The Sixth Seal Long Overdue (Revelation 6:12)

ON THE MAP; Exploring the Fault Where the Next Big One May Be Waiting


Published: March 25, 2001

Alexander Gates, a geology professor at Rutgers-Newark, is co-author of ”The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes,” which will be published by Facts on File in July. He has been leading a four-year effort to remap an area known as the Sloatsburg Quadrangle, a 5-by-7-mile tract near Mahwah that crosses into New York State. The Ramapo Fault, which runs through it, was responsible for a big earthquake in 1884, and Dr. Gates warns that a recurrence is overdue. He recently talked about his findings.

Q. What have you found?

A. We’re basically looking at a lot more rock, and we’re looking at the fracturing and jointing in the bedrock and putting it on the maps. Any break in the rock is a fracture. If it has movement, then it’s a fault. There are a lot of faults that are offshoots of the Ramapo. Basically when there are faults, it means you had an earthquake that made it. So there was a lot of earthquake activity to produce these features. We are basically not in a period of earthquake activity along the Ramapo Fault now, but we can see that about six or seven times in history, about 250 million years ago, it had major earthquake activity. And because it’s such a fundamental zone of weakness, anytime anything happens, the Ramapo Fault goes.

Q. Where is the Ramapo Fault?

A. The fault line is in western New Jersey and goes through a good chunk of the state, all the way down to Flemington. It goes right along where they put in the new 287. It continues northeast across the Hudson River right under the Indian Point power plant up into Westchester County. There are a lot of earthquakes rumbling around it every year, but not a big one for a while.

Q. Did you find anything that surprised you?

A. I found a lot of faults, splays that offshoot from the Ramapo that go 5 to 10 miles away from the fault. I have looked at the Ramapo Fault in other places too. I have seen splays 5 to 10 miles up into the Hudson Highlands. And you can see them right along the roadsides on 287. There’s been a lot of damage to those rocks, and obviously it was produced by fault activities. All of these faults have earthquake potential.

Q. Describe the 1884 earthquake.

A. It was in the northern part of the state near the Sloatsburg area. They didn’t have precise ways of describing the location then. There was lots of damage. Chimneys toppled over. But in 1884, it was a farming community, and there were not many people to be injured. Nobody appears to have written an account of the numbers who were injured.

Q. What lessons we can learn from previous earthquakes?

A. In 1960, the city of Agadir in Morocco had a 6.2 earthquake that killed 12,000 people, a third of the population, and injured a third more. I think it was because the city was unprepared.There had been an earthquake in the area 200 years before. But people discounted the possibility of a recurrence. Here in New Jersey, we should not make the same mistake. We should not forget that we had a 5.4 earthquake 117 years ago. The recurrence interval for an earthquake of that magnitude is every 50 years, and we are overdue. The Agadir was a 6.2, and a 5.4 to a 6.2 isn’t that big a jump.

Q. What are the dangers of a quake that size?

A. When you’re in a flat area in a wooden house it’s obviously not as dangerous, although it could cut off a gas line that could explode. There’s a real problem with infrastructure that is crumbling, like the bridges with crumbling cement. There’s a real danger we could wind up with our water supplies and electricity cut off if a sizable earthquake goes off. The best thing is to have regular upkeep and keep up new building codes. The new buildings will be O.K. But there is a sense of complacency.


Photo: Alexander Gates, a Rutgers geologist, is mapping a part of the Ramapo Fault, site of previous earthquakes. (John W. Wheeler for The New York Times)

Iran Ready to Go Nuclear (Daniel 8:4)

The head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations Kamal Kharrazi has warned European countries on Tuesday that if they do not act on their commitments regarding the nuclear deal, they themselves will “suffer”.

Kharrazi is also a foreign policy advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Referring to European promises to set up a special trade facility called Special Purpose Vehicle or SPV, Kharrazi said, “Everyone is hopeful that the special mechanism to become operational and Europe itself has promised as much”.

Kharrazi who was speaking with Fars news agency in Tehran did not explain what he meant by Europe will “suffer”.

European signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran nuclear agreement strongly disagreed with President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the deal in May and reimpose economic sanctions on Iran. They vowed to save the agreement. But Iran insists that without economic benefits it has no incentive to honor the agreement limiting its nuclear activities. As a result, Europe has promised to set up a mechanism to facilitate trade with Iran, without the use of the U.S. dollars. Which would violate American sanctions.

Yesterday, another Khamenei confidant, Saeed Jalili also warned Europe to honor its promises. It seems Tehran is getting anxious as 2018 comes to an end, with having received word from European officials that the SPV will be in place by the year’s end.

Preparing for a Nuclear War (Revelation 16)

Nuclear Winter Is Coming: Nuclear ‘War’ To Hit Washington In 2019


Nuclear weapons are about to explode as an issue on Capitol Hill, because partisan warfare is threatening to consume debates over nuclear procurement and policy in 2019.

Two events are converging that will blow up an already tenuous give-and-take deal between Republicans and Democrats. The first is the Trump administration’s threat to leave the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty early next year if Russia doesn’t come into compliance. The second is the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives next month.

There has been a “fragile bipartisan consensus” on nuclear weapons, according to Frank Rose, a senior fellow for security and strategy at the Brookings Institution.

During the Obama administration, a deal was brokered under which Republicans supported the New START treaty to reduce nuclear weapons while Democrats backed the modernization of the U.S.’ nuclear arsenal, he said.

All-out partisan warfare on the issue would come at a bad time for the Pentagon. In 2017, the Congressional Budget Office put the price tag of sustaining and modernizing the full nuclear triad of land-, air- and sea-based weapons at $1.2 trillion in constant dollars through 2046.

But, like other things that happened under Obama, the Republican-Democratic deal on nuclear weapons is starting to unravel under Trump.

Nuclear Weapons Treaties

In early December, the Trump administration gave Russia 60 days to come into compliance with the INF treaty or the U.S. will leave.

Trump’s threat raises questions about whether he will renew the New START treaty, which expires in 2021.

The CBO estimated that sustaining and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal will cost $1.2 trillion.

Without the arms-control treaties, Democrats could block the funding of nuclear weapons in the 2020 budget with their new majority in the House.

“They can’t build a consensus to do something new or different — the Senate or president might not go along — but they can stop things from happening,” Tom Collina, director of policy at the Ploughshares Fund, which is focused on reducing nuclear weapons. “The power of ‘no’ is a significant force.”

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., is expected to be the new chair of the House Armed Services Committee and he has been vocal about stopping runaway defense spending.

But while controversial, over-budget programs like Lockheed Martin‘s (LMT) F-35 still grab headlines, the new stealth fighter must replace an aging fighter fleet, and hundreds have already been produced.

By contrast, efforts to modernize U.S. nuclear weapons are still at a relatively early stage. And Democrats have always been more skeptical of nuclear programs, said Mark Cancian, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Nuclear Weapons That May Go Boom Or Bust

To modernize the air-based leg of the nuclear weapons triad, the Air Force awarded the B-21 contract to Northrop Grumman (NOC) in 2015 to replace Cold War-era Boeing (BA) B-52s. The eventual procurement price tag is estimated at $80 billion.

The Air Force awarded the B-21 contract to Northrop Grumman in 2015 to replace Cold War-era B-52s.

Cancian believes that this new stealth bomber will survive upcoming procurement battles because of its ability to deliver conventional munitions as well.

New Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines will modernize the sea-based leg of the nuclear triad and replace Ohio-class “boomers.” General Dynamics‘ (GD) Electric Boat is building them with total acquisition costs expected to hit $128 billion.

Cancian also believes that the Columbia-class submarine program will continue, saying ballistic subs are most likely to survive a nuclear attack because they are hidden underwater.

Then there are two missile programs without contract awards yet that have been more controversial. Lockheed and Raytheon (RTN) are competing for the Long-Range Standoff weapon (LRSO), a nuclear cruise missile to be launched from strategic bombers.

Northrop and Boeing are competing to build the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program to replace Boeing’s aging land-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system.

Former Defense Secretary William Perry and retired Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chair of the Joint Chiefs, argued last year that ICBMs and nuclear cruise missiles carry greater risks of accidentally setting off a nuclear war because they can’t be recalled once launched.

General Dynamics is building Columbia-class subs with total acquisition costs expected to hit $128 billion.

Canceling them would also save billions of dollars that could be used for other pressing national security needs, they said. Meanwhile, nuclear subs and bombers would provide sufficient deterrence and aren’t vulnerable to a surprise attack, allowing them to wait out an alarm that may end up being false.

But Defense Secretary James Mattis has backed the development of new ICBMs and the need for a complete triad as near-peer competition against China and Russia heats up.

Meanwhile, a Congressional Budget Office report on how to reduce the deficit found that canceling the LRSO program and the nuclear warheads associated with it would save $13 billion over the next 10 years, with savings to continue after 2028.

Collina at the Ploughshares Fund said that Rep. Smith could go after the estimated $85 billion-$100 billion GBSD program or $20 billion LRSO, to “make a case that he’s actually saving money.”

High Anxiety Over Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons

The U.S. already has about 500 low-yield airdropped nuclear weapons in its arsenal. And Smith is extremely critical of the low-yield warheads for Lockheed’s Trident D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile.

“It makes no sense for us to build low-yield nuclear weapons,” Smith said at a Ploughshares conference in November. “It brings us no advantage and it is dangerously escalating. It just begins a new nuclear arms race with people just building nuclear weapons all across the board in a way that I think places us at greater danger.”

Low-yield warheads could be seen as less risky to use, thereby lowering the threshold for nuclear war, critics say.

Because they are less destructive than other nuclear weapons, low-yield warheads could be seen as less risky to use, thereby lowering the threshold for nuclear war, critics like Smith say.

But the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review argued that low-yield nuclear weapons would raise the threshold for nuclear war.

“Expanding flexible U.S. nuclear options now to include low-yield options is important for the preservation of credible deterrence against regional aggression,” the review said. “It will raise the nuclear threshold and help ensure that potential adversaries perceive no possible advantage in limited nuclear escalation, making nuclear employment less likely.”

Pentagon Budget Uncertainty

Amid the policy and procurement debates, another source of uncertainty on defense spending is coming from Trump himself.

He blasted the current $716 billion Pentagon budget, tweeting earlier this month that it was “crazy.” But days later he reportedly said he wanted to give the Pentagon $750 billion, above the $733 billion the DOD requested.

With readiness concerns, expensive aircraft programs like the F-35 already in the works, and lower recruiting rates also top of mind, Pentagon officials may have to make some tough choices on spending if Trump flip-flops again and seeks a lower defense budget.

“I think if they are truly squeezed, they won’t prioritize nuclear weapons over conventional forces,” Collina said.

Two Boys Killed Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

Israeli ‘Warning’ Shot Killed Two Boys in Gaza, Rights Groups Say

Mourners carrying the body of Amir al-Nimrah, 15, whom rights groups say was killed in Gaza by an Israeli airstrike meant to warn civilians of an impending attack.


Said Khatib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By David M. Halbfinger

Dec. 17, 2018

JERUSALEM — An Israeli military tactic intended to spare civilians actually killed two Palestinian teenagers recently and needs to be viewed as a form of attack, not as the ethically responsible precautionary measure that Israel portrays it to be, two human rights groups said in a new report.

The tactic is referred to as “knocking on the roof,” a euphemism for hitting a building with loud but not terribly destructive munitions before switching to the powerful missiles or bombs meant to level it.

The report assembled crowdsourced video into a meticulous reconstruction of the killings of two teenage boys in an airstrike in July on an unfinished high-rise in Gaza City, the first of four “roof-knocking” missiles meant to warn off civilians that instead killed them.

The bottom line, it concluded, was that an airstrike must not be considered a warning, and must conform to international humanitarian law requiring armies to take pains to identify legitimate targets and avoid harming civilians.

The report also accused the office of the Israel Defense Forces’ spokesman of “manipulating the truth” in choosing the images it publicized of the attack.

Early Tuesday, the military spokesman’s office issued a statement acknowledging that the Israeli Air Force had failed to notice the two teenagers in harm’s way. It said that Israel’s Military Advocate General was examining that failure.

But it defended the roof-knocking tactic, insisting it “coincides entirely with international law” and had been proved “countless times” to “reduce harm to civilians located in or near structures that are military objectives.”

And it denied any effort to distort news coverage of the attack on what Israel called an urban-warfare training center of Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza.

The report was published as a video on Monday by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, and Forensic Architecture, a London-based research group that investigates state violence and human rights violations.

It pinpointed the moment on July 14, during a daylong exchange of rockets and airstrikes between Israel and Gaza, when Amir al-Nimrah and Luai Kahil were killed: at 5:45 p.m., as they sat with their legs dangling over the edge of an unfinished tower overlooking Al Katiba Square, having just taken a selfie.

(Amir was widely reported to be 15 years old and Luai a year older, but B’Tselem said on Tuesday that it had obtained documents that put the age of both boys at 14.)

In an English-language publication during the 2014 war with Gaza, the Israeli military said it used “loud but nonlethal” bombs for roof-knocking.

Young Palestinian men in front of a building damaged by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City in July.


Mahmud Hams/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But videos recorded in July by people who rushed to the rooftop to try to help the two boys showed pockmarks in the concrete surface that the report said matched the shrapnel pattern of an antipersonnel missile.

That would be consistent with the Israeli practice of using munitions for roof-knocking strikes that would explode on the surface of a building, rather than pierce it and endanger those inside.

A government report on the 2014 Gaza war acknowledged that the tactic was “imperfect,” but said that it prevented many civilian deaths and injuries.

The boys, however, were seated only about 30 feet from where the missile struck, according to the report.

“Warning strikes are an essential part of the Israeli military’s claims to high ethical standards,” said Eyal Weizman, director of Forensic Architecture, which has also collaborated with The New York Times. “But such warnings are sometimes delivered with the same missiles that are used elsewhere to kill,” he said.

To support its conclusion that the Israeli military had selectively chosen images used to publicize the attack, the report analyzed video posted online by the military spokesman’s office.

All told, four roof-knocking strikes hit the building between 5:45 p.m. and 5:58 p.m., the report found. Four tremendous blasts then quickly destroyed it at 6:02 p.m.

About an hour later, the Israel Defense Forces spokesman’s office issued a Twitter post with a video of the attack, with clips of what looked like four roof-knocking strikes on the building followed by the major explosions. The two teenagers could not be seen on the roof in the first clip.

But the report found that the first roof-knocking strike, at 5:45 p.m., was actually missing from the military’s Twitter post.

In its place was an additional angle on the third strike, at 5:54 p.m. — recorded after the boys’ bodies had already been carried away by people who rushed to the roof to try to help them.

That prompted the human rights groups to ask whether the Israeli military had suppressed video that might have shown the boys on the roof when the first missile was fired — or whether it was incapable of conducting airstrikes in populated areas while still meeting its legal obligations to spare civilians.

“We don’t know if the boys were visible to the military before the first strike,” said Amit Gilutz, a B’Tselem spokesman. “If so, they should have aborted. If not, that raises grave concerns as to the military’s surveillance capabilities.”

The military spokesman’s office denied any attempt to manipulate coverage of the airstrike. It said that the first visual evidence the military had seen of the two teenagers’ presence on the rooftop — despite a review conducted in response to news reports of their deaths — was in the video published on Monday by B’Tselem and Forensic Architecture.

“Any allegations that the I.D.F. knowingly distorted or edited video footage are totally baseless and false,” it said.

Antichrist Fights Against Iran’s Hegemony

Iraq’s Intra-Shia Struggle Over Iranian Influence

Iranian-backed Shia militias inside Iraq, once viewed by many Iraqis as saviors who helped the country defeat the Islamic State, are destabilizing Iraq’s infant and fragile government and creating additional tension between Baghdad and Washington.

There was a brief sigh of relief when an Iraqi government was finally formed in September. It took five months of wrangling after a national election in May. But the militias, more commonly known as Hashd al-Shaabi, or Population Mobilization Forces (PMUs), Iran’s major weapon in Iraq, are shattering this tenuous national unity and becoming a divisive force in a country that just last month seemed optimistically moving toward reconciliation.

A stalemate has emerged over Iraq’s next interior minister, who will presumably be responsible for the militias. Iranian loyalists who control the militias insist that their candidate, Faleh al-Fayyad, now the official head of the PMUs, become the next interior minister. Less-partisan Iraqi leaders disagree. Approximately sixty militias are under the PMUs, which were established in 2014 to fight the Islamic State. Many are loyal to Tehran.

When the new government was formed in Baghdad, the pick for the powerful post of interior minister, as well as others, was postponed. Iran’s influential loyalist in Iraq, Hadi al-Amiri, whose coalition placed second in September and who is, himself, a Shia militia commander, wanted Fayyad. Muqtada al-Sadr, a controversial Shia cleric whose coalition won the most votes in the election, made clear that all Iranian sympathizers were not welcome in government posts.

What is interesting, as well as tragic, about this particular Iraqi conflict is that it reflects a deepening Shia versus Shia rivalry. In the past, Iraq’s main political fault line was sectarian. But the election that brought two relatively nonaligned politicians to power—Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and President Barham Salih—empowered those Shia leaders who want to curb Iranian meddling. Fearing a government collapse, President Salih met with Fayyad on November 3 and asked him to withdraw his candidacy.

Rival Shia factions led by Sadr and Amiri did unite to form the new government, but now this alliance is in jeopardy. “I made an alliance with you [Amiri], not with the corrupt and the militias,” Sadr wrote in an open letter to Amiri in November. “We agreed to run Iraq together in a right way and a new style in which its [Iraq’s] sovereignty and independence [would be] preserved,” Sadr wrote, emphasizing his desire to curb Iranian intervention.

The United States has a common cause with the anti-Iran Shia factions and believes cracking down on Iranian-backed militias is a priority. The militias serve as foot soldiers in Iran’s proxy wars across the Middle East. Iran-allied politicians and commanders such as Amiri and Fayyad want the militias to be an alternative to the Iraqi Army. This would essentially permit an independent army inside Iraq that takes direct orders from Tehran. Such a model bears resemblance to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which was formed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to “export” Iran’s ideology to the region.

Fully aware that the militias are a destabilizing force inside Iraq, the U.S. government has tried in recent years to pressure the Iraqi government to bring them under the control of the state. Former prime minister Haider al-Abadi tried to comply with the United States’ demand but failed. Even if parts of the new Iraqi government were fully behind such a move, it would remain problematic; the militias are largely under the unofficial control of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. They are a powerful tool for Iran to retain and expand its power inside Iraq.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation in late November calling for sanctions to be imposed on two of the most powerful Iranian-backed militias. One of the militias is headed by Qais al-Khazali, a commander who was responsible for the deaths of five U.S. soldiers in Karbala, Iraq, in 2007 and was arrested by U.S.-led coalition forces. A similar bill is likely to be considered in the Senate. While such legislation irritates Iran, it does little to aid the Iraqi state in forcing the militias to obey the Iraqi Armed Forces, even though they are officially under the control of Iraq’s Interior Ministry.

President Donald Trump’s powerful political appointees are also trying to increase the pressure on the militias as part of the campaign against Iranian expansionism in the Middle East. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook are calling for Iran to stop supporting militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen.

This new emphasis on the militias reflects a bit of a shift. In recent months, the U.S. administration has focused its anti-Iran campaign on Iran’s ballistic missile proliferation in the region. Iran reportedly has transferred missiles to the Shia militias in Iraq. Now the administration is placing almost as much importance on bringing the militias under control as it places on reducing Iran’s ballistic missile caches. But not all Iraqis are supportive of such a move. Some who believe the militias are beneficial to security ask why the United States, which tolerated the PMUs when the militias were fighting ISIS, is now against them.

Washington is concerned that Iran will use the militias to target U.S. facilities and remaining American forces in Iraq as the conflict with Tehran escalates over the Trump administration’s decision to reimpose sanctions. Iranian leaders and Revolutionary Guard commanders have vowed to retaliate through their proxies, not only in Iraq but also in other parts of the Middle East.

High-level Iraqi sources say it is nearly impossible to bring the PMUs under the control of the state, precisely because they follow orders from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. This is even more of a reason why Iraq’s new government should not allow an Iranian operative to head the important post of interior minister. More broadly, many Iraqi leaders want a more sovereign nation, and the only way to move toward that goal is to marginalize Iran’s loyalists.

Geneive Abdo is a resident scholar at the Arabia Foundation and the author of The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shia-Sunni Divide.

Image: Supporters of Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr shout slogans during a demonstration calling for reforms in Baghdad, Iraq December 14, 2018. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani.