Brace Yourselves for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

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Brace Yourselves, New Yorkers, You’re Due for a Major Quake

A couple of hundred thousand years ago, an M 7.2 earthquake shook what is now New Hampshire. Just a few thousand years ago, an M 7.5 quake ruptured just off the coast of Massachusetts. And then there’s New York.

Since the first western settlers arrived there, the state has witnessed 200 quakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater, making it the third most seismically active state east of the Mississippi (Tennessee and South Carolina are ranked numbers one and two, respectively). About once a century, New York has also experienced an M 5.0 quake capable of doing real damage.

The most recent one near New York City occurred in August of 1884. Centered off Long Island’s Rockaway Beach, it was felt over 70,000 square miles. It also opened enormous crevices near the Brooklyn reservoir and knocked down chimneys and cracked walls in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Police on the Brooklyn Bridge said it swayed “as if struck by a hurricane” and worried the bridge’s towers would collapse. Meanwhile, residents throughout New York and New Jersey reported sounds that varied from explosions to loud rumblings, sometimes to comic effect. At the funeral of Lewis Ingler, a small group of mourners were watching as the priest began to pray. The quake cracked an enormous mirror behind the casket and knocked off a display of flowers that had been resting on top of it. When it began to shake the casket’s silver handles, the mourners decided the unholy return of Lewis Ingler was more than they could take and began flinging themselves out windows and doors.

Not all stories were so light. Two people died during the quake, both allegedly of fright. Out at sea, the captain of the brig Alice felt a heavy lurch that threw him and his crew, followed by a shaking that lasted nearly a minute. He was certain he had hit a wreck and was taking on water.

A day after the quake, the editors of The New York Times sought to allay readers’ fear. The quake, they said, was an unexpected fluke never to be repeated and not worth anyone’s attention: “History and the researches of scientific men indicate that great seismic disturbances occur only within geographical limits that are now well defined,” they wrote in an editorial. “The northeastern portion of the United States . . . is not within those limits.” The editors then went on to scoff at the histrionics displayed by New York residents when confronted by the quake: “They do not stop to reason or to recall the fact that earthquakes here are harmless phenomena. They only know that the solid earth, to whose immovability they have always turned with confidence when everything else seemed transitory, uncertain, and deceptive, is trembling and in motion, and the tremor ceases long before their disturbed minds become tranquil.”

That’s the kind of thing that drives Columbia’s Heather Savage nuts.

New York, she says, is positively vivisected by faults. Most of them fall into two groups—those running northeast and those running northwest. Combined they create a brittle grid underlying much of Manhattan.

Across town, Charles Merguerian has been studying these faults the old‐fashioned way: by getting down and dirty underground. He’s spent the past forty years sloshing through some of the city’s muckiest places: basements and foundations, sewers and tunnels, sometimes as deep as 750 feet belowground. His tools down there consist primarily of a pair of muck boots, a bright blue hard hat, and a pickax. In public presentations, he claims he is also ably abetted by an assistant hamster named Hammie, who maintains his own website, which includes, among other things, photos of the rodent taking down Godzilla.

That’s just one example why, if you were going to cast a sitcom starring two geophysicists, you’d want Savage and Merguerian to play the leading roles. Merguerian is as eccentric and flamboyant as Savage is earnest and understated. In his press materials, the former promises to arrive at lectures “fully clothed.” Photos of his “lab” depict a dingy porta‐john in an abandoned subway tunnel. He actively maintains an archive of vintage Chinese fireworks labels at least as extensive as his list of publications, and his professional website includes a discography of blues tunes particularly suitable for earthquakes. He calls female science writers “sweetheart” and somehow manages to do so in a way that kind of makes them like it (although they remain nevertheless somewhat embarrassed to admit it).

It’s Merguerian’s boots‐on‐the‐ground approach that has provided much of the information we need to understand just what’s going on underneath Gotham. By his count, Merguerian has walked the entire island of Manhattan: every street, every alley. He’s been in most of the tunnels there, too. His favorite one by far is the newest water tunnel in western Queens. Over the course of 150 days, Merguerian mapped all five miles of it. And that mapping has done much to inform what we know about seismicity in New York.

Most importantly, he says, it provided the first definitive proof of just how many faults really lie below the surface there. And as the city continues to excavate its subterranean limits, Merguerian is committed to following closely behind. It’s a messy business.

Down below the city, Merguerian encounters muck of every flavor and variety. He power‐washes what he can and relies upon a diver’s halogen flashlight and a digital camera with a very, very good flash to make up the difference. And through this process, Merguerian has found thousands of faults, some of which were big enough to alter the course of the Bronx River after the last ice age.

His is a tricky kind of detective work. The center of a fault is primarily pulverized rock. For these New York faults, that gouge was the very first thing to be swept away by passing glaciers. To do his work, then, he’s primarily looking for what geologists call “offsets”—places where the types of rock don’t line up with one another. That kind of irregularity shows signs of movement over time—clear evidence of a fault.

Merguerian has found a lot of them underneath New York City.

These faults, he says, do a lot to explain the geological history of Manhattan and the surrounding area. They were created millions of years ago, when what is now the East Coast was the site of a violent subduction zone not unlike those present now in the Pacific’s Ring of Fire.

Each time that occurred, the land currently known as the Mid‐Atlantic underwent an accordion effect as it was violently folded into itself again and again. The process created immense mountains that have eroded over time and been further scoured by glaciers. What remains is a hodgepodge of geological conditions ranging from solid bedrock to glacial till to brittle rock still bearing the cracks of the collision. And, says Merguerian, any one of them could cause an earthquake.

You don’t have to follow him belowground to find these fractures. Even with all the development in our most built‐up metropolis, evidence of these faults can be found everywhere—from 42nd Street to Greenwich Village. But if you want the starkest example of all, hop the 1 train at Times Square and head uptown to Harlem. Not far from where the Columbia University bus collects people for the trip to the Lamont‐Doherty Earth Observatory, the subway tracks seem to pop out of the ground onto a trestle bridge before dropping back down to earth. That, however, is just an illusion. What actually happens there is that the ground drops out below the train at the site of one of New York’s largest faults. It’s known by geologists in the region as the Manhattanville or 125th Street Fault, and it runs all the way across the top of Central Park and, eventually, underneath Long Island City. Geologists have known about the fault since 1939, when the city undertook a massive subway mapping project, but it wasn’t until recently that they confirmed its potential for a significant quake.

In our lifetimes, a series of small earthquakes have been recorded on the Manhattanville Fault including, most recently, one on October 27, 2001. Its epicenter was located around 55th and 8th—directly beneath the original Original Soupman restaurant, owned by restaurateur Ali Yeganeh, the inspiration for Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. That fact delighted sitcom fans across the country, though few Manhattanites were in any mood to appreciate it.

The October 2001 quake itself was small—about M 2.6—but the effect on residents there was significant. Just six weeks prior, the city had been rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers. The team at Lamont‐Doherty has maintained a seismic network in the region since the ’70s. They registered the collapse of the first tower at M 2.1. Half an hour later, the second tower crumbled with even more force and registered M 2.3. In a city still shocked by that catastrophe, the early‐morning October quake—several times greater than the collapse of either tower—jolted millions of residents awake with both reminders of the tragedy and fear of yet another attack. 9‐1‐1 calls overwhelmed dispatchers and first responders with reports of shaking buildings and questions about safety in the city. For seismologists, though, that little quake was less about foreign threats to our soil and more about the possibility of larger tremors to come.

Remember: The Big Apple has experienced an M 5.0 quake about every hundred years. The last one was that 1884 event. And that, says Merguerian, means the city is overdue. Just how overdue?

“Gee whiz!” He laughs when I pose this question. “That’s the holy grail of seismicity, isn’t it?”

He says all we can do to answer that question is “take the pulse of what’s gone on in recorded history.” To really have an answer, we’d need to have about ten times as much data as we do today. But from what he’s seen, the faults below New York are very much alive.

“These guys are loaded,” he tells me.

He says he is also concerned about new studies of a previously unknown fault zone known as the Ramapo that runs not far from the city. Savage shares his concerns. They both think it’s capable of an M 6.0 quake or even higher—maybe even a 7.0. If and when, though, is really anybody’s guess.

“We literally have no idea what’s happening in our backyard,” says Savage.

What we do know is that these quakes have the potential to do more damage than similar ones out West, mostly because they are occurring on far harder rock capable of propagating waves much farther. And because these quakes occur in places with higher population densities, these eastern events can affect a lot more people. Take the 2011 Virginia quake: Although it was only a moderate one, more Americans felt it than any other one in our nation’s history.

That’s the thing about the East Coast: Its earthquake hazard may be lower than that of the West Coast, but the total effect of any given quake is much higher. Disaster specialists talk about this in terms of risk, and they make sense of it with an equation that multiplies the potential hazard of an event by the cost of damage and the number of people harmed. When you take all of those factors into account, the earthquake risk in New York is much greater than, say, that in Alaska or Hawaii or even a lot of the area around the San Andreas Fault.

Merguerian has been sounding the alarm about earthquake risk in the city since the ’90s. He admits he hasn’t gotten much of a response. He says that when he first proposed the idea of seismic risk in New York City, his fellow scientists “booed and threw vegetables” at him. He volunteered his services to the city’s Office of Emergency Management but says his original offer also fell on deaf ears.

“So I backed away gently and went back to academia.”

Today, he says, the city isn’t much more responsive, but he’s getting a much better response from his peers.

He’s glad for that, he says, but it’s not enough. If anything, the events of 9/11, along with the devastation caused in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy, should tell us just how bad it could be there.

He and Savage agree that what makes the risk most troubling is just how little we know about it. When it comes right down to it, intraplate faults are the least understood. Some scientists think they might be caused by mantle flow deep below the earth’s crust. Others think they might be related to gravitational energy. Still others think quakes occurring there might be caused by the force of the Atlantic ridge as it pushes outward. Then again, it could be because the land is springing back after being compressed thousands of years ago by glaciers (a phenomenon geologists refer to as seismic rebound).

“We just have no consciousness towards earthquakes in the eastern United States,” says Merguerian. “And that’s a big mistake.”

Adapted from Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles, published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Kathryn Miles.

The Threat of Trump’s Nuclear Button

Image: Paul K

Nuclear weapons strategy in the United States is designed around “presidential first use,” an arrangement that enables one man, the president, to kill and maim many millions of people in a single afternoon. What legal or philosophical principle differentiates the moral wrong that would be attributed to a terrorist, non-state actor, or hacker who delivered a nuclear weapon from the presidential launch of a nuclear weapon?

A conference held at Harvard University in November 2017 brought together international scholars and political leaders to examine the nature of presidential first use in the United States. Watch highlights from the conference below.

Co-chairs: Elaine Scarry and Jonathan King

Speakers: Bruce Ackerman, Kennette Benedict, Bruce Blair, Sissela Bok, Rosa Brooks, John Burroughs, Hugh Gusterson, Ed Markey, Jim McGovern, Zia Mian, and William Perry

Co-sponsors: Harvard’s Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard’s Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities, Mass Peace Action, Institute for People’s Engagement and Union of Concerned Scientists

Preparing for War with Iran

 

President Donald Trump’s sacking of his top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, signals America’s likely withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, and raises the risk of a possible military confrontation with the regime in Tehran.

The future of the Iran deal was already in serious doubt after Trump issued an ultimatum in January, warning he would pull the United States out of the accord unless European allies or Congress managed to “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws.”

But by picking CIA Director Mike Pompeo, an avowed Iran hawk, to succeed Tillerson as secretary of state, Trump sent a clear message that Washington was hardening its stance as a May 12 deadline approaches for the possible reimposition of U.S. sanctions.

Talking to reporters Tuesday about his decision, Trump cited his disagreement with Tillerson over the Iran nuclear agreement as an example of how the outgoing secretary of state had “a different mindset” than his own.

“When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thought it was okay…. So we were not really thinking the same,” Trump said before departing for California.

In recent weeks, Tillerson’s deputies have worked to hammer out an arrangement with European allies that could preserve the deal while addressing Trump’s concerns about its shortcomings, including Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal and provisions that expire in the next decade and beyond.

“I think it spells trouble for the nuclear deal,” says Colin Kahl, who served as the national security advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden.

While Tillerson often found himself on the losing side of many issues at the White House, he was a voice of caution and “he did appear to have some impact in delaying Trump dumping the Iran deal,” Kahl says.

The next round of talks among the United States and diplomats from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany aimed at salvaging the agreement is due to go ahead as planned in Berlin this week, officials say. And a meeting of all the signatories to the Iran deal, which includes the U.K., France, Germany, Russia, China, Iran, and the United States, is scheduled for Friday in Vienna.

Despite Trump’s abrupt firing of Tillerson, the outgoing secretary of state’s top aide, Brian Hook, will attend the meetings in Europe, a State Department spokesperson says. Hook was an influential figure on Tillerson’s staff and it’s unlikely he will stay on under Pompeo.

The 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers, which former President Barack Obama touted as a diplomatic breakthrough, imposed elaborate restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program while lifting an array of U.S. and international sanctions that had damaged the country’s economy. In his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump railed against the agreement as the “worst deal ever,” saying Iran had won relief from sanctions without having to give up enough in return.

As president, Trump bristled when faced with a U.S. law that required him to regularly certify to Congress whether Iran was complying with the deal and whether the agreement was in America’s interest. In October, Trump told Congress he could not certify that the agreement was in the national interest but stopped short of pulling the United States out.

Over the past 14 months, Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary James Mattis, repeatedly argued in White House meetings against abandoning the agreement on grounds that it had imposed important limits on Tehran’s nuclear work. Instead, Tillerson proposed trying to address the president’s concerns by negotiating a supplemental agreement or other arrangement with the Europeans, while retaining the benefits of the current deal.

Trump’s January ultimatum set May 12 as the next key deadline, when he will have to decide whether to re-impose a slew of U.S. sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal.“The selection of Mike Pompeo at State should remove any doubt about the president’s intentions,” says Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Two months to go and President Trump will snap back the most powerful economic sanctions against Iran unless there’s a real not a fictional fix to the Iran nuclear deal.”

Omri Ceren, managing director of the Israel Project, a Washington organization that works on Middle East issues, says that with or without Tillerson’s exit, the president had made clear he would not keep sanctions relief in place without concrete improvements to the agreement.

“In recent days the Trump administration has, if anything, been toughening its stance on what it would take to make the Iran deal worth staying in,” Ceren says.

If Trump opts to reimpose U.S. sanctions on Iran after May 12, European Union officials have warned that Brussels might try to block the American measures and protect European companies investing in the Iranian market. But analysts say European banks and other firms are already reluctant to do business in Iran due to the threat of a possible “snap-back” of U.S. sanctions and don’t want to lose their access to the vast American market. A U.S. withdrawal could wreck the agreement, scaring off European investment that Iran saw as a key reward for agreeing to limit its uranium enrichment and other nuclear work.

In Washington, Democrats in Congress and retired diplomats voiced concern that the collapse of the Iran deal could undermine high-stakes talks planned for May between Trump and North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, by calling into question if Washington would stand by its international commitments.

“The North Koreans will wonder about whether one can have credible negotiations with the United States,” says a former senior U.S. official.

U.S. military commanders and intelligence officers mostly view the Iran deal, officially referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as a useful — if imperfect — check on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

If the deal unravels and Iran concludes it has no economic incentive to hold back on its nuclear work, then Tehran could expel U.N. inspectors and head down a fast track to building nuclear weapons. Under that scenario, the United States — and Israel — may decide to take military action to prevent Iran from obtaining the bomb or at least slow down a bid for nuclear-tipped missiles.

The head of U.S. Central Command, U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who oversees American forces in the Middle East, warned lawmakers on Tuesday about the consequences of the agreement unraveling.

“The JCPOA addresses one of the principle threats that we deal with from Iran, so if the JCPOA goes away, then we will have to have another way to deal with their nuclear weapons program,” said Votel.

Russian Nuclear Horn Warns the UK


  • Russia warns against ‘threatening a nuclear power’
  • Trump leads allies’ backing of Britain and says ‘we’ll back you all the way’
  • May had issued a midnight deadline for Putin to explain what happened
  • Hundreds of Salisbury residents warned they could have contaminated clothing
  • Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia still alive

Russia has warned Britain to “consider the consequences” of mounting a retaliatory cyber strike and told Theresa May not to threaten a nuclear power.

In a fresh sign of the escalating diplomatic tension sparked by the case, the Russian Embassy cautioned against “such a reckless move”.

Theresa May has set Moscow a deadline of midnight on Tuesday to explain how a nerve agent was deployed against Sergei Skripal and his daughter on the streets of Salisbury.

If there is no credible response from the Kremlin, Mrs May has pledged to set out a “full range” of measures to be taken in response.

On a fast-moving day of developments and the ratcheting up of diplomatic tensions, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Rossiya 1 state TV: “One should not threaten a nuclear power”, particularly, she added,  in light of remarks made by Putin earlier this month in which he announced an array of new weapons.

She added: “When an foreign affairs body of a country is headed by people who have absolutely nothing to do with foreign policy, who built their career on populism…, it is normal for them to come out and start scare-mongering. Do not (try to) scare us,” apparently referring to Boris Johnson.

The UK Government has not publicly disclosed the options under consideration if Russia fails to meet its deadline, but reports on Tuesday suggested one possibility was a cyber counter-attack.

Responding to the speculation, the Russian Embassy in the UK issued extraordinary series of tweets: “Statements by a number of MPs, ‘Whitehall sources’ and ‘experts’ regarding a possible ‘deployment’ of ‘offensive cyber-capabilities’ cause serious concern.

“Not only is Russia groundlessly and provocatively accused of the Salisbury incident, but apparently, plans are being developed in the UK to strike Russia with cyber weapons.

“Judging by the statements of the Prime Minister, such a decision can be taken at tomorrow’s meeting of the National Security Council.

“We invite the British side to once again consider the consequences of such a reckless move.”

On Tuesday, the developments came thick and fast.

Allies back Britain

Britain’s international allies, led by the US, have responded with condemnation over the nerve agent attack.

Mrs May was assured of the backing of the US, Germany and France in calls to President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, according to Downing Street.

Mr Trump told Mrs May that “the US was with the UK all the way, agreeing that the Russian government must provide unambiguous answers as to how this nerve agent came to be used”.

And the Baltic states, which border Russia, also offered their support in the wake of the attack.

Latvia said it was prepared to offer the “required support” and urged Nato and the EU to agree on action.

Second Russian death

In a further extraordinary development, a probe has been launched by counter-terrorism police amid reports a Russian exile who was a close friend of Putin critic Boris Berezovsky has been found dead.

Scotland Yard said a man in his 60s was found at a home in Clarence Avenue, New Malden, south-west London on Monday and that the cause of his death is unexplained.

The force said in a statement: “At this stage the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command is leading the investigation as a precaution because of associations that the man is believed to have had.

“There is no evidence to suggest a link to the incident in Salisbury.”

Lawyer Andrei Borovkov told Russian media outlets that his client, Nikolai Glushkov, the former deputy director of airline Aeroflot, had died.

But he said he was unaware of the time and circumstances.

Nerve agent warning

Beyond Mr Skripal and his daughter, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, one of the first responders to the incident, remain in hospital.

Thirty-five local residents have also been seen in hospital. Thirty-four have been released while one is still being monitored.

Separately, one of the inventors of the nerve agent has warned that tiny traces of the chemical could put hundreds of people at risk for years to come.

Dr Vil Mirzayanov was part of the team that developed Novichok in a Russian chemical weapons institute.

He later became so concerned about the damage it could cause he became a whistleblower and fled to America.

‘It’s the same as nerve gas but 10 times, at least 10 times, more powerful,’ he told Sky News.

The chemist warned that symptoms could develop even years after exposure to the substance, and that there is no cure.

Russia hits back

Russia had previously reiterated its innocence over the poisoning, saying Moscow is ‘not to blame’ for the nerve agent attack.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Moscow will only co-operate with Britain on the investigation if it receives samples of the nerve agent that is believed to have been used to target Mr Skripal and his daughter.

Mr Lavrov said that requests to see samples of the nerve agent have been turned down, which he called a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws the production of chemical weapons.

In a separate astonishing outburst on Tuesday morning, one Russian MP said that the PM herself was behind the attempted murder, comparing Mrs May to Hitler. 

May makes her move

In a startling statement on Monday evening aimed directly at the Kremlin, the Prime Minister said it was ‘highly likely’ Russia was responsible for the attempted murder of the former spy, calling it a ‘reckless’ act.

A failure by Russia to provide a “credible response” would lead her to view the attack in Salisbury as “an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom”, sparking undefined retaliatory measures.

Russia responded almost immediately, however, describing Britain’s reaction as a ‘circus show’.

‘There are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on the 4th of March,’ the PM said.

‘Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.’

President Vladimir Putin himself responded to a direct question over Russia’s involvement by saying: ‘You should first get things clear yourselves on the spot and after that we will discuss this with you.”

Boris Johnson had previously told the Russian ambassador that Moscow must ‘immediately provide full and complete disclosure’ of its Novichok nerve gas programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

On Monday, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee said the attempt on Mr Skripal’s life was ‘looking awfully like it was state-sponsored attempted murder’.

Antichrist’s Men Kill Iraqi Brigadier (Revelation 13)


Sharif Ismail, a brigade commander among Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s guards, was killed in clashes with Saraya al-Salam militias in Salahadin Province on March 13, 2018. (Photo: Archive)

 

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Clashes erupted between the Hashd al-Shaabi’s Saraya al-Salam militia and the Iraqi Prime Minister’s guards in Salahuddin Province, security sources said on Tuesday.

The sources informed of the death of brigadier general Sharif Ismail, the commander of Brigade 57 of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s guards, following clashes with Saraya al-Salam in Salahuddin, Shafaq News reported.

Abadi’s guards were en route to Nineveh Province to prepare for the Prime Minister’s visit to Mosul, the security source added.

The Prime Minister’s guards and Saraya al-Salam militias first exchanged blows at the latter’s checkpoint at the entrance of Samara city in Salahuddin and later exchanged fire at the al-Huwaish checkpoint at the entrance of Tikrit, the source said.

According to the Shafaq report, the violence resulted in the death of the brigade commander and injuries to two other guards.

Al-Ghadeer website, meanwhile, reported that Abadi had called for the launch of an immediate investigation into the incident.

Saraya al-Salam, previously known as the al-Mahdi Army, is a Shia faction under the umbrella of the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi founded by the influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany