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Brace Yourselves for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

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Brace Yourselves, New Yorkers, You’re Due for a Major Quake

A couple of hundred thousand years ago, an M 7.2 earthquake shook what is now New Hampshire. Just a few thousand years ago, an M 7.5 quake ruptured just off the coast of Massachusetts. And then there’s New York.

Since the first western settlers arrived there, the state has witnessed 200 quakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater, making it the third most seismically active state east of the Mississippi (Tennessee and South Carolina are ranked numbers one and two, respectively). About once a century, New York has also experienced an M 5.0 quake capable of doing real damage.

The most recent one near New York City occurred in August of 1884. Centered off Long Island’s Rockaway Beach, it was felt over 70,000 square miles. It also opened enormous crevices near the Brooklyn reservoir and knocked down chimneys and cracked walls in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Police on the Brooklyn Bridge said it swayed “as if struck by a hurricane” and worried the bridge’s towers would collapse. Meanwhile, residents throughout New York and New Jersey reported sounds that varied from explosions to loud rumblings, sometimes to comic effect. At the funeral of Lewis Ingler, a small group of mourners were watching as the priest began to pray. The quake cracked an enormous mirror behind the casket and knocked off a display of flowers that had been resting on top of it. When it began to shake the casket’s silver handles, the mourners decided the unholy return of Lewis Ingler was more than they could take and began flinging themselves out windows and doors.

Not all stories were so light. Two people died during the quake, both allegedly of fright. Out at sea, the captain of the brig Alice felt a heavy lurch that threw him and his crew, followed by a shaking that lasted nearly a minute. He was certain he had hit a wreck and was taking on water.

A day after the quake, the editors of The New York Times sought to allay readers’ fear. The quake, they said, was an unexpected fluke never to be repeated and not worth anyone’s attention: “History and the researches of scientific men indicate that great seismic disturbances occur only within geographical limits that are now well defined,” they wrote in an editorial. “The northeastern portion of the United States . . . is not within those limits.” The editors then went on to scoff at the histrionics displayed by New York residents when confronted by the quake: “They do not stop to reason or to recall the fact that earthquakes here are harmless phenomena. They only know that the solid earth, to whose immovability they have always turned with confidence when everything else seemed transitory, uncertain, and deceptive, is trembling and in motion, and the tremor ceases long before their disturbed minds become tranquil.”
That’s the kind of thing that drives Columbia’s Heather Savage nuts.

New York, she says, is positively vivisected by faults. Most of them fall into two groups—those running northeast and those running northwest. Combined they create a brittle grid underlying much of Manhattan.

Across town, Charles Merguerian has been studying these faults the old‐fashioned way: by getting down and dirty underground. He’s spent the past forty years sloshing through some of the city’s muckiest places: basements and foundations, sewers and tunnels, sometimes as deep as 750 feet belowground. His tools down there consist primarily of a pair of muck boots, a bright blue hard hat, and a pickax. In public presentations, he claims he is also ably abetted by an assistant hamster named Hammie, who maintains his own website, which includes, among other things, photos of the rodent taking down Godzilla.

That’s just one example why, if you were going to cast a sitcom starring two geophysicists, you’d want Savage and Merguerian to play the leading roles. Merguerian is as eccentric and flamboyant as Savage is earnest and understated. In his press materials, the former promises to arrive at lectures “fully clothed.” Photos of his “lab” depict a dingy porta‐john in an abandoned subway tunnel. He actively maintains an archive of vintage Chinese fireworks labels at least as extensive as his list of publications, and his professional website includes a discography of blues tunes particularly suitable for earthquakes. He calls female science writers “sweetheart” and somehow manages to do so in a way that kind of makes them like it (although they remain nevertheless somewhat embarrassed to admit it).

It’s Merguerian’s boots‐on‐the‐ground approach that has provided much of the information we need to understand just what’s going on underneath Gotham. By his count, Merguerian has walked the entire island of Manhattan: every street, every alley. He’s been in most of the tunnels there, too. His favorite one by far is the newest water tunnel in western Queens. Over the course of 150 days, Merguerian mapped all five miles of it. And that mapping has done much to inform what we know about seismicity in New York.

Most importantly, he says, it provided the first definitive proof of just how many faults really lie below the surface there. And as the city continues to excavate its subterranean limits, Merguerian is committed to following closely behind. It’s a messy business.

Down below the city, Merguerian encounters muck of every flavor and variety. He power‐washes what he can and relies upon a diver’s halogen flashlight and a digital camera with a very, very good flash to make up the difference. And through this process, Merguerian has found thousands of faults, some of which were big enough to alter the course of the Bronx River after the last ice age.
His is a tricky kind of detective work. The center of a fault is primarily pulverized rock. For these New York faults, that gouge was the very first thing to be swept away by passing glaciers. To do his work, then, he’s primarily looking for what geologists call “offsets”—places where the types of rock don’t line up with one another. That kind of irregularity shows signs of movement over time—clear evidence of a fault.

Merguerian has found a lot of them underneath New York City.

These faults, he says, do a lot to explain the geological history of Manhattan and the surrounding area. They were created millions of years ago, when what is now the East Coast was the site of a violent subduction zone not unlike those present now in the Pacific’s Ring of Fire.

Each time that occurred, the land currently known as the Mid‐Atlantic underwent an accordion effect as it was violently folded into itself again and again. The process created immense mountains that have eroded over time and been further scoured by glaciers. What remains is a hodgepodge of geological conditions ranging from solid bedrock to glacial till to brittle rock still bearing the cracks of the collision. And, says Merguerian, any one of them could cause an earthquake.

You don’t have to follow him belowground to find these fractures. Even with all the development in our most built‐up metropolis, evidence of these faults can be found everywhere—from 42nd Street to Greenwich Village. But if you want the starkest example of all, hop the 1 train at Times Square and head uptown to Harlem. Not far from where the Columbia University bus collects people for the trip to the Lamont‐Doherty Earth Observatory, the subway tracks seem to pop out of the ground onto a trestle bridge before dropping back down to earth. That, however, is just an illusion. What actually happens there is that the ground drops out below the train at the site of one of New York’s largest faults. It’s known by geologists in the region as the Manhattanville or 125th Street Fault, and it runs all the way across the top of Central Park and, eventually, underneath Long Island City. Geologists have known about the fault since 1939, when the city undertook a massive subway mapping project, but it wasn’t until recently that they confirmed its potential for a significant quake.

In our lifetimes, a series of small earthquakes have been recorded on the Manhattanville Fault including, most recently, one on October 27, 2001. Its epicenter was located around 55th and 8th—directly beneath the original Original Soupman restaurant, owned by restaurateur Ali Yeganeh, the inspiration for Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. That fact delighted sitcom fans across the country, though few Manhattanites were in any mood to appreciate it.

The October 2001 quake itself was small—about M 2.6—but the effect on residents there was significant. Just six weeks prior, the city had been rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers. The team at Lamont‐Doherty has maintained a seismic network in the region since the ’70s. They registered the collapse of the first tower at M 2.1. Half an hour later, the second tower crumbled with even more force and registered M 2.3. In a city still shocked by that catastrophe, the early‐morning October quake—several times greater than the collapse of either tower—jolted millions of residents awake with both reminders of the tragedy and fear of yet another attack. 9‐1‐1 calls overwhelmed dispatchers and first responders with reports of shaking buildings and questions about safety in the city. For seismologists, though, that little quake was less about foreign threats to our soil and more about the possibility of larger tremors to come.

Remember: The Big Apple has experienced an M 5.0 quake about every hundred years. The last one was that 1884 event. And that, says Merguerian, means the city is overdue. Just how overdue?

“Gee whiz!” He laughs when I pose this question. “That’s the holy grail of seismicity, isn’t it?”

He says all we can do to answer that question is “take the pulse of what’s gone on in recorded history.” To really have an answer, we’d need to have about ten times as much data as we do today. But from what he’s seen, the faults below New York are very much alive.

“These guys are loaded,” he tells me.

He says he is also concerned about new studies of a previously unknown fault zone known as the Ramapo that runs not far from the city. Savage shares his concerns. They both think it’s capable of an M 6.0 quake or even higher—maybe even a 7.0. If and when, though, is really anybody’s guess.

“We literally have no idea what’s happening in our backyard,” says Savage.

What we do know is that these quakes have the potential to do more damage than similar ones out West, mostly because they are occurring on far harder rock capable of propagating waves much farther. And because these quakes occur in places with higher population densities, these eastern events can affect a lot more people. Take the 2011 Virginia quake: Although it was only a moderate one, more Americans felt it than any other one in our nation’s history.

That’s the thing about the East Coast: Its earthquake hazard may be lower than that of the West Coast, but the total effect of any given quake is much higher. Disaster specialists talk about this in terms of risk, and they make sense of it with an equation that multiplies the potential hazard of an event by the cost of damage and the number of people harmed. When you take all of those factors into account, the earthquake risk in New York is much greater than, say, that in Alaska or Hawaii or even a lot of the area around the San Andreas Fault.

Merguerian has been sounding the alarm about earthquake risk in the city since the ’90s. He admits he hasn’t gotten much of a response. He says that when he first proposed the idea of seismic risk in New York City, his fellow scientists “booed and threw vegetables” at him. He volunteered his services to the city’s Office of Emergency Management but says his original offer also fell on deaf ears.

“So I backed away gently and went back to academia.”

Today, he says, the city isn’t much more responsive, but he’s getting a much better response from his peers.

He’s glad for that, he says, but it’s not enough. If anything, the events of 9/11, along with the devastation caused in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy, should tell us just how bad it could be there.

He and Savage agree that what makes the risk most troubling is just how little we know about it. When it comes right down to it, intraplate faults are the least understood. Some scientists think they might be caused by mantle flow deep below the earth’s crust. Others think they might be related to gravitational energy. Still others think quakes occurring there might be caused by the force of the Atlantic ridge as it pushes outward. Then again, it could be because the land is springing back after being compressed thousands of years ago by glaciers (a phenomenon geologists refer to as seismic rebound).

“We just have no consciousness towards earthquakes in the eastern United States,” says Merguerian. “And that’s a big mistake.”

Adapted from Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles, published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Kathryn Miles.

Russia “Buzzes” Its Nukes Past the US

ea735850b7171fa9cd2b795fa37dd7ab1b1936aeRussia flies supersonic nuclear bombers near Alaska coastline

By Karen Graham     Aug 17, 2018

According to the Moscow Times, the TU-160 is capable of carrying six standard cruise missiles and 12 short-range nuclear missiles and can fly at speeds in excess of 2,000 kph (1,243 mph).

The Russian Ministry of Defense said the flight-tactical exercise, which involved 10 planes in total that included the Tu-160 aircraft, Tu-95MS, and IL-78, was conducted under the command of long-range aviation commander Lieutenant-General Sergei Kobylash.

Flying from their home base in Saratov in southwestern Russia, the supersonic bombers flew 6,437 kilometers (4,000 miles) to Anadyr on the Chukotka Peninsula. The bombers practiced striking targets at Komi range before taking off across the Arctic Ocean. The two aircraft crews refueled in mid-air and then returned to their home base.

This may have been the first time TU-160 bombers have flown close to the Alaskan coast, but it is not the first time other Russian bombers have ventured close to Alaska. In May this year, two US Air Force F-22 stealth fighter jets intercepted two Tupolev Tu-95 Russian nuclear-capable bombers that came within 55 miles of Alaska’s west coast.

The TU-160 modernization program

The Tupolev TU-160 was entered into service in 1987 and was the last strategic bomber designed for the Soviet Union. As of 2016, the Russian Air Force, Long Range Aviation branch had at least 16 of the aircraft in service.

Since the early 2000s, the TU-160 has undergone modernization that included upgrades to the plane’s electronics systems. The first updated TU-160 was delivered in 2014. On 16 November 2017, a newly assembled Tu-160M2 (built of an unfinished airframe of Tu-160) was unveiled during the roll-out ceremony at the Kazan Aviation Plant.

According to Dmitri Rogozin, the serial production of completely new airframes for the modernized Tu-160M2 should begin in 2019 with deliveries to the Russian Air Force in 2023.

Murmansk Region  Olenegorsk. The strategic bomber Tu-160. Image taken in 2005.

Murmansk Region, Olenegorsk. The strategic bomber Tu-160. Image taken in 2005.
Presidential Press and Information Office

Russia shows off what it has

While the Moscow Times is saying that Russia has rebooted production of the plane as it steps up military spending and bomber patrols near foreign borders amid regional tensions, it could be said that Russia is also showing the United States it is not to be fooled with, either.

It is interesting to note that the bomber flights announced Thursday come amid escalating tensions between the US and Russia. And the flights come just after a new Pentagon report released on Thursday that details how Beijing is transforming its ground forces to “fight and win.”

Focusing on China’s air power, the report states that Chinese bombers are developing capabilities to hit targets as far from China as possible.

“Over the last three years, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the document states, noting how China is pushing its operations out into the Pacific.

The Sixth Seal: A Stack of Cards (Revelation 6:12)

Experts Warn NYC Could Fall Like ‘House of Cards’ With 5.0 Earthquake

A 3-D rendering of a destroyed NYC. (Pavel Chagochkin/Dreamstime.com)

By Mike Dorstewitz    |   Wednesday, 04 April 2018 06:30 PM

A magnitude-5.0 earthquake in New York City would cause an estimated $39 billion in damage after buildings topple like a “house of cards,” according to the Daily Mail.

And the city is overdue for a quake of that size, seismologists say. The last one was in 1884 and they occur about every 100 years.

An estimated 30 million tons of debris would litter the streets after a 5.0 earthquake in NYC , and anything bigger than that would almost certainly collapse buildings and cause loss of life to the city’s 8.5 million residents.

“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” said Lynn Skyes, lead author of a study by seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the New York Daily News reported. “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”

New York City is riddled with fault lines. The largest runs down 125th Street, extending from New Jersey to the East River. The Dyckman Street Fault runs from Inwood to Morris Heights in the Bronx. The Mosholu Parkway Fault line runs a bit farther north. The East River Fault is an especially long one, running south, skirting Central Park’s west side then heading to the East River when it hits 32nd Street.

New York’s main problem isn’t the magnitude of earthquakes, it’s how the city is built.

“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation wrote on its website.

Iran Prepares for War with Babylon the Great

FILE PHOTO: Iran’s national flags are seen on a square in Tehran February 10, 2012.

REUTERS/MORTEZA NIKOUBAZL

Iran to unveil new fighter jet, develop missiles: minister

Reuters Staff

(Reuters) – Iran will unveil a new fighter jet next week and continue developing missile capabilities as a top priority, the defense minister said on Saturday, defying new U.S. sanctions aimed at curbing Tehran’s missile program and regional influence.

Iran’s navy also announced on Saturday that it has mounted a locally built advanced defensive weapons system on one of its warships for the first time, as tensions mount with the U.S. military in the Gulf.

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in May from a 2015 accord between Iran and world powers that curbed Tehran’s nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief.

Trump said the deal was deeply flawed as it had not curbed Iran’s ballistic missile program or reined in its support for proxies in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Iran has dismissed any direct talks with Washington to resolve the issues raised by Trump.

“Our top priority has been development of our missile program. We are in a good position in this field, but we need to develop it,” Brigadier General Amir Hatami was quoted as saying by Fars news agency on Saturday.

“We will present a plane on National Defense Industry Day, and people will see it fly, and the equipment designed for it,” Hatami added. Iran celebrates National Defense Industry Day on Aug. 22.

“POSSIBLE THREATS”

Iran unveiled in 2013 what it said was a new, domestically built fighter jet, called Qaher 313, but some experts expressed doubts about the viability of the aircraft at the time.

Iran’s functional air force has been limited to perhaps as few as a few dozen strike aircraft, either Russian or ageing U.S. models acquired before the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Saturday that “coastal and sea testing of the short range defense Kamand system were concluded successfully, and said this system was mounted … on a warship and will be mounted on a second ship soon,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said earlier this month it held war games in the Gulf aimed at “confronting possible threats” by enemies.

The U.S. military’s Central Command said it had seen increased Iranian naval activity, extending to the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway for oil shipments the Revolutionary Guards have threatened to block.

Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions and embargoes that have barred it from importing many weapons.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London; Editing by Toby Chopra and Andrew Heavens)

Building the German Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Tornado combat aircraft of the German Air Force on December 2, 2015, in Hamburg, Germany. Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Having Decided It Can’t Rely On America, Germany Debates Acquiring Its Own Nuclear Weapons

By Heather Hurlburt

You can now read in English the article that spoiled many a European summer weekend last month, when eminent German political scientist Christian Hacke opined that Germany should acquire its own nuclear weapon:

Since the U.S. nuclear guarantee has become increasingly doubtful and a common European deterrent does not seem to be forthcoming, only one possible conclusion can be drawn: in a serious crisis the only one Germany can truly rely on is itself.

Well then.

The article drew many responses from European and American thinkers, most offering reasons why Germany could not, or should not, get the bomb:  Such a step would be “strategic suicide,” said one keen observer, and Berlin should focus on strengthening its conventional defenses instead. Germany, already spending far less than what it pledged NATO, has armed forces that are in great disrepair and could not possibly muster the political will to pay for an A-bomb.

The state of their armed forces aside, Germans hate nuclear power so much that their conservative government committed to getting rid of it after the Fukushima reactor disaster in Japan. Nor would they be comfortable repealing or exiting the treaties Germany has signed in which it explicitly forswore nuclear arms.

Neither of those factors discourage German strategic thinkers entirely, though. Many commenters are tempted by the prospect of Germany buying a share, so to speak, of the British or French nuclear forces to create a “European deterrent.” But when the West German government tried this proposal out on France during the heat of the Cold War, Charles de Gaulle responded with a statement that has now become a maxim: nuclear weapons, he said, are “hard to share.”

Americans should be more concerned about two arguments that were not made. First, no one said: Why would Germany need a nuclear weapon? A cynical American might say, as some have, that Germany is at grave risk of being deterred in a crisis by Russian control of its natural gas supply. The threat of nuclear bombs is no help with that.

But let’s say Germany’s recent surges in wind power eventually do solve the Russia gas problem Trump loves to embarrass Berlin with. There’s a bigger strategic shift that Americans may be missing. For the first 25 years after the Cold War, many civilian strategists assumed that the political and environmental costs borne by any European state that used a nuclear weapon in Europe would be so high that no country would ever attempt it. European integration had succeeded, and even if European countries still have spectacular political and economic fights, from a military point of view the continent was dormant. Germany was neutered, Britain self-isolated, France too interested in its global role. And oil markets, political influence, and cyberattacks could get it everything it wanted.

The idea that military might was nearly obsolete in Europe underlay both the decisions of major European powers to stop investing in defense and Washington’s interest in a pivot to Asia. Nothing was going on in Europe, and anyway, if it was, the Europeans could handle it.

Now here we are. Europe is — again — a continent where laying waste to one’s neighbors seems a viable strategic option. At minimum, it’s something that Germany, but also Poland, France, and those stereotypically peaceable Nordics, among others, want Russia to know is a strategic option.

And it’s an option which can move ahead without Washington. Remarkably absent from the German nuclear debate were voices saying this is all overblown, Trump will be gone, the Americans will be back, everything is fine. Americans are still telling each other that, including very prominent senators from both parties. But our European allies are not. The cumulative weight of bad faith and bad policy has collapsed trust that, while imperfect all around, had lasted seven decades. “Germany can no longer rely on the protection of the United States,” says the introduction to the English-language version of Hacke’s article. How stunning is it that no one has even tried to argue the point?

“We Europeans have to look out for ourselves more,” said the German foreign minister last week, echoing his boss the German chancellor as well as his neighbors in Brussels and Paris. While dreams of strategic independence are on the rise among European intellectuals, plain old anti-Americanism is on the rise among European peoples. Six months ago, more than two-thirds of Americans said relations with Germany were good, but more than half of Germans begged to differ. And that was before Trump imposed economic sanctions, dressed Merkel down at a NATO breakfast, and reportedly threw Starburst candy at her in a G-7 economic forum. That’s not usually how you treat a leader whose country is thinking about getting its own nuclear weapon.

China Establishes Nuclear Power (Daniel 7)

China, close to establishing its own ‘nuclear triad,’ has practiced targeting US

By: Tara Copp

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force Su-30 fighter, right, flies with a H-6K bomber during a September 2016 drill near the East China Sea. While the U.S. military remains the dominant force in Asia, China is catching up quickly and is increasingly able to project power far from its shores. (Shao Jing/Xinhua via AP, File)

The Pentagon, for the first time, has publicly reported what commanders in the Pacific have known about, and kept a wary eye on, for some time: China is practicing long-range bombing runs against U.S. targets.

While the Defense Department annually reports on the rapid growth in capabilities of China’s air, land and sea forces, the 2018 report is the first to acknowledge the direct threat to U.S. territory.

Recent developments on China’s H-6K variant of its Badger bomber give the bomber “the capability to carry six land-attack cruise missiles, giving the PLA a long-range standoff precision strike capability that can range Guam,” the report said. It also acknowledged frequent bombing practice runs that U.S. commanders at the newly renamed U.S. INDOPACOM in Hawaii have watched expand in numbers and distance.

U.S. forces are adjusting how they would execute a conflict with China as incursions increase.

During a trip to the command last October, defense officials described to Military Times the frequent incursions to test Guam’s air-defense zone as one of the many changes in China’s behavior in the Pacific that create worry. Compared to North Korea, which officials said they still view as “a fight we can win,” with China they “worry about the way things are going.”

The $716 billion defense budget for FY2019 is largely focused on getting U.S. forces ready again for a great power fight, with investments in new fighters, bombers and ships to keep the U.S. at pace with — and ahead of — the Chinese investments.

“The PLA has been developing strike capabilities to engage targets as far away from China as possible. Over the last three years, the PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against U.S. and allied targets,” the 2018 report found.

More worrisome, the report found, “the PLA Air Force has been re-assigned a nuclear mission. The deployment and integration of nuclear-capable bombers would, for the first time, provide China with a nuclear “triad” of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea and air.”

The unclassified version of the annual report to Congress on China’s military and security developments was released Thursday; a separate classified version was also prepared for the Hill.

The Pentagon emphasized that even as it is monitoring and re-calibrating its own defense strategies and investment priorities to be prepared for a potential great power fight in the future with China, “the Department of Defense’s objective is to set the military relationship between our two countries on a path of transparency and non-aggression,” the report said.

For years the U.S. has reported on the closing gap between U.S. and Chinese capabilities. The Chinese air force totaled more than 2,700 aircraft in 2018 and, of those, 2,000 were combat aircraft. More than 600 of those combat aircraft were 4th-generation fighters and the country is rapidly fielding its fifth generation J-20 and FC-31 jets, the report said.

A Closer Look At The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

A Closer Look At The Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12)

A Look at the Tri-State’s Active Fault Line

Monday, March 14, 2011

By Bob Hennelly

The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast that occasionally makes local headlines when minor tremors cause rock the Tri-State region. It begins in Pennsylvania, crosses the Delaware River and continues through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic and Bergen counties before crossing the Hudson River near Indian Point nuclear facility.

In the past, it has generated occasional activity that generated a 2.6 magnitude quake in New Jersey’s Peakpack/Gladstone area and 3.0 magnitude quake in Mendham.

But the New Jersey-New York region is relatively seismically stable according to Dr. Dave Robinson, Professor of Geography at Rutgers. Although it does have activity.

“There is occasional seismic activity in New Jersey,” said Robinson. “There have been a few quakes locally that have been felt and done a little bit of damage over the time since colonial settlement — some chimneys knocked down in Manhattan with a quake back in the 18th century, but nothing of a significant magnitude.”

Robinson said the Ramapo has on occasion registered a measurable quake but has not caused damage: “The Ramapo fault is associated with geological activities back 200 million years ago, but it’s still a little creaky now and again,” he said.

“More recently, in the 1970s and early 1980s, earthquake risk along the Ramapo Fault received attention because of its proximity to Indian Point,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

Historically, critics of the Indian Point Nuclear facility in Westchester County, New York, did cite its proximity to the Ramapo fault line as a significant risk.

In 1884, according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website, the  Rampao Fault was blamed for a 5.5 quake that toppled chimneys in New York City and New Jersey that was felt from Maine to Virginia.

“Subsequent investigations have shown the 1884 Earthquake epicenter was actually located in Brooklyn, New York, at least 25 miles from the Ramapo Fault,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

Russia is Preparing to Wage Nuclear War

Russia’s Backfire Bomber Is Back (And Ready to Wage a Nuclear War or Kill Aircraft Carriers)

by Task and Purpose Brad Howard

The marque TU-22M3 ‘Backfire’ bomber that was comparatively a cheaper, shorter-range version of the United States’ B-1B Lancer, is finally rolling off the lot with the ‘M3M’ designation upgrades it needs to fight well into the 21st century.

Despite its occasional flashes of inspiration when it comes to military tech, Russia is still touting the same Cold War-era bomber fleet that threatened naval carrier task forces with the specter of cruise missile destruction throughout the 1980s.

But now, the marque TU-22M3 ‘Backfire’ bomber that was comparatively a cheaper, shorter-range version of the United States’ B-1B Lancer, is finally rolling off the lot with the ‘M3M’ designation upgrades it needs to fight well into the 21st century.

– TU-22M3M Backfire, already capable of  flying at over 45,000 feet  and up to Mach 1.4 with a range of 3,000 miles, is getting its legacy communication, weapons, and navigation systems  upgraded to match the TU-160M2 Backfire. The upgraded nav system will be primed to use the Russian version of GPS,  Glonass, which eliminates dependence on American satellites for both navigation and  guided weapons .

– The Tu-22M3M is now capable of launching carrier killing Kh-32 cruise missiles from  over 1000 km (or 620 miles) away , a major increase over its previous range of just 600 km with the Kh-22.

– The most significant weapons upgrade is also its scariest: The bomber is also now capable of carrying Kh-15 airborne ballistic missiles, enabling it to function as a nuclear strategic bomber, adding one more arrow to the Russian nuclear quiver.

– But wait, there’s more! In July a Tu-22M3 accompanied a MiG-31 toting  a hypersonic Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile , hinting at a  future capability  for the Backfire bomber as a rival to Chinese and U.S. hypersonic aspirations. Finally, Aerospace Force Commander Viktor Bondarev told the Russian news service TASS that ‘the planes are being adapted for being furnished with modern Kh-32 precision cruise missiles and also with hypersonic missiles’.

The Backfire bomber has been a cornerstone of Russian close air support for the last three decades, with combat time over  Afghanistan in the 1980s Chechnya in the 1990s Georgia in 2008 , and, most recently, over the  skies of Syria  in support the Assad regime. The rollout of the TU-22M3M version of the airframe is clearly part of a concerted effort by the Russian military to modernize and upgrade their military forces after the 1990s.

The hawks in the Russian government are known as the  Silovik, politicians who were birthed from the security services of the Soviet Union, and afterward, the Russian Federation. These pols have been pining for modernization of their strategic military forces to keep pace with the United States since the dark ages of Russian military, also known as ‘the 1990s.’ With a hypersonic weapon capable Tu-22M3M, they may not be far off.

Mismanaging Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb (Daniel 8:8)

Imran Khan, at the 2012 World Economic Forum. Photo by Remy Steinegger, World Economic Forum, swiss-image.ch/ .

Managing Pakistan’s Bomb: Learning on the job

By Pervez Hoodbhoy, Zia Mian, August 17, 2018

On Saturday, Imran Khan will be sworn in as the next prime minister of Pakistan. His has been a sudden and rapid rise to power; he first came into politics in the late 1990s with no experience and has never held any government office. In his first public address to the nation after winning the July election, with Pakistan’s economy near bankruptcy, Khan said, “The biggest challenge we are facing is the economic crisis.” While this may well be the most pressing issue, the biggest and most important challenge Imran Khan will confront as prime minister is something he did not mention at all in his speech—how to manage the Bomb. The lives and well-being of Pakistan’s 200 million citizens and countless millions in India and elsewhere depend on how well he deals with the doomsday machine Pakistan’s Army and nuclear complex have worked so hard to build.

To be fair, it is not clear that Imran Khan will have much choice regarding nuclear policy. For Pakistani politicians, the options largely come down to either support the Bomb, or keep quiet about it. Like other prime ministers before him, Imran Khan may go and have his picture taken with the missiles that will carry nuclear warheads and pose with the scientists and engineers that make them and the military units that plan and train to fire them.

Imran Khan’s two-decade-long political career overlaps with the creation of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, but he has had very little to say about the Bomb. When he has spoken, it has been as a Bomb supporter. In 1998, as India and Pakistan tested their Bombs, Imran Khan told the BBC, “The test had to be done to tell India that Pakistan had a Bomb, because there was a lot of ambiguity on whether we had the Bomb. My party was clear that we had to tell India that we had a deterrent.” He claimed the Bomb as proof of Pakistan’s possibilities, telling the BBC that “[i]f it can have scientists that develop nuclear bombs then we can develop our own country.”

Imran Khan also has courted the support of Abdul Qadeer Khan (no relation), the man most closely identified in Pakistani minds with the country’s Bomb. This was after A.Q. Khan admitted publicly in 2004 to selling Iran, North Korea, and Libya the uranium enrichment centrifuge technology he had earlier stolen from European companies and copied for Pakistan and sharing nuclear weapon designs with other countries. He was quickly pardoned and placed under house arrest, but released in 2009.

This history suggests that Imran Khan may be likely to support the continued build-up of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. It is estimated that the arsenal now is on the order of 150 nuclear weapons, with Pakistan being able soon to deliver these weapons from airplanes (either via bombs or cruise missiles), on land-based ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, and on cruise missiles launched from submarines.

Few knowledgeable observers now doubt that Pakistan’s Army helped bring Imran Khan victory in the 2018 elections by stifling other political parties and silencing key voices in the media. Given the debt he owes to those who made his election possible, it is unlikely he will now try to assert himself and push for some kind of democratic civilian control in nuclear matters and in foreign policy generally. More likely, the Army will expect Imran Khan’s government to be cheerleaders in support of its next military adventure. All the pieces are in place.

Military crises have occurred in the subcontinent with awful frequency in recent decades, despite the Bomb, and perhaps because of it. Pakistan and India have survived at least five since 1987, giving both sides misplaced confidence that they will survive the next, too. This, in turn, leads to a lessening of political restraints on the militaries of both countries and greater nuclear brinksmanship.

As Pakistan discovered during the 1999 Kargil crisis, the combination of the Army, the Bomb, and pliant politicians leads to big mistakes. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the chosen political tool of the Army in those days, was led to believe by General Pervez Musharraf, the head of Pakistan’s Army, that he had a plan for the liberation of Kashmir. General Musharraf’s foray over the Line of Control—the effective border between India and Pakistan in the Kashmir region—at first took the Indians by surprise then slowed, stalled, and finally crashed. Indian air power and artillery began decimating Pakistani forces, leaving Pakistan with a stark choice: withdrawal, a wider war, or brandishing nuclear weapons.

The world watched and judged. Pakistan was deemed the aggressor. The belief that China would bail out Pakistan was proven false. Musharraf and Sharif each visited China seeking support; both returned empty handed. Then, on July 3, 1999, Sharif made a desperate, uninvited dash to Washington for help. He eventually was willing to challenge the wisdom of his generals, but only when the situation had become desperate and nuclear war appeared to be terrifyingly close—and when the Americans were on his side.

Strobe Talbott, then US deputy secretary of state, records that “on the eve of Sharif’s arrival, we learned that Pakistan might be preparing its nuclear forces for deployment. There was, among those of us preparing for the meeting, a sense of vast and nearly unprecedented peril.” Faced with a situation where he did not know what his own army was up to, a shocked and subdued Sharif signed the withdrawal document. The prime minister was overthrown three months later in a military coup led by Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Not long afterwards, Islamist militants backed by Pakistan attacked India’s Parliament, triggering massive military deployments by both countries and an intense military crisis that lasted until October 2002. In July 2006 and again in November 2008, Islamist militants believed to be linked to Pakistan attacked the Indian city of Mumbai, killing and wounding hundreds of people and again raising the prospect of a military response. Since then, the focus of conflict has shifted back to the Line of Control dividing Kashmir. India and Pakistan blame each other for hundreds of violations of the ceasefire agreed in 2003, with hundreds of military and civilian casualties and India citing hundreds of attempts each year by militants to cross over from Pakistan.

In Indian-occupied Kashmir demands for greater autonomy and independence have met with repression, which has fueled Kashmiri resistance. Human rights violations have become chronic. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported in 2018 that in the past two years “Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries” while militant groups were held responsible for “a wide range of human rights abuses, including kidnappings and killings of civilians and sexual violence.” Some of the militant groups fighting in Kashmir are based in Pakistan and backed by the Army.

Peace does not seem to be in the cards. The Pakistan Army’s low-cost option is to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir and elsewhere in India, but not to let it boil over. It has secretly sponsored Islamist proxies to do its dirty work, and their footprint can be seen across Pakistan. Some Islamist groups have been supported to form political parties and successfully run candidates for elections. It is unlikely that Imran Khan will choose to move against these actors or rein them in; he has long demonstrated sympathy for the Taliban and other extremists. Any such action would be unwelcome to the Army and decried as a betrayal by his party base.

Whether triggered by Army action in Kashmir or by militant attacks, what happens if the next crisis comes on Imran Khan’s watch? To whom will he look for outside assistance, and will those allies come to his aid? Will he run to Washington, ala Nawaz Sharif? Imran Khan built his political base initially on harsh anti-American rhetoric. For a while he was dubbed “Taliban Khan” for his vehement condemnation of drone strikes against Islamist militants. Still, the United States has forgiven worse and will likely talk to him in a crisis. The risk of escalation to nuclear war in South Asia is too grave a concern to be ignored.

What has changed since Kargil? All semblance of trust between Pakistan and the United States is gone. The United States after the 9/11 attacks went to war in Afghanistan, and found that despite receiving vast amounts of US aid, Pakistan continued to back the Taliban. In 2018, this led to a cutoff in US security aid to Pakistan. But the lack of trust works both ways; many in Pakistan, including in the Army, see the United States as waiting to pounce upon and seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons at the first opportunity.

Will Imran Khan then turn to China for support? His speech to the nation after the election suggests such a tendency, but before Pakistani military leaders conceive and implement another Kargil,  they need to understand that China is not the new global superpower that has replaced the United States. A complex, four-way dynamic has emerged among India, Pakistan, China, and the United States. It is one that does not work in Pakistan’s favor.

China competes strategically with the United States and India, but it also trades heavily with both. There is no war talk and no visceral animosity among the members of this China-US-India triad. Pakistan touts China as an all-weather friend and expects protection, but the Kargil episode showed that these expectations were misplaced. India’s hawkish strategic elite sees Pakistan now as a Chinese proxy in the event of a Pak-India war, and India’s Army chief talks of fighting a two-front war. But in another crisis, China again may prove reticent to take Pakistan’s side and prefer to support de-escalation and an end to the crisis as quickly as possible.

Even the finest diplomacy may not work in the midst of a storm strong enough to knock over the pieces on the south Asian nuclear chessboard. With an emboldened army in Pakistan sooner or later seeking once again to push India to the brink—this time determined to escalate rather than back down if things go badly—staving off nuclear warfare on the subcontinent may be a race against time. Imran Khan needs to understand that the best way to handle a nuclear crisis is not to provoke one or try and use such a crisis for political advantage. Of course, an informed and organized public, able to keep political and military leaders in check and restrain them from brandishing nuclear weapons, would constitute a more enduring check on nuclear risk-taking. In Pakistan, however—with political leaders willing to let the military have effective control of key policies and stifle public discourse—this kind of active democracy seems a distant hope.

The Antichrist: Iraq’s militia leader turned champion of poor

Muqtada al-Sadr: Iraq’s militia leader turned champion of poor

Shia leader’s appeal to the disenfranchised and the low voter turnout factored into his alliance’s surprise victory.

by Arwa Ibrahim

17 May 2018

Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr surprised the world when his Sairoon Alliance captured more parliamentary seats than any other party or alliance in Iraq’s parliamentary elections, in a remarkable comeback after being sidelined for years by Iranian-backed rivals.

Once known as a staunch anti-American militia leader, al-Sadr has rebranded himself in recent years as a patriotic champion of the poor and an anti-corruption firebrand.

This rebranding, along with the low voter turnout of only 44.52 percent, were, according to analysts, the main factors that enabled Sairoon – an alliance between the Sadrist Movement and Iraq’s Communist Party – to win six of Iraq’s 18 provinces, including Baghdad.

Although final results are yet to be released, most of the country’s politicians have accepted the tally so far, which has seen Sairoon win more than 1.3 million votes, winning 54 out of 329 parliament seats. Without an outright majority, al-Sadr will still need to build an alliance with other blocs to form the new government.

Unlike Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi – an ally of both the United States and Iran – al-Sadr’s positioning against dominant pro-Iran Shia blocs and away from the US is likely to rock established interests in Iraq.

‘Man of the poor’

By projecting himself as an Iraqi nationalist and mixing his resistance to US presence in the early 2000s with Shia religiosity – as the son of the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, a highly regarded scholar throughout the Shia Muslim world – al-Sadr became a figurehead for many of Iraq’s poor Shia Muslims.

Since 2003, his followers have provided healthcare services, food and clean water across many parts of Iraq’s poor suburbs and especially in Sadr City, a district of Baghdad named after his father. Al-Sadr’s militia has since acted in Sadr City almost unhindered by US and Iraqi forces to influence local councils and government. This established his zealous following among the young, poor and dispossessed.

Similarly, Sairoon’s 2018 election campaign used anti-corruption rhetoric and focused on cutting across sectarian platforms, appealing to frustrated Iraqis who complained about their political elite’s systematic patronage, bad governance and corruption.

Iraq has been ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries, with high unemployment, poverty and weak public institutions.

“For a couple of years, Sadr has been arguing against the level of corruption in the government,” which, according to Talha Abdulrazaq, an Iraq expert at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute, attracted “the predominant demographic of Shia, working-class neighbourhoods” in the six provinces that voted for Sairoon.

While top politicians in suits voted in Baghdad’s Green Zone on May 12, al-Sadr cast his ballot at a school in a poor district of Najaf, a hub for Iraq’s Shia communities. Footage of him dressed in his trademark turban and robe reinforced his image as a maverick who appeals to the disenfranchised.

According to Abdulrazaq, al-Sadr’s alliance with Iraq’s Communist Party also worked in his favour.

“The communists are well organised on a grassroots level which allowed the bloc to mobilise,” said Abdulrazaq, highlighting the long history of partnership between Iraq’s Shia and communist groups. According to him, many of the communist movements’ recruits have been Shia Arabs.

Fanar al-Haddad, a senior research fellow at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore, agreed: “Sadr has always appealed to the Shia working class and his alliance with the communists chimed into the image of a reformer and someone who wants to bring in new blood.”

Voters in Baghdad complained that most candidates running were part of the same elite. They told Al Jazeera that they were in search for “new faces and wanted change”.

In contrast to other blocs, Sairoon Alliance offered the voters new candidates, including the likes of Muntadhar al-Zaidi – a journalist famed for hurling a shoe at former US President George W Bush during his visit to Baghdad in 2008.

Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr cast his vote for the parliamentary election at a polling station in Najaf [Reuters]

Low voter turnout

In addition to his grassroots appeal, the low voter turnout, which was 15 percent less than in 2014, worked in al-Sadr’s favour, according to analysts.

“While Sadr has a support base that is fairly solid and inelastic – unlike other party leaders, the result is equally a function of the low turnout for his rivals,” said al-Hadad.

The majority of Iraqis did not vote, partly due to an online boycott campaign spearheaded by activists.

Meanwhile, with millions of predominantly Sunni internally displaced persons (IDPs) unable or uninterested to vote, “the results were skewed in Sadr’s favour”, said Abudlrazaq, who explained that the millions of IDPs in urgent need of basic assistance “have had more important things to think about than voting”.

With Iraq having more than 2 million people displaced since 2014 and living in IDP camps, Sunni leaders demanded that the elections be postponed until these communities could return to their homes. Their appeals were not addressed.

Although the government set up 166 polling stations in 70 camps for internally displaced persons, IDP voters reported facing difficulties, which left few able to cast their ballots.

Shifting alliances

Al-Sadr did not stand as a candidate himself, so he will not head the new government, although his alliance will have a big say in the composition of the as-yet unclear future government

Domestically, al-Sadr’s eyes seem to be set on forging alliances with a variety of blocs to fight corruption and allow for an independent, non-sectarian government of technocrats, according to a Tuesday address made by his spokesman, Saleh al-Obeidi.

But he appears to wish to stay away from two groups heavily aligned with Iran, the former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition and Hadi al-Ameri’s Fateh Coalition.

Al-Sadr posted a tweet on Monday expressing a willingness to work with a number of parties – among those he named were the Shia-aligned al-Hikma bloc, the Sunni al-Wataniya bloc, and newly established Kurdish parties.

For its part, Iran publicly stated it would not allow his bloc to govern, which has led many observers to believe that Tehran is likely to try and isolate or fragment al-Sadr’s power.

“Iran will try to work on the fact that Sadr’s coalition includes communists which is a weakness if Iran tempts them away from the alliance, reducing his [al-Sadr’s alliance] majority,” said Abdulrazaq.

For other analysts, however, al-Sadr’s victory may not upset Iranian influence over Baghdad as much as it will the US’ influence.

Unlike Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, an ally of Washington and Tehran, Muqtada al-Sadr is an opponent of both countries. [AFP]

According to Mahan Abedin, an expert on Iranian politics: “On balance, Tehran is not displeased [with the results]. It wanted Abadi – who Iran perceives as America’s man – weakened, and they got that.”

Unlike al-Abadi, an ally of Washington and Tehran, al-Sadr is an opponent of both countries, which have wielded influence in Iraq since a US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 and thrust the Shia majority into power.

“Also, a corollary is the relative rehabilitation of [former Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki who is now back in the fold,” added Abedin.

Al-Maliki, who led Iraq between 2006 and 2014 and headed the State of Law Coalition for the 2018 election, was a staunch ally of Iran. For years, the Iraqi army and police under al-Maliki acted as a sectarian militia against the country’s Sunni minority.

“Another key Iranian objective is to defeat or undermine US plans. Both Sadr and Fateh [a pro-Iran coalition led by Hadi al-Ameri and which came in second in the election] are useful for that.

“These elections have [therefore] reinforced the dominion of the Shia state in Iraq, [so] in terms of influence and operations, Iran, as always, is the key power broker,” explained Abedin.

But for the US, which sent US presidential envoy Brett McGurk to Erbil following the vote, the situation might be a little more tricky.

Al-Sadr has been a staunch opponent of the US. He spearheaded a number of political movements in Iraq that directed attacks on US troops in the wake of the 2003 Iraq invasion.

He set up the Mahdi Army, which posed such a threat to US forces that they were instructed to kill or capture him.

Although US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in an interview on Tuesday that the US would respect and “stand with the Iraqi people’s decisions”, the US had hoped al-Abadi would win another term in office.

US acceptance of the results, according to al-Haddad, therefore depends on the kind of government that will be formed.

 

“It [al-Sadr’s victory] is not the best scenario for the US. The US will push for Abadi’s premiership, and if Sairoon form a coalition with Abadi’s Nasr Coalition and Abadi heads the next government, that would work well for the US.”

Iran’s Deadly Nuclear Deal with Obama

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at the Hussayniyeh of Imam Khomeini in Tehran, Iran, August 13, 2018.Official Khamenei website/Handout via REUTERS

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has admitted he made a mistake in allowing the country’s foreign minister to speak to his U.S. counterpart during negotiations that led to a 2015 international nuclear agreement.

International sanctions on Iran were lifted when the pact with world powers came into force in 2016, but the expected level of foreign investment to help revive the economy has never materialized. Then this May President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement and is now reimposing U.S. sanctions in stages.

Khamenei, who rarely admits in public to making errors, said he had done just that over the nuclear talks. “With the issue of the nuclear negotiations, I made a mistake in permitting our foreign minister to speak with them. It was a loss for us,” he said.

The comments made by Khamenei, the highest authority in the country, were tweeted on Wednesday by the Khat-e Hezbollah newspaper, a weekly affiliated with his official website.

Khamenei made the remarks on Monday, but the newspaper said it was now quoting them due to inaccurate accounts published previously by other media.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif negotiated the deal with counterparts from six powers, including then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Tehran undertook to curb its nuclear program in return for relief from the international sanctions which have been throttling its economy.

New U.S. sanctions against Iran took effect last week, and Trump said companies doing business with the country will be barred from the United States. Washington had said Tehran’s only chance of avoiding the sanctions would be to accept an offer by Trump to negotiate a tougher nuclear deal.

Iranian officials, from Khamenei down, have rejected the offer. Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said on Wednesday that the United States is trying to make Tehran surrender through the imposition of sanctions.

Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri speaks during a news conference in Najaf, south of Baghdad, February 18, 2015. Alaa Al-Marjani/REUTERS

“The first priority for all of us under a sanctions situation is to work toward managing the country in a way that brings the least amount of damage to people’s lives,” Fars News quoted Jahangiri as saying. “America is trying by applying various pressures on our society to force us to retreat and surrender.”

The new sanctions targeted Iranian purchases of U.S. dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and its auto sector, though the toughest measures targeting oil exports do not take effect for four more months.

Few U.S. companies do much business in Iran so the impact of sanctions mainly stems from Washington’s ability to block European and Asian firms from trading there.

President Hassan Rouhani made similar comments to Jahangiri, although he did not specifically refer to the United States. “We will not let the enemy bring us to our knees,” Rouhani said, according to state TV.

“America itself took actions which destroyed the conditions for negotiation,” Rouhani also said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). “There were conditions for negotiation and we were negotiating. They destroyed the bridge themselves,” he said. “If you’re telling the truth then come now and build the bridge again.”

The Iranian economy is beset by high unemployment and a rial currency which has lost half its value since April. The reimposition of sanctions could also make the economic situation worse.

Rouhani said the economy is the biggest problem facing the country.

Thousands of Iranians have protested in recent weeks against sharp price rises of some food items, a lack of jobs and state corruption. The protests over the cost of living have often turned into anti-government rallies.