A Harbinger of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

© Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images Bank’s Oarfish, circa 1850. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images) Fears of an incoming natural disaster in Japan are swirling online after sightings of a deep-water fish believed to be a harbinger of earthquakes and tsunamis.

On Friday, two oarfish were discovered after being caught in fishing nets off the northern prefecture of Toyama, bringing the total found this season to seven. Earlier this week, a 3.2 meter (10.5 foot) oarfish washed up on the shore of Toyama Bay, while a 4-meter (13 foot) long oarfish was tangled in a fishing net off the port of Imizu.

The elusive oarfish live between 200 and 1,000 meters (650 to 3,200 feet) deep and are characterized by silvery skin and red fins.

Traditionally known as “Ryugu no tsukai” in Japanese, or the “Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace,” legend has it that they beach themselves on shores ahead of underwater earthquakes. But scientists dispute such claims.

“There is no scientific evidence at all for the theory that oarfish appear around big quakes. But we cannot 100% deny the possibility,” Uozu Aquarium keeper Kazusa Saiba told CNN.

“It could be that global warming might have an impact on the appearance of oarfish or a reason we’re just not aware of.”

The myth of oarfish as harbinger of destruction gained some traction after the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which killed more than 20,000 people. At least a dozen oarfish had washed up onto Japan’s coastline in the year prior to the disaster, according to Kyodo News.

While he doubted the theory’s validity, Saiba said one possible scientific explanation could be that subtle changes in the earth’s crust at the bottom of the sea ahead of an earthquake “might cause the current to stir and push creatures at the bottom to the surface.”

But Osamu Inamura, director of Uozu Aquarium, had a more scientific theory about the Toyama Bay sighting — that oarfish are following the movement of their food supply, a kind of a micro shrimp.

“When their shrimp supply rises toward plankton during the daytime, the oarfish may sometimes follow and get caught in fishermen’s nets,” Inamura said.

Indian Point Nuclear Will Be Trouble At The Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12)

Recent series of Indian Point shutdowns worst in years

Ernie Garcia, elgarcia@lohud.com

BUCHANAN — Four unplanned reactor shutdowns over a two-month period at Indian Point are the most setbacks the nuclear power plant has experienced in years.

A review of unplanned shutdowns from January 2012 to the present showed this year’s events happened within a short time frame, between May 7 and July 8, in contrast with events from other years that were more spread out, according to data released by Indian Point.

So many mishaps at the Entergy-owned plant haven’t occurred since 2009, when one of two units at the Buchanan site experienced a similar series, said plant spokesman Jerry Nappi.

Besides a May 9 transformer failure that spilled some 3,000 gallons of oil into the Hudson River, this year’s shutdowns were prompted by a May 7 steam leak, a July 8 pump motor failure and a June 15 switch yard breaker failure offsite in a Consolidated Edison substation.

If a nuclear plant has more than three unplanned shutdowns in a nine-month period, its performance indicator could be changed by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which results in additional oversight. That’s what happened with Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., after four unplanned shutdowns in 2013.

So far, Entergy said there doesn’t appear to be a pattern to the Indian Point shutdowns.

“You do want to look at these events holistically to see if there is something in common, but you also look individually to see what the causes were,” Nappi said. “A plant shutdown in and of itself is not a safety issue.”

One of the four recent Buchanan shutdowns triggered a special inspection by the NRC and calls to close the nuclear plant by environmental groups and elected officials. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said in the past Indian Point should close, but his office did not respond to a request for comment about whether the recent shutdowns have prompted any state scrutiny.

The NRC is expected to release a quarterly report on Indian Point this month that will address the transformer failure and, by year’s end, is planning an inspection of the transformer and an analysis of transformer issues since 2007.

Besides its transformer-related inquiries, the other three shutdowns have not raised “any immediate safety concerns or crossed any thresholds that would result in additional NRC oversight,” agency spokesman Neil Sheehan wrote in an email.

The unplanned shutdowns at Indian Point and Pilgrim in Massachusetts were mostly preventable, said Paul Blanch, a former Indian Point employee with 45 years of nuclear power experience.

“For this to happen this frequently indicates a deeper problem,” he said. “I believe it’s management oversight in the maintenance of these plants.”

Nappi said the transformer that failed May 9 and caused a fire and oil spill into the Hudson was regularly monitored. Investigators determined the failure was due to faulty insulation.

“The transformer inspection and reviews were in accordance with our standards and industry expectations, yet there was no indication the transformer was going to fail,” Nappi said.

The NRC conducted a separate, but related special inspection into the May 9 incident that focused on a half-inch of water that collected in an electrical switchgear room floor. Inspectors determined a fire suppression system’s valve failed to close properly.

Inspectors noted in their report that Entergy knew about that problem since April 2011 and replaced the valve but didn’t discover the actual cause — a dysfunctional switch — until after the fire.

Indian Point’s Unit 3 was down 19 days May through July, with the transformer failure accounting for 16 days. The shutdowns didn’t cause the public any supply problems because New York’s grid can import electricity from other states and New York has an energy plan to maintain reliability, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The nuclear energy industry judges a power plant on how continuously it produces energy, which is called a capacity factor.

There were 100 nuclear plants in the United States in 2014, a record year in terms of efficiency. In January, the Nuclear Energy Institute announced the U.S. average capacity factor was 91.9 percent.

Indian Point has an above-average efficiency rate. The plant’s Unit 2 and 3 reactors were each online more than 99 percent of the time during their most recent two-year operating cycles. They are currently in the middle of other cycles.

More Palestinians Wounded Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

Palestinians wounded in Gaza border riots to undergo surgery in Jordan

Israel has expressed willingness to allow Palestinians injured by the IDF during disturbances along the Gaza border to be transported to Jordan for surgery. Humanitarian organizations estimate that there are some 5,000 Palestinians in need of orthopedic procedures after being hit by Israeli fire. Efforts are underway to facilitate the transport of several of them to Jordan for medical care.

When the March of Return protests and riots began last spring, Israel decided not to allow those injured to be treated in Israeli hospitals. However, Israel continues its policy of offering life-saving treatment, such as for cancer, to Gazans in Israeli medical centers.

In the course of the clashes, IDF soldiers have been careful to aim their fire primarily at key instigators or at demonstrators who approach the border fence and threaten to enter Israeli territory. Since the beginning of the demonstrations, almost 6,000 Palestinians were struck in the legs by IDF fire. Recently orthopedic surgeons have entered the Gaza Strip to assess the leg injuries. One of the most sought after items in the Gaza Strip today is crutches. In recent months, Israel has transferred containers full of wheelchairs and crutches to Gaza. It has come to the attention of officials in Israel that Palestinians who received crutches began using them to throw stones. They attach rubber to the crutches and turned them into a slingshot used to launch stones at IDF forces along the border. There is a severe medication crisis in Gaza and 22 hospitals have announced that they must cut down on operations due to a lack of fuel. Israel believes that Hamas steals the diesel fuel destined to the hospitals in an attempt to present an image of humanitarian distress. Discussions are under way between the United Nations and the IDF military coordination liaison to find a solution that will include closer inspection by UN personnel of the process of diesel fuel transfers. The transfer of diesel fuel to the Gaza Strip has been increased in recent months by Qatari funding, allowing Gaza residents to benefit from more hours of electricity.

Antichrist Warns Against New Oil Projects (Revelation 6:6)

Al-Sadr bloc warns against moving forward with Basra-Aqaba oil pipeline project

Leader of Iraq’s Sadrist Movement, Muqtada Al-Sadr [File photo]

January 30, 2019 at 3:49 am

Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon Bloc warned on Tuesday of moving forward with an economic project which would extend an oil pipeline from Iraq to Jordan without reviewing it by the parliament.

MP Sadiq al-Sulaiti of Sairoon called to present the Basra- Aqaba pipeline agreement to the concerned parliamentary committees for review, saying that “Jordan wants to harvest the fruits of this agreement without paying anything”.

Al-Sulaiti added that the Basra- Aqaba pipeline project is estimated to cost $18 billion; most of it will be paid by the Iraqi side.

He added that the agreement indicates that “the section passing through Jordan will be a property of Jordan, yet will be paid by Iraq”.

“The cost of transporting a barrel is expected to be $4, which is four times higher than the cost of extracting one barrel” al- Sulaiti said.

The Iraqi lawmaker warned the oil ministry not to proceed with agreements that may cause wasting public money, and demanded to submit the project to the Parliament and the oil and energy parliamentary committee to study its feasibility.

The Growing Risk of Nuclear War

With Putin and Trump in Charge, the Risk of Nuclear War Returns

You thought the threat of global annihilation was history? Better think again. Hard.

More stories by Peter Coy

January 31, 2019, 2:00 AM MST

At the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires on Nov. 30, 2018.

Photographer: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

While the world’s attention is occupied by Brexit, Venezuela, and a hundred other concerns, an almost forgotten monster is raising its head: the threat of nuclear war.

Nuclear war gets surprisingly little attention considering there are enough nukes to end human civilization in hours. It feels like a relic of another era—of perestroika and glasnost and that famous walk in the woods. We’ve moved on to other concerns. Besides, what can anyone really do?

The reason to pay attention is that arms control—especially between the U.S. and Russia—has broken down. A fresh nuclear arms race appears to be taking shape. As for what anyone can do: Arms control moves forward in response to public pressure, when humanity speaks louder than arms merchants and bellicose world leaders. Sanity can prevail. It’s been more than 70 years since the U.S. detonated the first two atomic weapons in war, and not one has been used in combat since.

Feb. 2 is when the Trump administration has said it could suspend its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. If it announces a full withdrawal, the treaty will die in six months. A treaty controlling anti-ballistic missiles was allowed to expire in 2002. That would leave just one binational treaty: New Start, which covers long-range missiles. Up for renewal in 2021, it has grim prospects. Trump has called it “one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration.”

At that point there would be very little to constrain a race for nuclear supremacy between the two countries that together own more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads. “All signs point in the direction of a serious combined nuclear-conventional arms race in Europe,” Nikolai Sokov, a former Soviet and Russian arms negotiator who is now a senior fellow of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif., wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, China is modernizing its arsenal as it tries to edge the U.S. military out of its growing sphere of influence in Asia; nuclear states India and Pakistan remain nemeses; and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seems to be reneging on promises to denuclearize. On Jan. 24, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced it is keeping the Doomsday Clock at 11:58 p.m. for a second year. This is the closest it’s ever been to midnight, tied with 1953, the year the U.S. and Soviet Union began testing hydrogen bombs.

It’s dismaying how far arms control efforts have backslid since 1987, when Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev joined President Ronald Reagan to sign the INF Treaty. A chuckling, relaxed Reagan salted his remarks at the ceremony with three Russian folktales. Gorbachev, speaking in Russian, dared to hope that the date of the signing (Dec. 8) might “be inscribed in the history books” and that the agreement would create a better future “for our children and grandchildren, and for their children and grandchildren.”

To keep those kids safe, it makes sense to start with the brewing arms race between the U.S. and Russia, the most potent nuclear powers. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship on several fronts. Su-27 fighter jets have repeatedly intercepted U.S. military aircraft flying in international airspace in the past year, raising the risk of an accident. China is a bigger long-term threat to U.S. dominance because of its economic strength, but at the moment it’s Russia’s very weakness that makes it dangerous. As North Korea’s Kim knows, nukes are an underdog’s best friend.

The Trump administration’s approach to a warlike Putin is essentially “peace through strength.” The president took the advice of John Bolton, his hawkish national security adviser, when he gave preliminary notice in October of his intent to pull out of the INF Treaty, which bars all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles).

Echoing President Obama, Trump accuses the Russians of developing a cruise missile that violates the INF Treaty. On Jan. 23 the Russian military showed foreign envoys the missile—known as the SSC-8 to Americans and the 9M729 to the Russians—and contended that it wasn’t covered by the treaty because it couldn’t fly more than 500 kilometers. The Americans say the Russians are lying, and NATO allies agree.

Defense analysts say the U.S. also wants out of the treaty so it’s free to deploy missiles in East Asia to counter China, which didn’t sign the pact. Ditching the treaty will free the U.S. to respond to Beijing’s militarization in the South China Sea while matching and eventually outdoing Russia in Europe. “Until people come to their senses, we will build it up,” Trump told reporters the day after giving notice in October. “It’s a threat to whoever you want. And it includes China, and it includes Russia, and it includes anybody else that wants to play that game. You can’t do that. You can’t play that game on me.”

Trump is right that Putin is the main bad actor. The trouble with a peace-through-strength strategy, though, is that neither Russia nor China is willing to cede nuclear superiority to the U.S., so all the U.S. gets from pulling out of the treaty, instead of trying again to rescue it, is a fresh arms race. America also loses the right to inspect Russian missile sites, which Reagan—the “trust but verify” president—made sure was in the 1987 treaty. And the U.S. can’t count on spending its rivals into submission, because nuclear weapons are actually quite cheap compared with conventional armaments on a megadeath-per-dollar basis. They are, in more than one sense, the Great Leveler.

While Trump’s strategy for offensive weapons is problematic, his defensive strategy has issues as well. Like several of his predecessors, he wants to build a virtual shield to protect the U.S. from incoming missiles. “Our goal is simple. It is to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States any time, anywhere, and any place,” he said on Jan. 17 at the Pentagon.

A shield seems unobjectionable. But Putin worries, rightly or wrongly, that having one in place would tempt the U.S. to go nuclear first in the heat of battle, knocking out most of Russia’s firepower and then hunkering down behind its virtual wall to survive the retaliation. That sounds far-fetched to Americans, but Putin has often cited the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 as justification for Russia’s pursuit of advanced missiles. In December, Russian state television reported a successful test of the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle. Flying 27 times the speed of sound, it “essentially makes missile defenses useless,” according to Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov.

As the Avangard demonstrates, the main result of Trump’s missile defense strategy could be to engender the creation of ever-more-dangerous enemy missiles. That’s why some game theorists of arms control recommend the principle of mutual assured destruction. Their idea is that the world is paradoxically safer when neither nuclear superpower can defend its people from a nuclear onslaught, because then neither will dare go nuclear. (This logic does not, unfortunately, apply to a sneak attack by a regime such as Kim’s, which is why some kind of missile shield may be valuable after all. Designing a shield that would thwart Kim but not Putin is a complicated problem.)

The main goal of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control must be to prevent nukes from ever being launched, because even a small attack by one side could precipitate an all-out nuclear war. A firm commitment to no first use would diminish the chance of that. But the weaker side, the one that uses nukes as an equalizer, won’t make that promise. The U.S. refused to commit to “no first use” during the Cold War; it used the threat of nukes to keep Warsaw Pact forces from routing outnumbered NATO troops in Europe.

Now that the tables have turned and Russia is the one lacking conventional military strength, it’s Putin who could launch nukes first—or even just threaten to launch them—as a way to back an enemy down. These would be smallish weapons capable of wiping out battalions, not continents. The Pentagon assumes, based on mixed signals from Moscow, that Russia has formally adopted the Orwellian strategy of “escalate to de-escalate,” which is a bet that it could bloody the nose of the West without provoking a massive nuclear counterpunch. Pakistan and North Korea show the way. They “have engaged in coercive and violent provocations, calculating that their larger rivals would concede rather than risk escalation that could lead to nuclear use,” says a 2014 analysis by CNA, a research group in Arlington, Va.

To thwart the presumed Russian escalate-to-de-escalate strategy, the Trump administration wants the U.S. to develop its own arsenal of smallish weapons so it could respond proportionally to a Russian first use. The thinking goes that Russia won’t strike first if it knows the U.S. will swiftly retaliate at the same level. The Nuclear Posture Review released by the Department of Defense last year called for the U.S. to deliberately weaken some of its submarine-launched ballistic missiles, increasing the plausibility they could be used in combat. Production of the new warheads has begun. The administration also wants to develop a new sub-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile if the INF Treaty dies. An air-launched version, the Long-Range Stand-Off cruise missile, is already in the planning stages. The goal, says the Pentagon, is to “counter any mistaken perception of an exploitable ‘gap’ in U.S. regional deterrence capabilities.”

Nobody knows if the U.S. gambit would work to prevent or quickly end a nuclear war. However, building lots of nuclear weapons that are conceivably usable in wartime feels a lot like building tall piles of dry tinder and hoping no one lights a match. “There are so many more pathways for what could go wrong,” says Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. Meanwhile, the demise of INF also casts a pall over New Start, which went into force in 2011. That treaty limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads, whether they’d be launched from the ground, submarines, or heavy bombers.

The death of arms control would benefit shareholders of Boeing, Honeywell International, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, among others. “Great Power competition should be good for heritage defense contractors,” Byron Callan, an analyst for Capital Alpha Partners, wrote in a Jan. 24 note to clients, while cautioning that “the U.S. defense budget will be fiscally constrained.”

It would be less positive for the general public, of course. For decades, defense contractors and the Pentagon have offered the American people the following weirdly rational deal: You give us trillions of dollars, and we will use the money to build nuclear weapons that will never be used. A single Ohio-class nuclear submarine—a “boomer”—can mete out 2,000 times the destructive power of the A-bombs that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If all goes well, it will prowl beneath the sea for decades and then go to the scrapyard without having fired as much as a harpoon in anger.

Mutual assured destruction—the balance of terror between the U.S. and Russia—kept the peace precisely because it was balanced. Arms control agreements ensured that neither side was able to gain an unbeatable advantage. The demise of arms control could lead not just to more weaponry but to more instability and uncertainty. The less each side knows about the other’s capabilities and intentions, the more likely it is that war will break out by accident. “The situation we face today relative to nuclear dangers is equal to the darkest days of the Cold War, and nobody seems to understand that,” says William Perry, 91, who was secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton. “Our policies don’t reflect it, either in the United States or in Russia.”