UK sells its nuclear weapons stake to U.S. company

In a hush-hush deal, the British government just sold its last shares in the country's nuclear weapons plant to a U.S. company. California-based Jacobs Engineering Group paid an undisclosed amount for the government's one-third stake in the only plant in the UK that manufactures nuclear weapons, including Trident warheads. Lockheed Martin owns another third of the plant, and a British business services company the remaining third.

The sale wasn't announced to Parliament, leaving some MPs to speculate that the government sold the plant at below market rates to get some much-needed funds for the Treasury. Critically, it means that all production, design, and decommissioning of nuclear weapons in the UK is privately owned, with U.S. companies having a majority stake.

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The shameful U.S. gay rights vote

As Becky wrote, the fact that Obama picked Rick Warren, America's most popular preacher, to speak at his innauguration shouldn't be all that surprising and probably doesn't say much about his stance on any issues. That said, the anger of gay rights groups at the pick means that Obama is now under more pressure to actually do something meaningful for gay rights as president. One place he could start would be reversing the United States' deplorable decision last week to vote against a historic UN resolution to decriminalize homosexuality.

The resolution was a non-binding declaration "to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention." The Bush administration opposed the measure on the grounds that it could overturn states' decisions on issues like gay marriage. One wonders if they need a refresher on what "non-binding" means.

Joining the United States in opposition were Russia, China, the Vatican, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The latter group claimed that the resolution would lead to the legalization of pedophilia and also tried last week to have sexual orientation removed from a list of unacceptable reasons for summary execution.

The resolution doesn't have the force of law anywhere, but as UN Dispatch's Mark Leon Goldberg writes, previous agreements on women's rights show that "in the long run these kinds of resolutions do help to foster the genesis of new legal norms and new human rights."

If Obama wants to do something to assure his gay and lesbian supporters that he doesn't plan to sell them out, this is an easy one.

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