feedback (or complaints) from them when you make a change to the clock?

Do you have an opinion on the impact of Secretary Panetta's proposed Pentagon budget cuts on international security and the nuclear threat?

How much headway are people like George Shultz, Sam Nunn, and William Perry making on reducing the nuclear threat?

Since the greatest danger to humanity seems to be from the convergence of 20 - 30 global crises (including nuke proliferation) into a vicious cycle of conflict and crisis, (maybe by 2030) does the Bulletin Group have any world peace plan it proposes?

Can people get kicked out of your organization? I assume A.Q. Khan isn't/wasn't a member, but if he had been, would he have been welcome?

Isn't it the height of hypocrisy for the US and Israel to threaten Iran for their "suspicion" of a weapons program, when the US is still in violation of the original NPT and Israel never even signed and has 200 - 400 deliverable nukes?

One of the arguments I've heard in the past supporting nuclear arsenals has been that they are actually cheaper than fielding a larger conventional military (which would be the presumed alternative). Is there any validity to that?

Won't it be necessary to have a broad global non-aggression/peace agreement before nuclear nations are willing to give up their weapons, particularly their last 50? As good an idea it is, it's hard to imagine Israel, US, Russia giving up their "hole cards" without a broader, solid security pact?

The teleconference is now over. Thank you everyone for listening and for sending us your questions!