Babylon the Great Shouldn’t Rush to Condemn the Antichrist’s Electoral Victory in Iraq—Yet

 

Iraq may be left with a ruling coalition that can moderate the Sadrists’ worst impulses while also addressing many of the structural problems that plague Iraqi democracy.

Iraq’s recent parliamentary elections left many Western observers disappointed after the current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Victory Alliance failed to match the significant gains by its rival al-Sairoon. The electoral list of al-Sairoon was built around the political vision of controversial Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr has long been viewed as a nuisance to the United States due to his control of a Shia paramilitary group known as the Mahdi Army that frequently clashed with U.S. forces during their initial occupation of Iraq. In addition, Sadr’s May 30 reference to the United States as an “invader country,” which cannot be allowed to interfere in internal Iraqi politics led many journalists to question whether a Sadrist Iraqi government might prove openly hostile to the United States.

While there are many reasons to be concerned with Sadr’s rise to political prominence, his strong anti-Iran stance and fervent desire to root out political corruption in Iraq could ultimately produce many positive outcomes for the fledgling democracy. If the Sadrists’ can form a new government that effectively crosses sectarian and political lines, Iraq may be left with a ruling coalition that can moderate the Sadrists’ worst impulses while also addressing many of the structural problems that plague Iraqi democracy.

Western journalists have often characterized Sadr as a partisan Shia firebrand, but his success in the recent election was largely driven by his calls to abandon sectarian divisions. The son of a prominent religious and political activist, Sadr campaigned on the themes of ending political corruption, providing greater relief to Iraq’s most impoverished communities, and embracing a new Iraqi nationalism that transcends sectarian lines. To achieve these goals, Sadr promised a government of competent technocrats chosen for their ability to deliver essential services to all people. This is a significant shift as traditionally services have been based on party loyalty or religious affiliation— two factors which have also historically played an outsized role in the selection process of government officials. Additionally, while Sadr did not include his name on al-Sairoon’s list and is not a candidate to be named Prime Minister, he plans on having significant input in the selection of Iraq’s new executive. For instance, former Iraqi ambassador the United States Lukman Faily contends that Sadr has, “always wanted to be the king maker — not the king.”

There is no doubt that Sadr’s promised reforms would undoubtedly be a welcome solution to problems that have long ailed the Iraqi government. Despite Abadi’s admirable efforts to root out corruption within Iraq’s political system, Transparency International concluded that Iraq, “suffers from extensive, pervasive corruption across all levels of government and sectors,” and, “continually scores among the worst countries in the world in various governance and corruption indicators.” Furthermore, with millions of Iraqis struggling to repair their lives in the wake of ISIS’ defeat and over 20% of Iraqis now living below the country’s poverty line, significant action is needed to address the systemic poverty that has long hampered the advancement of the Iraqi underclass.

While Sadr’s opposition to the U.S. military’s presence in Iraq has left the American national security establishment understandably concerned, an Iraqi government that accelerates America’s departure from Iraq may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. ISIS has been virtually eradicated in Iraq, yet roughly 5,200 American military personnel remain in the country, primarily providing training and logistical support to Iraqi security forces. Ironically, the perception of the United States as an occupying military power has historically been one of the leading drivers of extremist recruitment, and this perception is likely to be further entrenched the longer the United States remains in Iraq despite there being no credible military threat.

The Sadrists’ electoral gains are a clear indicator of the Iraqi peoples’ growing discontent towards American presence in their country. A hastened departure of American troops may do more to preserve the long-term diplomatic relationship between Iraq and the United States than a protracted military presence that would further sour the Iraqi public’s perception of the U.S. After spending over $2.4 trillion and losing over 4,000 American lives in Iraq over the past fifteen years, the United States should be happy to extract itself from Iraq once and for all.

Brace Yourselves for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news/images/nj-quake-030201.gif

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.

Antichrist Calms Iraq as Opposition Attacks

 

Al Sadr, a nationalist who tapped growing resentment with Iran, scored a surprise victory in the May 12

People gather at the site of an explosion in Baghdad’s Sadr City district.

Baghdad: Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al Sadr called on his followers on Thursday to remain calm after an explosion killed 18 people in his main stronghold in Baghdad just hours after parliament called for a recount of votes in an election his bloc won.

Al Sadr, a nationalist who tapped growing resentment with Iran, scored a surprise victory in the May 12 vote by promising to fight corruption and improve services.

He said in a statement that a committee would be formed to investigate the blast, with findings presented to him within three days.

He called for “patience and self-control”, the statement from his office said.

At least 18 people were killed and over 90 wounded in Al Sadr City, a blast that the interior ministry said was the result of the detonation of an ammunitions cache.

Security forces have opened their own investigation.

Al Sadr’s top aide, Dhiaa Al Asadi, expressed concerns that some parties were trying to sabotage Al Sadr’s victory.

“Losers in the recent elections shouldn’t hijack or manipulate the parliament. Otherwise, it is a conflict of interests,” he said.

Al Sadr has always been seen as a wildcard in Iraq’s turbulent politics, which is often driven by sectarian interests.

His Mehdi Army militia staged two violent uprisings against United States occupation forces after the invasion and Iraqi and US officials described him at the time as the biggest security threat in Iraq.

The defeat of Islamic State in December had raised hopes that the country could ease sectarian and political tensions and find a formula for stability, which has remained illusive since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussain.

But tensions over the election raised the prospect of more turmoil in Iraq, which has close ties with the United States and Iran, who both compete for power in Iraq, a major oil producer.

Iran Opens New Nuclear Factory (Daniel 8:4)

Iran opens new nuclear facility for centrifuge production

By AMIR VAHDAT ASSOCIATED PRESS

TEHRAN, Iran — Jun 6, 2018, 4:02 PM E

Iran’s nuclear chief on Wednesday inaugurated the Islamic Republic’s new nuclear enrichment facility that is geared toward producing centrifuges which will operate within the limits of the nuclear deal Tehran signed with world powers.

Iranian state television broadcast an interview with Ali Akbar Salehi after nightfall, showcasing the facility at Natanz’s uranium enrichment center.

In the interview, Salehi said the facility’s construction began even before the 2015 deal was signed and that he hopes the first centrifuges — known as old-generation centrifuges — will roll out in a month’s time.

In a gesture likely directed at the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the deal, Iran on Tuesday informed the U.N. nuclear watchdog that it will increase its nuclear enrichment capacity, yet stay within the provisions of the accord.

The landmark agreement, which lifted crippling economic sanctions in exchange for Tehran limiting its uranium enrichment program, has been facing its greatest diplomatic challenges in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull America out of it.

European nations and others involved in the accord are now trying to salvage it, and many companies that rushed to make billion-dollar deals with Iran now are backing out for fear of being targeted by U.S. sanctions.

Natanz, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of the capital, Tehran, includes underground facilities protected by some 7.6 meters (25 feet) of concrete, which offer protection from airstrikes.

Salehi’s choice of Natanz to offer his speech came as no surprise.

The facility long has been a point of contention between Iran and the West since its public disclosure by an Iranian exile group in 2002. While Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, Western nations have feared Natanz represented a means for Iran to enrich enough uranium to produce atomic weapons.

The Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation, caused thousands of centrifuges at Natanz to spin themselves to destruction at the height of the West’s fears over Iran’s program.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran agreed to store its excess centrifuges at Natanz under constant surveillance by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran can use 5,060 older-model centrifuges at Natanz, but only to enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent. Natanz was designed to have as many as 50,000 centrifuges operating there.

In Wednesday’s interview, Salehi said mass-production for new-generation centrifuges will take years to be fully operational. “Every new generation of centrifuges needs eight to 10 years for testing,” he said.

That low-level enrichment means the uranium can be used to fuel a civilian reactor but is far below the 90 percent needed to produce a weapon. Iran also can possess no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of that uranium. That’s compared to the 100,000 kilograms (220,460 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium it once had.

Iran also this week told the IAEA it had a “tentative schedule to start production of UF6,” or uranium hexafluoride. Uranium hexafluoride gas is spun by centrifuges to make enriched uranium that can be used in nuclear weapons and atomic reactor fuel. That work is also restrained under the nuclear deal.

Earlier Wednesday, Iranian ambassador to the IAEA Reza Najafi told journalists in Vienna that Iran had given European nations “a few weeks” to come up with ways to protect the deal from America’s pullout.

“These are the preparatory works for a possible scenario if in an unfortunate situation the (nuclear deal) fails then Iran can restart its activities without any limits,” Najafi said.

“What I can say is right now, the negotiations at the expert level are continuing and we hope that it could reach some conclusion,” he added. “Until then, we continue to exercise the most restraint but it is not (an) endless process.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned Iran against restarting higher enrichment of uranium.

“It is always dangerous to flirt with the red lines,” he said.

———

Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Philipp Jenne in Vienna and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

Leaders Loose Lips Leading to Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

Leaders’ loose lips could launch nuclear missiles

An atomic bomb would have serious consequences that would reach far beyond the intended target. (File photo)

OPINION: For anyone who has even a superficial knowledge of what the world would be like after a nuclear war, these are unnerving times.

The narrative between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un containing references to pressing nuclear buttons, is cause for concern.

There are several other potential nuclear hotspots, perhaps most worrying is the stand-off between India and Pakistan which has been simmering for over 70 years and which every now and then boils over.

Partition was the division of India in 1947 into two self-governing countries, India and Pakistan; it was a violent process which involved the displacement of 15 million people and in which over one million people were killed.

It is still the source of hostility between the two nations.

Since Partition there have been numerous skirmishes and stand-offs and four full-scale wars between India and Pakistan in which thousands more were killed.

The most recent was a military confrontation in 2016.

Of particular concern is that India and Pakistan each have dozens of nuclear weapons and both countries make no secret of their willingness to use these if provoked.

The extent of the destruction and fatalities caused by an atomic bomb depends on the power of the bomb.

The blast would instantly kill anyone within the impact zone and the powerful shock wave produced by the nuclear explosion would destroy concrete buildings within a few kilometres of the impact zone.

Radiation from the bomb would be so intense that within a radius of several kilometres, people would receive third degree burns, again producing many fatalities.

Over a matter of weeks, thousands of people, hundreds of kilometres from the detonation site would eventually die from radiation poisoning as the mushroom cloud spread.

Brian Toon, Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Colorado University and his team, have computer-modelled the effects of a nuclear war between Pakistan and India.

The immense energy of a nuclear bomb would vapourise rocks which would be blasted into the atmosphere.

Some of the explosion debris would become hot as it fell to the Earth and would cause vegetation to burn, but some about the size of sand grains would remain in the upper atmosphere.

At these altitudes it never rains and the smoke and detritus would remain and spread across the globe.

Within two weeks the entire Earth would be cloaked in a dark cloud, shielding the surface from the Sun, hampering the process of photosynthesis.

It is estimated that the global yield of corn, wheat and rice would remain between 10-40 per cent of current levels for years.

Without production of food the world supply would last for up to 60 days, this means that within a few weeks, billions of people would starve.

In the event of a war between India and Pakistan that figure is put between one and two billion.

Every country on the planet would suffer to some degree.

During the Cold War no one in the US and Europe was left in any doubt about the dire consequences of a nuclear war.

In the US, school children regularly had to practise a hopelessly ineffective but morale boosting drill in preparation for a nuclear attack.

In contrast, today we have become so used to the existence of nuclear weapons that the public and politicians talk about nuclear attacks without appreciating that nuclear bombs dropped on some distant part of the world would have global consequences.

In addition, as Brian Toon points out, any war the US has become involved in, always, without exception, expands beyond its original objective.

The rhetoric between President Trump and Kim Jong-un has undeniably succeeded in bringing the two leaders to the conference table, probably because of punishing economic sanctions imposed on North Korea but also because each of the two leaders is unpredictable enough for the other to believe the threat really could be carried out.

However, the concern is that in the future, flippant remarks about nuclear war made between two more evenly matched and heavily armed adversaries could easily be misinterpreted – that could easily lead to one side initiating a pre-emptive strike.

People in power should realise – loose lips really could launch missiles.