Trump gives a punchy speech to the United Nations General Assembly

First of all, what is the UN’s General Assembly?

It was established in 1945 under the Charter of the United Nations, and it takes a central position as the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 Members of the United Nations, it provides a unique space for discussions between world nations. It also plays a significant role in the process of standard-setting and the codification of international law. The Assembly has the power to make recommendations to nations on international issues. It has also started actions—political, economic, humanitarian, social and legal—which have affected the lives of millions of people throughout the world. You might learn how the UN works in Religious Studies lessons in Year 9 and Year 11.

Today Donald Trump gave his first speech to the United Nations as US President and it was full of headline grabbing gambits…

He told the UN General Assembly that America would destroy North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies. He openly mocked North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, saying: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission.”

North Korea has been testing nuclear bombs and missiles in defiance of the UN.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had earlier urged statesmanship, saying: “We must not sleepwalk our way into war.” On the photograph below UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is on the left and President Trump on the right:

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The American leader didn’t hold back either by also attacking Iran, saying it was a “corrupt dictatorship” which was intent on destabilising the Middle East. He called on the government in Tehran to cease supporting terrorism and again criticised the Obama-era international agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme, which he called an embarrassment.

With such a bolshy speech by the US President it will be interesting what North Korea, Iran and the USA do next.

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USA urges Security Council of the United Nations to take “the strongest possible measures”

What is the UN Security Council? The Security Council has the main responsibility for the keeping international peace and security. It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote. Under UN rules all Member States are obligated to (as in they have to) comply with Council decisions.

“The time has come to exhaust all diplomatic means before it is too late,” Nikki Haley the US envoy to the United Nations told an emergency meeting of the Security Council in New York today.

North Korea has been in the news for most of this summer. There are reports which suggest that North Korea is preparing new test missile launches. It tested a nuclear bomb underground on Sunday. Estimates of its power range from 50 kilotonnes to 120 kilotonnes. A 50kt device would be about three times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

At the start of Monday’s Security Council meeting the UN Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman said North Korea’s actions were destabilising global security, and he called on Pyongyang to abide by Security Council resolutions.

“The DPRK [North Korea] is the only country that continues to break the norm against nuclear test explosions,” he said.

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The British ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said direct talks with North Korea were only possible if Pyongyang stopped the escalation.

“Dialogue will always be our end goal but returning to dialogue without a serious sign of intent from Pyongyang would be a set-up to failure,” he said. “North Korea must change course to allow a return to dialogue.”

Meanwhile China’s envoy to the UN, Liu Jieyi, reiterated a call for all sides to return to negotiations. “The peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully,” he said. “China will never allow chaos and war on the peninsula.”

People often wonder what type of pressure the United Nations can put on a country not keeping to international law.  Well in the case of North Korea just last month, the Security Council voted unanimously to ban North Korean exports and limit investments in the country. Diplomats are suggesting that the next harsh sanction which could be imposed is an oil embargo that would have a crippling effect. Other serious steps that countries might take through the United Nations are  a ban on the North’s national airline, limits on North Koreans working abroad, and asset freezes and travel bans on officials. All of these things are designed to put pressure on North Korea. Do you think they would work?

Soul of a Nation

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Soul of a Nation a new art exhibition at Tate Modern art gallery in London examines what it meant to be black and an artist during the civil rights movement, from 1963 – when the idea of black power was emerging in the USA – through to 1983. As you arrive in the first room you are met with the audio of Martin Luther King‘s ‘I have a dream’ speech. It is the first time a lot of the art has been in displayed in the UK. For anybody interested in the history of the civil rights movement or how we are striving for racial harmony, then this is an art exhibition not to be missed, Channel 4 agree.

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What makes someone a hero?

You can list all the qualities which make someone a hero: brave, resilient, self-less, kind, thoughtful… Well a news story about 80 people joining together to save a group of swimmers struggling in a rip tide has all the signs of heroic action.

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Derek Simmons who was on the beach in Florida said that he spoke to another guy on the beach when he noticed the swimmers struggling, “Let’s try to get as many people as we can to form a human chain”. He explained that if you know about ants, you know when one’s in trouble they form a chain to help it. His theory was to get enough people to get out there and pull them in and then everybody could finish having a good rest of the evening. More and more people on the beach responded to the cries to join the human chain so that in the end up to 80 people joined together to reach out and save the young kids and their grandma.

As it is nearly the summer holidays and lots of you will be heading  to the beach here are some words of advice on riptides. Firstly learn how to spot a possible riptide:

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It is actually the calm looking water in the middle which is the rip current, as explained below:

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I know that when I have been on holiday in Cornwall that the lifeguards have marked out the safe places to swim with their flags. But if you look just to the left of the swimmers and surfers area that calmer looking water which looks so inviting is actually the dangerous rip. The picture below advises you to escape a rip current by swimming or preferably floating, horizontal from the shore, away from it:

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Muhammad Ali: watch and learn

In today’s lesson where students had to decide who is the biggest hero, Mother Teresa or Muhammad Ali, the latter was a clear winner. Below are some documentaries and films which will provide you with a heaps of information and inspiration from the great man himself.

  • Muhammad Ali – The Whole Story (1996): This is a six hour series which covers the whole of Muhammad Ali’s life.
  • When We Were Kings (1996): I watched this for the first time at University as part of  a film festival and the documentary transfixes you with the heat and passion of boxing. It covers the infamous 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ between Ali and George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. The focus is, naturally enough, the aging Ali, who was thought at the time to have little chance of beating Foreman yet his ‘rope-a-dope’ strategy –pretending to be in more trouble than you actually are, and cunningly wearing your opponent down in the process – proves devastating.
  • Ali (2001): Will Smith who is most famous for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Men in Black stars in this biopic that chronicles ten years in the life of Cassius Clay, from 1964, when he took the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, to 1974 and the Rumble In The Jungle with George Foreman. In between, there are the wider issues of Ali’s controversial opposition to the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector, his conversion to Islam, his banishment from boxing and his initial return against Joe Frazier.
  • The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013): This is an American PBS documentary which focuses on Ali’s life outside the ring. A lot of times is given of course to his refusal of the Vietnam draft and the legal and professional problems it caused him (he faced prison, was stripped of his heavyweight title and had his boxing licence suspended for four years).
  • I am Ali (2013): This documentary is just about Ali as a man. There isn’t the focus on Ali as a boxer like other films or documentaries. It shows him as a warm-hearted family man through lots of  audio recordings Ali himself  in the ‘70s.

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Other short clips about Ali are worth watching to learn more about this hero:

  1. BBC News reporting on his death
  2. Inside Story by Al-Jazeera
  3. Muhammad Ali Obituary by the New York Times
  4. The last US President Obama gives a tribute to Ali 
  5. BBC Sports Personality of the Century

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Drug Policy Alliance in US argues why US Drug Policy All Wrong

In 1997 when US actress Rachael Leigh Cook was a box-office star someone thought it clever to summarise America’s drug problem with a frying pan and an egg. It was a cringeworthy Public Service Advert which a few weeks ago was rehashed as a Public Service Advert for the Drug Policy Alliance, again with actress Rachel Leigh Cook a frying pan and eggs, but pointing out how wrong the US’s current Drug Policy is.

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“It is gratifying and promising to see the evolution in Rachael Leigh Cook and in the American public over these last 20 years,” Tony Newman, director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance. “The war on drugs is a disastrous failure that has ruined millions of peoples’ lives, especially people of color. Let’s hope this ad is seen by as many people as the original and inspires folks to end this unwinnable war.”In the advert Rachel Leigh Cook holds a frying pan and eggs of two different colours to demonstrate the racial disparities in our criminal justice system when it comes to drug crimes.

“The war on drugs is ruining people’s lives,” Cook says. “It fuels mass incarceration, it targets people of color in greater numbers than their white counterparts. It cripples communities. It costs billions and it doesn’t work. Any questions?”

For any Year 11 student revising about drugs for their GCSE RS exam watching the advert is worth 5 minutes of their time. There are often questions on the exam paper about how to punish people who take illegal drugs. Obviously we know how we can refer to religious attitudes (eye for an eye, the Golden Rule, love thy neighbour, forgiveness, situation ethics, Buddhist precept of no drugs or harm, karma, affecting your ability to follow religious teachings) and the aims of punishment (reform, deter, vindication for laws being in place, reparation, protection, retribution) but how drug policy can also affect generations of people and their efforts to get educated and pull themselves out of poverty should also be considered.

Helping you understand Martin Luther King Jnr

If you’d rather watch films to help you learn about Martin Luther King Jnr…

Selma is the 2014 drama by famed director Ava DuVernay which brought perspective to the 1965 marches to Selma in regards to the voting rights movement. The film won critical acclaim for actor David Oyelowo as MLK and the song “Glory” from the soundtrack won a Golden Globe.

Boycott is television film starring Jeffrey Wright as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The film is based on the book Daybreak of Freedom by Stewart Burns and tells the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts.

The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306 is a documentary short film. It was released in 2008 to commemorate the 40th annual remembrance of MLK. It highlights the events of that fateful day when Martin was shot outside of Room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis.

Selma Lord Selma is a 1999 film based on the events of March 1965 known as Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. The story is told through the eyes of 11-year-old Sheyann Webb.

Our Friend, Martin is an animated film about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. Two best friends travel through time and meet MLK at different points during his life. It features an all-star voice cast including John Travolta and was nominated for an Emmy award.

A TV documentary about MLK is only 45 minutes long and shows you how he rose to prominence and then his assassination which shocked the world.

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Whereas if TV and film is not your thing you might listen instead to the numerous radio recordings from the BBC all about Martin Luther King.

Or you could read the powerpoint called  martin-luther-king-learning (checking out the linked videos) and try to complete MLK’s quotes-and-explanation-match-up which will help you understand Christian teachings.