The Legacy of Obama’s Presidency (Ezekiel 17)

Contradictions Abound At Obama’s Final Nuclear Security Summit – Analysis

US President Barack Obama speaks at United Nations
US President Barack Obama speaks at United Nations. Photo Credit: Screenshot from White House video.
By K.N. Pandita

In his Prague speech of 2009, President Obama touched on an important subject for the first time. He talked about security against nuclear terror, meaning the need to nuclear arsenals against falling into the hands of non-state actors. A year later, the first meeting of stakeholders (NSS) numbering no fewer than 53, was held in Washington to deliberate and gradually inch towards a consensus formula of how nuclear arsenals could be safeguarded.

The fourth and perhaps final meeting of the NSS, to which India and Pakistan have also been invited, is to be held in Washington at the end of March. President Putin of Russia has declined to participate.
India and Pakistan, two nuclear countries in South Asia, count fairly well in the deliberations and in the decision likely to come out of the final round of talks.

In a news briefing in Washington in October 2015, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhury disclosed for the first time that his country had made low-yield tactical nuclear weapons “for use in the event of a sudden attack by its larger neighbor.”

Two days later, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with President Obama. Reports suggest that they talked about Pakistan’s nuclear program, Afghanistan, and militant groups such as the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba – both banned organizations in the U.S.

Quoting Pervez Hoodhbhoy, a nuclear physicist and independent security analyst based in Lahore, BBC reported in a news commentary on October 21, 2015: “The fact that Pakistan was making small tactical nuclear weapons was clear to the world from the day Pakistan started its missile program. It meant that Pakistan had developed low-yield nuclear warheads to be delivered by those missiles at short ranges in a battlefield having localized impact, unlike big bombs designed to destroy cities.”
Experts say that the 2011 testing of a nuclear-capable Nasr missile by Pakistan, with a 60 kilometers range, was an indication that Pakistan was building an arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons for use in a theater of war.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based expert on defense and security issues, suspects that Pakistan may have designed even smaller nuclear weapons, capable of being shot from a specially-designed gun.
Objectively speaking, battlefield weapons could be more dangerous than larger weapons because in the event of a conflict, they will need to be spread out, deployed at multiple locations closer to the targets, and would need to be fired at short notice. BBC also made the cryptic remark that “evidently, Pakistan has acquired this technology from China and it is not possible to block that pipeline.”
The question is whether nuclear command and control procedures will always be adequately ensured for all the missile units deployed across the theatre?

In addition to this concern, should not Western powers and the U.S. in particular take note of the fact that Pakistan developed these weapons despite nuclear-related international sanctions in force since 1998, after it carried out its first nuclear test?

How then is the U.S. reacting to this situation in the context of NSS program? Let us put it succinctly. Speaking during a hearing on Pakistan convened by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, US Special Representative for Af-Pak, Richard Olson said that Obama administration shares the concerns of lawmakers particularly about the development of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. “We are concerned most by the pace and scope of Pakistan’s missile program, including its pursuit of nuclear systems,” he said.

Replying to a question from Congressman Brian Higgins, Olson said that the U.S. was concerned a conventional conflict in Southwest Asia could escalate to include nuclear weapons as well as the increased security challenges that accompany growing stockpiles. He said the U.S. had a very active dialogue at the highest levels with the Pakistanis in which US concerns were stated.
US official circles assert they have urged Pakistan to restrain her nuclear weapons and missile development, which might invite increased risk to nuclear safety, security, or strategic stability.
On this basis, US lawmakers have asked their government to be tough on Islamabad “as it does not seem to be sincere in improving ties with India and has accelerated the pace of arsenals’ production.”
According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Pakistan could have 350 nuclear warheads in the next decade, becoming the world’s third biggest nuclear power, outpacing India, France, China, and the UK. Expressing himself forcefully on the subject, Higgins said, “We have to call them (Pakistan) out on this double game they have been playing, not this year, not last year, not five years, but for the past 15 years…. Pakistan, let’s be truthful about this, plays a double game. They are our military partner, but they are the protector and the patron of our enemies. US aid to Pakistan, economic and military, has averaged $2 billion a year.”

Attendees of the Nuclear Security Summit, particularly the United States, must be aware that Pakistan with its 189 million population – many of them Islamic extremists – has nuclear weapons. To have Islamic extremists with nuclear weapons is a primary goal of al-Qaeda and it would be a major victory for them and the outgrowth of al-Qaeda namely the Islamic State, avers Higgins.
Covering the strategic dialogue between the high-powered Pakistani delegation led by Adviser for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, with their American counterpart in Washington, the Webdesk reported on 9 March that “Sartaj Aziz insisted that Islamabad would not accept any unilateral curb on its program. Any reduction must also apply to India and it must address the conventional imbalance between the two countries.” He pointed out that Pakistan did not have the resources to match India’s ever-increasing arsenal of conventional weapons and was forced to depend on non-conventional means to defend it.” Another important statement which Aziz made on that day was that Pakistan was hosting some Taliban leaders…

It is clear that Pakistan has decided to use nuclear option in case of war with India and that it is not ruling out the possibility of hosting the Taliban for whatever purposes.

What then should be the foremost agenda of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on 31 March? Obviously, it should be a detailed review of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in the backdrop of how Islamabad tries to justify its relentless effort to increase its nuclear stockpile, including limited tactical nuclear weapon.

However, deeper study on the scenario throws up a contradiction in the words and practice of the U.S. The joint statement issued by Kerry and Sartaj after the conclusion of strategic dialogue belies the stated intentions of the U.S. The joint statement is a long eulogy on the “achievements” of Pakistan in meeting the challenge of the terrorists in the northern part of the country. John Kerry had full-throated praises and encomiums for the Pakistani Army fighting the “terrorists” in Pakistan’s north, but not a single word or hint about the terrorist engines on Pakistani soil working against India and Afghanistan. Proliferation of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and induction of tactical nuclear weapons in that arsenal did not figure in their joint statement.

Newsdesk of February 29, 2016 referred to a transcript released in Washington showing Secretary Kerry arguing in two congressional hearings that “the U.S. has been working really hard” to advance a rapprochement between Islamabad and India. In one statement he indirectly confirmed media reports that the U.S. was quietly encouraging the two prime ministers to hold bilateral talks.

How he looks at the stand-off between India and Pakistan, is reflected in his statement that Pakistan has deployed 150,000 to 180,000 troops along the Pak-Afghan border, and in case of a conflict with India Pakistan would have to redeploy the bulk of its forces on her eastern front. Thus what Kerry actually wants Pakistan to do is to fight against the Al Qaeda and Taliban outfits on her western front and keep the so-called non-state actors active on her eastern front against India.

The Webdesk of March 9 said that unlike it did with Iran, the U.S. does not want Pakistan to shut down its nuclear program. But it does want Islamabad to reduce the size of its arsenal.

During a testimony in the Senate where the bill against the sale of 8 F-16 to Pakistan was defeated by 71 to 24 votes, Secretary Kerry passionately defended the sale of Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, saying that the U.S. is committed to boosting Pakistan’s strategic capabilities in its war against terrorists.
In other words, Kerry means to say that only the Taliban and Al Qaeda outfits who are fighting against Pakistan in KP region are the terrorists Pakistan should fight against and the scores of other terrorist groups in Pakistan are outside the pale of terrorism. The Mumbai attacks and the recent attack on Pathankot airbase are no terrorist activities for him.

The sale of the F-16s aside, the Obama administration in February 2015 asked Congress to provide more than $1 billion in aid to Pakistan, including a six-fold increase in foreign military financing. The budget proposal described Pakistan as a “strategically important nation” and the proposed US assistance “will strengthen its military in the fight against extremism [and] increase the safety of nuclear installations”

This lays bare the doublespeak of the U.S. on the much trumpeted Nuclear Security Summit, to which President Obama has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to participate.

All this notwithstanding, BBC said in its commentary of 9 March that there are suggestions that the U.S. may offer Pakistan membership in the Nuclear Supplies Group, with legitimate access to available research and technology, in return for some curbs on fissile material production and its missile program. Sartaj Aziz already reacted this by saying that Pakistan will not accept any unilateral curbs unless same are applied to India.

This article was published at Geopolitical

Antichrist Iraq’s ‘enfant terrible’ (Revelation 13)

Moqtada Sadr, Iraq’s ‘enfant terrible’, back in the spotlight

 By Afp

13:03 20 Mar 2016, updated 13:03 20 Mar 2016

A string of mass protests culminating in an ongoing sit-in at the gates of Baghdad’s Green Zone have thrust the mercurial Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr back on to centre stage.

The scion of an influential clerical family from the holy city of Najaf, he first made a name for himself at the age of 30 as a vociferous anti-American cleric who raised a rebellion.

His influence ebbed after the 2011 US pullout but he retained strong support among the lower classes and is now casting himself as the champion of the fight against graft.

This is your time to root out corruption and the corrupt,” he said earlier this month in a call to his supporters to march on the fortified Green Zone and set up protest camps.

Thousands of them defied a government ban on Friday to heed their leader’s call and set up tents at the main entrances of the vast restricted area in central Baghdad which houses key state institutions as well as foreign embassies.

Sadr says the goal of the protests is the formation of a cabinet of technocrats to replace party-affiliated politicians he says have perpetuated a system based on nepotism and patronage.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi himself made the proposal but he is being undermined by parties — including his own — whose barons are reluctant to relinquish their positions and attendant privileges.
While ostensibly declaring his support for Abadi’s proposed reforms, Sadr’s decision to take to the street leaves the prime minister even closer to the brink.

The sit-in and the huge security deployment around it have paralysed central Baghdad and Sadr has given Abadi an ultimatum expiring in a week to present names for a new cabinet.

“This is a serious escalation,” said Ahmed Ali, of the Institute of Regional and International Studies at the American University of Iraq.

Sadr started this thing and will not go silent now, he wants to go all the way,” said Issam al-Faily, professor of political science at Baghdad’s Mustansiriya University.

– Unpredictable –

Since he took over the premiership in 2014, and despite the backing of the country’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Abadi has ruled with very tenuous support from his own government.
Now any reform that does go through would risk looking like a victory for Sadr and create more unease among the country’s other, rival Shiite leaders.

“The Sadrists are attempting to reinsert themselves forcefully into the Iraqi Shiite political sphere which is getting more contentious by the moment,” said Ahmed Ali.

The top players in the Shiite-majority country, many of them aligned with Iran, are fretting at the resurgence of the populist cleric, who was once a Tehran client but has since reinvented himself as a nationalist.

While his popularity had appeared to recede in recent years, the 42-year-old cleric can still mobilise large crowds like few others in Iraq.

“Sadr began this as a new effort to co-opt the anti-corruption protest movement after a different effort failed last fall,” said Kirk Sowell, publisher of the Inside Iraqi Politics newsletter.

Several stalwarts of the Sadr movement are in the government and some are widely seen as the least competent and more corrupt but the cleric has tried to deflect any criticism by distancing himself from his own ministers.

“The solution should come from all parties. Once they are satisfied they can wield their influence through parliament, they should accept the formation of an independent government,” said Faily.
Possibly the most predictable feature of Sadr is his unpredictability.

“Impossible to know where this is going,” said Sowell. “How he actually accomplishes anything meaningful, I don’t know. It may help him in becoming the popular leader he wants to be.”

In a statement on Saturday, Sadr said he did not want to complain — but essentially did — about “the lack of coverage by Iraqi, Arab and international channels of the most important event in Iraq, the peaceful national sit-in.”

Nuclear War Is Imminent (Revelation 16)

European NUCLEAR WAR IMMINENT as Russia relations break down

A NUCLEAR war in Europe is highly likely to happen soon as relations with Russia become even more strained, a former Russian foreign minister has threatened.

By Alix Culbertson
PUBLISHED: 19:09, Sat, Mar 19, 2016 | UPDATED: 21:20, Sat, Mar 19, 2016nuclear war
A nuclear war between Europe and Russia is coming closer to reality
Igor Ivanov, foreign minister from 1998 to 2004 under Boris Yeltsin and current President Vladimir Putin, said the risk of a nuclear war in Europe is higher than at any time in the 1980s.Mr Ivanov, now the head of a Russian Government think-tank, said: “The risk of confrontation with the use of nuclear weapons in Europe is higher than in the 1980s.”
Both Russia and the United States have fewer nuclear weapons than in the Cold War period but with just over 7,000 nuclear warheads each, they still have about 90 per cent of world stocks, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.Talking at a Brussels event with the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Poland, and a US lawmaker, the ex-politician, said: “We have less nuclear warheads, but the risk of them being used is growing.”

Russia has been warned about intimidating its neighbours with talk about nuclear weapons by NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, voicing concerns among Western officials.

But Mr Ivanov blamed a missile defence shield being set up by the United States in Europe for raising the stakes.

Part of the shield is a site in Poland due to become operational in 2018 which is particularly sensitive for the Kremlin because it brings US capabilities close to Russian borders.
The US and NATO say the shield is designed to protect Europe against Iranian ballistic missiles and is neither targeted at Russia nor capable of downing its missiles.

Referring to Russia’s Baltics territory, Mr Ivanov added: “It can be assured that once the US deploys its missile defence system in Poland, Russia would respond by deploying its own missile defence system in Kaliningrad.”Mr Ivanov showed further aggressive rhetoric over the situation in Ukraine, saying Europe and Russia have little chance of a broader reconciliation, despite European and NATO diplomats seeking a political solution to the separatist conflict in Ukraine which has slaughtered more than 9,000 people since April 2014.He said: “The paths of Europe and Russia are seriously diverging and will remain so for a long time, probably for decades to come.” 
Russia could not be the eastern flank of a “failed greater Europe”, he insisted.

Indian Point Will Contaminate The Hudson With Plutonium At The Sixth Seal

Part of Indian Point nuclear plant still shut after transformer fire
Sunday, May 10, 2015 06:35PM

Part of a nuclear power plant remained offline Sunday after a transformer fire crea ted another problem: thousands of gallons of oil leaking into the Hudson River.

At an afternoon briefing, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said emergency crews were out on the water near Buchanan trying to contain and clean up the transformer fluid that leaked from Indian Point 3.

“There’s no doubt that oil was discharged into the Hudson River,” Cuomo said. “Exactly how much, we don’t know.”

The transformer at the plant about 30 miles north of midtown Manhattan failed on Saturday evening, causing a fire that forced the automatic shutdown.

Cuomo revealed Sunday that even after the blaze on the non-nuclear side of the plant was quickly doused, the heat reignited the fire, but it was again extinguished.

Oil in the transformer seeped into a holding tank that did not have the capacity to contain all the fluid, which then entered river waters through a discharge drain.

Joseph Martens, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said measures were taken to keep the oil from spreading, including setting up booms over an area about 300 feet in diameter in the water.

The cleanup should take a day or two, Cuomo said.

A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said several thousand gallons of oil may have overflowed the transformer moat.

The reactor itself was deemed safe and stable throughout, said a spokesman for owner Entergy Corp. The plant’s adjacent Unit 2 reactor was not affected and remained in operation.

The Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan supplies electricity for millions of homes, businesses and public facilities in New York City and Westchester County.

“These situations we take very seriously. Luckily this was not a major situation. But the emergency protocols are very important,” Cuomo said Saturday. “I take nothing lightly when it comes to this plant specifically.”

The transformer at Indian Point 3 takes energy created by the plant and changes the voltage for the grid supplying power to the state. The blaze, which sent black smoke billowing into the sky, was extinguished by a sprinkler system and on-site personnel, Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said. Westchester County police and fire were on site as a precaution.

It was not immediately clear what caused the failure, or whether the transformer would be repaired or replaced. Nappi said there were no health or safety risks.

Officials did not know how long the 1,000-megawatt reactor would be down. Entergy is investigating the failure.

Cuomo said there had been too many emergencies recently involving Indian Point. Unit 3 was shut down Thursday morning for an unrelated issue – a water leak on the non-nuclear side of the plant. It was repaired and there was no radioactive release, Nappi said.

In March, Unit 3 was shut down for a planned refueling that took about a month.

“We have to get to the bottom of this,” the governor said.

Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said an agency inspector was at the site Sunday and the agency would follow up as Indian Point assesses the affected equipment.

She said there was no impact on the public, and it was not out of the ordinary for a transformer to have a problem.

The environmental watchdog group Riverkeeper issued a statement Sunday saying the latest Indian Point accident proves that the plant should be closed for good.

The Ramapo Fault and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Living on the Fault Line

Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo

This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.
The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.
After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.
Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.
During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.
“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”
Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.
Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.
After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.
But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.
Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.
Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.
The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.
For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.
Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”
The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.
The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.
This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”
Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”
But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.
Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.
All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.
For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.
Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.
To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.
In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.
As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)
In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.
The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (
Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.
Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.
This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.
“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.
For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at
All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.
Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”
Planning for the Big One
For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.
In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.
Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”
Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.
This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”
A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.
“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”
Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.

Preparing For Nuclear War (Revelation16)

Risk of nuclear war in Europe growing warns Russian ex-minister

The East-West standoff over the Ukraine crisis has brought the threat of nuclear war in Europe closer than at any time since the 1980s, a former Russian foreign minister warned on Saturday.

“The risk of confrontation with the use of nuclear weapons in Europe is higher than in the 1980s,” said Igor Ivanov, Russia’s foreign minister from 1998 to 2004 and now head of a Moscow-based think-tank founded by the Russian government.

While Russia and the United States have cut their nuclear arsenals, the pace is slowing. As of January 2015, they had just over 7,000 nuclear warheads each, about 90 percent of world stocks, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

“We have less nuclear warheads, but the risk of them being used is growing,” Ivanov said at a Brussels event with the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Poland and a US lawmaker.

NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has warned Russia of intimidating its neighbours with talk about nuclear weapons, publicly voicing concerns among Western officials.

Missile defence:

Ivanov blamed a missile defence shield that the United States is setting up in Europe for raising the stakes.

Part of that shield involves a site in Poland that is due to be operational in 2018. This is particularly sensitive for Moscow because it brings U.S. capabilities close to its border.

However, the United States and NATO say the shield is designed to protect Europe against Iranian ballistic missiles and is neither targeted at Russia nor capable of downing its missiles.

“It can be assured that once the US deploys its missile defence system in Poland, Russia would respond by deploying its own missile defence system in Kaliningrad,” Ivanov said, referring to Russia’s territory in the Baltics.

In remarks that are likely to alarm European and NATO diplomats seeking a political solution to the separatist conflict in Ukraine that has killed more than 9,000 people since April 2014, Ivanov also said Europe and Russia have little chance of a broader reconciliation.

“The paths of Europe and Russia are seriously diverging and will remain so for a long time … probably for decades to come,” Ivanov said, adding that Russia could not be the eastern flank of a “failed greater Europe.”