East Coast Still Unprepared For The Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12)

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WASHINGTON — There were cracks in the Washington Monument and broken capstones at the National Cathedral. In the District of Columbia suburbs, some people stayed in shelters because of structural concerns at their apartment buildings.

A day after the East Coast’s strongest earthquake in 67 years, inspectors assessed the damage and found that most problems were minor. But the shaking raised questions about whether this part of the country, with its older architecture and inexperience with seismic activity, is prepared for a truly powerful quake.

The 5.8 magnitude quake felt from Georgia north to Canada prompted swift inspections of many structures Wednesday, including bridges and nuclear plants. An accurate damage estimate could take weeks, if not longer. And many people will not be covered by insurance.

In a small Virginia city near the epicenter, the entire downtown business district was closed. School was canceled for two weeks to give engineers time to check out cracks in several buildings.

At the 555-foot Washington Monument, inspectors found several cracks in the pyramidion – the section at the top of the obelisk where it begins narrowing to a point.

A 4-foot crack was discovered Tuesday during a visual inspection by helicopter. It cannot be seen from the ground. Late Wednesday, the National Park Service announced that structural engineers had found several additional cracks inside the top of the monument.

Carol Johnson, a park service spokeswoman, could not say how many cracks were found but said three or four of them were “significant.” Two structural engineering firms that specialize in assessing earthquake damage were being brought in to conduct a more thorough inspection on Thursday.

The monument, by far the tallest structure in the nation’s capital, was to remain closed indefinitely, and Johnson said the additional cracks mean repairs are likely to take longer. It has never been damaged by a natural disaster, including earthquakes in Virginia in 1897 and New York in 1944.

Tourists arrived at the monument Wednesday morning only to find out they couldn’t get near it. A temporary fence was erected in a wide circle about 120 feet from the flags that surround its base. Walkways were blocked by metal barriers manned by security guards.

“Is it really closed?” a man asked the clerk at the site’s bookstore.

“It’s really closed,” said the clerk, Erin Nolan. Advance tickets were available for purchase, but she cautioned against buying them because it’s not clear when the monument will open.

“This is pretty much all I’m going to be doing today,” Nolan said.

Tuesday’s quake was centered about 40 miles northwest of Richmond, 90 miles south of Washington and 3.7 miles underground. In the nearby town of Mineral, Va., Michael Leman knew his Main Street Plumbing & Electrical Supply business would need – at best – serious and expensive repairs.

At worst, it could be condemned. The facade had become detached from the rest of the building, and daylight was visible through a 4- to 6-inch gap that opened between the front wall and ceiling.

“We’re definitely going to open back up,” Leman said. “I’ve got people’s jobs to look out for.”

Leman said he is insured, but some property owners might not be so lucky.

The Insurance Information Institute said earthquakes are not covered under standard U.S. homeowners or business insurance policies, although supplemental coverage is usually available.

The institute says coverage for other damage that may result from earthquakes, such as fire and water damage from burst gas or water pipes, is provided by standard homeowners and business insurance policies in most states. Cars and other vehicles with comprehensive insurance would also be protected.

The U.S. Geological Survey classified the quake as Alert Level Orange, the second-most serious category on its four-level scale. Earthquakes in that range lead to estimated losses between $100 million and $1 billion.

In Culpeper, Va., about 35 miles from the epicenter, walls had buckled at the old sanctuary at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, which was constructed in 1821 and drew worshippers including Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. Heavy stone ornaments atop a pillar at the gate were shaken to the ground. A chimney from the old Culpeper Baptist Church built in 1894 also tumbled down.

At the Washington National Cathedral, spokesman Richard Weinberg said the building’s overall structure remains sound and damage was limited to “decorative elements.”

Massive stones atop three of the four spires on the building’s central tower broke off, crashing onto the roof. At least one of the spires is teetering badly, and cracks have appeared in some flying buttresses.

Repairs were expected to cost millions of dollars – an expense not covered by insurance.

“Every single portion of the exterior is carved by hand, so everything broken off is a piece of art,” Weinberg said. “It’s not just the labor, but the artistry of replicating what was once there.”

The building will remain closed as a precaution. Services to dedicate the memorial honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were moved.

Other major cities along the East Coast that felt the shaking tried to gauge the risk from another quake.

A few hours after briefly evacuating New York City Hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s newer buildings could withstand a more serious earthquake. But, he added, questions remain about the older buildings that are common in a metropolis founded hundreds of years ago.

“We think that the design standards of today are sufficient against any eventuality,” he said. But “there are questions always about some very old buildings. … Fortunately those tend to be low buildings, so there’s not great danger.”

An earthquake similar to the one in Virginia could do billions of dollars of damage if it were centered in New York, said Barbara Nadel, an architect who specializes in securing buildings against natural disasters and terrorism.

The city’s 49-page seismic code requires builders to prepare for significant shifting of the earth. High-rises must be built with certain kinds of bracing, and they must be able to safely sway at least somewhat to accommodate for wind and even shaking from the ground, Nadel said.

Buildings constructed in Boston in recent decades had to follow stringent codes comparable to anything in California, said Vernon Woodworth, an architect and faculty member at the Boston Architectural College. New construction on older structures also must meet tough standards to withstand severe tremors, he said.

It’s a different story with the city’s older buildings. The 18th- and 19th-century structures in Boston’s Back Bay, for instance, were often built on fill, which can liquefy in a strong quake, Woodworth said. Still, there just aren’t many strong quakes in New England.

The last time the Boston area saw a quake as powerful as the one that hit Virginia on Tuesday was in 1755, off Cape Ann, to the north. A repeat of that quake would likely cause deaths, Woodworth said. Still, the quakes are so infrequent that it’s difficult to weigh the risks versus the costs of enacting tougher building standards regionally, he said.

People in several of the affected states won’t have much time to reflect before confronting another potential emergency. Hurricane Irene is approaching the East Coast and could skirt the Mid-Atlantic region by the weekend and make landfall in New England after that.

In North Carolina, officials were inspecting an aging bridge that is a vital evacuation route for people escaping the coastal barrier islands as the storm approaches.

Speaking at an earthquake briefing Wednesday, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray inadvertently mixed up his disasters.

“Everyone knows, obviously, that we had a hurricane,” he said before realizing his mistake.

“Hurricane,” he repeated sheepishly as reporters and staffers burst into laughter. “I’m getting ahead of myself!”

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Associated Press writers Sam Hananel in Washington; Alex Dominguez in Baltimore; Bob Lewis in Mineral, Va.; Samantha Gross in New York City; and Jay Lindsay in Boston contributed to this report.

The Strengthening China Nuclear Horn

 

AMID global concerns about North Korea’s threats of nuclear war, China has unveiled a next-generation nuclear weapon that is said to be able to strike “anywhere in the world”.

The nuclear warhead, called the Dongfeng-41, will be capable of reaching distances of at least 12,000km — putting the US well into the line of target. With a speed of up to Mach 10 (around 12,000kph), it can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads.

The ballistic missile is said to be about 15 metres long, 2 metres in diameter and weighs approximately 30,000 kilograms.

The Dongfeng-41 during May Day celebrations in Beijing this year. Picture: Supplied

According to the Daily Star, China has tested the weapon eight times in the past five years, with the latest test reportedly taking place earlier this month deep in China’s western desert region.

The weapon, which according to Chinese media will be able to hit targets “anywhere in the world”, is scheduled to enter China’s arsenal in 2018.

“It can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads, each of which can target separately,” Missile expert Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association told China Central Television, reports Newsweek.com.

“Once the Dongfeng-41 goes into service, China’s ability to protect its own safety and to prevent wars would greatly increase.”

The missile will also be able to use decoy devices to make its way through other defence systems.

Military analyst Song Zhongping, a former member of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, believes it’s possible the Dongfeng-41 is already in service, as tests can be conducted after the weapon has been commissioned.

The Global Times reported that China, which claims to have an arsenal of up to 2500 missiles, “does not have an arms race agenda and will not compete with any country for any such purpose”.

US President Donald Trump, right, chats with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to Beijing. Picture: AP Photo/Andy Wong

During his visit to China earlier this month, US President Donald Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping that time was “running out” to solve the nuclear crisis with North Korea. The US wants China, which makes up the majority of North Korea’s foreign trade, to put more economic pressure on the regime.

Originally published as China unveils hypersonic nuke

The South Asian Dilemma: The First Nuclear War

South Asian Nuclear Problem

South Asian Nuclear Problem

Syed Zain Jaffery

In over a decade, India has expanded its nuclear weapons capability, especially after getting a civil nuclear cooperation deal from the United States in 2008. India got this deal as result of a policy shift in the U.S. administration, and that was more likely to contain the emerging China. In the process, the U.S. has privileged India politically, economically and strategically.

For instance, the country specific IAEA safeguards, the waiver to trade nuclear materials with Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) states, and later, the entry into Missile Control Regime (MTCR).

There are numerous published reports on the unusual pace of the Indian ballistic missiles program, such as, Federation of American Scientists, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and Arms Control Association which view that India is intensifying the pace of building long-range missiles vis-à-vis China and Pakistan. Despite this India was offered various defense cooperation pacts from the U.S., including the transfer of advanced technology to modernize the missiles.

The influence of the U.S. is deriving other states to aside the international non-proliferation laws, and make place for Indian nuclear exceptionalism. Though, the U.S. policies indicate that it is still hesitant to formally endorse India as a strategic ally. However, these regular reports on Indian military expansionism, appear satisfactory for the United States. Like, the report „Indian nuclear forces 2017“ by Hans M Kristensen and Robert S Norris, which concludes that Indian nuclear posture is now diverting from Pakistan to China.

The report, indicated that India is moving towards a wide range of missiles and delivery systems; from tactical nuclear weapons to intercontinental ballistic missiles, and from Air, Land to Sea. India also claims its actions are in fear of China’s rise. Contrary, the Indian military doctrines and deployments had always been and are still Pakistan specific. Which is forcing Pakistan to take counter-measures to assure deterrence. Therefore, the Indian nuclear forces that can target either of states, are also a threat to the whole continent.

Eventually, this is the U.S. objective, contained China assures the sole hegemonic power status, regardless of Indian involvement in misusing the technology and training provided by the U.S. and U.K. for the space advancement program. India has used the rocket propulsion mechanism to develop long-range ballistic missiles. Though, it is not the first time that India has diverted the research and development work for maximizing the military power, and to somehow justify its quest for global power status.

Ironically, with this assistance, India is now fully gearing up to commission numerous nuclear plans, in order to meet the requirement of fuel and warheads, for strategic weapons. The report also pointed, the possession of nuclear material by India is enough for 200 nuclear warheads. India has completed the nuclear triad, and is increasing the military muscle by building different missiles and delivery systems, thus the nuclear material will supposedly increase accordingly.

The Indian activities are not limited to the region only; the past and present record of nuclear, and missile proliferation of India in global arena is embarrassing. For instance, take the recent North Korean tensions, behind every North Korean short and long range ballistic missile test, is India. It has played a malevolent role, despite of U.N. sanctions by providing assistance and training to the North Korean apprentices in the missile and space development programs. Ironically, many western analysts do not observe this connection seriously.

In past, several strategic analysts pointed that the India has intentions to produce around 600 nuclear warheads, and test thermo-nuclear device under supervision of a secret nuclear complex. Contemporary study, indicates that the Indian plans to commission fast nuclear power generation reactors all around the country to overcome energy crises that will also allow India to stockpile nuclear material for over 2600 nukes.

Unfortunately, the U.S. assistance has made India, the sole problem for the whole South Asian region. India is exploiting the political, economic and strategic environment of neighboring countries by sponsoring terrorism. Today, three Indian neighboring states, i.e., Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal claim with evidence that India is sponsoring instability and terrorism in their country.

Former U.S. senator Larry Pressler, in his book, Neighbours in Arms: An American Senator’s Quest for Disarmament in a Nuclear Subcontinent, wrote „I don’t think either Pakistan or India would have gone ahead with nuclear weapons if we were sincere about non-proliferation.“

The international community and the U.S. itself can still play a major role in improving the hostile strategic situation in the South Asian region, by adopting rational and non-discriminatory policies. India should be pressurized politically to give up the military and nuclear adventurism. The 2008 waiver of NSG to India must be revoked, to restrict further stockpiling of nuclear fissile material, and strengthening the non-proliferation regimes. Similarly, the Indian MTCR membership needs a revision, because it provides a cover for Indian missiles development and delivery systems program.

Saudis Unite with the Antichrist

Analysis After Syria, Saudi and Iranian Eyes Turn to the Next Arena: Iraq

Zvi Bar’el

Riyadh realizes it has to seek new ways for coping with Iran, and Iraq could be the ticket, particularly to prevent the creation of a Shi’ite land link to Syria

Iraqi Shi’ite fighters advancing in northern Iraq, flushing out Islamic State fighters, November 23, 2017.

A new love story is evolving between two countries that were at odds for 14 years. Saudi Arabia\, under the leadership of King Salman, and Iraq have established a coordinating committee that has signed economic agreements in the presence of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Less than a month after the committee was set up, it was meeting again to expand the cooperation.

For 27 years, ever since Kuwait was invaded by Saddam Hussein, no Saudi plane had landed in Iraq, and suddenly a high-level Saudi economic delegation was landing at Baghdad Airport, welcomed with great respect by every Iraqi news outlet.

This rediscovery of Iraq by Saudi Arabia of course isn’t divorced from the kingdom’s overall campaign to block Iran’s influence. But as in Lebanon and Syria, it seems the king is coming too late. Saudi Arabia had a wealth of opportunities to connect to Iraq immediately after the Iraq War, but it preferred to continue punishing Baghdad, which had developed extensive ties with Tehran until it became an Iranian protectorate and Iran became its largest trading partner.

A more interesting aspect was Iran’s consent to the renewed relationship between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. This probably reflects Iran’s confidence in Iraq’s commitments to it, and more importantly, its desire to give Iraq Arab legitimacy and thus strengthen its own legitimacy.

And anyway, if Saudi Arabia is willing to invest billions in Iraq, by all means – it’s good for Iraq and good for Iran. This is the same approach Iran took with Lebanon, which benefited from huge Saudi investments without this harming Iran’s ability to influence Lebanese policy.

The connection between Saudi Arabia and Iraq could be evidence of a strategic turning point for Saudi Arabia regarding the Syrian crisis. The Saudis’ working assumption is based on the reality that has made Russia and Iran the bosses in Syria.

Putin must satisfy Assad’s Mideast neighbors if he wants his Syria peace plan to work  As a result, Saudi Arabia’s ability to influence the solution Russia is drawing up is limited to guiding the rebel militias that enjoy the kingdom’s protection. It seems Saudi Arabia has come to the inevitable conclusion that it has to seek new arenas for coping with Iran, and Iraq could be just such an arena, particularly to prevent the creation of the so-called Shi’ite axis that would link Iran with Syria by land. Among the Americans To accomplish this, the Saudis will have to persuade the Iraqi government, headed by Haider al-Abadi, to agree to leave American troops in Iraq even though the war against the Islamic State has ended with the retaking last week of Rawa, the last city under the group’s control. While Abadi is waiting to declare the war over, Iran already declared this week that “the objective has been fully achieved” and the war against the Islamic State in Iraq has ended. That declaration didn’t stop ISIS from committing deadly terror attacks, and it’s still active in a few spots in Iraq’s western desert region. The Iranian declarations have important strategic ramifications, since they mean that Iran can pull its forces out of Iraq and demand that the Western coalition forces, particularly those of the United States, also leave. Iran has no problem withdrawing its forces since it will continue to fund and train the Shi’ite militias that are assisting the Iraqi military and are considered an integral part of the Iraqi armed forces.

The question of the U.S. military presence has become a controversial issue in the Iraqi parliament, which is preparing for an election expected in May. Some MPs believe the country should agree to an American military presence as long as it’s limited to education and training, not a fighting force. Others object vehemently to any foreign force remaining. In this argument, Saudi Arabia could serve as a lever to pressure Abadi to agree to an American presence, but there’s no guarantee Abadi will obey.

An example of something that could mitigate Saudi pressure came this week with the announcement by Shi’ite separatist Muqtada al-Sadr that he would support Abadi in the election. It was a surprising announcement given the confrontations between the two men this past year, but this support will have a price. Sadr is a strident opponent of a U.S. presence in Iraq, and he will demand that the Americans be ousted in return for the political support Abadi would need to win the election.

Score settling

But Abadi has more on his plate than just maneuvering between Saudi and American ambitions and Iranian influence. The war against the Islamic State has left a lot of scars. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have yet to return to their homes, and in the cities liberated from ISIS control like Mosul and Nineveh, life has nowhere nearly returned to normal. People in Mosul are afraid to leave their homes lest they get caught in the crossfire between the militias that have divided up the city.

State employees living in the liberated cities aren’t receiving their salaries despite government promises. The police are undermanned because the authorities are reluctant to recruit residents of the liberated cities into the force – even if they were cops before the war – lest they be loyal to the Islamic State. This isn’t an unfounded fear because the many Iraqis who fought with ISIS and have ditched their uniforms aren’t easily distinguishable.

There is also a need to collect the huge stocks of weapons that remain in civilian hands, and to protect innocent people in the liberated cities from efforts to settle scores. These aren’t easy tasks for the Iraqi police and army, which must also keep public order. Meanwhile, the lack of employment has forced many residents to join the only “workforce” available – the local militias, each with different tribal loyalties.

Those who get through to their hometowns often find there is nothing to come home to. Hundreds of thousands of structures have been damaged and the government isn’t yet willing to spend the huge sums needed to rebuild. Even though Iraq has the world’s third-largest oil reserves, it has a budget deficit of $20 billion and national debt estimated at $133 billion. Next year it’s also due to resume paying Kuwait compensation for the damage caused during the Gulf War. It isn’t at all clear where Iraq will be able to find the money to rebuild its cities and compensate war victims.

Given the government’s meager resources, Iraqi Sunnis fear they will be discriminated against – as they were in the past, which pushed many of them into the Islamic State’s corner. This potentially destabilizing factor also has Iran concerned.

Thus, paradoxically, Iran may now become the bulwark of the Iraqi Sunnis, not just to stabilize the Iraqi regime, but also to block a Saudi “plot” to embrace the Sunni community and use it as leverage to influence Iraq. Thus another arena of regional conflict could emerge, which wouldn’t bode well.