More Nukes on the Black Market

Georgia detains two for trying to sell radioactive uranium: statement | Reuters

TBILISI (Reuters) – Georgia said on Wednesday it had detained two people for handling and trying to sell $2.8 million worth of radioactive uranium-238, which can be developed into nuclear bomb material.

Western leaders have been concerned about the security of Soviet nuclear weapon materials since the 1991 break-up of the Communist colossus. Ex-Soviet Georgia has since foiled several attempts to sell uranium or other radioactive materials.

Uranium-238 is the least radioactive uranium isotope and makes up more than 99 percent of natural uranium. It cannot be used to produce the chain reaction needed for nuclear weapons, which uranium-235 is suitable for.

In disclosing the arrests in the Georgian Black Sea town of Kobuleti, the state security service did not say whether the two, whom it said were part of a criminal gang, had a buyer for the uranium-238 or where they had acquired it.

“The object seized as a result of a search of the detainees has undergone forensic tests which concluded that the total weight of the object is 40.19 grams and it contains radioactive isotope uranium-238,” security service investigator Savle Motiashvili told a briefing.

“The seized substance poses life and health hazards.”

He said the two suspects faced 5-10 years in prison if convicted of trafficking such radioactive materials.

U-238 can be used in some nuclear reactors to produce plutonium-239, which is usable in nuclear weapons, but that requires advanced technical knowledge. It is the isotope most present in depleted uranium, a dense material used in armor-piercing munitions.

In sufficient concentrations, U-238 can be poisonous if ingested but the radiation risks from external exposure are limited.

Reporting by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi and Francois Murphy in Vienna; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Creating the Shi’a Horn (Daniel 8:8)

The visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Baghdad this week — his first since he took office six years ago — comes amid heavy pressure on the Iraqis exerted by the Tehran regime, which wants to use Iraq as an escape route away from American sanctions. Given these pressures and threats, do we have to worry that Iraq will become an Iranian satellite?

Tehran succeeded in entering the Iraqi arena following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Since then, it has participated in marginalizing the US presence through its support of Sunni and Shiite armed groups.

Iran now intends to turn Iraq into another “banana republic,” just like Lebanon; subsequently exploiting it with the recruitment of militants who would fight on its behalf around the world, as they are currently doing in Syria under Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s command. It also wants Iraq to become its financial agent, funding Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Bashar Assad’s Syrian government with billions of dollars.

Iran does not wish Iraq to have a strong authority, but rather be a weak state like Lebanon, governed by militias like Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq. However, Iraq is a big country that has its own interests and aspirations, which are incompatible with the interests and ideas of the extremist religious regime in Tehran.

Furthermore, Iran is a country under siege, while Iraq is open to the world. Today, Iraq enjoys its best relations and circumstances since 1990, and is in a transitional phase of development that will drive it to become one of the wealthiest countries in the region. It can play an independent, sovereign, and free role without being subservient or subordinate to any other country.

Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi is well aware of Iraq’s status, and he knows well the available options. Abdul-Mahdi knows that Rouhani wants him to give up his country’s interests after he said in Tehran on Monday: “We have supported the Iraqi people in their difficult days.” However, Iran would have escaped the US siege had it agreed to abandon its nuclear project and stopped exporting chaos and rebellions, as well as its foreign military interventions. So why should the Iraqis pay for Tehran’s extremist policies?

Tehran is now more besieged than ever: Its oil tankers are abandoned in the middle of oceans, it cannot use the US dollar when selling its carpets, pistachios, and vegetables, and it has been deserted even by China and Russia, the two countries on whose support it was counting in its preparations for the confrontation with the US. Indeed, Iran was not forced to fight these battles; rather, its regime has chosen to play the role of the villain in the region, which is why it is facing this situation and a siege like the one Saddam faced in the past.

Iraqis must now realize that what is going on is an international battle, and they will lose all that they have achieved since stability and state authority returned to Baghdad.

Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, Soleimani, and all Iran’s senior officials who have visited Baghdad want Iraq to become a subordinate satellite state. Lebanon is a clear example, as it has been fighting and suffering on behalf of Iran since the 1980s. Iraq will not be luckier than the current, divided Lebanon if it falls under Iranian control.

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

By Simon Worrall


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earthquakes 101

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Iran threatens nuclear overhaul

Iran threatens defense overhaul to counter suspicious nuclear projects | Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – A senior Iranian security official on Wednesday accused regional powers of spending money on “suspicious nuclear projects”, and warned that such threats would force Tehran to revise its defense strategy.

FILE PHOTO: Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Director, speaks to the media after his arrival at Damascus airport, September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, did not name the countries – but a proposed transfer of U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia has raised concerns in Tehran.

The United States, Israel and other allies say Iran’s own nuclear program is a threat to global security. Iran insists its atomic work is entirely peaceful, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a religious decree against the development of nuclear weapons.

Some countries in the region are spending their petro-dollars on suspicious nuclear projects that can endanger the security of the region and the world,” Shamkhani was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.

“New threats like this will force us to revise our strategy based on the nature and geography of new threats, and predict the requirements of our country and armed forces,” he added.

Shamkhani said Tehran was watching the “unusual activities” of countries in the region that he accused of such militant groups.

The rivalry between the Sunni Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Muslim Iran has deepened in recent years and spilled into the wars in Syria and Yemen, where they have backed opposing sides.

China offers to help Venezuela restore power

Animosity between Washington and Tehran – bitter foes since Iran’s 1979 revolution – has intensified since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Tehran last May and reimposed sanctions lifted under the accord, aiming to cut Tehran’s oil exports to zero.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the United States last month of hypocrisy for trying to wreck Iran’s nuclear program while seeking to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

Iran said on Wednesday that it would respond firmly to any Israeli naval action against its oil shipments, a week after Israel’s prime minister said its vessels could act against Iranian oil “smuggling”.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Andrew Heavens

In Rare Move, Iraq Accepts Iran

Before wrapping up his official visit to Iraq, President Hassan Rouhani was granted a rare audience with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, an Iranian-born Shi’ite cleric based in Iraq, and one of the highest religious authorities in the Shi’ite world.

Sistani rarely meets officials, and the exception he made for Rouhani marked the first time the ayatollah has met with a sitting Iranian president. He rejected an offer to meet with Rouhani’s predecessor, hard-line Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during his 2008 visit to Iraq.

The 88-year-old Sistani has also rebuffed an envoy of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Chairman of the Iranian Expediency Council Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.

Iraq-born Shahroudi was reportedly supported by Khamenei and his conservative cleric allies in Iran to succeed Sistani after the ayatollah’s death, however Shahroudi died last December.

Earlier, Shahroudi’s predecessor as the chairman of the powerful Expediency Discernment Council (EDC), Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, had succeeded to win an audience with Sistani in 2009.

Referring to Sistani as a “Sayyid,” (a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad), Rafsanjani said at the time, “For a long time, visiting Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani was a yearning for me, and the meeting was historic and so valuable.”

Echoing Rafsanjani’s phrases, the Islamic Republic’s English-speaking television, Press TV, also described Rouhani’s meeting with Sistani as “historic” and a “landmark.”

Rouhani met Ayatollah Sistani at his residence in the city of Najaf, after visiting the shrine of Imam Ali, the first Imam of Shi’ite Muslims.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was also in attendance. During the meeting, the Iranian president briefed Ayatollah Sistani on his discussions with Iraqi officials, as well as agreements about the further promotion of Tehran-Baghdad ties.

Meanwhile, Ayatollah Sistani welcomed any effort aimed at improving Iraq’s ties with its neighbors based on mutual interests, non-interference, and respect for national sovereignty.

Furthermore, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, who reportedly supports separation of the state from religious institutions, said fighting corruption and promoting public services were now the significant challenges facing Iraq.

Sistani’s office has reported that it financially supports 35,000 students in the cities of Qom, 10,000 in Mashhad, and 4,000 in Isfahan, in Iran. Additionally, Sistani has a substantial following within Shia communities all over the world and is the current Grand “Marja” or source of emulation of the Twelver sect of Shi’ites.

Following the opening of the Shi’ite religious cities in Iraq of Najaf and Karbala to Iranian pilgrims after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Iraqi President Hussein in 2003, many Iranian pilgrims return from the cities as supporters of Sistani, according to Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. and a Senior Fellow in foreign policy at Brookings Institution, Vali Nasr, making the ayatollah a an influential figure in Iranian society.

Babylon the Great Fails to Recognize the War Outside the Temple (Revelation 11:2)

Since when did Fox News start carrying water for terror groups in the Gaza Strip?

It’s a strange question that must be asked in light of the short segment broadcast by the network on March 5, 2019. In the segment, Fox News correspondent Trey Yingst relays warnings from unnamed security analysts that a war could soon break out between Israel and “factions” in Gaza Strip. The narrative that he offers to explain why war might happen places all the blame for the potential conflict on Israel. Yingst covers the story as if the “factions” in question — Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad — bear no responsibility for the tensions along the boundary between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

He does this in a number of ways.

First, he reports that, “Each week, thousands of Palestinians gather at the Israel-Gaza border to protest the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip,” and that Israel has responded to these “protests” with “tear gas and live ammunition.” The way Yingst reports the story, it sounds and looks like Israel is arbitrarily gunning down peace protesters who pose no threat to Israeli security.

Yingst fails to report that these protesters don’t just “protest” the blockade, but have sought to break through the security barrier between Israel and the Gaza Strip. He also fails to note that Hamas leaders have called on participants to invade Israel and murder civilians who live nearby.

The protests are part of what Hamas has called the “March of Return.” That’s not about protesting a “blockade,” but a call to invade Israel. And that’s what the rioters at the boundary between Israel and the Gaza Strip have done. Yingst’s “protesters” have placed explosives on the fence and have entered into Israel territory. The rioters have also shot at Israeli soldiers with rifles. Clearly, their intentions are not good. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar declared in April 2018, soon after riots started: “We will tear down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.”

All of this helps explain why Israeli soldiers have used “tear gas and live ammunition” against the Palestinians who are indeed trying to “tear down the border.”

Yingst also relays complaints from Khaled Al-Batsh, a leader from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, about Israel killing “civilians” involved in the “protests.” Through an interpreter, Al-Batsh is quoted as saying, “The continuous killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli snipers on the fence. This may cause a reaction from individuals, relatives of the killed people and this could escalate the clash and the fighting.”

In relaying Al-Batsh’s accusation that Israel is engaged in “continuous killing of Palestinian civilians,” the report fails to acknowledge that many of the Palestinians killed during the assaults on the security barrier have been members of Hamas and other terror organizations in the Gaza Strip. Last April, the Meir Amit Intelligence Center reported that most of the casualties associated with the March of Return were terrorist operatives or members of terror organizations. The report states:

The ITIC’s interim findings clearly show that terrorist operatives (especially Hamas operatives), or Palestinians affiliated with terrorist organizations, play a key role in the front lines of the “great return march” demonstrations near the fence. They are primarily involved in violent clashes with the IDF and on occasion carry out terrorist attacks. Conspicuous is the small number of civilian activists and ordinary civilians, who were involved in organizing the march, involved in rioting with the IDF. They were left behind when the violence began.

In a report published by NBC last May Hamas admitted that most of those killed were its members. This clearly undermines the Al-Batsh’s suggestion that Israel is sniping at innocent civilians. Why did Fox News allow Al-Batsh’s suggestion to go unchallenged?

This is simply irresponsible.

The report also relays, without challenge, Palestinian complaints about shortages of water and electricity in the Gaza Strip, which are implicitly blamed on Israel. “Gaza is in need of consistent electricity and clean water,” Yingst reports, without acknowledging the role Palestinian leaders have played in causing these shortages. In 2017, Avi Issacharoff reported that the lack of electricity in the Gaza Strip is the result of Hamas’s refusal to pay for the fuel necessary to run the power plants in the area. Issacharoff reported that the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip “is the outcome of a long-running disagreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over the payment of excise taxes for the fuel that is used in the power station in Gaza.” Because Hamas has refused pay the excise tax, “the Gaza Strip has seen drastic swings in the electricity supply,” Issacharoff reported in The Times of Israel in 2017.

Qatar has paid for the cost of the diesel fuel to increase the output of the electrical plant in the Gaza Strip in an effort to alleviate the suffering (and to decrease tensions between Israel and Hamas). To this end, Qatar has paid $10 million a month in fuel costs since late last year, which has resulted in people enjoying eight hours of electricity a day instead of the previous four hours.

Leaders in Doha have reportedly grown tired of footing the bill in the face of Hamas’s failure to improve its infrastructure. The Times of Israel reported on Feb. 19, 2019 that Qatar is frustrated “with Hamas’s foot-dragging on several large projects in the Strip, including a long-delayed high-voltage power line from Israel that could double the Strip’s power.”

Despite all this, Yingst allowed Palestinian leaders to use a shortage of electricity in the Gaza Strip — which is their fault — as a pretext for more violence against Israel.

Moreover, Yingst’s report also omitted any reference to the incendiary balloon attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip. These attacks, which had stopped for a while, started up again two days before Fox News aired its report. These attacks have caused massive damage to Israel’s natural and agricultural resources.

In May, 2018, Hamas leader, Mahmoud Al-Zahar declared that when Hamas talks “about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public.”

Why is Yingst assisting in Hamas’s efforts to deceive the world about the purposes of the March of Return? And why is Fox News letting him?