Army veterans return to Standing Rock to form a human shield against police

A growing group of military veterans are willing to set their bodies between Native American activists and the police trying to remove them

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The Counted: people killed by police in the United States interactive

The Guardian has been counting the people killed by US enforcement agencies since 2015. Read their tales and contribute to our ongoing, crowdsourced project

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It was the Democrats’ embrace of neoliberalism that won it for Trump | Naomi Klein

People have lost their sense of security, status and even identity. Trumps victory is the scream of an America desperate for radical change

They will blame James Comey and the FBI. They will blame voter suppression and racism. They will blame Bernie or bust and misogyny. They will blame third parties and independent nominees. They will blame the corporate media for dedicating him the platform, social media for being a bullhorn, and WikiLeaks for airing the laundry.

But this leaves out the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves wide awake: neoliberalism. That worldview fully represented by Hillary Clinton and her machine is no match for Trump-style extremism. The decision to run one against the other is what sealed our fate. If we learn nothing else, can we please learn from that mistake?

Here is what we need to understand: a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living criteria have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. They have lost pensions. They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening. They ensure a future for their children even worse than their precarious present.

At the same time, they have witnessed the rise of the Davos class, a hyper-connected network of banking and tech billionaires, elected leaders who are awfully cosy with those interests, and Hollywood celebrities who construct the whole thing seem unbearably glamorous. Success is a party to which they were not invited, and they know in their hearts that this rising wealth and power is somehow directly connected to their grow debts and powerlessness.

For the people who saw security and status as their birthright and that means white humen most of all these losses are unbearable.

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Donald Trump speaks directly to that ache. The Brexit campaign spoke to that ache. So do all of the rising far-right parties in Europe. They answer it with nostalgic nationalism and indignation at remote economic bureaucracies whether Washington, the North American free trade agreement the World Trade Organisation or the EU. And of course, they answer it by bashing migrants and people of colour, vilifying Muslims, and degrading females. Elite neoliberalism has nothing to offer that pain, because neoliberalism unleashed the Davos class. People such as Hillary and Bill Clinton are the toast of the Davos party. In truth, they hurled the party.

Trumps message was: All is hell. Clinton answered: All is well. But its not well far from it.

Neo-fascist responses to rampant insecurity and inequality are not going to go away. But what we know from the 1930 s is that what it takes to do battle with fascism is a real left. A good chunk of Trumps support could be peeled away if there were a genuine redistributive agenda on the table. An agenda to take on the billionaire class with more than rhetoric, and use the money for a green new deal. Such a plan could create a tidal wave of well-paying unionised chores, bringing seriously needed resources and opportunities to communities of colour, and insist that polluters should pay for workers to be retrained and fully included in this future.

It could way public policies that fight institutionalised racism, economic inequality and climate change at the same time. It could take on bad trade bargains and police violence, and honour indigenous people as the original defenders of the land, water and air.

How the 2016 US election night unfolded

People have a right to be angry, and a powerful, intersectional left agenda can direct that anger where it belongs, while fighting for holistic answers that will bring a frayed society together.

Such a coalition is possible. In Canada, we have begun to cobble it together under the banner of a people agenda called The Leap Manifesto, endorsed by more than 220 organisations from Greenpeace Canada to Black Lives Matter Toronto, and some of our largest trade unions.

Bernie Sanders astonishing campaign went a long way towards building this sort of alliance, and demonstrated that the craving for democratic socialism is out there. But early on, there was a failing in the campaign to connect with older black and Latino voters who are the demographic most abused by our current economic model. That failure prevented the campaign from reaching its full potential. Those mistakes can be corrected and a bold, transformative coalition is there to be built on.

That is the task ahead. The Democratic party needs to be either decisively wrested from pro-corporate neoliberals, or it needs to be abandoned. From Elizabeth Warren to Nina Turner, to the Occupy graduates who took the Bernie campaign supernova, there is a stronger field of coalition-inspiring progressive leaders out there than at any point in my lifetime. We are leaderful, as many in the Movement for Black Lives say.

So lets get out of shock as fast as we can and construct the kind of revolutionary motion that has a genuine answer to the dislike and dread represented by the Trumps of this world. Lets set aside whatever is keeping us apart and start right now.

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Detained by US immigration: ‘In that moment I loathed America’ | Mem Fox

Exclusive: The celebrated Australian children writer tells how on her 117 th visit to the US she was suddenly at the mercy of Donald Trumps visa regime

I was pulled out of line in the immigration queue at Los Angeles airport as I came in to the USA. Not because I was Mem Fox the writer nobody knew that I was just a normal person like anybody else. They thought I was working in the Countries and that I had come in on the incorrect visa.

I was receiving an honorarium for delivering an opening keynote at a literacy conference, and because my expenses were being paid, they said: You need to answer further questions. So I was taken into this holding room with about 20 other people and maintained there for an hour and 40 minutes, and for 15 minutes I was interrogated.

The room was like a waiting room in a hospital but a bit more grim than that. There was a notice on the wall that was far too small, telling no cellphones let, and anybody who did use a cellphone had person stand in front of them and yell: Dont use that telephone! Everything was hollered, and everything was public, and this was the most awful thing, I heard things happening in that room happening to other people that built me ashamed to be human.

There was an Iranian woman in a wheelchair, she was about 80, wearing a little mauve cardigan, and they were hollering at her Arabic? Arabic ?. They called at her ARABIC? at the top of their voices, and finally she intuited what they wanted and I heard her tell Farsi. And I thought heaven be used to help, shes Iranian, whats going to happen?

There was a woman from Taiwan, being hollered at about at about how she made her fund, but she didnt understand the issues to. The policeman was yelling at her: Where does your fund come from, does it grow on trees? Does it fall from the sky? It was awful.

There was no toilet , no water, and there was this woman with a baby. If I had been holed up in that room with a pocket on my chest, and a newborn crying, or needing to be fed, oh God the agony I was surrounded by in that room was like a razor blade across my heart.

When I was called to be interviewed I was rereading a novel from 40 years ago thank God I had a novel. It was The Red and the Black by Stendhal a 19 th century novel maintains you quiet on a long flight, and is great in a crisis and I was buried in it and didnt hear my name called. And a woman in front of me told: They are calling for Fox. I didnt know which booth to be done in order to, then suddenly there was a man in front of me, heaving with weaponry, standing with his legs apart yelling: No , not there, here! I apologised politely and told Id been buried in my book and he said: What do you expect me to do, stand here while you finish it? very loudly and with shocking insolence.

The way I was interviewed was monstrous. If only they had been able to look into my suitcase and consider my volumes. The irony! I had a transcript of my new volume Im Australian, Too its about immigration and welcoming people to live in a happy country. I am all about inclusivity, humanity and the oneness of the humans of the world; its the theme of my life. I also had a transcript of my book Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. I told him I had all these all-inclusive volumes of mine in my container, and he yelled at me: I can read!

He was less than half my age I dont seem 70 but I dont appear 60 either, Im an older woman and I was standing the whole time. The belligerence and violence of it was really frightening. I had to hold the heel of my helping hand to my heart to stop it beating so hard.

They were not apologetic at any point. When they discovered that one of Australias official gifts to Prince George was Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, he held out his hand and told: Its been a pleasure to meet you, Ms Fox. I was close to collapse, very close to fainting, and this nearly transgressed me it was the creepiest thing of all.

I had been upright, dignified, cool and polite, and this was so cruelly unexpected, so appalling, that he should say it was a pleasure. It couldnt have been a pleasure for him to treat me like that, unless he was a psychopath.

In that moment I loathed America. I loathed the entire country. And it was my 117 th visit to the country so I know that most people are very generous and warm-hearted. They have been wonderful to me over the years. I get over that hatred within a day or two. But this is not the way to win friends, to do this to someone who is Australian when we have supported them in every damn war. Its absolutely outrageous.

Later in the hotel room I was shaking like a foliage. I rang my friend, my American editor and bellowed and bawled, and she told me to write it all down, and I wrote for two hours. I fell asleep believing I would sleep for eight hours but I woke up an hour and a half subsequently just sobbing. I had been sobbing in my sleep. It was very traumatic.

After I got back to Australia I had an apology from the American embassy. I was very impressed, they were very comforting, and Ive had so many messages of support from Americans and American authors.

I am a human being, so I do understand that these people might not be well-trained, but they now have carte blanche to be as horrible and belligerent as they want. Theyve gone mad theyve got all the power that they want but they dont have the training.

They built me feel like such a crushed, mashed, hopeless old lady and I am a feisty, strong, articulated English speaker. I kept thinking that if this were happening to me, a person who is white, articulated, trained and fluent in English, what on ground is happening to people who dont have my power?

Thats the heartbreak of it. Remember, I wasnt pulled out because Im some kind of revolutionary activist, but my God, I am now. I am on the frontline. If we dont stand up and scream, good sense and good will not predominate, and my voice will be one of the loudest.

Thats what it has taught me. I thought I was an activist before, but this has turned me into a revolutionary. Im not letting it happen here. Instead of weeping and being sad and sitting on a couch, I am going to write to politicians. I am going to call. I am going to write to newspapers. I am going to get on the radio. I will not be quiet. No more passive behaviour. Hear me roar.

As tell to Lucy Clark

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1,000 mass shootings in 1,260 days: this is what America’s gun crisis looks like

Data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive via the crowd-sourced websiteShootingTracker.com reveals a shocking human toll

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Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts, study finds

Religious belief appears to have negative influence on childrens altruism and judgments of others actions even as mothers insure them as more empathetic

Children from religion households are less kind and more punitive than those from non-religious households, according to a new study.

Academics from seven universities across the world examined Christian, Muslim and non-religious infants to test the relationship between religion and morality.

They found that religious belief is a negative influence on childrens altruism.

Overall, our findings … contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others, said the authors of The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Childrens Altruism Across the World, published the coming week in Current Biology.

More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral developing, supporting the idea that secularisation of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness in fact, it will do just the opposite.

Almost 1,200 infants, aged between five and 12, in the US, Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey and South Africa participated in the study. Almost 24% were Christian, 43% Muslim, and 27.6% non-religious. The number of Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic and other children were too small to be statistically valid.

They were asked to choose stickers and then told there were not enough to go round for all children in their school, to see if they would share. They were also indicated cinema of children pushing and bumping each other to gauge their responses.

The findings robustly demonstrate that children from households identifying as either of the two major world religions( Christianity and Islam) were less altruistic than children from non-religious households.

Older infants, usually those with a longer exposure to religion, exhibit[ ed] the greatest negative relations.

The study also found that religiosity affects childrens punitive propensities. Children from religious households often appear to be more judgmental of others actions, it said.

Muslim infants judged interpersonal damage as more mean than children around Christian families, with non-religious children the least judgmental. Muslim children demanded harsher penalty than those from Christian or non-religious homes.

At the same time, research reports said that religious mothers were more likely than others to consider their children to be more empathetic and more sensitive to the plight of others.

The report pointed out that 5.8 billion humans, representing 84% of the worldwide population, identify as religious. While it is generally accepted that religion contours peoples moral judgments and pro-social behaviour, the relation between religion and morality is a contentious one, it said.

The report was a welcome antidote to the presumption that religion is a prerequisite of morality, said Keith Porteus Wood of the UK National Secular Society.

It would be interesting to see farther research in this area, but we hope this runs some style to undoing the idea that religion ethics are innately superior to the secular outlook. We suspect that people of all faiths and none share similar ethical principles in their day to day lives, albeit may convey them differently depending on their worldview.

According to the respected Pew Research Center, which examines attitudes of and practises of religion, most people around the world think it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. In the US, 53% of adults think that faith in God is necessary to morality, a figure which rose to seven members of 10 adults in the Countries of the middle east and three-quarters of adults in six African countries surveyed by Pew.

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Four more journalists get felony charges after covering inauguration unrest

A documentary producer, a photojournalist, a live-streamer and a freelance reporter facing up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted

Four more journalists have been charged with misdemeanours after being arrested while encompassing the unrest around Donald Trumps inauguration, means that at least six media workers are facing up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted.

Matt
Matt Hopard. Photo: Handout

A documentary producer, a photojournalist, a live-streamer and a freelance reporter were each charged with the most serious level of offense under Washington DCs law against rioting, after being caught up in the police action against demonstrators.

The Guardian learned of their arrests after reporting on Monday that the journalists Evan Engel of Vocativ and Alex Rubinstein of RT America had also been arrested and charged with felonies while covering the same unrest on Friday morning.

All six others were arraigned in superior court on Saturday and released to await farther hearings in February and March, according to court filings. The Committee to Protect Journalists( CPJ) told late on Tuesday that charges against journalists who were covering the protests should be dropped.

These charges are clearly inappropriate, and we are concerned that they could send a chilling message to journalists covering future protests, said Carlos Laura, the CPJs senior Americas program coordinator. We call on authorities in Washington to drop these charges immediately.

Jack Keller, a producer for the web documentary series Story of America, said he was charged and detained for about 36 hours after being kettled by police at 12 th and L streets on Friday morning and arrested despite telling officers that he was encompassing the demoes as a journalist.

The way we were treated was an absolute travesty, said Keller, whose cellphone has been kept by the authorities. Kellers editor, Annabel Park, told: It is a maddening and frustrating situation. These are people who were there observe and documenting.

Matt Hopard, an independent journalist who was live-streaming the Friday protests, was arrested at the same site as Keller, Engel and Rubinstein, according to metropolitan police records. He said in a message that he denied the charge against him.

Journalist records inauguration protest moments before arrest

Also apprehended while encompassing the demoes at 12 th and L streets and later charged were Shay Horse, an independent photojournalist and activist, and Aaron Cant, a freelance journalist and activist, who has written for outlets including the Baffler, the Washington Spectator and the New Inquiry. Both deny wrongdoing.

In all, more than 200 people were arrested on Friday, after property was vandalized in the US capital in the hours around Trumps swearing-in as chairperson. Police said that six officers suffered minor injuries.

The National Lawyers Guild accused Washington DCs metropolitan police department of having indiscriminately targeted people for arrest en masse based on locating alone and said they unlawfully used teargas and other weapons.

These illegal acts are clearly designed to chill the speech of protesters engaging in First Amendment activity, Maggie Ellinger-Locke, of the guilds DC branch, said in a statement.

None of the arrest reports for the six journalists makes any specific accusations about what any of them are supposed to have done wrong. Kellers report, which also covers the arrests of an unknown number of unidentified other people, includes a note that a police vehicle was vandalized. I had absolutely nothing to do with the vandalism, told Keller.

Shay
Shay Horse. Photograph: Handout

Reports on the arrests of five of the six journalists contain identical language alleging that numerous crimes were occurring in police presence. They state that windows were violated, flames were lit and vehicles were damaged. The crowd was observed tempting a riot by organizing, promoting, fostering and participating in acts of violence in furtherance of the riot, the police reports said.

The US lawyers office for Washington DC, which is prosecuting those arrested, declined to comment on the journalists particular case but said it was continuing to review evidence from the day with the police.

Based on the facts and circumstances, we determined that probable cause existed to support the filing of felony rioting charges, William Miller, a spokesman for the office, said in a statement. As in all of our examples, we are always willing to consider additional information that people bring forward.

Preliminary hearings for Cant, Hopard, Horse, and Keller were defined for mid-March. Hearings for Engel and Rubinstein were scheduled for mid-February.

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This is the most dangerous time for our planet | Stephen Hawking

We cant go on ignoring inequality, because we have the means to destroy our world but not to escape it

As a theoretical physicist are stationed in Cambridge, I have lived my life in an extraordinarily privileged bubble. Cambridge is an unusual town, centred around one of the worlds great universities. Within that town, the scientific community that I became part of in my 20 s is even more rarefied.

And within that scientific community, the smaller group of international theoretical physicists with whom I have spent my working life might sometimes be seduced to regard themselves as the spire. In addition to this, with the celebrity that has come with my volumes, and the isolation imposed by my illness, I feel as though my ivory tower is get taller.

So the recent apparent rejection of the elites in both America and Britain is surely is targeted at me, as much as anyone. Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European union and by the American public to embracing Donald Trump as their next chairman, there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a sob of indignation by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.

It was, everyone seems to agree, the moment when the forgotten speak, procuring their voices to reject the advice and guidance of experts and the elite everywhere.

I am no exception to this rule. I warned before the Brexit vote that it would damage scientific research in Britain, that a election to leave would be a step backward, and the electorate or at least a sufficiently significant proportion of it took no more notice of me than any of the other political leaders, trade unionists, artists, scientists, businessmen and celebrities who all gave the same unheeded advice to the rest of the country.

What matters now, far more than the choices made by these two electorates, is how the elites react. Should we, in turn, reject these referendums as outpourings of crude populism that fail to be given to the fact, and attempt to circumvent or circumscribe the choices that they represent? I would argue that this would be a terrible mistake.

The concerns underlying these referendums about the economic consequences of globalisation and accelerating technological change are utterly understandable. The automation of mills has already decimated employment opportunities in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job demolition deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.

This in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world. The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous earnings while hiring very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive.

We need to put this alongside the financial crash, which brought home to people that a very few someones working in the financial sector can accrue huge rewards and that the rest of us underwrite that success and pick up the bill when their avarice leads us astray. So taken together “were living in” a world of widening , not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their the living standards, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent.

A
In sub-Saharan Africa there are more people with a telephone than access to clean water. Photo: Andy Hall for the Observer

It is also the example that another unintended outcome of the global spread of the internet and social media is that the stark nature of these inequalities is far more apparent than it has been in the past. For me, the ability to use technology to communicate has been a liberating and positive experience. Without it, I would not have been able to continue working these many years past.

But it also means that the lives of the richest people in the most prosperous parts of the world are agonisingly visible to anyone, however poor, who has access to a phone. And since there are now more people with a telephone than access to clean water in sub-Saharan Africa, this will shortly entails nearly everyone on our increasingly mobbed planet will be unable to escape the inequality.

The consequences of this are plain to see: the rural poor flock to cities, to shanty towns, driven by hope. And then often, detecting that the Instagram nirvana was not possible there, they seek it overseas, joining the ever greater numbers of economic migrants in search of a better life. These migrants in turn place new demands on the infrastructures and economies of the countries in which they arrive, undermining tolerance and further fuelling political populism.

For me, the really concerning facet of this is that now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic illnes, acidification of the oceans.

Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy countries around the world on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it. Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.

To do that, we need to break down , not build up, roadblocks within and between nations. If we are to stand a chance of doing that, the worlds leaders need to acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many. With resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, we are going to have to learn to share far more than at present.

With not only chores but entire industries disappearing, we must help people to retrain for a new world and support them financially while they do so. If communities and economies cannot cope with current levels of migration, we must do more to promote global growth, as that is the only way that the migratory millions will be persuaded to seek their own future at home.

We can do this, I am an enormous optimist for my species; but it will require the elites, from London to Harvard, from Cambridge to Hollywood, to learn the lessons of the past year. To learn above all a measure of humility.

The novelist launched www.unlimited.world earlier this year

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Trump’s state visit to Britain put on hold

US president told Theresa May he did not want trip to go ahead if there were large-scale public protests

Donald Trump has told Theresa May in a phone call he does not want to go ahead with a state visit to Britain until the British public supports him coming.

The US president said he did not want to come if there were large-scale protests and his remarks in effect put the visit on hold for some time.

The call was induced in recent weeks, according to a Downing Street adviser who was in the room. The statement astonished May, according to those present.

The conversation in part explains why there has been little public discussion about a visit.

May invited Trump to Britain seven days after his inauguration when she became the first foreign leader to visit him in the White House. She told a joint press conference she had extended an invitation from the Queen to Trump and his wife Melania to make a nation visit afterward in the year and was delighted that the president has accepted that invitation.

Many senior envoys, including Lord Ricketts, the former national security consultant, said the invitation was premature, but impossible to rescind once made.

Trump has named Woody Johnson, a Republican donor and proprietor of the New York Jets, as the new diplomat to the UK but has yet to nominate him formally. A large groups of US ambassadorial postures remain unfilled worldwide largely due to the Trump team failing to make any formal nominations.

The acting US ambassador to the UK, Lewis Lukens, a career envoy, clashed with Trump last week by praising Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, for his strong leadership over the London Bridge and Borough Market terror attack.

His statements came just days after Trump criticised Khan for his response to the attack, misquoting the mayors message to Londoners not to be alarmed by the increased presence of armed police.

Khans office pointed out Trumps error afterward but the president responded by accusing Londons mayor of making a pathetic excuse. Khan then called on the UK government to cancel Trumps invitation. No date had been fixed for the visit.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said on Twitter that Trumps decision was welcome, especially after his attack on Londons mayor& withdrawal from #ParisClimateDeal.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said it would not comment. We arent going to comment on supposition about the contents of private phone conversations. The Queen extended an invitation to President Trump to visit the UK and there is no change to those schemes.

The White House said in statement: The President has tremendous respect for Prime Minister May. That subject never came up on the call.

Jenna Johnson, a Washington Post reporter tweeted to say that the White House press secretary had told her the Protector report was false but added that the White House wont said today Trump plans to go to the UK.

Later, The New York Times, quoting two unnamed administration officials, reported that Trump was considering scrapping or postponing the trip. The officers stressed that he might yet warm to the idea but that maintaining it off the schedule was the best approach.

The UKs traditional effort to act as a bridge between the US and Europe has become more complex since the vote last year to leave the European Union and Trumps support for policies that have angered European allies.

The Foreign Office was disappointed when against its pleading Trump went ahead earlier this month with his plan to pull the US out of the Paris climate accord. The UK had lobbied hard for Trump not to take government decisions, which has led to a wider breach between the EU and the US.

Trump had been an advocate of Brexit, and at one point seemed to want the EU to break up, but confidence has since returned to the bloc with pro-European Emmanuel Macrons victory over far-right Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election.

Additional reporting by Ben Jacobs .

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Japan fears the once distant threat of North Korean missiles is becoming real | Justin McCurry

As the Kim v Trump war of words intensifies, towns across Japan are preparing for what, until recently, felt like a faraway nuisance

As sirens pierce the air in Sakata, a town on Japans north-west coast, primary school children rush from the playground to the safety of the gymnasium. Other residents crouch behind walls or lie down in rice fields, while the public address system urges them to take cover.

More accustomed to the dangers of earthquakes and tsunami, Japans people are now having to address a new, manmade threat: Northern korean missiles.

In a civil defence drive that has echoes of preparations for US bombing raids during the second world war, Sakata and dozens of other towns across Japan are preparing themselves for what, until recently, represented a remote nuisance that most Japanese considered with insouciance.

Q& A

What are North Korea’s nuclear abilities?

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Q&A

North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests since 2006, so it unquestionably has the capacity to create some form of nuclear bomb.

To function effectively, however, the bomb needs to be small enough to fit on to a missile. Some experts believe the North has already “miniaturised” its nuclear capability, while others believe the regime is still several years away from being able to do so. Japan’s defence ministry alerted on 8 August that it was possible that Pyongyang had mastered miniaturisation.

North Korea would also need a dependable delivery system for any bomb. Its proved short- and medium-range weapons could reach South Korea and Japan. In July it test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missile, placing US cities in range of potential assault, according to US experts.

Thank you for your feedback.

But at the end of a week that featured warns from Donald Trump to counter Northern korean provocations with fire and frenzy and Pyongyangs detailed plans to create an enveloping fire around the US Pacific territory of Guam Japan has reason to be concerned.

All 14 of the missiles North Korea has launched this year were aimed towards Japans coast, including two intercontinental ballistic missile tested last month. Few here have forgotten that in 1998, a North Korean long-range weapon overflew Japanese province before splashing into the Pacific.

A missile fired immediately at Japan would give people less than 10 minutes to attempt shelter, according to experts.

Pyongyang told four Hwasong-1 2 intermediate-range ballistic missiles would pass over three Japanese prefectures, including Hiroshima, on their way to targets 30 -4 0km off Guam.

In response, Japans defense pastor, Itsunori Onodera, has warned that Japan is within its constitutional rights to shoot down the missiles since, by his reckoning, they represented a threat to Japans existence as a nation.

In an unusual move that will not have escaped Pyongyangs attention, Japans defense ministry on Saturday ordered the deployment of missile defense systems in four regions along the missiles probable flight path.

To emphasise the sense of readiness, local media carried photographs of PAC-3 interceptor batteries being positioned in the grounds of the defence ministry in central Tokyo.

Onodera quotes controversial legislation enacted last year that devotes Japan, under certain conditions, the right to exert collective self-defence or come to the military aid of an ally under assault most likely the US.

Some experts, and Japanese opposition MPs, claim the unveiling of missile-defence hardware is purely symbolic, given the myriad technological challenges posed by intercepting a missile flying at high altitudes in the direction of a territory more than 1,500 miles away.

If the four planned weapon launches pass across Shimane[ a prefecture in western Japan] and Okinawa, its hard to see Japan having the capability with its existing facilities to intercept the missiles, told John Nilsson-Wright, senior research fellow for north-east Asia at Chatham House. I would be surprised if Japan is ready or equipped independently to do this.

The brinkmanship between North Korea and the US escalated after Japans defence ministry said in a white paper published last week that North Koreas nuclear weapon had reached a new stage, adding that it was possible the regime had acquired the ability to miniaturise nuclear weapons. Hours afterwards, US media reported that officials in Washington had reached the same conclusion.

Japans conservative “ministers “, Shinzo Abe, the first foreign leader to meet Trump after his November election victory, has refrained from joining countries such as Germany, China and Russia in criticising the USs intemperate statements.

In one sense, heightened tensions between Pyongyang and Washington are strengthening Abes case for a more robust military, although his plans to rewrite the countrys pacifist constitution have been all but sunk by a spate of scandals.

Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University in Tokyo, told: In the spirit of not wasting a crisis, Team Abe is making a example for beefing up Japans abilities at a time when the public has been exposed to an unending escalation of rhetorical jousting between Trump and Kim.

Kingston believes the war of words resounds ominously in Japan, which has just celebrated the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 72 years ago.

While Americans mull, with growing malaise, the working day when experts confirm North Koreas ability to send a nuclear warhead across the Pacific and back into the atmosphere in the direction of a US city, Japanese citizens, and locally based US forces-out, know that they are already theoretically within the regimes nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

The announced flight path of the missiles targeting Guam, even naming specific prefectures( counties) in Japan over which they will pass has raised the national blood pressure, Kingston said.

During visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki last week, Abe repeated Japans support for a global prohibit on nuclear weapons, even as it boycotted a UN conference discussing precisely that.

But sabre-rattling by North Korea, be included with concern over Chinese military activity in the East and South China oceans, has sparked a fledgling debate on a longstanding political taboo an independent Japanese nuclear deterrent.

Half a year ago, I would have said not a chance, told Nilsson-Wright. The nuclear allergy has simply been too strong to allow Japan to seriously consider opening the door to nuclear armament.

But, he added, weakened confidence in the USs ability, or desire, to defend Japan, coupled with growing support for a nuclear discouraging among South Korean voters, might, just possibly, persuaded Japan to start thinking the unthinkable. But were still a long way off from such a scenario.

While no senior legislator in Tokyo has seriously suggested acquiring a nuclear deterrent, the coming weeks will bolster those, including Onodera, who argue for a looser interpreting of the postwar constitutional constraints on Japans military, which limit it to a strictly defensive role.

Top of Onoderas wish list is acquiring the ability to launching a preemptive strike at Northern korean missiles on the ground if it believed an attack was imminent. That would mark an abandonment of a decades-old consensus that it can only destroy weapons targeting Japan itself.

As Tokyo and other big cities emptied out this weekend for the O-bon holidays, held to honour ancestors, many Japanese were casting a wary eye not only at Pyongyang, but also at the US and closer to home.

North Korea is seen as dangerous, told Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo. But in trying to exploit anxieties over North Korea, Abe, like Trump, is also seen as adding to the danger.

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