Government Launch Noise Maps to Monitor Urban Areas

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The government has released a series of maps for 23 UK cities and towns showing urban noise levels. Residents will be able to interactively access the maps via a government website

At the time of launch this morning the site collapsed due to unprecedented demand.

Users can search for their town by postcode, and will then be able to monitor noise levels in cities including London and Manchester. Other areas included in the project are Blackpool, Brighton, Coventry, Hull, Leicester, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Teesside, Tyneside and West Yorkshire.

The project is aimed at monitoring noise levels caused by factories, planes and cars and signals the most thorough attempt by the government to tackle the problem of noise pollution, a problem linked to serious illness and educational difficulties.

The maps will only monitor ambient noise and won’t include noise pollution form sources such as noisy neighbours.

The project was set up to meet an EU directive between the department of transport, the highways agency, network rail and the environment agency. It will aim to help cut noise in the worst effected areas of the country, covering 50,000 miles of roads, 3,000 miles of railway as well as industrial site and airports.

“They will provide a springboard to go forward and tackle unnecessary and unreasonable noise pollution,” – environment minister Jonathan Shaw.

The maps will be used to draw action plans on where best to tackle noise pollution across the UK which could include the provision and protection of quiet zones. Where roads are concerned quieter surfacing materials on new motorways and trunk roads might be suggested, as well as noise barriers at a number of locations where traffic noise has been considered problem.

“Factors like transport and industry are a necessary part of modern life. But we need to look at what further practical steps we can take to make people’s lives more tranquil.” -environment minister Jonathan Shaw.

Back in February of this year the a European Commission funded study of those living around airport concluded that the noise from plane engines instantly raised blood pressure which can in turn lead to a stoke, heart failure, heart attack and kidney failure.

IRGC Sanctions and UN Approval

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Following on from Tuesday’s post exploring the sanctions currently imposed on Iran’s revolutionary Guards Corps and the message they are intended to send, The Shelf examines whether that message is correctly being conveyed and the stance the international community it taking on the matter. First we take a closer look at the IRGC.

Iran’s revolutionary Guards Corps were established in 1979 in order to protect the country’s Islamic system. An extremely loyal group, they were also seen to act as a counterweight for the regular armed forces, and currently the IRGC is a major military, political and economic force within Iran. By focusing on the IRGC it was hoped the US could single headedly strangle Iran’s economy, and isolate much of the countries economic infrastructure from the rest of the world.

The IRGC is in fact 125,000 strong, has its own naval and air force units, and is responsible for overseeing Iran’s strategic weapons. The IRGC also has a heavy political influence with dozens of ex-guards as MPs in Iran’s government, and president Ahmadinejad is himself a former member. Furthermore by adding the IRGC to the Americas list of terror, the IRGC have become the first part of a sovereign country’s military to be categorised as a supporter of terror.

At a first glance the IRGC looks a little more than a terror group? Washington however thinks differently, and some critics have suggested that by adding the IRGC to Americas list of terror the US is risking her international credibility. As a result is seems whilst American sanctions remian in place there are plenty other countries at this point willing to trade with Iran in place of the US. America has quickly come to realise that for a course of economic sanctions to have the desired effect on the IRGC, she needs the backing of the international community.

In the case of Iran and the IRGC, even if America got international backing through EU approval and China and Russia do not veto any UN sanctions resolution, no resolution will be effective unless Russia, China and the EU choose to enforce those sanctions fully as a collective force. For that to happen sanction objectives must be widely shared both by Iran’s neighbours and trading partners.

So where does the UN stand in regard to UN backed sanctions on Iran?

Although the UN atomic watchdog has recently stated that it was unable to confirm Iran’s nuclear intentions were entirely peaceful, it refuses to use the threat of sanctions deeming them as counterproductive at this point in time.

China too has already expressed its concerns about any UN backed sanctions on Iran and prefers the route of increased dialogue. Russia has taken a similar stance to china, even offering to act as a go between by enriching Iranian nuclear fuel for civilian use within Russia.

It seems that although the US is increasing pressure on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran, currently member states are not shifting from the view that increased dialogue is the preferred course of action.

In the past UN backed sanctions have been imposed upon governments that have violated international law with such actions as invading another countries territory. In this instance it seems claims regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions alone may not be enough to get the UN’s backing, especially being that India and Pakistan got away with the same thing with apparent US blessing. It also comes at a time when the credibility of US intelligence agencies are still recovering from inaccurate reports in the run up to the Iraq II war.

If Iran were to test a nuclear bomb then the stakes may change, and although the common goal of preventing Iran going nuclear is shared, it seems the UN sees Iran’s increased cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency as enough for now (or until November 30th at least).

It seems very much a possibly that if America cannot achieve her goals through economic sanctions which would require UN support, that George Bush is not willing to leave office without a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. This opens the gate for a strike on Iran as early as 2008, in the event of which Iran has promised to retaliate, resulting in a new conflict zone in the Middle East.

Sanctions on Iran : A Political Message

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Recently an increasing number of news articles have been focusing around the evolving stance of the US against Iran. With American sanctions already in place, the US is now increasingly seeking international backing against what she considers a growing threat. But what success are existing US sanctions on Iran having, and what impacts are additional internationally backed sanctions intended to have? The Shelf Investigates.

The sanctions imposed by the US on Iran are in response to the increasingly “threatening behaviour of the Iranians” in regard to a growing nuclear weapons programme. In October this year the US imposed further sanctions to include the IRGC (Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps), a group that is estimated to control around a third of the Iranian economy. By imposing sanctions on the IRGC America hopes to have significant enough impact on the countries economy in the hope of bringing Iran back into line.

As well as concerns over a growing nuclear program the US has raised concerns over Iranian influence in Iraq and Afghanistan, blaming the IRGC directly for training insurgents with the intentions of destabilising these countries and undermining American developments.

Economic sanctions on the Iranians by the Americans are not a new development, a variety of which have been in place since 1979. It was in 2003 however that the US took existing sanctions a step further by reporting Iran to the UN Security Council, subsequently seeking the backing of the international community.

To understand the intended impacts of sanctions we must first look at what different sanctions involve. In a world where dialogue is becoming increasing important in disputes sanctions have become a weapon in themselves, albeit on an economic scale. For the US particularly sanctions have become an important means in dealing with international disputes with nations she deems as rouge states. There are two different sanctions that are used to send varying political messages to opponents, trade sanctions and economic sanctions.

Trade sanctions are intended to eliminate basic privileges that the US grants to preferred trading partners. Trade sanctions are applied to countries who’s activities include closing off their markets or selling arms to hostile regimes. Such actions have in the past been applied by the US to both China and Pakistan, and are intended to bring a countries behaviour into line without alienating them form the international community.

Economic sanctions are a more drastic step and could be seen as the next course of action if the offending country did not pull into line once trade sanctions had been applied. Economic sanctions have the full intention of alienating the country they are imposed upon, and can include trade embargos, bans on cash transfers from US institutions, and additional measures that prevent access to US assets. Economic sanctions are intended to cripple a countries economy and are deemed a step shy of war.

With the clear intention of alienating Iran and strangling her economy economic sanction were placed on Iran by America. By reporting Iran to the UN American has however signalled that she also realises she needs the backing of the international community for any such action to be successful.

Tomorrow The Shelf will look more closely at the IRGC and the current stance of the international community on economic sanctions against them, as well and possible consequences that could lay ahead if American cannot achieve her goal of getting international backing.

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