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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.

The Final Nuclear Race (Revelation 16)

The nuclear arms race is back … and ever more dangerous now

Simon TisdallSat 17 Aug 2019 09.00 EDT

Donald Trump has increased spending on America’s arsenal while ripping up cold war treaties. Russia and China are following suit

Imagine the uproar if the entire populations of York, Portsmouth or Swindon were suddenly exposed to three times the permissible level of penetrating gamma radiation, or what the nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford termed gamma rays. The outpouring of rage and fear would be heard across the world.

That’s what happened to the roughly 200,000 people who live in the similarly sized northern Russian city of Severodvinsk on 8 August, after an explosion at a nearby top-secret missile testing range. Russia’s weather service, Rosgidromet, recorded radiation levels up to 16 times higher than the usual ambient rate.

Yet the incident has been met with surly silence by Russia. It was five days before officials confirmed a blast at the Nyonoksa range had killed several people, including nuclear scientists. No apologies were offered to Severodvinsk residents. There is still little reliable information. “Accidents, unfortunately, happen,” a Kremlin spokesman said.

That callous insouciance is not universally shared. According to western experts, the explosion was caused by the launch failure of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile, one of many advanced weapons being developed by Russia, the US and China in an accelerating global nuclear arms race.

Vladimir Putin unveiled the missile, known in Russia as the Storm Petrel and by Nato as Skyfall, in March last year, claiming its unlimited range and manoeuvrability would render it “invincible”. The Russian president’s boasts look less credible now.

But Putin is undeterred. Denying suggestions that the missile is unreliable, the Kremlin insisted Russia was winning the nuclear race. “Our president has repeatedly said that Russian engineering in this sector significantly outstrips … other countries,” a spokesman said.

Now fast-forward to 16 August, and another threatening event: the test-firing by North Korea of potentially nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, the sixth round of launches since July. More than two years of vanity diplomacy by Donald Trump has not convinced Pyongyang it is safe to give up its nukes – proof, if it were needed, that unilateral counter-proliferation initiatives do not work.

Arms control experts say a consistent, joined-up international approach is woefully lacking. Thus Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal is tolerated, and the idea of a bomb developed by Saudi Arabia is no longer ruled out. But the merest hint that Iran may build a nuclear weapon is greeted with megatons of hypocritical horror.

In a sense, the problem is circular. Putin argues that Russia’s build-up is a response to destabilising US moves to modernise and expand its own nuclear arsenal – and he has a point. Barack Obama, the former president, developed a $1.2tn plan to maintain and replace the “triad” of US air, sea and land-based nuclear weapons.

Trump has gone much further. The Pentagon’s nuclear posture review, published last year, proposed an additional $500bn in spending, including $17bn for low-yield, tactical nuclear weapons that could be used on conventional battlefields. The first of these new warheads is due to become operational next month.

Critics in Congress say low-yield weapons make nuclear warfare more likely, and oppose Trump’s budget increases. But with US planners saying the biggest national security threat is no longer terrorism but nuclear-armed states, there is little doubt that many new weapons projects will get the go-ahead.

An activist in Germany wearing a Trump mask protesting against the scrapping of the INF treaty. Photograph: Omer Messinger/EPA

The renewed nuclear arms race is a product of Trump’s America First outlook and that of comparable ultra-nationalist and insecure regimes elsewhere. Trump’s emphasis on defending the “homeland” is leading inexorably to the militarisation of US society, whether at the Mexican border, on inner-city streets or in its approach to international security.

We have far more money than anybody else by far,” Trump said last October. “We’ll build up until [Russia and China] come to their senses.” Outspending the opposition was a tactic employed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. And Trump is putting taxpayers’ money where his mouth is. Overall, annual US military spending is soaring, from $716bn this year to a proposed $750bn next year.

The paradox is that even as the risk of nuclear confrontation grows, the cold war system of treaties that helped prevent Armageddon is being dismantled, largely at Trump’s behest. Earlier this month, the US withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia (which rid Britain and Europe of US missiles deployed in the early 80s).

The US is also signalling it will not renew the New Start strategic nuclear weapons treaty when it expires in 2021. Washington claims Moscow cheated on the INF pact; Russia denies it. But the real US concern is that both treaties tie its hands, especially regarding China – another example of the impact of America First thinking.

This increasingly unregulated, three-way contest poses indisputable dangers. The US plans were “unnecessary, unsustainable, and unsafe” and “increase the risks of miscalculation, unintended escalation, and accelerated global nuclear competition”, the independent US-based Arms Control Association said in April.

With a much smaller arsenal than the US and Russia, China, too, is “aggressively developing its next generation of nuclear weapons”, according to a major Chinese weapons research institute. Nor, given Moscow’s and Washington’s behaviour, has it an incentive to stop, despite Trump’s vague proposal for a trilateral disarmament “grand bargain”.

Like the US, China – while historically pledged to “no first use” – wants potential enemies to believe it may actually use tactical nukes. As Dr Strangelove would doubtless appreciate, this, perversely, increases the chances that it will.

The dreadful example these nuclear arms-racers are setting to non-nuclear states such as Iran is obvious. By failing to uphold arms control agreements, neglecting collaborative counter-proliferation efforts, and building new, more “usable”, dangerously unproved weapons like the one that irradiated Severodvinsk, the nuclear powers are digging their own graves – and ours.

Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger Bilham

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

The Australian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Australia Considers Lifting Its Nuclear Energy Ban

August 17, 2019, 9:00 AM MDT

Australia has been historically opposed to nuclear energy–on their own land, that is. While the nuclear option has long been dismissed in the land down under and was officially banned in 2009 in reaction to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, Australia also has a long history of capitalizing on the global nuclear industry as a whole. Last year the country exported over 7,000 metric tons of uranium, earning Australia nearly $600 million Australian dollars ($407 million United States Dollars).

As the Australian edition of The Conversation points out, “This uranium produced nearly as much energy as Australia uses in a year, but with less than 10 percent of the carbon dioxide from coal-fired power stations.” The comparison to coal is an important one, as Australia’s economy itself is coal-fired. According to the Australian government’s own statistics, “Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal. Coal accounts for more than half of Australia’s energy exports.” The government page “Australia’s Energy Production, Consumption and Exports” goes on to say that, “Australia’s primary energy consumption is dominated by coal (around 40 percent), oil (34 percent) and gas (22 percent). Coal accounts for about 75 per cent of Australia’s electricity generation, followed by gas (16 percent), hydro (5 percent) and wind around (2 percent).” 

While Australia has doubled down on its current and future coal production, it is also one of the world’s largest exporters of uranium, and risks sowing the seeds of serious diplomatic trouble with their Pacific Island neighbors if they don’t begin to clean up their carbon act in a hurry. It’s therefore unsurprising that there are many proponents of bringing nuclear into Australia’s domestic energy mix, and after many years it seems that the nuclear option may finally be back on the legislative table.

In fact, Australia is on the verge of conducting a parliamentary inquiry into the viability of developing a nuclear energy program on Australian soil. A statement by Queensland Liberal National parliamentarian and The Standing Committee on Environment and Energy leader Ted O’Brien, head of the standing committee on environment and energy said that, “this inquiry will provide the opportunity to establish whether nuclear energy would be feasible and suitable for Australia in the future, taking into account both expert opinions and community views.”

While political and public opinion of nuclear energy is shifting in Australia, however, there is still more opposition than support of the initiative, with the vast majority of Australians taking a “not in my backyard” approach to the issue. As the Asia Times reports, “a recent survey by pollster Essential showed community views are increasingly in favor, but still fall below 50 percent. However, when respondents were asked to consider a reactor being built close to their homes, property-obsessed Australians voted ‘no’ at a rate of 78 percent, the poll showed.”

While opposition to nuclear power has long been one of the very, very few bipartisan bits of common ground in Australia, times are changing, and so is nuclear power. The means of nuclear power production themselves have evolved considerably over the last decade, making nuclear cheaper and safer than ever before. In Australia, “the renewed interest [in nuclear energy] is being spurred by Minister for Energy and Emissions Reductions Angus Taylor’s enthusiasm for newfangled small modular reactors (SMRs), which are cheaper, allegedly safer and use less water,” says the Asia Times. “Those reactor-types will be a focus of the upcoming parliamentary inquiry. British engineering company Rolls Royce, for one, is leading a UK consortium involved in developing SMRs aimed at producing affordable energy with a lower carbon footprint.”

While nuclear seems to be going the way of the dodo in the United States (thanks to public and political mistrust not unlike in Australia, astronomical nuclear waste-maintenance costs, and a hyper-competitive energy market flooded by cheap natural gas) Australia will not be an outlier if they decide to embrace nuclear energy. In fact, far from it. The rest of the world, Russia and China in particular, are all leaning into nuclear energy as one of the most powerful, efficient, and green options for a carbon-choked planet with ever-expanding energy demands. Despite its many drawbacks, it’s becoming the common sentiment in the international community that nuclear is simply the best of our bad options. 

By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com

Shi’a Horn Targets Remote Saudi Oil Field

Yemen rebel drone attack targets remote Saudi oil field

By JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press

FILE – In this Monday, March 8, 2004 file photo, an industrial plant strips natural gas from freshly pumped crude oil is seen at Saudi Aramco’s Shaybah oil field at Shaybah in Saudi Arabia’s Rub al-Khali desert. Saudi state TV reported Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, that a fire had been controlled at the…  (Associated Press)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked a massive oil and gas field deep inside Saudi Arabia’s sprawling desert on Saturday, causing what the kingdom described as a “limited fire” in the second such recent attack on its crucial energy industry.

The attack on the Shaybah oil field, which produces some 1 million barrels of crude oil a day near the kingdom’s border with the United Arab Emirates, again shows the reach of the Houthis’ drone program. Shaybah sits some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from Houthi-controlled territory, underscoring the rebels’ ability to now strike at both nations, which are mired in Yemen’s yearslong war.

The drone assault also comes amid heightened tensions in the wider Mideast between the U.S. and Iran, whose supreme leader hosted a top Houthi official days earlier in Tehran.

State media in Saudi Arabia quoted Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih as saying production was not affected at the oil field and no one was wounded in the attack Saturday. The state-run Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known widely as Saudi Aramco, issued a terse statement acknowledging a “limited fire” at a liquid natural gas facility at Shaybah.

Their acknowledgement came hours after Yahia Sarie, a military spokesman for the Houthis, issued a video statement claiming the rebels launched 10 bomb-laden drones targeting the field in their “biggest-ever” operation. He threatened more attacks would be coming.

“This is in response to their aggression toward us and our people in Yemen,” Sarie said.

Al-Falih linked the attack to a May assault by Houthi drones that targeted the kingdom’s crucial East-West Pipeline, a 1,200-kilometer (746-mile) link between its eastern oil fields and the Red Sea. He also mentioned recent explosions on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz that the U.S. blames on Iranian-planted limpet mines. Iran denies being behind those attacks.

“This act of terrorism and sabotage is only an extension of those acts that have recently targeted the global oil supply chains, including oil pipelines in the kingdom, and oil tankers,” al-Falih said. “This cowardly attack once again highlights the importance of the international community’s response to all terrorist actors who carry out such acts of sabotage, including the Houthi militias.”

The oil field at Shaybah is in the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter, a sea of sand where temperatures routinely hit 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). Saudi Aramco on its website refers to the field as “the most remote treasure on Earth,” home to reserves of 14.3 billion barrels of oil and 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The field’s distance from rebel-held territory in Yemen demonstrates the range of the Houthis’ drones. U.N. investigators say the Houthis’ new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, likely has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers (930 miles). That puts Saudi oil fields, an under-construction Emirati nuclear power plant and Dubai’s busy international airport within their range.

Unlike sophisticated drones that use satellites to allow pilots to remotely fly them, analysts believe Houthi drones are likely programmed to strike a specific latitude and longitude and cannot be controlled once out of radio range. The Houthis have used drones, which can be difficult to track by radar, to attack Saudi Patriot missile batteries, as well as enemy troops.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched their war against the Houthis in March 2015 to back the country’s internationally recognized government. The UAE recently began withdrawing troops from the conflict while UAE-allied separatists recently seized the city of Aden, further complicating a war seen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

___

Associated Press writer Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

On the Verge of the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

India, Pakistan once again on verge of full-scale war

News Desk

August 17,2019

Pakistan, on its part, denies any involvement in the Pulwama bombing. Prime Minister Imran Khan told New Delhi that his government was ready to take action against JeM if it provided concrete evidence about its involvement in the deadly attack. Islamabad also denies backing any Islamist group in Kashmir or anywhere else in the region.

ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan are once again on the verge of a full-scale war. It is an unimaginable scenario as the two South Asian neighbors possess high-tech nuclear arms. They have fought three wars over Kashmir, which they both claim in full, but rule in part. Any escalation of military conflict between the two countries has a dangerous risk of a nuclear confrontation. New Delhi justifies its airstrike inside Pakistan by saying that it targeted a militant camp run by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant group, international media reported on Friday.

The group claimed responsibility for the February 14 suicide bombing in Kashmir’s Pulwama district, which killed more than 40 Indian troops. JeM, which allegedly has links to al-Qaeda, regularly targets government installations in Indian-Held Kashmir. So India claims its military operation was actually an act in self-defense.

Pakistan, on its part, denies any involvement in the Pulwama bombing. Prime Minister Imran Khan told New Delhi that his government was ready to take action against JeM if it provided concrete evidence about its involvement in the deadly attack. Islamabad also denies backing any Islamist group in Kashmir or anywhere else in the region.

Pakistan has limited means to respond to India bombing. A day after India’s military action, Pakistan said its aircraft launched strikes across the de-facto border from within Pakistani airspace. Islamabad also claimed that it shot down two Indian jets near the Kashmir border. The escalation, many fear, has increased the risk of a full-fledged military confrontation between the two nuclear-armed countries.

The biggest worry for the international community at the moment is that this could lead to a nuclear confrontation. Although, both countries have played down the risk of a nuclear war, regional and international players remain watchful.

“All wars are miscalculated, and no one knows where they lead to,” Pakistani PM Khan said in his address to the nation on Wednesday following Pakistan’s retaliatory strikes against India. “World War I was supposed to end in weeks, it took years. Similarly, the US never expected the war on terrorism to last 17 years,” he added.

“I ask India: with the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford such a miscalculation? If this escalates, things will no longer be in my control or in Narendra Modi’s,” the prime minister continued.

Nuclear capabilities: Both India and Pakistan have ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. According to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), India possesses nine types of operational missiles, including the Agni-3 that can reach targets up to 5,000 kilometers. Pakistan’s missiles can also reach any part of India, CSIS said.

Both countries also have smaller nuclear warheads that can be attached to short-range missiles (50-100 kilometers). According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Pakistan is estimated to have around 140 to 150 nuclear warheads, compared to India’s 130-140 warheads.

Climate scientists simulated the effects of limited regional nuclear war between the two countries and found that nuclear explosions could start firestorms that send millions of tons of smoke into the atmosphere. That could cripple the ozone layer, cause global cooling, and trigger food shortages.

The newest simulations showed that the effects could be “about five times worse than what we’ve previously calculated,” one researcher said. Climate scientists warn that if either country launches just a portion of its nuclear weapons, the situation might escalate into a global environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.

“This is the premier nuclear flashpoint in the world,” Ben Rhodes, a political commentator, said on Wednesday’s episode of the “Pod Save the World” podcast.

For that reason, climate scientists have modeled how an exchange of nuclear weapons between the two countries — what is technically called a limited regional nuclear war — might affect the world.

Though the explosions would be local, the ramifications would be global, that research concluded. The ozone layer could be crippled and Earth’s climate may cool for years, triggering crop and fishery losses that would result in what the researchers called a “global nuclear famine.”

“The danger of nuclear winter has been under-understood — poorly understood — by both policymakers and the public,” Michael Mills, a researcher at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, said. “It has reached a point where we found that nuclear weapons are largely unusable because of the global impacts.”

Analysts agree that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme is driven by its perception of the threat posed by India. “Pakistani officials state that their nuclear weapons are ‘India-specific,’ and as India’s military power grows —with its much larger economy, it is able to invest more in modern military capability —Islamabad believes it needs more nuclear weapons to maintain deterrence with India,” Toby Dalton, a co-director of the Nuclear Policy Programme at the Carnegie Endowment, told DW in a previous interview.Gregory Koblentz, an Associate Professor at George Mason University and author of a 2015 Carnegie report “A normal nuclear Pakistan,” says that the Pakistani military has adopted a strategy of “full spectrum deterrence” so it can “continue to engage in asymmetric warfare against India and deter even limited Indian conventional military retaliation with the threat of tactical nuclear weapons.”

This inequality between Indian and Pakistani military strengths could pose a huge risk, experts say.

Michael Kugelman from the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars is of the view that because Pakistan’s conventional military capacity is much inferior to that of India, the possibility of a nuclear conflict thus increases. “Pakistan’s retaliatory action in the present scenario could be met with a destructive Indian response. If that happens, we have to start worrying about a nuclear scenario,” Kugelman said.

But Talat Masood, a former Pakistani army general and defense analyst told DW that he does not think the latest Kashmir conflict could escalate into a nuclear conflict. “Yes, there are fears because the tension is rising and no talks are being held. Pakistan has offered talks but India will not hold such talks because of the [upcoming] elections there,” Masood said.

Russia’s Awesome Nuclear Arsenal (Daniel 7)

Graphic of Poseidon Intercontinental Nuclear-Powered Nuclear-Armed Autonomous Torpedo.
Russian Defense Ministry

Russia Testing Nuclear-Powered Mega-Torpedo Near Where Deadly Explosion Occurred

Aug 17, 2019,

Details are still emerging of the explosion of a nuclear-powered engine that killed at least seven people in northern Russia last week. Conflicting reports, rumors and speculation center around whether the engine was for a nuclear-powered cruise missile, codenamed Skyfall by NATO, or some other weapon-related reactor. One of the possible weapons in the frame is the Poseidon mega-torpedo. This new weapon is described as an Intercontinental Nuclear-Powered Nuclear-Armed Autonomous Torpedo by the U.S. government.

The unique drone-like weapon is in an entirely new category. Launched from a large submarine, potentially from under the protection of the arctic ice cap, it would have virtually unlimited range and Russia claims that it will run so deep that it cannot realistically be countered with existing weapons. It’s designed to be armed with a nuclear warhead, reportedly of 2 megatons, which represents a slow but unstoppable death-knell for the residents of coastal cities such as New York or San Francisco in the event of a nuclear war. The Russian Ministry of Defense also claims that it will be usable against high value maritime targets such as the U.S. Navy’s carrier battle groups.

It is massive, around 30 times larger than the heavyweight torpedoes commonly used aboard submarines, and twice as large as submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Specially constructed submarines will be able to carry six Poseidon each. Unlike existing missile submarines, which are termed SSBNs, this type of submarine doesn’t even have a designation yet. Possibly SSDN will be used to denote a nuclear powered drone-carrying submarine.

Poseidon is being tested in the region, my analysis of information gathered from public sources shows. For trials it is being launched by a special submarine based in Severodvinsk, near the Nyonoksa testing site where the explosion occurred. The submarine is named Sarov after the city where the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics, which developed the nuclear engine involved in the explosion, is based. Sarov is also the city where the victims of the blast were laid to rest. In recent years the Russian Ministry of Defense has been open about Sarov’s role in the tests. The submarine rarely puts to sea but my analysis of information gathered from public sources shows that it did venture out into the White Sea in June, pointing to possible recent test launches.

Poseidon was first revealed to the public in dramatic fashion by Russian state media in the fall of 2015, when a slide on the new weapon was visible during a meeting with President Putin. The apparent security lapse was probably not by accident.

The project itself has since been traced back much further to the end of the Cold War, and defense watchers had an inkling of a giant torpedo-like weapon under development for about five years prior to the staged leak.

The weapon has been in testing since around 2014 and is likely to be nearing the production phase with deployments at sea from the early 2020s. The first submarine slated to carry the weapon operationally was launched in April in Severodvinsk. The gigantic Belgorod submarine is still undergoing fitting out and will not be operational for a few years. The second submarine, Khabarovsk, is also nearing completion and two more SSDNs are expected to follow, providing Russia with a new dimension in nuclear deterrence.

Babylon the Great’s Response to the Iranian Tanker

Iran tanker: US issues warrant to seize Grace 1 supertanker – BBC News

Reuters

Grace 1, which is currently anchored in the Strait of Gibraltar, is carrying 2.1m barrels of oil

The US justice department has issued a warrant to seize a detained Iranian oil tanker, a day after a judge in Gibraltar ordered it to be released.

The Grace 1 supertanker, which is carrying 2.1m barrels of oil, was detained on 4 July on suspicion of illegally transporting oil to Syria.

A last-minute legal attempt by the US to keep the tanker detained was rejected by Gibraltar on Thursday.

Iran previously called the detention of Grace 1 an “illegal interception”.

Two weeks after Grace 1 was detained, on 19 July, Iran seized the British flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz.

Although Iran claimed the ship had violated “international maritime rules”, the seizure of Stena Impero was widely believed to be an act of retaliation.

What is the US saying?

The warrant, issued by a US federal court in Washington on Friday, is addressed to “the United States Marshals Service and/or any other duly authorized law enforcement officer”.

It called for the tanker and the oil on board to be seized. It has also ordered the seizure of $995,000 (£818,000) from an account at an unnamed US bank linked to Paradise Global Trading LLC, an Iranian company.

The justice department said the ship and the firm had been involved in violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, bank fraud, money laundering and terrorism forfeiture statutes.

“A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments,” federal prosecutor Jessie Liu said.

She added the parties involved were linked with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the US regards as a foreign terrorist organisation.

Although the warrant orders “any” law enforcement officer to seize the tanker and its cargo, it is unlikely to result in any action by the UK or Gibraltarian authorities, according to Prof Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at LSE.

He said: “It would take a great deal of arm-twisting [by the US] to really persuade another Gibraltarian court to take the tanker back.”

What happened in Gibraltar?

Gibraltar’s government said it had received assurances from Iran that Grace 1 would not sail to countries “subject to European Union sanctions” – that is, Syria.

The British territory’s chief minister Fabian Picardo added: “We have deprived the Assad regime in Syria of more than $140m worth of crude oil.”

Video caption Grace 1: Inside the seized supertanker

After a judge ordered the tanker’s release, Mr Picardo earlier told the BBC that the vessel would be able to leave as soon as the logistics had been figured out: “Could be today, could be tomorrow.”

Neither Britain nor Gibraltar have responded to the US warrant.

32 Palestinians injured Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

32 Palestinians injured as thousands protest on Gaza border

Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas prevent demonstrators from getting closer to the border during a protest along the border with Israel, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on August 2, 2019.

16 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli forces along the security barrier

Several thousand Palestinians protested along the Gaza Strip border on Friday, with dozens injured in clashes as rioters hurled stones and explosive devices at Israeli troops.

Israeli forces responded with tear gas and live fire to disperse rioters who approached the security fence and hurled projectiles.

Sixty-three Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces amid the clashes, including 32 by live ammunition,  according to the Palestinian health ministry based in Gaza.

Later in the evening, three rockets were fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, causing no injuries or damage as one was intercepted by Israel and the other fell in open areas.

Rocket alert sirens sound in Gaza border communities | August 16

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have amassed at various flash-points along the Gaza border for the Hamas-backed protests nearly every week since March 30, 2017.

The protests often turn violent with demonstrators burning tires, hurling rocks and other incendiary devices across the border, and at times planting explosive charges along the security fence.

The demonstrations have given Palestinians an opportunity to put an end to the decade-long Israeli blockade of the impoverished Gaza enclave, which Israel says is necessary to isolate Hamas and ensure the security of its borders.

In past weeks, tensions on the border have flared amid there deadly clashes between Gaza militants and Israeli forces, leading Israel to bolster its defenses.

Israel is reportedly developing plans to build a massive wall in the northern section of the Gaza security fence in an effort to protect border communities from threats like terrorist infiltrations, attack tunnels and anti-tank weapons.

NYC earthquake risk: the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

NYC earthquake risk: Could Staten Island be heavily impacted?

By Ann Marie Barron

Updated May 16, 4:31 AM; Posted May 16, 4:00 AM

Rubble litters Main Street after an earthquake struck Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A report by the U.S. Geological Survey outlines the differences between the effect of an earthquake in the West vs. one in the East. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – While scientists say it’s impossible to predict when or if an earthquake will occur in New York City, they say that smaller structures — like Staten Island’s bounty of single-family homes — will suffer more than skyscrapers if it does happen.

„Earthquakes in the East tend to cause higher-frequency shaking — faster back-and-forth motion — compared to similar events in the West,“ according to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), published on its website recently „Shorter structures are more susceptible to damage during fast shaking, whereas taller structures are more susceptible during slow shaking.“

DIFFERENCES IN INTENSITY

The report, „East vs West Coast Earthquakes,“ explains how USGS scientists are researching factors that influence regional differences in the intensity and effects of earthquakes, and notes that earthquakes in the East are often felt at more than twice the distance of earthquakes in the West.

Predicting when they will occur is more difficult, said Thomas Pratt, a research geophysicist and the central and Eastern U.S. coordinator for the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program in Reston, Va.

„One of the problems in the East Coast is that we don’t have a history to study,“ he said. „In order to get an idea, we have to have had several cycles of these things. The way we know about them in California is we dig around in the mud and we see evidence of past earthquakes.“

Yet Pratt wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a high-magnitude event taking place in New York, which sits in the middle the North American Tectonic Plate, considered by experts to be quite stable.

„We never know,“ he said. „One could come tomorrow. On the other hand, it could be another 300 years. We don’t understand why earthquakes happen (here) at all.“

Though the city’s last observable earthquake occurred on Oct. 27, 2001, and caused no real damage, New York has been hit by two Magnitude 5 earthquakes in its history – in 1738 and in 1884 — prompting many to say it is „due“ for another.

While earthquakes generally have to be Magnitude 6 or higher to be considered „large,“ by experts, „a Magnitude 5, directly under New York City, would shake it quite strongly,“ Pratt said.

The reason has to do with the rock beneath our feet, the USGS report says.

OLDER ROCKS

In the East, we have older rocks, some of which formed „hundreds of millions of years before those in the West,“ the report says. Since the faults in the rocks have had so much time to heal, the seismic waves travel more efficiently through them when an earthquake occurs.

„Rocks in the East are like a granite countertop and rocks in the West are much softer,“ Pratt said. „Take a granite countertop and hit it and it’ll transmit energy well. In the West, it’s like a sponge. The  energy gets absorbed.“

If a large, Magnitude 7 earthquake does occur, smaller structures, and older structures in Manhattan would be most vulnerable, Pratt said. „In the 1920s, ’30s and late 1800s, they were not built with earthquake resistance,“ he said, noting that newer skyscrapers were built to survive hurricanes, so would be more resistant.

When discussing earthquake prediction and probability, Pratt uses the analogy of a baseball player who averages a home run every 10 times at bat and hasn’t hit one in the past nine games: „When he’s up at bat, will he hit a home run? You just don’t know.“

And though it would probably take a magnitude of 7 to topple buildings in the city, smaller earthquakes are still quite dangerous, he said.

„Bookshelves could fall down and hit you,“ he said. „People could be killed.“ A lot of stone work and heavy objects fell from buildings when a quake of 5.8 magnitude struck central Virginia in 2011, he noted, but, fortunately, no one was injured.

To be safe, Pratt encourages New Yorkers to keep a few days‘ worth of drinking water and other supplies on hand. He, himself, avoids putting heavy things up high.

„It always gets me nervous when I go into a restaurant that has heavy objects high on shelves,“ he said. „It’s unlikely you’ll get an earthquake. But, we just don’t know.“

Pakistan’s Clash With India Worsen Further (Revelation 8)

Tensions erupt in Kashmir after eight left dead (Image: GETTY)

Pakistan-India CRISIS: Tensions erupt after eight left dead in horrifying Kashmir clashes

PAKISTAN and India tensions erupted once again after eight people were left dead in violent clashes over the controversial area of Kashmir.

By Joel Day 01:55, Fri, Aug 16, 2019 | UPDATED: 02:25, Fri, Aug 16, 2019

Pakistan’s army has said at least three Pakistani and five Indian soldiers have been killed after an exchange of gunfire took place near the Kashmir border. India’s army had allegedly opened fire over the fortified line of control, killing three soldiers, before Pakistan returned fire killing five. Delhi has, however, disputed the claim, denying it took place. Writing on Twitter, Major General Asif Ghafoor, spokesman of Pakistan armed forces, said: In efforts to divert attention from precarious situation in IOJ&K, Indian Army increases firing along LOC.

“Three Pakistani soldiers embraced shahadat. Pakistan Army responded effectively.

“Five Indian soldiers killed, many injured, bunkers damaged. Intermittent exchange of fire continues.”

The showdown came as Pakistan held a symbolic “black day” of protest to coincide with India’s independence day on Thursday.

The day was initially set to ease tensions in the region following an imposing curfew set by the Indian government, where Kashmiri’s experienced a total media shutdown – being without access to landlines, mobiles, or internet.

A Kashmiri woman seen walking past Indian troops (Image: GETTY)

Talking to Al Jazeera, Mr Ghafoor claimed that three civilians had also been caught up and killed in the border war on the Pakistani side.

An Indian army spokesperson was soon to counter the claims, assuring that there were “No casualties. This assertion is wrong”.

The skirmishes come during a period of mounting tensions between Pakistan and India after New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special status last week.

Advancing on this, India mobilised thousands of troops and arrested high-profile political figures in Kashmir.

READ MORE: India-Pakistan tensions to ‘explode’ as Khan ready to deploy Jihadis

New Delhi has denied Pakistan’s claims (Image: GETTY)

India Independence Day: Police confiscate protestor’s dagger

One of whom, Omar Abdullah, was a descendant of a prominent political Kashmiri family and former chief minister of state.

Both Pakistan and India are nuclear-armed, leading global powers to fear things could get out of hand.

The bad-blood goes back to 1947, when India and Pakistan won independence from Britain, but Kashmir gained special independent status.

Ever since, the two nations have battled over ownership of the region, resulting in decades of political and religious tension.