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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.

More Uranium Found in the Iranian Nuclear Horns: Daniel 8

Uranium particles found at Iranian sites

Mar 5, 2021

Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi from Argentina, addresses the media during a news conference behind plexiglass shields after a meeting of the IAEA board of governors at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, Monday, March 1, 2021. Due to restrictions related to COVID-19, it will be organised as a virtual meeting from the IAEA. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Ronald Zak

BERLIN (AP) — Iran has agreed to sit down with international technical experts investigating the discovery of uranium particles at three former undeclared sites in the country, the head of the UN atomic watchdog said Thursday, after months of frustration at Tehran’s lack of a credible explanation.

The agreement came as three of the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran — France, Germany and Britain — backed off the idea of a resolution criticizing Iran for its decision to start limiting access by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to current facilities.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told reporters in Vienna it was not up to him to say whether Iran’s move to hold talks with his technical experts was linked to the decision of the so-called E3 group, but suggested it was difficult to separate the political side of Iran’s nuclear program from the technical side.

The E3 had floated the idea of the resolution after Iran began restricting international inspections last week. After a last-minute trip to Tehran by Grossi, however, some access was preserved.

Russia and China — the other members of the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — were reportedly against the resolution, saying it could antagonize Iran further.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press it was common to “discuss all possible options for action” ahead of such meetings, and that despite dropping the resolution, the E3 still had concerns about Iran’s “serious violations” of the nuclear deal.

“Above all, we would like to support the Director General of the IAEA in his efforts to start talks with Iran regarding the open safeguards issues,” the ministry said.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, tweeted after the decision that “wisdom prevails” and that the E3 had prevented unnecessary tension.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry applauded the move.

“Today’s development can maintain the path of diplomacy opened by Iran and the IAEA, and pave the way for full implementation of commitments by all parties to the nuclear deal,” spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

The nuclear deal promised Iran economic incentives in return for the curbs on its nuclear program. President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal unilaterally in 2018, saying it needed to be renegotiated.

Is Pentagon Covering the Iranian Nuclear Horn?

Pentagon Accused of Giving Iran Cover after Iraq Attack as Joe Biden Mulls Retaliation

By David Brennan On 3/5/21 at 5:03 AM EST

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby has come under fire for his apparent hesitation to link Iran to Shia militias operating in Iraq and launching attacks against U.S. and allied troops, following the latest rocket barrage against Iraq’s Ain Al Asad air base this week.

Kirby spoke with reporters on Wednesday shortly after the attack, during which one American civilian contractor died of a heart attack. The U.S. has not yet apportioned blame for the rocket attack, and no group has claimed responsibility.

But the operation bears the hallmarks of attacks by Iran-aligned Shia Iraqi militias, which regularly target American, Iraqi and allied forces with artillery, IEDs, rockets, and other weapons.

This week’s attack on Ain Al Asad follows a similar strike on the Erbil International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan last month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded several Americans. That attack prompted American retaliatory airstrikes in Syria, targeting fighters belonging to Iran-backed Iraqi militia groups.

But Kirby’s apparent hesitance to link Iran to this week’s attack has prompted criticism online. The Pentagon spokesperson broke with common parlance to describe the suspected perpetrators as “Shia-backed militias,” rather than Iran-backed groups, even after reporters in Wednesday’s briefing challenged the phrase.

“Obviously it’s a rocket attack and we have seen rocket attacks come from Shia-backed militia groups in the past,” Kirby said of this week’s operation.

He added: “We’ve long been open and honest about the threats that arise from these rocket attacks that are being perpetrated by some Shia-backed militia. And we’ve not been bashful about calling it out when we’ve seen it.”

But reporters took issue with Kirby’s phrasing. “When you say Shia-backed militias, do you mean Shia militias or Iran backed…” one journalist asked, before Kirby cut him off and replied: “I mean Shia-backed militias.”

Asked to explain what that meant, Kirby responded: “No seriously. I mean Shia-backed militia.” Pressed again on the phrase, the spokesperson said: “I’ve been using that phrase pretty much since I’ve been up here and we know that—and I’ve said this—that some of the Shia-backed militias have… Iranian backing.”

Past statements, including the Pentagon confirmation of last month’s airstrikes in Syria, have referred to such Iraqi Shia groups as “Iranian-backed militia.”

Iran-watchers on Twitter took issue with Kirby’s remarks and suggested they may be signaling a policy pivot from the administration.

Giorgio Cafiero, the CEO of the Gulf State Analytics geopolitical risk company, said Kirby’s phrasing was “rather weird.” Jason Brodsky, the policy director of the United Against Nuclear Iran group, said the exchange with Kirby was “bizarre.”

Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote on Twitter that Kirby’s comments hinted at a return to the “absurdities” of former President Barack Obama’s Iran strategy.

Dubowitz said Kirby is “a great American,” but “the fact that he has to offer these verbal contortions to whitewash the role of the regime in Iran in attacking Americans is the fault of senior leadership.”

There is significant overlap between Shia militias and Iran-affiliated groups in Iraq, but not all of the former are aligned with Tehran.

Though the Iranian regime wields huge influence in the country, local Shia leaders—chief among them Ali al-Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr—command enormous popular followings and pursue their own interests, often with a nationalist tinge.

A deft politician who has repeatedly rebranded himself, Sadr has demanded the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Iraq, whether American or Iranian, and has called for Iran-backed militias to be absorbed into the Iraqi armed forces.

Sadr has also worked to build bridges with Iran’s arch-rival Saudi Arabia and its Sunni royal family.

Forces loyal to Sistani have previously worked with the Americans against Sunni insurgents in Iraq, and the ayatollah has been held up by hawks like former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a powerful bulwark against Tehran’s influence.

Kirby’s words may be an administration attempt to soften the American response and avoid further escalation, but could also be a reflection of the fact that the investigation is yet to identify exactly which group was responsible for the Ain Al Asad attack.

President Joe Biden has said he will “make judgements” about a response to this week’s attack once the Iraqi-U.S. investigation finds those responsible. “We are following that through right now,” Biden told reporters Wednesday.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “If we assess further response is warranted, we will take action again in a manner and time of our choosing.”

Last month’s airstrikes in Syria were designed to deter further attacks against American and allied targets, but Iran-backed militias have continued to agitate in Iraq. Biden is juggling these tit-for-tat actions with his hope of reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal with Iran and avoiding military escalation in the region.

This article has been updated to provide further background on the Shia militia movement in Iraq.

A picture taken on January 13, 2020 shows a view of the damage at Ain Al Asad airbase in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. AYMAN HENNA/AFP via Getty Images

Shaking before the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6:12

1.9 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Connecticut

Kathy Reakes03/05/2021 9:30 a.m.

The blue dot pinpoints the Connecticut quake. The orange dots show earthquakes felt within the last 24 hours. Photo Credit: USGS

Did you feel it? 

A minor 1.9-magnitude earthquake struck in the Hartford area at 1:14 a.m., Friday, March 5, or to be more specific about 4.8 miles west in the West Hartford area, said Robert Sanders, a geophysicist with the National Earthquake Center.

The depth was 2.2 kilometers.

According to Sanders, minor fault lines run throughout the northeast, and earthquakes happen on a weekly basis, but only a few are strong enough to be felt. 

“Most of the quakes are very low in magnitude, and no one feels them,” Sanders said. “They tend to be felt more in larger cities with denser populations.

If you did feel the quake, the center has a reporting system that keeps track of quakes throughout the U.S. 

As of 9 a.m., 22 people had reported feeling the quake. 

Pope Meets the Antichrist

Pope, top Iraq Shiite cleric deliver message of coexistence

Pope Francis thanked Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defense of the weakest and most persecuted” during violent times in Iraq.

NAJAF, Iraq — The video above is a message from Pope Francis for the people of Iraq released prior to his visit there.

Pope Francis walked through a narrow alley in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf for a historic meeting with the country’s top Shiite cleric, and together they delivered a powerful message of peaceful coexistence in a country still reeling from back-to-back conflicts over the past decade.

In a gesture both simple and profound, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani welcomed Francis into his spartan home. Afterward, he said religious authorities have a role in protecting Iraq’s Christians, and that Christians should live in peace and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis. The Vatican said Francis thanked al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defense of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of the most violent times in Iraq’s recent history

Al-Sistani, 90, is one of the most senior clerics in Shiite Islam, and his rare but powerful political interventions have helped shape present-day Iraq. He is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and his opinions on religious and other matters are sought by Shiites worldwide.

Later in the day, the pope met with Iraqi religious leaders in the shadow of a symbol of the country’s ancient past — the 6,000-year-old ziggurat in the Plains of Ur, also the traditional birthplace of Abraham, the biblical patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Such interfaith forums are a staple of Francis’ international trips. But in strife-torn Iraq the televised gathering of figures from across the country’s religious spectrum was nearly unheard of: From Shiite and Sunni Muslims to Christians, Yazidis and Zoroastrians and tiny, lesser known, ancient and esoteric faiths like the Kakai, a sect among ethnic Kurds, Mandaeans and Sabaean Mandaeans. Missing from the picture was a representative of Iraq’s once thriving, now nearly decimated Jewish community, though they were invited, the Vatican said.

Together, the day’s two main events gave symbolic and practical punch to the central message of Francis’ visit, calling for Iraq to embrace its diversity. It is a message he hopes can preserve the place of the thinning Christian population in the tapestry.

Still, it faces a tough sell in a country where every community has been traumatized by sectarian bloodshed and discrimination and where politicians have tied their power to sectarian interests.

In al-Sistani, Francis sought the help of an ascetic, respected figure who is immersed in those sectarian identities but is also a powerful voice standing above them.

Their meeting in al-Sistani’s humble home, the first ever between a pope and a grand ayatollah, was months in the making, with every detail painstakingly negotiated beforehand.

Early Saturday, the 84-year-old pontiff, travelling in a bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz, pulled up along Najaf’s narrow and column-lined Rasool Street, which culminates at the golden-domed Imam Ali Shrine, one of the most revered sites in Shiite Islam.

He then walked the few meters (yards) down an alley to al-Sistani’s home. As a masked Francis entered the doorway, a few white doves were released in a sign of peace. He emerged just under an hour later, still limping from an apparent flare-up of sciatica nerve pain that makes walking difficult.

A religious official in Najaf called the 40-minute meeting “very positive.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.

The official said al-Sistani, who normally remains seated for visitors, stood to greet Francis at the door of his room — a rare honor. The pope removed his shoes before entering al-Sistani’s room and was served tea and a plastic bottle of water.

Al-Sistani and Francis sat close to one another, without masks. Al-Sistani spoke for most of the meeting, the official said. Al-Sistani, who rarely appears in public or even on television, wore black robes and a black turban, in simple contrast to Francis’ all-white cassock.

The official said there was some concern about the fact that the pope had met with so many people the day before. Francis has received the coronavirus vaccine but al-Sistani has not. The aging ayatollah, who underwent surgery for a fractured thigh last year, looked tired.

After the meeting ended, Francis paused before leaving the room to have a last look, the official said.

In a statement issued by his office afterward, al-Sistani affirmed that Christians should “live like all Iraqis, in security and peace and with full constitutional rights.” He pointed out the “role that the religious authority plays in protecting them, and others who have also suffered injustice and harm in the events of past years.”

Al-Sistani wished Francis and the followers of the Catholic Church happiness and thanked him for taking the trouble to visit him in Najaf, the statement said.

Iraqis cheered the meeting, and the prime minister responded to it by declaring March 6 a National Day of Tolerance and Cooexistence in Iraq.

”We welcome the pope’s visit to Iraq and especially to the holy city of Najaf and his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani,” said Najaf resident Haidar Al-Ilyawi. “It is a historic visit and hope it will be good for Iraq and the Iraqi people.”

Iraq’s Christians, battered by violence and discrimination, hope a show of solidarity from al-Sistani will help secure their place in Iraq and ease intimidation from Shiite militiamen against their community.

Al-Sistani’s voice is a powerful one, often for moderation.

After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, his opinions forced American administrators to alter their transition plans, and his approval opened the way for Iraq’s Shiites to participate in force in post-Saddam Hussein elections. In 2019, as anti-government demonstrations gripped the country, his sermon led to the resignation of then-prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

But his word is not law. After 2003, he repeatedly preached calm and restraint as the Shiite majority came under attack by Sunni extremists. Yet brutal Shiite reprisals against Sunni civilians fed a years-long cycle of sectarian violence.

His 2014 fatwa, or religious edict, calling on able-bodied men to join the security forces in fighting the Islamic State group helped ensure the extremists’ defeat. But it also swelled the ranks of Shiite militias, many closely tied to Iran and now blamed for discrimination against Sunnis and Christians.

Later, Pope Francis evoked the common reverence for Abraham to speak against religious violence at the inter-faith gathering at the Plains of Ur, near the southern city of Nasiriyah.

“From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters,” Francis said. “Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion.”

The Vatican said Iraqi Jews were invited to the event but did not attend, without providing further details. Iraq’s ancient Jewish community was decimated in the 20th century by violence and mass emigration fueled by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and only a handful remain.

Ali Thijeel, a Nasiriyah resident who attended the event, said he hoped the pope’s visit would encourage investment in the area to attract pilgrims and tourists. “This is what we were waiting for,” he said. “This is a message to the government and politicians. They should take care of this city and pay attention to our history.”

Francis’ visit — his first international trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic — comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Iraq. Despite concern about infections, Francis celebrated Mass in a packed, stuffy Chaldean Catholic Cathedral later Saturday in Baghdad that featured chanted Scripture readings and a maskless choir singing hymns.

“Love is our strength, the source of strength for those of our brothers and sisters who here too have suffered prejudice, indignities, mistreatment and persecutions for the name of Jesus,” Francis told the faithful, who did wear masks.

___

Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad. Associated Press journalists Anmar Khalil in Najaf, Iraq, and Samya Kullab in Baghdad contributed.

Israel Prepares to Attack the Iranian Nuclear Horn

Israel Developing Plans to Strike Iran over Nuclear Weapons as Joe Biden Deal Falters

By David Brennan On 3/5/21 at 7:29 AM EST

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has warned that his country will “stand independently” against Iran if needed, as President Joe Biden pushes ahead with his plan to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) despite opposition from American conservatives and Middle Eastern allies.

Gantz—who is currently defense minister as part of a power sharing deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—told Fox News Radio on Thursday that Israel is constantly drawing up plans to attack Iran and deny Tehran nuclear weapons, with or without American support.

Gantz’s warning comes after weeks of rising tensions in the Middle East, with attacks on American and Iraqi troops by Iranian-backed Iraqi militia groups, American and Israeli airstrikes in Syria, an attack against Israeli shipping in the Gulf of Oman, and intensified operations against Saudi Arabia by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.

The Biden administration appears to be trying to keep low intensity regional conflict separate from JCPOA talks, but Gantz told Fox News Radio that Israel was not. “We should not put aside all the regional aggression,” Gantz said, noting incidents in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Iranian influence over Islamist militia forces in the besieged Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

We are on very high alert all the time,” Gantz said. “The issue with Iran must be solved.” Asked whether the country had strike plans ready for use, the defense minister said his forces were constantly revising the situation.

“We are working on it,” Gantz said. We have them in our hands, of course, but we will continue and constantly improving them to the highest professional level possible.”

Gantz had been due to take over as Israeli prime minister in November 2021 under the power-sharing deal. But Gantz’s Blue and White coalition is on course to register a poor result in the country’s coming election—the fourth in two years—which would end his leadership hopes.

Despite the political chaos, Israeli leaders are largely united on Iran. Netanyahu and Gantz are both staunch critics of the JCPOA, arguing that Iran cannot be trusted to abide by any deal and that the Obama-era accord was too lenient.

Netanyahu was a key advocate of former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018, and he and other Israeli leaders have been pressuring Biden to walk away from the agreement.

Netanyahu said last month that Israel will stop Iran’s nuclear program “with or without” Biden’s revived deal, while Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said in January his forces were drawing up attack plans on the country.

Israel is unlikely to come on board with any American re-entry into the JCPOA, which the country sees as inherently flawed and a threat to its strategic position. Observers have suggested that Israel might take unilateral action against Iran even without American permission, for example military strikes or cyber attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Israel has previously attacked nuclear sites in Syria, Iraq and Iran, while Israeli operatives are also believed to have assassinated multiple Iranian nuclear scientists over the past decade including top researcher Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November.

“American policy should be American policy and Israeli policy should stay Israeli policy,” Gantz said. “The only thing I would suggest my American colleagues is not to practice what I usually call ‘strategic blinking,'” he added. “The threat of the Iranians is real.”

“Israel will never allow Iran to become nuclear capable or anywhere close to it,” Gantz told Fox News Radio. “If the world stops them before, it’s very much good. But if not, we must stand independently. And we must defend ourselves by ourselves.”

The Biden administration and Tehran are stuck in a stalemate over who will take the first step to reviving the JCPOA. Iran wants Biden to lift all Trump-era sanctions imposed after the U.S. exit from the deal in 2018 before it scales back its nuclear activity in line with the JCPOA. But the White House wants Iranian nuclear compliance before any sanctions relief.

The U.S. has proposed fresh talks with JCPOA signatories, but Iran has rebuffed the offer demanding sanctions relief before any negotiations.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Thursday that Iran “should not be waiting for anything, because we have stated very clearly that what we are prepared to do is to engage in constructive dialogue. That is the offer that has been on the table.”

“If Iran resumes its full compliance with the JCPOA, the United States will be prepared to do the same,” Price said.

This file photo shows an Israeli F-35 fighter jet over the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva, on June 27, 2019. JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

The Sixth Seal: More Than Just Manhattan (Revelation 6:12)

New York, NY – In a Quake, Brooklyn Would Shake More Than Manhattan
By Brooklyn Eagle
New York, NY – The last big earthquake in the New York City area, centered in New York Harbor just south of Rockaway, took place in 1884 and registered 5.2 on the Richter Scale.Another earthquake of this size can be expected and could be quite damaging, says Dr. Won-Young Kim, senior research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.
And Brooklyn, resting on sediment, would shake more than Manhattan, built on solid rock. “There would be more shaking and more damage,” Dr. Kim told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday.
If an earthquake of a similar magnitude were to happen today near Brooklyn, “Many chimneys would topple. Poorly maintained buildings would fall down – some buildings are falling down now even without any shaking. People would not be hit by collapsing buildings, but they would be hit by falling debris. We need to get some of these buildings fixed,” he said.
But a 5.2 is “not comparable to Haiti,” he said. “That was huge.” Haiti’s devastating earthquake measured 7.0.
Brooklyn has a different environment than Haiti, and that makes all the difference, he said. Haiti is situated near tectonic plate.
“The Caribbean plate is moving to the east, while the North American plate is moving towards the west. They move about 20 mm – slightly less than an inch – every year.” The plates are sliding past each other, and the movement is not smooth, leading to jolts, he said.
While we don’t have the opportunity for a large jolt in Brooklyn, we do have small, frequent quakes of a magnitude of 2 or 3 on the Richter Scale. In 2001 alone the city experienced two quakes: one in January, measuring 2.4, and one in October, measuring 2.6. The October quake, occurring soon after Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, “caused a lot of panic,” Dr. Kim said.
“People ask me, ‘Should I get earthquake insurance?’ I tell them no, earthquake insurance is expensive. Instead, use that money to fix chimneys and other things. Rather than panicky preparations, use common sense to make things better.”
Secure bookcases to the wall and make sure hanging furniture does not fall down, Dr. Kim said. “If you have antique porcelains or dishes, make sure they’re safely stored. In California, everything is anchored to the ground.”
While a small earthquake in Brooklyn may cause panic, “In California, a quake of magnitude 2 is called a micro-quake,” he added.

Our Allied Nuclear Horns: Daniel 7

When Allies Go Nuclear

How to Prevent the Next Proliferation Threat

By February 12, 2021

The year is 2030. Seismic monitors have just detected an unforeseen underground atomic explosion, signaling that yet another country has joined the growing club of nuclear-armed states. There are now 20 such countries, more than double the number in 2021. To the surprise of many, the proliferation has come not from rogue states bent on committing nuclear blackmail but from a group of countries usually seen as cautious and rule abiding: U.S. allies. Even though they had forsworn acquiring nuclear capabilities decades earlier when they signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), these allies changed their minds and withdrew from the agreement, a move that triggered yet more defections as nations across the world raced to acquire the bomb. And so the number of nuclear decision-makers multiplied, raising the odds of a terrifying possibility: that one of these powerful weapons might go off.

Far-fetched? Perhaps, but this scenario is more plausible now than

America Worries About the China Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

China’s Nuclear Weapons Build Up Has the U.S. Military Worried

China’s military seems like it is growing in every direction possible. 

For example, Chinese shipbuilders are adding new aircraft carriers, amphibs and destroyers at an alarming pace. Chinese armored vehicle engineers are fast-adding new infantry carriers and mobile artillery platforms. Chinese weapons developers are adding large numbers of new drones and attack robots. But the largest and potentially most alarming element of all of this, according to many senior U.S. leaders, is the staggering pace at which China is adding nuclear weapons. 

“A troubling revelation has been about the trajectory of the Chinese nuclear program. The Chinese have plans to at least double their arsenal by the end of the decade. They are departing from what has been known as a minimalist theory,”  Gen. Timothy Ray, Commander, Air Force Global Strike Command, told reporters at the 2021 Air Force Association Symposium. 

Ray’s concern about the fast-growing Chinese nuclear arsenal aligns with and builds upon the Pentagon’s Pentagon’s 2020 China Military Report, which states that the number of warheadsarming Beijing’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of threateningAmerica will likely grow to 200 in the next five years. As an element of this expansion, China is increasing its inventory of long-range land-fired DF-26 Anti-Ship missiles able to fire both conventional and nuclear missiles.

Ray cited a hope that China might be willing to consider joining various ongoing arms treaty discussions, but did not appear extremely optimistic about the possibility given China’s approach to nuclear weaponsmodernization. 

 “I think the need to have China in a conversation about arms control is important,” Ray says. 

“Combined with a near-complete lack of transparency regarding their (China’s) strategic intent and the perceived need for a much larger, more diverse nuclear force, these developments pose a significant concern for the United States,” the 2020 Pentagon report explains.  

The reality of the threat circumstance with China seemed to be one of several reasons why Ray stressed the importance of maintaining and adding to the U.S. nuclear triad, particularly in the Asian theater. 

There continues to be successful U.S. and allied Bomber Task Force Patrols, including ongoing work with B-1s in India and integrated flights with nuclear-capable B-2s and B-52s. Ray said the Air Force is working vigorouslyto expand allied collaboration with Bomber Task Forces beyond its current scope. 

“We have the highest bomber aircrew readiness in the history of the command,” he said. 

Alongside an effort to emphasize the growing importance of allied operations in the Pacific, Ray stressed a need for the U.S. to maintain its strategic deterrence posture with a modernized nuclear triad. 

“There are no allied bombers and no allied ICBMs. These two components are the cornerstone of the security structure of a free world,” Ray said. 

What much of this contributes to, Ray explained, is the importance of continuing the current Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program, a now underway effort to build a new arsenal of 400 U.S. ICBMs. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

IDF completes underground anti-tunnel barrier outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

IDF completes underground anti-tunnel barrier surrounding Gaza

Security officials said to suggest Hamas using calm period to procure advanced weaponry; military’s Southern Command holds drill simulating tunnel warfare in next conflict

By TOI staff5 Mar 2021, 11:35 am

After four years of work, the Israel Defense Forces has completed the sophisticated new underground barrier on the Gaza border which is used to detect and prevent tunnel-digging by terror groups into Israeli territory.

The official completion of the underground barrier took place last week.

AstraZeneca effective against Brazil variant – source

The barrier is essentially a thick concrete wall going dozens of meters underground and lined with sensors meant to pick up any digging activity.

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In October the barrier thwarted its first tunnel according to the military. It had penetrated dozens of meters into Israeli territory but remained on the Gazan side of the underground barrier around the Strip.

This photo provided by the Israel Defense Forces on October 20, 2020, shows a soldier operating along the border with the southern Gaza Strip, after a tunnel within Israeli territory was found in the area. (Israel Defense Forces)

It marked the 20th tunnel attempted by Gaza terrorists that has been thwarted since the 2014 Gaza war, during which the IDF destroyed some 30 tunnels that had penetrated into Israel, the military’s spokesperson said.

Additional fortifications are still undergoing construction, like the 20-foot-high fence that will extend 65 kilometers (40 miles) miles around the enclave and sit atop the subterranean concrete wall. That barrier is some 80 percent complete.

The barrier project is expected to cost approximately NIS 3 billion ($833 million), with each kilometer of the underground portion of the barrier costing approximately NIS 41.5 million ($11.5 million). The above-ground fence is significantly cheaper, at just NIS 1.5 million ($416,000) per kilometer.

The new fence surrounding the Gaza Strip is being constructed within Israeli territory, a few dozen meters east of the current lower, more easily penetrable fencing. The old barrier will not be removed.

Israel constructs an above-ground barrier around Gaza Strip, aimed at preventing infiltration by terrorists, in February 2019. (Defense Ministry)

Meanwhile, according to Kan News, Israel’s security establishment assesses Hamas is currently taking advantage of the relative calm to train for future conflict with Israel and procure more advanced weapons.

Last Monday, the Israel Defense Forces said it uncovered a “potential threat” to naval ships off the Gaza coast, without elaborating on the nature of the threat.

“IDF troops detected the activity and thwarted it,” the military added.

Channel 12 News later said the threat was a Hamas naval vessel posing as a fishing boat. The network’s military correspondent reported that many of the details of the incident were banned from publication by the military censor, but the Hamas boat was destroyed and sunk by a missile fired by Israeli forces.

The Israeli military has repeatedly warned that the Hamas terror group, the de facto ruler of Gaza, as well as other terrorist organizations in the Strip, have been developing a number of different maritime-based weapons, including naval mines, explosives-laden kamikaze boats, and autonomous submarines.

At the same time, the IDF’s Southern Command completed a series of drills this week to prepare commanders for the next wide-scale conflict with Gaza.

In this image provided by the IDF, soldiers are seen conducting an urban-area drill during February in southern Israel in preparation for the next wide-scale conflict with Gaza. (Israel Defense Forces spokesperson)

During the exercises, officers trained inside mock tunnels and practiced preventing potential kidnappings of soldiers.

A senior Israeli military commander said in February that, according to IDF estimates, Hamas has replenished its arsenal since a 2014 war with Israel and now has a vast stock of rockets, guided missiles, and drones.

It also has acquired dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles and has an army of some 30,000 fighters, including 400 naval commandos who have received sophisticated training and equipment to carry out seaborne operations, the commander added. He spoke on condition of anonymity under military guidelines.

Israeli Navy Targets Palestinian Fishermen Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli Navy Targets Palestinian Fishermen Offshore Gaza, Injures Two

March 5, 2021

The Israeli army regularly detains and opens fire on unarmed Palestinian fishermen. (Photo: Fawzi Mahmoud, The Palestine Chronicle)

Israeli navy today targeted Palestinian fishermen offshore Beit Lahia town in the northern Gaza Strip, injuring two fishermen, according to the news agency WAFA.

The fishermen were sailing only three nautical miles offshore the area when Israeli naval boats opened gunfire towards them, injuring two.

The casualties were rushed to the Indonesian Hospital, east of the town, where medics described their condition as light and moderate.

Fourteen years following the Israeli “disengagement” from Gaza, Israel has not actually disengaged from Gaza; it still maintains control of its land borders, access to the sea and airspace.

Two million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, which has been subjected to a punishing and crippling Israeli blockade for 12 years and repeated onslaughts that have heavily damaged much of the enclave’s infrastructure.

Gaza’s 2-million population remains under “remote control” occupation and a strict siege, which has destroyed the local economy, strangled Palestinian livelihoods, plunged them into unprecedented rates of unemployment and poverty, and cut off from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories and the wider world.

(WAFA, PC, Social Media)