East Coast Still Unprepared For The Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12)

East Coast Earthquake Preparedness

By By BEN NUCKOLS

Posted: 08/25/2011 8:43 am EDT

WASHINGTON — There were cracks in the Washington Monument and broken capstones at the National Cathedral. In the District of Columbia suburbs, some people stayed in shelters because of structural concerns at their apartment buildings.

A day after the East Coast’s strongest earthquake in 67 years, inspectors assessed the damage and found that most problems were minor. But the shaking raised questions about whether this part of the country, with its older architecture and inexperience with seismic activity, is prepared for a truly powerful quake.

The 5.8 magnitude quake felt from Georgia north to Canada prompted swift inspections of many structures Wednesday, including bridges and nuclear plants. An accurate damage estimate could take weeks, if not longer. And many people will not be covered by insurance.

In a small Virginia city near the epicenter, the entire downtown business district was closed. School was canceled for two weeks to give engineers time to check out cracks in several buildings.

At the 555-foot Washington Monument, inspectors found several cracks in the pyramidion – the section at the top of the obelisk where it begins narrowing to a point.

A 4-foot crack was discovered Tuesday during a visual inspection by helicopter. It cannot be seen from the ground. Late Wednesday, the National Park Service announced that structural engineers had found several additional cracks inside the top of the monument.

Carol Johnson, a park service spokeswoman, could not say how many cracks were found but said three or four of them were “significant.” Two structural engineering firms that specialize in assessing earthquake damage were being brought in to conduct a more thorough inspection on Thursday.

The monument, by far the tallest structure in the nation’s capital, was to remain closed indefinitely, and Johnson said the additional cracks mean repairs are likely to take longer. It has never been damaged by a natural disaster, including earthquakes in Virginia in 1897 and New York in 1944.

Tourists arrived at the monument Wednesday morning only to find out they couldn’t get near it. A temporary fence was erected in a wide circle about 120 feet from the flags that surround its base. Walkways were blocked by metal barriers manned by security guards.

“Is it really closed?” a man asked the clerk at the site’s bookstore.

“It’s really closed,” said the clerk, Erin Nolan. Advance tickets were available for purchase, but she cautioned against buying them because it’s not clear when the monument will open.

“This is pretty much all I’m going to be doing today,” Nolan said.

Tuesday’s quake was centered about 40 miles northwest of Richmond, 90 miles south of Washington and 3.7 miles underground. In the nearby town of Mineral, Va., Michael Leman knew his Main Street Plumbing & Electrical Supply business would need – at best – serious and expensive repairs.

At worst, it could be condemned. The facade had become detached from the rest of the building, and daylight was visible through a 4- to 6-inch gap that opened between the front wall and ceiling.

“We’re definitely going to open back up,” Leman said. “I’ve got people’s jobs to look out for.”

Leman said he is insured, but some property owners might not be so lucky.

The Insurance Information Institute said earthquakes are not covered under standard U.S. homeowners or business insurance policies, although supplemental coverage is usually available.

The institute says coverage for other damage that may result from earthquakes, such as fire and water damage from burst gas or water pipes, is provided by standard homeowners and business insurance policies in most states. Cars and other vehicles with comprehensive insurance would also be protected.

The U.S. Geological Survey classified the quake as Alert Level Orange, the second-most serious category on its four-level scale. Earthquakes in that range lead to estimated losses between $100 million and $1 billion.

In Culpeper, Va., about 35 miles from the epicenter, walls had buckled at the old sanctuary at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, which was constructed in 1821 and drew worshippers including Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. Heavy stone ornaments atop a pillar at the gate were shaken to the ground. A chimney from the old Culpeper Baptist Church built in 1894 also tumbled down.

At the Washington National Cathedral, spokesman Richard Weinberg said the building’s overall structure remains sound and damage was limited to “decorative elements.”

Massive stones atop three of the four spires on the building’s central tower broke off, crashing onto the roof. At least one of the spires is teetering badly, and cracks have appeared in some flying buttresses.

Repairs were expected to cost millions of dollars – an expense not covered by insurance.

“Every single portion of the exterior is carved by hand, so everything broken off is a piece of art,” Weinberg said. “It’s not just the labor, but the artistry of replicating what was once there.”

The building will remain closed as a precaution. Services to dedicate the memorial honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were moved.

Other major cities along the East Coast that felt the shaking tried to gauge the risk from another quake.

A few hours after briefly evacuating New York City Hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s newer buildings could withstand a more serious earthquake. But, he added, questions remain about the older buildings that are common in a metropolis founded hundreds of years ago.

“We think that the design standards of today are sufficient against any eventuality,” he said. But “there are questions always about some very old buildings. … Fortunately those tend to be low buildings, so there’s not great danger.”

An earthquake similar to the one in Virginia could do billions of dollars of damage if it were centered in New York, said Barbara Nadel, an architect who specializes in securing buildings against natural disasters and terrorism.

The city’s 49-page seismic code requires builders to prepare for significant shifting of the earth. High-rises must be built with certain kinds of bracing, and they must be able to safely sway at least somewhat to accommodate for wind and even shaking from the ground, Nadel said.

Buildings constructed in Boston in recent decades had to follow stringent codes comparable to anything in California, said Vernon Woodworth, an architect and faculty member at the Boston Architectural College. New construction on older structures also must meet tough standards to withstand severe tremors, he said.

It’s a different story with the city’s older buildings. The 18th- and 19th-century structures in Boston’s Back Bay, for instance, were often built on fill, which can liquefy in a strong quake, Woodworth said. Still, there just aren’t many strong quakes in New England.

The last time the Boston area saw a quake as powerful as the one that hit Virginia on Tuesday was in 1755, off Cape Ann, to the north. A repeat of that quake would likely cause deaths, Woodworth said. Still, the quakes are so infrequent that it’s difficult to weigh the risks versus the costs of enacting tougher building standards regionally, he said.

People in several of the affected states won’t have much time to reflect before confronting another potential emergency. Hurricane Irene is approaching the East Coast and could skirt the Mid-Atlantic region by the weekend and make landfall in New England after that.

In North Carolina, officials were inspecting an aging bridge that is a vital evacuation route for people escaping the coastal barrier islands as the storm approaches.

Speaking at an earthquake briefing Wednesday, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray inadvertently mixed up his disasters.

“Everyone knows, obviously, that we had a hurricane,” he said before realizing his mistake.

“Hurricane,” he repeated sheepishly as reporters and staffers burst into laughter. “I’m getting ahead of myself!”

___

Associated Press writers Sam Hananel in Washington; Alex Dominguez in Baltimore; Bob Lewis in Mineral, Va.; Samantha Gross in New York City; and Jay Lindsay in Boston contributed to this report.

The Mission: Stop the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

The Mission of the Secretary of State: Stop the Next Nuclear War

By John A. Tures • 03/22/19 12:48pm

Opinion

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference. KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

From the Korean Peninsula to the Indian subcontinent, and maybe Russia, there are a number of weapons disputes about to go nuclear. It falls upon the shoulders of President Donald Trump’s second Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Is he up to the task? And what can he learn from his predecessors?

Pompeo’s Perilous Position

Believe it or not, it’s been tough for the U.S. Secretary of State, going back to the days of George Washington. It’s easy to think that early top diplomats like Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Jennings Randolph and John Marshall had little to do but sign treaties and push for diplomatic recognition. But powerful countries like Great Britain and France could have destroyed the new North American country with their armies and navies. We nearly discovered this during the undeclared war with France from 1798 -1800 and the War of 1812 with Britain. Only our plucky navy and their excellent captains, crews and ships saved our country.

Today, the big threat is nuclear weapons. Nukes enable a weak and backward state like North Korea to become an international player and a credible threat to the U.S. And even when the United States isn’t directly threatened, a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India would generate a lot of environmental destruction that would harm all counties, including the U.S. The next question is what can Pompeo could learn from his predecessors.

How Other Secretaries of State Either Succeeded or Stumbled

Secretaries of state used to be such a dominant force in politics. It used to be a stepping stone to the presidency: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, and James Buchanan all served as State Department leaders before occupying the White House, though none have done so since before the Civil War. Hillary Clinton was close.

That’s because “you can’t leave it up to State” anymore, according to foreign policy expert Jerel Rosati. That’s why we have national security advisors, CIA directors and a host of other positions that care about external affairs and compete for the president’s attention and agenda, as well as a piece of the foreign policymaking pie.

A Secretary of State can get buried in bureaucratic politics. Just ask William P. Rogers. His exhaustive shuttle diplomacy strategy for the Middle East was undermined by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, who had his own agenda. When Kissinger was elevated to Secretary of State, the academic had his own internal troubles with neo-conservatives.

It’s not just the Republican Party where these clashes occur. Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, a more dovish diplomat, frequently sparred with the more hawkish National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Vance resigned after the failed rescue attempt of the U.S. hostages in Iran.

Sometimes it’s not a bureaucratic battle that undermines a Secretary of State. America’s relationship with its own allies can be troubling, as Ronald Reagan’s first top diplomat Alexander Haig discovered. His credentials were great, perhaps too great. Many felt that Haig had been running things during Richard Nixon’s second administration, but that turned out to be a bit of a liability. This was especially the case after Reagan was shot, and Haig famously announced that “I’m in charge here.”

It wasn’t just that incident which undermined Haig. There’s the case of the Falkland Islands conflict, which pitted America’s Rio Pact ally Argentina against its NATO ally Britain. Haig engaged in high profile “shuttle diplomacy,” weaving back and forth between the two countries, ultimately unable to stop the two from fighting in the South Atlantic.

His best moment was captured in the film The Iron Lady, when he memorably sparred with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“So you are proposing to go to war over these islands. They’re thousands of miles away, a handful of citizens, politically and economically insignificant, if you’ll excuse me,” Haig lectured. “Just like Hawaii… I imagine,” Thatcher wryly smiled, knowing she had won the argument.

It turns out later that Haig was also leaning towards the Argentines in that dispute. It was nothing personal, but his mentor Henry Kissinger often preferred creating a balance that would help the weaker side, to preserve the peace. Haig later resigned after an overly-ambitious West European tour that taxed Reagan’s strength too much.

Alexander Haig, former Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan. Peter Cade/Central Press/Getty Images

What Can Secretary Pompeo Do?

The 70th Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has his work cut out for him. To avoid the mistakes of the past, he needs to be on good terms with his fellow advisors, and not just President Donald Trump. That means working well with the new Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, as well as National Security Advisor John Bolton, hearing both out on concerns over North Korea, as well as withdrawals from the Middle East.

Already, this has paid dividends as Trump has walked back a proposal to leave Syria, both to defeat ISIS and maintain good ties with the Kurds, one of our few Middle East friends. At the same time, the Trump-Pompeo team showed they were not so desperate for a deal with North Korea that they would make a bad one. This may help in economic negotiations with China, as well as produce a better agreement with Kim Jong-un in the future.

Moreover, when it comes to allies who fight each other, like India and Pakistan, it’s important not to “tilt” toward the weaker side just for the sake of some vague notion of “balance.” Kissinger and Haig would have favored Pakistan, as they did in the 1970s, despite that regime’s authoritarian tendencies then. Haig should have never preferred the ruthless undemocratic Argentinian regime against democratic, free market Great Britain in the 1980s. In fact, Britain’s defeat of Argentina hastened the demise of that bloody military junta, ushering in a more democratic government in our Southern ally.

Much in the same way, Pompeo must lean toward India, our democratic ally, instead of the less stable Pakistan, whose failure to rein in terrorist groups started the whole dispute, which led to an aerial duel. Knowing that we have their back, India’s Hindu Nationalist leader Narendra Modi can take a calmer approach, instead of a belligerent tone that could escalate to a possible nuclear confrontation. And Pakistan should be praised for returning the pilot and rewarded for an eventual crackdown on terrorism which should be forthcoming.

Sure that’s a tall order, but that’s diplomacy, right? And if Pompeo wants his place among the historically successful Secretaries of State, he’ll pull it off, keeping these hot spots from going nuclear.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia—read his full bio here.

Scores of Palestinians Injured Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Scores of Palestinians Injured in Weekly Gaza Protests

March 22, 2019

Palestinians take part in the Great March of Return. (Photo: Abdallah Aljamal, Palestine Chronicle)

At least 30 Palestinians were shot and injured, while dozens of others suffered from tear-gas inhalation, as Israeli forces suppressed protesters along the eastern borders of the besieged Gaza Strip, on Friday.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza confirmed that 30 Palestinians were shot and injured with Israeli live fire, while dozens of others suffered from tear-gas inhalation, including a number of health workers.

#Pictures of thousands of Gazans participating in the 51st Fraiday ” Marches are our Choice ” of the peaceful demonstration Great Return March#GreatReturnMarch pic.twitter.com/DjvCKM96pO

— Great Return March (@GreatReturnMa) March 22, 2019

The ministry stressed that Israeli forces targeted and opened fire towards medical trauma stabilization points and ambulances, east of al-Breij refugee camp, in central Gaza, and east of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza.

Israeli forces fired live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear-gas bombs during the protest.

#BreakingNews

GAZA|| another Palestinian, shot and murdered by the Israeli occupation gunfire east of Gaza near the Gaza-Israel separation fence, during the ongoing massive demonstrations .#GreatReturnMarch

— Great Return March (@GreatReturnMa) March 22, 2019

Thousands of Palestinians gathered alongside the eastern borders of Gaza to participate in the 51st Great March of Return protests in an attempt to break the ongoing Israeli siege.

“The Great March of Return” protests were launched on March 30th by thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza — which has suffered from a decade-long Israeli siege — who took to the borders to demand their right of return as refugees to their original homelands, now in present-day Israel.

(Ma’an, PC, Social Media)

The Real Reason Bush Went to War in Iraq (Revelation 13)

The Real Reason Bush Went to War in Iraq: The Answer May Shock You

Ahsan I Butt 21 March 2019

EXPOSEDSixteen years after the United States invaded Iraq and left a trail of destruction and chaos in the country and the region, one aspect of the war remains criminally underexamined: why was it fought in the first place? What did the Bush administration hope to get out of the war? (Photo above from left: Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush, and Vice President Dick Cheney.

The official, and widely-accepted, story remains that Washington was motivated by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program. His nuclear capabilities, especially, were deemed sufficiently alarming to incite the war. As then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “We do not want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

Despite Saddam not having an active WMD program, this explanation has found support among some International Relations scholars, who say that while the Bush administration was wrong about Saddam’s WMD capabilities, it was sincerely wrong. Intelligence is a complicated, murky enterprise, the argument goes, and given the foreboding shadow of the 9/11 attacks, the US government reasonably, if tragically, misread the evidence on the dangers Saddam posed.

There is a major problem with this thesis: there is no evidence for it, beyond the words of the Bush officials themselves. And since we know the administration was engaged in a widespread campaign of deception and propaganda in the run-up to the Iraq war, there is little reason to believe them.

My investigation into the causes of the war finds that it had little to do with fear of WMDs – or other purported goals, such as a desire to “spread democracy” or satisfy the oil or Israel lobbies. Rather, the Bush administration invaded Iraq for its demonstration effect.

A quick and decisive victory in the heart of the Arab world would send a message to all countries, especially to recalcitrant regimes such as Syria, Libya, Iran, or North Korea, that American hegemony was here to stay. Put simply, the Iraq war was motivated by a desire to (re)establish American standing as the world’s leading power.

Indeed, even before 9/11, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld saw Iraq through the prism of status and reputation, variously arguing in February and July 2001 that ousting Saddam would “enhance US credibility and influence throughout the region” and “demonstrate what US policy is all about”.

These hypotheticals were catalyzed into reality by September 11, when symbols of American military and economic dominance were destroyed. Driven by humiliation, the Bush administration felt that the US needed to reassert its position as an unchallengeable hegemon.

The only way to send a message so menacing was a swashbuckling victory in war. Crucially, however, Afghanistan was not enough: it was simply too weak a state. As prison bullies know, a fearsome reputation is not acquired by beating up the weakest in the yard. Or as Rumsfeld put it on the evening of 9/11, “We need to bomb something else to prove that we’re, you know, big and strong and not going to be pushed around by these kinds of attacks.”

Moreover, Afghanistan was a “fair” war, a tit-for-tat response to the Taliban’s provision of sanctuary to al-Qaeda’s leadership. Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith considered restricting retaliation to Afghanistan dangerously “limited”, “meager”, and “narrow”. Doing so, they alleged, “may be perceived as a sign of weakness rather than strength” and prove to “embolden rather than discourage regimes” opposed to the US. They knew that sending a message of unbridled hegemony entailed a disproportionate response to 9/11, one that had to extend beyond Afghanistan.

Iraq fit the bill both because it was more powerful than Afghanistan and because it had been in neoconservative crosshairs since George HW Bush declined to press on to Baghdad in 1991. A regime remaining defiant despite a military defeat was barely tolerable before 9/11. Afterwards, however, it became untenable.

That Iraq was attacked for its demonstration effect is attested to by several sources, not least the principals themselves – in private. A senior administration official told a reporter, off the record, that “Iraq is not just about Iraq”, rather “it was of a type”, including Iran, Syria, and North Korea.

In a memo issued on September 30, 2001, Rumsfeld advised Bush that “the USG [US government] should envision a goal along these lines: New regimes in Afghanistan and another key State [or two] that supports terrorism [to strengthen political and military efforts to change policies elsewhere]”.

Feith wrote to Rumsfeld in October 2001 that action against Iraq would make it easier to “confront – politically, militarily, or otherwise” Libya and Syria. As for then-Vice President Dick Cheney, one close adviser revealed that his thinking behind the war was to show: “We are able and willing to strike at someone. That sends a very powerful message.”

In a 2002 column, Jonah Goldberg coined the “Ledeen Doctrine”, named after neoconservative historian Michael Ledeen. The “doctrine” states: “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”

It may be discomfiting to Americans to say nothing of millions of Iraqis that the Bush administration spent their blood and treasure for a war inspired by the Ledeen Doctrine. Did the US really start a war – one that cost trillions of dollars, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, destabilized the region, and helped create the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – just to prove a point?

More uncomfortable still is that the Bush administration used WMDs as a cover, with equal parts fearmongering and strategic misrepresentation – lying – to exact the desired political effect. Indeed, economists consider the notion that the Bush administration deliberately misled the country and the globe into war in Iraq to be a “conspiracy theory”, on par with beliefs that President Barack Obama was born outside the US or that the Holocaust did not occur.

But this, sadly, is no conspiracy theory. Even Bush officials have sometimes dropped their guard. Feith confessed in 2006 that “the rationale for the war didn’t hinge on the details of this intelligence even though the details of the intelligence at times became elements of the public presentation”.

That the administration used the fear of WMDs and terrorism to fight a war for hegemony should be acknowledged by an American political establishment eager to rehabilitate George W Bush amid the rule of Donald Trump, not least because John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, seems eager to employ similar methods to similar ends in Iran.

(Ahsan I Butt is an Associate Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. Posted earlier and made available to CityWatch by Common Dreams.)

-cw

Babylon the Great Puts More Sanctions on Iran

US Imposes New Sanctions on Iran Over Weapons Programs

 

The United States said on Friday it was imposing sanctions on 14 people and 17 entities connected to Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), a body it said had played a central role in Iran’s past nuclear weapons effort.

Among those designated for sanctions was the Shahid Karimi group, which works on missile and explosive-related projects for the SPND, and four associated individuals, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a Statement.

“The U.S. government is taking decisive action against actors at all levels in connection with Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND) who have supported the Iranian regime’s defense sector,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

“The United States will continue applying maximum pressure to the Iranian regime, using all economic tools to prevent Iran from developing weapons of mass destruction. Anyone considering dealing with the Iranian defense industry in general, and SPND in particular, risks professional, personal, and financial isolation.”

It said the steps targeted current SPND subordinate groups, supporters, front companies, and associated officials. The move freezes any U.S. assets of those targeted and bans U.S. dealings with them.

“Today’s action serves as a warning to individuals and entities considering dealing with the Iranian regime’s defense sector in general, and SPND in particular: by engaging in sanctionable activity with designated Iranian persons, you risk professional, personal, and financial isolation,” the Treasury statement said.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday that Tehran was determined to boost its defense capabilities despite mounting pressure from the United States and its allies to curb its ballistic missile program.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Mohammad Zargham, David Brunnstrom and Tim Ahmann; Editing by David Alexander and Susan Thomas)