The Sixth Seal: A Stack of Cards (Revelation 6:12)

Experts Warn NYC Could Fall Like ‘House of Cards’ With 5.0 Earthquake

A 3-D rendering of a destroyed NYC. (Pavel Chagochkin/Dreamstime.com)

By Mike Dorstewitz    |   Wednesday, 04 April 2018 06:30 PM

A magnitude-5.0 earthquake in New York City would cause an estimated $39 billion in damage after buildings topple like a “house of cards,” according to the Daily Mail.

And the city is overdue for a quake of that size, seismologists say. The last one was in 1884 and they occur about every 100 years.

An estimated 30 million tons of debris would litter the streets after a 5.0 earthquake in NYC , and anything bigger than that would almost certainly collapse buildings and cause loss of life to the city’s 8.5 million residents.

“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” said Lynn Skyes, lead author of a study by seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the New York Daily News reported. “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”

New York City is riddled with fault lines. The largest runs down 125th Street, extending from New Jersey to the East River. The Dyckman Street Fault runs from Inwood to Morris Heights in the Bronx. The Mosholu Parkway Fault line runs a bit farther north. The East River Fault is an especially long one, running south, skirting Central Park’s west side then heading to the East River when it hits 32nd Street.

New York’s main problem isn’t the magnitude of earthquakes, it’s how the city is built.

“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation wrote on its website.

Of Course the Saudis Will Build The Bomb

Saudis Want a U.S. Nuclear Deal. Can They Be Trusted Not to Build a Bomb?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia set off alarms in Washington when he declared earlier this year that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

Credit

Giuseppe Cacace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By David E. Sanger and William J. Broad

Nov. 22, 2018

WASHINGTON — Before Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was implicated by the C.I.A. in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, American intelligence agencies were trying to solve a separate mystery: Was the prince laying the groundwork for building an atomic bomb?

The 33-year-old heir to the Saudi throne had been overseeing a negotiation with the Energy Department and the State Department to get the United States to sell designs for nuclear power plants to the kingdom. The deal was worth upward of $80 billion, depending on how many plants Saudi Arabia decided to build.

But there is a hitch: Saudi Arabia insists on producing its own nuclear fuel, even though it could buy it more cheaply abroad, according to American and Saudi officials familiar with the negotiations. That raised concerns in Washington that the Saudis could divert their fuel into a covert weapons project — exactly what the United States and its allies feared Iran was doing before it reached the 2015 nuclear accord, which President Trump has since abandoned.

Prince Mohammed set off alarms when he declared earlier this year, in the midst of the negotiation, that if Iran, Saudi Arabia’s fiercest rival, “developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” His negotiators stirred more worries by telling the Trump administration that Saudi Arabia would refuse to sign an agreement that would allow United Nations inspectors to look anywhere in the country for signs that the Saudis might be working on a bomb, American officials said.

Asked in Congress last March about his secret negotiations with the Saudis, Energy Secretary Rick Perry dodged a question about whether the Trump administration would insist that the kingdom be banned from producing nuclear fuel.

Eight months later, the administration will not say where the negotiations stand. Now lurking behind the transaction is the question of whether a Saudi government that assassinated Mr. Khashoggi and repeatedly changed its story about the murder can be trusted with nuclear fuel and technology. Such fuel can be used for benign or military purposes: If uranium is enriched to 4 percent purity, it can fuel a power plant; at 90 percent it can be used for a bomb.

Privately, administration officials argue that if the United States does not sell the nuclear equipment to Saudi Arabia someone else will — maybe Russia, China or South Korea.

They stress that assuring that the Saudis use a reactor designed by Westinghouse, the only American competitor for the deal, fits with Mr. Trump’s insistence that jobs, oil and the strategic relationship between Riyadh and Washington are all far more important than the death of a Saudi dissident who was living, and writing newspaper columns, in the United States.

Under the rules that govern nuclear accords of this kind, Congress would have the opportunity to reject any agreement with Saudi Arabia, though the House and Senate would each need a veto-proof majority to stop Mr. Trump’s plans.

“It is one thing to sell them planes, but another to sell them nukes, or the capacity to build them,’’ said Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Following Mr. Khashoggi’s death, Mr. Sherman has led the charge to change the law and make it harder for the Trump administration to reach a nuclear agreement with Saudi Arabia. He described it as one of the most effective ways to punish Prince Mohammed.

A country that can’t be trusted with a bone saw shouldn’t be trusted with nuclear weapons,” Mr. Sherman said, referring to Mr. Khashoggi’s brutal killing in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month.

Nuclear experts said Prince Mohammed should have been disqualified from receiving nuclear help as soon as he raised the prospect of acquiring atomic weapons to counter Iran.

“We have never before contemplated, let alone concluded, a nuclear cooperation agreement with a country that was threatening to leave the nonproliferation treaty, even provisionally,” said William Tobey, a senior official in the Energy Department during the Bush administration who has testified about the risks of the agreement with Saudi Arabia.

He was referring to the crown prince’s threat to match any Iranian nuclear weapon — a step that would require the Saudis to either publicly abandon their commitments under the nonproliferation treaty or secretly race for the bomb.

The Trump administration declined to provide an update on the negotiations, which were intense enough that Mr. Perry went to Riyadh in late 2017. Within the last several months, a senior State Department official engaged in further discussions over the deal in Europe.

The Saudi energy ministry said in a statement: “The Saudi government has repeatedly confirmed that every component of the Saudi atomic energy program is strictly for civil and peaceful uses. The Saudi government has decided to move with this project not only to diversify energy sources but also to contribute to our economy. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly called for a Middle East free from all forms of nuclear weapons.”Saudi Arabia has long displayed interest in acquiring, or helping allies acquire, the building blocks of a program that could make nuclear weapons and protect the kingdom from potential threats from its neighbors — first Israel, then Iraq and Iran.

The Saudi government provided the financing for Pakistan to secretly build its own nuclear arms, the first “Sunni bomb,” as the Pakistani creators of the program called it. That financial link has long left American intelligence officials wondering if there was a quid pro quo: that if Saudi Arabia ever needed its own small arsenal, Pakistan could provide it — perhaps by moving Pakistani troops to Saudi territory.

The Saudis were also thinking of delivery systems. In 1988, the kingdom bought medium-range missiles from China that were designed to be fitted with nuclear, chemical or biological warheads, drawing protests from American officials.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry met with Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, in Riyadh last year.

Credit

Fayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Riyadh’s worries spiked in 2003 when it was revealed that Tehran had secretly built a vast underground plant for enriching uranium — a fuel for nuclear arms and reactors.

Back then, the Iranians made the same argument that the Saudis are currently making: that they needed to possess all of the production facilities necessary for fueling nuclear power plants. (The Iranians in 2011 opened one such plant, a nuclear reactor at Bushehr, built by the Russians.)

That insistence is what set off the Iranian nuclear crisis. Over the years, several nations have demonstrated that it is possible to turn ostensibly civilian programs into sources of bomb fuel, and thus atomic warheads and military power. Israel recently released an archive of material, stolen from Tehran in January, to prove that the Iranian government deceived the world for years.

The Saudis, meanwhile, had no equivalent facilities. They promised to get them.

“Whatever the Iranians build, we will also build,” Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief, warned as the Obama administration sought to negotiate what became the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

Under that pact, Iran is currently spinning a small number of nuclear centrifuges, though it had to ship 97 percent of its nuclear fuel out of the country. The Saudis believe they need to be positioned to match Iran’s every move, though experts say it would take a while. “No one thinks the Saudis would be able to do this anytime soon,” said Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “They couldn’t plausibly build a weapon without outside help.”

The core challenge for the Trump administration is that it has declared that Iran can never be trusted with any weapons-making technology. Now, it must decide whether to draw the same line for the Saudis.

The United States’ own actions may be helping to drive the Saudis’ nuclear thinking. Now that the Iran agreement, brokered with world powers, is on the edge of collapse after Mr. Trump withdrew the United States, analysts are worried that the Saudis may be positioning themselves to create their own nuclear program in response.

The kingdom has extensive uranium deposits and five nuclear research centers. Analysts said Saudi Arabia’s atomic work force was steadily growing in size and sophistication — even without producing nuclear fuel.

Saudi leaders saw a political opening when Mr. Trump was elected.

In its early days, the administration spent considerable time discussing ways that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states could acquire nuclear reactors. Michael T. Flynn, who briefly served as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, backed a plan that would have let Moscow and Washington cooperate on a deal to supply Riyadh with reactorsbut not the ability to make its own atomic fuel.

As a precondition, American economic sanctions against Russia would have been dropped to allow Moscow to join the effort. Mr. Flynn was fired in early 2017 as questions swirled around his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, including about ending the trade restrictions.

In late 2017, Mr. Perry, the energy secretary, picked up the nuclear cooperation issue. Excluding Russia, he began negotiating with Riyadh over the terms. Whether the Saudis would be banned from fuel production quickly became a flash point in Congress.

At his Senate confirmation hearing in November 2017, Christopher A. Ford, the assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, called the safeguards a “desired outcome.” But he equivocated on whether the United States would insist on them.

Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the administration’s approaching as “a recipe for disaster.”

In February, Mr. Perry led a delegation to London to discuss a pact that would ban fuel production, known as a 1-2-3 agreement, for at least 10 to 15 years. (As it happens, the time frame is about how long the Iranians are banned from fuel production under the Obama-era nuclear agreement, which Mr. Trump has called “a disaster.”)

The Saudi delegation was led by the energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, who resisted the proposal.

Nuclear experts said the kingdom wanted to build as many as 16 nuclear power plants over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. Recently, it scaled back its initial plan to the construction of just two reactors. Westinghouse, based in Pennsylvania, would provide the technology, but probably under a license to South Korean manufacturers.

The crown prince made headlines in March by shifting the public discussion over Riyadh’s intentions from reactors to atomic bombs. In a CBS News interview, he said that if Iran acquired nuclear arms, Saudi Arabia would quickly follow suit.

“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb,” Prince Mohammed told “60 Minutes.” “But without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

A few days later, Mr. Falih, the energy minister, raised concerns about the outcome of negotiations with Washington by insisting publicly that Riyadh would make its own atomic fuel.

He said in an interview with Reuters that he was hopeful for a deal.

“It will be natural,” he said, “for the United States to be with us and to provide us not only with technology, but to help us with the fuel cycle and the monitoring, and make sure we do it to the highest standard.”

But Mr. Falih emphasized that the kingdom had its own uranium deposits and wanted to develop them rather than relying on an overseas supplier.

“It’s not natural,” he said, “for us to bring enriched uranium from a foreign country.”

Iran Should Not Trust Babylon the Great

Image: iStock

Iran says US cannot be trusted to honor new nuclear deal

Minister insists fresh negotiations would be pointless without guarantees

By ASIA TIMES STAFF

NOVEMBER 23, 2018 3:58 AM (UTC+8

Tehran believes fresh nuclear talks with the US without guarantees it will not renege on any agreement made would be pointless, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May, claiming that the agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear work was a “disaster.”

Iran continues to abide by the terms of the agreement, and European nations also continue to support it and engage with Tehran.

However, Zarif insisted that without guarantees, the Trump administration could not be trusted.

“If we are to make an agreement with the United States, what is the guarantee that the agreement will last after the flight? You remember Canada?” he said, referring to Trump’s withdrawal of his signature from a G7 summit closing statement in June after his plane left Canada, the host country.

“How are we to be confident that the signature stays on the paper?” Zarif said at the MED Dialogues conference in Rome.

Comprehensive new US sanctions against Iran, which came into effect on November 5, have raised serious concerns about whether the agreement can survive.

– With reporting from Agence France-Presse

Australia’s New Defense Strategy: NUKES (Daniel 7)

China’s rising influence in the region has alarmed many defence experts. But the question remains: would Australia ever need to fight China on its own? Joel Carrett/AAP

With China-US tensions on the rise, does Australia need a new defence strategy?

Greg Raymond, Australian National University

November 22, 2018 6.02am

There is no evidence that China has ever contemplated using its nuclear weapons to coerce another state. Instead, China has maintained a “no first use policy” on nuclear weapons. Surprising as it may sound to many, China wants to build an image of itself as a responsible power.

But the fact remains that China could threaten to use those weapons to force the Australian government into, say, ceasing its patrols of the South China Sea, regardless of the much-debated US “nuclear umbrella” in East Asia.

This is the reality that Australian defence planners have lived with for some 50 years. Australian defence force planning has long accepted the premise that our self-reliance needs to be viewed within an alliance context. As recently as 2009, the government plainly conceded that the Australian Defence Force was not expected to deal with a situation:

…where we were under threat from a major power whose military capabilities were simply beyond our capacity to resist.

In such a situation, we don’t expect to be alone.

This point is important to bear in mind when we consider recent discussions of a “Plan B” to strengthen Australia’s defence posture.

Commentators have suggested recently that Australia’s strategic risk is increasing and the A$195 billion defence spending plan announced in the 2016 Defence White Paper is now insufficient.

Australian taxpayers would certainly be interested to know why a plan that doubles our submarine fleet, significantly expands our navy and adds 100 of the most advanced and expensive combat aircraft ever invented would now be seen as insufficient.

The answer lies in the shifting strategic landscape in the Asia-Pacific region, which has led to greater concerns about China’s long-term intentions and rising tensions between China and the US. So what exactly has changed?

China’s recent activities in the region

Since the last Defence White Paper in 2016, Australian defence observers have been alarmed by four things:

• China’s rejection of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling that deemed its nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea illegal

• China’s conversion of its South China Sea artificial islands into military bases, which was largely complete by the end of 2016, despite a pledge President Xi Jinping gave then-President Barack Obama that China had “no intention to militarise” the islands

• reports in April of this year that China was establishing partnerships with Pacific nations like Vanuatu for potential future military bases and other arrangements

• the election of Donald Trump as US president and the uncertainty this has brought to the region due to his disparaging of traditional alliances and disdain for multilateral institutions

These events have occurred against a backdrop of China’s rapidly expanding global footprint. This includes the establishment of its first overseas military base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, and its growing access to regional ports such as the controversial Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, which the Sri Lankan government ceded to Beijing on a 99-year lease.

President Xi Jinping has rapidly expanded China’s presence in the Pacific region in recent years. Mick Tsikas/AAP

These regional shifts have also come amid growing illiberalism in China, evidence of increasing Chinese intelligence and influence operations in Australia (especially the Dastyari affair) and bullying behaviour from Chinese officials in their meetings with Australian politicians.

In addition, Trump appears to mark a significant break with the strategic priorities of previous US administrations. He’s threatened to walk away from America’s support for the traditional allies and global trade institutions that have characterised US foreign policy since the Second World War. This has put unprecedented distance between the United States and Australia, which as a middle power needs healthy global institutions.

But on China, it’s different. The Trump administration and importantly, the US security apparatus, share Australia’s darkening view of China to the point we may now be seeing a new Cold War developing in the region.

Case in point: the recent announcement of US participation in the development of a joint naval base with Australia on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. This is clear evidence of the US’s new willingness to compete with China and a signal the US wants to dispel the uncertainty left in the region in the wake of Obama’s problematic “pivot” to Asia.

Assessing the risks for Australia

In assessing whether Australia needs a steep increase in its defence spending, there are two questions we must ask: Firstly, what regional developments could the 2016 Defence White Paper not have anticipated? And of these, which equate to risks that increased defence spending can obviate?

Our defence planners have been well aware since at least 2009 of China’s gradually modernising defence forces and steadily growing navy. China’s moves toward a blue-water fleet, including new carriers and cruisers, were also well understood in 2016.

While the artificial islands in the South China Sea were still being built, their eventual militarisation was also anticipated by Australian defence leaders, despite China’s protestations to the contrary.

But even knowing all of this, Australia’s defence planners essentially decided in the 2016 White Paper to continue with the “Force 2030” force structure they envisaged in 2009. There have been some additions like shore-based anti-ship missiles, but our plan has largely been focused on enablers – that is, the capability to make the force operate with greater certainty, precision and coordination. Importantly, this White Paper did not envisage Australia fighting China on its own.

Of the strategic developments involving China since 2016 – from the revelations of its influence operations to its new-found interest in the Pacific – the question defence planners should now be asking is whether any undermine the fundamental judgements of the 2016 White Paper. Do they point to a need to radically change Australia’s defence posture?

Combating China’s illicit influence in Australia is being dealt with through our stronger foreign influence laws. Offsetting China’s influence in the Pacific will be best undertaken through Australia’s aid and diplomatic programs.

This leaves the big question of the role of the US in the Asia-Pacific region – the most critical of defence planning factors. Will Australia be left on its own in the foreseeable future?

And here we must observe that despite Trump’s anti-alliance rhetoric, the American force posture in the Western Pacific actually remains unchanged. There have been no base closures and no force draw-downs as of yet from the bases encircling China in Guam, Japan and South Korea, though Trump has threatened this.

Mike Pence signaled a harder US stance towards China in a speech last month, saying: ‘We will not stand down.’ Fazry Ismail/EPA

Moreover, the hardening US view against China means a likely strengthening of its Asia-Pacific posture under the new National Security Statement, the cardinal US security policy document.

In fact, the US is now expanding its presence in the region with the announcement of the new joint naval base on Manus Island. The US also recently put its nuclear deterrence guarantee to Australia in writing for the first time in history. And the American Marine build-up in Darwin continues.

Although China’s military advances are making the task of possibly defeating its navy more challenging, the fact remains that it will be a long time before it’s able to start a war with the US confident of victory. The US also seems unwilling to leave China to dominate Asia.

In these circumstances, would China use its forces against other countries in the region, like Australia, without the US getting involved? In my view it could not.

Therefore, while every responsible government should continue to assess defence planning and ensure appropriate levels of readiness, the case for a sharply increased defence spending plan is not at this point compelling.

Greg Raymond

Research fellow, Australian National University

Greg Raymond receives funding from the National Telecommunications and Broadcasting Commission of Thailand and was previously funded under the United States Minerva Initiative.

Australian National University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU

Attack Inside the Temple Walls Foiled (Revelation 11:1)

Breaking Hamas terror plots in Judea and Samaria foiled

Shin Bet foils Hamas effort to expand terror activities to Judea and Samari by exploiting Gazans with humanitarian entry permits to Israel.

Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency announced that it had thwarted attempts by Hamas to establish a terror network in Judea and Samaria.

Hamas had tasked operatives in Judea and Samaria with building a terror network in an attempt to commit a series of deadly terror attacks within Israel. Following their recruitment, Hamas taught the operatives how to manufacture explosives and schooled them in target selection.

„This activity of the Hamas military wing joins a long list of attempted terrorist attacks directed by Hamas by recruiting activists in Judea and Samaria.,“ said a senior Shin Bet officer.

„These attempts have been foiled by the Shin Bet in recent years and have led to the imprisonment of hundreds of young people in Judea and Samaria, among them students and young women, thereby harming the fabric of life in Judea and Samaria.“

Hamas had decided to carry attacks in Judea and Samaria in order to escalate the security situation in the region. The Shin Bet stressed that the plan differed from previous efforts in both its scope and the damage that the attacks potentially would have caused.

The Shin Bet caught on to Hamas‘ efforts after it arrested 25-year-old Owes Rajoub, a resident of the town of Dura adjoining Hevron. Rajoub was nabbed before he could carry out terror attacks with the explosives he had purchased.

During his interrogation, Rajoub revealed that he had been recruited by an activist from Gaza, who had approached in query whether he would be interested in carrying out terror attacks within Israel.

On August 11, 2018, Rajoub was instructed by his handler in the Gaza Strip to go to a drug store in Ramallah and collect a mobile phone from there to serve as their main way of communicating.

A few days later, Rajoub was instructed to meet with an operative in the Bethlehem area, in order to obtain a password and additional instructions for using the phone he was given. His handler then ordered him to meet an elderly woman from the Gaza Strip who had come to Israel for medical treatment.

The woman gave Rajoub a pair of pants which had his instructions from his handlers written on this inside. Rajoub spoke with his operators in the Gaza Strip via the phone he received and began to receive training on preparing explosive devices with video clips sent to him and video conversations with a terror mastermind.

Rajoub was ordered to carry out a terror attack as soon as possible, with instructions to choose a target that was packed with civilians, such as a restaurant or a large building.

Rajoub then recruited two Arabs in order to help him manufacture the bombs. The attack was only foiled after Rajoub was arrested in September.

Hamas had used Gazans with permits to enter Israel for humanitarian reasons to carry messages between operations. While Gaza residents are not commonly allowed to enter Israel, the IDF allows some residents entry for medical and family reasons.

„Hamas cynically used Gazans who were authorized to enter hospitals in Israel for life-saving treatment, as well as Gazans who were asked to send messages to recruits in Judea and Samaria,“ said the Shin Bet.

„This is not the first time Hamas has exploited the humanitarian medium to carry out military operations in Judea and Samaria.“

Iran’s Nefarious Nuclear Plan (Daniel 8:4)


Every time the media goes into its „intelligence community assessment“ spiel, remember this is the same intel community that lied about Iran’s nuclear plans and completely missed Pakistan’s nuclear program until it went public.

And yes, Iran’s nuclear program was never about energy, but about mass murder.

Iran’s contested nuclear weapons program was much further along than the international community thought, according to a report based on scores of secret Iranian plans seized by Israel and publicly disclosed for the first time earlier this year.

Information obtained in this raid on Iran’s secretive nuclear files has revealed that Tehran was well along the path to building several nuclear weapons by around 2003, including the complex infrastructure needed to produce such weapons, according to a new report from the Institute for Science and International Society, a nuclear watchdog group that has exposed in the past the extent of Iran’s nuclear works.

„Iran intended to build five nuclear warheads, each with an explosive yield of 10 kilotons and able to be delivered by ballistic missile,“ the group disclosed in a new report that shows Iran has retained much of its nuclear infrastructure and could continue using it to clandestinely conduct weapons work in violation of the landmark nuclear accord.

The Israeli plans are dated. They tell us more about what Iran had planned, past tense, but even that’s bad enough.

Iran wanted to build 5 10 kiloton nukes. That would have allowed it to wipe out much of the population of Israel. Detonated in 5 major American cities, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Houston, they would have killed tens of millions.

And that’s where Iran was. Not where it is now.