Tag Archive: mark j. shuster rochester


 

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In California, a 27-year-old man has been arrested for attacking two women on a BART train, killing 18-year-old Nia Wilson and wounding her sister.  The Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department identified the stabbing suspect as John Lee Cowell, 27, a parolee who was released from prison about four months ago.  Cowell, a transient with a history of violence allegedly pulled out a knife at the MacArthur BART station Sunday evening and slashed Nia Wilson across the neck before stabbing her sister, Latifa Wilson, and fleeing the scene.  Police have yet to establish a motive for the attack.

Around 6:30 p.m., one day after the attack, the police took him into custody at the Pleasant Hill BART station, about 15 miles northeast of where the stabbing took place, said Chief Carlos Rojas of the BART Police Department. He said riders had identified Mr. Cowell, whose picture had been widely distributed. The suspect was unarmed and arrested without incident.  Rojas said “It basically happened at the snap of the fingers, at the drop of the pin,” adding that the attack was “the most vicious” he had seen in his nearly 30-year police career.  “It was a very random attack that occurred at MacArthur,” Rojas said. “We had officers at the station. In order for that to have been prevented, it would have been very difficult. You would have had to be standing right next to the individual. You can’t have an officer on every square inch of a station.”  BART authorities say the entire attack occurred in 20 seconds.

The police said that Nia Wilson and her two sisters boarded the train at Concord Station.  Cowell also boarded there and all three got off at MacArthur Station where the attack occurred.  CCTV footage shows that the women did not interact with Cowell as they rode the train together to the city’s MacArthur Station.  The attack happened as the women stopped to help a woman struggling with a stroller exit a train. It was at that moment that a man — identified as John Lee Cowell, a transient with a history of violence — pulled out a knife, slashed Nia across the neck and stabbed her sister, Latifa, before fleeing. Nia’s wound proved to be fatal while her sister was treated at a local hospital.

Station video cameras captured Cowell fleeing the station and discarding his clothes in the parking garage.  He allegedly discarded the large knife at a construction site outside the station where police found it.  Cowell – who police described as having a “violent past” – has previously been convicted of second-degree robbery, battery, being under the influence of a controlled substance, vandalism and petty theft.

Speaking outside a relative’s home, Letifah Wilson, 26, said that she and her sister were returning home from a family event when they were “blindsided by a maniac”.  “He didn’t know us, we didn’t know him,” said Ms Wilson, who was injured in the attack. “For what? I don’t know why.”  “And I looked back, and he was wiping off his knife and stood at the stairs and just looked – and from there on, I was just caring for my sister.  I was in shock… I didn’t know I was cut because I was paying more attention to my sister. But he just stood there, like it was nothing.”

 

 

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The off-duty FBI agent who accidentally shot a man while doing a back flip on the dance floor of a Denver bar has been charged.  Chase Bishop, 29, whose gun went flying out of his holster at Mile High Spirits bar in Denver, was charged with second-degree assault. The incident was captured in a viral video with many outraged that he had not been charged by the Denver Police.  Police had initially released Bishop to an FBI supervisor while awaiting toxicology results before deciding whether to charge him.

A spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney’s Office said Bishop turned himself in after a warrant for his arrest was issued on Tuesday.  He was being held in Downtown Detention Center in Denver but jail records say Bishop posted a $1000 bond and was released.  Additional charges could be filed based on the results of a blood alcohol content test, which has not yet been received, authorities have said.  Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said the assault charge was filed before that report comes back “because sufficient evidence has been presented to file it.  If an additional charge needs to be filed after further evidence is received, we can file those charges then.”  Results from the BAC test are expected within a week.

The incident happened at 12:45am on June 2.  Bishop’s gun discharged and struck fellow patron Tom Reddington in the leg.  Bishop immediately picked up the weapon but accidentally squeezed off a single round. He then placed the gun in his waistband and walked off the dance floor with his hands in the air, the video shows.  Reddington said “We sat down at one of those picnic tables — I heard a loud bang and I thought some idiot set off a firecracker.  Then I looked down at my leg and see some brown residue… All of a sudden from the knee down it became completely red. Then it clicked that I’ve been shot.”  Reddington told “Good Morning America” that he asked for someone to call 911 before blacking out. A security guard and fellow club-goers applied a tourniquet to his leg.  “I soaked through several blankets, several towels, a few gauze pads,” Reddington said.  Reddington is expected to fully recover.

Though Bishop offered no assistance to Reddington on the night of the shooting, his attorney said his client would like to meet with the man who was injured and is praying for his recovery.  Attorney David Goddard asked that Bishop be allowed to travel because he lives and works in Washington, D.C. Prosecutors did not object, and Denver County Court Judge Andrea Eddy gave Bishop permission to travel.  Chase Bishop, 29, made his first appearance in a Denver courtroomon Wednesday, where a judge issued a standard protection order stating that he must have zero contact and stay at least 100 yards away from the victim, Tom Reddington.

Bishop did not enter a plea and declined to answer any questions as he left the courthouse.  The FBI field office in Denver declined to comment on the incident “to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation,” said Amy Sanders, a spokeswoman.  Sanders said the field office would fully cooperate with Denver police and prosecutors “as this matter proceeds through the judicial process.”

 

 

 

 

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Aaron Persky, the California judge who drew national attention in 2016 when he sentenced Stanford student Brock Turner to just six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, was recalled on Tuesday.  He is the first judge recalled in California in more than 80 years.  Almost 60% of voters were in favor of removing Judge Persky from the Santa Clara County Superior Court, where he had served since 2003. Prosecutor Cindy Hendrickson was elected to replace him.

The recall stemmed from the case of Brock Turner, who was caught sexually assaulting a woman near a dumpster in 2015 after she had blacked out from drinking. In 2016, a jury found the 20 year old Stanford swimmer guilty on all three felony charges against him: sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person, sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person, and intent to commit rape.

The maximum sentence in Turner’s case was 14 years but Judge Persky had sentenced him to six months.  During sentencing Judge Persky said he thought Mr. Turner would “not be a danger to others” and expressed concern that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on him.  His decision along with the fact that he did not mention the impact of the assault on the victim, outraged victims’ advocates nationally.

Turner served only three months before being released in September 2016.   He also received three years of probation and was required to register as a sex offender.  Stanford forced him to withdraw and barred him from campus.  His victim, known publicly only as Emily Doe, described her suffering in a more than 7,000-word statement that went viral soon after it was published.  The sentence and resulting backlash, prompted California lawmakers to change the law. Within four months, they enacted mandatory minimum sentences in sexual assault cases and closed a loophole in which penetrative sexual assault could be punished less harshly if the victim was too intoxicated to physically resist.

Talk of a recall campaign began immediately after he handed down his sentence.   The recall campaign was led by Ms. Dauber, whose daughter is friends with Emily Doe — had collected enough signatures to put the question on the ballot.  In a statement, Judge Persky said he had a legal and professional responsibility to consider alternatives to imprisonment for first-time offenders.  LaDoris Cordell, a retired judge and a spokeswoman for Judge Persky, called the recall an attack on judicial independence and said it had “encouraged people to think of judges as no more than politicians.”

Among the effort’s most prominent backers were Anita Hill and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.  Ms. Dauber said the results “demonstrated that violence against women is a voting issue,” and that “if candidates want the votes of progressive Democratic women, they will have to take this issue seriously.”

 

 

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Eight members of the Milwaukee Police Department have been disciplined in connection with the arrest of the NBA player Sterling Brown, who in January was subdued with a stun gun over a parking violation.  The Milwaukee Police Department has apologized to Brown, after a newly released police body cam video showed Brown’s violent arrest on January 26. Brown, a 22-year-old rookie player on the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team, was assaulted and arrested shortly after exiting a Walgreens store for parking in a disabled space.  The charges against him were later dropped

Footage of the arrest, was captured using a body camera worn by one of the officers, confirms that Brown was not “combative”—as police initially claimed.  However, it does show Brown being confronted by an officer for the parking violation.  The officer tells him to step back and keep his hands out of his pockets just before a group of officers tackled him to the ground and electrocuted him with a Taser.   Brown did not struggle with officers when tackled, tased or handcuffed.  In the video, Brown is shown surprisingly calm and never even raising his voice while standing with his hands cuffed behind his back as an officer says to him “Sorry I don’t follow the Bucks, I didn’t recognize you.  I didn’t recognize your famous name.”   Brown responds, “It isn’t famous, it’s legit.”  The officer then replies “I wanted to talk to you about it” and Brown responds “ You could’ve talked, you didn’t have to touch.”

Brown has since said he plans to file a lawsuit, writing in a statement, “What should have been a simple parking ticket turned into an attempt at police intimidation, followed by unlawful use of physical force, including being handcuffed and tazed and then unlawfully booked.  This experience with the Milwaukee Police Department has forced me to stand up and tell my story so that I can help prevent these injustices from happening in the future.”

He told “Good Morning America” that he aimed to hold “the officers accountable, hold future officers accountable.”  Brown said that his hands were behind his back at the time the stun gun was used and described becoming mad every time he watched the footage.  “I was defenseless, pretty much,” he said.  “This happens from coast to coast, you know, it’s something that’s being shown more now that technology has advanced,” he said. “It’s something that’s been happening for years, and people’s stories have not been told, and people’s stories have not been heard. And I feel like, you know, me doing this, it helps a lot.”

Speaking shortly after the release of the body cam footage, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said he was sorry the incident “escalated to this level”, declaring certain officers had “acted inappropriately” and had been disciplined. Three officers recieved unpaid suspensions, including a 15-day suspension for a police sergeant who has served for more than 11 years. Another sergeant, with 12 years of service, received a 10-day suspension. An officer with two and a half years on the force received a two-day suspension. Those officers and five others will receive policy review instruction and remedial training in professional communications.

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Mark Zuckerberg spent two days on Capitol Hill seeking to placate angry lawmakers by saying he would be open to some sort of regulation to protect the privacy of users on his global social-media platform.  The hearings are the result of revelations last month that a company called Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of 50 million Facebook profiles.  This information was allegedly used to map out voter behavior in 2016 for both the Brexit campaign and the US presidential election.

Cambridge Analytica is a British company that helps businesses “change audience behavior”.  Back in 2015, a Cambridge psychology professor called Aleksandr Kogan built an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” and Kogan’s company Global Science Research had a deal to share info from the app with Cambridge Analytica.  The app was a personality quiz that asked Facebook users for information about themselves and an estimated 270,000 Facebook users signed up and took personality tests.  The app collected the information of each user’s Facebook friends, who had not provided consent.

The company used the data to build psychological profiles of 87 million Facebook users in order to tailor ads that could sway their political views.  Since the breach was revealed Facebook has stated that Kogan’s app picked up information in “a legitimate way” but that their rules were violated when the data was sold on to Cambridge Analytica.  Around the same time the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, news that Facebook has been collecting and storing call records and SMS data from Android devices for years.

Facebook has been requesting access to contacts, SMS data, and call history on Android devices to improve its friend recommendation algorithm and distinguish between business contacts and  personal friendships. Facebook appears to be gathering this data through its Messenger application, which often prompts Android users to take over as the default SMS client. Facebook has, at least recently, been offering an opt-in prompt that prods users with a big blue button to “continuously upload” contact data, including call and text history. It’s not clear when this prompt started appearing in relation to the historical data gathering,

The hearings were held to determine whether Washington will create regulations that address increasingly widespread concerns about digital privacy.  During Mr. Zuckerberg’s two days of testimony, he repeatedly said that he had learned the lesson of the recent data-breach scandals, saying he thought it was inevitable that there will need to be some regulation but warned that poor regulations could leads to unintended consequences.

Following Wednesday’s hearing, House Commerce Chairman Greg Walden described it as “a wake-up call for Silicon Valley and the tech community that if you let these things get out of hand, having grown up in a very lightly regulated environment, you could end up with a lot more regulation than you seek.”  “I don’t want to rush into regulation minutes after having the first hearing of this magnitude. But certainly if they can’t clean up their act, we’ll clean it up for them.” ​He said lawmakers would consider calling other tech CEOs.

 

 

 

 

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French police officer Arnaud Beltrame has died from his injuries after he offered to exchange himself for one of the female hostages being held inside the Super U supermarket in Trèbes.  The violence unfolded Friday morning when the attacker, identified as Radouane Lakdim, stole a car, killing the passenger and gravely wounding the driver.  Lakdim then drove towards military and police barracks where he shot at four National Police officers who were jogging before trying to run them down.  One of the officers was wounded.

The gunman proceeded to the Super U market armed with a gun, knife and explosives.  He began shooting as he walked inside shouting that he was a soldier from Isis.  Two people were killed and several others wounded.  Christian Medves, 50, a butcher in charge of the meat counter was shot first and Hervé Sosna, 65, a shopper was then killed while 16 others were wounded.

Around 50 terrified shoppers and staff managed to escape but several were taken as hostages.  Witnesses said about 20 people in the supermarket found refuge in its cold storage room.  Police found the car, and SWAT teams surrounded the market, at around 11am, beginning the three hour standoff. “They managed to get some of the people out,” said Interior Minister Collomb, but the attacker kept one woman hostage to use as a human shield. Officer Arnaud Beltrame, offered to take the place of the woman.  The lieutenant colonel had his phone on so police could hear his interactions with the gunman.  Collomb said that at one point the National Police lieutenant colonel shot the gunman.  After hearing shots, police stormed the supermarket where Lakdim had been left holding only Beltrame. Lakdim was killed and Officer Beltrame, who had been shot and stabbed, later died from his injuries.

Lakdim, 25, a small-time drug-dealer who had French nationality and was born in Morocco, left a handwritten letter at his home pledging allegiance to Isis.  He was known to authorities for petty crimes, but had been under surveillance by security services in 2016-2017 for links to the radical Salafist movement, said Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, who is leading the investigation.  One neighbour told a news reporter that the suspect was a pleasant young man who was “calm, friendly, and always had a nice word to say.”  He reportedly lived in an apartment block with his parents and sisters, and would take the youngest child to school every day.

Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said that he believed Lakdim had acted alone and that the gunman also brought homemade explosives into the supermarket.  Police continue to question a 17-year-old and Lakdim’s 18-year-old girlfriend. Collomb said the gunman had demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam – the prime surviving suspect in Islamic State suicide bombing and mass shooting attacks on a sports stadium, concert hall and restaurants that killed 130 people in Paris in 2015.  Abdeslam, a French citizen born and raised in Brussels, went on trial in Belgium last month.

President Macron hailed the fallen officer as a hero saying of the officer. “He saved lives and honoured his colleagues and his country,”

 

 

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Authorities say six people have died after a 960-ton span of a pedestrian bridge collapsed on Thursday, onto a busy street below, killing six motorists under an avalanche of concrete and metal.  At least nine others were injured in the collapse of the nearly 200-foot-long bridge, which was under construction near the campus of Florida International University.  The bridge, which was still being installed at the time of the collapse, was built to connect Florida International University with downtown Sweetwater, where many students live.  The bridge was not scheduled to open until 2019.

Senator Marco Rubio said suspension cables on the bridge “were being tightened when it collapsed.”  Police are enlisting the help of engineers as they investigate the cause of the collapse.  The National Transportation Safety Board, Miami-Dade homicide detectives and prosecutors are focusing on the government agencies and two contractors — Munilla Construction Management, which was building the structure, and FIGG Bridge Group, which engineered and designed the span.

A lead engineer with the private contractor FIGG Bridge Engineers -who constructed the bridge, left a voice mail for a state transportation official warning of “some cracking observed on the north end of the span” two days before the structure collapsed.  In the message, which was not retrieved until Friday, the engineer said he did not consider the crack a safety issue.  The Florida Department of Transportation official to whom the voice mail was directed was out of the office on assignment.  Footage of the collapse, taken from a vehicle dashcam, suggests the concrete came apart on the north end — the same area that the bridge’s design engineer spoke about in the message.

On Thursday, shortly before the bridge collapsed, a meeting was held regarding the crack that appeared on the structure.  The university said that the meeting was convened by FIGG and Munilla Construction Management (MCM), which built the bridge.  “The FIGG engineer of record delivered a technical presentation regarding the crack and concluded that there were no safety concerns and the crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge,” the university said in a statement, adding that representatives of the school and the state Department of Transportation attended the session, which lasted two hours.

News outlets speculating over the cause of the collapse have focused on the cracks reported but experts say other factors, including the tensioning work going on at the bridge’s north end are of more concern.  They say cracking in new concrete is not uncommon and not necessarily a sign of failure.  Tightening of steel cables, or tendons, that run through concrete structural elements is a delicate operation, and over-tightening can cause concrete pieces to twist and break apart, experts say.

Rescue workers dug through the rubble nonstop for two days, pulling out crushed vehicles in search of victims.  All six victims were identified by Saturday morning as Florida International University student Alexa Duran, 18; Brandon Brownfield, a tower crane technician, husband and father of three; Rolando Fraga Hernandez, 60, was a systems technician at ITG Communications; Osvaldo González, 57 and Alberto Arias, 54.  Navarro Brown, 37, an employee with Structural Technologies VSL, died at a hospital shortly after the accident.  Two other employees of the company were hospitalized at Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami in stable condition.

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West Virginia teachers have been on a statewide teachers strike over low pay and rising costs for health insurance. The strike comes after teachers have staged rallies and protests for weeks, including a massive rally at the state Capitol. In 2016, teachers pay in the state ranked 48th in the nation with salaries beginning at just over $32,000 for a new teacher. The average teacher salary for the state was $45,622, more than 20% below the national average. In the past, affordable health care benefits helped make up for low wages, but because West Virginia hasn’t been putting enough money into the state agency that insures public employees, premiums and co-payments have been increasing significantly.
West Virginia is a so-called right-to-work state where strikes by public employees are prohibited yet 20,000 public school teachers and 13,000 school staffers have crossed the picket line. Teachers haven’t seen an across-the-board pay raise since 2014 even though healthcare costs have continued to rise—leaving many teachers with dwindling take-home pay.
After launching a 4-day statewide strike, unionized teachers won a 5 percent pay raise which amounts to just a few thousand dollars annually. On Feb. 27, Gov. Jim Justice and union leaders negotiated a deal that would have had the state employees return to work on March 1 — but, in a twist, the state Senate refused to vote on the legislation that would implement the agreed-upon 5% raise. Instead, senators argued for a 4% raise and sent an amended version of the bill back to the state House of Delegates.
Striking teachers had agreed to return to work once the deal was signed so now the strike continues and public schools remain closed. Teachers say the deal isn’t enough to offset skyrocketing premiums in the Public Employees Insurance Agency.
As West Virginia teachers revolt, teachers in Oklahoma — where 2016 teacher salaries ranked 49th in the country — are considering their own statewide strike. Oklahoma teachers say they have reached their breaking point over pay and school funding and may walk off the job next month. Galvanized by a growing social media campaign, teachers wanted competitive pay to attract and keep teachers in the state. Teachers were hoping for a $5,000 raise with House Bill 1033, collectively called the Step Up Oklahoma Plan, which looked to increase the tax on tobacco and gas. The bill was voted down in the state House because it didn’t get the 75% approval needed to pass, according to Oklahoma Department of Education Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
Oklahoma is ranked 49th in the nation in teacher salaries, according to a 2016 study by the National Education Association. The average elementary school teacher makes $41,150, middle school teachers earn $42,380 and high school teachers make $42,460, according to a 2016 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The last time Oklahoma teachers were given a raise was 2008, meanwhile the education budget has been cut by about 28% over the last 10 years.

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Haiti has suspended the British charity Oxfam as it investigates reports that it tried to cover up sex crimes by senior aid workers in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. An internal Oxfam review concluded in 2011 that senior aid workers hired prostitutes at Oxfam properties in Haiti and then tried to cover it up. Prostitution is illegal in Haiti, but Oxfam refused to report the activity of its aid workers to Haitian police. Oxfam’s internal report also includes claims that three Oxfam staff members physically threatened a witness during the internal investigation.
The report confirms that Roland van Hauwermeiren, the country director in the Caribbean nation for Oxfam’s Great Britain arm, admitted to hiring prostitutes to his official residence. A news report revealed there had been at least one “Caligula orgy” with women dressed in Oxfam T-shirts. No public disclosures were made of the alleged abuse at the time, though the 2011 report shows that the director and six others were dismissed or resigned for misconduct, including three who did so because of “use of prostitutes.” All of the names in the document were redacted besides van Hauwermeiren. Oxfam said in a statement that the full un-redacted reports will be given to the Haitian government. The Charity Commission has said it was not told the full story when Oxfam first looked into the allegations in 2011.
The scandal around van Hauwermeiren, who also faced allegations about work in Chad in 2006 where he presided over an office with employees accused of hiring prostitutes. The history of alleged abuse, and the fact that he was allowed to go on to work for another charity in Bangladesh, prompted Oxfam to call for an independent review of itself by women’s rights groups.
An internal investigation by the charity into sexual exploitation, the downloading of pornography, bullying and intimidation is claimed to have found children may have been exploited by employees. The report also clarifies that the charity was aware of concerns about the conduct of two of men at the center of the Haiti allegations when they previously worked in Chad.
Oxfam has been hit with dozens more misconduct allegations involving a slew of countries, in the days since The Times of London revealed Oxfam tried to cover up the sex crimes by senior aid workers in Haiti. The charity now faces worries about funding from the British government and its ability to fundraise while multiple prominent ambassadors for the group have resigned.

 

 

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The Department of Defense has revealed a new strategy for American nuclear policy focused on building up smaller nuclear weapons that are easier to use. The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is an effort to “look reality in the eye,” said Defense Secretary James Mattis, and “see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.” The new strategy involves spending at least $1.2 trillion to upgrade the United States’ nuclear arsenal, including developing a new nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile. The policy update calls for the introduction of “low-yield nukes” on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and the resumption of the nuclear-submarine-launched cruise missile (SLC-M) whose production stopped during the George W. Bush era and which Obama removed from the nuclear arsenal.
The “low yield” bombs the NPR focuses on can do damage similar to that of the U.S. nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The two bombings killed 140,000 people in the initial blast, most of whom were civilians. Thousands more died from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries in the two to four months following the bombings. The bombings remain the only use of nuclear weapons in the history of warfare because of the devastating effects.
Russia, the only country whose nuclear arsenal rivals the United States’ stockpile, already has a large arsenal of weapons this size. U.S. and Russian strategies of nuclear development have differed, with the US favoring larger, longer-lasting weapons and Russia focusing on constantly updating a collection of smaller, more mobile bombs.
The new low-yield nukes are intended to answer any potential overseas attack by Russia. The Pentagon worries that Putin’s army could take control of a U.S. ally and detonate a small nuclear weapon to prevent U.S. troops from responding. Low-yield nukes would provide a proportionate method of response, forestalling a larger nuclear conflict or one with weaker weapons.
Anti-nuclear advocates have accused the Pentagon of lowering the bar for nuclear warfare. The new policy “calls for more usable nuclear weapons with low yields, and for their first use in response to cyber and conventional strikes on civilian infrastructure such as financial, transportation, energy and communications networks,” said Bruce Blair, co-founder of the anti-nuclear-weapons group Global Zero. “It makes nuclear war more likely, not less.” The new nuclear policy has alarmed arms control experts around the globe and been openly criticized by Iran, Russia and China.