Don’t Forget About the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Don’t forget about earthquakes, feds tell city

Although New York’s modern skyscrapers are less likely to be damaged in an earthquake than shorter structures, a new study suggests the East Coast is more vulnerable than previously thought. The new findings will help alter building codes.
By Mark Fahey
July 18, 2014 10:03 a.m.

New York Earthquake Hazard

New York Earthquake Hazard

The U.S. Geological Survey had good and bad news for New Yorkers on Thursday. In releasing its latest set of seismic maps the agency said earthquakes are a slightly lower hazard for New York City’s skyscrapers than previously thought, but on the other hand noted that the East Coast may be able to produce larger, more dangerous earthquakes than previous assessments have indicated.
The 2014 maps were created with input from hundreds of experts from across the country and are based on much stronger data than the 2008 maps, said Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project. The bottom line for the nation’s largest city is that the area is at a slightly lower risk for the types of slow-shaking earthquakes that are especially damaging to tall spires of which New York has more than most places, but the city is still at high risk due to its population density and aging structures, said Mr. Petersen.
“Many of the overall patterns are the same in this map as in previous maps,” said Mr. Petersen. “There are large uncertainties in seismic hazards in the eastern United States. [New York City] has a lot of exposure and some vulnerability, but people forget about earthquakes because you don’t see damage from ground shaking happening very often.”
Just because they’re infrequent doesn’t mean that large and potentially disastrous earthquakes can’t occur in the area. The new maps put the largest expected magnitude at 8, significantly higher than the 2008 peak of 7.7 on a logarithmic scale. The scientific understanding of East Coast earthquakes has expanded in recent years thanks to a magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia in 2011 that was felt by tens of millions of people across the eastern U.S. New data compiled by the nuclear power industry has also helped experts understand quakes.
“The update shows New York at an intermediate level,” said Arthur Lerner-Lam, deputy director of Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “You have to combine that with the exposure of buildings and people and the fragility of buildings and people. In terms of safety and economics, New York has a substantial risk.”
Oddly enough, it’s not the modern tall towers that are most at risk. Those buildings become like inverted pendulums in the high frequency shakes that are more common on the East Coast than in the West. But the city’s old eight- and 10-story masonry structures could suffer in a large quake, said Mr. Lerner-Lam. Engineers use maps like those released on Thursday to evaluate the minimum structural requirements at building sites, he said. The risk of an earthquake has to be determined over the building’s life span, not year-to-year.
“If a structure is going to exist for 100 years, frankly, it’s more than likely it’s going to see an earthquake over that time,” said Mr. Lerner-Lam. “You have to design for that event.”
The new USGS maps will feed into the city’s building-code review process, said a spokesman for the New York City Department of Buildings. Design provisions based on the maps are incorporated into a standard by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which is then adopted by the International Building Code and local jurisdictions like New York City. New York’s current provisions are based on the 2010 standards, but a new edition based on the just-released 2014 maps is due around 2016, he said.
“The standards for seismic safety in building codes are directly based upon USGS assessments of potential ground shaking from earthquakes, and have been for years,” said Jim Harris, a member and former chair of the Provisions Update Committee of the Building Seismic Safety Council, in a statement.
The seismic hazard model also feeds into risk assessment and insurance policies, according to Nilesh Shome, senior director of Risk Management Solutions, the largest insurance modeler in the industry. The new maps will help the insurance industry as a whole price earthquake insurance and manage catastrophic risk, said Mr. Shome. The industry collects more than $2.5 billion in premiums for earthquake insurance each year and underwrites more than $10 trillion in building risk, he said.
“People forget about history, that earthquakes have occurred in these regions in the past, and that they will occur in the future,” said Mr. Petersen. “They don’t occur very often, but the consequences and the costs can be high.”

The Sunni Horn is Destroyed (Daniel 8)

Khamenei’s representative says Islamic state’s Baghdadi ‘definitely dead’: IRNA
A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq’s second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video. REUTERS/Social Meda Website via Reuters TV
Iran’s state news agency quoted a representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday as saying Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was “definitely dead”.
“Terrorist Baghdadi is definitely dead,” IRNA quoted cleric Ali Shirazi, representative to the Quds Force, as saying, without elaborating. IRNA later updated the news item, omitting the quote on Baghdadi’s death.
The Quds Force is in charge of operations outside Iran’s borders by the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iranian Foreign Ministry officials were not available to comment on the report of Baghdadi’s death.
The secretive Islamic State leader has frequently been reported killed or wounded since he declared a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from a mosque in Mosul in 2014, after his fighters seized large areas of northern Iraq.
Russia said on June 17 its forces might have killed Baghdadi in an air strike in Syria. Washington said on Thursday it had no information to corroborate such reports. Iraqi officials have also been skeptical in recent weeks.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Andrew Roche)

Iraq is Primed for the Antichrist

A Country Divided: Iraq After the End of Isis – Raddington Report

As the Islamic State (ISIS) is driven out of Mosul, Iraq emerges a deeply divided country with a battered economy, but a relapse into civil war is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. The experience of fighting and winning against ISIS has presented an opportunity for Iraqis to rewrite their social contract by learning from the mistakes committed between 2003-2014. For this opportunity to be fruitful, Iraqi politicians must address the obstacles impeding internal reconciliation, and to re-integrate Iraq into its Arab neighborhood. Meanwhile, the United States must play the role of facilitator and guarantor of these efforts to ensure long-term stability.
Internal Reconciliation
The process of internal reconciliation requires bridging the Sunni-Shiite divide to form a united Arab front that can address Baghdad’s outstanding issues with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Yet, Sunni-Shiite reconciliation is impeded by competing intra-sectarian visions for the country. Moreover, the disagreements over the future of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) — the mostly Shiite anti-ISIS paramilitary — represent the most important long-term security challenge to state cohesion in Iraq.
The Shiites have presented three competing visions for post-ISIS Iraq. The first is championed by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a close Iranian ally, who is looking to return to the premiership by creating a pro-Iranian cross-sectarian political majority centered around Iranian-aligned PMU factions. These factions appear determined to turn their military victories into parliamentary seats to block attempts for PMU integration into the army. This independence may give them leeway to pursue Iranian interests in the country. It may also deter any future Iraqi government from taking measures against Tehran’s interests.
Moqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand cleric who opposes Maliki’s return to power and has distanced himself from Iran’s regional role, presented a plan advocating social reconciliation with the support of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Sadr, who commands Saraya al-Salam — an integral faction within the paramilitary — also calls for PMU integration within the army, and ending all foreign meddling in Iraq.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has presented himself as a moderate Shiite alternative to Maliki, looks to turn the military victories against ISIS into political capital to win a second term. Abadi supports the 2016 parliamentary law regulating the PMU as a separate entity within the country’s security apparatus, but rejects its involvement in politics.
Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of the Citizen Coalition, has advocated a “historical settlement” between the Sunni and Shiite political classes. The plan calls for settling all issues on a non-zero-sum basis with the help of UNAMI.
Meanwhile, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shiite religious authority, has severed contacts with the political class due to its inaction in combating corruption. Sistani, whose fatwa led to the creation of the PMU, has stressed the voluntary nature of the force, and his loyalists within the paramilitary are expected to eventually return home or join the army.
On the Sunni front, there are splits within the Alliance of Forces, the largest Sunni political bloc in parliament. The speaker of parliament, Salim Jobouri, leads a wing that is willing to freeze controversial issues, such as decentralization and the future of the PMU, until a national agreement is reached. Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi’s wing demands that the central government implements confidence-building measures to allay Sunni concerns regarding demographic changes, the PMU, and the Sunni prisoners before the start of reconciliation talks.
The PMU Dilemma
The future role of the paramilitary — an ascending Shiite political force with superior military capabilities — is unclear. This issue depends on what role its leaders want to play, and whether they want to enter the political process. These dynamics are linked to the role that Iran, arguably the most influential regional player in Iraq, envisages for the PMU. The answers to these questions will affect intra-Shiite political dynamics and influence Sunni-Shiite reconciliation.
Rebuilding trust between Iraqi citizens and their government
The trifecta of lack of jobs, rampant corruption, and poor service delivery contribute to the failure of the Iraqi government to win the trust and support of wide swathes of the Iraqi population. One in five Iraqis lives below the poverty line, despite residing in a country with vast oil resources. People need jobs. The problem is not just an Arab Sunni one: people in Basra and Erbil want jobs as well. Every single year, more than half a million Iraqis enter the job market. These economic woes present a huge challenge to Iraqi stability. Iraqi oil production is rising but that will not solve the problem. Some progress has been made on the fiscal front. Iraqi government expenditures were cut 50% between 2013 and 2016. Tax collection is becoming much more efficient and revenue is up by a factor of three. Customs collection is also rising sharply. Still there is no substitute for economic and financial reforms that reduce subsidies, reduce payroll expenditure (9 million Iraqis are directly or indirectly on the government’s payroll) and diversify the economy (90% of revenues are from the oil sector).
Fighting corruption is key to restoring trust in government institutions. Devolution of reconstruction and development funds and of security management to the provinces and local communities could be early positive steps in repairing trust between Iraqi citizens and their government.
On the positive side, there is a vibrant Iraqi civil society which has coalesced around calls for better governance, efficient public service delivery and fighting corruption. To-date, this civil society has not been co-opted by any political group and is cross-sectarian. While its public demonstrations have subsided for now, it is a movement that is slated to play an important role in Iraqi politics going forward.
Addressing the Baghdad-KRG Divide
Despite their close military cooperation against ISIS, political trust between Baghdad and Erbil remains alarmingly low. Psychologically, the Kurds have checked out of Iraq. This is evidenced by the nearly unanimous Kurdish agreement to hold a referendum for independence on September 25, despite significant internal conflicts. This referendum, however, is not tantamount to a declaration of independence.
If the Kurds are committed to leaving, they should not be impeded. However, KRG independence should be negotiated with Baghdad. The United States should convene a trilateral dialogue involving Baghdad and Erbil to address the contested issues between the two sides, and set the terms of an amicable divorce, if that is what the parties want.
The status of disputed territories and PMU military activities represent two sticking issues in the Baghdad-KRG relationship. Abadi has said that the disputed areas lying on the borders between federal and Kurdish territories, namely the multiethnic and oil-rich Kirkuk province, “should be turned into agreed upon areas.” Yet the issue remains unresolved and may escalate into a large-scale conflict.
Moreover, the Kurds are fearful that the PMU are readying to fight the peshmerga after defeating ISIS. This comes as the PMU have established a strong presence in disputed territories south of Kirkuk and west of Mosul.
Re-Integrating Iraq into its Arab Neighborhood
Iraq feels isolated and marginalized in the Arab world. Sunnis view this isolation as another sign of Iraq being pushed into Shiite Iran’s arms. The Shiites see themselves as underdogs in a Sunni-majority regional environment. Therefore, restoring political and economic ties between Iraq and its Arab neighbors will reduce Baghdad’s reliance on Iran, and will invest its neighbors in its security and stability.
Furthermore, the Arab region is showing a new willingness to work with Iraq. Recently, Prime Minister Abadi visited Riyadh and Kuwait. His visit to Riyadh at the invitation of the Saudi king was preceded by visits to Baghdad by the Saudi energy and foreign ministers. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has also urged closer cooperation with the Iraqi state. Recent discussions to promote Iraqi-Arab economic ties include: the resumption of Baghdad-Riyadh flights; re-opening the border post between Saudi Arabia and Iraq; and reactivating trade routes between Jordan and Iraq.
Improved US Ties
A strong US-Iraq relationship is required to resolve outstanding issues facing Iraq. Internally, the United States is the only party that can mediate effectively between the KRG and Baghdad regarding their future relationship. Furthermore, Washington must pursue a long-term mission to advise, train and equip the Iraqi Security Forces. Iraqi security forces won the battle against ISIS with the assistance of the US military. They will need U.S military assistance to secure the peace and prevent a return of the terrorist groups. The 2011 mistake when the US decided to pull its forces out of Iraq should not be repeated again. Regionally, American long-term involvement in Iraq reduces Baghdad’s reliance on Iran and can limit Tehran’s capacity to project power across the Middle East.
In conclusion, Baghdad’s most pressing short-term challenge is the stabilization of liberated territories. This challenge entails undertaking major reconstruction efforts along with preparations for how these cities will be managed post-ISIS. Regional economic powerhouses like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates should be called upon to contribute toward the rebuilding costs especially in Sunni-majority areas. Provincial-level dialogues involving local stakeholders on how these cities and towns should be managed post-liberation are essential for their long-term stability. Local government and civil society groups have most stakes in the success of these rebuilding projects and have the know-how to engineer the re-weaving of the social fabric torn asuder by ISIS. One case in point is the city of Mosul. It is urgent that a dialogue on governance and long-term reconciliation be immediately organized in Mosul involving respected elders and representatives of the city’s different societal components.
In the long-term, the challenges facing Iraq are multiple and must be mostly borne out by Iraqis including the difficult task of transitioning their society from a collection of heavily weaponized components fighting each other, toward dialogue and conflict resolution to achieve transitional justice. Unfortunately, the presence of armed non-state actors like the PMU creates additional obstacles in the pathway of achieving transitional justice in Iraq.

What Will Happen At The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

What If The Earthquake Had Hit Manhattan?

24 August 2011 8:56 AM

Today’s 5.9 magnitude earthquake was felt throughout the mid-Atlantic, but its epicentre — a small town in Virginia — took the brunt of its wrath. What if it had started in NYC instead? We may find out sooner than you think.

The Risk Is Real

New York isn’t very high on the list of places you think of when you think earthquake. But that’s more a lucky accident of the times we live in than a promise of future calm. In the 400 years that we’ve inhabited that small, skinny island off the coast of New Jersey, the city’s been hit at least three times by moderate-to-major earthquakes. A 1737 quake just outside the city limits shook chimneys to the ground. Another struck in 1783. And in 1884, a 5.5-magnitude event cracked the walls of buildings in Jamaica and was felt as far away as Maine. Historically speaking, we’re overdue.
Scientifically speaking, too. A 2008 report in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (PDF) showed that those three were just the perceptible earthquakes suffered by the region; a total of 383 tremors and shakes have occurred in the 39,000sqkm area around NYC since 1677. New York and its environs sit atop a vast networks of several small, active faults and a handful of lines capable of producing 6 and 7 magnitude events that have lain dormant. For now.

Best Case Scenario

The most likely occurrence — a 5ish magnitude quake in or near Manhattan — would be terrifically bad. Not end-of-the-world bad. Not cataclysmic. But horribly traumatic, according to a 2005 study by the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation. The committee, a group of civil engineers, academics, and government officials, spent four years determining the fallout of a significant NYC quake. Let’s hope we never find out if they were right.
I spoke with Dan O’Brian, a Program Manager for the NYS Office of Emergency Management and one of the co-authors of that report. He said that while it was published in 2005, the findings largely hold true six years later. And that the biggest risk isn’t the city’s the towering skyscrapers; it’s the brownstones:

The [structures]that are of a particular concern are unreinforced masonry. The brownstones, six-story, turn of the century. Those are the buildings that don’t have much ability to withstand lateral forces, and they tend to crumble.

So what kind of damage are we talking about? According to the NYCEM report, an event of equal strength to what hit Virginia today would cost approximately $US45 billion (inflation adjusted) in building damage and lost income, with over 2500 buildings damaged and nearly 200,000 people left homeless. Forty tons of debris would cascade the streets, 25 times the amount caused by 9/11. The casualties: 1200 dead, 200,000 wounded.
“You’ve got so much there, if you were to have an epicentre of even a moderate sized earthquake, if it’s epicentered in the immediate NY area you’re likely to see a good bit of damage,” explains O’Brien. Most of that is due to the general building stock.”
The destruction wouldn’t be evenly distributed. Softer soil leads to stronger vibrations; that geological truth, combined with where most of that unreinforced masonry stock is located, make the Upper East Side and Chinatown most vulnerable to a quake. The city’s skyscrapers will hold (to a point), the bridges will survive as well today as they did in 1884. There would be nearly a thousand fires, but the NYFD would have the resources to handle them–assuming the water lines aren’t cut in the quake.
So yes, bad, right. But not doomsday. Although that’s an option, too.

Worst Case Scenario

Did you know that New York City sits less than 40km away from an active nuclear power plant? And that that same power plant sits just a mile south of an active seismic zone that’s considered capable of causing a 6.0-magnitude earthquake? That’s when things get apocalyptic.
The Indian Point nuclear plant, located just north of Manhattan, has provided power to Westchester County and the city itself for decades without incident. But while its operators have claimed that the structures can survive up to a magnitude 6 quake, seismologist Lynn Sykes told the Gotham Gazette recently that he isn’t so sure:

The plants are designed to withstand an event on the intensity scale of VII, which equals a magnitude of 5 or slightly higher in the region. (Intensity measures the effects on people and structures.) A magnitude 6 quake, in Sykes opinion, would indeed cause damage to the plant.

The two reactors provide 10 per cent of the state’s electricity and 30 per cent of NYC’s, meaning that in addition to the destruction outlined in our best case scenario, massive power outages could be expected. If the quake were strong enough to create fractures in Indian Point’s bedrock, radioactive materials could flow freely into the Hudson River. After the events of Fukushima earlier this year, that’s no longer an unthinkable occurrence.
So where does that leave us? We’re in no better or worse shape today than we were yesterday or last month. And the only part of this equation that might change in the next several years is Indian Point, which has been facing political pressure of late and whose contract may not be renewed. But really, the only thing that’s different now is the awareness that it’s not an if, it’s a when. That we’re just running out the clock. And that’s should have us shaking in our boots.