The Saudi Nuclear Option (Daniel 7)

For Nations Seeking Nuclear Energy, The Option To Build A Weapon Remains A Feature Not A Bug

After Saudi Arabia’s crown prince told CBS News last March that, if Iran decides to build a nuclear weapon, “we will follow suit as soon as possible,” opponents of the technology pounced.

“Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has confirmed what many have long suspected,” said Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, “nuclear energy in Saudi Arabia is about more than just electrical power.”

The controversy was viewed as a potential blow to U.S. efforts to win the contract to build that nation’s first nuclear plant. “Saudi Prince’s Nuclear Bomb Comment May Scuttle Reactor Deal,” noted Bloomberg.

In truth, no nation decides to get a nuclear weapon simply because they have nuclear power plants, and the fuel used in nuclear plants is not enriched enough to make a weapon.

But under the rules of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, nations are allowed to have facilities to enrich uranium, and extract plutonium from spent fuel, which could be used to build a weapon.

“The idea of Saudi Arabia having a nuclear program with the ability to enrich is a major national security concern,” said the Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

Using enrichment or reprocessing facilities to create weapons-grade materials would require expelling international inspectors and risking trade sanctions — or worse. In 1981 and 2007, for instance, Iraq and Syria, respectively, suffered bombing attacks carried out by Israel on their nuclear facilities.

But when push comes to shove, nations that feel they need a weapon will take those risks. “North Korea has provided the blueprint,” Vipin Narang, a professor of political science and nuclear weapons expert at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) told me.

“If you want a meeting with the president of the U.S., and insurance against an invasion,” explained Narang, “then get a nuclear weapon. Do it secretly. Make it ambiguous. Build a reactor, pull out of [the Non-Proliferation Treaty], kick out the inspectors. ”

Since its birth in the 1950s, the nuclear industry and scientific community have stressed the separateness of energy production and weapons. But recent statements by Middle Eastern leaders have thrust the connections — technical, workforce, and motivational — into the limelight.

Of the 26 nations around the world that are building or are committed to build nuclear power plants, 23 have a weapon, had a weapon, or have shown interest in acquiring a weapon, according to a new Environmental Progress analysis.

The 13 nations that had a weapons program, or have shown interest in acquiring a weapon, are Argentina, Armenia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Iran, Japan, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). Consider:

  • U.A.E., which has finished construction of its first nuclear plant, and has shown high-level interest in acquiring a nuclear weapon — something acknowledged by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton;
  • Turkey has begun construction of a nuclear plant and, may be secretly developing a weapon orlaying the groundwork to replace the nuclear umbrella the US provides;”
  • Egypt will start construction of a nuclear plant in 2020 and is viewed by experts as a possible nuclear weapons state if Iran decides to acquire a weapon;
  • Bangladesh has shown interest in developing weapons latency in the past and currently has a nuclear plant under construction.
  • Brazil is seeking to a multipurpose reactor, has in the past sought a weapon, and “will leave the door open to developing nuclear weapons“ according to a new Stratfor analysis.

This trend fits the historic pattern. In the 60 years of civilian nuclear power, at least 20 nations* sought nuclear power at least in part to give themselves the option of creating a nuclear weapon.

Of the other nations building nuclear plants, seven have weapons (France, U.S., Britain, China, Russia, India and Pakistan), two had weapons as part of the Soviet Union (Ukraine and Belarus), and one (Slovakia) was part of a nation (Czechoslovakia) that sought a weapon.

Poland, Hungary, and Finland are the only three nations (of the 26) for which we could find no evidence of “weapons latency” as a motivation.

While those 23 nations clearly have motives other than national security for pursuing nuclear energy, gaining weapons latency appears to be the difference-maker.

The flip side also appears true: nations that lack a need for weapons latency often decide not to build nuclear power plants, which can be more difficult and expensive than fossil fueled ones.

Recently, Vietnam and South Africa, neither of which face a significant security threat, decided against building nuclear plants and opted instead for burning more coal, despite suffering from air pollution and professing concern for climate change.

Why Nuclear Energy Prevents War

In 2015, two scholars at Texas A&M university, Matthew Fuhrmann and Benjamin Tkach, set out to answer two questions: how many nations have the ability to build a weapon? And what impact does nuclear weapons “latency” have on war?

A growing body of research had found that latency deters against military attacks, Fuhrmann and Tkach noted. But with Israel and U.S. threatening pre-emptive action against Iran, could latency also be a threat to peace?

Fuhrmann and Tkach found that 31 nations had the capacity to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium, and that 71 percent of them created that capacity to give themselves weapons latency.

What was the relationship between nuclear latency and military conflict? It was negative. “Nuclear latency appears to provide states with deterrence-related benefits,” they concluded, “that are distinct from actively pursuing nuclear bombs.”

Why might this be? Arriving at an ultimate cause is difficult if not impossible, the authors note. But one obvious possibility is that the “latent nuclear powers may be able to deter conflict by (implicitly) threatening to ‘go nuclear’ following an attack.”

Nuclear isn’t the first energy technology whose adoption was driven by national security. Before World War I, the British Navy switched to petroleum-powered ships that could travel twice as far, emit less smoke (that potential enemies could see), and refuel more quickly than coal-powered ones. And today’s efficient natural gas turbines exist in large part thanks to decades of military procurement of jet turbines.

Every past energy transition has followed the same progression. The new fuel, whether coal, oil, natural gas, or uranium, starts out as a premium product more expensive than the incumbent and comes down in price over time.

For early adopters of the new fuel-technology combination, notes economist Roger Fouquet, a new energy source must offer some “superior or additional characteristics (e.g. easier, cleaner or more flexible to use).”

After over 60 years of national security driving nuclear power into the international system, we can now add “preventing war” to the list of nuclear energy’s superior characteristics.

“Your view that weapons drove nations to energy, not the other way around,” M.I.T.’s Narang told me, “may be more accurate given what we now know about many of these countries.” He pointed to Sweden and Switzerland:

Both are neutral nations outside of NATO that had a very deep interest in weapons and a program through the 1960s. Today they are championed as nonproliferation nations, but both militaries were very interested in having the basis for a nuclear weapons program if necessary. Both used nuclear energy to explore those options.

Before Iran, Narang notes, the nation most famous for nuclear weapons hedging was Japan. After six decades of peaceful nuclear power, it’s an open secret that Japan has created enough plutonium to create 6,000 bombs — as well as an excellent rocket program.

That doesn’t mean nuclear power is a sure thing in nations with nuclear weapons. France officially pledged under its last government to sharply reduce its reliance on nuclear power. But then President Emmanuel Macron explicitly said late last year that he would not carry out the policy.

Japan, which lacks a weapon, closed all of its nuclear reactors after the 2011 Fukushima panic and intends to restart just two-thirds of them. At the same time, it has shown no interest in giving up its weapons latency, with its plutonium program continuing.

U.S. nuclear plants are closing prematurely but mostly not because of explicitly anti-nuclear actions by political leaders. Rather, they are closing due to unusually cheap natural gas and heavily-subsidized renewables.

The only two U.S. states forcing the closure of nuclear plants, California and New York, also had the strongest nuclear disarmament movements.

And, notably, every single nation with a nuclear weapon is building nuclear power plants with the sole exception of Israel and North Korea. Experts believe Israel does not want nuclear plants because it would require acknowledging its nuclear weapons, and accepting inspectors, while stiff trade sanctions prevent North Korea from building nuclear power plants.

Implications for Pro-Nuclear Advocacy

As a lifelong peace activist and pro-nuclear environmentalist, I almost fell out of my chair when I discovered the paper by Fuhrmann and Tkach. All that most nations will need to deter military threats is nuclear power — a bomb isn’t even required? Why in the world, I wondered, is this fact not being promoted as one of nuclear power’s many benefits?

The answer is that the nuclear industry and scientific community have tried, since Atoms for Peace began 65 years ago, to downplay any connection between the two — and for an understandable reason: they don’t want the public to associate nuclear power plants with nuclear war.

But in seeking to deny the connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, the nuclear community today finds itself in the increasingly untenable position of having to deny these real world connections —  of motivations and means — between the two.

From 1400 to 1945, deaths from war rose steadily before beginning a rapid decline.Our World in Data

Worse, in denying the connection between energy and weapons, the nuclear community reinforces the widespread belief that nuclear weapons have made the world a more dangerous place when the opposite is the case. From 1400 to 1945, deaths from war rose steadily before beginning a remarkable and rapid decline that continues to this day.

And while various efforts are made to deny the role of deterrence, the fact is that between 1945 to 1989, two great nations, the U.S. and U.S.S.R., with diametrically opposed interests and ideologies, and their most important allies, avoided full-scale war.

The same dynamic repeated itself with India and Pakistan. Before they acquired the bomb, they had three full-scale wars. After the bomb, zero.

Nuclear weapons don’t eliminate military conflicts but they greatly reduce their death tolls. The death toll from the third war between India and Pakistan to their border skirmish known as the Kargil “war” declined 90 percent, from 11,743 to 1,218.

Nuclear weapons in India and Pakistan “cured the previous disease, which was massive conventional war,” Narang explained, but “didn’t solve all the problems.” Still, he added, “just because medicine has a side effect, you don’t not give the medicine.”


Battle deaths have declined rapidly since 1945Our World in Data

One of the many dark fantasies about nuclear weapons is that if one were used anywhere it would lead to full-scale nuclear war everywhere.

And yet the most likely use of one would be tactical — against invading troops. Pakistan might say, “If we use our own nukes, on our own territory, in the desert, against an Indian strike corps, we haven’t given them justification to use nuclear against our cities,” notes Narang.

“But even then, it would be an event of such magnitude that the world would race to stop it from escalating,” he adds. “The first use of nuclear bomb since 1945? I think people will stop and ask, ‘What the hell just happened?’ and the international community will race to try to stop escalation.”

In other words, while there is in fact a real-world relationship between nuclear energy and weapons, the relationship between weapons and the widely-feared nuclear apocalypse, or even a return to wars as brutal as World War II, is entirely imaginary — the stuff of movies, novels, and scenarios.

Battle deaths have declined in conflicts between India & PakistanStrategic Foresight Group

In the real world, nuclear weapons have only been used to end or prevent war — a remarkable record for the world’s most dangerous objects.

Nuclear energy, without a doubt, is spreading and will continue to spread around the world, largely with national security as a motivation.

The question is whether the nuclear industry will, alongside anti-nuclear activists, persist in stigmatizing weapons latency as a nuclear power “bug” rather than tout it as the epochal, peace-making feature it is.

*Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, France, Italy, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Libya, Norway, Romania, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, West Germany, Yugoslavia

Michael Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress. Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment.”

The Pakistani Nuclear Threat (Daniel 8/Revelation 8)


The world ‘must take action to prevent a global catastrophe before it is too late.’

“Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world,” Michael Morell, a former acting Central Intelligence Agency director told Axios last month. Not only is Pakistan one of the nine nations that possess nuclear weapons, it is also a hotbed of intensifying Islamic radicalism that places the security of those weapons in question.

“[A]nti-state jihadist extremism is growing in Pakistan,” Morell said, “creating the nightmare society down the road: an extremist government in Islamabad with nuclear weapons.”

Several factors combine to make the situation in Pakistan a perfect storm that could culminate in a nuclear thunderbolt.

‘An Army With a Country’

With more than 650,000 active personnel, Pakistan’s military is the world’s sixth-largest. It possesses the world’s fifth-largest nuclear arsenal, as well as a “triad” of delivery systems that can strike from land, sea and air.

The balance in political power between this mighty military and Pakistan’s weak civilian government is continually shifting. But the one constant is that the military always maintains the upper hand. Despite Pakistan’s constitution stating that the military must “act in aid of civilian government,” top officers have routinely violated this by overthrowing elected governments and enacting martial law. Viewing the military as the custodian of the country, they exert outsize influence over Pakistan’s economy, foreign policy and local politics.

It is often said that most countries have an army, but Pakistan’s army has a country.

“Let me tell you what I have learned from history,” Pakistan’s foremost human rights lawyer, Asma Jahangir, said to the bbc: “Our army doesn’t want power. It wants absolute power.”

The main reason the military wants to keep a firm grip on decision-making is due to fears of Pakistan’s archrival, India. India has recently acquired $6.5 billion in new military hardware, plus Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. As the concerns over India intensify, the military’s grip on political power tightens.

Military leaders “have convinced themselves over years that India is an eternal enemy and that they are the only saviors of the country,” said Husain Haqqani, former ambassador of Pakistan to Sri Lanka, in an interview with Today’s WorldView.

Colluding With Terrorists

This overreaching, nuclear-armed military extends considerable tolerance to some Pakistani-based jihadist organizations who have battled Indian troops in the Kashmir region, which India and Pakistan both claim. But it outright supports other terrorist groups. The Brookings Institute wrote on January 5 that “Pakistan has provided direct military and intelligence aid” to “the Afghan Taliban and its vicious Haqqani branch.”

Pakistan’s funding and support of these terrorist networks has resulted in “the deaths of U.S. soldiers, Afghan security personnel and civilians, plus significant destabilization of Afghanistan,” the report noted.

Yet Pakistan’s military continues assisting jihadists, partly in an effort to limit India’s influence in the region and partly because the Taliban is Pakistan’s only ally among Afghanistan’s numerous political factions.

With support for terrorists coming even from senior levels in Pakistan’s military, some experts fear that jihadists could get access to the nuclear weapons the military controls.

Rahmatullah Nabil, former head of Afghanistan’s national directorate of security, discussed this in a New York Times op-ed last year, writing: “[E]ven as Pakistani officials proclaim that their nuclear assets are secure, evidence, including internal Pakistani documents, suggests that they know better.”

“I have good reason to be skeptical about Pakistan’s ability to keep its nuclear weapons safe from extremists,” Nabil wrote, adding that the international community “must take action to prevent a global catastrophe before it is too late.”

Nabil cited a 2014 incident in which the Taliban carried out a massacre at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. Immediately afterward, Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission sent an urgent letter to the nation’s Strategic Plans Division, which is in charge of protecting the county’s nuclear weapons. The letter urged the division to devote more funding and effort to monitoring all personnel with knowledge of the nation’s nuclear weapons. “This letter, which has been kept secret until now, reveals just how concerned some Pakistani officials are—and how worried the rest of the world should be,” Nabil wrote.

Another worrying sign came when the Ministry of the Interior published a policy paper warning that many of Pakistan’s hundreds of terrorist groups are active in Punjab province, where most of the country’s nuclear weapons are located. The paper also sounded alarms over the increasing influence of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group within the ranks of the Pakistan Army and intelligence groups, and in the families of military officers.

Youth Unemployment and Extremism

Pakistan is the world’s fifth-most populous nation, with 207 million inhabitants. It is also one of the world’s youngest countries, with a staggering 64 percent of its total population below age 30. And 29 percent of the total population (58 million people) is between the ages of 15 and 29.

In recent years, the unemployment rate for that 15-to-29 age range has exceeded 9 percent, according to the latest data from the National Human Development Report. This is up from 6.5 percent in 2007. This means more than 5.2 million young people are unemployed, a number equivalent to the entire population of Norway.

With time on their hands and frustration in their hearts, many of these young people become interested in one of the hundreds of extremist and terrorist groups operating in Pakistan. Youths who lack education are often radicalized and assimilated into jihadist groups. But individuals who have education—and yet still fail to find gainful employment—are even more susceptible.

“[F]rustrated expectations of individuals for economic improvement and social mobility” is a major driver for radicalization among youth in the general population, the United States Agency for International Development found in a 2011 study. Last year, a Brookings Institute study showed that “[i]ndividuals with secondary educations who are unemployed or underemployed have the highest risk of becoming radicalized.”

As youth unemployment continues to rise, so too does the number of potential radicals who can be assimilated into groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

‘Proxy of the Iranian Mullahs’

The Trumpet has often warned of the danger of Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal falling under the control of radical Islamists. In January 2008, editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote that “Pakistan also has the nuclear bomb and could be taken over by radical Islam, with plenty of help from Iran.” He warned that the world’s sixth-most powerful military could soon become a “proxy of the Iranian mullahs.”

Whether Pakistan’s nuclear weapons fell into the hands of Iran-linked individuals, homegrown terrorists from the growing numbers of unemployed youth, or some other faction of jihadists, the results could be catastrophic.

Jesus Christ warned of the age of nuclear proliferation we live in today, saying it would signal that the end of the age of man was imminent and that His return was at the door: “For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive …” (Matthew 24:21-22; New Living Translation).

At the time that Christ spoke those words, a conflict that could threaten to kill every “single person” was not technologically feasible. But today, with several nations in possession of thousands of nuclear warheads, and with the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons so much in doubt, the stage is set for this prophecy to be fulfilled.

Yet as we see that devastating nuclear war approach, there is reason for hope! In verse 22, just after Christ says that the war at the end of this age will be so destructive that it could kill all human life, He then adds an important detail: “But it will be shortened.”

Nuclear World War iii will be cut short! Before mankind detonates enough weaponry to entirely extinguish human life from the planet, Jesus Christ will interrupt the conflict. Immediately following this age of unprecedented war, He will usher in a new age of unprecedented peace. Christ will establish an era of worldwide harmony for the peoples of Pakistan, India, Iran and every other nation. Regarding this future era of worldwide tranquility and prosperity, Isaiah 2:4 says: “[N]ation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

To understand how the instability in Pakistan could tie in to this hope-filled event, read Mr.Flurry’s commentary “Pakistan and the Shah of Iran” and his free booklet Nuclear Armageddon Is ‘At the Door.’

The Sixth Seal Will be in New York (Rev 6:12)

Earthquakes Can Happen in More Places Than You Think

By Simon Worrall


Half a million earthquakes occur worldwide each year, according to an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most are too small to rattle your teacup. But some, like the 2011 quake off the coast of Japan or last year’s disaster in Italy, can level high-rise buildings, knock out power, water and communications, and leave a lifelong legacy of trauma for those unlucky enough to be caught in them.

In the U.S., the focus is on California’s San Andreas fault, which geologists suggest has a nearly one-in-five chance of causing a major earthquake in the next three decades. But it’s not just the faults we know about that should concern us, says Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake. As she explained when National Geographic caught up with her at her home in Portland, Maine, there’s a much larger number of faults we don’t know about—and fracking is only adding to the risks.

When it comes to earthquakes, there is really only one question everyone wants to know: When will the big one hit California?

That’s the question seismologists wish they could answer, too! One of the most shocking and surprising things for me is just how little is actually known about this natural phenomenon. The geophysicists, seismologists, and emergency managers that I spoke with are the first to say, “We just don’t know!”

What we can say is that it is relatively certain that a major earthquake will happen in California in our lifetime. We don’t know where or when. An earthquake happening east of San Diego out in the desert is going to have hugely different effects than that same earthquake happening in, say, Los Angeles. They’re both possible, both likely, but we just don’t know.

One of the things that’s important to understand about San Andreas is that it’s a fault zone. As laypeople we tend to think about it as this single crack that runs through California and if it cracks enough it’s going to dump the state into the ocean. But that’s not what’s happening here. San Andreas is a huge fault zone, which goes through very different types of geological features. As a result, very different types of earthquakes can happen in different places.

There are other places around the country that are also well overdue for an earthquake. New York City has historically had a moderate earthquake approximately every 100 years. If that is to be trusted, any moment now there will be another one, which will be devastating for that city.

As Charles Richter, inventor of the Richter Scale, famously said, “Only fools, liars and charlatans predict earthquakes.” Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? After all, we have sent rockets into space and plumbed the depths of the ocean.

You’re right: We know far more about distant galaxies than we do about the inner workings of our planet. The problem is that seismologists can’t study an earthquake because they don’t know when or where it’s going to happen. It could happen six miles underground or six miles under the ocean, in which case they can’t even witness it. They can go back and do forensic, post-mortem work. But we still don’t know where most faults lie. We only know where a fault is after an earthquake has occurred. If you look at the last 100 years of major earthquakes in the U.S., they’ve all happened on faults we didn’t even know existed.

Earthquakes 101

Earthquakes are unpredictable and can strike with enough force to bring buildings down. Find out what causes earthquakes, why they’re so deadly, and what’s being done to help buildings sustain their hits.

Fracking is a relatively new industry. Many people believe that it can cause what are known as induced earthquakes. What’s the scientific consensus?

The scientific consensus is that a practice known as wastewater injection undeniably causes earthquakes when the geological features are conducive. In the fracking process, water and lubricants are injected into the earth to split open the rock, so oil and natural gas can be retrieved. As this happens, wastewater is also retrieved and brought back to the surface.

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Different states deal with this in different ways. Some states, like Pennsylvania, favor letting the wastewater settle in aboveground pools, which can cause run-off contamination of drinking supplies. Other states, like Oklahoma, have chosen to re-inject the water into the ground. And what we’re seeing in Oklahoma is that this injection is enough to shift the pressure inside the earth’s core, so that daily earthquakes are happening in communities like Stillwater. As our technology improves, and both our ability and need to extract more resources from the earth increases, our risk of causing earthquakes will also rise exponentially.

After Fukushima, the idea of storing nuclear waste underground cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Yet President Trump has recently green-lighted new funds for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Is that wise?

The issue with Fukushima was not about underground nuclear storage but it is relevant. The Tohoku earthquake, off the coast of Japan, was a massive, 9.0 earthquake—so big that it shifted the axis of the earth and moved the entire island of Japan some eight centimeters! It also created a series of tsunamis, which swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant to a degree the designers did not believe was possible.

Here in the U.S., we have nuclear plants that are also potentially vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, above all on the East Coast, like Pilgrim Nuclear, south of Boston, or Indian Point, north of New York City. Both of these have been deemed by the USGS to have an unacceptable level of seismic risk. [Both are scheduled to close in the next few years.]

Yucca Mountain is meant to address our need to store the huge amounts of nuclear waste that have been accumulating for more than 40 years. Problem number one is getting it out of these plants. We are going to have to somehow truck or train these spent fuel rods from, say, Boston, to a place like Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. On the way it will have to go through multiple earthquake zones, including New Madrid, which is widely considered to be one of the country’s most dangerous earthquake zones.

Yucca Mountain itself has had seismic activity. Ultimately, there’s no great place to put nuclear waste—and there’s no guarantee that where we do put it is going to be safe.

The psychological and emotional effects of an earthquake are especially harrowing. Why is that?

This is a fascinating and newly emerging subfield within psychology, which looks at the effects of natural disasters on both our individual and collective psyches. Whenever you experience significant trauma, you’re going to see a huge increase in PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide, and even violent behaviors.

What seems to make earthquakes particularly pernicious is the surprise factor. A tornado will usually give people a few minutes, if not longer, to prepare; same thing with hurricanes. But that doesn’t happen with an earthquake. There is nothing but profound surprise. And the idea that the bedrock we walk and sleep upon can somehow become liquid and mobile seems to be really difficult for us to get our heads around.

Psychologists think that there are two things happening. One is a PTSD-type loop where our brain replays the trauma again and again, manifesting itself in dreams or panic attacks during the day. But there also appears to be a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. If your readers have ever been at sea for some time and then get off the ship and try to walk on dry land, they know they will look like drunkards. [Laughs] The reason for this is that the inner ear has habituated itself to the motion of the ship. We think the inner ear does something similar in the case of earthquakes, in an attempt to make sense of this strange, jarring movement.

After the Abruzzo quake in Italy, seven seismologists were actually tried and sentenced to six years in jail for failing to predict the disaster. Wouldn’t a similar threat help improve the prediction skills of American seismologists?

[Laughs] The scientific community was uniform in denouncing that action by the Italian government because, right now, earthquakes are impossible to predict. But the question of culpability is an important one. To what degree do we want to hold anyone responsible? Do we want to hold the local meteorologist responsible if he gets the weather forecast wrong? [Laughs]

What scientists say—and I don’t think this is a dodge on their parts—is, “Predicting earthquakes is the Holy Grail; it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. It may never happen.” What we can do is work on early warning systems, where we can at least give people 30 or 90 seconds to make a few quick decisive moves that could well save your life. We have failed to do that. But Mexico has had one in place for years!

There is some evidence that animals can predict earthquakes. Is there any truth to these theories?

All we know right now is anecdotal information because this is so hard to test for. We don’t know where the next earthquake is going to be so we can’t necessarily set up cameras and observe the animals there. So we have to rely on these anecdotal reports, say, of reptiles coming out of the ground prior to a quake. The one thing that was recorded here in the U.S. recently was that in the seconds before an earthquake in Oklahoma huge flocks of birds took flight. Was that coincidence? Related? We can’t draw that correlation yet.

One of the fascinating new approaches to prediction is the MyQuake app. Tell us how it works—and why it could be an especially good solution for Third World countries.

The USGS desperately wants to have it funded. The reluctance appears to be from Congress. A consortium of universities, in conjunction with the USGS, has been working on some fascinating tools. One is a dense network of seismographs that feed into a mainframe computer, which can take all the information and within nanoseconds understand that an earthquake is starting.

MyQuake is an app where you can get up to date information on what’s happening around the world. What’s fascinating is that our phones can also serve as seismographs. The same technology that knows which way your phone is facing, and whether it should show us an image in portrait or landscape, registers other kinds of movement. Scientists at UC Berkeley are looking to see if they can crowd source that information so that in places where we don’t have a lot of seismographs or measuring instruments, like New York City or Chicago or developing countries like Nepal, we can use smart phones both to record quakes and to send out early warning notices to people.

You traveled all over the U.S. for your research. Did you return home feeling safer?

I do not feel safer in the sense that I had no idea just how much risk regions of this country face on a daily basis when it comes to seismic hazards. We tend to think of this as a West Coast problem but it’s not! It’s a New York, Memphis, Seattle, or Phoenix problem. Nearly every major urban center in this country is at risk of a measurable earthquake.

What I do feel safer about is knowing what I can do as an individual. I hope that is a major take-home message for people who read the book. There are so many things we should be doing as individuals, family members, or communities to minimize this risk: simple things from having a go-bag and an emergency plan amongst the family to larger things like building codes.

We know that a major earthquake is going to happen. It’s probably going to knock out our communications lines. Phones aren’t going to work, Wi-Fi is going to go down, first responders are not going to be able to get to people for quite some time. So it is beholden on all of us to make sure we can survive until help can get to us.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

US Stops Aid to the Pakistani Nuclear Horn

Pentagon Suspends $300 Million in Aid to Pakistan Over Terror Groups


September 2, 2018 Updated: September 2, 2018

The Pentagon says it is stopping $300 million in aid to Pakistan for counterterrorism efforts, after it deemed that the country isn’t meeting its demands for decisive action against terrorist groups operating within its borders.

Earlier this year, the State Department said it was withholding security funding to the country that could be reinstated if it were determined that Pakistan was making progress on ridding itself of terrorists that have been fighting a 17-year war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon now says it has decided to cut off Coalition Support Funds that reimburse Pakistan for its efforts at combating terrorism.

“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy, the remaining $300 [million] was reprogrammed,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Kone Faulkner said Sept. 1.

The funds will be allocated to “other urgent priorities,” he said.

Faulkner said the plan will be submitted to Congress and, if approved, will bring the total of Coalition Support Funds that have been cut to $800 million since early this year.

Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in U.S. assistance in the past 16 years, including more than $14 billion in Coalition Support Funds.

A Pakistani official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he was unaware of a formal notification of the U.S. decision on assistance, but said one was expected by the end of September.

Pakistan, a majority Muslim nation, has had a rocky relationship with its southeast neighbor India and has been a focus of the United States since the al-Qaeda terrorist group carried out the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center in 2001. The United States also accuses it of harboring Taliban terrorists that are trying to destabilize the Afghani government, which Pakistan denies.

Last August, Trump announced a new strategy for South Asia focused on eliminating terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The strategy takes aim at Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, which the United States fears could fall into the hands of terrorists.

The Taliban reacted to the new strategy by threatening to make Afghanistan a “graveyard” for U.S. soldiers.

Afghanistan’s leadership was buoyant, applauding the president’s commitment to counterterrorism in the region.

“I am grateful to President Trump and the American people for this affirmation of support for our efforts to achieve self-reliance and for our joint effort to rid the region of the threat of terrorism,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement after Trump’s speech.

The United States has tried to get Pakistan to root out all of the terrorist organizations within its borders that are destabilizing the region, not just those that pose a threat to the Pakistani government.

Several weeks after the July victory of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called to wish him success and urge him to take “decisive action against all terrorists.” Pakistan claimed that terrorism was never discussed, and asked the State Department to make a correction in its readout of the call. The State Department declined.

In response to Pakistan’s request, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters on Aug. 23 that Pakistan is an “important partner to the United States,” and that the United States hopes to “forge a good, productive working relationship with the new civilian government.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford are planning to visit the region in a few days, stopping first in India and then flying to Islamabad, where they are expected to discuss security.

“And to make very clear what we have to do, all of our nations, in meeting our common foe, the terrorists,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said on Aug. 28.

The issue of the cut funding could be a sticking point, at least on the semantics of the term “aid.” Pakistan responded to the news that the United States would be stopping Coalition Support Funds by saying that it was using its own money to counter terrorism in the region.

“It is not a cut in any [U.S.] aid, it is not assistance. This is our own money which we have used for improving regional security situation and they had to reimburse it to us,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters Sept. 2 in Islamabad, according to Voice of America.

Previous administrations have tried similar approaches to get Pakistan to comply with U.S. aims for security in the region. This time may be different, however, as new Khan has said he seeks “mutually beneficial” relations with the United States.

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have plummeted over the past year and the country will soon have to decide whether to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or from friendly nations such as China. The United States has the largest share of votes at the IMF.

“[The United States is] squeezing them when they know that they’re vulnerable and it is probably a signal about what to expect should Pakistan come to the IMF for a loan,” Sameer Lalwani, co-director of the South Asia program at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Another Excuse for Iran to Nuke Up

Iran leader demands military boost its defences as tensions mount over ‘missiles in Iraq’

IRAN’S Supreme Leader has demanded that the military boost their defence capacities amid fears the country is building ballistic missiles in neighbouring Iraq.

By Kat Clementine 15:06, Sun, Sep 2, 2018 | UPDATED: 15:38, Sun, Sep 2, 2018

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Iran’s armed forces to be “vigilant… and raise their personnel and equipment capacities” on Sunday.

At the same time, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry refused to deny that Iran had given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq and was developing the capacity to build more there.

It comes a day after Iran announced plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines.

Tensions between Iran and the United States following the US’ pullout from Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers.

Mr Khamenei’s official website said: “Ayatollah Khamenei emphasised that based on political calculations there is no likelihood of a military war but added that the armed forces must be vigilant and raise their personnel and equipment capacities.”

Earlier US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter he was “deeply concerned” by news that Iran was transferring ballistic missiles into Iraq. He urged Iraqi leaders to form a new government quickly after a May 12 parliamentary election.

Mr Pompeo wrote: “Any sign Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

It also been seen as an embarrassment for France, Germany and Britain, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite new US sanctions against Tehran.

A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehra (Image: Reuters)

According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it was “astonished” at a Reuters report that Iran had moved missiles to Iraq and that the article was “without evidence”, but stopped short of denying its contents.

The ministry in a statement said: “Iraq is not obliged to respond to media reports that lack tangible evidence backing up their claims and allegations.

“All state institutions in Iraq uphold Article 7 of the constitution, which prohibits the use of Iraqi land as a base or passage to be used in operations targeting the security of other states.”

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a Cabinet meeting in Tehran (Image: Reuters)

Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources told Reuters that Iran had given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq and was developing the capacity to build more there.

The Iraqi government and military declined to comment at the time. In Sunday’s statement, the Foreign Ministry said it was “astonished at the allegations” contained in the report.

Iran on Saturday rejected the report, which it said aimed to hurt Iran’s ties with neighbours.

Saturday’s news of the military development plans came a day after Iran dismissed a French call for negotiations on Tehran’s future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it.