New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

How vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?

Ashley Fetters

New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnels; air conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.

The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.

The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.

Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?

Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There’s a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It’s well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”

And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)

Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.

Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.

Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)

One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”

Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.

And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.

So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?

“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”

Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail tips@curbed.com, and we may include it in a future column.

Iran Is Ready to Go Nuclear (Daniel 8:4)

Iran Was Closer to a Nuclear Bomb Than Intelligence Agencies Thought

If Tehran pulls out of the 2015 deal, it could have a weapon in a matter of months.

Michael Hirsh  November 13, 2018, 6:02 PM

A secret Iranian archive seized by Israeli agents earlier this year indicates that Tehran’s nuclear program was more advanced than Western intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency had thought, according to a prominent nuclear expert who examined the documents.

That conclusion in turn suggests that if Iran pulls out of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal that U.S. President Donald Trump has already abandoned, it has the know-how to build a bomb fairly swiftly, perhaps in a matter of months, said David Albright, a physicist who runs the nonprofit Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, D.C.

Iran would still need to produce weapons-grade uranium. If it restarts its centrifuges, it could have enough in about seven to 12 months, added Albright, who is preparing reports on the archive.

Before the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal mainly negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, that would have taken only two months, but under the accord Iran was required to ship about 97 percent of its nuclear fuel out of the country and dismantle most its centrifuges.

Experts say the revelation that Iran had more advanced capabilities to make nuclear weapons themselves—as opposed to its ability to produce weapons-grade fuel, the main focus of the nuclear pact—is a surprising and troubling finding in the new intelligence.

“The archive is littered with new stuff about the Iranian nuclear weapons program,” Albright told Foreign Policy. “It’s unbelievable how much is in there.” One of his key conclusions from studying the documents was that the Iranians “were further along than Western intelligence agencies realized.”

The archive, which is well over 100,000 pages long, covers the period from 1999 to 2003, a decade before negotiations on a nuclear deal began. But the trove of documents demonstrates that Washington and the IAEA were constantly underestimating how close Tehran was to a bomb.

“The U.S. was issuing statements that it would take a year at least, perhaps two years, to build a deliverable weapon. The information in the archive makes it clear they could have done it a lot quicker,” said Albright. He added that the French government, which was then saying Iran could achieve a weapon in three months, was much closer in its estimates.

Analysts were still sifting through the archive, said Albright, who is also known for tracking North Korea’s nuclear program and for investigating Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs going back to the 1990s. “I don’t think even the Israelis have gone through it all,” he said. “Every day when they go through it they see something new.”

Mossad agents seized the archive in a daring nighttime raid on a warehouse in Tehran at the end of January. In late April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed some of the content in a speech that was panned as a melodramatic attempt to prod Trump into leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the Iran nuclear deal. “These files conclusively prove that Iran is brazenly lying when it said it never had a nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, called Netanyahu’s presentation “a prearranged show with the aim of impacting Trump’s decision, or perhaps it is a coordinated plan by him and Trump in order to destroy the JCPOA.”

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Trump announced the United States was withdrawing several days later.

In the period described in the Iranian archive, current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani—who later signed off on the JCPOA—was national security advisor. According to a draft of the first report by the Institute for Science and International Security, which was obtained by FP:

“Rouhani was a central, ongoing figure in the nuclear weapons program in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It is difficult to find evidence that his support for nuclear weapons ever ended.”

While Netanyahu’s presentation highlighted Iran’s deceptiveness, the institute’s analysis focuses on how Iran managed to “put in place by the end of 2003 the infrastructure for a comprehensive nuclear weapons program” intended to initially produce five nuclear warheads, each with an explosive yield of 10 kilotons, according to the draft.

The analysis was done by Albright, Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director-general for safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Andrea Stricker, a senior policy analyst at the institute. The three concluded that by the late 1990s, Iran had already developed “a full range of technical competences and capabilities, not just some, as characterized by the IAEA in late 2015.”

The authors also indicate that much is still unknown about what remains of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. “The program’s remains, and likely some activities, have continued up to today. The question of where all this equipment and material is now located is more urgent to answer.”

Albright, who has gone to Tel Aviv several times to comb through the archive—most recently two weeks ago—says he is certain the information, which has also been verified by the U.S. government, is authentic. It is consistent with “the thrust of what the IAEA had collected,” he said, but more detailed.

The archive casts no light, however, on whether Iran was observing the 2015 deal, and most experts say Tehran was cooperating at the time that Trump withdrew.

Alexandra Bell, a former Obama administration official who worked on compliance reports for the JCPOA, said that even if the intelligence from the archive is accurate and Tehran lied in the past, its behavior should be judged by whether it is complying with the deal now. “There shouldn’t be oversight through media reports,” Bell said. “As with any agreement, issues come up and they should be dealt with in the proper channels. They should be addressed by the JCPOA parties.”

She noted that before it withdrew from the deal, the Trump administration twice declared Iran in compliance, and the IAEA has done so 15 times. “The JCPOA is working,” Bell said.

Even so, the existence of the archive under the authority of a mysterious Iranian organization has raised concerns among some governments and the IAEA over whether Iran is preserving its ability to build nuclear weapons in the future. Under the JCPOA, Iran must mainly relinquish its ability to enrich and reprocess weapons-grade fuel, subject to rigorous IAEA inspection.

Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a former Bush administration official who worked on Iran, said the revelation that Iran “never came clean on all this, where they were on the weapons back then, that’s a biggie. The question is where they were at the time of the JCPOA. That’s why some people in the intelligence community were so keen on getting a deal—Iran had so much breakout ability at the time of the deal.”

As to what happens now, with Tehran still nominally observing the nuclear pact, “the likelihood that Iran does anything very publicly is very small,” Levitt said. “The question is how far do they go in a clandestine fashion, given that they know what we know.”

Antichrist’s Iraq as Corrupt as the US

In his appearance before a parliamentary panel Ali al-Alaq, the Governor of Iraq’s Central Bank, had to answer several questions about a five-year-old incident at a branch of the Iraq’s Central Bank, the Rafidain Bank. It seems that at the end of 2013, the annual flooding had crept into the vaults of the Rafidain Bank and “destroyed” mountains of dinar bank notes worth seven billion dinars (about six million dollars).

The Parliament wanted to know a little more about this incident as the bank notes are designed to be waterproof and able to withstand flooding (as any Iraqi who has washed his clothes with money in the pocket can tell you).

The Governor assured the Parliamentary Committee that there was no real loss of money as the notes were destroyed and simply replaced by the Central Bank at a cost of only a few cents per note.

Somehow the legislators were a little curious about how the notes were “destroyed.” That they might have been damaged and replaced makes some sense, but utterly destroyed by rainwater while in a vault is another matter entirely. Ali al-Alaq was not the Governor of the Central Bank at that time and had little more to offer publicly.

It is lucky that Chicago is not its own country. There is no doubt that my home would be ranked even lower than Iraq. Chicago has a huge public debt to pension funds and other debtors

Michael Flanagan

Iraq is ranked as the twelfth most corrupt government in the world by Transparency International, which makes such rankings for the UN. This is actually an improvement over having been ranked dead last just a couple of years ago.

Highly sensitive to this ranking and anxious to improve their international rating to help Iraq, the legislators were inordinately interested in something, which was at best was an ordinary accident and remediation and at worst was official corruption of an almost petty nature. Considering the billions annually looted in Iraq in official corruption – an amount which is estimated to have climbed to over two-hundred billion dollars since the fall of Saddam – “petty” is a word one could aptly apply to merely six million dollars’ worth of theft.

Corruption was a major issue in the late elections and all candidates for executive and legislative offices focused on ending public theft in Iraq. It is a hard problem but Iraq is not alone.

Corruption in Chicago

It is lucky that Chicago is not its own country. There is no doubt that my home would be ranked even lower than Iraq. Chicago has a huge public debt to pension funds and other debtors. The State of Illinois (in which Chicago is located) has the highest amount of structural debt per capita in the United States. The structural debt for just Chicagoans is sixty-seven thousand dollars per household plus an additional forty-one thousand dollars per household for the Illinois portion as the state tries to service its public debt as well. Unlike the public debt of the federal government, this money must be repaid soon.

This debt was largely created by corrupt deals by politicians in Chicago with unions and other organizations representing pensioners in Illinois promising to give away exorbitant sums of future public money for high pensions to buy votes. Because public officials in Illinois can have outside “employment” in addition to their legislative salaries and often mysteriously end their public careers as millionaires; keeping that public job is clearly lucrative and any amount of public money that needs to be promised away to keep that job is worth it.

As Mary Frances Berry wrote for Salon a couple of years ago, “In addition, four consecutive corrupt governors and nearly one-third of Chicago’s one hundred alderpersons since 1973 have been convicted of corruption, mostly involving bribes to influence government decisions or for personal financial benefit.”

This has been going on in Chicago for decades. In fact, there is a very famous case of election fraud in Chicago. There are many such stories but this one is apt to this article about Iraq’s flooding.

In the 1920s, a flatbed truck holding four wards of Northside votes was heading downtown to deliver those votes to City Hall to be counted. A sudden gust of wind and rain hit the truck as it crossed the Chicago River. Amazingly, all of the boxes of votes blew off of the truck, onto the road, over the guard rails and into the river. These pieces of paper were too “destroyed.”

The court eventually ruled that the voters whose votes were destroyed were simply disenfranchised and those votes would just not be counted at all as there was no way to exactly replicate them. This was a controversial ruling to be sure. Oh, did I mention that in Chicago they elect judges?

I hope that the Iraqis get to the bottom of the great flood but if they never do, I hope that they keep up their anti-corruption efforts. They need to do better than Chicago has – and can.

_____________________
Michael Patrick Flanagan represented the 5th District of Illinois in the historic 104th Congress. He sat on the Committees on the Judiciary, Government Reform and Oversight, and Veterans’ Affairs. Prior to his Congressional Service, Michael was commissioned in the United States Army Field Artillery. After leaving Congress, Michael and his firm, Flanagan Consulting LLC, have represented both large and small corporations, organizations, and associations. In 2009, Michael took a sabbatical from his lobbying business and entered public service again with the United States Department of State in Iraq as the Senior Rule of Law Advisor on the Maysan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Maysan, Iraq. For his work, Michael was awarded the Man of the Year by the Iraqi Courts, the Civilian Service Medal by the US Army and was also given the Individual Distinguished Honor Award. Michael is currently a consultant in Washington, D.C. His email ID is CommentsForMike@flanaganconsulting.com.

Return of Violent Protests Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

ISRAEL BRACES FOR RETURN OF VIOLENT GAZA PROTESTS

By ANNA AHRONHEIM

A demonstrator hurls back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during clashes at a Gaza border protest , April 27, 2018. (photo credit:” REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)

Hamas invites Gazans to commemorate militants killed in IDF commando raid.

Israel is bracing for the possible return of violent border protests on Friday, just days after the latest escalation with Gaza raised fears of yet another war.

The IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon warned Gazans on Thursday through an Arabic-language video posted to his Facebook page that Israel will respond severely to those who take part in the violent border protests.

According to Rokon, Israel is “well aware that these actions are not spontaneous” and that the protests are “masterminded, managed and led” by Hamas.

Rokon warned that the IDF “will not show restraint” against anyone who approaches within 100 meters of the security fence, anyone who tries or succeeds to damage it, anyone who tries to infiltrate into Israel, anyone who throws improvised explosive devices or Molotov cocktails toward troops, or anyone who launches explosive balloons into southern Israel.

Lt.-Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar, an expert on Islamist groups at Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that while Hamas is “preoccupied by Liberman’s resignation which is a major success for them… you cannot overrule the possibility that Gazans will come to the fence.”

Israel has demanded an end to the weekly confrontations, as well as the frequent launches of incendiary balloons into Israeli territory. Hamas, on the other hand, has repeatedly stated that the protests would continue until Israel lifts the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

While there have been no indications on social media about planned protests, it is likely that thousands of Palestinians will gather at the Gaza security fence

“If the protests are too small, then Israel might think they won by canceling the demonstrations,” Kedar said. “They [Hamas] don’t want to give Israel that achievement.”

According to Kedar, an invitation by Hamas to come to the area of the Ismail Abu Shanab mosque – where the botched IDF commando raid took place to commemorate the terrorists killed by Israel – might see a large protest by Gazans near the fence afterwards.

“This event in Khan Yunis might become a demonstration against Israel,” he said, adding that the mosque “is not so far from the Israeli border, a 15 minute walk-after the event they can all walk to the fence.”

Hamas “might be willing to cause a clash between Israel and demonstrators in order to say that ‘we keep the peace while Israel keeps shooting at us.’” Kedar said, warning that Hamas wants to “check Israeli patience” and “drag Israel into a trap.”

The violent riots along the Gaza security fence, which began in March, have led to some 221 Palestinians being killed, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures. It has also led to fears of another military operation against Hamas to restore the quiet seen in the four years since the end of Operation Protective Edge.

Before the latest outbreak of violence, Israel and Hamas were reportedly close to signing a long-term ceasefire agreement – and Israel allowed the transfer of $15 million in cash to Hamas to pay the salaries of civil servants. The money, which was paid for by Qatar and the first installment out of $90 million, was transferred in three suitcases in a heavily guarded vehicle in the blockaded coastal enclave.

According to Arabic media reports, the ceasefire would have also included a partial lifting of restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza, as well as a sea passage between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip, which would be monitored by international forces under Israeli security supervision.

But over the course of 25 hours beginning on Monday, close to 500 mortars and rockets were launched into southern Israel from the Hamas-run enclave. The violence ended after a ceasefire was signed that had been mediated by Egypt, the United Nations, Norway and Switzerland.

Meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday, President Reuven Rivlin said that the “unending” rocket fire against Israeli civilians is unacceptable and that Israel would not “stand by” in the face of Hamas attacks.

“Hamas again and again escalates the situation by cynically exploiting the people of Gaza,” he said, adding that “Israel does not want escalation or to hurt innocent civilians, but will not stand by while Hamas undermines stability and our civilians are harmed.”

WW3: Why the European Nuclear Horns Will Rise

World War 3 ALERT: Fears Russia armed with ILLEGAL NUCLEAR missiles that can reach Europe

Lithuanian Minister fears Moscow has the ability to fire illegal nuclear missiles as far as Europe (Image: Getty)

RUSSIA has violated key commitments of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), giving Moscow the ability to fire illegal nuclear missiles as far as Europe, the foreign minister of Lithuania has claimed.

By MARTINA BET

PUBLISHED: 04:10, Thu, Nov 15, 2018

UPDATED: 08:11, Thu, Nov 15, 2018

Russian president Vladimir Putin warned that he will target any nations that host US missiles, including Europe.

The INF Treaty was established in 1987 between the leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan at the height of the Cold War. Linas Linkevicius told Deutsche Welle that Moscow has been violating the terms of the agreement for years. Under the INF Treaty, Russia promised not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500km to 5,500km, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.

According to a 2016 State Department report, the Russian Novator 9M729 is thought to have a range that falls between 500km and 5,500km, and is therefore illegal under the terms of the accord.

Mr Linkevicius explained: “We all understand that all these arms control agreements are very important.

“But a very important condition is that all parties must comply.

“So if not, something should be done in order to force them to.

Linkevicius told Deutsche Welle that Moscow has been violating the terms of the agreement for years (Image: Getty)

“So far, all the calls and the criticism have had no effect.”

The foreign minister added Lithuanians are extremely concerned about the Kremlin.

He noted: “When Russians are talking about balance, about adequate responses, it’s by no means adequate because we do not have defence capabilities.

“And we’re not going to be aggressive.

And we’re not going to be aggressive.

“But this is really not a move for confidence building.

“And by the way, these missiles can reach not just Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius, but also Berlin.

“And they’re nuclear-capable. So I believe it’s really an escalation measure.”

Donald Trump announced less than a month ago he wants to pull out of the INF treaty (Image: Getty)

Russian president Vladimir Putin warned that he will target any nations that host US missiles, including Europe.

Mr Linkevicius’ remarks echoed the words of US President Donald Trump who announced less than a month ago he wants to pull out of the INF treaty.

Speaking at a rally in Nevada at the end of October, he said: “Russia has not, unfortunately, honoured the agreement so we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.

“We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to.”

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the treaty has drawn sharp criticism from Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last leader, who warned it increased the risk of nuclear conflict and a new arms race.